Three Secrets to Great Storytelling!

Whispering

 

 

 

3 SECRETS TO GREAT STORYTELLING as presented on Writer’s Digest. I found this article by Steven James helpful in forming the structure of scenes.  (this is a re-blogging from 2014 but I thought it deserved a revival now, because it is simple, straightforward, and to the point.)

As a novelist and writing instructor, I’ve noticed that three of the most vital aspects of story craft are left out of many writing books and workshops. Even bestselling novelists stumble over them – Steven James But they’re not difficult to grasp. In fact, they’re easy.And if you master these simple principles for shaping great stories, your writing will be transformed forever. Honest. Here’s how to write a story.

Secret #1: 
CAUSE AND EFFECT ARE KING.

Everything in a story must be caused by the action or event that precedes it.  As a fiction writer, you want your reader to always be emotionally present in the story. But when readers are forced to guess why something happened (or didn’t happen), even for just a split second, it causes them to intellectually disengage and distances them from the story. Rather than remaining present alongside the characters, they’ll begin to analyze or question the progression of the plot. And you definitely don’t want that. When a reader tells you that he couldn’t put a book down, often it’s because everything in the story followed logically. Stories that move forward naturally, cause to effect, keep the reader engrossed and flipping pages. If you fail to do this, it can confuse readers, kill the pace and telegraph your weaknesses as a writer.

Secret #2: 
IF IT’S NOT BELIEVABLE, IT DOESN’T BELONG.  

The narrative world is also shattered when an action, even if it’s impossible, becomes unbelievable. In writing circles it’s common to speak about the suspension of disbelief, but that phrase bothers me because it seems to imply that the reader approaches the story wanting to disbelieve and that she needs to somehow set that attitude aside in order to engage with the story. But precisely the opposite is true. Readers approach stories wanting to believe them. Readers have both the intention and desire to enter a story in which everything that happens, within the narrative world that governs that story, is believable. As writers, then, our goal isn’t to convince the reader to suspend her disbelief, but rather to give her what she wants by continually sustaining her belief in the story. The distinction isn’t just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of understanding the mindset and expectations of your readers. Readers want to immerse themselves in deep belief. We need to respect them enough to keep that belief alive throughout the story.

Secret #3: 

IT’S ALL ABOUT ESCALATION.  

At the heart of story is tension, and at the heart of tension is unmet desire. At its core, a story is about a character who wants something but cannot get it. As soon as he gets it, the story is over. So, when you resolve a problem, it must always be within the context of an even greater plot escalation. As part of the novel-writing intensives that I teach, I review and critique participants’ manuscripts. Often I find that aspiring authors have listened to the advice of so many writing books and included an engaging “hook” at the beginning of their story. This is usually a good idea; however, all too often the writer is then forced to spend the following pages dumping in background to explain the context of the hook.

IN CONCLUSION

By consistently driving your story forward through action that follows naturally, characters who act believably, and tension that mounts exponentially, you’ll keep readers flipping pages and panting for more of your work.

 

A Writer’s Path – The Beginnng

 

The Writer’s Path 

 

 

 

Like most aspiring writers, you probably didn’t think at a certain age, like 7 years old for instance, that you wanted to take your imaginary places in your mind to pen and paper. These were your secret longings; these fantasy images, stories, and playmates that lived in your imagination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These things, when you are 9 years old, were real. They lived, they breathed. The magical Jinn of your imagination tells you of adventures that once taken through the woods down a secret path will lead you to hidden wonders like dragons and princesses in towering castles.

 

 

 

 

 

These thoughts, when you were 12 years old, like knowing the Jinn would warn you of witches and golems that walk at night to take you far away, never to return, should you get lost in the forest as you prepare to walk down that darkened path. Now, at last, you finally take that path, the writer’s journey to the hidden wonders you still seek and all the perils along that road, waiting for you there.

A Review: Mystical Greenwood (One with Nature) by Author Andrew McDowell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Andrew McDowell’s Mystical Greenwood (One with Nature) fantasy novel, book 1, is great for teen boys and girls who would love a fantastic fantasy adventure with so much action, magic, soldiering, danger, and wizardry. I believe that there are few books for teenage boys and girls out today that match the excitement, the creativeness, the originality, the great characters, and the adventure this writer captures so well.

The main character of this fantasy adventure story is Dermot who is a teenage boy wanting to find his own way through life and therefore has a difficult relationship with his parents. By accident, he found the kind of life he was looking for, but that life was and is, fraught with danger every day.

The Seer Sorcerer, Saershe, is a brave conjurer of healing herbs, teas, healing ointments, magic, and honors the Mystical Greenwood forest. She, and her dragon-like gryphons, help to guard the young men, one of whom is her grandson, Ruairi, and he is also a part of the Greenwood Forest keepers.

This wonderful, exciting, and often breath-taking adventure series is perfect for those parents and teens wanting a fantastic adventure series that is perfect to share with friends and teachers. I give Mystical Greenwood a 5 star rating for the 12-19  years of age group especially, and also for all older age groups who would enjoy an exciting adventure series, and a clean read.

About

christmas-2015Andrew McDowell became interested in writing at age eleven, inspired by childhood passions for stories and make-believe. By the time he was thirteen, he knew he wanted to be a writer.

He studied History and English at St. Mary’s College, and Library & Information Science at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is a member of the Maryland Writers’ Association and an associate nonfiction editor with the literary journal JMWW.

As a novelist he plans to try his hand in multiple genres, for he is inspired by a variety of interests. He has also written poetry and creative nonfiction, and is interested in drama, short stories, and lyrics.

Find Andrew at the following social media sites:

WordPress Blog: https://andrewmcdowellauthor.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3175924.Andrew_McDowell

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AndrewMcDowellAuthor/

Amazon:  Purchase Mystical Greenwood: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1641362820

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/ammcdow

Awards

2019

Finalist in the Epic/High Fantasy Category of the 2019 American Fiction Awards for Mystical Greenwood.

2015

2nd Prize in the creative nonfiction category of the 2014-15 MWA Literary Contest for the essay Asperger Syndrome: An Affliction or a Gift?

15 Ways to Earn Your Audience as a Writer

 

 

 

 

 

a reblog of Writer’s Digest,  guest post is by Chuck Wendig. Wendig is the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Aftermath, as well as the Miriam Black thrillers, the Atlanta Burns books, and the Heartland YA series, alongside other works across comics, games, film, and more. A finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and the cowriter of the Emmy-nominated digital narrative Collapsus, he is also known for his popular blog, terribleminds.com, and his books about writing (including The Kick-Ass Writer). He lives in Pennsylvania with his family. http://www.writersdigest.com

 

 

  1. Swift Cellular Division

The days of writing One Single Thing every year and standing on that single thing as if it were a mighty marble pedestal are long gone. (And, if you ask me, have been gone for a lot longer than everybody says—unless, of course, you’re a bestselling author.) Nowadays, it pays to write a lot. Spackle shut the gaps in your resume. Bridge any chasm in your schedule. This doesn’t mean write badly. It doesn’t mean “churn out endless strings of talent-less sputum.” It just means to be generative. Always be writing.

  1. Painting With Shotguns

The power of creative diversity will serve you well. The audience doesn’t come to you. You go to the audience. “One book is less likely to find an audience than three?” Correction: “One book is less likely to find an audience than two books, a comic, a blog, a short story collection, various napkin doodles, a celebrity chef trading card set, and hip anonymous graffiti.” Joss Whedon didn’t just write Buffy. He wrote films. And comics. And a web-series. The guy is all over the map. Diversity in nature helps a species survive. So too will it help the tribe of storytellers survive.

  1. Sharing Is Caring

Make your work easy to share. This is triply true for newer storytellers: Don’t hide your work behind a wall. Make sure your work is widely available. Don’t make it difficult to pass around. I have little doubt that there’s a strategy wherein making your story a truly rare bird can serve you—scarcity suggests value and mystery, after all—but the smart play for creative types just setting out is to get your work into as many hands as possible with as little trouble as you can offer. This is true for veteran storytellers, too. Comedian Louis C.K. made it very easy to get his new comedy special on the web. And that served him well both financially and in terms of earning him a new audience while rewarding the existing audience.

  1. Value at Multiple Tiers

Your nascent audience doesn’t want to have to take out a home equity loan to try your untested work. If you’re a new author and your first book comes out and the e-book is $12.99, well, good luck to you. Now, that might not be in your control, so here’s what you do: Have multiple expressions of your awesomeness available at a variety of tiers. Have something free. Have something out there for a buck or three. Make sure folks can sample your work and still support you, should they choose to do so.

  1. Be You

The best audience isn’t just an audience that exists around a single work, but rather, an ecosystem that connects to the creator. The audience that hangs with a creator will follow said creator from work to work. That means who you are as a storyteller matters—this is not to suggest that you need to be the center of a cult of personality. Just be humble creator of many things. You’re the hub of your creative life, with spokes leading to many creative expressions rather than just one. Put yourself out there. And be you. Be authentic. Don’t just be a “creator.” You’re not a marketing mouthpiece. You’re a human. For all the good and the bad.

  1. Engagement and Interaction

Very simply: Talk to people. Social media—though I’m starting to hate that phrase and think we should call it something like the “digital conversation matrix”—is a great place in which to be you and interact with folks and be more than just a mouthpiece for your work. The audience wants to feel connected to you. Like with those freaky tentacular hair braids in Avatar. Get out there. Hang out. Be you. Interact. Engage.

  1. Head’s Up: Social Media Is Not Your Priority

Special attention must be paid: Social media is a side dish; it is not your main burrito. See #1 on this list.

  1. Hell With the Numbers

Just as I exhort you to be a human being, I suggest you look at all those with whom you interact on social media as people, too. They’re not resources. They’re not a number. They’re not “followers”—yes, fine, they might be called that, but (excepting a few camouflaged spam-bots) they’re people. Sure, as you gaze out over an audience, the heads and faces start to blur together like the subjects of a pointillist painting, but remember that the audience is made up of people. And people are really cool.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

An earnest plea to your existing audience to help you find and earn a new audience would not be remiss.

  1. Share Knowledge

As you learn things about the process, share them with others. Free exchange of information is awesome. Be open and honest. Be useful.

  1. Embrace Feedback

Reviews, critiques, commentary, conversation—feedback is good even when it’s bad. When it’s bad, all you have to do is ignore it. Or politely say, “I’ll consider that!” and in the privacy of your own home, shred the feedback with wanton disregard. When it’s good, it’s stellar and connects you all the more deeply to the audience. The audience is now a part of your feedback loop, like it or not.

  1. Do Set Boundaries

That feedback loop is not absolute. I’m not a strong believer in creative integrity as an indestructible, indefatigable “thing”—but, I recognize that being a single-minded creator requires some ego. Further, the reality is that once something is “out there”, it is what it is and there ain’t anything you can do about it. So you have to know when to turn off comments, back away from social media, or just set personal and unspoken boundaries for yourself.

  1. Don’t Wrestle Gators If You’re Not a Good Gator Wrestler

What I mean is, don’t try to be something you’re not. If you’re not good in public, don’t go out in public. If writing guest blogs is not your thing … well, maybe don’t write a guest blog. Again, this isn’t a list where you need to check off every box. These are just options. Avoid those that plunge you into a churning pool of discomfort. You don’t want to lose more audience than you earn.

  1. Take Your Time

Earning your audience won’t happen overnight. You don’t plant a single seed and expect to see a lush garden grown up by morning. This takes time, work, patience, and, y’know, earning the attention of other fine humans one set of eyeballs at a time. It’s why you put yourself out there again and again.

  1. Have Fun

Relax. Enjoy yourself. This isn’t supposed to be torture. You should have fun for two reasons: First, because people can sense when you’re just phoning it in, or worse, when you’re just moping. Second, because fun is fun. You should enjoy writing; enjoy putting your work out there.