When it comes to storytelling, I’m a self-taught student. I didn’t go to film school or take any writing classes.
Instead, my education in storytelling came from the hours of practice I put in sitting in the dark, watching movies and TV shows, reading books and comics, and playing video games.
Of course, everything I saw taught me about what not to do as much as what to do; that’s why so many young writers start off with terrible prose and cringe-worthy dialogue before they find their voices.
But over time, as my taste matured and my skills sharpened (and I started paying more attention to the structure of stories), patterns emerged that have become guiding principles for how I approach telling stories myself. Here are some of those lessons:
|1. Writing is a journey of self-discovery.|
|2. Every word contributes to the narrative’s impact.|
|3. Emotionally resonant stories leave a lasting mark.|
|4. Attention to detail enhances the reader’s experience.|
|5. Persistence and practice lead to mastery.|
Plot-Driven Stories Get Boring Without Characters To Root For
The key to keeping your readers invested in your plot is to make sure that they care about the characters. As tempting as it may be, don’t use an inciting incident that kills off a handful of main characters right at the start (especially if there aren’t many other main characters left).
The reader has to identify with or feel like they could relate to these people before you start killing them off.
Even if you think they deserve it, or want to make some sort of statement about how evil or corrupt people are, having too many deaths early on will make readers stop reading and look for something else.
If you do decide to kill one or more of your main characters, do so sparingly and even then make sure that their death has purpose!
For example, say you have a crime story in which someone murders the detective investigating the case;
This would have an impact on the plot because now there’s no one around who knows what’s going on anymore…but killing off random bystanders doesn’t add anything except making us sad for them (or angry at whoever did it).
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You Can’t Keep Tearing Down A Character Forever
If a character does not have a moment of self-awareness, self-improvement, self-acceptance, or self-love, then the audience will get bored.
While it’s important to tear down a character so they can be built back up again (or just to show them how they need to change), you can’t keep tearing down your characters forever. At some point you need them to have a moment of growth.
I know this because when I don’t give my novels’ characters moments where they grow and change in some way even if that seems like an extremely small way my readers tell me as much in their reviews.
And if I’m being honest with myself as an author: I get bored with my own writing too!
When I write about someone going through something difficult over and over again without taking any actionable steps toward fixing themselves or their lives (or at least examining their behavior).
II start getting bored because there’s no moving forward happening on page or within the story itself; there’s only stagnation and regression.”
A Dramatic Climax Is Not A Replacement For Rising Action
A dramatic climax is the most exciting part of the story and it’s where your protagonist is at her/his greatest moment of danger. It’s also where she/he overcomes their greatest challenge—this is not an easy accomplishment, but it’s what makes for a satisfying ending.
As writers, we all want to write memorable characters who readers will care about. We want our readers to root for those characters and find themselves cheering them on as their journey continues through our story (and hopefully into sequels).
But if your reader doesn’t care about your protagonist then they won’t be invested in your story or invested in reading book 2 when it comes out!
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You Need To Know What The Destination Looks Like Before You Start The Journey
You need to know where you’re going. It is absolutely imperative that you have a clear idea of what the destination looks like before you begin your journey.
If not, then you will most likely become lost and confused in the middle of the forest, or worse: You might never even reach your destination at all!
So how do we know what our destinations look like? Well, there are several ways:
Ask yourself “What would my ideal day look like?” and then write down as many details about this fantasy scenario as possible.
For example: if I were writing about myself, I might write something like this: “I am sitting on my deck with my husband Joe drinking coffee and enjoying the warm summer breeze.” If I wanted to get specific (and why wouldn’t I?).
I might even include more details such as “I am wearing light blue jeans” or even “Joe is wearing his favorite gray tee shirt.”
After doing this exercise once or twice (or three or four times), it will start becoming second nature for you to think about how others would see their lives too – which brings us right back around again when we ask ourselves another question…
Details Are Important, But They’re Also Filling
When you read a story, what do you remember? For most people, the details are what stick. It’s not the big picture that makes the story memorable. It’s the little things-the details that bring the world to life and make it believable.
It doesn’t matter if your characters are running away from an attacking dinosaur or simply walking down the street on a sunny day.
If you don’t include enough details about their surroundings, their emotions, and even their thoughts at any given moment in time, then your readers will have nothing to hold onto as they go along with this journey with your characters.
If your audience can’t visualize what’s happening in front of them (or behind them), they’re more likely to put down your book and move on to something else instead of being able to immerse themselves in whatever world you’ve created for them.
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Make Sure Each Character Has Their Voice And Agenda
One of the most important things you can do as a writer gives each of your characters their voice.
Character voice is the way a character speaks, and it’s an essential part of developing that character’s personality, appearance and attitude. Character agenda is different from character voice: it refers to what the character wants and what they’re trying to accomplish within the story.
While some characters might have similar agendas (for example, if they both want justice or revenge), each one needs their agenda because it adds depth to your story.
The more complex your characters’ goals are, the more interesting and unpredictable your plot will be!
Remember that every character should have their own unique characteristics and history and since these things impact how people talk and act in real life (and thus how they’re portrayed on paper).
Make sure that you keep them consistent throughout every scene in which we see them appear.
The Story Ends When The Reader Believes It Ended
This is a concept that I learned as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until I was writing my own stories that I began to understand how important this is.
It’s not necessarily about whether or not the reader feels satisfied by the ending; in fact, sometimes you can make them happy with what happens right up until the very end, then pull the rug out from under them and leave them hanging.
But if the reader doesn’t believe that what happened was inevitable if they doubt its validity or feel like it was done just for shock value then your story isn’t going to work as well as you might hope.
Be Honest With Yourself About Your Weaknesses
One of the most important things I learned about writing is that you have to be honest with yourself. You have to acknowledge your weaknesses and work on them, or else they’ll hold you back from improving as a writer.
This can be especially difficult for people who are perfectionists, because it’s hard for them to admit when something is wrong with their work.
It’s also hard to ask for help because they don’t want anyone else to see their mistakes or know they need help which makes it even more difficult when someone offers advice or assistance!
But if you want your writing to improve, being honest with yourself is key!
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Let Your Characters Have Fun In The Sun Once In A While
In order to do this, you have to let your characters have fun in the sun once in a while. They are more than just victims, they need to have fun and enjoy life outside of the story.
They should be more than just a plot device or a vehicle for your message; they must be real people with ambitions, hopes and dreams like anyone else.
Storytelling Is Both An Art And A Science
The art of storytelling is about making people believe the story is real, and the science of storytelling is about making people believe that it’s not just real but believable.
The science comes in when we’re writing a story or any narrative for that matter. You can get so caught up with what you want to say that you forget who’s going to be reading your work.
It’s important to keep in mind how much information they’ll need at any given moment, what it means if something happens offscreen vs on-camera etc…
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I don’t know about you, but there’s something about a good story that makes me feel alive. Whether it’s exploring my own imagination in the form of writing fiction or watching a good show, there’s something so satisfying about living vicariously through our characters.
I want to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you today and hope that this post has helped teach you some valuable lessons about storytelling as well! If anything else though.
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And here’s the “FAQs” section:
How can I improve my storytelling skills?
Enhancing your storytelling skills requires practice, observation, and learning from experienced writers. Engaging in writing workshops and reading a variety of stories can help you understand narrative techniques and develop your own style.
What role does personal experience play in writing?
Personal experiences can serve as a wellspring of inspiration and authenticity in writing. Drawing from your own life can add depth and relatability to your narratives, making them more engaging for readers.
How do I make my stories more impactful?
Crafting impactful stories involves creating relatable characters, establishing clear conflicts, and evoking emotions. By developing well-rounded characters and exploring universal themes, you can resonate with your audience on a deeper level.
What are some techniques for maintaining reader engagement?
Maintaining reader engagement requires pacing, suspense, and curiosity. Employ techniques like cliffhangers, unexpected twists, and gradual reveals to keep readers invested in your narrative.
How can I balance creativity and structure in storytelling?
Balancing creativity and structure involves understanding storytelling conventions while infusing them with your unique ideas. Develop a solid plot structure while allowing your creative voice to shine through characters, settings, and dialogue.
Costantine Edward is a digital marketing expert, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who helps people attain financial freedom. I’ve been working in marketing since I was 18 years old and have managed to build a successful career doing what I love.