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Getting Back to Basics: Storytelling

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In my last blog post, Mystreve brought up an interesting point.

Storytelling.

That’s right. A lot of newer people don’t know (for some reason) how to tell a story. Either that or they base it off of other stories and it becomes exactly the same. So, we’re getting back down to the basics of story telling.

Details, Details, Details!Edit

Details? What are details?

Details are pretty much what connects the story together. The descriptions of characters, events, etc. The things that happen throughout your story. Details constitute the story itself, help prevent it from being just a bunch of randomly scattered pieces.

Connective DetailsEdit

Speaking of, the other day Guy had to deal with a new person who happened to think their story was the best in the world. It was far from it. It was a bunch of randomly scattered pieces.

It went from animal testing to death to a guy with a chainsaw. There was no connective detail which tied the story together.

Without connective detail, it looks rushed, anticlimactic, and confusing. Partially because it is. You need to be able to relate to the reader how everything is connected.

If I told you that a dog was related to a car factory, you would be confused and wonder how. How could a dog, a four legged, autonomous animal be related to a building where cars are constructed? Now if I told you the factory owner owned the dog, that would be a connective detail. It relates the dog to the factory via the factory owner.

Connective details are very important.

Descriptive DetailsEdit

Whenever you see people, you see what they look like. Your eyes develop a visual description of that person. The details of their face, eyes, and skin. The color of their hair. The whole nine yards.

Descriptive details are meant to help you visualize the things in the story. It helps put an image in the reader’s head of what that character/thing/place looks like.

But don’t go overboard. It’s fine to be wordy, but try not to overdescribe. You’ll bore the reader.

It’s fine to say the leaf is dark green and getting shined on by sunlight. It’s overboard when you spend seven sentences describing each and every individual detail of the leaf.

Telling a Story by PerspectiveEdit

A story always has a singular, noticeable perspective, whether it’s 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person. We’ll start off with one of the hardest ones first.

2nd Person PerspectiveEdit

This is probably the hardest perspective. The story breaks the fourth wall and incorporates the reader.

Detail is excessively important to get right. You have to think about what the reader would do, and you also have to limit yourself. Foreshadowing is a no-no.

In this particular genre, it’s especially important. Don’t be too descriptive of events and atmosphere – remember, your reader is your main character. Give them enough to know “something’s wrong” but don’t full on blow it. If you blatantly put the atmosphere into the reader’s face, it quickly becomes unrealistic.

Once again, foreshadowing is a no-no. Your events should happen fluidly and one at a time. If your character isn’t going to know what is about to happen, your reader shouldn’t either. Your reader is your character.

Don’t start too many sentences off with “You”. There should be some detail. What is the character seeing, what is visible? What is being heard? Try not to leave those details out in exchange for concentrating on what “you’re” doing.

Who is the character? Obviously the reader, but what is the reader? The reader should be able to put themselves in the story, but they have to have some kind of role. There are two things you can do. One is recommendable, and one is not:

You’re being pursued by zombies: Has potential, can be actionable, etc.

You ARE the zombie: No, just… No.

1st person perspectiveEdit

Here, you are telling the story from a character’s point of view. It’s the same as 2nd, but a little less hard, and foreshadowing is more acceptable.

But remember, give a backstory to the characters. Sometimes as you go along, sometimes through flashbacks.

Also, the story should be told from that character’s attitude. If they are a greaser, they’ll give greaser opinions. If they’re bikers, biker opinions. So on, so forth.

3rd person perspectiveEdit

Here, you are still telling from a character’s point of view. But, it’s not exactly the same.

You are telling it from an outer window. Foreshadowing is completely acceptable, and the reader is on the outside looking in. Either through one character’s point of view (limited) or multiple (omniscient).

What’s the difference? As stated. When you tell the thoughts of one specified character, often the protagonist (it is difficult to use a different character’s perspective, but not impossible), it is 3rd person limited. When you tell everyone’s thoughts at the time, it is 3rd person omniscient.

Limited: Be careful, not to show the thoughts of other characters. Not in the description or anything. Unless your perspective character is some kind of mind reader (please don’t.), then only their thoughts should be visible. It’s fine to shift characters, as long as it remains limited to the character’s point of view. What is around that character, where is that character? Etc.

Omniscient: The reader is God without powers, looking down. Everyone’s thoughts are visible. What is going on with every character, etc. It is often told through text in the paragraphs, rather than dialogue.

“Katie is thinking x. Robert is thinking x.”

That’s an example.

Progression of EventsEdit

Progression of events is important. It should flow, simply and easily. The reader should be able to imagine the story, but the story shouldn’t be staying in place.

Remember that for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. The characters should reflect this.

Guy shoots girl, girl falls over dead.

That is an event. Make sure to use transition wording. Such as “Awhile later” etc. It helps the story along by letting the reader know that events have passed. But at the same time, don’t cliffhanger it. Finish the event.

Guy shoots girl, MEANWHILE something else happens, return to scene, girl falls over dead. <--- Please don’t, unless it’s a form of chapter story. Doing this with short stories or Diary/Journals is never a good idea.

Again, every action has a reaction – a consequence. Your story is basically “Exposition” (beginning), “Rising Action” (the event that sets stuff into motion, as well as certain other events), “Climax” (The area of the story where action is most seen, things come into play. The ultimate reaction/event that leads to the end result), “Falling Action” (The aftermath of the climax), and the “Resolution” (ending.)

Remember to follow that. It will keep your story organized, and help it hold events fluidly. It’s okay to cut into the story every once in a while for flashbacks and etc, but make sure the reader knows that. It’ll kill your story if you don’t.

Hook, THEN Line and SinkerEdit

Your story needs a hook - something keeping the reader into it. Be descriptive, don’t be a dunce.

Use something that will interest the reader, appeal to their senses. Draw the reader in. Keep details limited, but not too limited. Enough for the reader to imagine what is going on, but not enough to stop the story in place. Make them wonder what happens next.

Don’t rush the story. You’ll end up rushing the hook as well, resulting in the reader becoming irritated.

How do you hook the reader? What appeals to their senses? Think for a moment. What do they like, dislike? What do they fear? What will strike up their curiosity? Think about these characteristics, particularly for your target audience. After that, it will be common sense. If you’re catering to an audience of Marvel fans who dislike DC, writing a story about Batman isn’t going to get you anywhere.

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