Telling A Good Story Is Hard

Luiz de Camoes statue

Fictional stories are silly things, if you think about it. Imagine crying your eyes out over over a few pages about someone that never existed in real life. A storyteller may share a series of imaginary events about characters that make an audience cry, laugh, or become angry. Within those imaginary events, there will be a beginning, middle, and an end; however, there is no compelling reason to tell a story in that order if a storyteller so chooses. A good story will cause an audience to take off their skins and put on the skin of one or more characters from that narrative. Better yet, that audience may do more than put on a character’s skin. They may take on the character’s struggle, feel the characters emotions, and even take on a character’s transformation. When a storyteller has done a good job, we the audience emerge back to our own skins with some, or all, of that character’s transformation intact. Stories can be powerful things.

Author letter to publisher

Like any other writer, I want to create stories that invite readers to change their skin for a while. It’s not my wish to make them someone else, or indoctrinate them (though there are plenty of authors that do). My desire, as an author, is to contribute something worthwhile that allows a reader to grow beyond who they were before they picked up my story. How do you do that? It’s really hard. More importantly, how do you do it well? That’s even harder.

What a wonderful  beginningLet me qualify that last question. People can sometimes confuse the “How” and “What.” After all, they’re not the same thing. If the “what” isn’t clear, you don’t always ask correct “how” questions. I can know “what” I wan my story to do, like be exciting, but I may not know the steps to get it there. In truth, when it comes to the “how” and “what” of storytelling there are many different approaches.  In the series of forthcoming blogs, I want to share some rhetorical devices and how they can be used to accomplish your “what”.

These devices aren’t difficult, but they require a lot of practice to work right. So to prime the pump of sharing, tell me in concrete words:

  1. What makes a character so compelling to you that you want to be them for a while?
  2. What character would you like to be?

Be warned, if you answer with broad general adjectives, I may ask for clarification to your response.

NEXT MONTH: Pay No Attention to That Man Behind the Curtain or “I’m Not a Bad Man, Just a Bad Writer.”

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3 thoughts on “Telling A Good Story Is Hard

  1. These are great ideas to start me thinking about story-telling. In my reading, I identify with a character who is at a disadvantage, but perseveres in an unexpected way. It’s hard to name a single favorite character, but one of the best I’ve read (and keep returning to) is Hadassah in Francine Rivers Mark of the Lion series.

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  2. Hmm, for those kind of books I have to admire & identify with the character (though not always in that order). Usually there has to be something of myself that I see in them, and then watching them persevere and grow to be better people – more Christ-like people. I like when they develop strong character, integrity, a desire for fairness

    Examples: Katie in What Katie Did, Eustace & Edmund in the Narnia books, Sam in LOTR

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  3. So, you may not get hooked on a character right away, but you are drawn to the conflict?

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