Two Aspects of Story Writing

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Hilda?

Here, for your consideration, two aspects of storytelling.

1. Parsing the story.  This is, of course, most often the purview of the rough draft, or shitty first draft, or discovery draft, or whatever you want to call it.  Hilda would do.  (I think I'll start giving my drafts names.  Why not?) Although it must be said that story often reveals itself more fully on the second, third, or tenth drafts, too.

The point is that you have to figure out the story for yourself.  Yeah, you get a brilliant idea for a novel and set out writing it, but honestly?  There's a crap-ton of stuff that goes into a novel.  A lot has to happen.  Like, a lot lot.  And you have to uncover all this stuff, because it doesn't come downloaded with the idea.  (Or maybe it does for you.  If so, please email me.  I want to steal all your secrets.)  Which is why you launch in and write a rough draft, whether you are a plotter or a pantser.

And then when you are done with that, there's:

2. Deciding the best way to tell the story.  Your story might have come out in a strict chronology, but when you look at it, that's not the best way to build suspense.  (And all stories, not just mysteries and thrillers, need suspense.)  Or maybe it came to you in fragments and now you need to order them.   It is at this stage that you need to take a big, deep breath and figure out how to present the story.  Maybe the last chapter should come first, or vice-versa.  Maybe the character you thought should tell the story needs to be replaced with someone else.  Maybe you need to switch from first to third.  Who knows?  Only you, the author. Just don't make the mistake of assuming that the way the story came out of your brain is the only way it can be told.  

And also, please don't make the mistake of confusing these two aspects.  They each have their time, okay?  When you're writing first draft, your main job is to get the story down on paper. After you have finished a full and complete draft, beginning to end, you can make decisions about how best to present it.

Which is your favorite aspect of story writing?

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10 Comments on "Two Aspects of Story Writing"

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J.D.
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J.D.
My favorite is writing the first draft. Of course I only end up with abut 30k. Yes, there is a lot of story that goes into a novel. Reading this post, I’ve decided I must constantly remind myself that I should be able to tell the whole thing in a three sentence elevator pitch to an agent. That’s the big backbone. Everything else I work off that. Correct? Everything else, even a sub-plot should advance that central backbone. Correct? This is the kind of stuff that’s work. Yet my favorite moments in writing are when I am stuck, and a… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Yeah most writers I know end up with sketchy first drafts. People think rewriting is about paring back but I find the opposite is true. One usually needs to add more!

Sent from my iPhone

J.D.
Guest
J.D.
There is a danger in parsing out the story. I just finished a Robert Parker novel, one of the Jesse Stone’s. Yes, there was a murder and a story about how Jesse chased down the bad guys. A huge chunk of the book was not at all about chasing the killers. You really can’t find a new and innovative murder. Everything has been done. Mountain climbing, diving, bludgeoned, poisoned, shot with a spear gun: all done. Readers don’t find that part all that interesting anyway. It’s the character nuances, their motives, their secret feelings. Those are the things we want… Read more »
Charlotte Dixon
Guest

It is totally the characters that readers read mysteries–and all novels–for, at least in my opinion. That is why I read, to learn more about the human condition and how I fit in with it all. That sounds lofty, but it isn’t. It’s sort of like why we read gossip sites–to see how the other half lives. And I totally agree there’s no new way to murder. There’s also no new plot in regular stories. But there are new writers who put a different spin on things. And that’s our job!

J.D.
Guest
J.D.

I love your statement abut why you read.
Let me explain myself. The “danger of parsing out the story” for me is that I sometimes get so centered on telling what happens that I neglect how the characters see it, sometimes how they react to it, and how it changes them.
And we learn how we fit in: Does the protagonist react in an understandable way? An admirable way? Would I do the same thing? Could I possibly be that brave?

I’ll shut up now. The post just got me going a bit.

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

Oh no please don’t shut up, I love your comments. Always. Yeah, I get what you are saying. The way I deal with it is to parse out my story in a very loose fashion, so I have at least a vague idea of where I’m going. And then there is room for the characters to grow and take over and do what they want to do. But I do find without a bit of guidance from me, they are like unruly toddlers who just throw things around and don’t accomplish anything.

Zan Marie
Guest

Great point, Charlotte! Knowing what the story is is just the beginning. Thanks for the reminder. 😉

Dyoung
Guest

Today I plan to get working on a new story I have. I love this. It simplifies and takes a bit of the pressure off.

I also enjoy your use of “crap-ton” and “like a LOT lot”. Both of which are definitely technical terms that are used daily in my line of work. LOL

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

You’re welcome!

Charlotte Dixon
Guest

I’m glad we can agree on those highly technical terms! And I’m also very glad to hear you’re working on a new story. Sounds exciting!

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