Writing tips for good storytelling

Published On: January 24, 2020 12:46 PM NPT By: KUMUDINI PANT

Ah, writing; the beast we’re trying to tame since childhood. Sentences, essays, research papers, captions—it clicks then it doesn’t. It fits then it jumbles. 

And when it comes to telling stories, it’s even more challenging. Imagine breathing life into words. Imagine forming another world you can escape into. It’s an art. A skill we can only hope to achieve through tremendous practice. Some try, many fail. 

Good writers are rare. Great storytellers rarer. 

Nonetheless, here are a few tips to help you become one of the greats. 

Structure your story
Whatever genre you’re writing, make sure you have a clear-cut goal. The main idea of a story is to get your characters from Point A to Point B. If you don’t know what those points are, you need to stop everything and figure them out.

What you have in your head might be a clear-cut scene between two characters. But is it enough to write a whole story around it? How are you going to set up the exposition? What’s the climax? How are you going to end your book? You don’t want another Divergent situation in your hand. Have a plan. Know how your book ends. Write accordingly.

The first chapters shouldn’t have too much exposition. It’ll bore your readers. At the same time, you can’t offer up everything good in the first half. The ending wouldn’t land right. 

Structure your story in such a way that it will grab a reader’s attention, and keep them intrigued enough to wait until the last page to find out all the answers. Your book shouldn’t run out of things to say. But it shouldn’t wait too long to say them.

Don’t use many tropes
Tropes are everywhere. 

Every book you pick up, you’ll see something unoriginal. Predictable. 

The chosen one, love triangle, first sight love, evil dictator in a dystopian world, a prophecy waiting to be fulfilled, Deus ex machine—whatever it is, it’s something you’ve seen a thousand times before and something you’ll see a thousand times more.

So, when you write, don’t be predictable. Unpredictable doesn’t mean illogical. It means that you should try bringing a twist to your stories. Imagine you’re writing a Cinderella retelling. Prince Charming finds Cinderella. But Cinderella doesn’t want to be queen. She wants to be free, go to college and start an independent life instead. Turns out, she’s been using the prince to get that freedom the whole time. Why not? It’s your story. Do it. What’s stopping you?

But it’s not that you shouldn’t touch these tropes at all. After all, writing something completely original is almost impossible. 

But please make sure that your characters aren’t just one trope after another. That’s simply bad storytelling. And it’ll make your readers roll their eyes so far back into their heads, it’ll be stuck there for days.

Muses are risky
A simple spark of ambition might inspire a story. Like most sparks, it’s not going to last. It’s bright and blinding, but it fades away before you can even blink.

Relying on muses for doing something you love is simply procrastination. 

Be your own inspiration. Stop waiting for a great experience to come your way and change your life. Change your own life. Go out alone. Go with your friends. Go with family. Observe the dynamics. Put it in your story.

The best way to write a good story is to write. A good story in your head isn’t writing. Thinking about writing isn’t writing. Writing is writing and nothing will beat that.

So, if you don’t have time for it, make time.

Find the voice
The way you tell a story matters. So, ultimately, your narrator should be good. No, they should be unique. Phenomenal even. 

Perceptions are what make a story. Truth, lies, good, bad, forwards, backwards—they’re all perspectives. So manipulate them. Have an unreliable narrator. Have a sassy narrator. Have a narcissistic, unbearable, and intriguing narrator. There’s that one distinct voice in every story.  Your job is to find it. And then have it speak to your readers in such a smooth, malleable way that they can’t help but fall in love with your story.

Show, don’t tell
This is a cliché. Turn to any self-help writing book and you’ll find a chapter on this.

Here’s another way to put it.

Don’t treat your readers like an idiot. Respect them. They’re smart enough to read between the lines. Subtlety is an art. Master it. 

If a character has issues with his father, don’t make your main character say, “I hate my dad” without context. Instead, place a huge argument between the father and the son, make sure a lot of hurtful things are said in the dialogue—make the confrontation feel brutal on both sides. Then you can have an “I hate my dad” scene without anyone actually saying the words.

Like everyone says, show, don’t tell.

Write something you’d want to read
This is going to be harsh and short. 

If you wouldn’t want to read your own story, no one else would. If you don’t believe in your own craft, no one else will.

If you don’t enjoy reading what you’re writing, you’re not doing it right.

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