I’m getting ready for a Labor Day flight to Dallas for a wedding. Project: PAN, my middle-grade horror novel, is at the forefront of my mind because according to my schedule, I should be done with by Monday.
Writing is an art form. Feel free to play around in it’s walls. “Writing a 20,000 word novel in one weekend? Sure. Let’s see what comes out the other side.” This type of thinking, I feel, should be encouraged more in the writing community. But who am I to say otherwise? You’d have to ask the Ruler of Writing what they think.
Anyway, here’s a blog post I pulled from a sticky note I wrote a few weeks back. It details what I feel is the most essential element of storytelling. I’m sure for everyone else this is common knowledge. In fact, I taught this very thing to my 5th and 6th graders. Goes to show you can always learn something new and have it blow your mind.
“Jack loved Rose.”
This is the epicenter of all storytelling. This itself is a simple enough concept for people to understand. We know love. Many of us are in or have been in love. More of us have had love snatched from us like an apple from a tree, but this simplicity it why good storytelling is so hard. See, this simple sentence led to the highest grossing movie of all time. James Cameron took this idea of “Boy likes Girl,” and managed to win floppity-jillion awards and make the same amount of dollars. He created a story that hit people in the right way at the right time, and it all involved a sinking ship.
I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, especially when it comes to things like musicals and movies. Musicals are especially good at taking an idea like, “I’m Going To Try Hard,” and making it the fastest growing, hip-hop musical of all time with Hamilton’s “My Shot.” Because, at its core, that’s what it’s saying.
“I’m Going To Try Hard And Do My Best Because No One Can Stop Me SHOT Give Me All The Tony’s.”
Or something. I don’t know. I’m not Lin-Manuel.
Point is, good storytelling focuses on that essence, and builds around it. Like the pit of a peach or the acorn of a tree. It starts small, and grows outward to tell the story to get that message across.
Back to Jack and Rose.
See, they love each other. Okay, good, great, but that’s too easy. Let’s throw some obstacles in the way.
What if they come from different social classes? Okay, gooooood, but what else?
What if Rose has a fiancé she doesn’t like? Okay, still good.
And, what if they were on a ship and met on the ship and that ship happened to be the Titanic?
Give that man an Oscar.
That’s it. That’s how good storytelling happens. You take an easy to understand concept and dress it up.
But see, that above paragraph is simple storytelling done wrong. It sounds easy in execution, but that’s where many writers go astray. What you build around the simple message has to make sense and has to convey that message at every turn.
I understand that none of what I’m writing is original or unique. In fact, I guarantee that a dozen or hundred other pro writers have said this in much better word-letters. However, since this blog serves as a reminder of what I’m learning on my way to becoming a published author, I felt like talking about it.
Paint it up. Doll up the concepts, doll up the action, doll up the sequences.
Make your writing worthwhile reading.
Thanks for reading.
September 1, 2018 at 10:53 AM
“…good storytelling focuses on that essence, and builds around it.”
Good insight! As a writer, one can get lost in subplots or fluff. But the “essence” of the story, that which makes it go forward, should be, like you said, its focus.
Thanks for the reminder! Have a wonderful day!
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September 1, 2018 at 10:55 AM
Yeah! It was a real light bulb moment for me.
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