It’s one thing to be able to tell a story. If it gets published it might sell reasonably well – good going. However, it is an entirely different thing to be able to tell a GREAT story that will go on to sell bucket-loads regardless of your chosen publishing route.
A good story is priceless and what defines a good story will come down to many things. I feel the art of good storytelling lies in the ability of the writer (YOU) to take the mundane and convert it into something spectacular. Not all stories have to have a complicated plot to be regarded as great. Take the novel Love Story written by Erich Segal, yes that book written in 1970 that went on be become a hit movie starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw! Very straightforward love story: boy meets girl, they fall in love but don’t live happily ever after! Now it has your attention!
What makes this ordinary love story different can be found in the detail. The main characters although at university together come from completely different social backgrounds. He was the rich kid and she was the poor kid. And this difference between the main characters suggests a plot that is compelling, because you know this difference is going to cause conflict. And so it does.
In its simplicity Erich Segal has penned an unforgettable story!
An essential requirement for good storytelling is to have a good imagination. Those of you who are writing science fiction, fantasy or horror fiction know the absolute importance of this. Here, you are not only creating believable characters, you are creating entire worlds, that are dependent upon a strong sense of location, but also a sense of atmosphere. You want your readers to feel that these worlds are so real that they exist. You want to tantalise their senses, making them see, touch, smell, hear and almost taste these worlds. Remember as a writer you are inviting your audience into a literary spectacle, it’s your job not to disappoint them!
For an excellent example of good storytelling read The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (1986), later turned into a major movie starring Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte. The novel which is set in South Carolina (USA) against a backdrop of sun, sea and sand is so vivid that at times I thought I was right there with the hot sun on my face instead of the pouring rain, typical of the London climate! True story! A word of warning about The Prince of Tides though, there is more to the story than just good weather, it is quite tragic in places.
Just as a good strong sense of location is important to the art of good storytelling, so too is having well-constructed characters. This is where your skill as a writer will show. In my view it is this aspect of creative writing that will make your novel or short story stand apart from anything else out there. For example, the thriller writer James Patterson created the formidable character Alex Cross. You are more likely to remember Alex Cross, rather than any particular book he appeared in, although all the Alex Cross novels are excellent. If you are not familiar with James Patterson look him up, you are in for a treat!
Finally, make your plot credible and appealing, use all your five senses, throw in a cliff-hanger or two and before you know it, you have written something everyone is going to remember!
Until next time
Happy Writing, S