There are very few things in writing each author does very well, exceptionally well. And these things are commented on by others throughout that author’s career, it can be their characterization, world-building, description, emotional arch, narrative ability, what-have-you. The core of these exceptional author’s writing abilities lies in the focusing on just a few things when writing. There are too many writing devices, tricks of the trade, etc. for anybody to master them all.
But. . .
If you master the ones that matter, the ones that compose the essence of storytelling, you’ll be on your way to a fruitful if not majorly successful career.
- Description- anything you want to convey you must know how to describe it, how can readers understand you if you can’t even articulate what it is you want them to understand. Master description and it doesn’t matter what else the story lacks, they’ll be able visualize what you’re talking about.
- World-building- this builds off description but focuses on a more macro perspective. When you become really good at world-building (creating lands, people, races/ethnicities, social classes, power structures/dynamics, modes of transportation, socioeconomic systems/hierarchies, etc), you better immerse your reader into the story, stimulating that sense of exploration within them and piquing their curiosity, making them want to go on an adventure when they normally wouldn’t want to.
- Narration- narrative is the thing that dictates the type and flow of situations and events as they occur throughout the story. Dialogue tags such as whispered, yelled/shouted, or anything like that shouldn’t be needed as the narrative will dictate the situation and the reader will understand the fashion in which characters express themselves. This takes away a lot of stress from the author and allows them to focus on crafting the situation rather than how they come off to readers.
- Characters- if you don’t become good at this, your story is toast, even if you have the other three down. We’re in a time where people want character-oriented stories rather than world-oriented stories. Readers want to read about people who are active and make things happen rather than have things happen to them. They want to see the underdog become a champion, a gladiator become an emperor, a slave become a master. They want stories about ascension, about living up to an impossibly high ideal, a character that unleashes the peak of their potential and changes the world, pushing human existence forward in some way. This is what people truly want, and only strong and active characters (protagonists) will give that to them.
- Plot- this one isn’t a big deal, you can kind of just let the story happen as it will. This depends on personality type so if you’re OCD and compulsive, plotting might be for you. However, if you’re spontaneous (like me) then the situational approach will be your thing. If you’re in the middle, then you have to find that balance of plot and spontaneity, and it’ll be different for everyone so, good luck!
There, those are the vital things one needs to master to be an effective storyteller. Little else matters. Don’t make this complicated, just focus on four or five core things you want to master in your writing and perform those to the best of your ability. As the saying goes, “less is more”.
As always, that’s my spiel on the subject.
Till next week. . .