As a child, I remember asking my mom to read the same stories, mostly fairy tales, to me over and over. Why? Because these are STORIES. They have active characters, cool settings, events I could relate to, and meaning. I cheered, cried, worried and wondered as the stories were read. I was connected to the characters and the story events, the emotional journey.
These stories come in complete packages. This is storytelling. No wonder these tales are passed down, generation to generation after hundreds of years.
Where are those kinds of stories today? Have we forgotten what stories are? Forgotten that we are storytellers?
How many times have you seen a book, workshop, class, or article and thought: If I take this class or read this book, this will move me to a new level in my writing and take me to the place I need to be to get published? This is THE ANSWER.
Sound familiar? Afterwards, while we have learned and applied this new technique, there’s still something missing. We then repeat this process, moving on to the next “new” technique.
I’m not saying that improving our writing by reading or attending workshops, isn’t helpful. All of these are small pieces of a bigger picture. What we, as writers are missing is that BIG PICTURE.
Many times, when writers talk or write about “what makes a great story,” the discussion goes to the writing process, or that stories should be character driven, or show—don’t tell… And this list goes on and on. But these individual aspects of story don’t make a great story by themselves.
Being able to weave in all the various story craft elements, supported by story structure as the foundation, and meaning (theme) that encompasses our story at all points adds up to storytelling that readers can enjoy and gain satisfaction from over the generations. Everything has to work together at the deepest possible level.
The mind works as both a camera and a mirror. We take in experiences (the camera) and those are processed and reflected back (the mirror) as we change and grow as an individual. Storytelling works the same way. It is the camera through which the reader experiences the story world. Story also reflects back the soul of the character, through story meaning, and impacts the reader at the same level.
Does the reader marvel at the point of view choice of the writer? Character development? The growth of the protagonist? The development of the story as it moves to the black moment and into the climax?
No. Readers understand the story as a WHOLE experience. Not in pieces. We can’t let the pieces distract us from what story is about.
While writers need to understand all the pieces that go into the story, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture of storytelling: It all has to WORK TOGETHER seamlessly.
Challenge for today: What is your favorite story and what makes that a story to remember?