1. Ryan Adams
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    Ryan Adams New Member

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    Improving Storytelling

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ryan Adams, May 12, 2015.

    I guess I didn't really have an decent idea of where to start, so I figured this would be as close to perfect as I could. For the past few months now, I've been struggling with making my writing appear a bit more interesting. I've wondered whether it was my style, the subject matter, or something that I hadn't figured out yet, but my father had suggested to me that it simply a matter of not knowing how to tell a story. Perhaps that's my problem, but I thought that I'd come to an audience to find out if anyone else has any input on the matter. How do you get better at storytelling, and if you know anyone or anywhere with advice on the matter, where is it?
     
  2. Masked Mole
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    Masked Mole Contributing Member

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    I think that suggestion is a bit harsh. Most people can tell a story. It just depends on how knowledgeable and passionate you are about the story. I would suggest you write something that is deeply personal and meaningful to you. It also helps when you have insight into the story's world. For instance, I wrote a novella about a comedian. I have some knowledge about that lifestyle, because I'm a comedy nerd.
    If you are having trouble after that, it's probably just a matter of honing your writing skills. That's the hard part that most people have trouble with. Don't be discouraged too easily.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi Ryan, welcome to the forum. I'm guessing "better storytelling" is the same as we refer to here as better writing.

    So with that in mind: write, learn everything you can about writing techniques, get feedback from people on what you've written, and write some more.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Is the stuff you write about interesting to you? At the end of the day, you're writing for a like-minded audience, so if it's interesting for you, it's interesting for them. Just because your father doesn't find it interesting doesn't mean you should automatically write about something else. He just might not be your intended audience.
     
  5. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    By writing, and actually finishing. Even if what you've written is not very good, you learn a lot through just finishing a draft and editing it. Your writing also improves dramatically through every draft you make. It's true that writing well and telling/structuring a story well are two different skills, although the two do overlap to some extent, and both will come with practice.

    Another thing you could do - pick up a book you've particularly enjoyed reading and analysing how the author did it. How was the story structured and paced? How was it told? How was it written? Then try to apply some of these tools in your own writing, and in time you'll learn to use these tools in your own way.
     
  6. -oz
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    -oz Active Member

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    My main advice is not actually to write more; it's actually to read.

    I've noticed that if I read a lot of a particular author, my writing style starts to mirror the style of that author, just a little bit. If you're looking to tell a story better, read authors who excel in telling their stories: Isaac Asimov, Patrick Rothfuss, Jules Verne, etc.

    My minor advice kind of depends on what you meant by making your writing appear a bit more interesting. Are you having problems structuring your story, telling a complete tale? Or are you having problems catching the reader's eye, making conversations and actions exciting?

    If it's the former, come up with an outline and stick to it. The short story contests here on the forum are an excellent way to practice this. It keeps things short and simple so that you can practice this without getting discouraged about taking forever to finish a story.

    If it's the latter, my suggestion is to create a small group of people and write stories from their perspectives. It can be any setting: fantasy, modern, science fiction, whatever. The point here is to not outline anything and just write about whatever spontaneous adventures they're having. If you can make whatever they're doing exciting (conversation, a fight, exploring the woods, whatever), your writing style will improve. Just write with this method and don't delete anything! You'll see your style improve over time, especially if you keep reading along the way.

    Sorry for the long post... This is just my two cents of what's worked for me over the past ten years.
     
  7. Lance Schukies
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    Lance Schukies Active Member

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    Yes I would suggest to read , find a book or author who inspires you to write. I find reading Mary Higgins Clark helps me.
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Did he have any specifics on what's wrong with your storytelling?

    I can most easily come up with thoughts on what storytelling is not.

    - Storytelling isn't about communicating information. Of course you have to communicate information, but that's not the point.

    - Storytelling isn't about communicating a moral or lesson. You might want to communicate one, or you might communicate one by accident, but that's not the point. At least, that's not the point for the reader, and if the reader can tell that that's the point for you, they're going to turn away.

    - Storytelling isn't about poetry. That doesn't mean that soaring, poetic prose is always bad, but, again, that's not the point.

    - Storytelling, for most people, isn't about an intricately designed plot. Unlike the moral or the poetry, a plot generally is mandatory, but it's not enough.

    So what is storytelling? That's harder to say. My brain wants me to say "It's about movement", but what the heck does that mean? I guess it means that it's about things happening, and changing, and expectations being violated. And the reader needs to care.

    But that's where I run down.
     
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  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I disagree with @Masked Mole - I think a lot of people DON'T know how to tell stories. You can hear them trying to tell simple stories verbally, and they go off on tangents or forget a key point and have to backtrack, or they get so caught up in something that the listener can't really figure out what was happening.

    In writing? We have the chance to go back and add clarity, but we're also generally trying to tell more complex stories, so I think the same issues apply.

    When people talk about pacing issues, or soggy middles, or an anticlimactic ending, they're essentially saying the writer doesn't know how to tell a story. The language might be fine, the characterization might be there, but the story just doesn't come together properly.

    I think writers can address this by paying a lot more attention to structure. I personally can't imaging using a beat sheet, but there are writers who swear by them. I've never been able to discipline myself to try the snowflake method, but again, writers who like it like it a lot. Three-act structure, five-act structure, hero's journey, whatever. There are loads of different techniques, but most of them come down to figuring out the best way to tell a story.

    So, OP, if you think your dad's opinion is one you should trust, or if you have other readers mentioning things like pacing or getting bogged down at points of the story? Look at some different plot structuring tools, and see which ones might work for you.
     
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