Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On Story Telling

1. Use Common Senses

By senses, I mean the 5 senses: touch, taste, vision, sound, and smell. Think of the great lines that essentially come down to sense exposition -- that is, a description of the impact of something upon the senses. Like, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." When I am bogged down in a narrative, I often come back to this. What did the perfume smell like? What color were her eyes? Was the taste bitter? Or, sweet? Or, sour? By the way, there are officially 5 taste categories now. There were only 4 until 2002. That means a whole new category of sensory exposition is open to you. Do you know what Jane Austen could have done if she had 5 taste categories? 

"Humans find it difficult to understand abstract concepts; we need to convert them either into symbols (as in mathematics) or into pictures." --John Stott 

2. Detail.

This relates to # 1. You add detail by using the 5 senses. 

Adding detail is the equivalent of upgrading your story from tube TV to flat screen, HDTV. It is giving your reader a more vivid, more colorful, more layered reading experience. Think about why you prefer HDTV. Or, why you prefer surround sound. Or, why you like to eat at 5 star restaurants. You enjoy these things because you enjoy these things more. They give more to enjoy. They give more, not just is quantity, but in quality. And, that is what detail does for your reader. It enables them to enjoy more: to see more; taste more; hear more; smell more; touch more. 

3. Tell your own story.

It's fairly easy to talk about things that really happened to you. So, even if your narrative is fiction (i.e. it didn't happen to you), you can still relate it to your own experience. Countless writers give this advice, "Write what you know." 

4. Include drama.

Look for ways to build suspense. Make your reader have to know what is going to happen. There are tons of ways to build suspense. Leave unsolved mysteries here and there. Include cliff hangers. Introduce a shady character who might be really good, or really bad. Introduce conflict, and let it linger. 


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