My premium video course, Wake Up Your Prose: Description Unpacked, is going bye-bye on Friday, August 2nd, at 11:59 pm PST! Don’t be left out in the cold on non-descriptive writing. You can go here to find out more – or to purchase it!
Missed Part 1 of my 3-part series on Storytelling? Read it here.
Missed Part 2 of my 3-part series on Storytelling? Read it here.
This is the 3rd and final installment of my series on Storytelling.
Just to review…
For the past several days, I have been reading this ebook, and the author has some valuable insights on storytelling. These 3 points stood out for me:
- Storytelling is a necessary skill
- The ability to tell a story is critical to effective communication with your customer
- The correct sequencing of events, the correct delineation of causation, and the correct placement of emphasis, is vital to conveying a message of any sort [BTW, can you find the grammatical error in this sentence?]
Storytelling needs sequence, causation, and emphasis
When telling your story, keep these 3 things in mind.
- Which scenes, events, or pieces of information go where?
- What event comes at the very beginning, and how do things spread out or zero in from there?
- Will your story be linear, i.e., chronological, or will it go back and forth between the past and the present? Between characters?
- Will the background sequences be in the form of a short, one-sentence or one-paragraph backstory, or will they be entire chapters?
- What about transitions between scenes and events?
- Does your sequence of events make sense to the reader?
- Do your dialogues display logical progression, or are the characters merely talking at each other?
An outline is invaluable for sequencing your piece – even if you’re writing the computer sales page I discussed in the first post of this series. In fact, especially in content writing, you need to plan out each section (features, benefits, price, etc.), as well as the narrative (i.e., the story) that will weave itself through the piece.
The bottom line: Whether you create a formal, numbered outline or simply a list scrawled on a torn-off piece of notebook paper, it will be invaluable in ensuring you know the progression of whatever story or narrative you are writing.
How do scenes and people intertwine? Does your story or article exhibit logic between cause and effect? For example, If you discuss someone sweating from the intense heat, are you careful not to say she put on a sweater a few paragraphs later, or that it started to snow?
Moreover, is there a reason for a particular personality trait in one of your characters that can be traced to his childhood? Are the actions of your characters consistent with their personalities, and vice versa?
As I point out in Wake Up Your Prose, you must tell the truth when you write, even if it hurts and even if you’re writing fiction. This means that if the logic of your plot dictates that you kill off a character, or have something bad happen to him or her, you will need to go with the natural cause and effect you have created.
Getting back to our buddy Abraham Lincoln (see my previous post), do you need to spend a lot of time describing what his mother made for dinner on his sixteenth birthday? (Maybe so, if it’s relevant to your thesis.) Likewise, if you’re writing an About page for someone’s website, will you need that person’s entire history, including the vacations they took? (I actually read an About page that included this information.)
Ask yourself: “What information is relevant to my goal with this piece?” In other words, where do need to place the emphasis?
Sometimes, ostensibly trivial information will in fact be important. For example, perhaps someone’s vacation in Ireland at the age of 18 is what stimulated her to start a blog on Irish glassware. Or maybe you’d like your readers to know a bit about 19th-century American cuisine, and thus describing Lincoln’s birthday dinner is an interesting and informative way to do that.
Point of view also falls under the category of emphasis. Will you write that story from a child’s point of view or from that of her mother? Are you going to emphasize how gigantic a mansion is in order to contrast it with the heroine’s small stature and timid personality? Is the murder mystery just a whodunit, or is it a psychological study of the detective?
To sum up…
Keeping sequence, causation, and emphasis front and center when you are writing – and of course, when you are outlining and revising – will make your prose a pleasure to read. Readers want things to make sense, and you are doing them and yourself a great service by making your prose feel and sound realistic. It doesn’t matter whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction; it all has to make sense.
One of the most comprehensive modules in my course, Wake Up Your Prose: Description Unpacked, is on storytelling. For all there is to know about writing descriptive prose, go ahead over to the sales page and make your purchase! Doors close Friday, August 2nd, at 11:59 PST.
All the best, and