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How to get more story-telling into your writing

Not that you can tell, but I've been trying to incorporate more story-telling techniques into my writing. I understand why it's valuable, but I'm having a great deal of trouble changing my habits and establishing a new process. That's way I appreciate this advice from Cory Doctorow. Tq140226rdNow if I could make this into a story...

Locus Online Perspectives: Cheap Writing Tricks, 2014-Jan-2 by Cory Doctorow

So my favorite, foolproof way to start a story is with a person in a place with a problem, preferably in the first sentence. A named person in a defined setting is a signal to the reader’s human-being-simulator to get started assembling a skeletal frame upon which to hang future details about this ‘‘person.’’

When you add a ‘‘problem’’ – even something as trivial as a hangnail – you snag the reader’s rubbernecking impulse. Any problem out there in the world is a chance for hungry, canny minds to benefit from someone else’s hard-earned experience. It’s a siren song for our base nosiness.

Now, to keep the reader’s attention, you have to convince her problem-solving systems that this problem-solver is worth paying attention to. That means that your character has to attempt to solve his problem intelligently. We may be drawn to watch a fly trying to get out a window, but once we see that it is doomed to beating its brains out on the glass, we look away. Make that character’s attempt to solve the problem intelligent.

Regardless of whether your character solves his problem, the ‘‘solution’’ should give rise to a new problem – on which turns even more of the character’s safety, health, wealth, and/or sanity. Rising dramatic tension – the sense that things are getting more important and consequential – is often just another way of saying ‘‘problems whose stakes get progressively higher.’’


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