The Blog of Toledo Lucas County Public Library
The Art of Storytelling: 5 Tips on Crafting Compelling Storylines
Posted 8 months ago by April SPosted in Arts, Crafts and Hobbies, eBooks and Audiobooks, Education, Nonfiction and Writing and Publishing | Tagged with authorship - technique, creative writing, dialogue, NaNoWriMo, narration, National Novel Writing Month, storylines, storytelling, writing, writing skills, writing style and writing tips
Are you an aspiring writer trying to get started on that next bestselling novel?
Are you an experienced writer, but need a little help creating compelling storylines or dynamic dialogue?
No matter where you're at in the writing process your Library can help! We have a ton of great writing resources to help you from start to finish.
5 Tips on Crafting Compelling Storylines
Tip 1: Avoid Common Plot Cliches
We all know a cliche when we see it in a movie or read it in a book. It's important to think about how cliches annoy you when you come across them, so you'll be less likely to include them in your own work. By writing a story that only you can tell, instead of borrowing from popular formulas, it will be fairly easy to avoid common plot pitfalls.
We read so that we can be moved by a new way of looking at things. A cliche is like a coin that has been handled too much. Once language has been overly handled, it no longer leaves a clear imprint. ~ Janet Fitch
If you're having trouble generating new story ideas - try the what if question game. What if you lived in an alternate universe? What if you had to change occupations? What if you were alive during the early 1900s? By asking a series of what if questions with your personal experiences and interests in mind you'll be able to ensure your stories are coming from a place of sincerity.
Alternate history fascinates me, as it fascinates all novelists, because 'What if?' is the big thing. ~ Kate Atkinson
Tip 3: Use the Power of Emotion
Engage readers with emotional content. Readers that feel emotionally invested in the characters or story won't want to put the book down. After all, emotion often overrides reason in the human brain (compelling reasonable people to stay up all night reading).
A plot is nothing but a normal human situation that keeps arising again and again….normal human emotions—envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed, and so on. ~ Louis L’Amour
It's important for readers to feel connected to your characters. Think about what you can do to make them seem more real to the audience. Research facts, build backstories and create character profiles to ensure they are truly authentic.
As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are. ~ Quentin Tarantino
Tip 5: Draft Dynamic Dialogue
Effective dialogue helps to bring characters to life and advance the story. Read authors renowned for dialogue to find inspiration when writing your own.
If you are using dialogue -- say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech. ~ John Steinbeck
Craft Compelling Stories With the Help of These Great Books
"The Writer's Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings That Sell" by Paula Munier
Give your story its best start!
The best beginnings possess a magical quality that grabs readers from the first word and never lets them go. But beginnings aren't just the door into a fictional world. They are the gateway to the realm of publishing--one that could shut as quickly as it opens.
In "The Writer's Guide to Beginnings," author and literary agent Paula Munier shows you how to craft flawless beginnings that impress agents, engage editors, and captivate readers. You'll learn how to develop the big idea of your story and introduce it on page one, structure opening scenes that encompass their own story arc, kickstart your writing with effective brainstorming techniques, and introduce a compelling cast of characters that drive the plot. You'll also examine the best-selling novels from different genres to learn the secrets that experienced writers use to dive straight into a story.
With thorough examinations of voice, point of view, setting, dialogue and conflict, "The Writer's Guide to Beginnings" is a must-have tool for luring your readers in with your opening pages--and convincing them to stick around for the ride.
Also available in eBook.
"The Irresistible Novel: How to Craft an Extraordinary Story that Engages Readers from Start to Finish" by Jeff Gerke
Discover Your Voice and Enthrall Readers!
The craft of writing is filled with various debates: Should I include a prologue? Should I delete all adverbs from my manuscript? Just how much backstory--if any--can I include in my story? These questions--and their often-contradictory answers--can cause confusion, frustration, and even paralysis in the writer.
"The Irresistible Novel" frees you from the limits of so-called "rules" and instead provides you with a singular goal: You must engage your readers from beginning to end. Filled with down-to-earth discussions on the various debates of writing, as well as innovative research on neuroscience and reader response, this book shows you how to:
Readers want to be swept away by your stories. When you eschew the rules and focus on your readers' desires, you're free to write truly irresistible fiction.
Also available in eBook.
"Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel" by Cheryl St. John
Craft an Emotionally Charged Story That Will Resonate with Readers.
Emotional impact shouldn't be dropped into your novel as an afterthought or forced upon your story with a pair of pliers and an iron grip. It should be carefully sewn into the fabric of the story to create tension-filled moments that will keep readers turning pages. In "Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict," you'll learn how to:
When writing a novel, your ultimate goal is to make readers smile, weep, rage, and laugh right along with your characters. "Writing with Emotion, Tension, & Conflict" will show you how to evoke a multitude of feelings in your readers--and keep them coming back for more.
Also available in eBook.
"The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers" by Matt Bird
You've just boarded a plane. You've loaded your phone with your favorite podcasts, but before you can pop in your earbuds, disaster strikes: The guy in the next seat starts telling you all about something crazy that happened to him--in great detail. This is the unwelcome storyteller, trying to convince a reluctant audience to care about his story.
We all hate that guy, right? But when you tell a story (any kind of story: a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, a stage play, a comic, or even a cover letter), you become the unwelcome storyteller.
So how can you write a story that audiences will embrace? The answer is simple: Remember what it feels like to be that jaded audience. Tell the story that would win you over, even if you didn't want to hear it.
"The Secrets of Story" provides comprehensive, audience-focused strategies for becoming a master storyteller.
Armed with the Ultimate Story Checklist, you can improve every aspect of your fiction writing with incisive questions like these:
To succeed in the world of fiction and film, you have to work on every aspect of your craft and satisfy your audience. Do both--and so much more--with "The Secrets of Story."
"Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction" by Jeff Vandermeer
This all-new definitive guide to writing imaginative fiction takes a completely novel approach and fully exploits the visual nature of fantasy through original drawings, maps, renderings, and exercises to create a spectacularly beautiful and inspiring object. Employing an accessible, example-rich approach, "Wonderbook" energizes and motivates while also providing practical, nuts-and-bolts information needed to improve as a writer. Aimed at aspiring and intermediate-level writers, "Wonderbook" includes helpful sidebars and essays from some of the biggest names in fantasy today, such as George R. R. Martin, Lev Grossman, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Catherynne M. Valente, and Karen Joy Fowler, to name a few.
Engage Your Readers with Emotion!
While writers might disagree over showing versus telling or plotting versus pantsing, none would argue this: If you want to write strong fiction, you must make your readers feel. The reader's experience must be an emotional journey of its own, one as involving as your characters' struggles, discoveries, and triumphs are for you. That's where "The Emotional Craft of Fiction" comes in. Veteran literary agent and expert fiction instructor Donald Maass shows you how to use story to provoke a visceral and emotional experience in readers.
Topics covered include:
Readers can simply read a novel...or they can experience it. "The Emotional Craft of Fiction" shows you how to make that happen.
"Crafting Dynamic Dialogue: The Complete Guide to Speaking, Conversing, Arguing, and Thinking in Fiction" from the editors of Writer's Digest; foreword by Cheryl St. John
Write authentic dialogue that invigorates your story!
Exceptional dialogue isn't just important when writing fiction--it's essential. In order to impress an agent or editor and keep readers turning pages, you need to deliver truly standout dialogue in every scene. "Crafting Dynamic Dialogue" will give you the techniques and examples you need to impress your readers.
This book is a comprehensive guide to writing compelling dialogue that rings true. Each section is packed with advice and instruction from best-selling authors and instructors like Nancy Kress, Elizabeth Sims, Steven James, Deborah Halverson, James Scott Bell, Donald Maass, Cheryl St. John, and many others. They'll show you how to:
Whether you're writing flash fiction, a short story, or a novel-length manuscript, "Crafting Dynamic Dialogue" will help you develop, write, and refine dialogue to keep your readers hooked.
Also available in eBook.
"Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative" by Chuck Wendig
Hook Your Audience with Unforgettable Storytelling!
What do Luke Skywalker, John McClane, and a lonely dog on Ho'okipa Beach have in common? Simply put, we care about them. Great storytelling is making readers care about your characters, the choices they make, and what happens to them. It's making your audience feel the tension and emotion of a situation right alongside your protagonist. And to tell a damn fine story, you need to understand why and how that caring happens. Using a mix of personal stories, pop fiction examples, and traditional storytelling terms, New York Times best-selling author Chuck Wendig will help you internalize the feel of powerful storytelling. In "Damn Fine Story," you'll explore:
Whether you're writing a novel, screenplay, video game, comic, or even if you just like to tell stories to your friends and family over dinner, this funny and informative guide is chock-full of examples about the art and craft of storytelling - and how to write a damn fine story of your own.
"The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide To Classic Writing Techniques" by Nancy Lamb
When you consider the thousands of years of storytelling that comprise our literary tradition, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the shadow of so many works. But there are common threads that link all stories–from "Beowulf" and "Hamlet" to "Gone With the Wind" and "The Godfather" to the story you're drafting right now in your head. These threads form the foundation that supports story–a foundation Nancy Lamb shows you how to access and master.
Whether you're writing a novel, a memoir, or a screenplay, "The Art and Craft of Storytelling" offers time-tested ways to translate a concrete idea into a polished work. In this book, you will find strategies for:
"The Art and Craft of Storytelling" gives you all the tools you need to contribute your own story to our great tradition, to open new worlds to your readers, and to introduce new ways of thinking. This is the power and purpose of story. And by your writing, this is the tradition you honor.
"Spellbinding Sentences: A Writer's Guide to Achieving Excellence and Captivating Readers" by Barbara Baig
Elevate Your Writing From So-So To Spectacular!
Great writing requires more than an original idea, compelling characters, or a scintillating plot. An author needs all of these to be successful, but writing--and writing well--also demands an entirely different skill set. "Spellbinding Sentences" arms you with the tools you need to master the power of the English language.
In this book, you'll learn the different qualities of words and the many ways those words can be combined to create sentences that hook readers. You'll emulate sentences from your favorite writers, practice proven techniques, and develop your skills one step at a time. The result? Your ability to craft excellent sentences will become second nature--and those sentences will hold your readers spellbound, page after page.
Barbara Baig's Spellbinding Sentences is a tribute to the pleasure and vitality of the English language. Never prescriptive and always clear, this enlightening book is sure to help all those wishing to add grace and strength to their writing. ~ Jane Brox, award-winning author of "Brilliant: The Evolution of Artificial Light," one of TIME magazine's top ten nonfiction books of 2010"
"Spellbinding Sentences" is sophisticated and down-to-earth at the same time. Barbara Baig has distilled decades of experience into this wise book." ~ Edward Dolnick, New York Times best-selling author of "The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece"
Learn More About the Art of Storytelling With These Helpful Articles
Three Powerful Ways to Brainstorm New Story Ideas - Well-Storied
5 Golden Rules for Writing Authentic Dialogue - Writer's Edit
5 Tips For Creating Characters Readers Can’t Wait to Come Back To - The Creative Penn
5 Tips on Writing Dialogue - NY Book Editors
7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great - Writer's Digest
Ten Authors Who Write Great Dialogue - LitReactor
10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue - Write to Done
10 Tips to Avoid Cliches in Writing - Writer's Digest
The 7 Tools of Dialogue - Writer's Digest
Emotion vs. Feeling: How to Evoke More From Readers - Writer's Digest
Story Plots: 7 Tips for Writing Original Stories - Now Novel
Your Novel’s First Scene: How to Start Right - Jane Friedman
Toledo Library Blog Posts on Writing
Looking for reading, listening and viewing suggestions beyond what's featured in this blog post?
Contact us - we can help!