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Recently, I became a huge fan of K.M. Weiland. Aside from her author website, she put up an awesome site to help writers become authors, posting helpful articles which she also podcasts.
Reading from her sites and listening to her podcasts make me feel I’m in a virtual creative writing class. I am learning so much about writing from her. She is so generous not only in sharing her knowledge and experiences on writing, but also in giving out free ebooks on writing and her stories. Check out her links at the end of this article!
One of her recent posts, The 5 Secrets of Good Storytelling (That Writers Forget All the Time), is something that I, as a writer, must always remember in writing my stories. And since I’m more of a visual learner who always needed to be reminded of something important, I made an infographic out of it! My many thanks to Katie Weiland for allowing me to create and post it here.
Here is what I understood from her very valuable post:
1. Every Piece Must Contribute to the Plot
Katie likened a great story to a circle of dominoes, where every character, scene, setting, plot twist, and subplot are linked together to create a unified chain of cause and effect.
In one word: cohesion.
Everything in the story (especially characters) need to matter and must be cohesively connected together for a very important purpose: to build up to a climactic moment, which is the defining moment in your story.
2. Plot Must Contribute to Theme
If the first was cohesion, I call this one cementing. It connotes a firm clamping together of the story with the theme — as in fusing them, to come up with a great story.
To be able to create a great story which is not only entertaining but profoundly moving for the reader, the plot (together with its components) must be written in such a way that it weaves itself into defining and expressing the theme, or the main thought that you wanted to say through your story.
In Katie’s words, “What is your story trying to say?” And does your plot, with all its characters, backstories, twists, lead up to it?
3. Stuff Can’t Happen Just to Have Stuff Happen
Avoid unnecessary characters, settings, subplots, twists that don’t matter in your story. Never add stuff just because it’s sounds or reads cool.
Again, as a reminder, we go back to Secrets 1 & 2, whatever is put into a story should be connected together and cemented with the theme too. So, why put anything that doesn’t make sense?
4. Characters Must Change
Your characters must not be the same as they were in the beginning of the story. Whether it’s their beliefs, actions, attitudes, their physical, emotional and mental state, and even the world or place they live in or are a part of, there must be changes — which should contribute to the climactic moment in a story. If not, then it’s also meaningless.
5. Realistic Cause and Effect Must Arise From Character Motivation
Characters must have valid or solid reasons for their actions and decisions, not just because it’s convenient or it’s cool. “Characters can’t be at war just because, hey, wars are dramatic and interesting. Characters can’t recklessly dive into conflict just because, hey, reckless heroes are awesome. Characters can’t fall in love just because, hey, they’re both adorable, so why wouldn’t they fall in love?”
Accordingly, character motivation must be a driving force that should be woven throughout the story and will lead, yet again, to the climactic moment.
I noticed that all these five secrets basically boil down to two basic truths of writing a story: cohesion and cementing. When we write about a character, or a backstory, or anything at all, we should always remember to connect and lead them to the climactic moment, thereby fusing them with the plot and the theme.
The result? A great story that will make readers emotionally engaged and intellectually stimulated.
Here are K.M.Weiland’s sites:
You can also subscribe to the Helping Writers Become Authors podcast in iTunes.