Friday, December 13, 2013

Tell the Story


As writers we tend to micromanage our writing. It is easy to get caught up in where to place a comma, how long a chapter should be, whether to use dialog tags (he said, she said) or action tags in dialog, the proper CMOS for chapter headings, passive tense vs. active, less or fewer, and the list goes on. 

Don't get me wrong, these are all important aspects of polishing, but you can polish a lump of coal for hours and it
Photo by Pratham Books
will never become a diamond. To make a jewel you have to start with the gem, uncut, dull, lusterless, but the gem has to be there. 

For fiction writers, the gem is the story. I notice that when many writers critique other writer's work or post reviews on Amazon, they often point to the minutia of the writing, and, often, gloss over the story itself.

However, a non-writing reader is primarily interested in the story. When talking about your book to others, few will mention a particular turn of phrase, how often you used adverbs or if there were "floating body parts" or "head hopping scenes." What they will focus on is "And then they...."

The reader will forgive the occassional missed comma, awkward sentence or passive voice. What they will not forgive is a boring plot with characters they cannot relate to. Someone said the unforgivable sin of writing is boring your reader.

Always start with characters your reader can love, hate or move between the two who are sympathetic, but unique and interesting, who are real, but not quite ordinary. Then put them in a challenging situation, give them plenty of problems to solve, get them into trouble and show them overcoming the problems or succumbing to them, but tell a story that makes your reader keep turning the pages.


  1. So true! And here's hoping I get it right with my next novel! Thank you for this blog, as I need to be reminded sometimes of what is most important - and it is the story!

  2. Always love your posts & encouragement for writers.