Scott Alexander Jones © 2017  |  All materials submitted are kept confidential.

Do you have any useful storytelling tips? 



A good story always has an underlying theme, which reveals the author’s idiosyncratic take on some specific aspect of the human condition. Because it is entirely implied, the theme is the most invisible aspect of a story, but it is also one of the most essential. The theme of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, for example, is that the defects of society mirror the defects of human nature. While Golding never states this sentiment outright, this is the theme that his story is grounded in. In other words, the theme reveals the point that the story is making. A good thing to consider when writing and revising is: What point is your story making?


Reading as Detective Work


At its core, the reading process is an entertaining form of detective work and problem solving. Good storytelling keeps readers on the edges of their seats as they try to guess what will happen next, and good writers are like film directors in that they divulge information incrementally to have the deepest impact on the audience. Scenes tend to be ineffective when the events become easy to predict or when the narration explicitly outlines what is about to happen. In scenes with action or intrigue, you want to make sure that the reader’s interest is piqued as they try to solve for themselves what is going on.


In the Middle of Things


In one of the most common and well-established storytelling techniques, which goes all the way back to Homer's The Odyssey, the story begins right in the middle of things (in medias res, in Latin). Oftentimes, readers will grow weary if the story starts off with lengthy descriptions of the setting, the characters, the time period, etc. It can be more effective to jump right into the midst of the action, without preamble. As the story progresses, you can use dialogue and subtle hints in the narration to infuse clues about the setting, the characters, and the time period, rather than directly outlining all of this information at the onset.