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Thursday, February 3, 2011

More than Plot

How you tell it.
A story is not so much what you tell as it is how you tell it.  Obviously there is a huge difference between a story and a good story.  Then once in a while you run across the elusive great story.  There are many good stories out there that have the potential of sliding over to the category of a great story just by rearranging how the story is told.   As I am not an expert at writing great stories yet, I know one when I am reading one. 
Elements of the Great Story.
1.  Incredible Plot – good planning and execution from beginning to end with all loose ends tied up by the ending.
2.  Mini climaxes timed to coincide with the breaks in the story, right at the end of chapters so you don't want to stop at the end of this chapter but keep going.  Or you can't wait to get back to it because you had to stop at a mini climax at the end of a chapter.
3.  Do not over explain it, over describe it, or lay it in the readers lap.  They are not idiots; the people who read books are intelligent and can figure things out on their own.  Give them just enough information as needed and roll on.  Sprinkle the bread crumbs and let them find their own way through your story.
4.  Generally the stories the leave the greatest impact on me are the ones that sneak something in on you.  Either a surprise ending, a understanding of a puzzling development that as you read the end of the story allows all the dominoes to fall and pieces to fit together.  It reveals the picture of the puzzle you have been endeavoring to solve as you read the entire book.  There should be little discoveries throughout the book but the end piece should make you go WOW.
5.  Books that take me somewhere I have never been before, show some new piece of technology, some new vehicle, some foreign country, exotic place, or something entirely new.

One of my favorite authors once said you should go to a book store and then write the book that you can't find sitting on the shelf.  Write about the things you cannot find there.

A couple of examples of great stories are that movie where the kid is seeing the psychiatrist because he sees dead people and then you find out at the end of the story the doctor is dead also.  The other one is, "The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton.  This story is excellently told with giving you just enough information as needed, allowing little discoveries along the way.  It spans the life of three to four generations of women in a family with a brilliantly spun plot.  Another of my favorites is "Flight Of Eagles" by Jack Higgins, it starts with a stuffed bear wearing a flying jacket that has World War I and World War II flying medals attached to the jacket.  Excellent plot and example of the proper way to tell a story.

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