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How do you even tell a story?

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Sun Feb 10, 2013 8:29 am
yllufituaebroken says...

I know, it's a loaded question. But this is a problem I run into a lot. I have my characters, my conflict, my setting, morals, and message but it seems like my plot always ends up the same. I'm concerned that I don't have what it takes to effectively tell my story and show the reader what my characters are capable of and also to properly depict the message I am trying to send. So my question is how do you tell a story?
"In the city lights, that's where you'll find
a beautiful soul and a broken mind."

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Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:44 pm
Kale says...

I just tell it. If you're writing, it is practically a Law of Writing the first draft always sucks. That's why it's your first draft and not the final draft.

So, write the stories out. If they suck, that's what revision is for. If they don't suck, revise it to make it even less suckier.

But the most important part is to write it out at least once. It's easier to work with a flawed but complete object than an incomplete and fragmented one.

Also, something that might help is nixing the message. Sometimes, the message overrides the natural flow of the story as you try to make the story fit the message. Try writing without the intention of conveying a message and see what message results from the characters, the setting, and their conflicts. The plot should arise naturally from those three elements and their interactions, as should your message.

And if the message you set out to write doesn't appear in the story, don't give up on the story. Instead, take a look at the message(s) that are already in the story. They might just be as good or better messages than the one you set out to convey, and they will definitely feel more natural than the message you intended, because these messages will have arisen from the story itself rather than being imposed upon it.

There's very little more annoying than a perfectly good story being shoehorned into conveying a particular message.
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There are no chickens in Hyrule.
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Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:45 pm
Tenyo says...

Writing a story is easy. How many stories have you told in the past week. How many times have you said 'I was out with on friday...' or 'I'll see you later and we can go...' or 'I did my homework I swear but then as I was running out the door I put it down to put my shoes on and forgot to pick it up again.'

Pretend is something we do without ever being told to. Children constantly play pretend. In sports they create antagonists, with toys they make drama and action. Every time we go to sleep our subconcious mind conjours the weirdest sequences of events. One of the most natural things in the world for humans is to make stories. When you strip away inhibition and stress, anybody in this world can write a story.

Crafting a novel is another thing however. That takes time and effort, and like with any craft you need the right skills. To put it simply, try looking at live footage of a sculptor or a painter and see how they do things. Very rarely do they just start working on a masterpiece.

A sculptor will blow away the bigger chunks first, then start working on a general shape, then start to define it more. In the end they'll take a tiny chisle and add the small details, but when you see the final structure it looks almost nothing like the chunk of rock.

A painter won't paint everything at once. They start with a base colour first, then they add the darker shades and the most prominant features. They tend to skip from one part to another and build up a layer at a time.

Writing is just the same. The first draft is just the base layer. Then you switch chapters around, you cut out characters and change others, tweak plots. The more intricate details usually aren't added until last.

What skills do you need? Just look around the forums and you'll see all kinds of articles. Also one of the reasons reviews are so great is because people will highlight for you which skills you need to work on, and which ones you're particularly good at.

It takes time and practice to make a perfect work, but the very basics of story-telling are instinctive to us, and it's just building up from there.
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