Story Sorcery

Advice and Thoughts on the Craft of Storytelling in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction

Why the Hero's Journey May Not Be Right for Your Story

What if your story is not a hero's journey? Soon after my father died, I had a crazy dream. In it, I came home from work, opened up the front door of my house, and discovered a party. Streamers hung across the room, along with signs that said, “Welcome Back!” My four siblings were...

READ MORE

The Key to Reader Engagement

Storytelling is a complex beast. There are lots of things that appeal to readers: poetic sentences, imaginative alternate realities, sympathetic and/or courageous characters, relatable problems, vicarious experience. But at the scene level, there is really just one simple concept that spurs the...

READ MORE

Why You Need Strong Antagonists in Your Story

What’s the purpose of the antagonist to the story? What makes for a truly engaging antagonist? Discover why you need a strong antagonist in your story. Let's get something straight right off the bat: Your story is about your protagonist. That is, the protagonist is the star. By...

READ MORE

Problems vs. Obstacles: Strengthen your scene-level plotting with two types of conflict

We’ve all heard about the importance of conflict in storytelling. One of my favorite quotes in this regard comes from Charles Baxter, who says, “Only Hell is interesting.” If there’s not trouble in the story, we don’t want to hear about it. That’s not to say we want trouble to win out. On the...

READ MORE

Action v. Information: Convey Info without Stalling the Story

One last paradigm for how narration breaks down. I’ve already discussed scene vs. summary, time digressions, and interiority vs. external action. Action v. Information: Convey Info without Stalling the Story. I find it useful—and usually pretty easy—to break narration down into...

READ MORE

Juggle External Action and Interiority

This is the third narration breakdown. I introduced this concept of the external vs. internal in scenes in my initial post on the four ways to break down page-level craft. The previous articles in this series addressed scene vs. summary and time digressions. Discover tips for writing...

READ MORE

Writing Emotion

I'm going to let the graphics speak for themselves here. This stuff is from Robert Olen Butler's From Where You Dream, a fantastic craft book for writers of any genre. I've tried Butler's journal exercise, and it's very illuminating; I found it tremendously helpful in honing my depiction of...

READ MORE

Creating Suspense

I recently came across this insightful analysis of suspense in the opening of the film Inglorious Basterds. In it, there's a mention of an article from the Psychology journal, Frontiers in Psychology about Tension and Suspense. The authors, Moritz Lehne and Stefan Koelsch, posit six components...

READ MORE

Time Digressions in Narration

Manipulate time in your narration to gain both momentum and meaning I introduced this concept of present-time story vs. digression in time in my post on the four ways to break down page-level craft. The previous article in this series addressed scene vs. summary. This is the second narration...

READ MORE

Common Problems in Manuscripts

I work with a lot of manuscripts--everything from novels to short stories; chapters, scenes; essays, memoir--and in this video, I go over four of the most common problems I've encountered in the work I've read in the past year or so. Do you think you might have one of these problems?...

READ MORE