Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Storytelling: You Can't Break the Rules if You Don't Know the Rules

Did you know there is a difference between knowingly doing something in your storytelling process and just plain doing what you want to the point it will not attract a publisher? You must understand the structure and storytelling process in order to deviate from it. What do I mean? Well, I see amateur manuscripts where the writer clearly doesn't understand traditional structure, period. The writer will just do whatever he or she pleases, and it doesn't work because there is no context or construct in which the person is deviating. I will give you the reason why and an example. Readers understand certain principles about stories and how stories unfold. Readers have certain expectations about the reading experience, too. For example, readers expect characters to have something as basic as an understandable name. Now you say, what? Yes, I got a manuscript submitted once where the writer absolutely insisted the names be (wait for it) ______. Yes, you saw the right -- underlines for dropping a name in. It was silly and ridiculous -- the writer thought it was original. So how exactly is the reader going to differentiate one _____ from another _____? It's impossible. Our brains don't work that way. The author had a fit and insisted it be done that way or not at all. Guess what our answer was? Other structural breaks confuse readers. Again, readers have certain expectations when they open a book. They expect a beginning, middle and end (and not necessarily in a linear order), but they EXPECT those elements to be in the book. Now authors are free to artistically play with the concepts, but the concepts must be understood: you can't break the rules if you don't know the rules.

Tip: If you don't know the basic rules, but you have a book in your head, sign up for some creative writing classes at your local adult education center or college.

Tip: If you want a book coach to help you, contact us at 916-300-8012 or log onto the website at

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