What Storytelling Techniques Do You Use?

February 16, 2015

word magic

Storytelling is at the core of who we are as human beings. I’m convinced we’ve been doing it since our Neanderthal beginnings. Still, as ingrained as it may be to the human psyche, it takes a concerted effort to do it well.

There’s a difference between just relating a story, and telling an engrossing tale people will remember. It’s something every author, whether traditional or indie, needs to understand.

Sadly, many wannabes overlook some of the basic techniques.

Set the Stage
When you’re writing fiction, it’s important to set the stage. Tell your readers the place and time the story takes place. They need to know enough of the context so they can understand the story.

    It was late August, 1962, when I first saw Albert Parker. After all this time I still remember the year quite distinctly. It was my second teenage summer and, like discovering I had a sexual identity, it was a part of life’s first great transition. I had been waiting months for something special to happen, something magical. Something like having Marilyn Monroe show up on my doorstep.

Show, Don’t Tell
One of the most important lessons to learn as a writer is how to show your story, instead of just telling it. Give us a visual example and make us see it and feel it.

All our senses contribute to a story and help make the experience realistic, as well as entertaining. Use that knowledge, and appeal to all of your readers’ senses.

    The day started as a humid, hurt-your-lungs-on-a-deep-breath morning. A blistering sun was rising over the railroad switching yard at the far end of the street. Its red-orange glare filtered through exhausted-looking trees, while sinuous heat ribbons shimmered over motionless freight cars, their rusty shapes defined like so many slumbering beasts.

    I was already sitting on the curb under a big oak tree, trying to find relief in occasional humid puffs of air. A battered gray panel truck pulled up across the street, and signaled its stop with a tortuous squeal. An angular middle-aged man slowly unwound from the driver’s seat. Garish sunlight lit the edges of his hair. It made halos of his tight, graying curls and gleamed brightly from the center of his balding crown.

Plot and Conflict
I won’t spend much time talking about plot, other than to say it’s important to construct one because it’s true, even if you want to break or bend the rules, that there should be a beginning, middle and an end to your story.

More importantly, what’s the conflict? What leads up to it? How will it be resolved? You need to make sure to keep the tension going and leave the audience wanting more with each chapter. However, readers should feel satisfied when the story ends, so don’t forget some sense of closure.

Point of View
Also consider point of view. Would the whole story, or even just a chapter, have a more emotional appeal if it was told through the eyes of a child? How would multiple points of view affect the telling of the story?

    From my earliest memory all our neighbors said they were glad I wasn’t like my big brother. I never knew how to answer them when they said that. Albert was always there for me. What was wrong with that?

Use a dynamic character. This is a character that is changed by the conflict of the story. Readers love to see the reformed sinner find his way to something akin to success or redemption.

Realistic Dialogue
By all means, use realistic dialogue. I can’t stress this enough. Readers immediately lose focus when they hear something that sounds odd or out of place.

So, pay attention to the dialogue you write. Don’t throw readers out of the story.

    Albert put his face next to mine and whispered, “You tell anyone, Paulie…anyone,” he made a cutting motion across his throat with his good hand, “you’ll wish your Momma never bothered to have you.”

    “Ooh, watch me, I’m shaking.”

    There were still sparks in Albert’s eyes. “Do you think I’m kidding?” For a moment, I thought the rest of my day was about to become very bad indeed.

    “I swore, didn’t I?”

    “Just making sure,” Albert said.

Tip 1: Read the dialogue you’ve written out loud when editing, to hear if it sounds realistic. If you stumble over it, chances are your reader will, too.

Tip 2: Learn to eavesdrop on conversations around you, to hear how people actually talk. No, you’re not trying to learn all their secrets. You do it to understand how they actually use their words to communicate.

You might be surprised to know real conversation is not at all like your English teacher told you when she had you diagramming those sentences (Sorry, Miss Kujala, but it’s true).

Always keep in mind that readers want to be moved by what they’re reading. Understand what emotions your story invokes in the audience. Then, pull on those emotions, because the stronger you make your story the more effective it will be.

Best-selling thriller writer Brad Meltzer once said that, as a writer, you’re trying to look through someone else’s eyes. I think when you do it well, the reader gets to enjoy the view, too.

 

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The text samples above came directly from my award-winning novel, REICHOLD STREET.
 

Reichold Street by R.L. Herron

Reichold Street

by R.L. Herron

Giveaway ends March 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

**********

My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

Why Review Your Own Blog?

February 6, 2015

old telephoneFor Those Too Young to Remember … Yes, That IS a Telephone

Assuming you have a blog (and if you’re an indie writer, you really should), the simple answer is … it’s important.

I can hear you saying now, “Why? I suppose you’re going to tell me to be sure of my content, right? I mean, everywhere you turn these days someone is telling you content is king. OK. That’s all well and good … so what else is new?”

Content is NOT Everything
Don’t get me wrong. Content is important. People aren’t going to stop more than once to read what you say if it isn’t up to date, factually correct and relevant.

But that’s not the entire story. Blog visitors are usually looking for something more than simple content. Most of the time, what brings people back to any blog is not something they can easily put their finger on … but will know immediately when it’s not there.

Beyond simple writing quality and a trust in the accuracy of your information, your platform (your blog and, hopefully, your website) should convey your personality.

Because it’s that intangible resonance that only comes when you share a piece of yourself that gives readers faith in their connection with you, and brings them back … emotion.

That brings up the most important question you should answer about blogging. Why do you do it? Is it just to hear yourself rant, or do you really have something to say?

This particular blog is part of my platform, and I do it to share information with other author wannabes about the things I learn about the marvelous world of indie publishing.

But I readily admit that isn’t all there is to it. I also hope to educate folks about the fiction I write.

Is it Interesting?
I try to make my posts fact-filled and interesting … and I always ask myself two questions: (1) would I be embarrassed if everyone I know reads this, and (2) is this content WORTH sharing?

I also try to make sure posts aren’t political or religious in nature. A very wise man told me, years ago, “When you’re out with a group of friends, never discuss religion or politics. If you do, you may come home with fewer friends, or none at all.”

(Thanks, Pop).

Not that I don’t have opinions. Everyone does. That’s the point.

Don’t antagonize people. Make them think … omigod, yes, by all means, make them think … but don’t overdo it.

If You Want Readers, You Have to Be Interesting
I also ask myself will this interest my readers? After all, there’s a lot out there competing every day for a few precious moments of your time. It’s a good point to remember. If someone is visiting your site they’re there for YOU – so give them what they want. Make sure your personality is on display.

I always try to do that, and sometimes I even get it right.

Next Up
One of the things I’m going to try next is an on-camera interview, because it’s another proven way to connect with readers. When Stephen King released Full Dark, No Stars he did a live video interview, which you can view here.

I’m going to do that, too, except I’m not going to do it live. I’m going to have my son videotape me answering questions.

Where will the questions come from? Well, I could always write them myself, but I think it’s a good idea to get a few from you, too. You’re more likely to ask me things I never thought of before.

I’ve already commented on a few social media sites that I plan to record the interview, and I’m soliciting questions. When people have responded, I’ll tape myself answering, upload the video to YouTube, embed it on this blog and link it to The Twitter and The Book of Face.

I hope to find a lot of folks interested in a chance to peer into the dark, cluttered recesses of my occasionally creative mind.

In the end, it’s all part of gaining that critical exposure I need, as an indie trying to sell his books.

You Must Be Part of the Social Media Community
It’s true in the regular publishing world, too … before you can sell your books, you have to get them noticed. Major publishers have bigger budgets than most indies (mine is a few pennies above zero, unless I want to acquire a sizeable amount of debt), but their focus is the same.

Get the word out.

They expect you to have a platform. So, whether it’s a blog like this, on the Book of Face, The Twitter or someplace like Pinterest or Goodreads, as an indie you need to share your story.

Remember, don’t merely shout buy my books! Review other writers and introduce your readers to works you admire.

Be helpful, be creative, be fun. Be a friend. Plan a Goodreads book giveaway, like the one below. Let other writers introduce your work to their fans. There’s strength in numbers.

Now, I’m off getting ready to prepare my video … and I’m waiting to hear your questions.

**********

Reichold Street by R.L. Herron

Reichold Street

by R.L. Herron

Giveaway ends March 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

 

**********

My books have garnered some terrific reviews. You can see the stories I have available by using the Amazon link below.

buy now amazon

You’re also invited to visit my web site, BROKEN GLASS, or like my Book of Face page. You can also follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

**********

Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.


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