December 28, 2021
by Samantha Hoffman
Sorry for the misleading subject line since I'm of the opinion that there are NO REAL RULES for how to tell a story. You'll see thousands of articles, however, with those words in the title, because those words sell. I bet it made you open this email.
Everyone wants to break the code: how do we write the Great American Novel? If someone just tells us the rules, well...cool.
Unfortunately, you can use a checklist, which is often helpful and motivating, but even after you've marked 'done' on each item your story may not be perfect. There are those pesky things called creativity, imagination, originality, etc., and those so-called rules just don't teach us how to cultivate those qualities.
Additionally, as soon as someone tells you to follow the rules someone else will break them and create something new and spectacular and successful, and that will be the next new thing that everyone will copy for years to come.
That said, it never hurts to listen to the experts. All the 'rules' have a grain of truth to them. They give us something to think about, something to consider and something to work toward. They will help us tell our story. Just don't expect them to be the definitive answer.
I'm no expert, but I do have rules of storytelling. They are:
Put your butt in the chair and write.
Tell a story people can relate to.
Create authentic and interesting characters.
Make sure there is a want and obstacle; a big one and many smaller ones.
Get it down on paper. Then make it beautiful.
Here are some articles that will give you something to ponder as you write your Great American Novel:
Writer, editor, artist, personal assistant, private chef, runner (8-time marathoner), film and theatre buff, traveler… Author of What More Could You Wish For (St. Martin’s Press).
V.P. of the Chicago Writers Association, Executive Director of Let’s Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference.
Visit me at www.samanthahoffman.com
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