The First Rule of Storytelling

December 9, 2008 at 12:52 am (My Thoughts, Writing Tips) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

In no particular order, my rules start today with number one on the list:

  • Do not focus your story on its concept and setting. 
  • Focus on the characters and their relationships.

Any good story has an interesting premise, adventure, and outcome.  For example, Mr. Smith must return his book to the library, but it’s too dangerous to go outside because wild animals roam the streets.  He must figure out a way to safely return the book.  That premise may be what interests a person to start reading it, but it’s not the reason why they will continue to read and become engrossed in what happens.

If you think about it, all stories are simply a telling of events.  Events, in turn, can only ever be about people and their reaction to these events.  If they are not about people, then readers won’t relate to them and will have no interest in what happens.  Any reader needs to relate to the characters in the story and hope that things turn out in the way that they want them to end.  So, the story needs to make the reader care what happens to the people involved in the adventure.

How do you make people care about your characters?  Easy.  Just give your characters real-life traits, but with enough variety to make them interesting.  Accentuate the differences with each character, and you will provoke an emotional response in the reader.  It doesn’t matter what type of emotion they feel, just as long as they feel some emotion. 

For example, when reading a story, you may hate a certain character because she is so selfish.  That’s okay, you’ll want to either see her change (by learning how to be unselfish) or see her be punished.  You may not love the character, but you still have an emotional response towards her when she is in a scene.  The worst characters are not those we hate, but those that we have no interest in whatsoever.

Make interesting characters come alive in your story, and your story will come alive to its reader.



  1. Dr. Tom Bibey said,

    This is very good advice. Each character must be human. No matter how much you like them, they all have flaws. It is up to the writer to show it.

  2. Deborah said,

    So true. The opposite of love is indifference. Characters should stir some sort of emotion in your, even if it’s pity.

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