This week on Guest Blog Wednesdays at The Australian Bookshelf we are joined by author, Mark O’Bannon. Welcome Mark!
How to Tell a Fantastic Story
Ninety percent of your success as an author depends on how good your storytelling skills are. Surprisingly, most people who want to become a writer never bother to learn how to tell a story. Writing skills aren’t just something you can acquire in a weekend. It takes passion, practice and study to become a writer. If you don’t learn the skills needed to craft a great tale, it can take years to succeed. Furthermore, if you don’t study advanced writing techniques, you may have difficulty in creating a truly great story.
Ninety percent of writers fail at the premise. The idea they’re using for their story is either a bad one, or it’s been done a thousand times before, or it’s a good idea that hasn’t been developed properly. So the first rule in telling a great story is to come up with an original idea. The best way to come up with a fresh, unique story idea is to start writing down lists of nouns. What do you hate? What do you love? What terrifies you? Write down these words, which will form the titles for your future stories. This is the best way to come up with a fresh idea.
Structure – The Foundation of Your Story
Ninety percent of screenplays and eighty percent of novels are turned down because of poor structure.
This means that one of the most important things you will ever learn as a writer is how to structure a story.
Too many people bring a cavalier attitude to the writing process. They think all they have to do is sit down and start typing and a few months later they’ll have a perfect story. All of the world’s most successful people – from Beethoven to Michelangelo spent years developing their skills. They didn’t just sit down to create a masterpiece the first time out. Basic storytelling techniques are fairly easy to understand, but the place where things begin to get difficult is the structure – how the story is designed. Every story will have a unique structure, based on the intent of the author, the type of story it is, the genre, etc.
When they build a skyscraper, where do you think they start? To build such a tall building, they need to spend a lot of time building a proper foundation. The Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan is one of the world’s tallest buildings, standing at 1,670 feet. Seven hundred thousand tons of earth were removed from the site and 382 concrete piles, five feet in diameter and weighing over a thousand tones each were driven 262 feet into the ground, 98 feet into the bedrock. They poured a 30,000 cubic yard concrete slab into the foundation, connecting all the piles, pinning the building to the bedrock and fusing the tower to the earth below it. It took fifteen months to prepare the foundation. During construction the city of Taipei was hit with a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, destroying a hundred buildings. Yet, the tower survived. They spent an enormous amount of time working on the foundation because they knew that structural problems create huge issues down the road.
When you’re working on a story, do not use the Three Act Structure System, which was developed for playwrights, not novelists or screenwriters. Would you give crayons to Michelangelo? If you want to create a fantastic story, you need to use the Seven Steps of Classical Story Structure taught by the premiere
story consultant in Hollywood, John Truby, in his book, “The Anatomy of Story.”
So how do you tell a great story?
Here are a few things you can do which may help you tell a fantastic tale:
- Lead with the THEME – The ultimate purpose of your story. Why are you writing this?
- A unique PREMISE – The way to build your story is by adding surprises.
- A clear MAIN CHARACTER.
- Give your hero a WEAKNESS or CHARACTER FLAW – This will create the NEED which forms the emotional wellspring of your story.
- A single, clear, positive DESIRE LINE.
- One MAIN OPPONENT and at least two SECONDARY OPPONENTS.
- Give your hero and opponents VALUE SYSTEMS.
- Know what the FUNDAMENTAL OPPOSITION is in the story. Who is fighting whom over what?
- Add SURPRISE REVELATIONS to the story. The opponents provide the revelations.
- If your story is weak, the problem can usually be found within the first 20 pages. To fix a story, go back to the DESIRE LINE and strengthen it.
Know that the greatest obstacle to writing a great story is you.
You aren’t competing against other writers. You are competing against yourself. You must have passion for what you’re writing, you must hone your skills by writing at least a thousand words a day, and you must study writing techniques.
The best books on writing are:
- “The Anatomy of Story,” by John Truby.
- “Zen and the Art of Writing,” by Ray Bradbury.
- “Writing the Breakout Novel,” by Donald Maass.
Always keep in mind the mood you want your audience to leave the theater or close the book with. How do you want your audience to feel after your story?
Hopefully, this short article has been useful to writers.
For more information, take a look at my blog: http://www.BetterStorytelling.Net/Blog
Mark O’Bannon J
About Mark: Mark O’Bannon is the author of THE DREAM CRYSTAL, which is the first book of THE DREAM WAR SERIES. The second book is called, THE DARK MIRRORS OF HEAVEN.
For more information, visit Mark online here:
If you would like to feature on Guest Blog Wednesdays at The Australian Bookshelf- whether you are an author, reader, writer, blogger- drop me a line at jayne.fordham(AT)live(DOT)com.au.