Top 10 Tips to Tell a Story
by Samantha Stone

Top 10 Tips to Tell a StorySo you have your story idea and the plot is practically writing itself inside your thoughts. You're ready to sit down and let the words flow.

Good. Keep these 10 tips in mind as you tell your story to keep your writing effortlessly flowing and your story on track.

1. Are You the One to Tell This Story?

This sounds a bit odd; after all, you thought of the concept. Some story ideas are complicated to execute, requiring more knowledge, time, or energy than the writer can dream up. It's easy to get in over your head when a great story idea pops up. Think through what the story needs for good storytelling before investing the time and energy to write it.

2. Best Point-of-View for the Story

Deciding this early will help your story to move quickly and smoothly, making your writing time more productive. Write a few early scenes from different points-of-view to get the best natural sound for the story's tone.

3. Best Viewpoint for a Scene

Aside from first-person limited, other viewpoints can be used for different scenes, and this gives the writer more freedom to have impact scenes. Decide who has the best vantage point for the scene. Or, in suspense, the character with the lesser amount of knowledge may have a better viewpoint so you don't give away too much detail.

4. Make a Plot Outline

Make a detailed outline of your plot, structuring it to include characters, high and low points for the action, and schedule in hit-points for obstacles, achievements, failures, and foreshadowing. A timeline can also help you keep your characters – and storyline – on track.

5. Active Voice

Use an active voice to tell the story. Don't slip into a passive voice; you can ‘hear' this when you read the story aloud. If you find yourself sounding like a narration in a documentary and your intense scenes sound like a monologue, rewrite.

6. Don't Allude to the Story – Tell It

This goes along with using the active voice to write your story, but often happens when a story or scene isn't fleshed-out well enough to begin writing it. Read the story or scene aloud and see if you find yourself referring to the story rather than telling it. If you have only a vague idea about a scene or story concept, shelve it until you find the voice needed.

7. Take the Author Out

Be a bystander. Let the story be the center of the telling, not you as the creator. When you begin to hear yourself telling the story rather than the story unfolding, reread and rewrite. Become invisible. In first-person point-of-view this can be a minefield of self-tell. Read the story aloud and see what you hear.

8. Use Vivid Imagery

Use all your senses to tell the story. Readers will get a better sense of a scene if you describe – briefly – more than just the dialogue and visuals. Weave in smells, weather, time of day, and secondary sounds to establish the scene and help capture the reader into the moment. Could you feel the heat rolling over you in The Long, Hot Summer?

9. The Power of Confusion

Shakespeare was a master of confusing his characters into strange and mistaken situations – to the benefit of the plot. Use this technique carefully; make sure the characters are justifiably confused for lack of knowledge or the story will feel contrived. Think how The Gift of the Magi used this.

10. Forget About Editing – For Now

On your first pass through the story, forget about editing. Write and get the words down. Get the idea on paper. Let your enthusiasm for the story come tumbling out. Edit later, and then edit mercilessly.

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