Is Your Story Compelling?

Compelling Stories

George Opacic

Respected literary artists writing fiction, whether they know it or not, usually employ techniques from musicians, weavers, painters and choreographers.

Compelling stories are a balance of the coherent retelling of a series of events, artistically peppered with elements of emotional content. View the result in your mind as a musical composition: it can’t be all crescendo, or a constant wail; the melody has to move up and down the scale in both pleasing and surprising ways.

Weave your story with characters that have their own personality. Place them within a landscape that is replete with colours and texture. Keep your readers’ interest with a smattering of the familiar, perhaps with an edge, but also take them off to fascinating places they wish they could experience in person. Maintain a reasonable reality, within the context of the genre, but push the details and nuances of your story to the edge of what the story-line will reasonably allow.

Construct the framework and background for the story separately, then use that blueprint as you build your tale. Add the elements of interest and intrigue. Craft your approach to unexpected plot twists by respecting the reader’s intelligence with not-so-obvious planted clues, then hit them between the eyes with it. They will think back and say, “Ah-ha!”

It should not be clear that the protagonist will save the day in the end. Conflict and struggle must spill onto your canvas. Move the characters through scenes so that they, and the reader, does not get bored. Cute antics or monologues unrelated to carrying the story forward will get you no marks from the reader. The framework is the place for the cute antics or philosophical monologues. If they really fit as connection points to the tale, they may be added to the manuscript. Otherwise, file them for another time.

Compelling stories are remembered because they form a strong emotional hook. That hook has to be connected to a physical line that is either immediately believable and comfortable, or transports the reader to a world within which the reader feels relaxed, jarred, angered, empathetic, horrified, vindicated… The emotion is what holds your reader’s eyes to the page.


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