Storytelling guide

Essentials in writing: a beginners guide

Since time began, people have huddled around campfires, drawing others in with the magic of a well-spun tale. You’re here because you have tales to tell, and we’re here to help you tell them well. Let’s explore the magical world of story and narrative – the essentials in writing – and how understanding them can take your writing from “okay” to “wow!”

1. Story vs. Narrative: What’s the Deal?

You might’ve heard people talk about story and narrative like they’re the same thing. But there’s a twist: they’re two sides of the same coin.

1.1. The Heartbeat: Your Story

A story is the sequence of events; it’s what happens in your tale. Remember the age-old tale of Cinderella? Cinderella’s journey from a mistreated girl to a princess is the story.

1.2. The Voice: Your Narrative

Narrative is how you tell that story. Imagine Cinderella’s tale from the perspective of one of those pesky mice! That’s the narrative. It can change how we feel about the entire thing.

2. Breaking Down the Story Elements

Okay, we’re diving deeper into the essentials of writing. Every story has certain ingredients that make it click.

2.1. Form of the Story

Every story has events that push it forward. These are actions (like Spiderman swinging between New York skyscrapers), dialogues (Sherlock explaining his deductions to Watson), and happenings (like that iconic twist in ‘The Sixth Sense’).

Now, where do these events take place, and who’s involved? That brings us to existents. Think of Frodo and Sam in ‘Lord of the Rings’ – our characters. And their epic journey across Middle-Earth? That’s the setting.

2.2. Substance of the Story

Stories also have elements that are taken for granted, like cultural or universal truths. Remember Mufasa explaining the circle of life to Simba in “The Lion King”? That’s an idea deeply rooted in our understanding of nature and life.

3. Exploring Narrative Elements

Narrative is a bit trickier because it involves making choices about how you present your story.

3.1. Form of the Narrative

Here, we talk about the tone (is your story hopeful like ‘Finding Nemo’ or dark like a Batman comic?), the point of view (first person as in “Hunger Games”, or third person like most fairy tales?), and other elements like symbolism (think of the Mockingjay pin).

3.2. Substance of the Narrative

This is about how the story’s presented. It’s the difference between reading a thrilling scene in a Stephen King novel and watching that same scene play out in a movie adaptation.

4. Melding the essentials in writing

Imagine baking. Your story elements are like ingredients, and your narrative is how you mix and bake them to create a delicious cake. Let’s say New York City is your setting. In ‘Friends’, it’s warm and funny; in ‘Daredevil’, it’s dark and gritty. Same ingredient, different outcomes.

5. Dodging Pitfalls

Everyone makes mistakes, especially when starting out. Sometimes, new writers get so caught up in rules that they forget their unique voice. Remember: rules are more like guidelines. It’s okay to color outside the lines now and then!

Another common pitfall? Getting stuck in a story rut. Let’s say you’re writing about a haunted house. It’s tempting to stick with what we know from horror movies. But what if the ghost is friendly? Or what if the house is haunted by memories and not spirits? Play around!

6. Wrapping it Up

As you step into the world of storytelling, keep these essentials in writing in your writer’s toolkit. Remember, it’s a balance. Know the basics, but don’t be afraid to shake things up. Each story you write is a chance to explore, learn, and most importantly, have fun. Happy writing!

Questions and Comments

If you have a question let me know in the comments.

If you feel like you have a good grasp on these basics but still find it difficult to craft a story, you might want to check out my guide on how to start a story.