Mastering the Power of Literary Story

A writer’s imagination in fiction opens the gates to creating great literary stories. To shape great literary stories, authors master skillful characterization and apply centuries-proved story structure that has matured from creative writers of the past.

Most writers today dream of a writer’s life style and acclaim; they write for admiration, fame and fortune. Nothing wrong with that; it brings successful careers for many. But some writers want to create stories that last into future generations and will provide understanding of  the constantly-evolving meaning of being human. Literary fiction stories can uniquely portray thoughts and emotions, nature of love, core human desires, sense of morality, transmit the soul of their generations with lasting penetrating impact that visual storytelling modes (such as film, video) often lack.

How can a writer today achieve memorable meritorious stories about events and people as great literature? So many of the past great fiction writers–Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Flaubert, Bronte(s), Sophocles, Hemingway, Faulkner, Homer, Austen, Conrad, Melville, Forster, Woolf, and so many others–reveal how humans live and how life changes them. There are no secret formulas but there are commonalities that generate power to move readers and propel stories to evolve with mankind into future generations.


Elemental Truths For Learning to Create Great Fiction

1) WRITE WITH PURPOSE. Does the writer want fame and fortune, or engage, entertain, and enlighten readers in significant and individual ways by imaginative and skillful story presentation.
2) THEME AND MEANING. Theme is recurrent ideas; meaning is significant ideas. Lasting stories contain both.
3) CHANGE.  Characters change as stories progress and so do readers after reading a great story. Examples: enlightenment (discovery or experience a new way of thinking), a shift in morality, a reversal in thinking, a coming of age.
4) DRAMA. Drama is conflict, action, resolution and is useful in many levels of story writing, character development, plot, scene construction, and prose. Dramatization is the major skill for characterization, especially with skills in writing in-scene, dramatic conflict and action.
—a) Major characters’ CORE DESIRES, which they rarely know and keep secret.
—b) Logical and credible MOTIVATIONS.
—c) Sense of  MORALITY dramatized.
Almost all great stories are structured in the telling: beginning, middle, and end and paced story-related ideas and happenings only.  In literary stories consider:
—a) Carefully considered TIMELINE for credibility and comprehension.
—b) CHARACTER-BASED PLOTS. Character desires and motivations, strengths and weaknesses help drive story plot (with less reliance on fatalism or serendipity).
—c) Emotional ARCS (e.g. angry–>loving).
—d) Logical and credible ideas and happenings SEQUENCED with transitions.

Thanks for reading. For more on creating literary fiction stories, see, a resource for writers with more that 1.5 million views and/or look at Creating Literary Stories: A Guide for Fiction Writers.

The Surgeon’s Wife. Award-winning novel set in New Orleans by William H. Coles.

Illustrations by Betty Harper

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