Every living human has a story to tell, and most believe they’ll get around to it someday… and if they get around to it, they’ll be blissfully successful even if totally unaware of what a story is and how difficult it is to do well.
Of course, stories can be how you want to think they are–memoirs, essay, non-fiction, history, character sketches, creative journalism, diary entries, or even letters, but the literary story (a written work that is considered lasting and of artistic merit) has proven to be the most long-lasting written form for the last few centuries. It’s one thing to scribble away to get your story onto paper, even published, without attaining thresholds of excellence to please a reader– thresholds of engagement, entertainment, and enlightenment. If you love your characters, and thrive on pride in the content of your story, you owe it to yourself to do the best you can to succeed by creating a story with potential to be read, assimilated, admired, and remembered. Consider this.
1. Provide character and pilot movement through time organized by the author, and not described as randomly-displaced, disjointed events from reality revealed with obscuration of origin and meaning.
2. Are infused with drama.
3. Emphasize characterization.
4. Create plots with architecture and credibility, theme and meaning.
5. Narrate to provide effective story information, images, and ideation.
7. Excite with excellent prose.
8. Require imagination and creativity rather than just remembering and describing.
Wait, you say. I want to tell my story . . . a story about me, my family, my experiences, my friends and acquaintances . . . a memoir that comes from the heart and doesn’t need contrived structuring and superfluous overthinking. Well then, great, if that’s how you feel, just do it do it and all the best. And if you’re a good writer, your work may well be received and lauded. But for those storytellers dedicated to excellence in writing fiction as literature, great stories are created by diligent intellectual pursuit of knowledge about story construction and experience in writing effective, clear, logical prose. And most important, for excellence, fiction writers must have an unvarying desire to engage, entertain, and enlighten a reader. To write well and create a great literary fiction story is a path to lasting pride and satisfaction.
KEY REFERENCES (available online free to read or download).
Literary Fictional Story
How Literary Stories Go Wrong
Conflict in Literary Fiction
“Facing Grace with Gloria”, a short story by William H. Coles available free for online reading and listening… and download.
Illustration by Peter Healy