The Challenges of Writing Narrative

For the basics of writing good characters, read this first.

To be a writer is to want to be read.

I can’t make a reader want to read my book: not the next page; not even the next word.

The best I can do is to choose my words and arrange them in such a way that the reader’s curiosity will drift to where I wrote to the next word and to the next and so on.

What’s the best way to do that?

I’m a storyteller. I need to tell a compelling story. What makes stories compelling?

Readers experience stories as having plots, settings, characters, themes, motifs, and a few others that I’m probably forgetting. Do I really need to make all of them that interesting?

All of these things are interrelated; but which is the most important?

Plots, themes, motifs: these aspects of story often require rumination after the story has been read in order to identify. Characters and setting are more or less explicitly described by the writer. (The writer may not even be consciously aware of themes, motifs, or plot).

Settings can be characters (think New York City), but for the most part settings are merely the place that events happen in. They are almost always static; background—literally.

This leaves us with character.

If I’m going to entice the reader to read the next word and the next word and so on until the end of my story is reached, I have to make sure that the characters that they experiences are compelling. The reader needs to be invested in the characters’ journey; the external and—especially of one seeks to write literary fiction—the internal.

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