Storytelling Essentials

This is a list of resources I put together for writers looking to improve their storytelling skills. I hope you find it helpful, and if you do, please share it with your friends and followers. Thank you!

Storytelling Essentials for Writers

I consider PLOT, CHARACTER and WORLD the 3 pillars of storytelling, and I like to tackle them in that order, whether I’m writing a plot-driven, character-driven, or world-driven story.

STEP 1: Plot

If you aren’t a natural storyteller, the best thing you can do is to start by following a set story structure. This could be in the form of a plot formula, a methodology, or an archetypal story, whichever resonates most with you.

Plotting Resources

  1. Choose your genre – genre defines so many aspects of a story, that it’s important to decide on it first. The Genre Mindmaps can help you too.
  2. The One Page Novel Plot Formula – the 8-stage structure I use to plot out all of my stories.
  3. The Fool’s Journey – the archetypal story of the Major Arcana of the Tarot and how to use it.

Troubleshooting

  1. Stop up a Plot Hole – use this worksheet to close up plot holes you find.
  2. Create a surprise Plot Twist – fill in this worksheet to create surprise plot twists for your stories.
  3. The One Page Novel Workbook which you can find in the Coterie includes a very useful table comparing The One Page Novel, The Writer’s Journey, The Hero’s Journey and The Fool’s Journey.

Step 2: Character

Once you have a basic structure to work from, you’ll want to delve deeper into your characters, including your narrator and/or your point of view characters. I find it’s best to extract information about your character from your story first, and then develop your character further from those “story constants”. You can find more information on how to do this on pages 55-60 of The One Page Novel Textbook.

Character Development Resources

  1. Name your character – this worksheet will help you decide on a name for your main character.
  2. Choose your narrator and decide how to use them – the narrator is sometimes a character in the character in the story, and sometimes the disembodied voice of the author. What does your story need and how can you incorporate it into your story? Use this worksheet to decide.
  3. Decide on your point of view character – the point of view is another essential aspect of the narration. Use this worksheet to help you determine who has most at stake in a particular scene.
  4. Find your character’s inner voice – how characters think, how they talk to themselves, and much or how little they reveal in their thoughts can be a huge part of presenting them to the reader.It’s especially important if you’re writing in first person. These 2 worksheets guide you through discovering how your character sounds in their own head:
    1. Expressing thoughts
    2. Expressing emotions
  5. Decide on your character’s career – occupations take up a huge part of our lives, and our career choices reveal a lot about our personality. This worksheet will help you find your character’s job, and explore how it affects the story.
  6. Give your character a quirk – a great way to distinguish your character from others is to give them a quirk; perhaps even one you noticed in someone in real life!

Troubleshooting

  1. Discover your character’s motivation – motivation is sometimes difficult to pin down because it involves so many aspects of a character’s personality. Hopefully these worksheets will help if you feel like your character is lacking motivation.
  2. Love your antagonist – your antagonist is just as important as your main character. They deserve some love!

STEP 3: World

If the world is particularly important to your story (as it often is for science fiction and fantasy writers), I recommend that you treat it as a character in its own right. If you’re using The One Page Novel plot formula, for example, you might want to create an entire page dedicated to your story world and how it develops through the 8 stages (Stasis, Trigger, Quest, Bolt, Shift, Defeat, Power and Resolution).

Once you have a clearer idea of your story world, you can explore it through the eyes of the view-point characters and narrators you created in the previous step. This will keep you from spending time doing worldbuilding that you won’t use.

Worldbuilding resources

  1. Choose a scene setting – setting can reveal a lot about a character and their world, and it’s often key to the way a scene unfolds. Use this writing worksheet to find the right setting for your scenes.
  2. Traverse your world’s geography – all worlds grow out of their physical geography. Geographical features define boundaries between settlements, and travel links. Geographical resources determine the location of settlements, and the materials available for people to build shelters.
  3. Explore your world’s political situation – whether we like it or not, politics influence the social, intellectual and economic landscape of our world (and probably of our story world). If you’re as out of touch with politics as I am, this worksheet can help you deal with politics in a sterile, fictional setting.

Troubleshooting

  1. Creating the right mood – if your world seems to be missing an elusive ingredient, it could be that it isn’t in line with the mood you want to create with your story.
  2. Imagine better – often the best technique to create your world is to visualise it.