steering the craft

does your story need a villain?

 

It’s been said that a story is only as good as its villain. Agree or disagree?

The truth is, our heroes need obstacles. Other characters in the tale may be instrumental in providing those obstacles. Why might they do this? Does being a “villain” equate to being “evil”?

More questions about villainy abound! How do we create “bad guys” without writing stale clichés? And how can we bring ourselves to write fully-imagined characters that we ourselves find unsavory?

Mwah-ha-ha! Clearly, the role of the “villain” is fraught with complexity. That’s what we dig into this week.


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

Continue Reading...

guardians at the threshold

 

Every story has a moment early on where the hero is presented with the chance to do something new and difficult. Let’s call it the adventure.

But adventures are scary and hard, and your hero may refuse—at least, temporarily.

The sudden appearance of outside obstacles is part of this powerful stage of storytelling, too. We call these archetypes the threshold guardians

All these inner and outer refusals are a good thing. Today we’ll discuss why the hero’s refusal is my favorite stage of the hero’s journey, and how using it skillfully can deepen your storytelling and your reader’s bond with the protagonist.


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog.

To watch live and ask questions, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

Or subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

Continue Reading...

bring your characters to life

 

When Geppetto made Pinocchio, he began by using an enchanted piece of wood. This gave him a significant head start on the task of making a wooden boy seem so real he actually came to life!

Luckily, we writers have some enchanted materials of our own to work with. There’s no building material more flexible yet durable than storytelling.

But the process of turning mere marks on a page into characters who live and breathe and feel as real — okay, realer — than the people we know in “real life” certainly feels like magic!

How do we do it? That's the subject of this week’s discussion. Some points covered:

  • Why description is not what brings characters to life
  • The difference between your main character and the supporting cast
  • How character and story are inextricably linked

Many thanks to Path of the Storyteller follower Jaron for requesting this topic! 


My weekly livestream is on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and...

Continue Reading...

the practice of writing

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” It’s an old joke, and the punchline, of course, is “practice!”

“Head north on Broadway and make a right on 57th Street” is also a correct answer, but it limits itself to physical circumstances only. Such literal-minded directions might get you to the door of the building, but they won't make you a world-class player. Only many, many hours of tush-on-bench with guidance from a worthy instructor will achieve that outcome. 

My ruminations yesterday about story energy are the fruits of a lifelong practice in the storytelling arts. A mix of study, mentorship, and a huge volume of hands-on doing has served me well. To incline toward action is advice worth its weight in gold; if you don’t write a lot, your writing will not improve.

If your writing is not all you wish it were, that’s all the more reason to produce more of...

Continue Reading...

facing the shadow

Yesterday’s talk of tricksters got me thinking about the archetypal energies that infuse every story. I call them energies because I consider storytelling a form of energy.

If that sounds a bit vague or metaphysical to you, consider this: A story is not its physical form. It is not the book between hardcovers; it is not the film on celluloid or digital data; it is not the little clickable box on your Netflix home page that takes you (at last!) to the new season of The Crown. Now you know what I’m doing this weekend! 

Story is a non-physical phenomenon that connects both author-to-reader and reader-to-reader. It’s the deep engagement with fictional characters in a made-up world; the feeling of having taken a journey with those characters and being altered by the trip, just as we are affected by the events of our real lives.

Oral traditions may manifest in written versions that later get made into...

Continue Reading...

whoops!

Sometimes my Path of the Storyteller students get that furrowed-brow look. They’re trying to invent, trying to write well, trying to get to the end of a draft, all the while knowing that many revisions will be in store before the book is “done.” 

That’s when we talk about the need to be playful. We’re just making stuff up here, people! We writers have total power over what happens on our pages, and a boundless capacity to invent, toss, and invent again. If we do our jobs well, we will have created something that never existed before. A new story! What could be better? There ought to be much joy involved.

It’s a good writing practice, too. As your story picks up pace and builds in intensity, a few well-placed moments of levity are always welcome. This is where a bit of trickster energy might be just the banana peel you’re looking...

Continue Reading...
Close

50% Complete

storytelling is golden

Welcome to the Path of the Storyteller family. Add your info below, click the button, and let the adventure begin!