steering the craft

who’s the opponent?

 

I was doing a little research into Stoic philosophy—like ya do!—and came across a quote from Seneca: 

“I judge you unfortunate because you have never lived through misfortune. You have passed through life without an opponent—no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
—Seneca (4 B.C.E. — 65 C.E.)

To be thankful for one’s misfortunes is Stoic to the max. Leave it to a Roman to pull no punches!

But look at that second sentence: Without an opponent, “no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”

For our hero to pass through a story without an opponent would make for a pretty dull tale. And yet, experience suggests that the single aspect of good storytelling that developing writers most want to punch in the face is the necessity of filling their pages with obstacles. 

I get it. No one wants obstacles in real life. We want smooth sailing, even if Seneca says...

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the “likeability” trap

 

My dear storyteller, I hope no one has said this to you, but if you’ve heard it, please console yourself with the knowledge that you’re not alone. Buckle up and let’s get it over with:

“I just didn’t care about your main character. You need to make her more likeable. More relatable!”

Bah, humbug! I had to say it. Yet how many earnest writers have heard this all-too-common bit of feedback, licked their wounds for a minute, and then bravely proceeded to revise their draft to remove every character defect, cross word, and unpleasant facial expression from the manuscript?

Then, after all traces of humanity have been stripped out, the poor writer who’s fallen into the “likeability trap” throws in a saving-kittens-from-the-floodwaters scene for good measure, and perhaps adds a charming dollop of self-doubt and dorkiness to amp up...

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what hero really means

hero livestream replays Jul 06, 2021
 

Writers who are new to studying story structure often struggle with the idea of the hero. 

The term “hero” has connotations, after all. Does it mean someone strong? Someone male? Someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound? Questions that come up include:

“But what if my story has two (or more) main characters?”

“What if my hero is afraid?"

“What if my hero is kind of a jerk?" 

“What if my story is about a community?”

In this week’s livestream, I dig into these questions about the many possible permutations of the hero.  What kind of hero does your story rise from?


My weekly livestream happens on Wednesdays at 1 PM Pacific. Come live and participate! Or catch the replays here on the blog. You can leave your questions and comments below.

To watch live and ask questions, subscribe to the YouTube channel here.  

And you can join the Path of the Storyteller...

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character archetypes

 

Remember Wilson the volleyball? What a performance! It turns out that even a story about a guy stranded alone on a desert island can have a cast of archetypal characters.

What do I mean by archetypal? That’s our topic this week. Some characters might populate the edges of a tale like extras in a movie, but archetypal characters help provide the energy that keeps your story humming along.

Story energy is a fascinating topic. It’s at the heart of how I think about good writing, and how I teach it in the Path of the Storyteller program, too. If you’ve ever wondered how to design and use your secondary cast of characters, I think you’ll like this episode!


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. 

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does your hero need a makeover?

 

This is one of my favorite livestreams to date. Listen in as I unpack my not-so-guilty pleasure of watching makeover videos on YouTube. If you want to apply a soothing facial mask while you watch, all the better!

But here’s what we learn from it all: Story means change. Not just on the outside, but on the inside, too. Call it a spiritual makeover!

We readers (or viewers) come for that transformation. The bigger the change is, the better we like it. 

And we we’ll always root hardest for a hero who’s in most desperate need of a shift. 


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. 

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is your story running out of time?

 

We writers need to keep our readers awake and engaged. And guess what? In fiction as in life, nothing wakes us up like a ringing clock!

Speaking as someone who recently had a birthday, I can tell you that the passage of time is always a powerful tool for focusing our attention.

If there aren’t some high-stakes deadlines lending urgency to your story, maybe it’s time (see what I did?) to add some.

Today we talk about the ways time plays out in a narrative, and the ways time can be an invaluable tool for us writers to raise stakes, add urgency, and put ever more pressure on our hero. 


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. 

 

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the truth about point of view

 

Few topics cause writers as much consternation as point of view. What is it, exactly? Which one should you use? How are they different? Do you have to pick only one? And why is it so easy to go so wrong?

To be fair, much of the confusion about point of view comes from writers being told a bunch of stuff about it that’s simply not true.  Point of view is not just about pronouns. It’s the magic carpet of consciousness that transports the story that’s in your head to its new, forever home inside your reader’s head.

Sound deep? It is! Join me for what I hope is an illuminating discussion of that most metaphysical of writing craft topics.


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, you can join the Path of the Storyteller Facebook group right here.

And subscribe to the YouTube channel here. 

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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...

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