Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

The Story in All

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Nov• 07•11

The Story in All



Examine human nature and you’ll find a primitive creature, afraid of the night, spooked by unexplained noises, and troubled by the mysteries of nature and death and heartbreak. To be human is to need answers and solace. And ever since there was a fire and a circle gathered round its warmth and protection, there have been stories.
Stories explain birth, death, love, loss, and longing. Stories keep the roaming beasts and night away. Stories sweep us from our small lives into something grander and more powerful than our own imaginings. Thus, a writer must start with the ancient and oh-so satisfying concept of story, if you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.

Story is for luring readers, not peacefully, but gracefully or perhaps forcefully into another place, involving them emotionally, and thrilling them vicariously. Story is also a powerful, soothing ritual we’ve known since we were small. It has that “Once upon a time” unfolding and that delicious promise that the words come from the practiced hands of someone who appreciates the art of story.
No matter what your genre—nonfiction article, essay, memoir or novel, somewhere in those words lies a story. And when I say story, it means that events in the story cause other events to happen; there is a thoughtful exploration of themes, and all the elements MATTER to someone, especially the reader.
Sweep the reader into the story world with authority so only the story exists beyond the dailiness of the room or plane where the book is propped open. Effective openings blend conflict, vivid details and an authentic, compelling voice.

Stories are meaningful, but don’t allow themes to bury them and know the difference between teaching and preaching. Don’t rant, but instead show us the consequences of unfairness or injustice, without resorting to melodrama or sentimentality.
Most writing, whatever the genre, is revealing a person’s life so that a reader muddles amid his or her burdens, sorrows and dilemmas. In fiction, a reader wants to on take these burdens on as if they’re her own.
Readers read for entertainment, information, for distraction, but also to understand the nature of humanness. Create moments of truth that pierce their bruised hearts, force them to peer deep inward.Writing is about revelation—shows readers how people or characters think and feel by staging scenes.
And finally, somehow, sprinkle a bit of fairy dust into it all. Use artful language and fresh images. Transport your reader to another realm or a gritty reality. Remember that stories were first told to keep the night away, to escape the hungry eyes beyond the safe ring of firelight. Remember that stories live on.

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