Friday, June 13, 2014

Three Ways to Write a Story


1.) Start writing and allow the story to create itself.

In movies, shoot the world and find a theme. European directors like Fellini, Godard, and the Neorealists did this.

2.) Outline your story or novel step-by-step, setting up everything in advance. Know where you’re going and where you’ll end.

In movies, this is the storyboard technique used by Alfred Hitchcock and George Lucas. No surprises.

3.) Write a ton of material (or shoot a ton of footage) around a chosen subject—then eliminate, rearrange, edit, to discover what works best.

Film directors George Stevens and Orson Welles, among others, worked like this.


With my own recent writing I’ve tried all three ways.

In ebook novellas CRIME CITY USA and THE MCSWEENEYS GANG I used way #1.

With THE TOWER, I designed and plotted the entire novel in advance. The ending was the first part I wrote. Way #2.

With my new work, my “prototype,” ASSASSINATION OF X, I used Way #3. I wrote more than 20,000 words on the event the tale is about. I knocked this down to 15,000 words to patch together a narrative. My first version. Then I eliminated more of it.

I find it’s the hardest way to write. To complicate matters I used a few new tricks-- “literary montage”—learning to use new tools; discovering the excitement of mastering a more difficult skill.

I hope the result is worth the effort.

Buy ASSASSINATION OF X at Kindle or Nook.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Been thinking about this post for a while. I've never written anything- fiction or non-fiction!-- where I didn't do a mixture of these. Usually the research stage is "pull everything and anything"; then I 'feel' a trend I want to follow but the idea is amorphous; then I just spill something out onto my screen; then I 'storyboard' what's left.

The thing I find really hard about fiction is finding the good story that is 'real' enough to survive past first spill phase. With non-fiction I can always count on the 'history' to pull me back to a strong narrative, but fiction requires more faith than I'm used to giving. What keeps me going is the hope that in the end, I'll come up with something that's entertaining and connects with somebody.