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Jim Butchers Writing Tips
over 5 years ago
A New Chapter
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## What Is This Craft You Speak Of?
To talk about writing a story, first you have to ask, "What IS writing?"
Writing, in its most essential sense, is an artificial means for getting thoughts and images which reside in YOUR brain over to the guy holding your book in the most effective and accurate fashion possible, so that the reader will successfully translate your thoughts into HIS brain. The written word uses symbols to describe sights, sounds, and situations, in order to let the reader create the story inside his own imagination as he reads.
Writing is the original virtual reality.
If all goes well, the imaginary world you help the reader create in his head becomes as believable, exciting, and interesting as the real world.
But that means you need to make everything go well. In order to do THAT, you apply story craft.
##Story? What story?
To talk about story craft, first you have to answer the question, "What is a story?"
Simply put, a story is a narrative description of a character (the protagonist/hero) struggling to attain an important goal. In general, the protagonist is opposed by another character (the antagonist/villain).
The protagonist sets out to achieve his goal and faces problems and opposition to his intentions along the way. His risk of loss increases as the narrative proceeds, and casts an element of doubt over whether or not the protagonist will attain his goal. Then, in a final confrontation of some sort (the climax), the protagonist either succeeds or fails, based upon his own choices and actions. We'll talk more about protagonists and antagonists and climaxes and conflict as we go along.
Story craft, writing technique, story structure. They're all different names that mean the same thing (at least for the purposes of these articles). They describe the practice of methodically approaching the writing of any given story with a definite, specific goal, and a plan for making that narrative engaging and entertaining as possible.
##Get to the Story Craft Already!
Story craft describes the practice of using every possible element at your disposal to write a good story. It means that you have a plan for the book--you know where you want it to go, and why. It means that you understand something about how human psychology ticks, and you use it to your advantage. It means that every piece of the story has a definite purpose, and that it furthers your story in the most engaging way possible.
Simply put, story craft is nothing more and nothing less than manipulating the emotions of your reader.
Sounds cynical and mercenary, don't it?
It isn't. And it is.
Stop and think about it for a minute. You've all read books. You've all paid money for them in the expectation of being entertained. The books written well enough to make you burst out laughing, break down in tears, tremble with fear, snarl with anger or smolder with desire are probably the ones you like the most. They're also the ones you are happiest to pay for and most enjoy talking about. As a reader, you want to be entertained.
You WANT the author to manipulate you.
Authors are the other side of the coin. From an artistic perspective, you have an obligation to manipulate the reader to the best of your ability--that's what makes a good story. From a mercenary standpoint, successful manipulation is also what gains the most readers and makes the most money through increased sales.
Long story short: The story craft I'll be describing here is a toolbox. Inside it are time-proven techniques for exploiting human psychology in your favor. Learn to use the tools.
Just remember to wear your safety glasses and try not to accidentally chop off any of your fingers
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