Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sean D'Souza on Storytelling: Three Core Elements

In "The 3 Core Elements of Good Storytelling," Sean D'Souza offers good advice to novice writers. He begins with the basics of storytelling:
If we examine the Cinderella story closely we see three basic elements:
- The sequence

- The suspense

-The roller coaster
I argue that these same elements exist in every great story
Whether or not that's the case, I think that D'Souza is generally right, as we see:
Let's take a look at each of these three elements in the Cinderella story, and see how you can use them to your advantage:
1. The sequence:
We have the daughter who's mistreated and made to do menial work in the kitchen.

Then there're the other daughters romping about, having a great old time, doing what spoiled daughters do. These ladies fancy their romantic and social climbing chances with the prince.

But things don't go their way, and in turn, Cindy manages to get a fairy godmother. And blah, blah, blah.
There's a sequence of events building into each other here. But a good story must have some drama, some suspense.
2. The suspense:
Cinderella's mother dies and she's doomed to sleeping near the fireplace (which is how she gets the name, Cinderella).

But the fairy godmother appears from the blue - and suspense builds, because now Cinderella has a chance like everyone else. Will she make it? Won't she?

She does. And then, just as Cindy's hitting it off with the Prince, the clock goes nuts and her life is miserable once more.
What on earth is happening? What's with this girl? Is she just going to be a loser? Yup, that's all suspense.
3. The roller coaster
Good times, then bad. Then good, then bad.

Your story doesn't have to swing wildly, but it helps to have contrast, because contrast changes the pace of the story.

So, just as things are really yucky, along comes the knight in shining armour.

Or, just as things are looking great, an avian flu threatens to kill the entire population.
Cinderella's fortunes seem to bounce up and down, which keeps the interest in the story.
D'Souza now asks you to check your story (apparently, you've written one):
Every piece of story content you write must have a clear sequence, because without sequence a story has no meaning.

But what about suspense? You have to insert a certain amount of suspense. It's always there in your story, but when you insert a 'what the heck is happening' factor, you instantly build suspense.

And finally there's the roller coaster. If your story has been coasting with the fairies for a while, then it's time to bring out the ogres - and vice versa.
I think D'Souza's offered some good advice on basic storytelling. Recounting a tale takes more than a mere sequence of events. The reader needs to be held in suspense. And as I think about this, I see that the roller coaster element itself builds suspense, even bringing the suspense to a climax.

Labels: ,


At 9:47 AM, Blogger Carter Kaplan said...

Of course this invites/challenges the intrepid fictionist to tell a story that is disabused of these three core elements.

At 10:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...


Jeffery Hodges

@ @ @


Post a Comment

<< Home