When I first started writing fiction, I fancied that it would be easy as I had always enjoyed spinning a good yarn around a campfire or during a long car ride. Truthfully, I tell stories quite often. My friends can testify that most of these tend to be painfully overdrawn, a habit I’ve been trying to rectify.
It got me to thinking about the difference between telling a story and writing a story. If asked, I could recount to you one of my backpacking adventures. It’d have a few interesting points, but I doubt whether it would captivate you for more than a few minutes. Why is that?
The plot: Dan and four friends hike a week in the wilderness, see wildlife, eat bland trail food, suffer numerous near death experiences, and return safely home.
Such a plot couldn’t support a novel on its own. No, it needs something more, and I believe one of the missing items to be conflict. I can’t just tell readers that I ate bland trail food. No, I must set it up by letting my audience know that I hiked 10 hours a day, all uphill. I burned ‘x’ thousand calories, and unless I could eat a good meal, I might not make it over the final pass, etc. Each element can be similarly embellished. The story sounds more interesting already.
I’ve pointed out half of the solution to transitioning from modest storyteller to crafty novelist. Would anyone like to venture to guess what might be the other aspect of missing magic? There’s likely several good answers, but I do have one in particular in mind that I’ll share tomorrow (full credit given, of course, to whoever guesses my answer).