In his excellent blog, Copyblogger, marketing expert Sean D’Souza writes about the power of story to make a sale. Although Mr. D’Souza is referring to the business world, his ideas can be extrapolated to fit the world of writing fiction. Today I would like to do just that as we consider D’Souza’s thoughts on the three core elements of good storytelling: the sequence, the suspense, and the roller coaster.
1) Sequence. Every story will usually follow a chronological story line. You, the writer, will take your story from point A to point B to point C, all the way to the story’s conclusion. Readers expect sequence, and sequence grounds your story in time. Sequence also lends a necessary logic to your story that makes it plausible and believable.
2) Suspense. A string of events without any excitement, however, will cause your reader to put down your story. In order to prevent that from happening, you need to make suspense an integral part of your story. But what is suspense? Suspense is that element of your story that causes the reader continually to wonder what is going to happen to your character. Suspense is the realm of doubt that keeps your reader guessing and worrying. I like the way Dictionary.com defines suspense: “anxious uncertainty about what may happen”.
3) Roller Coaster. Related to suspense and flowing from it is the roller coaster ride of good storytelling. A good story will keep your reader riding upward on the crest of hope only to plummet suddenly into the trough of despair. Hope and despair alternate throughout your story, creating for your reader the emotional ride of his reading life.
Three elements of good storytelling: sequence, suspense, and roller coaster. Keep these elements in mind when writing your stories, with special thanks to Mr. Sean D’Souza for articulating them.
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