You are an aspiring novelist hoping to win a Pulitzer Prize. All you have written thus far are a few short stories that got mixed reviews. You feel you are ready to write a novel, but you don’t know where to start. So what do you do? You search online for the keys to great storytelling. Here is a hint: they probably aren’t what you think.
Most of the advice about storytelling discusses the technical aspects of writing. Advice tends to focus on the big five:
Again, all these things deal with the technical aspects of writing. But you could be diligent to incorporate each one and still end up with a lousy story. The opposite is also true. An illustrator can tell a remarkable story with a single picture – without the benefits of technically sound writing. Just look at any of the original artwork from the Umai anime clothing brand. Their images tell fantastic stories.
Here are the three keys to great storytelling:
● 1. Engage the Emotions
The greatest stories ever told are those that connect with people on an emotional level. Stir people’s emotions and you have their attention. Get them to feel something and you will also get them to keep turning pages. Emotional connections are what make the difference between great stories and mere words on a page.
Umai says that engaging the emotions is one of the reasons anime is so popular. Anime creators learned a long time ago just how powerful an emotional connection with the audience can be. Even if animation quality isn’t top-notch, a new series will garner a substantial fan base if the story makes an emotional connection.
● 2. Engage the Mind
Plausibility is always an issue when it comes to storytelling. Tell a story that doesn’t seem plausible, and you run the risk of releasing a dud. Yet at the same time, how many great stories really are implausible based solely on the laws of nature? Writers get around that by connecting with the audience’s mind.
For example, superhero powers are technically implausible. But what if a superhero was born on a different planet, where the laws of nature are different than those here on Earth? Now the mind has a way to accept that character flying through the air and lifting up a freight train with his bare hands. If you can engage the mind in such a way as to get around the implausible, you can tell a believable story about something that is otherwise unbelievable.
● 3. Engage the Imagination
Finally, telling a great story requires engaging the imagination. You want your audience to be emotionally connected. You want their minds to embrace the implausible. With those two things accomplished, you also want readers to be able to imagine themselves in the story. Engaging the imagination is the proverbial icing on the cake.
Imagination is the fuel of a great story. As a budding novelist, you have imagined the entire story you want to put down on paper. Find a way to draw your readers in with you. Find a way to spark their imaginations through colorful word imagery. If you can do that successfully, you will ultimately seal the deal.
The big five technical aspects are an important part of crafting a good novel. They have little to do with telling a good story. To guarantee a well-crafted novel is also a great story, you need to engage the heart, mind, and emotions. These are the three keys to great storytelling.