Hi. 🤓 David here.
This is the debut edition of The Saturday Storyteller.
Each Saturday morning, I share actionable insights on crafting stories that connect with readers.
This week’s tip takes less than four minutes to digest.
The epiphany struck in the bathroom.
I stared into the mirror and proclaimed, “I’m going to write novels.” Then I came up with an idea I loved. Then I wrote nonstop by the seat of my pants.
But then I started following people who actually published novels. And one of my favorite authors asked this simple question:
What’s the #1 thing readers want from your story?
My cheeks clinched.
What would they expect? Would they want my story to change them? Educate them? Inspire them?
Funny how the answer lived inside the very definition of story:
: an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment
Storytellers must first and foremost entertain.
Because all fans and readers want a form of escapism. They want to be transported away from their day to day, even if the story is meant for their day to day. Because every story absorbs people’s most valuable resource: their time.
But once you have fans and readers entertained, your story can do almost anything you want.
It can educate them. Influence them. Even program them. (Television is called “programming” after all.)
Except too many stories miss the mark with this simple mission of entertaining. Ever heard this when receiving a book recommendation?
Just get through the first 50 pages because then it gets pretty good!
Do you really want someone talking about your story like that? Isn’t the goal to take the reader hostage on page one and keep them hooked until the end?
The key is grasping how a story flows. Because great stories have a rhythm. A pulse. They have a beat to them.
Stories have patterns.
Writers may instinctively pick up these patterns through years of practice and repetition. But why wait when you can start applying these patterns today?
That’s why I recommend exploring story structure.
Concerned your creative juices will be stunted?
Don’t worry, you can use these patterns to outline your story or write it by the seat of your pants. Because story structure doesn’t mean you have to paint by numbers.
Painting by numbers tells you which colors to use. Story structure is more comparable to building the foundation for a house. Every house needs a solid footing or else the whole thing may sink, slide, fall or fail.
Story structure focuses your creativity so your ideas grow on top of proven building blocks. But there’s another reason why you should create using story structure.
Fans and readers expect story structure.
Audiences don’t usually see it though. But they’ve been subconsciously trained to digest narratives at a certain pace by every great article, best-selling book, hit show, breakout movie and more.
It wasn’t until I acknowledged how these timeless principles fit into the big picture that my storytelling got on track to give audiences what they expected… the entertaining ride they deserved.
These patterns are what helped my website earn a cool Writer’s Digest award within two years of its birth. Here’s a message someone emailed me when nominating my blog:
I have to say that even though my writing hasn’t changed, I do love reading your emails. I do believe you deserve the nomination!
This story structure is what helped my first documentary get watched by millions. Here’s a YouTube comment appreciating the narrative framework:
This is the first ‘long video’ I’ve been able to watch from start to finish all due to its presentation! This presentation is like the movie that starts out great and gets better until the end! Keep up the great work!
Want to explore this story structure that’s helped countless writers entertain audiences and reach their potential?
Check out my free guide about plot diagrams that illustrates the timeless storytelling principles found in novels, screenplays and more.
And if it helps you look at your story in a different or meaningful way, maybe you’ll share it? Who knows, maybe you’ll be helping someone create the story they’ve always wanted to write?