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story telling

The Art of Storytelling: 5 Tips on Crafting Compelling Storylines

Are you an aspiring writer trying to get started on that next bestselling novel?

Are you an experienced writer, but need a little help creating compelling storylines or dynamic dialogue?

No matter where you’re at in the writing process your Library can help! We have a ton of great writing resources to help you from start to finish.

5 Tips on Crafting Compelling Storylines

Tip 1: Avoid Common Plot Cliches

We all know a cliche when we see it in a movie or read it in a book. It’s important to think about how cliches annoy you when you come across them, so you’ll be less likely to include them in your own work. By writing a story that only you can tell, instead of borrowing from popular formulas, it will be fairly easy to avoid common plot pitfalls.

We read so that we can be moved by a new way of looking at things. A cliche is like a coin that has been handled too much. Once language has been overly handled, it no longer leaves a clear imprint. ~ Janet Fitch

Tip 2: Generate New Story Ideas by Asking – What If?

If you’re having trouble generating new story ideas – try the what if question game. What if you lived in an alternate universe? What if you had to change occupations? What if you were alive during the early 1900s? By asking a series of what if questions with your personal experiences and interests in mind you’ll be able to ensure your stories are coming from a place of sincerity.

Alternate history fascinates me, as it fascinates all novelists, because ‘What if?’ is the big thing. ~ Kate Atkinson

Tip 3: Use the Power of Emotion

Engage readers with emotional content. Readers that feel emotionally invested in the characters or story won’t want to put the book down. After all, emotion often overrides reason in the human brain (compelling reasonable people to stay up all night reading).

A plot is nothing but a normal human situation that keeps arising again and again….normal human emotions—envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed, and so on.
~ Louis L’Amour

Tip 4: Create Characters That Resonate With Readers

It’s important for readers to feel connected to your characters. Think about what you can do to make them seem more real to the audience. Research facts, build backstories and create character profiles to ensure they are truly authentic.

As a writer, I demand the right to write any character in the world that I want to write. I demand the right to be them, I demand the right to think them and I demand the right to tell the truth as I see they are. ~ Quentin Tarantino

Tip 5: Draft Dynamic Dialogue

Effective dialogue helps to bring characters to life and advance the story. Read authors renowned for dialogue to find inspiration when writing your own.

If you are using dialogue — say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech. ~ John Steinbeck


Craft Compelling Stories With the Help of These Great Books

The Writer's Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings That Sell by Paula Munier
The Irresistible Novel: How to Craft an Extraordinary Story that Engages Readers from Start to Finish by Jeff Gerke
Writing with Emotion, Tension, and Conflict: Techniques for Crafting an Expressive and Compelling Novel by Cheryl St. John
The Secrets of Story: Innovative Tools for Perfecting Your Fiction and Captivating Readers by Matt Bird
Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer
The Emotional Craft of Fiction - How to Write the Story Beneath the Surface by Donald Maass (eBook)
Crafting Dynamic Dialogue: The Complete Guide to Speaking, Conversing, Arguing, and Thinking in Fiction from the editors of Writer's Digest; foreword by Cheryl St. John
Damn Fine Story: Mastering the Tools of a Powerful Narrative by Chuck Wendig (eBook)
The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb (eBook)
Spellbinding Sentences by Barbara Baig (eBook)

Learn More About the Art of Storytelling With These Helpful Articles

Three Powerful Ways to Brainstorm New Story Ideas – Well-Storied

5 Golden Rules for Writing Authentic Dialogue – Writer’s Edit

5 Elements for Crafting a Compelling Story Your Audience Will Love – Write to Done

5 Tips For Creating Characters Readers Can’t Wait to Come Back To – The Creative Penn

5 Tips on Writing Dialogue – NY Book Editors

7 Simple Ways to Make a Good Story Great – Writer’s Digest

Ten Authors Who Write Great Dialogue – LitReactor

10 Easy Ways to Improve Your Dialogue – Write to Done

10 Tips to Avoid Cliches in Writing – Writer’s Digest

The 7 Tools of Dialogue – Writer’s Digest

Emotion vs. Feeling: How to Evoke More From Readers – Writer’s Digest

Novel Settings: 7 Tips to Get Setting Description Right – Now Novel

Some of the Greatest Writers of Dialogue (And What We Can Learn From Them) – Gizmodo

Story Plots: 7 Tips for Writing Original Stories – Now Novel

Your Novel’s First Scene: How to Start Right – Jane Friedman


Toledo Library Blog Posts on Writing

Writers on Writing: Tips for Aspiring Writers

5 Tips to Improve Your Writing Skills

Top 5 Reasons to Join a Writing Group

Memoir Writing Resources

Developing Characters that Resonate with Readers

How to Write a Novel in a Month

Learn How to Publish a Book

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