You've just boarded a plane. You've loaded your phone with your favorite podcasts, but before you can pop in your earbuds, disaster strikes: The guy in the next seat starts telling you all about something crazy that happened to himin great detail. This is the unwelcome storyteller, trying to convince a reluctant audience to care about his story. We all hate that guy, right? But when you tell a story (any kind of story: a novel, a memoir, a screenplay, a stage play, a comic, or even a cover letter), you become the unwelcome storyteller. So how can you write a story that audiences will embrace? The answer is simple: Remember what it feels like to be that jaded audience. Tell the story that would win you over, even if you didn't want to hear it. The Secrets of Story provides comprehensive, audience-focused strategies for becoming a master storyteller. Armed with the Ultimate Story Checklist, you can improve every aspect of your fiction writing with incisive questions like these:
- Concept: Is the one-sentence description of your story uniquely appealing?
- Character: Can your audience identify with your hero?
- Structure and Plot: Is your story ruled by human nature?
- Scene Work: Does each scene advance the plot and reveal character through emotional reactions?
- Dialogue: Is your characters' dialogue infused with distinct personality traits and speech patterns based on their lives and backgrounds?
- Tone: Are you subtly setting, resetting, and upsetting expectations?
- Theme: Are you using multiple ironies throughout the story to create meaning?
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About the Author
Matt Bird has an MFA in screenwriting from Columbia University. He developed these ideas on his popular blog, Cockeyed Caravan. He works as a screenwriter in Chicago, where he and his wife, Betsy, are raising two delightful little kids.
Table of Contents
Part I Writing for Strangers
1 George Clooney and Me 6
2 The Thirteen Essential Laws of Writing for Strangers 15
Part II The Ultimate Story Checklist
3 Concocting an Intriguing Concept 42
4 Creating Compelling Characters 81
5 Shaping a Resonant Structure 128
6 Staging Strategic Scene Work 157
7 Drafting Electric Dialogue 196
8 Maintaining a Meticulous Tone 241
9 Interweaving an Irreconcilable Theme 266
Part III Getting from Good to "Good Lord, This Is Amazing!"
10 Don't Revise, Rewrite! 299
11 When It's Finally Time to Fine-Tune 317
12 Now Cut Another 10 Percent 322
13 The Final Rule 331
Conclusion: Tell Great Stories Or Die! 334
Appendix: The Ultimate Story Checklist 338