more on story-building and writing skills

Until I was able to hear it, I never heard a critique that suggested making anything more than cosmetic changes to be of value. We “teach” creative writing, even in my day, by giving learners the name of the concept they need to understand and we wonder why writers reject foundational structures as a “rule”.

No critiquer ever told me that the reader needs to see the events play out for them to feel as much as possible. There is a point in which significant details can be told to them and it matters, but only once the world and story are both established. The emotional reaction the reader has to hearing the king is dead depends entirely on how well they knew the king or how much the King’s sudden death will impact the character.

It was such a major change for me. For almost a decade of my growth, I just realized other people were right when they said in all their various ways, the people and the events of the story matter more than even great world-building.

I’m including exposition, backstory and events that were conveyed through dialogue as much as description and info-dumping as world-building skills. In speculative work, this includes the speculative elements that must be as important to the story as pacing or conflict.

The story-building skills build up the events and character of the story. They include conflict, internal and external, tension, character development, theme, and point of view all building the story of the characters in the world.

These skills all have to work together. POV has to be on point when describing conflict the character can’t overcome unless something about the character, world or plot changes. External conflict guides the plot. Internal conflict guides the thematic question, the character development has to feel earned over the events of the story.

There’s a third category that has to do with writing skills. This is where all the imagery and foreshadowing go, but it also includes things like pacing. Writers like Dan Brown master this section.

Great work needs a combination of all three in various amounts. But a work that has a fantastic world and fast pace must do both exceptionally.

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