Three ways to tell a gripping story

Do you believe that you are a natural storyteller? “Human beings are embedded in their stories,” Jason Silva of Shots of Awe said, “The human race–who we are–is a story. We are a narrative. Mind is a narrative.”

Every day, your mind runs with words. The world breathes with information. Wherever you look, you see labels, you think of descriptions, you know what objects are called. Then there are books, TV shows, TV series, and movies that put all these information in motion. And then you live and see the purpose of it all in your life.

These truths are what you–a natural storyteller–should remember when you want to write a good and gripping story, whether memoir or fiction. Recall how the stories you encountered thrilled, excited, and stirred you. Observe their elements, overall flow, speed, and pauses, and determine what exactly produced that effect. What made you sweat, not blink, and grip the edge of your chair? What made you keep on flipping pages? Here follows three of the many things you can do to create such a gripping story:

  1. Present a goal to your reader. Solve a problem, fix a conflict, reach a dream. You have to give your reader a reason to keep reading until s/he reaches the end of your story. You can say this clearly, or imply it, or show it with subtlety in the first few paragraphs. Promise a gift, a destination, or a reward to make your reader trust that spending time with your story will be worthwhile.
  2. Put cliff-hangers. Suspense is the most apparent strategy used in gripping stories. You build tension, direct the reader to a revelation, then leave the most anticipated part mid-air, so s/he will flick to the next Chapter. Warning: Do not overdo this lest your reader will hate you for it.
  3. Aim for impact. If your goal is impact, your words will follow. At the back of your head, you will want to tap your reader’s emotions. You won’t stop until you find the words that’ll give tears to his/her eyes, vex your reader until s/he gnashes his/her teeth, or draw a smile on his/her face. You will aim for the reader to remember that scene, that line, that message. You can’t let your reader put your story down without stirring a change in him/her.

Above all, trust the storyteller in you. If you don’t find your story thrilling, exciting, or stirring enough, improve it. Chances are, your reader won’t be thrilled, be excited or be stirred by it as well. Improve your writing piece until you, yourself, cannot help but read on. Remember what Robert Frost said: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

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