What is the secret of storytelling?
If you are reading this letter, you probably want to know the answer to this elusive question.
I’m not sure how you got here, whether you performed an Internet search on this question and landed here. Or maybe you landed on this page totally by accident. Truth be told, how you got here doesn’t matter one little bit. You’re here, and I’m glad you found this letter. Soon, you too will be glad you found it.
What matters most is: Knowing the secret to storytelling. Keep reading, and I will let you in on this amazing secret. But first, you need to know the correct definition of one important word.
Many people, not just writers, have many definitions for this magic, yet mysterious word. Some definitions are close to being right, while others are wrong in the worst way possible.
The most accurate definition of the word “story” I have found is given by Lisa Cron in her landmark book, Story Genius. Here it is.
“Story is how what happens affects someone in pursuit of a deceptively difficult goal, and how he or she changes internally as a result.”
We’ll break this wonderful definition down into its simplest parts in a future letter. For now focus on the words, “changes internally”.
Store this important fact into your memory.
All stories are about transformation.
All stories, at least all of the great tales ever told, are about transformation—the kind that happens internally in the heart and soul of a person.
In a story worth reading, a protagonist, hero or heroine must undergo some sort of clear internal transformation. If all of the major characters also undergo a transformation, that’s even better. Otherwise, it isn’t a story. It’s just a narrative journaling a series of events that have no true meaning.
In the literary world, we would call this boring. In the film industry, we would call it a “snoozer”. The last thing any story creator wants is to have her story called either of these things.
So, if a story is about the internal change of a character, then that character must change from something, to something greater.
That being said, the secret to storytelling is…wait…wait for it…
Showing a person who experiences a profound internal change of heart and mind by confronting and overcoming a self-destructive longstanding misbelief, and gaining the freedom to pursue and achieve her greatest goal.
To say it in shorter terms, conflict changes life.
Now you know the secret of storytelling. But you likely have more questions than answers. That’s okay. I will help you answer those questions in the letters to come.
In the next letters I write, I will let you in on the secret of the first thing you must put into a story to make it a novel that readers will love.
L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse
P. S. – It actually does a person good to reveal his secrets because keeping them inside causes incredible stress on his body, mind and soul. But by sharing his secrets, he cleanses his innermost being.
P. P. S. – Thank you for listening to my secrets. You’ve added many years to my life.