The way you tell a story can vary just as the personalities of writers will differ. Yet there are some things a story must have, despite the fact they can come in different boxes, so-to-speak. There is the old construct of a story that many of us learned in school, and while it’s reductive, it’s not a bad place to start when you’re looking at the structure of a story.
In school, we learned that a story has a beginning, a narrative hook, rising action, climax, falling action, and a conclusion. While, again, this is simplistic, it’s not a bad idea to keep this in mind. Stories need structure no matter if you’re jumping around in time or from one character to another or traveling to different dimensions. Sloppy or disjointed storytelling is going to be apparent and you’re going to drive readers away from your work in no time if your story isn’t flowing in a logical way.
In the theatre world there is also a saying that goes “if there is a gun on the mantle in Act 1, it has to go off in Act 3.” What this is saying is another great lesson in writing as well. Your story just simply has to make sense. The motivations of your characters have to be understandable and logical, even if your reader doesn’t agree with them. You have to pay off what you set up as well. If you’re writing a book where there is an ominous prophecy or warning then it has to be explained. Also, when something is hinted at, like a treasure or some such being at the end of a journey, then it doesn’t have to be literal but there has to be a payoff for the reader. When you write a book or story it’s a contract with the reader. You hook them with a promise or premise or a character and while you can always lead them to the high-point of the story in a number of ways or even surprise them, you have to make sense in why things are happening and the story has to be built on a foundation and one brick at a time.
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