Welcome to the world of creative writing and storytelling! The art of storytelling flows from the very heart of the human condition. We cannot help but create and tell stories. Robert McKee, the author of Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting said it best, that telling [or writing] a story is “a universally human experience [that is wrapped] inside a unique, culture-specific expression.”
We love to tell stories. Whether it is sharing with a friend about what we did or experienced during our day; listening to a grandparent tell us an unexpected tale from their past to reading a book or watching a movie – storytelling is all around us.
But when it comes down to writing our own story, whether it is fact or fiction – a blank page or a computer screen can be very intimidating.
So as you begin your creative journey, you may ask: How do I write a story? Where do I start? Here are some really basic, but essential building blocks to get you on your way to your own creative destination – your story. And not just any story – a story that will entertain, inspire, and yes, even challenge a potential reader.
THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF NARRATIVE
1. Antagonist – The opponent of the protagonist. The antagonist or villain is the main provider of the conflict in a story. He or she is commonly the enemy of the hero. Here are a few well-known antagonists: Wile E. Coyote in The Road Runner cartoon. Loki versus Thor in The Avengers, Darth Vader in Star Wars.
2. Character Archetype – A character type that repeatedly occurs in various literary genres – such as the hero or villain. The basic characteristics of a character archetype that has been drawn from folk and fairy tales continue to be reproduced in modern day texts.
3. Character – Character is a text or media-based figure in a storyworld, usually human or human-like. The term “character” is used to refer to participants in a storyworld and in contrast to “persons” or individuals in the real world.
4. Characterization – the personality/idiosyncrasies of a character. Characterization also includes the external description of a character, as well as their thoughts and feelings.
5. Focalization – A selection or restriction of narrative information in relation to the experience and knowledge of the narrator, or the characters in the storyworld. It is through a character’s focalization that the reader can ‘see’, ‘hear’, and/or experience events in the storyworld.
6. Narrative – The representation of a story (an event or a series of events)
7. Plot – the order in which the story events are arranged in the narrative.
8. Protagonist – the hero or heroine of a story. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.
The protagonist can also be an anti-hero.
9. Setting – The background for a narrative’s storyworld. E.g. A beachside setting, an alien world.
10. Story – a chronological sequence of events involving characters. Story should not be confused with narrative discourse, which is the telling or presenting of a story. Traditionally, a story unfolds in a linear fashion, with a clearly defined, beginning, middle and end, but these rules or techniques can be broken.
Like in many films, a writer can start at the end, or even in the middle of all the action.
Stay tuned for more creative building blocks for storytelling.
Porter Abbott 2008, ‘Glossary and topical index’, The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, New York.
Garry, Jane, El-Shamy, Hasan M., Eds, 2005, Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook, Sharpe, Inc., Armonk, NY, USA: M.E, ProQuest ebrary.
Hühn, Peter, Pier, John, Schmid, Wolf, Eds. 2009, Narratologia / Contributions to Narrative Theory: Handbook of Narratology, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, DEU, ProQuest ebrary.
McKee, Robert 1997, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, First edition, Harper-Collins Publishers, Inc., New York.