Friday, June 21, 2013

Would You Care for a Slice?

I don’t believe there are only seven basic stories types, or that all stories are about “a man goes on a journey or a stranger comes to town.” Stories span a long continuum, with hard reality at one end and pure fantasy at the other.

One of the categories used to describe stories is slice of life. This moniker means the story describes mundane events that could happen to anyone. This is where literary authors shine. Great writing is supposed to make slice of life fiction engaging and enlightening.

Illustrators have always worked with storytellers

This kind of thinking has sent many aspiring authors down a path to oblivion. In truth, there are no pure slice of life books. At least, not any successful ones. Look at Little Women, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Help, The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, or anything by Jane Austen. These books may seem mundane or low key on the surface, but the authors are expert storytellers. Take The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency as an example. Most of Ramotswe’s cases are mundane to the point of being inconsequential, but the investigations are as suspenseful as any Agatha Christi murder. To Kill a Mockingbird and The Help artfully reveal courage in commonplace social situations. Little Women often seems autobiographical, but Louisa May Alcott knew when to deviate from her real life to keep the story interesting. Austen kept her readers engaged with suspense, characterization, and dialogue, all vital tools for storytellers.

People don’t live in the rhythm of a story. Everything that happens does not move an individual’s life toward a conclusion. People do not consistently spout clever lines. Writers put those words in their mouth. Writers scrape off all the boring stuff from everyday life. And writers move the story unfailingly forward.

To keep readers captivated, study the art of storytelling. 

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