Tell Me a Good Story

Happy Friday everyone! Don’t forget to visit me at the Scribes today –  Lasting Impression.

I recently began writing MYSTIC STORM, Zephyr’s story, and it got me thinking about storytelling and two television programs – Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.

What does a British period piece and a post apocalyptic survival story have in common?

On the surface they seem to have zero in common. But in reality they have many similarities. They are both about a group of people trying to cope with social change brought on by a world cataclysm (World War I, The Spanish Flu, a zombie outbreak). They both feature a compelling cast of characters that are easy to root for (or in the case of Thomas and Mrs. O’Brien – despise!). And both programs are stellar examples of great storytelling. The kind that sucks you and doesn’t let you go. (Even if I do rush out of the room when zombies appear during The Walking Dead).

As a writer, these are the comments you want to hear from readers:

“I couldn’t put your book down!”

“The story pulled me in.”

“You kept me up all night.”

“I can’t wait for your next book.”

Music to a writer’s ears. Praise of the highest order.

As a reader I want to read (or watch) a great story. I’m not impressed by flowery prose, laundry list descriptions of a character’s outfit or paragraphs describing a room’s furnishings. In my mind, writing and storytelling are two different things.

A storyteller takes you on a journey, weaves a tale, and connects you to the characters. Writing is the vehicle that brings the story to life, but should be more the like the soundtrack (in the background creating a mood, not bowling you over with bombast).

So tell me, what’s your preference? Do you get caught up in the words themselves? Or do you go for pacing and action? Or maybe a combination of both?

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20 thoughts on “Tell Me a Good Story

  1. Hey Casey,
    I like a bit of both. I’ve tossed more than one book against the wall when the author goes on for pages describing things. I usually skip ahead, and if it looks like the rest of the book is like that, bam. Against the wall. But all dialog confuses this poor tired brain of mine, too. I keep going back and forth (who said that?) Moderation in all things.

  2. Balance in all things, right? Pacing is crucial and meaningful dialogue that moves the story along brings us into the moment, but setting the scene and creating a lasting picture in the reader’s mind is equally important. In order to get into a character’s head and draw their emotions out on a page, there needs to be equal parts narrative, dialogue and description. Like creating a perfect recipe requires just the right blend of spices, writing a novel requires a balanced blend of all the tools of the craft.

  3. To me, it’s about the characters. If I notice the words, I’m out of the story and into my own head, which is not nearly as much fun.

    I adore both shows (and I don’t run out of the room when the gore splatters), also because of the characters.

    And I am expecting Mrs. O’Brien’s redemption, by the way. I just can’t figure out why she and Thomas are besties.

    And Shane needs to have his face eaten off by a zombie.

  4. I’m sold. Flowery prose has it’s place… you know, on rare occasions it is all about the prose. But for me a good solid character-driven story is the hook. I don’t need detailed descriptions either.

    1. Methinks so too!! Maybe it’s the modern world! I know I would have read long flowery passages when I was younger. Now, I feel like I have no time to read through dense prose. I’m not getting any younger!!

  5. I don’t know about The Walking Dead, as I have never seen it (I’m not into Zombies), but I do watch Downton Abby. I admit I’m late in coming to the story as I just began watching it a few weeks ago, but it makes me interested in what is going to happen to the characters next. I haven’t watched long enough to despise anyone yet, but it has drawn my interest. I think there are a lot of reasons I like it though, such as the time period, the setting, costumes, (lack of zombies … sorry). Things were just different in 1917-1920 and I find it very interesting, but for me a movie and television program are different from reading a novel. In the TV show the camera can show us something in seconds which would take pages of description in a book and possibly cause the reader to lose interest. I guess I agree with PJ when it comes to writing … moderation.

    1. I didn’t watch any of the first season. I didn’t know about the show until season 2 started. I don’t know how I missed it! I get Entertainment Weekly!

  6. Words can intrigue a reader, but stories evoke emotions that can impact you much longer. Sometimes they can even inspire you as you learn to define yourself.

    1. Awesome! I hope you have Season 1. I did watch all of season 2 because I completely missed season 1. I was sucked right in and still enjoyed the whole thing. I’m hoping someone can explain what the deal is with Thomas and Mrs. O’Brien. At first I thought she was his mother or something.

      1. Have watched all the seasons so far and yes I still cannot figure out that relationship! I was also thinking the same, maybe his mother but is not married! Looking forward to the rest of the seasons.

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