The Ten "P"s of Good Storytelling

The Ten "P"s of Good Storytelling

I make a lot of notes about what I look for in fiction and what works for me in writing. I've narrowed a lot of it down to ten points, which for no reason at all I've reduced to words that begin with the letter "P", hence, The Ten "P"s. These are just my notes, but hey, maybe some of this will be useful to you.

  1. Plot – There has to be a conflict with worthy stakes, and the characters have to confront that plot and change—or resisting changing—as a result. Multiple plots that hinge on internal, external, and overarching challenges and converge on the same point make the most powerful conflict resolutions.

  2. People – Characters must have complexity in their personalities. A stereotype character is uninteresting in the long term. Character relationships and their evolutions reveal the characters better than any description will.

  3. Place – Unless it's necessary, use unexpected, non-stereotypical, settings. Don't just describe a setting; evoke the setting using #4, Presence.

  4. Presence – Turn on your reader’s senses. Put the reader in the skin of the narrator, or at least convince them they are present at the events of the story.

  5. Perspective/Promise – I also call this “scope.” The reader needs to have some idea of what the promise is to be fulfilled by the story, so that when the promise is fulfilled, the reader feels fulfilled. This doesn't need to be spelled out explicitly, but it does have to exist in some capacity.

  6. Point – Writing for entertainment only is fine, but writing to reveal something new to a reader is even better. This doesn't mean teaching a reader something, but sharing with them a new way you've found to think about something.

  7. Prose – Choose words carefully. Make every word do more than one thing. Every sentence should add to the characters, the setting, the mood, etc.—as many things as possible. Higher amounts of information per word is best. Choose each verb purposefully for power.

  8. Pace – The story should never bog down for any reason. Fantastic character descriptions or intricate setting detail that stop the story cold should be deleted regardless of how wonderful they are.

  9. Poetic Truth – The beatific, empathetic encapsulation of the entirety of the human condition. This is what I think the grandest fiction achieves—revealing, in a poetic way, a reflection of what it means to be human. No biggie.