Legit Tip #187
or - “Creating a More Organic Flow in Your Storytelling”
Let’s say you’re writing a paper, and you want to connect point A in history to point B. To explain how those two points are connected, you would need to focus keenly on the flow of that essay, showing how events throughout time led from one thing to another.
You want - no, need - this kind of organic flow in your storytelling as well. Practically speaking, it keeps readers from wondering - “Wait, how did we end up here?” But even beyond that, it keeps things moving. It keeps the action going. It keeps your reader’s eyes moving across the page.
And for you, as a writer, knowing how to use flow to your advantage keeps you writing. I’m not saying it’s a magical end-all and be-all for writer’s block, but learning how flow in storytelling works can do a lot to keep you moving when you know what’s coming next and all you need is to get there.
So, an important question -
What are common storytelling roadblocks?
That is, what are the types of thing that stop the flow of stories? That break up the action and stop readers in their tracks when they come across them? Here are a few to consider.
Yeah, okay. Characters suddenly realize things sometimes. That’s grand. But when characters have epiphanies out of nowhere, with nothing leading up to it, readers are left with a whole lot of “What?”
Amateur writers use the method of “Suddenly she realized…” a lot when they need something to happen. It gives the character new information without the writer having to go through the trouble of delivering the information through other means.
2. Time and Place Changes
Okay, bear with me. Changes in time and place are necessary for any story. But it interrupts the flow of a story badly when these transitions aren’t handled well, even from scene to scene or chapter to chapter. As you open in a new time or place, go through the effort to reestablish what put your characters in this position, why they’re here, etc.
Or, and this is an important “or”, drop hints, foreshadow, etc., in the text beforehand to keep the flow going. Allow for some sense of connection. This is most important when time and place changes within a scene, but can still be useful to remember in other contexts.
3. Mood Shifts
I’m not talking about a specific character’s mood shifting. I’m talking about mood shifts within scenes - i.e., the way a scene changes when something happens and people react to it. The flow can be severely interrupted if a writer doesn’t take the time to flow into the “new” mood. Take a death scene, for example.
In the middle of a battle, Character A is suddenly stricken down while his friends and family watch. Do things become instantly sad? Probably not, if people are still fighting. The writer needs to proceed with caution. Take time to let the impact settle in. Let the characters finish what must be done (as in, finish the fight.) Then they can gather around the fallen. Then the narrator can let the mood shift to a more somber tone. From fast-paced to frozen-in-time shock to sadness rather than immediately to sadness. That’s how flow works in instances like these.
There are plenty more roadblocks. Think about anything that can disrupt a story’s pacing. Look for these words -
- At once
- He/she “realized”
I’m not saying these immediately indicate bad flow. But look around them and you might notice places where you can build on the story to create better flow.
Let’s get back to the idea of the character epiphany, for example.
“She realized he had been lying to her.”
Right. So… how did she realize this? What did she remember? What did she sense about the way he’s speaking to her now? How does she feel having this realization?
There is so much you can do to connect the thing that causes the realization to her having the epiphany that there’s no need to simply drop that bomb.
So there you have it. I hope that this helps give you some ideas on what you can do to improve the flow in your own storytelling!