If you've been reading this blog long enough, you know how strongly I
recommend Ira Glass as a resource on learning how to storytell. Even
though his medium is radio, the same concepts apply to written stories
as well, particularly personal stories.
I recently discovered Ira's Manifesto over at Transom. As I've said before: It has the ability to change your stories overnight.
Two nuggets to get you interested:
stories definitely aren't worth pursuing. These are stories where
everything reminds you too much of other stories you've already heard,
and stories where there's no sympathetic character (it's hard for the
story to carry much feeling if there's no one in the story to relate
to), and stories where everything kind of works out as you'd sort of
expect. Surprise is important. …
And yes, there are ways to get
a story to work. Often this means you have to think about what the
heart of the story is about, and figure out how to make that more
present. This can involve adding moments and scenes that build up the
central conflict (and pruning away the ones that don't). It can mean
making explicit what the story means, stating more directly what the
point of the whole thing is. More about that below.
Another reason to click-thru: The great Q&A session that follows each part of the manifesto. Rewarding.