Storytelling & Literary Techniques

Author Nancy Lamb explains the writing process including how to start a story, what storytelling is, and provides examples of writing styles to encourage your creative spirit.
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This week the editor's spotlight storytelling and writing strategies in the book, The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques, by Nancy Lamb. She touches upon the writing process, from beginning to end.

The Art and Craft of Storytelling | Writing Styles and Story Ideas

Defining Literary Genres

Before you begin writing, Lamb encourages aspiring storytellers to have working knowledge of today’s genres. Therefore, she explains the basics of each genre, and what publishers, editors, and agents handle which kinds of fiction. This will help you position your manuscript to create the strongest possibility of a sale.

The genres she covers include general fiction, historical fiction, romance, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction, fantasy, autobiography and memoir, and new journalism. She also mentions the subgenres that belong within each genre.

Choosing A Writing Style

One of the main messages Lamb gives readers is to learn the fundamentals of storytelling. Knowing this important literary technique will help you build your story. She advises the best way to write a story is to find a writing strategy that works for you. There are lots of approaches to storytelling; she describes eight writing techniques to structuring your story, such as the keeping it simple method. “Look at a story in these terms – it has a beginning, middle, and end. Think about what these mean to the plot and how they relate to each other and then write,” she says. Ultimately, you have to do your own thing. Consider all the different ways to structure your narrative, and then choose the methods you prefer.

How to Start a Story

You must create a dynamic opening – an intriguing beginning anchors the story in the imagination of the reader by presenting a powerful need to know what happens next. It also gives the writer a view point on the narrative. The author devotes a chapter on how to hook a reader within the first two or three pages of your book and offers writing strategies to capture the reader’s attention right from the beginning of your book. She also gives examples of opening paragraphs from these published authors: Jeffrey Eugenides, Robert Anderson, John Nichols, and John Irving.

Approaches to Storytelling

The author proposes three storytelling techniques: the forward march, the total flashback or the zig zag, where you can go from past to present or vice versa. Each of these literary techniques has advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, Lamb includes both sides for each approach, which help to organize your writing and allow you to create a sound structure for your story.

Nourishing Your Creative Spirit

Maintaining the motivation to write is a challenge that all storytellers face. Throughout the book, Lamb provides countless ways to find writing inspiration, which will propel you to brainstorm story ideas. She challenges hopeful writers to experiment, push your boundaries, and explore several writing options. And the ways to combat writer’s block include replacing negative thoughts and words with positive ones, acknowledging your inner voice might not be the inner truth, and choosing to write freely without self-criticism. Embrace the writing process, have discipline, desire, and determination, and you will succeed.

Buy The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehensive Guide to Classic Writing Techniques now!

Feeling inspired? Check out more of our favorite writing books to keep your creative spirit flowing, or submit your genre short story in our 81st Annual Writing Competition!