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Flow of a Story


One of my biggest concerns when writing a novel is the flow of the story. What keeps me, or anyone for that matter, involved in a good book is that the story flows and it draws one into the world that has been created by the author. Not meaning it has to be non-stop action but it has to continue to move forward. Once it starts to get boring, you can lose your audience and I know most readers feel the same way. Not to say I won’t work through the boring parts of what I feel has been a good novel but if it continues too long, I’m out. Each chapter should be interesting, should move the story forward and not be something I can’t wait to get through so I can move on to the next chapter. I’ve read books like that and I’m sure everyone who is reading this has at one time or another.

Going into this process, that was a big concern for me. How do I keep the flow of the story moving and keep it realistic, even in unrealistic circumstances? I’ll get more into the realism in another post but the flow needs to keep the story moving, keep the audience engaged and move the story through to its climactic ending. Not every chapter is going to be some life-changing event or always something drastic happening but it needs to be interesting and have some rooting in the story. That something may be happening later on or even something from the past but it should be relevant, not filler.

The flow, to me, urges me forward, makes me excited to get to the next chapter to see what's going to happen in the story, what's going to happen to the characters. I feel a good flow should do just that. Keep you interested, keep you excited for the storyline, where it’s going, and what is going to happen to the characters within the story. Many stories we read are nothing like our lives and that's what keeps us intrigued. Coming up with twists, interesting characters, and plot changes that keep the reader guessing, this creates a nice flow within a story.

That's not to say just throw in twists and changes for no reason or to just keep the reader guessing, they still have to be relevant to the story and make sense to the main plot. There should be a reason the twist or plot change happens, a reason that will have an impact on the story’s progression, and even the final outcome. The flow keeps us involved, keeps us intrigued, has us asking questions, and keeps us excited to continue reading the story to get answers to those questions. As writers, that is our main goal; to keep the reader involved and committed to our story. I love the feeling of a good book that calls to me to continue reading when I don’t have it in my hand.

Think of a movie, one that you love, and how you are glued to the television to see what is going to happen next. It is so much fun for a story to pull you in like that, to keep your interest for what is a few hours on a story that has come to life on the screen. It might make you feel exhilarated, scared, anxious, or crack you up but if it makes you feel in any way, it has achieved its goal. Maybe you’ve read the book that the movie was made from and if so, it rarely lives up to how good the book was in contrast. A few do but, in my opinion, not many do or can. There are some written ideas that cannot be transitioned to the screen. On top of that, if you have read the book before seeing the movie, you already have a vision of what things or characters look like and once again, rarely do they appear the same on the screen as they appear in your mind. This can be another disappointment.

I love watching movies and even tried my hand at acting for a few years. But as much as I love watching a story come to life on the screen, I still love being sucked into a good book even more. Visualizations on the big screen are great but the details of a book, many of which are left out of a movie, create even better visualizations for me in my mind.

To be able to create these visualizations for others within my writing has been a fun exercise but to keep the story moving, to keep the flow of the story alive, that has been trickier. I think of all of the books I have read and all of the movies I have watched. I think about how they flow, how they transition from one scene or one chapter to the next, and how a good author, director, or editor will keep things interesting. Pay attention to how your favorite authors keep you intrigued, involved, and wanting more from their stories. If you can achieve what they have in this sense, your stories are going to have the same great effect on your readers. These are the elements I try to incorporate into my writing. I hope I have been successful in achieving that goal.

Happy reading, happy writing!

Doug

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