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Do you know any, like... storytelling theory?
Posted: Posted January 4th by Cetasaurus

I'm the worst at telling stories – I mean, even my personal anecdotes suck. How can a person learn to tell stories well? Also, what makes a good story if you're inventing one from scratch?

Anyone ever read anything about this? Or come up with thoughts/theories of your own?

I always seem to fail to notice the mechanics of plot when I'm reading, unless it's really obvious.

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start reading up on plot structure. there are a million different theories on what a good plot should be, and it all depends on genre, form, w/e.

you've probably been taught the "exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution" thing in high school, and/or the three act structure, and/or the hero's journey.

if you want to read up on this, here are my recommendations:

1) aristotle's poetics (keep in mind that he's super prescriptive and, honestly, pretty narrow-minded about what poetry/drama should be, but it's a neat starting point with some good advice)

2) blake snyder's save the cat! series (for the cookie-cutter hollywood format)

3) joseph campbell (although i hate how he talks about how things are "universal" - anything is "universal" if you ignore the particularities of the culture that it's produced in and reduce it enough)

and here's a neat little cheat sheet that shows a million different theories on this:



i sort of dislike a lot of this because it seems like a great way to end up with a cookie cutter plot, but i guess you should learn the rules before you break them, right?

"How can a person learn to tell stories well?"

practice. eventually, you'll start to see what works and what doesn't.

"Also, what makes a good story if you're inventing one from scratch?"

good question. i can't answer that.

"I always seem to fail to notice the mechanics of plot when I'm reading, unless it's really obvious."

ideally, the plot will fade into the background.

Edited January 4th by poptart!
poptart!
 

Thank you very much poptart. That is exactly the sort of response I was hoping for.

1) aristotle's poetics (keep in mind that he's super prescriptive and, honestly, pretty narrow-minded about what poetry/drama should be, but it's a neat starting point with some good advice)


I read this (like 4 years ago though) and disagreed with a whole bunch of it. Of course, maybe my disagreement with it is part of why I'm such a bad storyteller haha. I should read it now that I'm less of a rebellious little punk. But point taken about him being prescriptive and narrow-minded.

2) blake snyder's save the cat! series (for the cookie-cutter hollywood format)

3) joseph campbell (although i hate how he talks about how things are "universal" - anything is "universal" if you ignore the particularities of the culture that it's produced in and reduce it enough)


Have not read either of these. I'll give them a shot!
I also agree with you about the whole "universal" thing.

The cheat sheet looks like it will be fun to pore over for a little while.

ideally, the plot will fade into the background.


What do you mean by this? (Is this coming from Pop "is the prose good" tart?)

Posted January 4th by Cetasaurus
Cetasaurus
formerly KM8

"I read this (like 4 years ago though) and disagreed with a whole bunch of it. Of course, maybe my disagreement with it is part of why I'm such a bad storyteller haha."

well, he was talking about how to write something very specific. poetics would teach you how to write greek tragedy.

i mostly recommended it because it's interesting, and the first (?) example that we have of this sort of theory.

"What do you mean by this? (Is this coming from Pop 'is the prose good' tart?)"

well, the plot is the skeleton of the story. you shouldn't see the skeleton; everything else should overshadow it (sorry to mix metaphors). like, if i'm watching a movie and think, "okay, this is the part where the hero and his friends are going to have a falling out before he has a sudden realization and redeems himself and whatever" then something has gone wrong. or if i'm watching a marvel movie, and i can tell "here comes the ending with the giant cgi battle to save the world"

Edited January 4th by poptart!
poptart!
 

well, he was talking about how to write something very specific. poetics would teach you how to write greek tragedy.

Ah ok, there's a good chance I fundamentally misunderstood everything about it.

well, the plot is the skeleton of the story. you shouldn't see the skeleton; everything else should overshadow it (sorry to mix metaphors). like, if i'm watching a movie and think, "okay, this is the part where the hero and his friends are going to have a falling out before he has a sudden realization and redeems himself and whatever" then something has gone wrong. or if i'm watching a marvel movie, and i can tell "here comes the ending with the giant cgi battle to save the world"

I understand what you mean now. Thanks for explaining these things to me. I really flounder when trying to engage with all this.

Posted January 4th by Cetasaurus
Cetasaurus
formerly KM8

A lot of Pixar movies deal with a main character having to undergo some sort of personal change. A lot of people have examined Miyazaki's movies and found that Spirited Away is considered the best in part because the main character has a single goal that carries her from the beginning to the end, a central "thread" to tie the whole story together, if you will. So other things will happen in the story, like she has to give a bath to a stink spirit (don't ask), but that's still sitting under the main goal of her trying to rescue her parents.

I would suggest looking up Pixar's storytelling theories. They may not help you with the exact language of a written piece, but they do provide an excellent high-level overview of what makes a story engaging.

Posted January 4th by mariomguy
mariomguy
What up, 1-up

Thanks for the suggestion, mariomguy! It's a good idea.

Posted January 6th by Cetasaurus
Cetasaurus
formerly KM8
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