The Tools of Drama

The Tools of Drama

Story is driven by desire. But desire alone isn't enough to create engagement. Desire unchallenged isn't interesting. It's only when desire is met with conflict that things get interesting. Because it's only when there's push-back that there's uncertainty. And there's no element more important to engagement and drama than uncertainty.

What Is Suspense?

What Is Suspense?

When does a chess game become boring? The moment you know who will win. In fact, oftentimes the players will simply restart the game right then and there. What's changed? There's no longer any uncertainty. Uncertainty is a driving element of story engagement. And it's at the heart of suspense. But uncertainty alone isn't enough to create suspense. So, what is suspense? Or maybe a more helpful question: How do we create suspense?

The Secret Ingredient: Empathy

The Secret Ingredient: Empathy

How will creating empathy for your characters make your stories stronger, more engaging, and more immersive?

Here's a sad, hard psychological truth: at the end of the day, we don't actually care what happens to those with whom we can't identify. And if we can't empathize or identify with your story's main character, we won't actually care how your story turns out.

The Map is Not The Territory

The Map is Not The Territory

In Storytelling, as in all things, the map is not the territory. When we strive for a storytelling toolbox full of models and paradigms, we're not intending to (nor could we ever hope to) capture the true essence of storytelling. Just as the map can never contain as much detail as the territory (otherwise it would *become* the territory) the true essence (and detail) of storytelling can only be captured in stories themselves. All models are broken; some are useful.

How Do We Keep The Audience Interested?

How Do We Keep The Audience Interested?

Let's enter the realm of our dramatic tools. How do we keep the reader or audience member interested? What does it look like to be interested? To start, when you're interested your attention is engaged. You're actively participating. From a high-level, it means you're either curious or concerned with what lies before you. Both states imply an informational deficit of some sort. You have enough information to know that you're lacking information (which is substantially different from merely lacking information without knowing you're lacking information). You have a desire to "figure it out" and fill in that missing or uncertain information.

What Makes a Good Story?

What Makes a Good Story?

We can't hope to craft a toolbox meant to help us write good stories if we can't define what a good story is. And though it's an ambitious and endlessly debatable question, I'm going to propose a rather simple answer. We can define whether a story is "good" from a utilitarian viewpoint: does the story accomplish its job? I propose that a story has two primary jobs.

Building a Storytelling Toolbox

Building a Storytelling Toolbox

So how did we get here? Eventually the more analytical of the storytellers have spent enough time thinking about story that they usually unwittingly (or intentionally) develop a paradigm and perspective of their own. Sometimes the paradigm is built on others and might even use the nomenclature of others. But the truth is that when you write books, you're most often looking to sell books. And if you want to write and package a "new" storytelling theory, you'll need "new" terms for "new" insights. There exists, then, a natural incentive to creative "new" paradigms that generally don't admit to standing on the shoulders of giants.