If you are an aspiring fiction writer, Shawn Coyne’s book “The Story Grid” presents some of the most practical advice you will find on the craft of storytelling.
An entire industry exists releasing material on “how to write.” Generally, though, the advice comes from authors who themselves are not commercially successful. How is one supposed to accept advice from someone who has not achieved a supposed shared goal?
Not Stephen King, of course; “On Writing” should be required reading for any aspiring author.
But while King’s memoir takes a more organic approach to storytelling, Coyne’s book presents a tool kit to understand why a story works or doesn’t.
Coyne does not approach the craft as an author but as an editor. And in explaining his Story Grid, a system he developed over twenty years editing bestselling authors and reading thousands of submissions, he states quite clearly the definition of a story that works.
When a Story “works,” it makes you want to keep listening to it, or reading it or watching it. And what will happen next, while completely in keeping with its initial promise (a Western, a Bildungsroman, a ghost Story around a campfire, whatever), delights over and over again. But the kicker is that the climax will be utterly refreshing. By Story’s end, the listener or reader or watcher has to be at the very least surprised and satisfied by the payoff of the Story’s initial promise. And sometimes, rarely unfortunately, the ending can bring an emotional catharsis large enough to change the way we see our world and even make us change our behavior because of it.
Coyne, Shawn (2015-04-27). The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know (p. 35). . Kindle Edition.
According to Coyne, in today’s publishing world writers have to be their own editors. We need to present our work as close to publishable as possible. The Story Grid is a framework that presents a language to use when discussing your story. This is not copyediting, it is story-editing.
Many of us say that we want to be writers while what we really mean is storytellers.
The Story Grid is an excellent roadmap to build a story that works.