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An extract from 'How Stories Really Work'...


Here's an extract from the book described as 'amazing', 'revolutionary' and 'incredible':

We’re going to assume a couple of things here:

1. That you have some kind of work of fiction either written or in your head and

2. That it involves something that you want a reader to experience.

Fiction, at its best, is a way of conveying something to a reader.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it like that before. Most would-be writers haven’t -indeed, many actual writers haven’t. But it’s true to say that the best fiction out there has one thing in common: it successfully conveyed something to a reader. That 'something' might been joy, elation or a sense of victory; it might have been sadness, pity or a feeling of loss. Perhaps it was a sense of desperation or despair; perhaps it was laughter, relief or contentment. Or maybe it was a combination of many of these things and others, subtle or unsubtle.

Undeniably, though, all successful fiction conveys something. The least successful fiction is merely the ramblings of the author, and fails to connect to any reader or to bring about any transfer of knowledge, emotion or thought; the most successful fiction feels as though it is taking place in our own minds rather than that of an author whom we have never met; it connects with us on levels we didn’t know we had; and from it we gain insight, awareness and ideas that are hard to describe in any way other than through the story itself.

To put it another way:

A successful piece of fiction exactly matches needs in a reader, even if the reader wasn’t aware of the needs in the first place.

It has to match the needs before it can be called a success.

That might include a need for a whole range of vicarious experiences; it might be a need for communion with our fellow human beings, for emotions, for insights, for wonder, for sensations, for escapism or for confrontation or anything in-between. When the need is matched, the fiction is successful. What’s the difference between success and failure in fiction?

Successful fiction is written for readers; unsuccessful fiction is written for writers.

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