4 Ways to Add Value to a Story (with some Dickens as an example)


You can add value to stories in lots of different ways.

Let’s assume you’ve read my book How Stories Really Work - shameless plug - and that you have your characters and plot sorted out so that the basic shape and flavour of the story is there. How else can you improve things?

1. Dialogue.

Conversations between characters can quickly become a writer’s fallback for exposition or plot development. As with most things, there’s a spectrum at work here: you can drop hints into dialogue which help the story to move forward, but otherwise keep things alive and vibrant as though two people were really talking to each other - or you can degenerate into having two characters simply explain the plot in chunks. Try to keep dialogue snappy and full of surprises rather than turning it into boring description or explanation.

2. Humour.

Humour is largely based on surprise, so it can form a large part of dialogue if you want characters to appear living and unpredictable. Depending upon the kind of book you’re writing and whether it’s appropriate for the author to assume a humorous tone, making people laugh is an excellent way of encouraging them to feel comfortable and to increase their affinity for you.

3. Sparking Up.

By this, I mean taking a passage of writing from a story and adding life, poetry and energy to it.

You can begin with a paragraph or a scene or a chapter or sometimes even a sentence. Find what is most interesting about that portion and emphasise it, give it prominence; conversely, find the least interesting part and fade it out, don’t dwell on it. Let’s say you have two travellers crossing a desert: unless their journey across the desert and the ordeal of that is a fundamental part of the nature of your story, you don’t have to explain what happened to them every hour of every day. Edit out the dull bits and give the reader the highlights. Be poetic.

It’s amazing what effect just slightly tweaking a vocabulary can have. A sentence like ‘The two travellers crossed the desert’ (to be simplistic for a moment) can come to life by being switched around a little: ‘The desert weighed across the path of the two travellers like a burden.’

4. Be a Reader.

A handy trick or habit to get into is to write as a read