Monday, March 11, 2013

Writing in 140: Get Out Of Your Story's Way

“Let the story tell itself.” – Author Tim O’Brien

Want to write a great story? Get out of its way.

Your story isn’t about you. Characters might share facets of your personality. Issues you care about might be woven throughout the story. However, the story is about your characters and their conflicts, obstacles, drama, decisions.

Give your story center stage. Show, don’t tell: avoid adding comments and clarifications and over-explaining setting and characters’ thoughts and actions. Develop unique metaphors and similes that tie into your story: the setting, characters. Let the story unfold as it needs for the characters present – not how you want it to unfold. Readers don’t want coincidences; they want consequences authentic to the story being told.

Focus on the story, and it will be told – not your version of it.

Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both academically and creatively while also interviewing women writers on her popular blog, ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. In 2012, her second mystery, Into the Web and her short story "I Wanna Get Off Here" (in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe) were published. Her next release, Saying No to the Big O, will be published in late-March. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.


  1. "Readers don’t want coincidences; they want consequences authentic to the story being told."

    So true, Shonell. Thanks for reminding us of the importance of not writing about "us".

  2. Love your succinct 140 posts, Shon. Heavy point of view filters (she saw, noticed, observed, perceived, thought, remembered, etc.) wave a great big "rookie" flag. Once POV is firmly established they can almost always be shoved aside so the story can shine.

  3. I tried to get out of my story's way ... but I was too slow ... now I have this spine imprint on my forehead.

  4. Fantastic post, Shon. Letting characters tell their own stories — without writer coaching or intrusion — lends authenticity and reality to the tale. Shoving your characters in a box that fits your perception of what should happen stifles them and turns off your readers. A great side benefit: you may be surprised (astounded, in fact) at what your characters reveal and where they take you.

  5. I agree. Authors need to stay off the page. It's the character's story. When I write, I'm constantly asking "Why?" Why would a character do or say something. Once you let them tell you, your story can move along from their perspective.

    Terry's Place

  6. Thanks, Maryann!

    Kathryn, I agree on that one, too, and find myself working on that in my own writing. You can see things like that a lot, too, when a writer has an agenda or several agendas s/he's trying to highlight for readers. Having moral lessons and themes so heavy in the brain can make a writer overwrite and leave hand prints all over a story.

  7. LOL

    Christopher... see, there are authorial consequences for not moving out the way, too!

  8. Thanks, Linda.

    You know, I confuse that there have been times I wanted characters to do what I wanted them to do because I couldn't stand to see them get hurt. In the end, the stories would fall flat, ring untrue.

  9. Agreed, Terry. I think about all the times I've heard writers say, "I didn't write this, my characters did." Oftentimes, they have such stars in their eyes as if some magical moment occurred in the story and the characters leaped from the page and told their stories. In the end, writers just stepped back and let the story unfold as it needed to for the characters.

  10. Succinct and to the point. Good advice, Shonell!

  11. Shon, don't you have a new book releasing soon? Are you going to write a post about that? This is a departure for you, right? Great cover, btw.

  12. Thanks, Heidi. :-)

    Dani, YES, I have a novella coming out at the end of the month. I'll do my April post on it. Definitely a departure of sorts from the murder and mayhem I enjoy so much. LMAO

  13. It is so tempting to over-explain. When I edit my work, I look for spots where I tell too much, instead of hinting instead. It's still easy to miss some of the spots. That's why I have an editor also.

    Morgan Mandel

  14. Was just talking about editors on FB and how even the best writers need to have one, and this is one reason why!


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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