Mary-Jo Putney: the noble art of storytelling

The internet has allowed anyone who wants to to be published, but doesn’t mean they have readers.

Plenty of workshops on how to write, but not many on how to tell stories.

Yet stories have power and is what attracts readers – which is why newspaper articles often lead in with a recap or a personal story.

‘My mind said it was trash but my hand kept turning the page’ – good storytelling.

Other genres have books with good characters, but only in romance are the characters central.

Compelling story and compelling characters are what the reader wants.

External events twine with the beliefs of character to create believable story – eg Jane Eyre – Bertha’s existence is external but Jane is a moral character and would not live with a married man because she thinks it is wrong.

Mere survival is not heroic.  Selfless sacrifice is what makes a hero.

Eg firefighters are the ones running into a fire when everyone else is running out.


Make power of commitment visible by showing that their worlds will over if they don’t end up together.

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