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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

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ingredients for storytelling

Ingredients for Storytelling: Details

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Welcome back to my Ingredients for Storytelling series where I will be talking about some of my favorite elements of great stories both on the page and onscreen. As you can see from the title, today’s post will be dedicated to discussing how details can often enrich an already strong storyline.

Why do details matter in the first place?

1. Setting: In my experience as an avid reader and viewer, details about the world characters inhabit as well as details about the characters themselves can make the story itself more relatable and believable to the audience. Take for example, the wide film genre of anime. Anime does an enchanting job of taking ordinary scenes from our everyday lives and re-illustrating them in such a way as to make them seem like beautiful landscapes (e.g. a rainy street corner, the inside of a crowded train station). Yet what makes them so fascinating is the fact that just enough small details from reality are included to make them recognizable to us.

2. Characters: Details about characters are important too. Sometimes including a small fun fact or detail about the protagonist’s habits or personality can make such a big difference in that character’s likability and the ability of the audience to relate to her or him. For example, in the TV show Supernatural, Dean, one of the main characters, loves pie. More than that, not only is the audience informed early on of Dean’s love for pie, but this small but likable and quirky detail is reiterated over and over again through scenes spanning multiple seasons of Dean eating pie. While at first glance, this may seem trivial, by including such a fun aspect of this character’s personality, the screenwriters have made him seem more real. Yes, Dean is (sadly) a fictional character. Yet by giving him mannerisms and details that most people can see mirrored in their friends, people they actually know, or more importantly themselves, the writers have essentially made him more sympathetic and relatable with just one small detail.

3. Plot: In the same way adding details to a setting or characters makes them seem more inhabitable and real, details within a plot can enrich the narrative even further. Take Christopher Nolan’s film Inception for example. Early on in the movie, the audience is told that when entering a dream each individual possesses a totem, or essentially, an object that’s design allows the owner to figure out when he or she is dreaming. While at first, this detail seems relatively minor in relation to the overall plot, by the end of the film it is presented as one of the most important and defining features that influences any viewer’s interpretation of the film as a whole. In this way seemingly minor details–if utilized cleverly–can not only often serve to foreshadow or hint at later plot twists, but also function as a point of continuity within the larger story.

Can a story have too many details?

Now, I know a lot of people are thinking “YES”, and I would definitely agree. I, as well, as most people I’m sure have had the misfortune to encounter a book, movie, or TV show that over-provided so many details that the greater plot ended up becoming lost in the flood of seemingly mundane and meaningless other factors. The main reason why I added in the parenthesis the phrase “sprinkled throughout” is because, while details can become powerful storytelling devices, a large number of them can easily be quickly overwhelming. I found that in my favorite books, movies, and TV shows, the details the writers choose to provide nearly always serve a larger purpose–whether it be to reveal more about a character’s personality or the nature of the world they inhabit or ultimately anything that enriches rather than hinders the heart of the story itself.

How do you all feel about details within a story? What kind of details do you enjoy seeing and which ones do you find annoying? Please feel free to leave your thoughts below!

onlinelogomaker-072117-1533-2952
The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

 

 

Ingredients for Storytelling: Tension

Hello, everyone! I hope your holidays were well and relaxing! To start off this new year of 2018, I decided to create a writing-centered series called Ingredients for Storytelling! In each of these posts, I will discuss an element I find makes a story all the more intriguing and why.

As you can see from the title, today’s spotlight will be on tension and how creating this between characters can further enrich an already great plot.

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First of all, what exactly does tension mean in literary and storytelling terms? According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, tension may be defined as “A strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each another”. In the context of storytelling, this comes about as a result of two or more characters being forced to interact, and many times, even cooperate while maintaining opposing goals. Because of this, nearly every conversation or action shared between these characters is laced with mental or emotional strain that we label “tension”. Another way we can think of tension is a “potential for conflict”. This isn’t to say the presence of tension always necessarily leads to conflict, but rather, that the potential for conflict constantly remains just beneath the surface of the characters’ interactions, influencing their dynamic and chemistry until their opposing goals are either met or adjusted to lessen the already existing tension.

A prime example of tension can be seen in the classical hate-to-love trope—one of the most notable cases being acted out by Han and Leia from George Lucas’ original Star Wars trilogy. As a princess and politician, Leia is the exact opposite of Han, who is a smuggler and relative loner, in nearly every way. While initially their personality differences cause a certain level of discomfort and strain, what ultimately creates tension and eventually conflict between them is the fact they retain not only different but opposing goals. Leia wants to save people’s lives and freedom by fighting against the oppressive empire. In other words, she believes in a greater cause. Han only wants to preserve his own life and freedom, and thus, has no interest in joining any cause at all…initially. However, circumstances force them to work together in order to survive, and thus, their encounters, while not violent, are rife with simultaneous conflict as well as attraction, and therein tension.

Why I love itLike in life, in literature, TV, and movies, you can’t ever physically see tension, but you can feel it. If tension is written into a novel or script and written well, we, the audience and readers, can practically feel the strained dynamic between characters oozing off the screen and page as vividly as if we were standing next to them. And isn’t one of the main purposes of stories to draw you into the characters’ lives—to see what they see and feel what they feel—in the first place? While incorporating tension isn’t a requirement for every story, as a viewer and reader as well as a writer, I find this element often makes the characters and the world they inhabit infinitely more life-like and relatable.

What do you think? Do you like tension in the stories you read and watch? If so, what are some of your favorite examples? Please feel free to leave your comments below!

 

onlinelogomaker-072117-1533-2952
The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

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