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Find your narrative core

By Jo Burnell, 18 August 2018
Fiction, non-fiction, Short Stories, Writing & Editing

You’ve had the pure joy of writing a story.

It might be a full-length novel, a travel memoir, maybe even a story for children. Perhaps you’ve trusted members of your family or a close friend with this piece and they have given you some positive feedback. Does this mean your story is ready to launch publicly?

Consider the words of International bestselling author Stephen King:

“When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story.

When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

(On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft, Hodder & Staughton, 2000)

Just as a tree has a trunk for physical support, every story needs a narrative core. From this core, each branch, every leaf should connect in a logical way for the story to be cohesive.

Before you launch that narrative into the public realm, it’s important to know what your story is about. This enables you to hook in potential readers. Can you summarise what your  story is about? If your outline stretches to a page or more, there’s a strong chance you have some wayward content. If you can nail  your story in a single sentence, it’s highly likely you’ve found your narrative core.

Once you find this, it’s time to examine every sentence, every paragraph and every chapter of your work and decide whether these support your narrative core. Consider your settings, characters, plots and themes. Do any wander off on adventures not relevant this core?

Trimming text can be painful. That’s why some call the rewriting stage a space where they “kill their darlings”. Sometimes, those darlings don’t need to die; they just need to reconnect with the story. Or find a narrative of their own.

It’s my job to help you interrogate your story and nurture your narrative core until it is fully developed.






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