Episodic Storytelling? Here’s Why

This week’s video offers some pointers for avoiding dead-end events in your stories.

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Video Transcript:

The term “episodic” is very rarely going to be a compliment when used in reference to a novel. What it usually indicates is a herky-jerkiness to the plot, a lack of cohesion, and an overall story arc that doesn’t pull together into a concerted theme. Not exactly what most of us are striving for. What we want is for the plot, the theme, and all the character arcs to come seamlessly together and present a unified overall impression.

One of the ways we fail to accomplish that is by creating dead-end events. Every moment in a story should matter to the overall plot. One scene needs to affect the scene that follows. If you build up to a particular event, only to have it fall flat and end up mattering not at all, you’re essentially creating “episodes,” which, of course, are going to lend themselves to this general feeling that the story as a whole is episodic.

As an example, let’s say one of your characters has a cancer scare. He goes in for tests, the doctors hem and haw, and the character himself is an emotional mess as he fears for his life. In other words, the suspense is drawn out to the breaking point as readers hover over the pages, wondering if this likable character is going to survive. And, then, suddenly, the tests come back, the character’s fine, false alarm.

It may happen that way in real life, but in a story that sort of thing just doesn’t work. You’ve drawn out reader emotions for no good reason and disappointed them when the tension then dissipates without warning. They’re not going to like that, and they’ll be much less likely to trust you with the next suspenseful scene. But so long as you make sure every event matters to the story, all’s well.

 

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Originally posted on Wordplay: Helping Writers Become Authors

 


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