Author Topic: How to Write Stories the Literary Way  (Read 2396 times)

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How to Write Stories the Literary Way
« on: November 20, 2014, 03:37:40 PM »
There are many ways of using words to report an event, each with its own benefits and purposes. While newspapers focus on telling as much as they can with minimum use of words, literary texts emphasize on the quality of the words that are used. The former uses words as a means to convey a message, but the latter aims as its end the very words themselves. That is why newspapers go straight to the point and report/spoil the story on the very first line (even the title), while literary texts aim at creating suspense and atmosphere by their words, and do not give away their plot at the very onset. The more literary the text, the more atmospheric their writing, and the less direct their presentation of events.

An example makes things clearer:

We have as our protagonist Mister B. He works at an office. He is an outcast. None of his colleagues likes him.

Now let us take a look at some different ways of reporting the same message, staring with the least literary way to the most:

1) The very direct way:

Hi, I'm Mister B. I am an outsider. Nobody likes me.

THE most direct way to report an event. Used primarily in advertisements, where a can of soda speaks up to the customer and says "Pick me! Pick me! Buy me!"

2) The (still) direct way:

Mister B was an outsider. Nobody liked him.

Perhaps the most common of all reporting techniques. Its use ranges very widely, from short stories to simple reports, memories, history and newspapers. No aesthetic quality.

3) Conveyed directly through dialogue:

"You're an outsider, Mister B! Nobody likes you!"

The most basic form of conveying information through dialogue. It is preferred to the direct telling because it reports an actual event rather than merely declaring a statement.

4) Conveyed indirectly through dialogue:

"Did I look like I was joking? Know your place, Mister B! You better learn to respect your seniors!"

Dialogue dipped in tone. Note that the words 'outsider', 'nobody' and 'like' were not used but the message was still carried, even more effectively.

5) Implied by of the setting and atmosphere:

The walls of the office were threateningly white. An uneasy feeling of nakedness overwhelmed Mister B as he walked along the corridor into his boss's room.

The most common way to convey information and feeling in a literal way. In the place of the word 'outsider' we have 'threateningly white', which also speaks for 'nobody likes him.' The corridor gives a claustrophobic sense to the setting.

6) Implied by character presentation:

There was a little garden outside the office's building which housed a host of white roses all planted in neat rows of five. Everything was white except for one yellow rose at the far corner of the garden, swaying idly in the cold morning breeze. Mister B stood and watched the yellow rose for a few seconds, then made his way into his boss's office, Mister Patrick White.

The most literary way to convey message or feeling. The writer relies entirely on the surrounding environment to report the events and depict his characters. In this example, Mister B's staring at the yellow rose is a way of relating with the flower as a fellow lonely creature. The cold morning breeze  also amplifies the sense of loneliness and exile. We also get a chance to know Mister B's boss a bit more, whose surname White corresponds with the white roses in the garden to emphasize Mister B's sense of loneliness. In these kinds of texts we imply things (showing) while in number 1, 2 and 3 we simply say things (telling). Number 4 is somewhere in between, and is mainly used in literary texts when 5 or 6 are not. This type of presentation also has the advantage of foreshadowing future events by the use of atmosphere and setting. An experienced reader makes use of these hints to guess the future events of the story.

To write a good story, try to use number 4, 5 and 6 as frequently as you can. Avoid using 1, 2 and 3 as much as possible. Remember, you are writing a literary story, not a newspaper report.

One thing to keep in mind: It takes time to get the hang of things. It is better to start with easy descriptions and then move on to more complex examples.

Keep practicing, and soon you will be writing your own stories with your own unique style.

Good luck :)
« Last Edit: November 30, 2014, 01:50:47 PM by Super Wyndfal »