Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life

Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life

Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life

Telling Stories: The Craft of Narrative and the Writing Life


A prolific and award-winning writer, Lee Martin has put pen to paper to offer his wisdom, honed during thirty years of teaching the oh-so-elusive art of writing. Telling Stories is intended for anyone interested in thinking more about the elements of storytelling in short stories, novels, and memoirs. Martin clearly delineates helpful and practical techniques for demystifying the writing process and provides tools for perfecting the art of the scene, characterization, detail, point of view, language, and revision--in short, the art of writing. His discussion of the craft in his own life draws from experiences, memories, and stories to provide a more personal perspective on the elements of writing.

Martin provides encouragement by sharing what he's learned from his journey through frustrations, challenges, and successes. Most important, Telling Stories emphasizes that you are not alone on this journey and that writers must remain focused on what they love: the process of moving words on the page. By focusing on that purpose, Martin contends, the journey will always take you where you're meant to go.


After years of writing both fiction and memoir, I’ve come to believe that the term storytelling best fits what I do. Sometimes I tell stories about things that really happened in my life, sometimes I tell stories about things that really happened but with a healthy dose of invention added to the tale, and sometimes I make everything up by using my imagination. the point is that no matter the approach I take to the material at hand, I’m always relying on the tools of the storyteller to construct an interesting narrative. If I do it well, the story will also take me to a place in which I know something I didn’t before the telling began.

I’d like to look, then, at a few tools in the storyteller’s toolbox that he or she can’t do without. Whether you like to think of yourself as a writer of fiction or memoir, or both, here are some techniques that should serve you well.

The Art of the Scene

Your first task as a storyteller is to persuade a reader. in both fiction and nonfiction we have to convince readers that what’s happening on the page is authentic. We do that through the well-constructed scene. String enough well-constructed scenes together in a causal sequence and you’ll invite your readers to exist within that realm. What sort of material deserves the space that a scene allows? Moments made up of contradictions and turns, moments unlike other moments, moments that shake characters in some way or the other until they’re slightly different at the end than they were at the beginning.

The Art of Characterization

Characters are interesting when they’re made up of contradictions. It’s those contradictions and the writer who recognizes . . .

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