My Advice in a Nutshell, While the Nut Is Still Breathing
by John H. Ritter
My dear young writers,
Here’s something I wish someone had told me a long time ago:
I think the best thing you can do to become a fiction writer is to learn the craft of storytelling. That is, a writer needs to learn how to capture a listener’s interest, how to hold some details in suspense, and know just the right time to let those facts out.
You can only learn storytelling two ways:
First, you need to surround yourself with storytellers. These are the people, young and old, friends, family, or strangers who can command the attention and the interest of others for a longer period of time than most people. Learn as much as you can about what they do, how they summon up compelling characters and drop then into trouble, how they make a movie in your mind. Take notes. Memorize their opening lines and how they use pauses and timing, how they plant little bits of information early in the story that play a big role later on and at the end.
And you have to practice telling stories out loud. Yourself. Can you hold an audience? Do they clamor to know what will happen next? How do they react to your punchline, your ending? Constantly make the adjustments you need for a better result. It takes a lot of work, but it’s well worth it. Then, when it comes time to write your stories, they may not flow out in perfect storytelling form, but now you’ll have the skills to notice what’s wrong and to make the necessary fixes so that the story ends up right—before you send it off.
John H. Ritter