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The narrative is the thing

by Kayla W | Oct 01, 2018

Book Review: Damn Fine Story


Each answer creates more questions and problems. Put differently, every answer to every question – every solution to every problem – has consequences. Questions have answers, and answers lead to more questions.  These chain together, ultimately, into a story. And they chain together in a way that is consequential – meaning, they’re not simply this happens, then this, then this, but rather, each effect is preceded by a cause.  – Chuck Wendig


Damn Fine story

As someone who has read more than a handful of books on the craft of writing fiction, I can say that they tend to fall in a couple of directions through the execution of creating a narrative.  For example, Stephen King errs on the side of inspiration for the newbie with a healthy dose of “here’s who I am and how I work”, Larry Brooks will tell you the secret that screenplay writers have known for – well, forever – which is to embrace the formula and methodology.  Wendig presents some intriguing writing advice told in a conversational tone, as though he were your friend and he’s gonna skip all the needless formalities to tell you the truly important aspects of writing fiction – with some side tracks along the way.  What he wants to teach you is the heart of what it means to tell a narrative.

Wendig believes that the way you tell a story is the most crucial aspect of a narrative. This strikes true in a way – people will remember the way you react to them more than they will remember the content of what you say to them. I have had numerous conversations with people over what it is that draws them to a specific narrative, genre, or creator, and a lot are honestly drawn to what they end up loving because of the way those narratives are packaged. To Wendig, his heroes in storytelling are people like his father, who could tell the story of how he lost his finger and spin it into a legendary and entertaining yarn. In the author’s view, the best storyteller is one that can cut through to the point in the most entertaining manner possible, while also seducing his audience to keep coming back for more.

It’s a refreshing view on storytelling, getting back to the basics in a way that appeals to both new creators and old alike. Much of his beliefs on what makes a narrative worthwhile have held true, long before stories were ever written down, and they feel like ones that he has battle-tested after having written numerous stories. Even if you don’t agree with everything that Wendig says, it’s hard to not respect the care that he has taken for the benefit of his readers. At the very least, much like what Wendig believes is the most important aspect of telling a story, the book itself is very entertaining.

My major problems with the book lie in the fact that, the middle of it, he focuses on personal stories relating to his children that weren’t particularly enlightening, nor were they funny. However, getting through even that middle slog that has a lot of strange focuses on its chapters, as well as the personal stories that go nowhere, will lead you to a final checklist that ought to make your ears perk up if you’re like me and are a fan of Revising Fiction: A Handbook for Writers. It provides a welcome, clarifying end after a book full of useful and enlightening advice.  The focus on creating and telling a narrative in a manner that draws an audience in likewise makes this guide worth reading even for people who aren’t writers.  After all, the people that often end up the most respected in whatever tribe they’re a part of are the ones who can spin the best stories.

Kayla loves all things weird, wonderful, and macabre.  Her soul’s in writing, and her hobbies include gaming, watching movies and television shows, reading anything and everything. Her black cat’s TOTALLY, 100%, not evil.

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