How to Simplify Story Writing

What would human life be without the magic of story?

Ever since our ancestors sat around sharing stories to make meaning of the world around them, telling tales has been a fundamental part of culture.

From oral folk tales to complex written sagas, story takes many different forms. 

But how can you personally get started? How do you go about making your mark on the world of story writing if you have a strong desire but don’t know where to start?

Here’s how to take a simple approach to exploring the world of story from a creator’s perspective.

Understand the fundamentals

Like any other form of creative art, it’s easy to focus on advanced and glamorous elements of story writing while overlooking the fundamentals.

Before you get carried away with advanced techniques like motif and extended metaphors, make sure you have all your basic bases covered.

No matter what, you can’t afford to ignore essentials like structuring your story in a way that provides tension and interest for a reader. It’s important to take the time to learn how to craft characters, settings, and plot structures that grip readers and make them eager to read more of your work.

Thankfully, the fundamentals of story writing never change. You need to have:

  • A structure to your story that provides interest and progression and makes the reader want to see how it turns out
  • Characters that have some depth to them and makes the reader invested in their success or failure 
  • A setting that is believable and works well for your tale without distracting from it in any way

If you still feel stuck about what the basics of good fiction story telling look like, pick up your all-time favorite children’s book. Dust it off and give it a read! You’ll soon see that even a simpler form of story aimed at young people still covers all the fundamental bases of fiction.

Start small and build up gradually

If you take on a story project that is too big, too soon, you run the risk of burning out, losing your enthusiasm, and failing to complete the goals you’ve set yourself.

Please don’t misunderstand this advice. There’s no harm at all in having big, ambitious goals. If your literary hero is Tolkien, and you dream of writing the next epic fantasy saga, there’s no harm at all in having that as your eventual aim.


Just keep in mind that it might be a better idea to start small. Consider writing a short story, or setting yourself the goal of writing a short chapter of what would eventually be a larger book project.

Try not to think of these manageable goals as being cop outs or cowardly somehow. They are in fact a much more realistic way of eventually making your big-picture dreams come true. 

Some of the benefits of starting small include:

  1. You allow yourself to develop a regular and sustainable fiction writing routine
  2. You get to try different types of writing and technique without being overly committed to any of them
  3. You learn to fall in love with the process of story writing itself rather than just focusing on its outcome

Working on fiction projects with an achievable scope is one of the best ways to build the skillset and writing habit to eventually produce a full novel. 

A little technique goes a long way

When you first become aware of the sheer amount of literary techniques out there, it can feel like you need to use them all in order to impress your imaginary reader.

In truth, when it comes to certain techniques and devices, a little goes a long way.

Rather than trying to master all of the literary techniques at once, why not commit to trying a single technique out in your next story writing session?

As well as getting hands on and trying out a particular technique in your own writing, it’s also wise to take the time to learn as much as you can about it. 

Let’s say, for example, you are fascinated by the concept of metaphor. Some of the ways you could advance your understanding of metaphor include:

  1. Reading your favorite writing guides. What do they say about metaphor? Are there different viewpoints? Which do you agree with most closely, and why?
  2. Looking for metaphor stories you enjoy. Think about the fiction books you personally know and love. How do they use metaphor? What about their usage of metaphor works well? Can you think of a story you enjoy in in spite of some jarring metaphors? What about the opposite, is there a story you love in spite of a lack of metaphor altogether?
  3. Try practicing specific exercises and training techniques related to metaphor. Dedicate a particular amount of your writing time each week to working on these until you feel you have a good practical command of what metaphor is and what it looks like.

The same questions can be used for any other literary technique or device.

Remember, the advanced elements of literature are beautiful and a huge part of the reason why many people fall in love with reading and writing. Just don’t overuse them!

Are you ready to simplify your story writing?

If you feel energized by the idea of simplifying your story writing practice, here are three options to capitalize on your momentum and move forward:

  1. Choose a storytelling fundamental  to practice. Pick just one thing, such as crafting characters or plotting simple story structures. Commit to working on it regularly to keep your fundamentals as strong as they can be. 
  2. Select a manageable story project to complete in full. Make a commitment to work on and finish a project such as a short story or several chapters of a bigger book. If you enjoy the small project, you can eventually expand it into something larger.
  3. Rediscover a literary technique that fascinates you. Try the three questions in the section above to explore it further.

Although fiction might seem complex, the fundamentals of story are beautifully simple.

Don’t let fear or anything else hold you back from becoming a story writer. It doesn’t need to be a complicated endeavor. 

Start small, start simple, and work up from there. 

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