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The most important part of telling your story

We all live for the hero moments in Act 3. That's because the build-up that leads to the big release makes those scenes all the more worth waiting for.

Good writers know they can't rely on favor from their audience for page turns. No. Good writers hold their readers in great regard, and thus create stories that are engaging, entertaining, informative without being over the top detailed, and most importantly, they understand how to create a powerful emotional experience for you to relish.

When writing a fictional story or your personal narrative testimony, it all starts with a good story outline that is built around your theme.

Find your theme

Finding an overarching theme in your life story will give you access to this kind of writing (and spare your readers the boredom of having to hear every dumb and irrelevant detail of your life.) Every good story has an underlying theme that develops from start to finish and marks the transformation of the characters and story plot. If you were writing a story about rags to riches, your outline would follow the journey of not having to having. If your story was a hero discovering their superpower and saving the world, the outline would start with your hero being unfamiliar with their destiny and power, to then discovering it, testing it out, and mastering it for a greater purpose.

Taking the time to understand what your story is really about will help you stay on topic, organized with your thoughts and plot development, and it will give you a lens to look through at each of your characters.

Personal narratives can be the toughest types of stories to write because as the author, you are so close to the subject matter and can sometimes lose sight of the theme. When I wrote my story in my book, "If I Can Heal, You Can Heal: The impossible story of how I got set free from 60 symptoms of PTSD", I made my theme 'my search for truth, ' and organized all the parts of my story according to this theme. That meant that instead of taking on the burden of telling the most accurate (and boring) version of my story, I chose to pull out a new perspective on what I'd been through to craft a creative and entertaining way to tell my testimony. I started with portraying myself as a girl who didn't have the truth, who then searched for truth in all the wrong places until she found the truth, but then discovered that her truth didn't set her free. Then, before giving up completely since her truth didn't help her, a different and greater truth found her and set her free, which then gave her access to a new level of freedom if she could use that truth as a weapon to break off all the non-truth she'd collected. Do you see how I turned a story of deliverance into a fun, non-heavy hero journey? You can do the same, Find your theme.

Hit the beats

Good story-arcing means hitting the beats that every good story has. Just like a song has rhythm and structure, you know a chorus follows a verse, and a bridge follows the second chorus. It's the same with your readers. Your readers also expecting to consume your story in the way they have been trained to consume stories -- according to the basic story-arcing seen in every Hollywood or Disney film.

The basic beats of a story include (but are not limited to:)

• establishing what 'normal' life looks like at the beginning

• expressing the challenge/journey/theme the character will explore

• showing the journey toward conquering this goal or experiencing this theme

• arriving at a breakthrough, losing the breakthrough, thinking all is lost

• story rebirth, character transformation, and final battle of conquering the goal

• re-establishing life in the 'new normal'

There are a lot of cool, detailed story beats inside the list above, but for now, this general list should give you an idea of how a good story is organized by ups and downs that set the reader up for a powerful revelation of breakthrough toward the end.

Don't waste your reader's time

You are responsible as an author to knit together the parts of your story that help your reader truly grasp your transformation -- which doesn't necessarily mean telling them every part of your story. Your readers don't care to know every last detail of what happened to you or what you went through. They just want to understand who and how you were before the journey and what happened to you that made you who and how you are now. Anything that doesn't contribute to this goal is not relevant to your book, and perhaps are the details you can save to share at your book launch or in interviews, making you a more personable and interesting figure off the page. Trust in the major moments of your life and stick to what will accomplish the biggest emotional connection and catharsis for your readers.

________ Are you interested in developing your story-arc, timeline or table of contents? Book a 15-min discovery call and find out if coaching is right for you.


Delfina Geus, author and founder of Geus Publishing Group

Hi, I want to help you tell your story.

I'm excited to get to know you and help develop your manuscript! Get in touch with me or book your 15-min free discovery call to get started!

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