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The Crucial Storytelling Mistake that Many Beginning Writers Make

Illustration for article titled The Crucial Storytelling Mistake that Many Beginning Writers Make

Editor extraordinaire Ellen Datlow has read countless stories, from her tenure at Omni Magazine to her recent slew of fantastic themed anthologies. In a new interview at Papercuts, she explains the biggest mistake she sees beginning writers making: creating a situation instead of plotting a story.


Top image: Cover of Teeth, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

Datlow tells Usman T. Malik:

When I start reading, I hope to be drawn into the world of the story. Voice draws me in. Characters draw me in. Those are the most memorable things, sometime moreso than the actual plot. A very specific narrative voice will draw me in and keep me reading. Sometimes I'll finish a story, and wonder what the point of the story was. Why did the writer write it?

Many new writers start off with a situation instead of a story. They don't understand the difference between creating a situation and plotting a story...

I see the plot of a story as the melody and every other element of a story as the other strands that make up a piece of music.


The whole interview, packed with Datlow's thoughts on storytelling, is well worth checking out.

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I don't actually think her quote was that clear or helpful. She says she gets drawn in by all those things other than the plot, but then she says plot is the most important thing, without explaining why. And there's no more to the quote in the linked article.