There’s a myth that puts storytellers on pedestals. It says that storytelling is the province of poets, novelists, and screenwriters. It says that there must be a moment of perfect inspiration, that the muse must whisper in your ear. It says that stories are supernatural, the revealed truth of someone of extraordinary talent and insight who has something authentic and original to say.
To anyone espousing this myth, I reply that stories are bicycles.
The characters are the pedals driving everything forward. The stakes are the gears ratcheting up and down. The plot is the wheels that take you where you’re going. The theme is the frame holding everything together. The power comes from you, the rider. You embark in one world and travel to another.
Stories are bicycles: machines that move people.
Complement with cultivating a sense of presence, John McPhee on writing as selection, and a brief anatomy of story.
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Eliot Peper is the author of nine novels, including Cumulus, Bandwidth, and, most recently, Veil. He sends a reading recommendation newsletter and lives in Oakland, CA.
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