The Crucial Storytelling Mistake that Many Beginning Writers Make

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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.