The Cardinal Rule of Storytelling

You probably know someone who can take a bad joke and tell it so well that you are rolling on the floor. And you probably know someone who can’t tell a joke to save their life, even if the joke itself is hilarious.

If you start with a joke that just isn’t funny, even the best delivery in the world won’t improve the humor of the punch line, but getting there may have been a hoot. Conversely, if the joke is outstanding, a terrible delivery will rob the experience of its levity even though you still see what was supposed to be funny.

Stories work the same way. Even a perfect structure will lay there dead if poorly told. But a good storyteller will keep a reader/audience riveted, even if they clearly see how flawed the structure really is.

Point being, structure is not the Story God. It is a means to an end. It is far better to break structure and go with your Muse than to shackle yourself to the nuts and bolts of story mechanics at the expense of inspired storytelling.

Naturally, the best stories are those that have sound structure and passionate storytelling. But if you find the two diverge, it is always better to err to the side of passion.

Remember the cardinal rule of storytelling – Never bore your audience.

Melanie Anne Phillips

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