How to Tell a Story

I have a story that floats in and out of my mind.  I can’t see the whole of it.  It comes and goes in fragments, flashes, bits of sound, smells, fears …

It’s a story of escape, return, and unexpected endings.

The story comes in three parts: What happened, what happened before, and what happened after.  How can I tell you what happened if you don’t know what happened before? Then you’ll want to know what happened after.

How can I just tell the story of a future past?

How do you repeat the history of something that hasn’t happened?

My tastes in literature cover a wide range from classic 19th century novels to 20th century science fiction.  I also love to read non-fiction history and biographies especially.  In my youth I had a special place in my tastes for dystopia novels, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, and Brave New World.  I also have a taste for post apocalyptic stories, Earth Abides, Alas Babylon, On the Beach, and Cat’s Cradle, among some of my early reads. 

Currently I am reading one Heather found in the library, A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C. A. Fletcher.  I’m a few chapters in and am being drawn in by his narrative style and use of a first person story teller.

Honestly, it’s the kind of story telling I’d like to write.

I’ve also just recently read another book that I found compelling: The Post X by Elizabeth Acevedo. It’s a complete novel written in poetry.  Yup, just poems, but it manages to tell a great coming of age story.  It’s a great achievement in story telling and Acevedo does it well.

Again, another kind of story I wish I could tell.

The novel I am writing is set in a not to distant future and is about a young man trying to escape a repressive society.  Part adventure. Part good vs. evil.  Part dystopia and just a touch of romance. I’ve been writing it for a long time (I’m a slow writer) – about a decade and so far the book has survived two computer crashes.  Currently the files reside on it’s third computer (and are backed up in the cloud).

My problem is that the story comes to me in fragments that don’t make a full continuous narrative.  That’s held it up for a long time (along with life issues and computer crashes).  There is a hand written note on one of my drafts that reads, “Fracture the crystal.”  And that’s where I am with story telling – telling my story in bits and pieces.  If I were to name an influence it would be Always Coming Home by Ursula K Le Guin.  You should read it – I reread it every few years.

So I’ve been writing fragments and trying to stitch them together in an order that tells a story.  But I found I needed a thread to hold all the pieces together.  The result so far is about 100 pages of notes, fragments, and research plus the main story of my hero’s journey away from the world I built for him.  The constant thread is the story of Colin and his travels.  The fragments build his world and the history of that world.

In my research notes I found these “On this Date in History” columns from the Vandenberg Times (circa 2277). Here is an example:

In 2093 Vandenberg AFB Commander, General Stovall declared himself as military governor of the California Central Coast Federal District.  Major Jose Alonso pledged loyalty to Stovall and thus the whole of the Home Guard and police departments in the region joined to enforce Stovall’s marshal authority.  Stovall’s rule ended with the signing of the City constitution in 2101, when he requested retirement and transferred command of VFB to General David West and the newly formed Bureau of Defense.

As I continue to write and seek to write this story, I am constantly asking myself, “Do these fragments tell a story that is worth telling?”

and just for the record, the main novel is up to 6,130 words.  At this rate, it should be completed in 2026.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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24 Responses to How to Tell a Story

  1. Don’t let good ideas float away. Write them down and make sure you save them. Wasted talent is the sadness thing in life…(Bronx Tales)


  2. G. J. Jolly says:

    Andrew, I have a suggestion for you but I’ll email you about it because I don’t think it belongs here in your blog.

    I’m intrigued by your idea for a story that starts with the plot, goes to the flashback, and then goes to the aftermath of it all. I’m going to try to find A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World to read it. Have you thought at all about using the Omninent POV? [] I’ve been thinking about it since reading this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have thought about POV, and many sections of my story do that, but at the moment I’m keeping options open and seeing where the story leads. My wife found a copy of the “Boy and His Dog …” at our local library.


  3. CJ Hartwell says:

    No wonder I enjoy your writing so much, we read many of the same authors. I’ve not read that one from Le Quin, I’ll definitely correct that soon!
    Not that I’m an expert, but just a suggestion: don’t worry about the destination and just enjoy the journey. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Maybe a lot of short stories in the novel will come to life before you finish your story. All the best 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like a fascinating project! Just keep collecting your story-fragments. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle – when you finally have enough of the pieces turned right-side-up, the big picture will come together. Write on! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Teressa says:

    No advice. But I thoroughly enjoyed reading what you wrote here. And discovered books to add to the ‘to be read’ (someday) list.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You might try writing for what ever time you have available. Whether it be a page, a paragraph, or one really good sentence, get something out of your head and on paper. Make room for something new to germinate (Nature abhors a vacuum). Now off to follow my own advice (ouch).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting, everything. Stories do come in bits and pieces and I’d say often, they’re worth waiting for. It took 25 years to get the first book out in my Man vs. Nature saga so I think you still have time.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It sounds like an interesting book idea, Andrew. Maybe you should set a bit of time aside each day to write. I started my new dystopian novel a few months ago and I am at 30 000 words because I write something on it every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I had time everyday to write. Life pressures make that difficult at the moment. Maybe when I retire …


    • Anthony Eric says:

      good idea, I have written 50,000 words in 1 year, on my novel, but it’s better to write a little bit a couple of times per week at least, or you end up like me having to spend half days writing (which I love though, especially when I can drink coffee alone and stay at home in cozy pants)

      Liked by 1 person

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