Six Ways to Listen to Your Story

I just finished revising a novel I first drafted over ten years ago. What was amazing was that I realized I've learned how to listen to the story, and this makes all the difference.

Listening to the story is your number one priority as a fiction writer. You may have great characters, scenes, language or ideas, but they won't flow together without a dream of a story to carry them.

Here are six things that keep us from truly listening to the story.

1) You can't listen to the story if you're fussing with the words. Words are secondary. Story is first. Writing a novel is about sinking deep into your imagination.

2) You can't listen to the story if you doubt yourself. Trust the story. Even if it seems bizarre, stupid, weird. Even if you're sure nobody else will get it.

3) You can't listen to the story if you won't let the characters be themselves. Too often we try to make them perfect. Characters who aren't perfect can't live and breathe. Without them, there is no story.

4) You can't listen to the story if you're constantly re-reading, tweaking, and worrying about chapter one. (Or chapter two. Or chapter three.) Indeed, truly listening to the story dissolves all the chapter divisions. It's one seamless tale.

5) You can't listen to the story if you're not asking enough questions. Stories are shy. Draw them out. "How does she get here?" "Why does he do this?" "What happens next?"

6) Spend time with it. It's very difficult to track what your story is telling you when you only spend a few minutes with it here and there. You need chunks of time together, regularly.

The best part is: the more you listen, the more fun you have. The story writes itself. The story honors you with its voice. It's the secret of any good relationship: shut up and hear what they have to tell you. It could make your day.


  1. Christi, such great advice! I hope I can use it one of these days when I get time to write again. I've been told I'm a good listener but not sure I listen well to my own stories. Funny, though, I can usually tell when they sound WRONG.

  2. Mrs. G:

    I know will come back to your stories again. You are a terrific storyteller!



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