Tuesday, June 8, 2021

5 Things to Make Your Story Sing

by Cindy K. Sproles @CindyDevoted

Most everyone has a story and believe it or not, the majority can tell their story beautifully. The problem comes when the translation of the story hits the page. 


I once had a young man sitting in an appointment with me who told me about his story. I was enthralled. It was full of adventure, intensity, and fun, so I asked him to send it to me so I could forward it to our fiction editors. When the manuscript arrived I nearly fell out of my seat. It was so poorly written that I hardly recognized it as the same story he’d captivated me with at the conference.


The problem was, all the elements this gentlemen used to “tell” me the story, were missing when he wrote it down. I learned quickly many can tell a story but few can actually write it well. This led me to research a few details about storytelling that writers need to grasp hold of to make a well-rounded and interesting story—one that sings on the page as well as it does when spoken.


1. Passion and excitement: Any good storyteller can speak their story with passion and excitement. The inflection of their voice, the tones, the highs and lows, the pacing—set the story up to draw us in and not let us go. Learning to add this same passion into the written story is equally as important. How do you capture passion? You have to love your story. When I begin a novel, I jot down the things about my story that brings me joy, excitement, anger, sadness, then I make sure I include these things in my story. If I find myself telling a portion of the story to friends and my voice raises in one spot, I have to note that so that I can write the emotion of that moment into the story. I’ve heard it said that a good writer, writes as they talk. I agree to some extent. I think what the speaker meant by this was grabbing hold of the things that brings emotion, inflection, and excitement and making sure it hits the page. Find the passion in your story and write that passion.


2. Touch the senses: And by that, I mean touch every single one. Seeing, hearing, taste, smell, touch. When a writer pings these senses in every chapter of their story, suddenly the reader “sees” the story in 3-D instead of reading a flat plot or character. Imagine the pages of your book laying flat on the table and a reader simply breezing through each page. Then imagine the pages of your book standing upright from the page and the characters, scenery, moments, stepping off the page and walking around in front of the reader. This happens when you allow your readers to experience your story rather than simply read it. When you touch each sense for the reader, they can become an active participant in the story. Consider them an extra in the movie version. They’re walking by the action seeing and feeling every moment. This is when a storyteller finally learns to write a good story. Of course, plot and characters mean a lot but hitting those senses for the reader takes an okay story and elevates it a notch.


3. Angst and adventure: A must. No exception. The first thing that drives a story is angst. Issues. Problems. The more a character experiences the more a reader remains glued to the story. Think of angst as a roller coaster where the reader starts at the top of the coaster staring down the giant incline. Then the ride begins. Down they go to a resolution and just as we think they are through that one, we hit a curve—a steep curve that climbs up to more angst and problems, then down we go again. Leave your reader with that “stomach in the throat” feeling over and over. As your characters work their way through their problems, add in the adventure. There is an adventure in every incident in our lives. It may not always be joyful, but I guarantee there is an adventure. It’s up to you to open your eyes and imagination wider and see it, then write it. Readers love watching a character maneuver through life’s difficulties. They love the guesswork of how the character will escape or resolve, so give it to your reader. Remember, life is not boring. When you begin to pick apart your character and the situations you put them in, you’ll find the underlying adventure.


4. Write memorable characters: And not only write them memorable but make them so real that your reader leaves saying they felt like they knew this character personally. Oh, what a joy that is when a reader loves your characters like their family. This means listing the attributes you want each character to have. What do they like, dislike? What are their favorite places to go? Favorite foods? Do they like animals? What upsets them and drives them to anger? Let your characters be real. Multi-dimensional. There is not a person alive who is truly boring. (Well, maybe one or two but when you look at even those boring folks and their attributes, I guarantee you’ll find unique and interesting facts about them.) The same goes for your characters. By the same token, there is no perfect character. If your character doesn’t have a serious flaw, one that gets in their way at times, then your reader doesn’t believe your character is real. Those little details make a story meaty. Write characters that stick in the minds of your readers, and make their situations and solutions so real, that weeks later your readers are still reeling over them. You can do this. Trust me. You just have to dig deeper.


5. Never give your character real peace: Your characters may have a temporary respite but in the background, there are always skeletons that hide in the closet. You know this is true in your own life. There are always things you never want others to know about you and though you may not think about it daily, it’s there to haunt you. Give resolve but never give full peace.


These are just a few things that will make your story sing. Practice looking deeper than the surface of your story. Dig. You’ll find amazing things you never expected and your storytelling skills will thrive.


5 Things to Make Your Story Sing - @CindyDevoted on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cindy K. Sproles is an author, speaker, and conference teacher. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for 
christiandevotions.us and inspireafire.com. Cindy is the lead managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and also Straight Street Books, both imprints of LPC/Iron Stream Media Publications. She is a mentor with Write Right and the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference held each February at the Billy Graham Training Center, the Cove, Asheville, NC. Cindy is a best selling, award winning novelist. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com.


  1. Thanks Cindy - I particularly liked #2 suggestion to see the book not as flat, but as 3-d. That's a great visual picture I can work with. :)

  2. I learned so much from your suggestions this morning, and I'm sure others will too. Thank you for sharing this helpful blog with all of us.

    1. Awww, thanks. We want great stories...not just good.

  3. Great post. These are some good tips and you explained them very well.
    Now, to put them to work.

  4. Wow! Thank you for this. I especially needed #'s 4 & 5.