If you want your story or essay to stand out in a crowded market, these are literary concepts that will transform your writing by maximizing depth and power.
These are the real game changers. They captivated people in Ancient Greece, and they’ve been mastered by Hollywood, but they are also the mark of great literary fiction and creative nonfiction. ln fact, they’re so juicy I’m not even going to introduce them anymore. Here they are:
- Internal and External Conflict
One thing I love about good writing is that exterior events are given their proper interior weight.
When we rush through life on a daily basis, tons of things happen, but we rarely see the meaning of it. On the other hand, sometimes life slows us down with catastrophic events. However, unless we sit down and put pen to paper, we never get to examine the ordinary or the extraordinary from the inside out.
In literature, this is called internal and external conflict. Take a look at your own writing (and/or life), especially the challenges and conflicts. Make two columns. In one column write the external situation, and in the other write the internal meaning and value. When you separate out these to perspectives, you’ll get better control of your narrative.
Perhaps this sounds simple, but it’s not. So often we take the interior meaning for granted and it’s not explicit in our work. And it’s a shame because that’s what will resonate with your audience. Write it out and put it in!
2. Inciting Incident
In literature, bad luck is actually good luck. Weird but true.
Because bad luck does a better job of developing our characters and ideas. It runs them through thresher so only the riches rise to the top.
That’s the beauty of the inciting incident, that moment early-on when something bad happens: a problem, surprise, or mystery appears. This moment sets us off-balance and sends us tumbling through the rest of your words, hungry for resolution. Although the inciting incident was originally designed for fiction, it applies to nonfiction as well. It’s an early show of vulnerability where you connect with your reader, by showing them something utterly human that your work will address.
Take a look at your current draft and highlight the inciting incident. If it’s subtle, magnify it. If it’s missing all together, think about how you might use this device to better connect with your audience. You may also consider grabbing the stories or essays of your literary heroes, and see if you can detect this tool in their work.
Everybody wants more epiphanies, right? Obviously. They are those euphoric moments where everything seems to make sense, you achieve clarity, and suddenly you know what you must do.
People love reading epiphanies as well, they make for a fulfilling climax. Plus, that’s where all the problems we labored over finally pay-off, because, the greater the challenge, the grander the epiphany.
But how do you get to this amazing pay-off? Do you have to sit and wait for God to tap you on the shoulder?
No. You can create your own epiphanies with pen and paper. Writers do it all the time.
Here’s the process I use. It’s simple and very effective. I start out with utter honesty. Whatever I’m afraid of or angry about, I start writing it down, exactly as it feels in my head. I can do this as myself, or as my character. However, as I’m doing this, I’ve learned to expect a turn. If I dig deeply enough something golden is revealed beneath all that darkness.
At its core, an epiphany is essentially just bombastic honesty. That’s how this trick works. Ride the wave of honesty until everything becomes exquisitely clear.
Why are these the game changers?
Because these three tools will wedge you deep below the surface, where your work is truly original. That’s where you hit the paradox of the specific and the universal. When you’re being authentic and writing about the struggles and lessons that only you can write about, you get universal resonance. That’s the real gold.