Storytelling: It’s about Going Primal

We’ve talked about the paleo diet and lifestyle before, but here’s a great post on the vital role paleo plays in the stories we enjoy reading. The post, by author E J Randolph, appears at Jami Gold’s blog, one of the best writing resources on the web. Check it out:

The evolutionary imperative at the level of our genes is to “eat, survive, and procreate.” Our brains evolved to solve the obstacles to these goals, and the same basic brain functioning operates today in every sphere of our lives—including writing. … For a story to ensnare our attention though, we need a big problem to solve. We are interested in how others solve problems in different situations. We may need that knowledge. It is imperative we remember or are told which berries are poisonous, which plants are edible, where the best places to hunt are.

We are riveted by big problems. The bigger the problem, the better the story.

Absolutely! As James Bell counsels, every effective story has to be about death. It doesn’t have to be about physical death; a protag can grab and hold our attention if he’s confronting other forms of death, such as professional death, or the death of a relationship. (Of course, since making a living and personal relationships are vital to one’s survival, those struggles indirectly involve physical death.)

Our goal is to craft a story that enchants readers with beauty and emotion. Evocative details that trigger the senses as well as believable, interesting characters are important, but most important is a realistic threat the protag must face. Pull those elements together, and you’ve created a story that slush pile editors and readers will love.

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9 thoughts on “Storytelling: It’s about Going Primal”

  1. So true! Great storytelling begins orally, and that pulls in all the primal stops and elements. That’s been the foundation since mankind, yet taking that to a written piece is not as easy. Ah, the challenge and love and stakes of writing! Great post, Mike. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Hmm, agree to some extent. I think your thesis is true, but not the only truth.

    I certainly don’t think death, even figurative, has to feature in every arresting story. Going straight for the ridiculous jugular, I struggle to see the death in “The Night before Christmas.” I think some stories are all ‘Life’ and no ‘Death.’ Some are a mix, and some are all the latter.

    Like

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