The 6 Literary Forces Every Writer Must Master

You may be aware of what’s becoming widely known as the “six core competencies of storytelling.” These core competencies, as defined by my go-to fiction-writing guru, Larry Brooks (of StoryFix.com), are:

  • Concept
  • Character
  • Theme
  • Structure
  • Scenes
  • Voice

But what you’re probably not aware of are the six literary forces that raise those core competencies to a whole new level.

That’s what Brooks is addressing this time around, in his new Writer’s Digest book, Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling.

As far as I’m concerned, this book is another home run for Brooks.

What Story Physics Is All About

In this book, Brooks asks the writer to go much deeper into what makes a story more compelling, more conflicted, and more even vicarious for the reader. He shows you how to take your story to a whole new level.

Brooks’ six story forces—things you must absolutely have to make your story the best it can possibly be—are:

  • A compelling narrative premise, question or problem—readers are there to go on a journey with your hero. Make sure it’s the ride of their lives.
  • Dramatic tension—whatever’s opposing your hero, make it deep, dark and conflicted.
  • Expositional pacing—how fast or slow your story unfolds can make or break a story. You’ve gotta get readers aching to turn the page to find out what happens.
  • Hero empathy—we’re along for the ride with this guy, we better not only like him, but actually want to root for his victory too.
  • A vicarious reading experience—readers want to experience something that’s outside their norm. Take them somewhere they’d never get to go in real life and make it memorable.
  • Narrative strategy—choose the best character’s POV to tell the story from, find a creative story-telling angle that works.

You can read a whole lot more about these story forces—and how to use them—in Brooks book, Story Physics.

Now, my favorite part of this book are the story deconstructions that Brooks provides: one for the book, The Help; the other for the book, The Hunger Games. These deconstructions are priceless when it comes to understanding how to put together a compelling story that works on many different levels.

It’s a whole new ball game.

I love being able to read the deconstructions alongside the actual books, to really be able to dig in and analyze the story (a writer-nerd hobby of mine). I do the same thing with movies. It helps me be a stronger writer and storyteller.

If you’re a writer who wants to up your game, and become even better at telling stories and shaping them into books that readers can fall in love with, get off your ass right now and go get yourself a copy of Story Physics by Larry Brooks (or you can just sit there and order it from your Kindle, I won’t judge ya).

How do you use story physics to take your story to a whole new level?

3 Replies to “The 6 Literary Forces Every Writer Must Master”

  1. Interesting and informative article Jennifer. I’m planning a heavy third revision of my novel to strengthen the role of the protagonist. The six story forces will definitely play a part. Deconstructing my favorite novels is something I’ve been putting off. I think it could be very helpful. Thanks again for the article.

    1. @Ivan Thanks! I appreciate you leaving a comment. If you want some deconstruction examples, check out these from Larry Brooks (StoryFix.com):

      Avatar: http://storyfix.com/category/deconstructing-avatar

      The Hunger Games: http://storyfix.com/category/the-hunger-games-series

      The Help: http://storyfix.com/category/the-help-deconstruction-series

      Even if you haven’t read the books/seen the movies, the deconstructions are still super helpful at illustrating how to tell a story that works. Good luck with your revision!

  2. Definitely a solid article. I’ve always found my major Achilles heel was pacing…tending more often to go to slowly and focus on every minute detail rather than logical scene jumps. Thanks for the guide though. A very good read.

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