Creating Your Story Mountain

    I like to share, particularly when I’ve invested time at a conference and gained information of potential value to others. So, read on, and consider having saved yourselves several hundred dollars and a few hours of your lives. In your chairs, I’ll bring you highlights of a lecture and exercise during the American Horse Publications’ 2012 Seminar in Williamsburg, VA.

Jody Jaffe and John Muncie’s dynamic “Better Story Crafting” session at the annual seminar provided tips I thought worthy of repeating.

As career journalists and writing professors, including workshops through their company, The Comma Factory, Jody and John’s discussion focused on the journalistic side. But as reflected in the couple’s own words in the conference program, “Good writing is good writing, regardless of the subject.” I believe the tips I’ve pulled out below apply to all writing, whether it be a blog post, fiction, journalism, or even a personal journal. I tend to like visuals, and points I can easily remember, which may explain why I connected so well with the workshop’s main point:

When writing a story, you are developing a mountain your reader is climbing.

Here are the top 10 tips (in my opinion –  my blog), from Jody and John’s 90-minute discussion –

  1. Be a camera for your readers.
  2. Look around, provide impressions, observe, and use your senses.
  3. Use very specific words (ex. readers can’t see “pride”).
  4. Don’t use “perhaps.”
  5. Don’t be vague.
  6. Create a vision with each detail.
  7. Use interesting pairings of words, very precise in their descriptions. (ex. “…flies the size of honeybees….” when describing a death scene… sweet word in the middle of a horrific scene).
  8. Look for details that will keep your story alive, and toss the ones that don’t.
  9. Include details that matter (ex. Chief Executive Officer wearing flip-flops).
  10. Read your story aloud and look for places where you stumble, because if you do, your readers will.

And in conclusion, if your reader gets to the top of your story mountain, you’d better give him a good view.

Any other simple, but important tips out there anyone would like to share in the comments?


  1. Love your detailed tips, Valerie! Your suggestions are extremely valuable for any writing project, no matter the size. Thank you!

  2. I’m big into formatting – I think it’s essential that a story is laid out in such a way that it invites the reader in, and encourages him/her to continue reading down through the page.

    I always try to have a beginning, a middle and an end – sounds simple, but it matters!