The Best Stories are Balls of String

I’ve been thinking about what makes a story a good one and I’ve come up with something that was never really taught to me when I studied Creative Writing. A lot of people think of plots as a simple progression from point A to point B, which you can visualise as a piece of string. But I think this is far too simple, in fact, as you can probably tell from this post’s title, I think the best stories are, in fact, balls of string.

Know what I mean? Perhaps not, so allow me to unpack that metaphor for you. One string is one person’s story, going from point A to point B and each novel is going to contain quite a number of characters. All of these characters should have their own complete and distinct stories which intersect with the main stories, until you have a whole ‘ball of string’ of overlapping stories and ideas. The prospect of two of the different characters’ stories intertwining should be as exciting as introducing two old friends.

I’ll admit, it might not be quite a ‘ball’ of string, maybe more like a tangle, but ‘ball’ sounds more interesting. A perfect example of a novel which does this is Les Misérables, which is one of my favourite novels – there are so many characters in it and their lives are all connected in different ways. While this approach may not work for every type of novel, I still think that it’s something worth keeping in mind. If you think of a character and have an idea for the story you’d like to tell with them, it would then be good to come up with another character whose involved with that story, but who’s on a different story of their own. At very least, this will make the world of your story a more believable one.

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