Writers are jugglers. We juggle our characters and plot, moving both on the backdrop of setting. Our stage is our reader’s mind and a good writer can bring her story to life. A real, breathing story can be just as engaging and satisfying as watching a professional circus performer nail a routine. Although jugglers will tell you there are no rules, there are important things to consider to making your juggling act successful. The same is true with writing good stories.
With that introduction, for the next couple of posts I would like to lay out my observations as a juggler and relate them to my favorite pastime, writing and storytelling.
Observation #1: Learn the basics and work hard to master them
When someone asks me to teach them to juggle, they immediately pick up three balls from my prop collection and look at me to impart some ancient wisdom I’ve acquired from the great juggling gods that will have them performing a routine to impress their friends. I typically smirk and tell them to drop all the props except one.
Juggling has some basic patterns that have to be mastered before anyone can start doing a Mills Mess, Claw, or Yo-yo tricks you see from professionals. The basic pattern is a cascade, or as I explain, it’s an inverted figure eight pattern. You learn this pattern, then you are on your way to juggle more advanced tricks. Throwing balls up willy-nilly isn’t juggling and may injure your audience or friend, or more likely, damage your ego.
Storytelling has basics concepts too. Plot, setting, character development, hooks, etc. are all parts of telling a great story. A writer that tries to write a novel without understanding these concepts is like the novice juggler who tosses all the balls in the air and ends up empty handed. Your story will fail. Learn the basics and you can do the cool tricks your favorite authors do.
Entertaining juggling, like entertaining storytelling only comes from hard work. It takes lots of hours to shape a trick or a story. Start now by mastering the basics!