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Changing the order

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

I had a version of this month's newsletter completed a few days before publication. It felt okay, but I wasn't convinced it was good.

I watched Van Neistat's Guide to Master Storytelling, and it got me thinking I was missing something.

One thing he said stood out.

If your story doesn't contain a surprise, then your story isn't a story. It's a report. And the better the surprise, the better the story.

The original version was precisely that. It was a report of having COVID and getting better. I even had the mention that I'd felt a shift in perception. All the pieces were there.

But that quote stayed in my head, so I went for a walk. I realized the element that was missing: getting COVID helped me.

Once I had that piece, everything fell into place.

I set up the story with the teaser that it helped, but then I spent most of my time writing about how I couldn't eat, talk, and get close to my wife. I hoped that by the end, a reader would say, "How in the heck did this help?" And then I did the payoff and explained why?

I'm not saying I invented the most remarkable story of all time, but I think I told a better version by leaning into surprise.

When you're working on a story, or recounting a tale, ask yourself what the surprise is at the end and then build to that.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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