Jon Franklin got me to sit up right away as he talked about things like “character” and “plot”—words I’d associated with novels and short fiction, not journalism. These, he said, were important elements to any good story, fiction or nonfiction.

The development of that story usually follows three parts, he said. First, the character digs in; then the character digs in deeper, and finally the character digs toward some kind of insight. That insight is that significant point of change in the story, which is usually followed soon after by some kind of resolution and the end of the story.

But beyond what happens, a writer must also consider elements such as how the story must follow some kind of rhythm and how what occurs in the story makes both the character and the reader feel. And beneath all this, he said, a writer must also address what the story means—the theme behind the story, such as love endures or war destroys. The idea of meaning is central to storytelling, Franklin said.

To wrap up his seminar, Franklin tied all these storytelling elements into psychology. He explained the brain has three parts: the part that speaks rhythm; the part that speaks emotion, and the part that speaks logic. They’re the same parts that make up a good story. The brain has evolved to solve complications. So, he said, it is obvious why we like stories: That’s where we get our meaning. —Dan Mathers, associate editor for Offshore Magazine

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