When people think “writer” they tend to think “books”. Even someone who’s not necessarily thinking about being a writer might think “they’ve got a book in them”. We spiel off authors of great books like Dickens, Austen, and Tolstoy as the best examples of what writing is meant to be. But this obsession overshadows all the other great ways to write stories. A book may be the ideal vehicle for the story you’ve got in mind. It might also be the case that there’s another format that could work even better. So read on to learn more about the other ways of telling your tale.
Some stories just work better told in a short and efficient way. Short stories allow for a single concept to be explored in-depth and can be very memorable. Think of the plethora of Stephen King short stories such as “The Green Mile” and “The Body”, “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, or “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl (side note, horror seems to do particularly well in short form). Short stories also lend themselves to a twist ending to provide a real emotional punch.
On the other hand, you don’t get a lot of time to develop many characters or themes. So if your story needs those things, this format might not be for you. It’s likely your better off sticking to something long-form.
And if you’re interested in some spooky short stories, it just so happens (advert incoming) you can download my collection “Tales From The Creeping Edges” from Amazon (free on Kindle Unlimited).
There’s something about the stage that seems to welcome experimentation. How the story is told, how the tellers interact with the watchers, how other art forms like dance, music, and even puppetry can enhance the words – all these things and more are up for trying out. If you want to try a different way of expressing yourself, a stage play might be just the way to do it. After all, if it’s good enough for Shakespeare…
The flip side is that it’s not the easiest or most widespread of art forms to get into. There are limited opportunities to actually get your work seen. And you may be unfairly shunned by those who think the stage is too “highbrow” or “elitist”.
If you imagine your story unrolling in a cinematic way, it might make a good screenplay. With a screenplay, you can create a full (nearly) sense experience, and express your ideas without words. You can bring your world to life in its most tangible form. Both the big and small screen are viable outlets, with TV series being just as big as films these days. And with more and more streaming services, there are more outlets for new material, there may be more chances available than ever to get into this world.
Conversely, even with greats like David Mamet and Billy Wilder showing how important the writer is in this format, writing is still often undervalued in these industries. Plus you can’t be precious about your work. Chances are you’ll have to change it at the behest of others as well as relying on them to interpret your work. Plus with the focus on the visual side of things, subtle nuances, ideas, and intimacy with characters can be lost.
Radio was overlooked after films and television came onto the scene. But still is persisted, and if the popularity of audiobooks and podcasts shows us anything, it’s that people like to listen to stories. A radio play is similar to a book in many ways, but with the addition of sound and voice to give in an extra angle. And words trickling into your ears have a certain intimacy that can be difficult to produce even with a novel.
But, a radio play can still suffer in comparison to its visual cousins, You’ll also need your actors and sound design to be good. And in order for your story to make sense, you may sometimes have to have your characters narrate or talk about what’s happening in an unnatural way.
So there are some other ways to tell your story, besides writing a book. What do you think? How many have you tried? Please share in the comments.