When I re-read Treasure Island recently, it struck me what a powerful storyteller was Robert Louis Stevenson. I was so impressed, I kept a running list of the things I was learning about the art of storytelling as I read this masterpiece. Here they are, in the order in which I came upon them:
- Make the story seem compellingly real.
- Create finely drawn characters, with defining features, voices and behaviours that make them memorable.
- Introduce intrigue and danger from the start.
- Write short chapters that have the right weight, pace and importance. (I certainly took notice of this one in my new novel.)
- Move the action around to different locations.
- Confidently describe amazing landscapes that you’ve never actually seen, as if you were standing there.
- End chapters on a cliffhanger.
- Throw obstacles at characters – as well as lucky strikes, turn-arounds and surprises.
- Expound on evil behaviour, and make it look somehow enticing.
- Describe a past event that might once again come true.
- Keep things hidden until it’s time for the big reveal.
- End with a final great quest.
These are most relevant to adventure stories, but I found ways to use them in Remember My Name (a social satire) and, of course, Dark Farm (sci-fi fantasy horror).
Are there other things you’ve learnt from reading Treasure Island? If so, I would love to hear about them.