Cole’s Rules of Storytelling

Or, Are There Badass Ladies? Gay characters? And food? Can I describe the food?

The Killer Moose love stories. Stories of all kinds. We write them. We review them. We talk about them. We talk about them a lot, actually. And we each have our own preferences, our own rules so to speak, about what makes the best kind of story. So, in classic Killer Moose fashion we decided we needed to write them all down.

This is the third in our Rules of Storytelling series. If you have not already done so, go and read Brad and Clarice’s rules! They are certainly different from mine!

But speaking of mine…


1. Worldbuilding is the root of the story.

This is where everything begins for me.

I get an idea for a world, a culture, a brand of magic or a specific geographical idea and it blossoms from there. The world comes together and gets populated with characters who grow alongside the world.

I craft genealogies. I draw detailed maps of the mountains, rivers, borders and cities. I come up with nations and the cultures that populate them and figure out how they weave together (or don’t).

Oh. And food. What food do they eat? Do they feast? What festivals do they have and what foods are special to these celebrations? What do they drink? Wine? Beer? Palm wine? Something else entirely? This is all important. It grounds the story and the characters for me, gives them roots that help me makes sense of what’s going to happen; who they are and why they make choices and they react.

This means by the time I sit down to write I know the geography and how the cultures are placed and overlap within that geography. I know the religions, special flora and fauna and I know the history, which helps the words flow easier and faster when I start the first chapter. Essentially: I have a deep understanding of how this world operates.

Worldbuilding is the foundation on which I build my story and it informs everything from character to conflict to resolution.

(Oh, and getting distracted constantly by new worlds? Totally normal!)


2. Traditional heroic male leads are stupid boring.

Seriously though.

Nothing makes me yawn faster in a book, a movie, a TV show or whatever. It’s partially because, let’s be honest, that character is someone who we’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of times before. And yes, stories often have similarities. They are often cyclical. But COME ON. This is the easiest possible thing to switch up. And in this day in age? When a story can now reach across continents, culture and language with greater ease than ever?

There’s no excuse. 

When I’m writing this is never my default character. Hell, the traditional male lead is often my antagonist, my sidekick or simply does not show up. They’ve had enough time on the page and screen in my opinion. There is an overabundance of them. It’s time for them to step to the side and make way for far more interesting possibilities.

But okay, let’s get hypothetical for a moment, shall we? If you must have a young, virile, heterosexual hero journeying to rescue a damsel? Fine. Here’s my fix though. Have him reach the lady in question, get knocked out and the lady has to rescue him, with nothing but a damn tea tray as a weapon. And, while your at it, PLEASE make him non-toxic. He should totally be into that. 

Or, make said hero young, virile and homosexual. He’s journeying to find the lady because she knows things he doesn’t and can save the day. And she can be gay too!

(Because, let’s be honest again here, we gays just make everything better).

Even better. Make it about her journey.

To me, that makes what I’m reading, watching or writing infinitely more intriguing.

Let’s bring in the women and the non-traditional men. Let’s bring in gay characters. Those are the characters I want to write. Those are the characters I want to follow on a journey, into a battle or through the pangs of love.

Give me all ages. Give me old men, past their prime, days of being a glorious hero far behind them. Give me a badass granny. Give me someone who doesn’t conform to a binary gender dynamic. Give me a man who loves men. A woman who love women. Or maybe they love both.

Give me gay leads. Give me old leads. Give me all ages, genders, sexualities. Give me generations of variety.

That’s the lifeblood of a story to me.


3. One word: pantheons.

Gods, gods and more gods. Because what story isn’t made better by some cosmic level melodrama and interference, am I right?

This obviously ties in with worldbuilding, but even beyond that, gods hold a special place in my stories. They’re always there, whether they take center stage or not, helping or hindering my characters.

The nature of gods—of immortals—fascinates me. Writing a character that is simultaneously human and inhuman is an interesting challenge. I enjoy the way they can shake up a narrative in unexpected ways and can break the rules that apply to the mortal characters.

There’s a chaos to gods that intrigues me. I find them fun to write and therefore, they’re always going to make an appearance on some level, in some capacity.


4. Description is fun!

This one is fairly simple: I love to describe things. As the other Killer Moose, I have, in fact been known to go on for a page or more describing a room. I’ve had half a page dedicated to a dress, specifically its embroidery.

With description, less is not more. More is preferable. More is not always good but more is also not always evil. Simple, right?

This is probably another aspect of my love of worldbuilding playing out on a smaller scale to be perfectly honest. And, when editing, the description does often get cut down to more manageable levels because, yes, I do realize not everyone wants to read half a page about embroidery (I mean, they don’t right? Do they? Because that would be awesome…)

I find description is a fun way to figure out a location, to cess out blocking for a scene or what exactly a character looks like. If I don’t know, description while I’m writing is how I figure it out. It serves the double purpose of not breaking my flow when writing. And yes, as I said, it often gets edited down or broken up and spread around, but description is the method by which I unlock my stories, more often than not, once the worldbuilding has laid the foundation and built the walls.


5. Darkness and tragedy are wonderful things.


The End.


And there you have them—my rules of storytelling! We’ve got two more to go in this series so keep an eye out next week for Jae’s!