Fixating on a Story

Remember when you were young and your mother or father read a favorite story to you over and over? Or do you recall that one book or movie that you wanted to read or watch again and again?

Most people have a few all-time favorites. As a toddler, for me it was “Jack and the Beanstalk.” Then in school I became a fan of Aesop’s Fables. Later it was Swiss Family Robinson, Lord of the Rings, and Dune. As a teen I discovered films like Star Wars, Bladerunner, and The Road Warrior.

Have you ever considered what those stories do when you read them over and over?

I can tell you what it does: to some degree, it helps train your tastes for story. I call it fixating.

As you hear a favorite tale over and over again, so that you relive it, the story becomes more real, more a part of your psyche. I’ve had readers who have re-read some of my stories dozens of times over. As one college student put it, “Back in 1991 I re-read your novel On My Way to Paradise three times, and it became one of the most important experiences of my life. It changed me. I don’t remember much at all about my classes that semester, but I remember every page of that book.”

As a teen, I re-read Lord of the Rings half a dozen times, so I know what he means. Stories can become a part of you. In fact, they become so much a part of you, that when you begin writing your own tales, the ones that affected you as a child begin to echo in what you write.

For example, one author friend of mine, Larry Niven, wrote a popular science fiction series called Ringworld. A scholar wrote a paper on it, in which he spoke about how the author had drawn upon influences from The Wizard of Oz. Larry was astonished by this. He said, “I hadn’t drawn on that at all on the conscious level, but I had loved The Wizard of Oz as a child and must have read it a hundred times.”

So it came out in the choices that he made as he penned his own epic. That’s what I want to point out here. The stories that you love help define your tastes—and they inform the stories that you will write.

If you’ve read my book Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing, you know that as authors, we need to be aware of the books and movies and videogames that our own readers are fixating upon.

Yet as I grow older, I find that the tales that children today are enjoying are . . . not as engrossing to me as the tales that I once loved.

So it becomes important to study what’s new. Did you see Disney’s Moana, or have you re-watched Avatar lately? Most likely, your younger fans have. What cartoons have you watched, and what videogames have you played? Me, I’m afraid that I don’t do much of that anymore.

I think that often as writers age, their stories seem to age with them, become less accessible to young readers and feel more irrelevant to them. So it’s important to keep reading, to keep watching, to keep playing and studying, so that you keep learning to speak in the same language of the heart as your fans.

In other words, find the great stories of today and then work to “fix” them into your mind. Let them educate your tastes, at least a little.


Advanced Intensive Writing Workshop – One Opening Left

St. George, Utah
Ramada Inn

1440 E St George Blvd.

November 6-10, 2017

10 Attendees Maximum


Start National Novel Writing Month out right in this workshop exclusively for those who would rather be dead than unread!


Dave is ratcheting up his popular Writing Mastery camp and this will be an advanced workshop where we perform daily writing exercises, give daily critiques, and work to improve our writing craft.


During the workshop, instruction and exercises will cover such topics as:

  • Adding intrigue to your tale
  • Creating tension
  • Using the eight kinds of hooks
  • Using appeals to various senses to hypnotize your reader
  • Weak appeals versus strong appeals versus “failed” appeals
  • The music of writing–assonance, consonance, metaphors, etc
  • Developing and using both your voice and your character’s voices
  • Advanced descriptive techniques
  • And more!

We will have at least ten assignments over the course of the class, and Dave will review each assignment and offer critiques. We will also invite other writers to offer their own insights.


During lunch and dinners, authors will be able to set up appointments to dine with David in order to talk about specific concerns that they have with their writing, or to plan their careers.


Note to David Farland’s Advanced Intensive Writing Workshop Participants: You must bring a laptop computer with you. If you don’t own one, then borrow, rent, or buy one.


While the goal for this workshop is to allow the writer to have fun, to get inspired, to work in an intellectually rich and emotionally fulfilling environment, this will be David’s most intensive class ever!

Register here.

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