You remember it, don’t you?
Will you ever forget it?
You know. The way it felt.
The way it felt, listening to Hamilton for the first time.
All of a sudden you realized you were feeling things but you weren’t sure why but you couldn’t not feel things because emotions.
It still feels good, listening to it again. And again. And again. But nothing will ever top the first time.
Why did you feel that way?
It’s hard to say. Music, storytelling, it affects us. Deeply. Even when we’re not asking to experience a wave of emotions crashing against us, it happens. You feel it. Again. Again.
As amazing as it is, Hamilton isn’t the only thing that has ever made you feel the way you felt. Movies and TV can do this, too. Poems. Books. Stories.
All right, fine. So the music is what makes Hamilton shine, and you’re likely not going to sit down and write an entire musical right now (unless you are, then, uh, go for it). But there’s more than one way to tell a story, and the different combinations of elements a writer includes in their work is what makes it unique, and hopefully, emotionally stimulating.
You need characters that are flawed but not cliched,
ecosystems, cultures, untold histories that either make someone say, “I wish I were there” or “I wish I could read more JUST ABOUT THIS THING THE STORY DOESN’T FOCUS ON.”
Problems that are relatable yet exaggerated,
unexpected twists that are outrageous yet believable.
Those moments when “this is sure going on for a long time” become “BUT IT’S WORTH IT.”
Dialogue that drives a plot forward but makes a reader stop and think.
Subjects that hit too close to home.
Situations that cause physical discomfort, even if they’re fictional.
Outcomes that are unpleasant. Unfair.
Tragedies that transform into happiness.
Happily ever after, for all the right reasons.
For all the wrong reasons.
Good storytelling is about practicing, about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. You’re going to write a lot of bad stories. Flat, unconvincing characters and dialogue. Writing better means you’re writing a lot. Learning to recognize your own mistakes. Reading even more – pointing out other stories’ flaws, and recognizing those same patterns in your own work.
Can you write something as successful as a Broadway musical? Maybe. Maybe not.
Can you write something that leaves a reader as emotionally drained following the finale as a listener/audience member of Hamilton feels after the final note stops?
Maybe not now. Not yet. But someday. Yes.
Don’t ask how. Ask when.
When are you going to do this?
When are you going to start?
You learn as you go. You grow as your story expands. It changes you, so you can change the world.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.