• Member Since 30th Jan, 2013
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Viking ZX

Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

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Being a Better Writer: Going Vertical · 10:40pm Sep 11th, 2017

I'm back! No longer diseased! Well, not fully. And still with a recovering knee injury, but those things take time, or so I'm told by the doctors. But I am well enough to write write write at last! My mind is clear! And so after a long, unwelcome delay, we're finally getting back to a follow-up post I alluded to some time ago.

That's right, remember that post I wrote on Horizontal and Vertical storytelling a few weeks back? Because today's post was originally, before I came down with disease that made me cough my lungs into a bowl, going to be the follow-up. Lousy timing, but what it means for readers today is that I suggest going back and reading that first post if you don't remember the details behind it. Because I'll give a quick, one-sentence recap related to today's topic at hand, but after that I'm diving right into the thick of things, so if you're not caught up on what horizontal and vertical storytelling are, you'll want to read that link up above first, and then come back for this post.

Right, the preamble is out of the way, so let's dive into it. Let's go vertical and give our stories some depth!

Now, what some of you are probably thinking at this point, or were even thinking after that post a few weeks ago, is why I wanted to do a post on exactly this topic. After all, explaining to someone what horizontal writing is and how to do it? That's pretty straightforward, since almost every story we've even been exposed to growing up (especially Hollywood action-blockbuster style stories) are horizontal focused. Point A to point D. Action beat to action beat.

We're familiar with this kind of approach, and it's what most think of when discussing stories. Hit the point, move to the next point, then the next, and so on and so forth. While not technically correct to call it such, for many this is essentially how they think of storytelling. Again, it's not correct, but for a layman it's pretty accurate.

My point is, explaining horizontal storytelling to someone is fairly easy and straightforward because most people understand how to tell a horizontal story. It's familiar and easy to grasp. Vertical storytelling, on the other hand, is something that a lot of people aren't familiar with up front. It's not nearly as often talked about, nor as often recognized, though it can be present in many entertainment items you may have enjoyed.

So, with that as our backing, how does one go about building a story that has vertical elements?

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Comments ( 8 )

This is a very pleasing entry. I never knew the terminology, but whenever I state in my reviews I like stories that force the reader to think, apparently I am thinking of Vertical storytelling. I am a big supporter of stories that make better readers.

Thanks! Glad this added something to your lexicon! The more you know, right?

Edit: I too prefer stories that invite the reader to think and connect all the little pieces!

Glad you're feeling better. Great follow-up!

Anyway, I had never realized the difference of Faux Vertical and True/ Real Vertical had a name. I just recognized one was good, the other bad. So, there you go again, expanding my knowledge of writing.

I'm actually not aware of there being any official name ... Even those who instructed me just went with "Good/Bad," but I think "Faux Vertical" is a much better description than simply "Bad."

Edit: I'll clarify as well that I think there should be a noted difference between bad or poor Vertical storytelling and Faux Vertical. One is unskilled, while the other isn't actually vertical at all.

Stop overcomplicating it and take your praise. All in good humor.

In my mind and to all those I share stuff with, the official name for writing-related things is what you call it. And yes, your edit should be noted as well.

Well, Being a Better Writer has gotten hits from some English syllabuses from various colleges, so maybe there's a whole crop of students out there using my terms where none (or vague terms) were before!


This was excellent. I myself am very much a fan of vertical storytelling and exploring the depths of worlds, so it was good to see you take this on since you always do a much better job with this than I can.

That said, I do have an interesting issue the other way which sort of mirrors your discussion about people who don't usually read vertical stories. I have run into issues in the past where I am reading a story that is intended to be primarily horizontal and wound up putting clues together that the author didn't realize was there because that's what I'm used to doing, and because it wasn't planned I would up putting two and two together and getting something completely unintended which naturally caused problems down the line. This isn't usually a huge deal in a standalone story, but when things grow it can get really messy because you have multiple sources to erroneously draw clues from, and some cases like fanfiction or shared universes you also have clues being drawn from multiple creators which makes it a lot easier for this to happen.

Also, regarding the restructuring, while I don't mind reading these on your site, putting the links at the end of the fimfic blog post is kind of annoying because it doesn't show up in my feed so I have to click into this post before I can click into the one I actually want to read.

Congratulations, that's a big deal. After all, if your writing advice is being shared like that, it'll probably circulate its way around professional circles and draw a lot more attention to your books. It also means your name is out there for writing advice in general which could draw in some extra money to present it or even teach creative writing classes since people obviously trust you to give high quality advice.


Also, regarding the restructuring, while I don't mind reading these on your site, putting the links at the end of the fimfic blog post is kind of annoying because it doesn't show up in my feed so I have to click into this post before I can click into the one I actually want to read.

Ooooh, that's a good point. With the Fimfic restructure, you don't just see until the page break anymore. It's on it's own. Hmmm ... And the page break being automatic and triggered by links in the feed is an issue too.

I'll think on this. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

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