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Narrative Drive Is Not Related To Literary Merit (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi

The Door Of No Return by Sarah Mussi

I started this series of posts by observing that getting teenagers to read is a tough job, and that we writers of young adult fiction needed all the tricks of the trade we can learn when taking it on.

I therefore pledged to disclose some of the many secrets I’ve learned over the years that have helped me hook young adult readers and keep them craving more.

And the biggest secret of all is how to harness the energy of Narrative Drive.

As I wrote in my first article, Narrative Drive helps create spellbinding stories. It keeps the reader glued to the pages. So let’s get straight on with…

The Secrets of Narrative Drive

Secret Number 2

drum roll…  tada!

  • Narrative drive does not necessarily have any literary merit.

This is an odd one and when I first discovered it I thought: OMG, surely not! All good writing should aspire to having literary merit. But after close reading of very many non-put-downable texts, and avid viewing of endless totally addictive TV dramas, I discovered that it is quite true. Just like all those yummy sweets that disappear one after the other from the bag and are definitely not good for your waistline (and even more disastrous for your teeth), so too the truth is: Narrative Drive only has to create a compulsion to carry on reading in order to work.

True Narrative Drive that will keep your readers glued to the pages only has to have:

  • the ’wait a minute; I just have to finish this chapter’ compulsion, and
  • the ‘I must find out what happens next’ appeal

And if you doubt my words, you only have to think of a second rate TV soap opera. Nowhere is addiction to narration more evident and empty of substance.

So how can you use this secret?

  1. Focus on the battle of forces between the protagonist and the antagonist.
  2. You don’t have to worry about ‘depth of meaning’ until a compelling interplay of forces is planned out.
  3. Make sure your story idea has strong conflict.

We have many examples of stories with little ‘literary merit’ in fiction and in film that nevertheless hold people’s attention.



Sarah Mussi’s author website:

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The Door of No ReturnThe Last of the Warrior KingsAngel Dust     The Puzzle RingGlowDeadly Little Voices (a Touch Novel) (Touch Novels)The Hunting

Writing Teen Novels

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