How To Improve Your Writing By Deconstructing a Story

If you are new to writing, it can be hard to know just to plan and arrange your ideas into a well-flowing structure.  One of the best ways is to learn from other writers by deconstructing their stories.

I’ve been writing for a long time and looking back I can see how my skills have developed.

I used to wish to be published at the age of 18.  However, now I am really REALLY glad I didn’t attempt it.  I was not ready and I have seen how much better my writing has become over the years.

Now I consider myself a much stronger writer* and one thing I noticed as my skills improved was how I started to react to books and movies.

banner how to improve your writing by deconstructing a story. photo of an open book


Evaluation is key

Originally I would grab a book, read it, enjoy or hate it, praise it or moan about it, put it back and carry on regardless.  The same with TV programmes too.

Now, I’m not sure when the change occurred but when my writing took a big jump forward, my reaction to these media had changed also.

I stopped just reading a book or watching a movie and found that, almost unconsciously, I was evaluating them.

This does not mean I stopped enjoying books and movies and just treated them with a cold, crisp analysis… far from it when I found myself reading or watching something (good or bad) I began to instinctively deconstruct it.



By this I mean, I would look at what had really made that chapter, scene or paragraph stand out.  Or how the action had been driven forward into a heart-pounding conclusion.

Everything from scenery to characters to plots was broken down as I watched and read.

This information was assimilated (Borg-style!) into my thought processes.

As someone who writes multiple subplots in her fantasy stories, I found my ability to weave intricate and detailed subplots improved increasingly as I did these deconstructions.

I have mentioned this to other writers and a few have stated they do the same and hadn’t really put any thought into it until we discussed it.  However, it doesn’t seem to be a very common thing.


Manually Deconstruct

If you find this is not something you do instinctively, then there are ways to encourage it. You can consciously deconstruct a story.

This gets the brain used to following patterns and asking similar questions over and over and can eventually start doing it on “auto-pilot” when the right situation occurs.

With so-called “manual deconstruction” I would recommend doing it with books and movies (rather than just one or the other) that you have already seen.

See how you react to different things such as dialogue, character arrival, settings, tone etc.

In books, you can include sentence structure and specific words as well to see how a tone can be created.

This isn’t meant to dilute your enjoyment or dissect the hell out of these media but more to get used to analysing what works, what strengths and weaknesses you can see.

Also, don’t just pick books and movies you love, really go for the bad ones too, and the ones that you thought had potential but then seemed to truly fail.

So, have fun deconstructing and you may find when you are constructing your own story, it becomes all the stronger for it. 🙂


* Now you may be thinking ‘strong writer, really?’ especially if you have spotted any mistakes on this blog.

Let me just say, blogging and any other non-novel-writing form of writing…is not one of my strengths.  Despite what you may think, being a good writer doesn’t mean you are good at all forms of writing.

Happy writing

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