2 Critical Factors for Successful Stories

Joshua Henkin

You can be a beautiful and gifted writer yet fail to craft a compelling narrative. Joshua Henkin, in the latest Glimmer Train bulletin, elucidates, in a memorable and striking way, how to check your work for two critical factors of a successful story:

For a story to work, there needs to be both consequence and agency, and one way to tell whether your story is succeeding in this regard is to ask yourself a couple of questions. First, type your scenes out on separate sheets of paper so that it’s possible to scramble them. Can you scramble them? You shouldn’t be able to. … If you can reorder them, then the odds are your story isn’t driven sufficiently by consequence. Second, ask yourself what would happen if you yanked your protagonist out of the story. If the only thing the story would lose was your protagonist’s observations … then the odds are there’s insufficient agency in your story.

Read Henkin’s entire piece at the Glimmer Train site.

Also, check out these other articles:

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.
Posted in Creativity + Inspiration.


  1. Pingback: 2 Critical Factors for Successful Stories | Jane Friedman | book publishing | Scoop.it

  2. I love Glimmer Train! I’d been with them since the beginning – I wish I’d kept the first issue…might be a collector’s item one day 😉 – and I’m pleased they’ve done so well.

    Very good advice from Henkin (and thank you for explaining “agency;” I wondered about that myself).

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