In the realm of narrative arts, "economy in storytelling" stands as a pillar of effective and compelling writing. It’s a principle that transcends genres and mediums, shaping stories that resonate deeply with audiences.

Whether you’re a budding writer, an avid reader, or a film enthusiast, understanding this concept can transform your approach to storytelling.

Today, we dive into the essence of this principle, exploring how brevity and precision in narrative can create a powerful, lasting impact.

Let's get started.

Best Way To Learn Screenwriting - Daniel

"Economy in Storytelling" Definition and Meaning

"Economy in storytelling" is a phrase commonly used among writers, and it refers to the practice of telling a story as efficiently as possible. This concept is key in all forms of writing, but it's especially crucial in screenwriting and other mediums where space or time is limited.

Why Do Writers Use Economy in Storytelling?

Jake Adelstein, played by Ansel Elgort, reading his notebook in 'Tokyo Vice'

'Tokyo Vice'

Credit: HBO Max

In essence, economy in storytelling is about making every word, scene, and character count. It's a skill that involves careful planning, editing, and a deep understanding of what is essential to the story's core message and emotional impact.

Here are a few more reasons why you should employ it in your own work:

  • Conciseness and Precision: Using the fewest words to convey an idea. This doesn't mean the story is rushed or details are omitted; rather, every element included serves a purpose and contributes to the overall narrative.
  • Show, Don't Tell: This is a staple of economical storytelling. Instead of explaining through exposition or dialogue, actions and visuals are used to convey information. In screenwriting, for instance, a character's emotions or backstory might be shown through their interactions or setting, rather than explained in dialogue.
  • Removing Redundancy: Cutting out repetitive scenes, dialogue, or descriptions that don't add to the story. Redundancies can slow down the pace and bore the audience.
  • Streamlining Plot: This involves focusing on essential plot points that drive the story forward. Subplots that don't contribute to the central narrative or theme are often minimized or eliminated.
  • Balancing Detail and Brevity: While brevity is key, it's also important to provide enough detail to create a rich, immersive world. Economy in storytelling is about finding that balance.
  • Impactful Storytelling: Ultimately, the goal is to tell a story that is impactful and engaging. By being economical, writers can create a narrative that maintains the audience's interest and delivers a powerful message or experience in a concise manner.
  • Meaningful Character: Writers focus on developing a few well-rounded characters instead of crowding the narrative with many underdeveloped ones. Each character in the story has a distinct purpose, whether it's driving the plot forward, revealing key themes, or contributing to the protagonist's journey.
  • Trimming Excess: During the editing phase, writers look critically at their work to remove any elements that don't serve the story. This might involve cutting redundant scenes, streamlining dialogue, or even removing characters that don't add significant value to the narrative.
  • Focusing on Key Themes: Economy in storytelling is also about ensuring that the central themes and messages of the story are clear and not diluted by too many diverging ideas or motifs.
  • Leveraging Subtext: Instead of stating everything explicitly, writers often use subtext—meaning that is implied but not explicitly stated. This technique allows the audience to read between the lines and engage more deeply with the story.

By embracing economy in our narratives, we learn to value each word, cherish every scene, and develop characters with purpose. This approach not only streamlines our stories but also deepens their impact, leaving a lasting impression on our audience.

Whether you’re crafting a novel, a screenplay, or even a short story, the art of saying more with less is a skill that will undoubtedly elevate your storytelling craft.

Now, go get back to writing.