I love to invent stories and come up with ideas, but I don't have the patience to fill out all the details that is usually a part of a novel. (For those of you familiar with Myers-Briggs or Jungian psychology, I'm talking about the curse of the Intuitives). Said in another way, I want to design stories rather than write them.

What genre or format is the most efficient way to tell a story when you want to focus on narratives and not on prose? I would for instance assume that a screenplay takes less writing than a novel. Not necessarily less time, but less actual writing (please correct me if I'm wrong).

Just to get it straight, I realize that any story creation takes time. I just want to spend that time thinking more than writing.

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    I hate to be an ass, but if you don't like writing, maybe you shouldn't try to be a writer. Jan 20, 2013 at 16:56
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    It feels like your weakness is 'the word', not necessarily that you have to have a world built behind it. If I understood correctly, it's that you're more visual than verbal, you just 'feel' the story and visualize it in your mind (with dialog, I presume) but you don't know to effectively do that in words. So why don't you try making e-comics? Consistency would be hard to keep, though, as you'll have to rely on this 'inner-eye' for detail, unless you don't mind writing yourself notes. If it's the work you're having problems with, then I don't really have any advice.
    – Mussri
    Jan 20, 2013 at 18:13
  • Homer hated writing. Jan 24, 2013 at 1:37
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    @Aerovistae Yes, I'm sure the Simpson paterfamilias struggles with iterating his thoughts on paper, but that's hardly the point. Jan 24, 2013 at 12:38
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    But...I...but...okay. Jan 24, 2013 at 19:14

6 Answers 6


Maybe you shouldn't be writing.

  • Maybe you should be collaborating. Sketch the thing out and hire a partner, or a ghostwriter.
  • Short stories. Fewer words, and less need to create a world. You only need to create as much as is necessary to make the story hold up.

  • Tell stories out loud instead. Find a library which needs volunteers (a bit redundant, I know) and offer to set up a story hour for kids. But instead of reading, you're just extemporizing your stories. Alternately, join an improv group.

  • I think we have at least one video game writer on this board — how much "writing" does a video game narrative require?

I would actually not suggest poetry, as the effort required to find le mot juste takes just as much blood, sweat, and tears as writing prose, even if there are fewer words.

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    Addendum for the monolingual: le mot juste is the right word. Tu parles français, Lauren? Ou tu sais des phrases diverses? Jan 20, 2013 at 17:08
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    @Aerovistae, the phrase le mot juste has been borrowed into English. It doesn't necessarily indicate bilingualism. (Though Lauren would have to tell you if she actually is bilingual.) Jan 20, 2013 at 17:12
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    @Aerovistae Oui, je le parle un peu, et l'italien aussi, although my Italian is more Sicilian. It amused me that the right phrase for "the right word" was in French. :) Jan 20, 2013 at 17:13
  • I second the video game idea! Check out RPGMaker to get started and find out if this way of telling stories is for you. You can get it on Steam, too.
    – B Altmann
    Sep 28, 2017 at 19:14

Easiest way: only tell the highlights. If it isn't pertinent to the progression of the story, don't put it in. If it is, don't leave it out. That's about as simple as it gets. Hope this helps!


Have you tried writing Kōans?

They are between one sentence and one paragraph long. Pure prose. No special prerequisites to writing them.

Try to write some great Kōans.

The likely outcome is that you will fail utterly. But then, the attempt should humble you enough that you will learn to value the freedoms granted by typical "novel style" prose.

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    This answer confuses me so much. I know what a koan is but do not see the benefit in writing one or the difference from novelistic prose. I have clearly not passed the test. Jan 24, 2013 at 1:39
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    @Aerovistae: OP wanted A genre with least amount of writing to tell a story. The Kōan is such a genre, a direct answer literally fulfilling OP's request - but also cruelly cynical. OP implied a shortcut, to make writing easier by skipping detail. Kōan is one of the most difficult genres of prose, certainly more difficult than novel. If OP hopes for Kōan to be a shortcut to avoiding difficulties of Novel, he will be sorely disappointed. What he perceives as Novel's difficulties is in fact liberties, something Kōan has not. Noticing how sorely they are lacking may change his mind on novel.
    – SF.
    Jan 24, 2013 at 8:39
  • I understand the idea at work here, but the principle it's predicated upon escapes me-- based on what logic or opinion polls are we declaring koans to be "certainly more difficult" than novels? Jan 24, 2013 at 8:41
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    @Aerovistae: I did. Maybe not great, but ones I'm not ashamed of. I'm yet to write a half-decent Kōan.
    – SF.
    Jan 24, 2013 at 8:48
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    @Aerovistae The idea is that the fewer words you have, the more weight each one carries. "For sale: baby shoes, never worn" is an entire story in six words. But figuring out which six words to tell or imply a narrative is very hard, while using 90K gives you more leeway. You have, literally, many tries and more room to add layers and details in a novel. In a Kōan, the limited space forces you to be extremely choosy about your words, because you don't have room to fix it later in the story. It's the same point I was making about poetry. Jan 24, 2013 at 12:34

On the contrary! I'd say Intuitives probably have more patience in writing to work with than their Sensate cousins. Your problem is likely that you're an Extrovert and don't like to spend a whole lot of time alone.

Obscure psychological theories aside, let's cut to the chase.

I just want to spend that time thinking more than writing.

Okay. You're not going to get out of writing completely, so let's find a way to make it more bearable.

I think you should start by outlining the story(ies) you have in mind and writing down all your ideas, to see what you have to work with. The thing is, writing is very nearly the same as thinking anyway if you're doing it off the top of your head. You need to get used to your keyboard--actually, make sure you're consistently working at the same keyboard. Writing will feel a lot less tedious when you're pounding it out at 70wpm, so practice and patience with typing will make it a lot easier.

A vague representation of the general consensus on the stages of writing or whatever blather the pundits are putting about these days:

1) The ideas: as you say, designing it. Coming up with the world, the characters, and the plot. Worldbuilding and outlining.

2) Starting to write. You lay down your characters like cards in that ridiculously nerdy game you played all the time twenty years ago (not last week at all, no).

3) Revising. Nearly everyone hates this, but you have to do it.

4) Editing. This is really easy, actually; if you disagree with me, go find someone who doesn't.

For you, I suggest skipping most of the first step. Keep your outlines really rough, worldbuild as you write, and just keep another Word file with all your notes.

Personally, I don't like marathon worldbuilding sessions, and I find I come up with my best ideas during the first few chapters instead of before starting to write, and since I don't like going back and altering all of my notes, this is what I do.

But there are multiple reasons to write that way, one of them being that you think the actual writing part is pretty boring and just like laying down ideas. Once you don't have to think about your typing, the writing part just becomes worldbuilding with organization.

Also, I know it's said a lot, but if you're still new to all this, don't expect to be immediately good at it. Some people say--and I think this is pretty accurate--that writing takes about ten years to learn to do well. I'm halfway through that, though the first of those years was spent writing about trigger-happy alien fairies who had an obsession with the color yellow, so I'm not entirely sure that counts.

Anyway! Basically, don't be discouraged, because the first crepe goes to the dog. And, in writing, the second, third, fourth, and fifth, and then the sixth you just kinda cover in powdered sugar and serve because the dog is bloated.


Sheesh! That was longer than I intended it to be. If this is a completely unhelpful, rambling waste of the past five minutes of your life, let the record show that I do not claim to be an "expert," "professional," or any other silliness. Actually, I'm a 15-year-old girl with an extremely vivid imagination and a vocabulary that gets me funny looks. There! Now you've been spared the feeling of being lectured at by someone who sincerely thinks s/he knows what s/he's talking about, and is actually way off base. Isn't that better?


You say you love to invent stories and come up with ideas, this is a good start for a writer, so I don't agree with the answers and comments you've received so far suggesting you shouldn't be one.

As you've already figured out, screenplays are an excellent format for narrative. Most screenplays now a days even leave out technical details like for instance camera movement, and focus solely on narrative and dialogue. I suggest you at least try out this format.

The short story format is of course another valid option. A lot of writers, professional and amateur, have issues with long stories, so they stick to formats that are more concise, there's nothing wrong with this approach.

Some love the actual process of writing, but for many the writing is a necessary evil, and think about it as just a tool or device to tell the stories you have inside, and there is nothing more important than the actual story, whether if it's in a book or a screenplay. If it's a hundred pages or a thousand do not matter, only that what is there is quality.


You're going to have to write SOME description (otherwise the person reading your script won't know what they're supposed to "see"), but you could use a clipped version of description. Check out the script for the first Alien film. The description is in a format that might suit you. An example:

Pot now half full.
Kane watches it drip.
Inhales the fragrance.

    Now Dallas and Ash.
       (calls out)
    Good morning, captain.

       (voice over)
    Where's the coffee?


LAMBERT walks into the kitchen.
Pours herself a cup.

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