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Minimum Viable Story

I’d like to explore an idea with you – the idea of a minimum viable story. We often overcomplicate stories and run the risk of never finishing the story.

What is Minimum Viable Story?

In business one of the things we look for when creating a new product is what is the least we can produce to have a viable product. Minimum viable product is a watchword for getting to the end and the product out of the door.

What if we took that same idea and applied it to storytelling? What is the minimum viable story to tell the tale that you want to get out there?

The idea here is to simplify and ask yourself “what is the core story here?”

What does Minimum Viable story do?

  • Release your story to (beta) readers in the shortest time.
  • Reduce the time investment before you have something to share.
  • Test the demand for your story or setting – perhaps before planning a longer or more complicated series.
  • If a story is going to fail, let it fail quickly.
  • Gain valuable insight into what does and does not work.
  • Get feedback from readers that can play into a larger work.
  • Gather and enhance your reader base.

That’s not to say that you should release a crudely written story – it should be as polished as any other but it should be the least story possible that tell the tale. A minimum viable story is a tool for staying focused on the core o what matters in your writing.

Avoid story scope creep

There once was a person who lived in a setting and had a problem. They did some things and had some setbacks until they finally solved the problem. The end.

Everything that goes beyond that is decoration and flavour. If your flavour gets in the way of telling the core story, you have suffered too much story scope creep. Cut it back and find the minimum viable story – the core tale.

Scope creep is a mistake we writers can make where we expand the scope of the story over and over. Scope creep causes the whole thing to become a giant complicated thing that is no fun to write and less fun to read.

We can’t all be that writer that invents a realm like Middle Earth. Sometimes we just need to tell a story.

Minimum Viable Story can mean novel series

Just because you are shooting for a minimum viable story, doesn’t mean that every story must be a short one. Perhaps your minimum viable story is a series of novels. That is okay. If your story is big, tell a big story.

When it comes to writing short stories I try to pull back to as small a focus as possible. If that cannot be done, then you have a novella or bigger.

I have a “short story” that I have tried to write three times. It just does not work as a short. One day, I might rewrite it as a novella.

What is your take on using minimum viable story?

Over to you, get on in there with the comments and let me know what you think.

  • Is paring back to a minimum viable story the best approach for your storytelling?
  • Can staying strongly focused on your core story make for better storytelling?
  • Is this a technique or idea that is right for you?

Use the comments, give me your thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Image credit: End Of Story by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

One thought on “Minimum Viable Story

  1. I use this extensively for short stories. Identify the twist and look for the shortest path to set that up.

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