Originally posted 2016-10-02 12:00:03.
Today’s focus is going to be starting to develop an actual story that gels together.
Working off the principal that you’re no a ‘pantser’ but are a ‘planner’, we’re going to need to suss out some finer details.
We’re gonna KISS it all up as much as possible, but this one might be a tad bit more involved. First off, if you haven’t already, get your pad of paper ready, or your blank virtual doc open and be ready to answer the specific questions that will *BEGIN* to add more depth to your characters and story.
Note: There are many of these helpful write-a-story-guides on the internet, but this will be my version of it, so you’re not worrying about copyright issues nabbing them from other people. I would appreciate if you are going to use it and share it, to acknowledge the work, as this is a dedicated collection of tidbits and helpful methods in order to start a good story. This is in no means the only source of knowledge you should look for.
That being said, there are bound to be plenty of pieces that are similar to others, but this is solely from how I write and the details I look for to create believable characters with some depth.
We’re going to look at 3 major areas:
Characters, Story Flow, and Arc. Now, I know that there are a lot of other options out there, I’m trying to simplify these, so you’re not all worried and stressed from the start. A little each time will add up to a huge amount of content.
There will be a special 4.5 worksheet (printable form) of different details you can fill in about each character.
Here are a few interesting questions to ask yourself about your characters:
How would your character act in the following circumstances:
There are several ways you can tell a story. The seemingly simplest way is a linear progression.
Start at A, head to B, then C happens, and finally D resolves the storyline.
But that’s not always the BEST option for your story. So let’s take a simple story, and I’ll show you how the different flows of the story can alter it in significant ways.
(For the sake of brevity, I’m going to truncate most of the story which you all know, but am setting in here just as a brief refresher.)
ORIGINAL ((for this at least)) A – Red Riding hood leaves her house with her cloak and a basic of goodies for grandma. B – She sees a wolf in the forest, and gets away from him, only to discover he’s arrived at grandma’s before Red C – The wolf is bad, and grandma has snuffed it. D – A woodsman hears Red screaming and kills the wolf. The end.
Kinda boring. There’s a moral to the story and it is dripping with sexism, but we’ll deal with that in a later article (#6).
For now, let’s tweak the original story and see how changing the linear progression, changes the story itself.
D – The woodsman is Red’s father, and warns the eight year old little girl not to go into the forest alone. He is working until midday, and then will take her to HIS MOTHER’S house, because there are wolves in the forest. A – Red, being incredibly stubborn and a worrisome child to her parents, leaves the house with a basket of goodies her mother has made for Red’s elementary class the next day. B – Red sneaks off into the woods, where she meets the wolf. The wolf eats her. The end.
The moral of the story changes drastically with this one.
C – The wolf starts out at “grandma’s” house, having seen the horror that a little girl near the forest endures with her rotten mother, and has already buried the old woman who died of natural causes in her rocking chair before the story even starts. A – Red pleads with her abusive mother not to send her into the woods alone, but evil mama’s not putting up with Red’s pompous little attitude. Get out, stay out. Red grabs her cloak to be her new bed, and a basket of food. B – She meets up with the wolf in the forest, who takes pity on her, and tells her about this old lady’s house he found not far from there, where she can live without the threat of her evil mother.
The moral of the story is even more twisted than before, but there still is something to learn from it.
B – Red (18yrs old) sees the wolf playing in the forest, and is sure that she can be friends with him. She bakes muffins as a token of friendship, but tells her mother they are for her grandmother who is sick in the cottage nearby. A – Red’s mother let’s her go. B – Red meets up with the wolf in the forest, gives him the muffins, and tells him of the fortune at Granny’s house. C – Red and the wolf go to her grandmother’s house, Red poisons one of the remaining muffins, and Granny’s death scream calls the nearby woodsman. D – The woodsman arrives, slays the wolf, and Red gives him the other half of the muffin. She steals all the valuables from her grandmother’s house, and drives into the city in the deceased woodsman’s truck, never returning home again.
What a deliciously evil young lady Red is in here!
The point that all of this is getting to, is don’t be limited by just telling the story from one view. Maybe it’s the grandmother’s story and everyone else are secondary. Perhaps it’s really about the woodsman or the wolf, or whoever baked the muffins in the first place that Red is taking credit for.
And telling the story doesn’t have to be in a straight line. Flashbacks, reverse order, and in pieces are all just as valid in ensuring a reader stays glued to the words.
there are many ways you can tell the story. If you’re stuck for where to turn next, have a flashback if it fits, or jump ahead in time and keep the flow.
Don’t peter out too quickly.
Take time, but don’t force your reader to watch paint dry while you get to the climax. If you’re planning on writing a series, do your readers the courtesy of keeping a ‘heartbeat’ so to speak throughout your storylines. Don’t have crazy action and then boredom for 800 pages.
Ebb and Flow.
Dance with your readers.
Don’t just throw action at them with out substance. Unless you’re writing a screenplay for Michael Bay (who is well known for 1% plot 99% pyrotechnics), you’re going to need to give your readers some of each. Even a romance has action. Little Women had action. Pride and Prejudice did too. Alice in Wonderland; even A Tale of Two Cities (though I will thoroughly admit not enough action, I swear Dickens got paid by the letter on that one).
Give your readers time to breathe between action sequences, and don’t lose good moments of wisdom, levity, truth, and profound depth on a tedious part no one will remember.
Quick, lively conversation is better than none at all. Not having any however isn’t reasonable, and too much just sounds like you’re eavesdropping too much. Don’t make your readers feel like they are stalkers, so much as connoisseurs and word voyeurs.
Let them delight in the wordsmithing you give them. Don’t be afraid to make your own words, but USE THEM PROPERLY in a sentence. New words must flow properly so they fit the scene, or they are wasted and forgotten like last week’s discarded rubbish.
Write well. You’ve got this!