Everyone has their own way of writing just as everyone has their own writing style. That said, typing out a story as it comes to you is not enough. There are basic principles to writing that have to be followed. Some writers have absorbed these skills in school and will do them instinctively as they write. Others need to do some planning first. One way or the other its important in your editing process to make sure that you have met all the criteria of a good story.
Stories with one or two exceptions (flashbacks and some murder mysteries) follow the same structural pattern: setting, character, problem, rising action. climax, and resolution. These six elements are held together by the theme. A simple plot graph would look a bit like a mountain with the climax at the peak and the resolution to the right while the other elements wouldmake up the left slope.
Most writers start with a single idea. (motivational element) Around this a story will develop. The initial motivational element might be serendipitous but the process of story development is not.
There are three building blocks to consider in writing a coherent story with good flow. They are: bones, heart, and muscle. The “bone” is your plot, the “heart” is the passion/emotion, and the muscle is the factual content. A well developed story has all three. Remember that a story must have a raison d’etre (a reason for being) and this should be reflected in the theme. Otherwise there is no point to the story.
A Little Guide to Writing a Story by Anne Azel
Anyone can write well. All you need is effort and this ten step guideline.
Step One: Decide what genre you feel the most comfortable writing in. (i.e. Adventure, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, Romance, Murder Mystery, Horror, Contemporary etc.)
A story is made more powerful by what you leave out. Avoid graphic detail.
Step Two: Establish your theme. This is very important and the weakest element in most beginner’s work. The theme is the learning experience you want the reader to have. Every story has to have a message otherwise there is no point to reading it. Some examples of basic themes are: cooperation defeats all obstacles, human intelligence and creativity are superior to the computer, good triumphs over evil, individual lives are changed by events, love conquers all, crime doesn’t pay, loss of innocence, searching for self etc.
Be descriptive. Appeal to the five senses. Writing is painting on people’s minds.
Step Three: Write a character sketch for your main characters. It is best to use headings to organize your thoughts such as: appearance, dress, personality, background history, likes/dislikes, voice, mannerisms etc. This is important so your character remains true to form.
Characters should be developed by inference not by listing characteristics.
Step Four: “The problem” is the event, action, or person(s) who cause a situation that the protagonist must resolve. Make sure that the problem is clearly identified near the beginning of the story.
Good planning makes for good writing.
Step Five: Develop a plot graph for your story. This will prevent you from rambling and losing the interest of the reader. Remember that this is only an outline. It is okay to allow your story to vary from your plan as ideas develop, but be very careful to maintain a logical flow of ideas.
A good story has an equal amount of description as it does narrative. Make your work come alive for the person reading it.
Step Six: Start writing! Begin by establishing your setting. This is the stage the characters will perform on. Avoid over used phrases like “a dark and stormy night.” Appeal to all five of the senses. Be descriptive. Remember that the setting has three elements place, time, and mood.
In court you don’t lead the witness and in writing you don’t “tell” the reader what they should know or believe. Let the reader work it out along with the characters.
Step Seven: Introduce the protagonist. Remember not to list characteristics but infer them by the character’s appearance, actions and words. Next introduce the antagonist with the problem.
Remember that the reader can’t identify with the protagonist if he/she does not have redeeming characteristics.
Step Eight: Events in a story should never stand alone. Your rising action needs to interconnect like stairs in a cause and effect chain of events.
A story has a natural flow when all events are connected in a logical order.
Step Nine: Write the climax of your story. This is the point where the character solves or fails at solving the problem. The climax should be nearly at the end of your story and there should only ever be one.
The climax should be the most exciting part of your story.
Step Ten: Your story should end with a resolution where you tie up the loose ends of your story and explain the impact of the story’s events in the resolution. The theme too should be clearly revealed in the resolution.
Follow these steps and you will have a great story.
Anne Azel’s Award Winning Novels: Encounters, Seasons, Three Doses of Murder, Murder in Triplicate, Gold Mountain, Iron Rose Bleeding, The Little Book of Big Christmas Stories, Journeys, America, Tides, and The Dark Matter Corps