I have been creating a storyline graph for quite sometime now. It was about looking at what kind of story has been done before, so I would understand what is working and also how to create a brand new one.
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While I was checking a website for ideas, one simple question just come up to my mind “What will each person think of when it come to create a good story?”. I check many forums, notes the tips and opinions from many people and so I think it’s good to share some of the good one with everybody here.
Since there is no specific course that talk in depth about “Story”, this Journal shall give an explanation about creating story where anyone could read and follow the content step by step.
Here is a simple instruction of how to create a conceptual storyline especially for novels.
1.Determine what you want the story to be about. What do you want to see happen and how do you plan on arranging the story?
2.Do some research. Find out if the story you want to do has been done before. Is it too familiar? Too cliché? If so, don’t be concerned with tweaking it a little.
3.Make a map of the plot-line. From beginning to end, map out exactly what is going to take place, including the climax and the conflict resolution.
4.Determine the effect of the plot on the characters. Will it help them grow? How the plot effects the characters is oftentimes the most interesting part of the story, so make sure it jives well.
5.Determine the effect of the plot on the overall theme. Make sure the plot can work well with your theme and the overall message you want to send. If it doesn’t, it’s time to make some changes.
6.Share the story with someone else. Allow a fellow writer, reader or someone with a critical eye to take a look at your ideas before proceeding. Get some opinions. If the story doesn’t make sense to them, it probably won’t work that well for others. Be open to suggestions.
By doing this exercise, we can focus our point in many aspects of plots instead of one specific theme and so we will gain more creativity by looking inside ourselves then we share to others for expand our mind critically.
Reference : http://www.ehow.com/how_2188345_interesting-story-line.html
Now, after we have done some critical thinking in a wide range of plot, it’s time to start looking a one specific thing in details, and “Short story” is a good exercise for us to think about. Here is a simple step of creating short stories.
1. Writing a story is different from writing an essay. An essay has a definite beginning where the surmise of the essay is presented, then explained and finally concluded. Short story is a literary device, which does not have a definite style and that is precisely why there is so much creativity to explore in writing short story. So my first advice is that dont look for any mechanical steps to write a short story. Beleive in your imagination, pen down the story and then clean it up, so that it adds to a sensible thing and conveys the message you want to convey.
2. Determine the characters of your story. Lets say you want to write a love story or a horror story or funny story. You need to identify what all characters you want the story to be based on. Identifying characters is not a one time job. As you write and progress your story you would find that you need to add more characters and remove some of the characters you thought were essential. After having decided the characters, just pen down what ever interactions you can think of between characters. These interactions dont have to be sequential. You can arrange them in proper sequence later on.
3. Be precise. This is advice for anything that you write. Words must not be wasted. Each and every word must convey a meaning and repetetions of ideas in a verbose manner should be avoided. The more precise you are in describing your story the more condensed and beatufiul would the story be. But this is a cleaning up excercise, which has to come once you have penned down the entire story. Cleaning may reduce the story to a quarter or only by a nibble.
4. Practice, practice and practice. Well however cliched this expression may sound, there is no new ‘mantra’ (talisman) for being good at something. You need to practice with perserverence and enthusiasm. If you loose any one of those, you will not succeed so very effulgently. And then share your stories
By following these steps, you will be able to start writing your own fiction now.
Ok, as you finish the two previous exercise, you are now ready to go further by adding extra details to your story. By giving your own remarkable ideas to your piece of work as putting some unique ingredient to your dishes, a hugh gap between normal story and good story would show up.
And here, again, are some hint that would help you think of when you want to put details to your story.
2. A central theme arising out of an important moral conflict that is symbolic of a conflict we all face. For example, in Jerry McGuire, the central conflict was how to stand up for the values that brought him into the business in the first place and how to deal with the cost of standing up. The values at the heart of the story were important to its audience. A substantial number of middle class employees face this question daily. They are not top sports agents, but even as mid-level insurance executives, they wonder whether they will ever escape the grind.
3. Excellent craftsmanship. Writing is a craft as much as anything else. Well-crafted scenes, dialogue and structure mean a great deal to me.
4. A story tightly wound around the important thematic questions the story is intended to explore. No waste – nothing superfluous. Every scene is an interesting exploration and deepening of the theme. A few examples of this kind of story are “Pleasantville”, “High Noon” and “Casablanca”.
5. Intelligent and witty writing. A good story expresses itself in ways the average audience member recognizes he or she could not do if he or she sat down to write a movie. Audiences recognize exceptional storytelling and respond to it.
Some people have less interested in whether the story has a traditional resolution. For example, I enjoy tragedies and non-conventional stories. Examples include “The Perfect Storm”, “Confessions of A Dangerous Mind” and “Barton Fink”.
The basic structure of learning about creating story from previous section would be enough for us to use as a guide now.
Still, I have got some details structure of creating advance story from another website i think it’s crucial for everyone to read if they want more handicap or thing to think about when they write a story. Don’t worry, every structure I post in this blog has been chose thoughtfully since there are so many opinion about this topic, I have to read and choose what is best for everybody to understand).
The Structure of 3Act Adventure story
1. It is important to do thorough preparation and research. Be an “expert” in your subject matter. This applies whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction. For example, obviously you will have to do extensive research on a particular time period if you are writing a historical romance. If you are writing a current thriller from a female African-American’s point of view and you are a white male, you have to do a different kind of research in order to get into the character’s mindset and make her ring true. The point is to really know your subject — whatever it may be.
2. The challenge is not to write truth, but to write seductive BELIEVABILITY. (The art of verisimilitude.) One of the things I tried to do in Riding The Snake was to weave the facts I found in my research about Hong Kong Triads and illegal immigration in with my fictional tale so that even a sophisticated reader cannot tell where research leaves off, and fiction begins.
3. A screenwriter should look for places to integrate his/her screenplay with toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball CONFLICT: social conflict, emotional conflict, spiritual conflict, cultural conflict, internal conflict, relationship conflict, psychological conflict, and/or, yes, physical conflict, too. Conflict is crucial in maintaining the reader’s interest in the story and in the characters. You may write a story about a man in solitary confinement who never has interaction with anyone except a prison guard and still have conflict which could be interesting to read about. But some kind of conflict is usually necessary.
4. Most writers don’t spend nearly enough time on character, so the characters lack depth. We don’t bond with them; thus they are incapable of taking us along on even the most exciting roller-coaster story ride. You can have the most complex, brilliant “roller-coaster” in the world, but if the reader/audience isn’t “hooked” emotionally to your main characters, they won’t be “along for the ride.”
5. In good stories, you start out with a likeable Hero(s) who have psychological and moral flaws. He/she must be likeable enough to entertain and intrigue us, but flawed enough to have the potential to learn and grow. Remember, “perfect” people are not likeable!
6. Try to take us into a unique world – e.g., in my novels: a Presidential campaign, con artists, computer hackers, Chinese Triads – we should learn something new while we’re being taken on a journey and entertained.
7. STORY COMPRESSION: Particularly in a screenplay or teleplay, it is important to write economically. A great scene often accomplishes several things at once, skillfully weaving together elements of plot, character, conflict and foreshadowing. Do it in one scene instead of four. Look for opportunities of compression without overloading. After you write your scene or chapter, go back and ask yourself: What can I cut to make it cleaner and clearer? Am I showing off my research to the reader – do I really need all this detail? Does it advance the story – or is it just plain boring? Look at your work with an Editor’s eye, and cut accordingly.
8. TONE: Tone more commonly requires CONSISTENCY from start to finish. If you change or mix tone mid-stream, you risk jolting the audience/reader out of the experience. Although this is another of those rules which can sometimes be broken by advanced writers in specific situations, it is better when starting out not to break it. For example, if you are writing a horror short story, don’t switch to a comic tone halfway through. You can, of course, build upon the tone in the story – Stephen King is a genius at this. In several of his stories, the atmosphere starts out perfectly normal, and becomes more and more creepy as the tale goes on. But he doesn’t switch to a romantic-suspense tone halfway through: he simply builds on the original tone of the piece. Remember tone and atmosphere when you are writing, whether it is a fresh-air, wholesome action adventure or a gothic, moody ghost story.
9. COLLECTIVE PROTAGONISTS: Sometimes a story contains more than one Hero; King Con and Riding The Snake are both examples of this. Here I felt the risk of fractionalization was worth it because of the relationship dynamic that exists between Beano and Victoria in King Con, and between Wheeler and Tanisha in Riding the Snake. Furthermore, a love story is being integrated, thus adding another level of emotion to the story. BE CAREFUL! Collective protagonists or collective antagonists, who are not potential lovers, are by nature a genuine hazard to solid story structure, and incur the risk of FRACTIONALIZATION. It is hard for the audience to get emotionally involved with too many characters. Realize that trying to write movies like American Graffiti, The Big Chill or Pulp Fiction is an extremely challenging undertaking, so just beware of the risks.
10. THE TICKING CLOCK: Often, usually early in the story, a clever writer plants a time lock, a structural device requiring some specific event to occur, or some particular problem to be resolved, within a certain period of time. This serves to compress the story’s tension. Of course, not all stories lend themselves to a “ticking clock,” but the resourceful writer digs deep to locate a method and a place for integrating a meaningful one into the story. An example of a ticking clock would be the movie Armageddon, where the team had only a short time to blow up the asteroid, or all of mankind would be destroyed when it hit Earth. This gives an underlying tension to the entire movie.
11. PREDICTABLE VS. TOO PREDICTABLE: Predictability can often lead to great suspense. The challenge is to walk the line of predictability. Which has more sustained tension? To walk down a corridor absolutely unaware that someone is going to jump out from behind a door, or knowing somebody is going to do just that? On the surface it might seem that the former is more unsettling, because the victim has no time to prepare. However, the latter causes the audience to tighten, to tense, to flex every muscle in terrible anticipation of what is to come. And when it arrives, the effect is all the more shattering for its predictability. When a script is criticized as predictable, what the critic truly means is that it is TOO predictable.
12. COINCIDENCE: Audiences and readers expect movies and novels to be “special,” with plots that are well-written and events that are skillfully orchestrated. (This is especially important in mystery writing. Depending on the subgenre, mystery fans often feel cheated when they plot or mystery is too transparent) Even a good story may be launched or resolved by a coincidence; however, in general the writer should strive to avoid relying on coincidence to resolve a story or to provide a solution to a puzzle. (Unless, of course, you are writing a farce where the entire story may be based upon coincidence after ridiculous coincidence.) Most readers or viewers resent a dependence upon coincidence because they understand it for what it is: a writer’s laziness. (If you must use a coincidence, audiences seem more willing to accept coincidences in action, than in dialogue).
13. SUBPLOT: Creating good subplots is sometimes a difficult skill for a novice writer to master. Remember: just as a main plot line has a three act structure, so does a subplot line. A good subplot has turning points, a clear set-up, developments, and a resolution at the end. Often the turning points of a subplot reinforce the plot line by occurring right before or right after the turning points of the main plot. Traditionally, subplots are used to compare the Hero’s approach to a problem to another character’s approach to the same problem. For example: Who is the subplot character in Hamlet? Laertes, Son of Polonius. Laertes has to deal with the same problem as Hamlet: “In thy visage do I see myself reflected.” If you are going to use a subplot, one key rule is that the subplot should in some way affect the Hero’s story. Don’t throw a subplot in just because you feel you need one. A subplot must relate to the main plot or to the main characters in a way that is interesting and sheds a new light on the main story situation or it will merely be distracting.
14. MOMENTUM: There is nothing worse than a story that really drags, and doesn’t hold the reader’s or the audience’s interest. When each scene propels you emotionally and logically to the next scene, you have story momentum. Your scenes should be connected in a cause and effect relationship, so that they flow logically (this also applies when you are doing prologues and flashbacks, as well.) Make sure that each of your scenes has a purpose and is necessary – it must either advance the action, create anticipation or show an important event or highlight on one of the characters, leading the audience both intellectually and emotionally to the climax of the story. In an action thriller, for example, the crucible that the Hero goes through becomes more and more intense, until finally there is no avoiding the central confrontation between the Hero and Villain. By that time the audience is eagerly anticipating the confrontation at the climax of the story.
15. THEME: A good story can work on multiple levels; a deeper level is theme. The theme is the central underlying idea/message/ morality/ philosophy/weighty issue, etc., that you believe in and are trying to express and intelligently weave into the fabric of the story. Ideally, the theme should expand as the Hero and Opponent come into conflict.
16. MOTIVE: You need an increasing motive for story and character to expand. If you don’t have an increasing motive, the main character is held down by who he was in the beginning.
17. THE HERO’S CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: Character profiles can be very helpful for beginning writers. Get to know your main character by asking some questions about him or her: A. Why do you like your main character? B. What don’t you like about your main character? C. What are the moral flaws of your Hero? D. What does your Hero have to learn about how he interacts with other people? E. How will your Hero be enlightened and changed at the end of the story? F. What is your Hero wrong about in the beginning concerning himself? G. What intermediate insights is your Hero going to have along the way? Keeping a profile of your main characters can help you flesh them out and make them seem real. You may discover they have little traits and habits you weren’t even aware of when you started.
19. THE HERO’S “GHOST” OR BACKSTORY: The Hero’s moral flaws and weaknesses are usually dependent upon something haunting him/her from the past; often events and experiences that occurred before the actual story begins. (In King Con, the ghost takes place in the prologue, but often the audience won’t see the actual events comprising the ghost, but may just hear about important things in the Hero’s past from other characters when they talk about the Hero or from the internal dialogue going on in the Hero’s head). If the ghost is effective, it should reverberate throughout the story and the Hero must struggle to overcome it.
20. THE PASSIVE PROTAGONIST: Be careful of creating a story and Hero where too many important external events happen to the Hero and He/She ends up merely REACTING as opposed to boldly acting. Thus, we end up with a rather weak and passive Hero who has no plan of action. (Hamlet is the exception that proves this rule, and it takes a writer of William Shakespeare’s stature to pull this off.)
21. In Act One, because you want your Hero(s) to have a dramatic range-of-change, it is advantageous to have your protagonist(s) be in some kind of trouble, whether it’s psychological, moral and/or situational. Overcoming a challenge or a problem is a classic way for a person to grow emotionally and mentally.
22. Sometimes the world/environment which the Hero and Villain are surrounded by when we meet them, are expressions of what they have become. (In Riding the Snake, we meet WHEELER at the country club bar; in Final Victim, we meet THE RAT in a dirty, dank garbage barge.) Be aware of the surroundings of the main characters and let the surroundings subtly tell the audience more about the character.
23. SIGNATURE LINE: A “signature” line of dialogue is one that is repeated throughout the story and may take on greater significance as the story/stakes expand. (e.g.: In the A-Team, Hannibal’s often repeated line: “I love it when a plan comes together.” was his signature.) Signature lines are most popular in television and movies, and if they are clever, can be a great addition to a show. In hardboiled detective novels, we often see the hardbitten hero wisecracking his way through a dangerous situation with a favorite signature line. Don’t overdo it, though.
24. INITIATING INCIDENT: If Act I. is DEFINING THE PROBLEM, the incident(s) in Act I cause the Hero to form a goal and compel him to deal with the problem. The incidents increase the Hero’s DESIRE to obtain the goal and impel him forward. (In King Con, there are 3 incidents: Beano is brutally beaten by Mob boss, Joe Rina; Carol Bates, Beano’s cousin is killed; and the criminal case against Joe Rina is dismissed. These are all very powerful motivators for Beano and Victoria.)
25. THE GOAL: The goal is an essential part of drama. But not just any goal will do. In order for a goal to function well, it should try to meet three main requirements: First of all, something must be at stake in the story that convinces the audience that a great deal will be lost if the main character does not obtain the goal. Secondly, a workable goal brings the protagonist in direct conflict with the goals of the antagonist. Thirdly, the goal should be sufficiently difficult to achieve so that the character changes while moving toward it.
26. If you want your Hero to increase his DESIRE, then increase the MOTIVE. (In King Con, Beano’s desire for revenge against the Rina Brothers greatly increases after they murder Carol.)
27. INTRODUCING AN ALLY: Drama needs someone else for the Hero to express how he feels. This character is often a “Truth-teller” who understands the Hero’s moral and psychological weaknesses and is not afraid to point them out. This relationship can provide a very entertaining dynamic, while also providing great insight into the primary Hero. Sidekicks fall into this category. The sidekick has had a place in fiction since the form was invented. Whether it is Captain Hastings to Hercule Poirot, Watson to Sherlock Holmes, or Jim Rockford’s dad to Rockford, the ally is allowed to point out the lead character’s foibles and follies, thus instigating change in the Hero’s attitude or actions. The ally can also be used to convey information that you want the audience to know.
28. Particularly in a screenplay, it is important to put the preceding steps in motion early because you need DENSITY OF STORYTELLING; you need to accomplish a great deal of important FOUNDATIONAL story work in the first 30-40 pages of your screenplay.
29. The Villain can help define the Hero. Ideally, the Hero expands in terms of stature and quality as the Villain evolves from prospective opponent to actual opponent.
30. THE VILLAIN’S ALLY: Although of course not present in every good story, the Villain’s Ally is often a very interesting character. (example: Johnny K. in Riding The Snake; the Vichy police captain in Casablanca) By nature, the Villain’s Ally is torn… He or she is secretly working for the Villain, but comes to like and be influenced by the Hero.
31. FIRST EPIPHANY: The Hero’s first major revelation usually occurs at, or near the end of Act One. Each time the Hero learns something major (and it must be MAJOR otherwise it’s not going to be a powerful enough revelation) it should kick your story up to a higher level of energy, desire and motivation. In King Con, a perfect example of this is when Beano discovers that Carol has been murdered. In Riding The Snake, the revelations that propel Wheeler and Tanisha into Act Two occur at the Pacific Rim Society, where they learn that the stakes of their investigation may be international.
32. THE PLAN: The Hero needs an intelligent plan of how to beat the opposition; then creative and resourceful improvisations to deal with the various attacks and counter-attacks escalating toward the final climactic confrontation. Even in a love story, someone is usually trying to win someone else’s love and a “villain” is usually standing in the way. The concepts are the same regardless of the genre in which you write.
33. An “antagonist in motion” creates suspense and excitement. By opening a window into the Villain’s “world”, we can learn about his power and vision and moral arguments that help define his motivation. The Villain’s power and intelligence, in turn, compels the Hero to “enlarge”, otherwise He will be defeated. (Joe Rina and Willy Wo Lap are examples of powerful, intelligent Villains. I think Willy is particularly strong because he has a vision, came from poverty, and I tried to make him a very layered character.)
34. HERO’S FINAL EPIPHANY ABOUT VILLAIN: At this point the Hero gets the final piece of information He needs to do battle with the Antagonist. In a mystery, he may not even learn who his real enemy is until the Final Revelation, and in other genres, this information may reveal the true stature of his nemesis.
35. Hero encounters “Hell”: When this occurs is flexible and can happen more than once. It can come at the end of Act Two, and/or before, during and/or after the final battle. (In Riding The Snake the dangerous journey into the Walled City, and the encounter in the drain under LAX; in King Con the Heroes “visit to death” occurs up in the hills at The Presidio.) During this dangerous encounter, the Hero is often moving through a constricting space, an increasingly intense crucible. Perhaps has to navigate through a gauntlet, a narrow gate, often with a visit to death.
36. HERO’S SELF-EPIPHANY: This should strip the Hero bare in some emotionally powerful and revealing way… the shattering experience of seeing himself as He really is. This self-revelation will either destroy our Hero or make him stronger and give him new light. A radical self-revelation may change the Hero’s whole sense of who he is in one moment. A tragedy if at the end the Hero is “destroyed” instead of made stronger by the revelation.
Notice two common themes in good drama: The problem of personal identity and discovery, and learning when to fight and when to be tolerant. Apply these story suggestions while you are outlining, while you’re writing your story, and after you have completed a first draft and are trying to spot the problems and areas of weakness.
Lastly, There is a last structure that sum up all of the details, tip, and process of doing a long range story. This structure consist all elements that we need when we want to create a feature film or a cinematic animation.
Writing stories means beginning as close to the conclusion as possible, and grabbing the reader in the very first moments. Conserve characters and scenes, typically by focusing on just one conflict. Drive towards a sudden, unexpected revelation. (Kathy Kennedy and Dennis G. Jerz)
Is your short story assignment due tomorrow morning? These emergency tips may help. Good luck!
- Who is your protagonist, and what does he or she want?
(The athlete who wants her team to win the big game and the car crash victim who wants to survive are not unique or interesting enough.)
- When the story begins, what morally significant actions has he or she already taken towards that goal?
(“Morally significant” doesn’t mean your protagonist has to be conventionally “good”; rather, he or she should already have made a conscious choice, with repercussions that drive the rest of the story.)
- What unexpected consequences — directly related to the protagonist’s efforts to achieve the goal — ramp up the emotional energy of the story?
(Will the unexpected consequences force your protagonist to make yet another choice, leading to still more consequences?)
- What details from the setting, dialog, and tone help you tell the story?
(Things to cut: travel scenes, character A telling character B about something we just saw happening to character A, and phrases like “said happily” — it’s much better to say “bubbled” or “smirked” or “chortled.”)
- What morally significant choice does your protagonist make at the climax of the story?
(Your reader should care about the protagonist’s decision. Ideally, the reader shouldn’t see it coming.)
More Detailed Tips
Drawing on real-life experiences, such as winning the big game, bouncing back after an illness or injury, or dealing with the death of a loved one, are attractive choices for students who are looking for a “personal essay” topic. But simply describing powerful emotional experiences is not the same thing as generating emotional responses in the reader. (See “Show, Don’t (Just) Tell.”)
For those of you who are looking for more long-term writing strategies, here are some additional ideas.
If you are having trouble getting started, look out the window. The whole world is a story, and every moment is a miracle.
–Bruce Taylor, UWEC Professor of Creative Writing
- Keep a notebook. To R. V. Cassill, notebooks are “incubators,” a place to begin with overheard conversation, expressive phrases, images, ideas, and interpretations on the world around you.
- Write on a regular, daily basis. Sit down and compose sentences for a couple of hours every day — even if you don’t feel like it.
- Collect stories from everyone you meet. Keep the amazing, the unusual, the strange, the irrational stories you hear and use them for your own purposes. Study them for the underlying meaning and apply them to your understanding of the human condition.
Read, Read, Read
Read a LOT of Chekhov. Then re-read it. Read Raymond Carver, Earnest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and Tobias Wolff. If you don’t have time to read all of these authors, stick to Chekhov. He will teach you more than any writing teacher or workshop ever could.
-Allyson Goldin, UWEC Asst. Professor of Creative Writing
In today’s fast-moving world, the first sentence of your short story should catch your reader’s attention with the unusual, theunexpected, an action, or a conflict. Begin with tension and immediacy. Remember that short stories need to start close to their end.
|I heard my neighbor through the wall.|
|Dry and uninteresting.|
|The neighbor behind us practiced scream therapy in his shower almost every day.|
|The second sentence catches the reader’s attention. Who is this guy who goes in his shower every day and screams? Why does he do that? What, exactly, is“scream therapy”? Let’s keep reading…|
|The first time I heard him, I stood in the bathroom listening at our shared wall for ten minutes, debating the wisdom of calling the police. It was very different from living in the duplex over middle-aged Mr. and Mrs. Brown and their two young sons in Duluth.|
The rest of the paragraph introduces I and an internal conflict as the protagonist debates a course of action and introduces an intriguing contrast of past and present setting.
“It is important to understand the basic elements of fiction writing before you consider how to put everything together. This process is comparable to producing something delectable in the kitchen–any ingredient that you put into your bowl of dough impacts your finished loaf of bread. To create a perfect loaf, you must balance ingredients baked for the correct amount of time and enhanced with the right polishing glaze.” -Laurel Yourke
Your job, as a writer of short fiction–whatever your beliefs–is to put complex personalities on stage and let them strut and fret their brief hour. Perhaps the sound and fury they make will signify something that has more than passing value–that will, in Chekhov’s words, “make [man] see what he is like.” –Rick Demarnus
In order to develop a living, breathing, multi-faceted character, it is important to know way more about the character than you will ever use in the story. Here is a partial list of character details to help you get started.
- Single or married?
- Favorite color
- Favorite foods
- Drinking patterns
- Something hated?
- Strong memories?
- Any illnesses?
- Nervous gestures?
- Sleep patterns
Imagining all these details will help you get to know your character, but your reader probably won’t need to know much more than the most important things in four areas:
- Appearance. Gives your reader a visual understanding of the character.
- Action. Show the reader what kind of person your character is, by describing actions rather than simply listing adjectives.
- Speech. Develop the character as a person — don’t merely have your character announce important plot details.
- Thought. Bring the reader into your character’s mind, to show them your character’s unexpressed memories, fears, and hopes.
For example, let’s say I want to develop a college student persona for a short story that I am writing. What do I know about her?
Her name is Jen, short for Jennifer Mary Johnson. She is 21 years old. She is a fair-skinned Norwegianwith blue eyes, long, curly red hair, and is 5 feet 6 inches tall. Contrary to typical redheads, she is actually easygoing and rather shy. She loves cats and has two of them named Bailey and Allie. She is atechnical writing major with a minor in biology. Jen plays the piano and is an amateur photographer. She lives in the dorms at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She eats pizza every day for lunch and loves Red Rose tea. She cracks her knuckles when she is nervous. Her mother just committed suicide.
Point of view is the narration of the story from the perspective of first, second, or third person. As a writer, you need to determine who is going to tell the story and how much information is available for the narrator to reveal in the short story. The narrator can be directly involved in the action subjectively, or the narrator might only report the actionobjectively.
- First Person. The story is told from the view of “I.” The narrator is either theprotagonist (main character) and directly affected by unfolding events, or the narrator is a secondary character telling the story revolving around the protagonist. This is a good choice for beginning writers because it is the easiest to write.
I saw a tear roll down his cheek. I had never seen my father cry before. I looked away while he brushed the offending cheek with his hand.
- Second Person. The story is told directly to “you”, with the reader as a participant in the action.
You laughed loudly at the antics of the clown. You clapped your hands with joy. (See also Jerz on interactive fiction.)
- Third Person. The story tells what “he”, “she,” or “it” does. The third-person narrator’s perspective can be limited(telling the story from one character’s viewpoint) or omniscient (where the narrator knows everything about all of the characters).
He ran to the big yellow loader sitting on the other side of the gravel pit shack.
Your narrator might take sides in the conflict you present, might be as transparent as possible, or might advocate a position that you want your reader to challenge (this is the “unreliable narrator” strategy).
Yourke on point of view:
- First Person. “Unites narrator and reader through a series of secrets” when they enter one character’s perceptions. However, it can “lead to telling” and limits readers connections to other characters in the short story.
- Second Person. “Puts readers within the actual scene so that readers confront possibilities directly.” However, it is important to place your characters “in a tangible environment” so you don’t “omit the details readers need for clarity.”
- Third Person Omniscient. Allows you to explore all of the characters’ thoughts and motivations. Transitions are extremely important as you move from character to character.
- Third Person Limited. “Offers the intimacy of one character’s perceptions.” However, the writer must “deal with character absence from particular scenes.”
Make your readers hear the pauses between the sentences. Let them see characters lean forward, fidget with their cuticles, avert their eyes, uncross their legs. –Jerome Stern
Dialogue is what your characters say to each other (or to themselves).
Each speaker gets his/her own paragraph, and the paragraph includes whatever you wish to say about what the character is doing when speaking. (See: “Quotation Marks: Using Them in Dialogue“.)
|“Where are you going?” John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor. “To the racetrack.” Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head. “Not again,” John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”|
|The above paragraph is confusing, because it is not clear when one speech stops and the other starts.|
|“Where are you going?” John asked nervously.
“To the racetrack,” Mary said, trying to figure out whether John was too upset to let her get away with it this time.
“Not again,” said John, wondering how they would make that month’s rent. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”
|The second example is mechanically correct, since it uses a separate paragraph to present each speaker’s turn advancing the conversation. But the narrative material between the direct quotes is mostly useless.|
Write Meaningful Dialogue Labels
“John asked nervously” is an example of “telling.” The author could write “John asked very nervously” or “John asked so nervously that his voice was shaking,” and it still wouldn’t make the story any more effective.
How can the author convey John’s state of mind, without coming right out and tellinig the reader about it? By inference. That is, mention a detail that conjures up in the reader’s mind the image of a nervous person.
John sat up. “Wh– where are you going?” “Where are you going?” John stammered, staring at his Keds. Deep breath. Now or never. “Where are you going?” John sat up and took a deep breath, knowing that his confrontation with Mary had to come now, or it would never come at all. “Wh– where are you going?” he stammered nervously, staring at his Keds. Beware — a little detail goes a long way.Why would your reader bother to think about what is going on, if the author carefully explains what each and every line means?
Let’s return to the first example, and show how dialogue labels can affect the meaning of a passage.
“Where are you going?” John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor.
“To the racetrack.” Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head.
“Not again,” John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”
In the above revision, John nervously asks Mary where she is going, and Mary seems equally nervous about going.But if you play a little with the paragraphing.. “Where are you going?”
John cracked his knuckles while he looked at the floor. “To the racetrack.”
Mary edged toward the door, keeping her eyes on John’s bent head. “Not again.”
John stood up, flexing his fingers. “We are already maxed out on our credit cards.”
All I changed was the paragraphing (and I changed a comma to a period.)Now Mary seems more aggressive — she seems to be moving to block John, who seems nervous and self-absorbed. And John seems to be bringing up the credit card problem as an excuse for his trip to the racing track. He and Mary seem to be desperate to for money now. I’d rather read the rest of the second story than the rest of the first one.
Setting moves readers most when it contributes to an organic whole. So close your eyes and picture your characters within desert, jungle, or suburb–whichever setting shaped them. Imagining this helps balance location and characterization. Right from the start, view your characters inhabiting a distinct place. –– Laurel Yourke
Setting includes the time, location, context, and atmosphere where the plot takes place.
- Remember to combine setting with characterization and plot.
- Include enough detail to let your readers picture the scene but only details that actually add something to the story. (For example, do not describe Mary locking the front door, walking across the yard, opening the garage door, putting air in her bicycle tires, getting on her bicycle–none of these details matter except that she rode out of the driveway without looking down the street.)
- Use two or more senses in your descriptions of setting.
- Rather than feed your readers information about the weather, population statistics, or how far it is to the grocery store,substitute descriptive details so your reader can experience the location the way your characters do.
Our sojourn in the desert was an educational contrast with its parched heat, dust storms, and cloudless blue sky filled with the blinding hot sun. The rare thunderstorm was a cause for celebration as the dry cement tunnels of the aqueducts filled rapidly with rushing water. Great rivers of sand flowed around and through the metropolitan inroads of man’s progress in the greater Phoenix area, forcefully moved aside for concrete and steel structures. Palm trees hovered over our heads and saguaro cactuses saluted us with their thorny arms.
Plot is what happens, the storyline, the action. Jerome Stern says it is how you set up the situation, where the turning points of the story are, and what the characters do at the end of the story.
A plot is a series of events deliberately arranged so as to reveal their dramatic, thematic, and emotional significance. –Jane Burroway
Understanding these story elements for developing actions and their end results will help you plot your next short story.
- Explosion or “Hook.” A thrilling, gripping, stirring event or problem that grabs the reader’s attention right away.
- Conflict. A character versus the internal self or an external something or someone.
- Exposition. Background information required for seeing the characters in context.
- Complication. One or more problems that keep a character from their intended goal.
- Transition. Image, symbol, dialogue, that joins paragraphs and scenes together.
- Flashback. Remembering something that happened before the short story takes place.
- Climax. When the rising action of the story reaches the peak.
- Falling Action. Releasing the action of the story after the climax.
- Resolution. When the internal or external conflict is resolve.
Brainstorming. If you are having trouble deciding on a plot, try brainstorming. Suppose you have a protagonist whose husband comes home one day and says he doesn’t love her any more and he is leaving. What are actions that can result from this situation?
- She becomes a workaholic.
- Their children are unhappy.
- Their children want to live with their dad.
- She moves to another city.
- She gets a new job.
- They sell the house.
- She meets a psychiatrist and falls in love.
- He comes back and she accepts him.
- He comes back and she doesn’t accept him.
- She commits suicide.
- He commits suicide.
- She moves in with her parents.
The next step is to select one action from the list and brainstorm another list from that particular action.
Conflict is the fundamental element of fiction, fundamental because in literature only trouble is interesting. It takes trouble to turn the great themes of life into a story: birth, love, sex, work, and death. –Janet Burroway
Conflict produces tension that makes the story begin. Tension is created by opposition between the character or characters and internal or external forces or conditions. By balancing the opposing forces of the conflict, you keep readers glued to the pages wondering how the story will end.
Possible Conflicts Include:
- The protagonist against another individual
- The protagonist against nature (or technology)
- The protagonist against society
- The protagonist against God
- The protagonist against himself or herself.
Yourke’s Conflict Checklist
- Mystery. Explain just enough to tease readers. Never give everything away.
- Empowerment. Give both sides options.
- Progression. Keep intensifying the number and type of obstacles the protagonist faces.
- Causality. Hold fictional characters more accountable than real people. Characters who make mistakes frequently pay, and, at least in fiction, commendable folks often reap rewards.
- Surprise. Provide sufficient complexity to prevent readers predicting events too far in advance.
- Empathy. Encourage reader identification with characters and scenarios that pleasantly or (unpleasantly) resonate with their own sweet dreams (or night sweats).
- Insight. Reveal something about human nature.
- Universality. Present a struggle that most readers find meaningful, even if the details of that struggle reflect a unique place and time.
- High Stakes. Convince readers that the outcome matters because someone they care about could lose something precious. Trivial clashes often produce trivial fiction.
This is the turning point of the story–the most exciting or dramatic moment.
The crisis may be a recognition, a decision, or a resolution. The character understands what hasn’t been seen before, or realizes what must be done, or finally decides to do it. It’s when the worm turns. Timing is crucial. If the crisis occurs too early, readers will expect still another turning point. If it occurs too late, readers will get impatient–the character will seem rather thick. –Jerome Stern
Jane Burroway says that the crisis “must always be presented as a scene. It is “the moment” the reader has been waiting for. In Cinderella’s case, “the payoff is when the slipper fits.”
While a good story needs a crisis, a random event such as a car crash or a sudden illness is simply an emergency –unless it somehow involves a conflict that makes the reader care about the characters (see: “Crisis vs. Conflict“).
The solution to the conflict. In short fiction, it is difficult to provide a complete resolution and you often need to just show that characters are beginning to change in some way or starting to see things differently.
Yourke examines some of the options for ending a story.
- Open. Readers determine the meaning.
Brendan’s eyes looked away from the priest and up to the mountains.
- Resolved. Clear-cut outcome.
While John watched in despair, Helen loaded up the car with her belongings and drove away.
- Parallel to Beginning. Similar to beginning situation or image.
They were driving their 1964 Chevrolet Impala down the highway while the wind blew through their hair.
Her father drove up in a new 1964 Chevrolet Impala, a replacement for the one that burned up.
- Monologue. Character comments.
I wish Tom could have known Sister Dalbec’s prickly guidance before the dust devils of Sin City battered his soul.
- Dialogue. Characters converse.
- Literal Image. Setting or aspect of setting resolves the plot.
The aqueducts were empty now and the sun was shining once more.
- Symbolic Image. Details represent a meaning beyond the literal one.
Looking up at the sky, I saw a cloud cross the shimmering blue sky above us as we stood in the morning heat of Sin City.
After I read through many people opinion, choose what is best and do some exercise on all of above structure, I think that the graph I have done in the first place is not really important compare to just start creating a story using these structure as a guideline.
What I also learn from this exercise is that, the answer for the question “How to write a good story?” is not something that has an exact answer. Everybody has their own way of looking at things, and sometime It didn’t work for others as some website couldn’t give me a good process of creating storyline.
The answer of creating a good story for me still didn’t lies on these all previous structures. But someday I will find my own answer for this question which I could share with everyone and give them a new way of looking at the Art of creating a story.
What about you all? What is your answer to the question “How to write a good story”? 🙂