Nov 26

Making a Fiction Story Work – 5 Key Elements

Tips to writing fictionThink about the last time you read a story that stayed with you. A story that made you feel. A story that took you on an adventure or had you sitting on the edge of your seat. A story that made you cry or laugh . . . or think.

These types of stories have it. They have the key to making a story work.

So, how do you go about creating a stirring story?

Here are 5 top tips to writing a fiction story that works:

1. It’s got to have conflict.

All writers have heard this and the reason is because it’s true.

Your protagonist MUST be striving for something, and it should be something significant. She needs to have obstacles in her way that she has to overcome in order for the reader to be engaged enough to turn the page.

The reader has to be pulled into the story wondering if, and more so hoping that, the protagonist reaches her goal.

You wouldn’t have much of a story following a couple in an amusement park going from ride to ride, waiting on line for food, and so on. There’s nothing for the reader to get involved with. There’s no emotional element.

Or, what if a great writer puts two children in a story that takes place at the Bronx Zoo. The narrator describes in detail all the exhibits they visit and does it wonderfully. But, what does the reader have to sink her teeth into. Nothing.

One of my all-time favorite movies was Thelma and Louise. The conflict was never-ending. And, it was the conflict that keep you on the edge of your seat.

How would they get out of the mess they were in?!

That’s how you want your readers to feel. There needs to be conflict in order to make the reader feel. It doesn’t have to be ‘seat of your pants’ drama, but it needs to be significant. It can be external or internal, but it has to be something the reader can grab and hang on to. It has to make the reader get involved with the story and care about it.

2. The readers need to be invested in the story.

A good story brings the reader into the protagonist’s shoes. This is what will motivate the reader to like and root for the protagonist.

It’s all about making the reader ‘feel.’ The story has to evoke emotion on the reader’s part. The story has to have substance.

Going back to Thelma and Louise, one wrong decision spiraled out of control into what seemed to them as a live or die situation.

Circumstances and choices took them bounding out-of-control, as if caught up in a tornado. This kind of story creates investment.

It evoked emotion in just about everyone who saw the movie. Everyone was rooting for the protagonists.

In an article, “Make Readers Deeply Connect to Your Characters,” the author calls this key factor, “transportation.” You’re bringing the reader out of their reality and into your story world. You’re transporting them.

Like Alice when she steps into the rabbit hole. Down, down, down she went into another world.

3. The characters have to act ‘real’ and be likeable.

Your characters need to be multifaceted. They need to behave like real people. This means they’ll have good traits, but they’ll also have some bad traits or weaknesses. It may be they’re indecisive. Or, at the beginning of the story they may be frightened of everything.

Your characters should make great decisions, but they should also make poor ones.

Along with this, your protagonist needs to be likeable. He needs to have traits that the reader will admire and connect to. It’s important that the reader likes the protagonist.

Maybe your protagonist will be honest, heroic, responsible, generous, or loyal.

You get the idea. These are characteristics that most people admire in others. They’re characteristics that will draw the reader in.

I forgot what movie it was and I forgot the exact details, but basically the protagonist was sitting in a diner across from her date. Another woman, elegantly dressed, walked passed with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of her shoe. The toilet paper woman was heading to a table where a man was waiting for her.

The protagonist excused herself for a moment. She got up and removed the paper from the woman’s foot by walking behind her and stepping on the paper. Then she sat back down and returned to her conversation.

The woman that passed by never knew the kindness the protagonist showed her. And, the protagonist didn’t mention what she did to her date.

This one simple act of kindness spoke volumes about the character of the protagonist. She’s the type of person you’d admire and like to be friends with.

4. The protagonist needs to have some heroic qualities.

At some point in the story, the protagonist needs to step up. This can be in several small incidents that she overcomes throughout the story. Or, it can be in one climatic incident that wraps the story up.

In general, and especially in children’s stories, the protagonist needs to take action and reach her goal.

It may be after one or two or three failures, but ultimately, the protagonist must step up. Whether it’s physical or emotional, whether internal or external, she needs to fight through all obstacles that stand in her way.

Readers want a purposeful story. They want and even expect the protagonist to be victorious. Don’t let your readers down.

5. Tie-up all loose ends.

When you’re getting to the end of your story, make sure all loose ends are tied up. Any tidbits of information you put out there must be resolved.

You want the reader to go away satisfied. You don’t want her wondering why something was mentioned somewhere in the story and not resolved.

One example is mentioning that the protagonist’s close friend lost his dog. Then there’s no mention of it. Was the dog found?

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE DOG?

Another example is in a middle-grade manuscript I just read. The author had the friend of the protagonist saying he couldn’t go to the protagonist’s special event because he had something URGENT to do that day.

Afterward there was no mention of the urgent matter.

This is a NO-NO. What was so urgent? Why was it mentioned, if it wasn’t followed up with?

As I read the manuscript I knew that part would either have to be addressed (tied-up) or eliminated.

These loose-ends are things that will gnaw at the reader. They will leave the end feeling like something is missing. Again, this is a NO-NO.

So, there you have it.

While there is more involved in writing good fiction, these five are at the top of the ‘good fiction story’ list.

Sources:
Connect Characters
https://www.cs.indiana.edu/metastuff/wonder/ch1.html (Sorry, this link is no longer working)

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Nov 13

How to Write a Story

Writing a storyToday I have a guest post by a successful writer and writing coach, Suzanne Lieurance. She talks about what it takes to ‘write a story.’

How to Write a Story
By Suzanne Lieurance

Do you long to write stories but just can’t seem to get started?

That’s probably because you don’t understand the elements needed for any good story. Learn these elements and the writing process will be much easier.

Every good story needs:

1. An interesting main character with a problem to solve. Your main character needs to want something and want it so much he is willing to overcome all sorts of obstacles to get it. This character is your protagonist; the person readers will root for as he faces conflicts and complications.

2. An interesting setting. A good story needs to be set in a definite time and place and readers need to feel they are right there in this time and place with your characters. Use a variety of vivid sensory details to transport your readers to the time and place you’ve chosen as the setting for your story. But weave these details into the action as much as possible.

3. Conflict. Something or someone who gets in the way of the main character in his quest to get what he wants. The main character who creates this conflict is your antagonist. Keep in mind that this person shouldn’t be ALL bad. He should be flawed, of course, but if he’s all bad he won’t seem like a real person, he’ll be more like a caricature.

4. A series of complications. Things should keep getting worse and worse for the main character in his quest to get what he wants. These complications will create the dramatic tension and rising action for your story so readers will want to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.

5. A culminating event that creates change. Something dramatic needs to occur that will change everything for your main chararacter. This event is the climax of your story or the solution. Your main character will either finally get what he is after or he will understand why it is not possible to get what he wants and he will have to make some sort of peace with that. Either way, your main character will no longer be the same person he was at the beginning of the story. He will have changed or grown somehow as a result of the conflicts and complications he faced. This change (or changes) will lead to a natural resolution as the ending for your tale.

Now, before you get started writing your own story, take some time to examine a few simple stories more closely for each of these elements. Fairy tales are good stories to use for this purpose.

For more writing tips and resources delivered to your e-mailbox every weekday morning, get your free subscription to The Morning Nudge from Suzanne Lieurance, the Working Writer’s Coach.

MORE ON WRITING FOR CHILDREN

Traditional Publishing and the Author Platform – Be Realistic
The Book Summary – Five Must-Know Components
Finding Age Appropriate Words When Writing For Children

Need Help With Your StoryLet me take a look at it. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter, rewriter, and editor. I can turn you story into a publishable and saleable book.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Writing Help in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700