Sep 29

The Foundation of Every Children’s Story

While every story starts with a good idea, that’s not enough to make a good story.

Your idea, while possibly the cornerstone of the creation, is only part of the foundation. There are other elements needed to make a fully developed story.

To give you an example of this, a protagonist wants to take guitar lessons. He does and becomes a good guitar player. Your message is to show children they can do the same.

According to writing coach and author, Suzanne Lieurance, “this is an event, not a story.”

Why would someone want to read about a character taking lessons to learn to learn to play the guitar or any other instrument?

But suppose something stops the protagonist or gets in the way of the him learning to play.

This gives the story idea substance.

Below are the basic elements that create a story foundation.

1. The idea

As a children’s ghostwriter, clients come to me with a number of ideas. But, they’re just ideas. They’re not stories.

An idea could be a child wants to become an astronaut.

Again, this isn’t a story. But it is a key part of the foundation of a good story.

2. The problem, the conflict.

Every children’s fiction story must have a problem or obstacle that the protagonist has to overcome.

The conflict drives the story.

According to Now Novel, “conflict is at the heart of all stories.”

Going back to the guitar scenario, suppose the protagonist has started and stopped a number of hobbies or sporting activities. Now his parents refuse to invest in a guitar and lessons.

This creates a problem for the protagonist – how is he going to get a guitar and afford to pay for lessons. Or, if he’s a younger protagonist, how will he convince his parents that this activity will be different. He’ll follow through with it.

3. The struggle.

There needs to be a struggle – the protagonist needs to attempt and fail at reaching his goal.

In children’s writing, three is the general rule for attempts. On the third try at achieving his goal, the protagonist finally gets it. He’s triumphant.

If the protagonist gets what he wants in one try, it doesn’t drive the stakes up. It’s too easy.

A reader turns the pages to follow along with the struggles. It’s the struggles that strengthens the connection between the protagonist and the reader. This makes the reader feel like the final victory is his too.

4. Growth.

The story has to be about more than just the initial idea. It has to be about more than just incidents in a story.

Suzanne Lieurance notes that, “An incident is simply a series of actions and occurrences in a character’s life. But these things don’t change the character.”

By the end of the story, the protagonist needs to have developed or grown in some way.

  • Maybe he becomes wiser.
  • Maybe he learns to stand on his own two feet and overcomes what he must to accomplish what he wants.
  • Maybe he learns it’s okay to be different.
  • Maybe he learns there’s more to him than he thought.
  • Maybe he figures out there are things more important than riches and power.
  • Maybe he learns the importance of friendship.
  • Maybe he learns the importance of being honest.

This list could go on and on.

Character growth is essential to a good story.

5. Be subtle.

Your story should be written so that the reader will see for herself the message you want to convey.

I’ve seen many story endings where the reader is hit over the head with the message.

Let the message be subtly weaved throughout the story. And, know that the reader is savvy enough to get it.

These five steps are the foundation to your children’s story.

Keep them in mind when writing yours.

Sources:
https://thewritepractice.com/creating-conflict/

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Jun 18

6 Tips to What Makes a Good Story

7 writing elements to writing a good storyContributed by Aaron Shepard

Good writers often break rules—but they know they’re doing it! Here are some good rules to know.

Theme

A theme is something important the story tries to tell us—something that might help us in our own lives. Not every story has a theme, but it’s best if it does.

Don’t get too preachy. Let the theme grow out of the story, so readers feel they’ve learned it for themselves. You shouldn’t have to say what the moral is.

Plot

Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or with something inside the character, like needs or feelings.

The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme.

The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off.

The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat.

A novel can have several conflicts, but a short story should have only one.

Story Structure

At the beginning, jump right into the action. At the end, wind up the story quickly.

Decide about writing the story either in “first person” or in “third person.” Third-person pronouns are “he,” “she,” and “it”—so writing in third person means telling a story as if it’s all about other people. The first-person pronoun is “I”—so writing in first person means telling a story as if it happened to you.

Even if you write in third person, try to tell the story through the eyes of just one character—most likely the main character. Don’t tell anything that the character wouldn’t know. This is called “point of view.” If you must tell something else, create a whole separate section with the point of view of another character.

Decide about writing either in “present tense” or in “past tense.” Writing in past tense means writing as if the story already happened. That is how most stories are written. Writing in present tense means writing as if the story is happening right now. Stick to one tense or the other!

Characters

Before you start writing, know your characters well.

Your main character should be someone readers can feel something in common with, or at least care about.

You don’t have to describe a character completely. It’s enough to say one or two things about how a character looks or moves or speaks.

A main character should have at least one flaw or weakness. Perfect characters are not very interesting. They’re also harder to feel something in common with or care about. And they don’t have anything to learn. In the same way, there should be at least one thing good about a “bad guy.”

Setting

Set your story in a place and time that will be interesting or familiar.

Style and Tone

Use language that feels right for your story.

Wherever you can, use actions and speech to let readers know what’s happening. Show, don’t tell.

Give speech in direct quotes like “Go away!” instead of indirect quotes like “She told him to go away.”

You don’t have to write fancy to write well. It almost never hurts to use simple words and simple sentences. That way, your writing is easy to read and understand.

Always use the best possible word—the one that is closest to your meaning, sounds best, and creates the clearest image. If you can’t think of the right one, use a thesaurus.

Carefully check each word, phrase, sentence, and paragraph. Is it the best you can write? Is it in the right place? Do you need it at all? If not, take it out!

The strongest children’s stories have well-developed themes, engaging plots, suitable structure, memorable characters, well-chosen settings, and attractive style. For best results, build strength in all areas.

Originally published at:
http://www.aaronshep.com/youngauthor/elements.html

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