How to Write a Story
For all you aspiring young authors, and even old pros, who are looking for a way to improve your skills, this is for you. In this manual Iím relying on my own experience as an author and as an avid reader. First Iíll start with the five major problems faced by most authors.
1. Writing a Beginning. The most remembered part of a story is the beginning and the end. The beginning sets the mood for the rest of the story. If you start off on the wrong foot, readers might just put your story down and look for a different one.
2. Writing an Ending. For a reader, the ending of a good book is an action-packed tragedy. When was the last time you read a good novel and wanted it to end? A good long story can be an enjoyable thing, but as a writer, you want to be able to end it.
3. Descriptions. Long boring paragraphs filled with the descriptions of characters and places donít make for good reading. In small doses, a well-described scene can help to enhance your story, but only in tiny fragments.
4. Rushing. When you are writing a story that your heart is really in, it can be hard to slow down, but it is kinder to your story and your readers not to get ahead of yourself.
5. Planning your Plot. Personally I find this the hardest of all five. ďWhat should happen next?Ē Plot problems and rushing often go hand in hand.
Now that you know of the dangers down the road, itís time to tell you of the tools of the trade. Now donít laugh, I like to be thorough!
1. Either a computer or a pencil and paper.
2. A Thesaurus. It can really help if you just canít think of the right word.
3. Other stories. Reading other authorsí work can help you to see the flaws and perfections in your own writing.
4. You! The story isnít going to write itself.
To begin writing your story, you first have to have some idea of what is going to happen. What I like to do first is to jot down a short one-paragraph outline of a plot. Hereís one of mine for an example:
Michael = a dragon hiding in the human world. Can transform into a more human-like appearance. Teams up with twins, Rayne and Flaime (girls). Bad guy (name?) is hunting down the last of the dragons. Possibly murdered Rayne and Flaimeís missing father. Rayne and Flaime descended from (name?) some kind of dragon allies. Bad guy defeated, Michael re-enters the magical realm, mission accomplished.
Not everything is laid out, there is some wiggle room incase a creative streak hits me during the writing process, but it has an ending planned out to avoid the dreaded Writerís Block. This plot/outline is for a fictional action story, but the general idea can be used for any type of writing. Itís similar to a thesis statement in non-fiction writing.
After all the work of planning out the story, itís time to use those creative thoughts and start the beginning. The beginning is the foundation of a story. Making a good impression with a memorable beginning is crucial to any story. So, time to think. What is the one thing that stays with a story from start to finish? The Main Character. Going back to our summary example, itís pretty obvious that Michael is my main character. I should probably start by introducing him to the readers. There are many different styles writers use, but mine is to start off by showing the readers what makes my main character tick. I donít even write his name yet, but I mold out a character that almost every reader can relate to. I want to make it seem as if this is a story that might just happen to the readers themselves. Then I start sneaking in the rest of the details about him. What I mean by this is:
Yawning, Michael ran his fingers through his shaggy brown hair before he shuffled out of bed and down the steps for breakfast.
Michael had shaggy brown hair.
There are a few exceptions, but not many. Normally itís best to try to avoid the second example as much as possible. This goes for describing places too. The first example is much better than:
Michael lived in a two-story house. His bedroom was upstairs.
But if, letís say, Michael was on an airplane for the first time, that would be a good spot for a short two or three sentence description of the city he was flying into, or maybe a beautiful tropical sunset on the horizon. But normally Iíd have to introduce him before I stuck him on a plane.
Now that the Main Character has been introduced, we need to introduce the Secondary Characters. Here itís a little less clear-cut on whether itís okay to have a description of the character or sneak the description into the story. Normally I try to sneak the details in anyway.
Since I never finished that story with Michael and the twins, I wonít continue to take you on that particular journey. Hopefully you have what you need to get your story started, and you have what you need to finish it. So itís time to talk about the annoying speed bump called Writerís Block.
Iíve talked about it a few times before, and hopefully some of my tips will save you from a particularly nasty case of it, but it does happen. So now Iíll share some ways you can free yourself from Writerís Block.
1. Check your summary.
2. Reread your story so far.
3. Edit it. See if there are some things that you can change to make it better.
4. Take a break. Sometimes the best thing is to stop.
This method has helped me in the short time Iíve been a writer, and it should help you too.
The last thing in writing a story is what you do once youíre done. It helps to go back and reread everything. Most likely youíve grown as a writer during the process and you can find parts in the beginning that now seem hasty and foolish to you. Once youíve edited your story many times over, find a couple of friends who will read your story too. Donít take their criticisms to heart, but always consider them. Almost any criticism can be used to make your writing better. Thatís what itís meant for.
Youíve finished the guide, so the only thing left for you to do is to get started on your own story.