What Makes a Good Story
As I was finishing up writing a story yesterday I stopped to think…who am I writing for? If I’m writing for fun, then I’m writing for myself, but if I’m writing a story that I will be sharing with an audience, then I’m writing for them. However, this is a fact I rarely think about during the writing process, but I bet my work would be much better and more focused if I did because, after all, our audience determines whether or not we have created a good story. So, in ode to our readers, I’ve compiled a small list of what makes a good story.
- Know your characters-You should know your characters inside and out. What they eat for breakfast, what their defining childhood memory is, whether or not they have any nicknames. Even if this information has no place in your story it’s important for you as the writer to know because this information can inform their actions and make your characters round and realistic…or genuine and relatable, which brings me to my next point…
- Genuine, relatable characters-Your characters MUST be real. Even if your story is fantastical, even if it takes place on a distant and foreign planet and your characters are tiny little space creatures with 3 heads and 9 tentacles, the reader needs to be able to relate to and empathize with them. Readers read to understand and get to know your characters and their situation and they want to be able to feel what your character feels, even if their feelings are taking place on planet Goraranahaboo. (I just randomly hit a bunch of keys there, but that totally sounds like it could be from the next up and coming sci-fi thriller, no?)
- Reasonable, logical plot-Again, this has nothing to do with necessarily having a realistic plot, but whatever world you create needs to be self-sustaining. It should have rules and a logical sequence of cause and effect that the reader can understand, even if they are unfamiliar with the setting.
- Skip the boring stuff-Think movies. We don’t see the characters in movies doing every little thing in their day to day lives. We are only shown what’s important, left to our own devices to fill in the blanks. And we like it that way. We don’t care what your character’s morning routine is. You need to know, but we don’t care. We do care when he breaks up with his long term girlfriend to go study the environment of the modern day panda in China. THAT would make the movie; morning routine is on the cutting room floor.
- Clichés are so yesterday-For every eye roll, you’re losing a reader.
- Accept criticism-This is definitely the hardest, but remember, as much as you like to pretend sometimes, you’re NOT writing for yourself–you’re writing for your audience. So even if you think your characters are great, your plot is brilliant and NO, I will not cut this scene because it’s a crucial turning point in the whole story!…odds are you’re too entrenched in your own story to realize what needs to be fixed. And trust me, there’s always something that needs to be fixed. It’s one of the annoying parts of being a writer.
Just a few basics of what to keep in mind in order to create a good story. As always, happy writing!
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