Fiction is a fabric of lies, and your job as writers is to mend all the holes in the material. The key to doing this is in your characters. If we can empathize with your characters and believe in their motivations, we will stick with your story no matter where you take us. Below, you’ll find some tips to help you write your stories.
1. Writers fall into two camps: “pantsers” or planners. Either you write by the seat of your pants, or you like to outline your story. Here’s a simple formula that works for both types of writers. Character goal + motivation + obstacles = story. You can flesh out the details in your outline or your first draft. The choice is yours.
2. I like working with a “beat sheet,” which means I write down the major beats of the story. A beat is a one-sentence description of a major plot event or major character event. When Luke Skywalker rescues Princess Leia from the Death Star, that’s a major plot beat. When Darth Vader tells Luke Skywalker he is Luke’s father, that’s a major character beat. The beat sheet helps me figure out what direction the story is going in without taking away my creativity when I write the first draft.
3. Plan your story, then put away the outline and write the story from memory. If the first draft pushes you in a different direction, don’t be afraid to explore. You can always go back to the outline if you get lost.
1. Character is action, and action is plot. When you build obstacles in your story, how your characters face the obstacles will reveal their characters. If your characters are brash, they’ll tackle anything head-on. If they are manipulative, they lie to get their way.
2. Many plots present physical obstacles to characters. In a scary movie, often characters need to escape from locked rooms before they are caught. To add some variety, also use internal obstacles, the personal flaws of your character. For example, your character might be too shy to talk to the most popular girl in the room.
3. Don’t be afraid to find quiet moments in the story to give the reader a break from the action. Show your characters eating dinner or sharing a non-plot conversation about their lives. Not only does this give the reader some breathing room, but the reflective moment also reveals another side to your character.
1. The climax of the story should create the maximum physical and emotional jeopardy for your protagonist. If the readers don’t care what happens to the character at the climax, then you haven’t raised the stakes enough. The climactic battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is a cool light sabre fight, but the fact that father and son must battle gives the climax its maximum intensity.
2. At the end, you resolve what happens to the main characters. Readers need closure, and it’s your job to offer that resolution. This doesn’t always mean a happy ending. For example, in Romeo and Juliet, we see the two star-crossed lovers kill themselves to express their love for one another.
3. Dreams don’t work as endings. When readers follow a character’s struggle through a story, they want to know the actions and sacrifices meant something. A dream is a reset button that cheats the readers out of a good story. Imagine if you spent three weeks cramming for an exam, only to discover the test didn’t count toward anything. Would you be okay with putting all that work in for nothing? Probably not. Same thing with a reader. If your reader is going to invest the time to follow your story, make it worth their effort.
A girl walks down a dark street in the middle of the city. She hears footsteps echoing on the pavement behind her. She turns to look, but no one is there. What does she do?