The Right Way to Write a Story

Every writer writes stories. Even nonfiction writers include stories in their narrations. So what’s the right way to write a story? Here are some general guidelines to help you.

  • Brainstorm or mind map your story components, asking “What if?” for each one.
  • Review the components of your story and create a skeleton (outline) to organize them.
  • Take your original idea, then expand it by adding a problem.
  • Take the problem, then stir it up by making it worse. Sometimes you’ll have to implicate things rather than state them outright.
  • Connect your characters to the problem. You do that by asking how your characters feel about what’s happening and asking what they are willing to do about it. NOTE: When things start happening and when characters do things you don’t expect is when your story comes alive.
  • Get to know your characters. Who’s who? What’s what? Learn about the main character, then expand your knowledge of the other characters. See how the characters relate to each other. Name each character, then write a list about them, describing each one.
  • Hook your reader in the first page or two of your novel. Let your reader know who the story is about, where it takes place, and what the problem or conflict is. Begin dramatically with action or flashback, but begin!
  • Sit down, brainstorm, move your character around, rewrite what’s already written if you find yourself stuck in your writing.
  • Write with the end in mind. Your protagonist should solve the dilemma in a logical way. Most likely your protagonist will have changed in the process of finding the solution.

Here are a couple of other tips that might help you as well.

  • The story title should hint at what the story is about. Titles should be catchy and interesting, not corny or dumb.
  • If you need more pages in a novel, create another villan.
  • If you decide to write a prologue, it should be terse and a rapid description of the tension in the story.
  • As you read other stories, notice how little dreams are used. Why? Dreams are weak and cheat the reader of real action and tension.

The years I served as president of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime offered me wonderful opportunities to meet many successful fiction writers. To me, writing fiction is the most difficult writing there is because the author is accountable to the reader for creating the entire world in the story. If the reader finds any inconsistency, the author risks being rejected or at least ridiculed. Fiction is fun reading, but only when the author has worked very hard on writing it. Happy writing!



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