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Elements of Story - UPDATED
Updated Mar. 18th 2009
The following is a self-discovered list of elements contained in an excellent story:
An interesting and intriguing main character, an individual with a unique past that has made him who he is at the time of the story. Be sure to explain the important aspects of this backstory where appropriate.
This main character must have a story goal: a mission to accomplish, a mystery to solve, his past to reconcile, a villain to overthrow, a treasure to find, a person to save, etc.
Along with this goal, the character must have an all-consuming desire that drives him to accomplish what he sets out to achieve. Love, revenge, money, justice, purpose, an identity crisis, etc.
Fear. This is the person or thing that has the power to stop him from accomplishing his goal. A threat.
An enemy. If another person, this enemy must be smart, strong, and resourceful with a goal directly opposing that of your main character, and he must have an equally strong desire to ful
Writing Style--The Bottom Line
Writing Style - The Bottom Line
Words are like sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. - Robert Southey
Prose is architecture, not interior decorating. - Ernest Hemingway
Writing style is made up of two things: cadence and variation.
Good style is clear, readable, and invisible. Its purpose is not to attract attention to itself but to transport readers into the world of your story. If your readers notice your style without purposefully intending to study it, your style needs to be improved and refined. Good style, however, is transparent so that your readers simply see the characters and world of your story rather than the words you use to portray them.
To write with cadence simply means that your writing should sound natural. If it sounds right to you, it probably is--but if it doesnt sound right,
Brainstorming - The Short Guid
Got nothing to write? Stuck in the middle of a story? Just getting your mind wrapped around a new idea? Asking yourself, "Where do I go from here?"
Here is the two-step guide to story development. It works every time, 100% guaranteed.
Ask yourself this simple question: "What if?"
Staring at a blank page? Ask "What if . . . ?"
Stuck in the middle of a story? Ask "What if . . . ?"
Don't know how to end your story? Ask "What if . . . ?"
Don't think your story is going in quite the right direction? Ask "What if . . .?"
Ask yourself this second simple question: "Why?"
What if aliens invaded our planet?
What if the antagonist is obsessed with redheaded women?
What if the good guy dies in the end?
What if the protagonist lies to his love interest instead of telling her the thing he desperately wants to get out?
Here's the point:
Absolutely anything is possible in the world o
Writing is like math. If you dont follow the right formula, you end up in a state of mass confusion. Synonymously, punctuation is like following a map. If you miss the street signs, youll end up completely lost. The following is a list of common English punctuation marks and their most basic functions. Contrary to popular belief, there are no exceptions to these rules. Breaking them has never been in style.
The most common English punctuation marks include the following:
. = period
? = question mark
! = exclamation point
, = comma
= quotation marks
; = semicolon
: = colon
- = hyphen
( ) = parentheses
. . . = ellipse
Wow, thats a lot of symbols! So, how do you use them as you write? Here's a quick and dirty list.
1) Every sentence must end in a period, question mark, or exclamation point.
2) A comma signifies a pause, distinguishes betw
How to Start and Stay Writing
I recently solicited my watchers to ask me writing questions that I would then attempt to answer in a writing guide such as this. This article is my first response, and there will be many more to come.
I've been asked to give advice on ways a writer can begin to put words on a page. The bottom line is as simple as this: sit your butt down and write.
Duh, right? It's the only way I know to actually write.
Sure, sitting your butt in a chair is easy, but getting your fingers to move and stay moving is a challenge. Here are three things that have helped me.
1) Have a goal.
Your goal can be as simple as "describe the person in this picture" or as ambitious as "write 1,000 words of my novel." Having a goal will drive you forward and motivate you to keep writing. Whatever you do, don't move your butt from your chair until you accomplish your goal.
Other practical goals include setting a timer, writing to the end of a chapter or scene, and completing a particular section of an outline or numbe
Everyone's heard that characters should have goals, something they want and must strive for, overcoming obstacles and antagonists in order to obtain. Because, well, a story is the record of your character's journey toward achieving a goal.
While all of this is true, I think a lot of writers lose sight of an even more important aspect of character. That is, motivation. Sure, you know what your character wants.
That's the gist of motivation. What is the psychology and reasoning behind your character's goal? If your character is driven to make money, is his motivation greed? To pay off a debt? To support his family?
Motivation is your character's emotional connection with the reader. When the reader comes to understand why your character has set out to achieve his goal, they will understand your character in human terms, relate to him, and become invested in what happens to your character throughout the story.
Without a clear motivation, your character's goals don't mean much. So wha
Style vs. Voice - A Guide
A Writer's Guide to Style vs. Voice
Here on dA, there seems to be a lot of confusion and general mass hysteria when it comes to the subjects of writing style and voice. What are they? What's the difference? Can you write one without the other? How important are they, anyhow? Do you really need either of them? Wait, what are they again?
Style is the form and structure with which you write.
Voice is the attitude and perspective with which you write.
In other words, voice is the emotion and feeling of a piece of literature, and style is the technical way of communicating that emotion.
Clearly, there is a tangible difference between the two. Style is a delivery system for voice. While voice can and should affect the form with which you write, you can most certainly write one without the other. However, the best writing is a masterful fusion of both.
I'm here to illustrate for you the difference between style and voice and to define exactly what they are and how you can us
Motivation - Novelist Edition
Motivating myself to write and keeping that motivation throughout a writing project is one of the biggest challenges I face as a writer. I get the impression a lot of other people struggle with it as well.
There are a lot of tools out there such as the Write or Die program and National Novel Writing Month designed to keep you motivated, but they're just gimmicks in my opinion. Writing takes a lot of time and effort, and we as humans need a very compelling reason to exert ourselves in such an extreme manner. A timer or deadline typically isn't good enough.
The only effective long-term motivator is a real, tangible reward. Finishing a novel is a great reward, but the gratification is too long coming to really work as motivation. So what reward system will actually keep you writing and rewriting until you can call your project officially finished?
Well, there's always chocolate. Aside from that, the only compelling reasons to keep writing are that you will literally go crazy if you don't
Why Writers Should Watch TV
Ive heard the argument that writers shouldnt watch TV and movies because that will inundate them with all the cliché plots and characters out there and somehow brainwash them into not being able to create an original story.
Me: *blank stare*
First of all, there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. Therefore, it is impossible to create something totally unique and original no matter how many bad movies you see. Furthermore, the more story lines that enter your brain, the more you realize just how unique or not your own story is.
Most importantly, an original story is not a new story. It is simply taking a common idea and combining it with other common ideas to create a new and fresh sequence of otherwise common ideas.
Think of stories like cookies. All the different types of cookies represent different types of genres and plots. Ingredients like chocolate chips and nuts represent c
Writing Tips: Characterisation
Characterisation: Avoiding the Dreaded Mary Sue
The characters you write are arguably the biggest part of your story. Theyre the vessel through which the reader is able to identify with the themes and ideas that youre trying to share. But creating brand new lives from thin air can sometimes be rather difficult. You have to find their voice, their needs, their personality; its a rather delicate balance, really.
Rather tempting, and often encouraged by teachers, is to do a Character Profile to help come up with some of the details. These are often pre-made sets of questions ranging from the mundane (eye colour, height, weight) to the fanciful (if your character caught someone looking at his girlfriend, what would he do?).
I dont like these. And heres why.
The questions are all a little too cookie-cutter. They promote stereotype characters, and you dont want that. The actual physical details about the character dont need to be mentione
High Speed STORIES
When you absolutely, positively, HAVE to get the story done.
The trick to speed-writing is to Plan the story out first, more commonly known as PLOTTING.
"Diabolic" was written in 30 days -- all 15 chapters at 2500 to 3000 words per chapter, adding up to around 80k (thousand) words. A novel is 90k to 100k. I was able to do this because I already knew my main characters really well, (Vincent and Sephiroth of Final Fantasy VII,) and I knew where my story ENDED. Basically, once I knew where I wanted to go, all I had to do was figure out how to get there.
Note: If you're interested, DIABOLIC can be found at Media Miner. The 'Search' feature is your friend!
The plot outline I used only had 5 points:
1. Beginning - The Main Character gets involved with the Villain or Lover.
2. Complications - The situation worsens.
3. Emotional Turning Point - Panic Attack! Fear and/or Guilt vs. Desperation
4. Reversal - The wor
Writing Tips - Language
Accents, Foreign Languages, and Regional Dialects
There are times when your story may have one or more character speaking a different language, or with a different accent than the rest. There are many different ways a writer can go about presenting this to the reader, and before we go any further, I will concede that some of it is a matter of personal taste, and on this particular matter, you wont be able to please everybody. So, consider this bit not so much a lesson, but rather a series of guidelines.
Everyone has one. Even if you think that you dont, theres someone, somewhere in the world who would disagree with you. Some people may have a very faint trace of an accent, whereas with others, you can hardly make out what theyre trying to tell you. But how should you translate these simple speech patterns to text? Well, that depends, really.
Since Ive been listening to the audio books lately, and its the best example I can come up with, let
Writing Tips - Description
Description: Balancing Too Much and Not Enough
Theres an old adage about writing that says, show, dont tell. But what does that actually mean? Surely, were not expected to illustrate our stories, are we? Christ, I hope not. Some of mine are rather long.
No. What that means is that you should use your words to paint a visual picture for the reader. Talking heads are both boring and confusing, and should generally be avoided. If youre unfamiliar with the term, talking heads refers to the phenomenon where all, or most of story is carried out through the characters dialogue. You see it like mad in web and news paper comics, but it happens in prose as well.
The first, and arguably the most fun way to banish the talking heads is to make your characters act. This doesnt mean action, necessarily. The character can do any amount of going from place to place or thing to thing, but so what? Hes still not rea
The Wasteland AKA the MIDDLE
The Trackless Wasteland known as: The MIDDLE
The middle (of a story) KILLS me. I freeze when I have to decide which way things are going to go, and how, and that happens during the middle for me.
Middle, middle, middle... It's the Slough of Despond!
The Middle is where I usually fizzle out.
The middle is DANGEROUS territory.
Why? Because the Middle of a story is where you have a million-and-one options, a million-and-one directions to choose from, and a million-and-one ways to really show off your writing skills.
The Middle is also, where you have a million-and-one opportunities to really screw up your story for good. Opportunities that will send you spiraling into ever tightening circles that eventually jam you into a corner you can't get out of. In short: get you Lost in your own story.
You KNOW yo
Writing Tips - Getting Started
You want to write a story. Great! But the problem is that you're stuck before you've ever even managed to get the first word down on the page. You're just being taunted by the white page (or screen, as the case may be) in front of you.
If you haven't already, you may want to look into getting your thoughts organised. Figure out what you're going to write about, before trying to write anything. This may mean anything from making a few notes on a page to writing down every single thing that pops into your head, whether or not it's immediately relevant (my preferred method). With a more general (or even a very concrete) idea of where your story is going to go, the words should hopefully come a little more easily.
If that fails to work, try putting on some music. I tend to find that just putting on any old music will actually be counter-productive. Instead, tr
Writing Tips - Dialogue
If youre writing fiction, the dialogue is arguably one of the most important parts. And its the bit thats the easiest to mess up, if were strictly honest. And why not? Theres so much going on in that single sentence that any number of them can go wrong; voice, character, tone, point of view, punctuation. Well start with punctuation, because Ive already written that bit.
Go here. I was originally going to copy and paste that part of the lesson into this lesson, but then the thing wound up being ten pages long. So, read that, and then come back to this if you feel you might need help with the mechanical bits.
When to use Dialogue
Right. So, youve got a story all set up in your head (or on a piece of paper if youre inclined to pre-write), and its great. Your hero is blasting through space with a whole heap of misfits, and you
Story Writing for BEGINNERS
Story Writing for BEGINNERS
I want to write a story. I have a couple of ideas, but no idea what to do with them, or even how to begin! Help?!
-- Newbie Writer
So when you wanna write a story, where do you begin? With your PASSION!
Write what you KNOW & LOVE
What do you KNOW, really? What do you love to Do, to Study, to Think About, to Talk About...? Whether it's cave-diving, model trains, skate-boarding, sewing, horses, mythology, ghost legends, or particle physics your passion is where you will find your most unique and powerful work.
Make a list of all the things you know well and all the things you've done -- seriously! Mythology, history, any retail jobs you might have had -- anything you might have seen, done, or studied.
Sticking with your passions and your personal experiences also helps you make fewer MISTAKES.
Case in point, someone who has never kissed isn't going to be able to write a kissing
"I was just wondering what you think about interior monologues, long passages of reflection?" -- Curious Kitty
A note on:
-- Interior Monologues
Whether you are considering adding a lengthy monologue to a story, or intend the monologue to be the story itself where the focus of the entire story is on one character's thoughts and feelings with very little action -- from my observations and experimentation, the readers either love them or hate them. There's no in-between.
However, it is notable that the internal monologue stories that are sought out most frequently tend to focus on a profound emotion of some kind: grief, loneliness, heartache... Usually by either those seeking to deal with such an emotion, as a kind of therapy, or by those that have never felt such emotions. (Strong emotional stories are extremely popular among young adults.)
In both cases, not only does the reader seek to submerge the
Character Creation - Tips
Note: I wrote this after reading a similar article in The Writer magazine about a year ago. Hope it's helpful!
Not all characters are created equal. Here are some steps to make yours superior.
Figure out what your character wants, needs, desires. A closer relationship with God? A place to belong? Just to survive? Figure it out. You cant move on to number 2 until you have.
Now that you know what your character most desires, you should be able to figure out what he/she most fears. Doing the wrong thing, being alone, death? They are the polar opposites of your characters desires.
Go back in time to before your story begins and create a detailed backstory for your character. What happened in to past to create in him the desires and fears that he has now? Be specific. Write out individual scenes, or at leas
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