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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,
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
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
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
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
The Originality IllusionIt's come to my attention that, in the online amateur writing scene, no one seems to understand the proper role of characters in conjunction with plot.
From what I have been able to observe, literally everyone tries to create characters outside of plot by outlining what they look like, what they eat for dinner, and what bands they absolutely abhor. That's the law on how it's done. The amount of "character survey sheets" containing a never-ending list of questions for prospective characters is ridiculous--and sad, because determining these things will in no way help you create a good character or, more importantly, a good story (which I define as an account of a character's actions within a given plot).
In reality, your character is not going to comb his hair, sit down to the dinner table, or workout in the gym with his iPod during the erupting mayhem of your story. If he does, it's because you've invested way too much time in randomly select
How to Construct a Fictional ConversationLet's think about this logically. Writing fiction is about telling a story. Every story revolves around a plot. Every plot is carried out by characters, and characters carry out the plot through action and dialogue.
Dialogue comes from characters for the purpose of advancing plot to tell a story. Therefore, dialogue should only exist to serve the purpose of advancing plot and revealing character motivation or history that in turn advances the plot. That's why dialogue exists.
This brings me to my main point. If you take away nothing else from this article, take away this: Only write dialogue that serves the purpose of advancing your plot. If it doesn't, cut it out of your story without hesitation or remorse.
Secondly, conversations in stories should not be anything like conversations in real life. Real life almost never has a plot, and talking almost never reveals motivation or history because there's no plot to life. Therefore, if you're trying to make your dialogue as "true to
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
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 - 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
"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
STUCK on a Short Story?
10 Second Tip:
Stuck on a SHORT Story?
Stuck on what to put in your story?
-- This is the list of things I check off when I create a story:
Do you have a Setting in mind?
- Modern day
Do you have ONE big main event for the story to focus on?
- A battle
- An escape
- A love scene
- An act of revenge
- A sacrifice
- A treasure to claim
- A magic spell
- A transformation
Do you know what you want to SAY with your story?
- Love sucks.
- Friendship is forever.
- No good deed goes unpunished.
- A snake can only ever be a snake.
- Sometimes you have to take chances.
- Magic makes things worse, not better.
Do you know where you want to END your story?
- A wedding?
- A funeral?
- A bloody battlefield?
- An empty street?
- The bottom of an ocean?
Do you have your three central characters ready?
-- Just to make things interesting, any one of t
Essentials of a Short Story
Essentials of a Short Story
Quotes raped from a critique of Nathanial Hawthorn's Twice Told Tales by
Edgar Allen Poe - 1837
Edgar Allen Poe, celebrated as one of the finest short fiction writers of all time, was also a literary critic. These are bits of his wisdom on writing short stories, gleaned from one of his critiques.
"The true critic will but demand that that the (story's) design intended be accomplished, to the fullest extent, by the means most advantageously applicable " -- Poe
Poe's Prerequisites -- in a Nutshell:
To deliver fullest satisfaction, a short story should be structured:
1) To be read in one sitting.
2) Using a deliberate number of characters and incidents.
3) With words restrained in style and tone.
4) All done that should be done, with nothing done which should not be.
Poe's Prerequisites -- in DETAIL
A short story should be structured:
1) To be rea
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
Plot Devices-Deus Ex Machina?
Deus Ex Machina or Chekhov's Gun?
"What are your thoughts on Good Deus Ex Machinas? I find them hard to pull off realistically in a plot." -- Puzzled Writer
A Deus Ex Machina is when the Hero doesn't find the solution to the story's problem. The solution is handed to them, or taken care of, by someone or something far more powerful.
From TV Tropes:
A Deus Ex Machina is an outside force that solves a seemingly unsolvable problem in an extremely unlikely (and, usually, anticlimactic) way. If the secret documents are in Russian, one of the spies suddenly reveals that they learned the language. If the writers have just lost funding, a millionaire suddenly arrives, announces an interest in their movie, and offers all the finances they need to make it. If The Hero is dangling at the edge of a cliff with a villain stepping on his
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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