Let me begin by saying, I’m no expert. I’m learning and I want to be better.
I’ve read books with amazing stories that were ruined by something I couldn’t let go of because, in my estimation, the reaction of the character wasn’t plausible. Or a plot twist was utilized in an attempt to make the story more interesting, or even worse still, someone was killed off for dramatic effect.
After meeting an amazing storyteller this weekend, I’ve been inspired to examine the stories I tell and figure out how to make them even better. So I went hunting online for some tips.
In normal conversation with other people, the best time is always had in conversation with people who have strong opinions. Whether they agree with your point of view or not, the discussion is lively and sometimes you even learn something new. Characters with no opinions who have nothing to challenge you with, or solidify your stance, are BORING! Avoid at all costs.
I read a book about a man who was going about his business, walking the streets of New York. He visited an old professor, bought some things at the grocery store, ate some food. Oh, My GOD! I wanted him to die. I wanted a bus to hit him as he was crossing the street, or a toilet seat to fall from the sky and annihilate him. Maybe it was just me.
Why is your character here in your story? Are they learning a lesson? Are they fixing something? Do they fall into an adventure in order to rescue the damsel/fix the World/defeat the bad guy? Why are they here?
If they don’t accomplish their goal, will someone they love die? Will they have to face death? What is compelling them to stay in the story and finish what they’re doing? If they are manga-mangaring, then no one wants them.
The worst storytelling happens when someone uses a plot tool to keep the story going. Killing someone off in order to give the protagonist a reason to have strong emotions. I know that we’ve all had strong emotions even though no one has died. Find them.
The other plot tool that is useless is providing an “out” that is pure coincidence. Like a player in a game who finds a loophole in the rules of the game (which somehow no one else has ever seen) and using it to win the game and rescue the damsel. No. Resist.
People are complex. No one is all good. No one is all evil. Villains have stories too, with backgrounds that shunted them off onto a path of destruction and mayhem. Take some time to discover why your villain is a villain. They didn’t pop out of the womb that way.
Language that makes you feel something, see something, touch something so that if you ever encountered that same situation, you’d have a déjà vu. That is beautiful writing. It allows all your senses to be engaged in the story.
There is a fine balance here. Describing every single detail in a scene is unnecessary unless something is going to happen with that detail. Readers love to fill in the blanks.
Why This Story
Something burned inside you, willing you to either put pen to paper or sit at your computer and begin typing. The passion that ignited the story can sometimes dim to fading embers, but you have to get it back. We’ve all read books that authors were compelled to write because they have a contract with a publishing house, but no fire in their belly. You’ve not finished that book because you felt it wither and go dry. You have to find a way to get back to the burn.
- take a walk,
- talk to people online about the thing that sparked the story.
Get it back.
Journeying to a published book is fraught with many pitfalls, but even a weak plotline gets published if the storytelling is good. I’m up for the challenge and I hope you are too.