Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 2: 30 Day Story Challenge: What Makes A Story Great?

Rafferty by Valerie Davide

Writing is like stretching. If you stretch to a certain point, the muscle reacts by gripping. The thing to do when this happens, is to breathe, let the stretch happen, and to not let the tightening sensation take control. 

When you decide to start a writing project, it is when you are staring at the blank page or screen, that this gripping sensation can take hold. This stage requires courage, clarity, knowledge, and insight. Perhaps this stage needs a little yin too. Deep breathing and softening.

I do not have all of the skills necessary to complete this project, and it is a fearful stage. But it is only a stage. I cannot see Séamus clearly yet, and I cannot answer the questions: What does Seamus want? What are the stakes? I have not figured out setting or plot, or the particulars of the conflict or theme. I even have conflicts with my character. I don't want to lose the fact that Séamus is a dog, yet I want to give him superpowers. I struggle with where I should begin his story, how to reveal and how much to reveal of his character. 

I do have the foolhardy courage of a beginner, and contradiction here- the experience and perspective of a mature person. I can also work at adding to my knowledge. This will give me time to catch my breath and it is sure to help me figure things out. So, let's keep going...

What Makes A Story Great?

According to the bestselling author, Brenda Novak, it all boils down to core storytelling basics.
1. Start the story in the right place- an unusual or exciting event or a worthy challenge.

2. Save the back story for later. Add it carefully and sparingly - just when the reader needs to know. Essential details only. 
I've been trying to decide if I should start with my original story idea (introduced in my first blog post, July 2011) or start by introducing Séamus. It would be more fun for both of us to jump right in to an adventure.
3. If it didn't have to be pretty, how and what would you write?
4. Build conflict. Conflict is the engine that drives the story. Layered conflict that grows or changes keeps the story interesting. 
5. Don't underestimate your reader. Do not over explain, especially when explaining action sequences and character thoughts. Use subtext.
Subtext is like a gift to the astute reader—an additional layer of meaning implied by the text but not accessible without a bit of thinking. … Experienced readers aren’t confined to the text—what’s printed on the page—they interact with the text, fully participating with the writer in the making of meaning in the story. Alicia Rasley 
6. Skip the boring stuff. Use realistic dialogue. Avoid too many tags and adverbs (he smiled sadly...)
7. Keep the reader in the action, moving in real time using specific details, better diction, and stronger verbs. Avoid clichés and generalizations. 
8. Help your reader suspend disbelief by avoiding a plot that is too contrived or coincidental. Use your best material only when it is relevant.
9. Avoid writing that is overly dramatic or self-indulgent.
10. Avoid saying too much or too little. Too much and it will be pretentious, too little will make it difficult to connect with characters and affect the emotional impact.
11. Create layered characters who are not perfect and who are properly motivated to be believable. Describing body language adds texture and depth to the story.
12. Make them laugh. Look for opportunities to add wit, unusual perspectives, and small, believable understated incongruities.
13. Make them cry. When a story causes laughter and tears it will be memorable. Take your time and let emotion build from a single seed.

Reference: Writer's Digest: 7 Simple Ways To Make A Good Story Great
Learn The Basics from A Best Seller: 10 Things Every Writer Should Do In Their Novel

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