Imagine that you have just finished reading a thriller by a new author but you found the ending very insipid. The characters lacked depth and the story lacked definition. You are suddenly inspired now. You think you have a better plot, a better story. There is an idea hiding in the corner of your mind. An idea that can become a great short story or even better, a great novella. But how do you go about it? Where do you begin? How to bring your idea to life?
Every story starts with a blank page. A blank page which the writer fills up with interesting characters who are involved in an equally interesting plot that keeps us hooked to the very end. Storytelling is a skill that need not be inborn. It can be developed and perfected over time. Many great authors like Dan Brown and Salman Rushdie take classes for budding authors on how to write a good story.
The inspiration for a story can come from anywhere. It could be something from what you read, a conversation you heard on a train or a documentary you saw on television. Once you are inspired, the next step is taking that inspiration and turning it into a good story for everyone to enjoy.
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
– Philip Pullman
Below is a step-by-step guide on how you can write a good story from start to finish.
Step 1 – Plot
Be it a short story or a full-fledged novel, the first step is coming up with a plot. What is your story going to be about? What is your story arc? Every story ever told has a beginning, middle and end. This is the basics thought in middle school when you start with your creative writing. And this applies to all storytelling and writing. Carefully map out your story framework to avoid any confusion later on. If there is a message you want to convey to your readers, then focus on getting it across to them through the plot. Build the tension through the plot to keep your audience hooked.
Step 2 – Setting
Is your story set in the modern era or is it set in the 18th century? Are you going to set it in a specific country or city or a village? Does your story happen in summer, winter or during the monsoon? If you are going for cultural details then make sure to include lifestyle, food habits, clothing, big events of that particular culture. The setting of your story sets the mood for your readers and makes it easy for them to get involved in your story.
Step 3 – Characters
A dashing hero, a beautiful heroine, a nasty villain – these are just some of the cliched characters, but you can be much more creative when it comes to character development. Story characters don’t always have to be perfect. They don’t have to be superheroes who save the day. Your characters can be ordinary, flawed people with a very boring 9-5 job. Making them ordinary, helps your audience relate to them and empathize with them. Build on each character, highlight their strengths, weaknesses, and give them depth.
Treat your character like you would treat a real person. Apart from giving him a name, give him a job, a hobby, a pet, or a backstory. Once you etch out your character, try and understand your character to make him react accordingly to different scenarios.
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Step 4 – Beginning and ending
A good beginning for your story is very important to set the events in motion. A good beginning engages your audience. It draws them into the happenings of the story. No one is interested in ‘Once upon a time…” anymore. Present a strong image by describing the events or a person or a setting. Make it intense and detailed.
The ending is as important as the beginning of the story because a good ending stays with your readers. A satisfying climax that wraps up the plots and twists by bringing it together is the best kind of ending. Unless you are planning a sequel to your book, don’t leave your readers hanging.
Step 5 – Conflict
If your characters just get up in the morning, go to work, come home and sleep, then there isn’t much going on story-wise. You need a plot twist to make your story interesting and to do that you need to interrupt the boring routine. Bring in a conflict to add layers to your story.
It could be an internal conflict where your heroine is trying to work on her lost self-esteem or it could be an external conflict where the heroine is fighting a mean and evil mother-in-law. Conflicts make the story gripping and keep your readers on tenterhooks making them wonder how the story is going to proceed.
Step 6 – Rewriting and editing
Your story is not always going to be perfect the first time. Your first draft might need a lot of reworks in terms of consistency, grammar, spelling and dialogues. Sometimes you might have to scrap a whole chapter or add on an additional chapter. You might have to tweak your characters or your storyline to align with the climax. Editing might take a good amount of your time and test your patience. If you are not confident about your editing skills, then don’t hesitate to get a second opinion from outside. An extra pair of eyes is always helpful.
Step 7 – Title
We are always told not to judge a book by its cover, but unfortunately, the title is always displayed on the cover. A good interesting title will make the reader pick up the book. It kindles his curiosity. The title should be intriguing but at the same time shouldn’t reveal much about the plot. It should be related to the theme and should make sense once the reader is done reading the story. The title can’t be vague and unrelated to the story.
Initially, it might seem difficult, but with practice story writing becomes easier. Spend some time, use your imagination and follow the above-mentioned steps to write the next bestseller.