TWENTY-ONE STORY TIPS
from PENNY DOLAN
- Writers watch out for good ideas, but
not every idea works out into a story. Sometimes you need to blend two or
three ideas together.
- Remember, you can use ideas from books
you've read, or stories you know, but, plasticine-like, reshape the ideas
to make them your own.
- Some ideas will make shorter stories,
and some will take a long time to write, so think! How much time have you
actually got for your story?
- Writing takes lots of thinking, both
before you write and while you write, and when you are reading or rereading
your work. Thinking is as important as writing.
- Before you work, and as you work, choose
ideas that will help your story along, not ones that make your story awkward
to write. An idea might be madly exciting, but it might not help your particular
- Have as few characters as you possibly
can. Never say anyone is a baddy or a goody. Put clues into the character
description: how do they look and speak and gesture, what do they wear and
own and do?
- Don't use characters from TV or movies.
Borrow the skill or the look you like, and create a similar character, but
one that is your own idea.
- Don't use friends or people you know
in your fiction stories. It's hard to shape a plot if you are trying to fit
them into the story. Create imaginary characters, but base their actions on
real life observation.
- Stories are often about a main character
trying to do something, and the things that get in their way. What does your
- Don't use names start with the same
letter, or seem similar: Matt &Mike & Mark. The reader will find it
hard to follow who is doing what.
- Try to start the story at the last
possible moment, i.e.. at the beginning of the interesting action - not at
"what we had for breakfast".
- Have as few settings as you can, and
try and keep the story action mostly within one place. You can change the
weather or the time of day, of course, to add to the excitement.
- Brainstorm "action scenes"
that would work in your story, but then choose the best three - the ones you
can "visualise" most clearly. Put them in order, so that the most
exciting one is the last big scene.
- You may have to work out a quick picture
map of what event happens where and when in the story. Then you concentrate
of the description.
- Write MOST about the most important
part of the story, i.e. the last big "action". Think of it as a
series of video freeze-frames, and describe each one, building up the scene
and tension for the reader.
- A story has two endings: an end to
the action, and an end for the main character. What does your character think
about or reflect on when they get to the end of all that has happened to them?
- Sometimes, as you get near the end
of a story, you may find you need some thing or some happening earlier on
to make the plot work. Go back and plant the idea in. Writers often go back
and rewrite pieces.
- Include the senses to make your writing
memorable. Use touch & texture, hearing & sounds, taste, scents &
smells, exact visual observations, and also think about the emotions behind
your characters & writing.
- Put speech in sparingly and carefully.
Any spoken words or conversations have to help tell the story, not slow it
- Use vocabulary that suits your story
and setting. Use exact and interesting words and phrases, adding them as you
read through your story. Similes, or metaphors, or alliteration can make your
work more individual and intriguing to read.
- As you reread your writing, LISTEN
to the sounds of the words and sentences. Do any of the words "clunk"?
Does the pace fit the action? Is there any important moment you've not written
fully? Do the paragraphs show the changes and the scenes within the story?
FINALLY, there's many more tips I could
add. Real writers often go over and over their work to make a story as perfect
as possible. But, when you have finished, don't forget to tell yourself "WELL
WRITING IS LIKE PAINTING
WRITING IS LIKE MAKING A WORK OF ART.
YOU ARE CREATING SOMETHING THAT DIDN'T EXIST BEFORE,
AND YOUR VERY OWN VOICE IS NOW SPEAKING ON THE PAGE! CONGRATULATIONS!
copyright ©Penny Dolan
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