Have you ever read a book you literally CANNOT put down? How about a movie during which you refuse to budge from your seat, because you don’t want to miss something? Have you ever noticed how it seems to take so little to make a fan out of you? Books and movies like this generate tons of fans because of one very specific thing.
They have a compelling story.
If you’re a writer, you know that everything I’m about to say in this paragraph is true. You’ve read “that” book, and you’ve seen “that” movie. You know the ones I’m talking about. You think to yourself “I can never write something as good as that! Listen to that dialogue! Look at those descriptions! Nope. I’ll never be that good.”
I have good news and more good news for you. The very fact that you want to write something that good means you care. And if you care, maybe a reader will too. The second piece of good news is that you CAN write a compelling story. All you need are a few simple tools.
TOOL #1 – Strong Plotline
What is a strong plotline, you ask? Let me explain a thing.
Plot (or “plotline”) is simply your story itself. It is “Once upon a time…”, “The End”, and everything in between. It is “Fade In”, “Roll credits”, and everything in between that, too. Plot is story, and if you don’t have a strong plot, you’re in deep trouble.
A strong plot consists of a beginning, a middle, and an end. Beginning consists of your set up and inciting incident (more on this later). Middle consists of everything that moves your hero/heroine toward the climax. Middle is a freight train pushing your hero/heroine farther than they ever wanted to go and bringing them situations they should not reasonably recover from. End is your darkest point, through the climax, and into the wrap-up. I have found that the easiest way to divide these is as follows: 1/4 beginning, 2/4 middle, 3/4 end.
(NOTE: If you are writing a novel, it’s easiest to go by word count. Say you’re writing a 60,000 word novel. That makes it a 15,000 word beginning, 30,000 word middle, and another 15,000 words for the end. Screenplays go by pages. A typical Screenplay is approximately 120 pages. Therefore… 30 page beginning, 60 page middle, 30 page end. Got it? Good!)
TOOL #2 – Strong Characters
Let’s face it. If you don’t have a character that people love (or love to hate), then you’re already dead in the water. People read books because they care what happens to the people. Yes, plot is important, but without strong characters your story won’t go anywhere.
For me, strong characters are flawed characters. Also known as relatable characters.
For the sake of sanity, let’s take some notes from those crazy, wacky Tumblr groups known as FANDOMS!!! (*gasp*! NOOOO! NOT THE CRAZY PEOPLE!)
Yes, the crazy people. Think about it. Why are they crazy? Because they love those characters (or that one character) and they have to tell the world about it. They love them so much that they write their own stories to move the character forward. They literally put that character in their own life. And those villains? Oh, yeah, they have split followings. People either want to marry them or want to kill them.
So, what makes these crazy people fall in love with the characters?
They’re flawed. They have issues, and quirks, and they don’t get along with everyone, and people can relate to that.
(More of character development and how to write flawed characters is coming in the following weeks)
TOOL #3 – Passion
Honestly, this is the third and greatest essential tool you need. Without passion for your story, you’ll never finish it. You’ll start and let it die. So be sure you are passionate before you begin.
How do you know if you’re passionate about it?
Do you think about this story day and night? Does everything you see, experience, or read correlate back to it? Do you see your characters in fashion photos and your setting in travel guides?
If you answered yes to any of these, you are passionate about your story. Don’t give it up. Keep moving, keep writing, keep dreaming. The world needs more dreamers, and the world needs your book.
You are the only one who can write your book, your way. Don’t let it go.
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