Archive for May, 2012

Do you get an idea for a story and just start writing? Some authors seem to write this way, and for some it works. But not for everyone.

There are what is called the basis for plots that work. I like to remind myself of them even in the middle of my story. Conflict is top of the list and what I consider a requirement. The others are: dissatisfaction, struggle, choice, and aspiration.

It is also important to pick a story that matters to you, one that you can care about. It also has to be a story you can write about. And you should be able to have in your mind a beginning, a middle, or at least one or more specific developments, and a good ending. There must be a final confrontation or resolution. There should also be something at stake, something important to one or more of the characters.

Necessary to a story is dynamic tension or a surprising contrast. Something or someone in the story has to matter and to change, and yes, the story has to move. Your core plot should be capable of being expressed in one or two sentences.

Now to begin your story–but not at the beginning. You should start much further into your story. A good place is where your protagonist is reacting against something that has happened. In other words, start your narrative just before or even during the first major conflict, the point where things start to get serious.

An effective beginning should do three things: 1) get the story going and show what kind of story it is going to be; 2) introduce and characterize the protagonist; 3) and last but not least, engage the reader’s interest.

Do not fill your opening with a lot of descriptions. Yes, you can have them, just not to the point where the story is swallowed up in them. Otherwise, you will lost your reader’s interest before they even get a good start on the story. The first two pages must be an interest-grabber, but don’t forget that what you write is a promise of what is to come. And you must keep your promise.

Now you are ready to start your middle. Remember, the beginning started further into the story, so the beginning of the middle would be a good place to insert some exposition or flashback to give the reader some history or what happened prior to the conflict with which you started your story. It is at this point your story begins in earnest. After you get through the brief exposition, your story from here on should forge forward. You must have the main plot strong in your mind and be building toward that final crisis.

It is the middle where you can set up some subplots. These subplots can run for a short while before coming to a resolution or last until just before the end of the story. They can center on your main character or one of the other characters. Don’t forget, lay the groundwork and establish your main plot before running off to follow another line of action.

Your ending should not only finalize your story but bring all the loose ends together. It should answer all unanswered questions. So once you have your beginning, middle, and ending, it is time to stop, set the book aside, and let it rest. Then after a couple of weeks (or more, if you like), start on your self-editing and re-writes.

Faye M. Tollison

Author of: To Tell the Truth

Upcoming books: The Bible Murders and Sarah’s Secret

Member of: Sisters In Crime

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