Alas, we have come to the final post in the Digging Deeper series! If you missed out on the last two posts you can see the first one about Characters Here, and the second about Worlds Here. In this session we will be taking a closer look at the one thing that really and truly makes a book: Your Story!
This is an extremely broad topic, so I won't be able to touch on everything in a single post. Hopefully I'll be able to elaborate more as I walk the long road of writing my own book. But just based off of the experience that I've gained through publishing my first book, The Wings of Antheon, and reading so many other great books, I've learned some valuable tidbits on what makes a good story.
The first thing I've seen that helps make a good story is having a unique story line. I have learned this through painful experience. Readers like to be challenged and surprised, so don't make a story line that can be predicted or guessed. If there's a hidden connection between two characters, don't hint at it over and over. Make it invisible until the last possible moment! Or, even better, drop a hint that reveals a little of the truth, but can be easily taken the wrong way.
Readers also like to walk through a struggle with the character. As we talked about in the post on Characters, everybody struggles with something. What this something is, be it anger, jealousy, loyalty, or love, will affect how your story line is shaped because your character needs to overcome that struggle throughout the story. By creating a struggle you also have to create an answer. Once again, the Show Don't Tell comes into play. Your story needs to be the answer. This is called Experiments in Living. If your character struggles with overcoming her mistakes, let her see that it is a chance to learn by using the mistake to gain experience she would have otherwise never had. Maybe she could even use the experience to help a friend. If your character is always angry, let him hurt somebody he cares for and move through his emotions to see that blowing up never helps. Characters are not always perfect and your story line shouldn't be either. The world is not all butterflies and rainbows. It's usually in our darkest time that we see the light of truth shine the brightest.
Another really exciting thing to weave into your story is a bit of history! Everybody likes a good backstory that makes the present one have more meaning. Whether it's a friendship with a mysterious stranger who is slowly revealed to be somebody far greater than they appear, or a war that is much more than an over-the-top argument, a backstory adds a new sense of meaning and depth to the entire story!
These are three general tidbits that can be applied to any story - fantasy and realistic alike.
You probably saw this coming, but here is the final checklist to make sure your story is all that it should and could be.
- Do your character's have a back story? Like I said before, this can add a lot more meaning to who they are now and how that affects the present.
- Do you have an overarching theme, like Jealousy or Anger, that is overcome throughout your book? Stories shouldn't always be just action packed adventures. They need a reason - a meaning - that makes the reader nod their head in agreement and gives them some food for thought.
- Does your story have any unique turns? This is kind of hard to judge on your own, so I suggest asking a friend to be a beta reader. If they write back and say that they were surprised then great job! If they saw it coming, you might want to brainstorm about how you could make the turn less obvious.
- Is your story accurate with the era you're writing in? This is really important! If your story is written in olden day England, you need to make sure the form of speech, modes of transportation, and general feel fit into that era. This helps pull the reader back in time so they can understand the story.
- Are you enjoying your story as you write it? As I said in one of my first posts, your story should be as interesting for you to write as it will be for your reader to read! If you're bored, your reader is going to be twice as board as you are.
Have you ever read a story that surprised you or left you moved? Please drop a comment with a title of the book and what made it amazing! I'm always looking to expand my to-read list!!