Story writing is hard.
Budding authors ask me all the time how it’s done. Is there a trick, they want to know—a formula?
I wish there were. Beware writing coaches who promise shortcuts.
If you’ve spent much time on this site, you’ve read this before: If story writing were easy, anyone could do it. You’re here, I hope, because, though you know it’s hard, you still dream of doing it, and doing it right.
Not Easy, But Simple
I’m happy to say, however, that there is a handy and memorable way to look at crafting a story.
Picture your finished product as a car—any model you want. Make it as sleek and flashy or as solid and efficient as you wish.
All you really need are three essentials for this model:
- An engine
- A driver
And since this dream car is a metaphor for what you want to write, here are the parts your story needs:
Concept—Your Story’s Engine
Simply put, you need a great idea. Tell a story that would keep your interest, keep you turning the pages.
If it accomplishes that, you can be sure there’ll be plenty of readers out there like you.
Just as your dream car goes nowhere without an engine, your story fails without a compelling idea that grips your reader from the get-go.
“Judith’s mother remarried two years after her father died…” is an anecdote.
“Judith hated her mother’s new husband…” is a story.
Character—Your Story’s Driver
Readers care about, fall in love with, and remember characters.
Good story writing means infusing your characters with sass and attitude and voice. They must be decisive and proactive, not ambivalent and reactive.
A memorable character learns and grows and rises to meet challenges. That’s who you want behind the wheel of your story.
Conflict—Your Story’s Fuel
What’s the point of owning a dream car—or writing the story you’ve always wanted to—and forgetting to fill its tank?
You’ve opted for a great concept as your engine, and a dynamic character serves as your heavy-footed driver.
So for fuel, you need conflict to keep your reader flipping those pages.
To keep every scene crackling, inject it with conflict. One character will counter another—argue, blame, criticize, fight.
Or a problem, challenge, danger, or life-and-death quest must present itself.
Conflict supercharges your engine when your driver floors the accelerator.
Story Writing Isn’t That Complicated
Remind yourself to view your story as a car, and make sure you equip it with the best engine, driver, and fuel.
You’ll soon find yourself writing the stories you’ve always wanted to write.
And maybe soon we’ll see your name on the bestseller lists.
Tell me in the Comments below how you’ll outfit your next story to run as smoothly as a new car.