Previously from the category On Writing
It seems like more often than not, we as writers tend to forget some of the basic elements that make such an amazing story; if it’s not forgetting a few of those amazing elements, it’s having all the elements in order and your story still seems as bland as the white paper you started writing it on.
This week’s post on writing will discuss the different elements of a story, all of which can help you start one from scratch. Some may even help you on your way to making that amazing story you have in your head look just as incredible on paper.
The Key Plot Devices
What do the golden snitch, the master ring, and the mocking jay pin all have in common? They are all extraordinary plot devices that helped deliver equally amazing tales. While the mocking jay pin from The Hunger Games became a symbol of hope as well as a gift for her sister, the master ring was crafted from the beginning to be the key to ruling all of middle-earth.
Lastly, we have the golden snitch. This is one of my favorite plot devices out of any epic story, simply because it held the resurrection stone through Harry’s entire journey without him even knowing it. Something about this particular device just seems so well-woven into a story that already has such a rich depth. Loads of other meaningful trinkets that are simply scattered about for us to peer at while we remain passengers, simply along for the ride our authors can offer us. The question to ask yourself is whether or not you can provide an equally exciting experience with your own equally interesting plot devices.
The Character(s) Development
Something you should consider before anything is the development your character will go through during the course of the story. Try and imagine what turn of events will occur in order to make them such a memorable protagonist. Of course, we all know it’ll be certain amounts of horribly interesting decisions that question the very moral compass of our hero having, but what kind of decisions would they consist of?
A few examples that come to my mind would be the decision between who lives when both parties are innocent and only one will survive, the verdict of doing what’s right when friends or family are involved, or whether or not the protagonist decides to kill the antagonist in the end, purging evil from the world, yet taking a life of their own.
Basic internal conflict, external forces, or mixtures of both are the basic building blocks of the character’s development. All you have to do is take these basic things and mold them to fit the desired direction you have in mind for your characters evolution and impact of the story. If there is no real direction in your mind, just make the conflict itself and build off of that.
That Charming Place Your Characters Call Home
Whether you we’re sarcastic about having a charming place in mind for your characters or you were honest in saying that this place was a gritty nightmare, described almost surrealistically out of a horror flick, the setting is almost like a vantage point you have over the characters along the line of how they become affected and molded by it. Setting is one of the go to elements of a story that can arouse your characters senses (and your readers’ as well) with beauty and awing description, or can crush their spirits with never-ending conflict and a grit that makes even the reader uncomfortable as ever, even though there sitting at home and sipping a latte.
Picture this: a rustic, wasted city with window patterns splatter amongst the cracked buildings like that of a dying honeycomb; tainted with the sounds of constant rain and mixed grumbles of gruff voices, the city was the epicenter of trade in the new world. Lights flickered from barrels in the distance, marking which shop was closed and which was opened.
It’s a kind of clique, but sometimes the idea of ‘a dark and stormy night’ really pulls the story together exactly the way you would want it. Setting, all in all, is the unique world you’re making your characters journey through. Make this place so interesting that the readers won’t be able to stand leaving, so vile they will do anything to escape, and every ounce of anything that falls in between.
An Unforgettable Hero
Ah, the hero. Whether they’re starting out as an average Joe or being ripped from fame to try and gain it back, these characters are the pinnacle of what makes the story great. An important thing to keep in mind about your protagonist is to have someone that your readers can easily relate to. Unless your story calls for otherwise, like your character starting off as a dirty cop maybe, it’s important that your character be believable and relatable, perhaps even likeable if he is still a dirty cop by the end of the book.
Developing a good hero or simply creating one that appeals to your reader is a skill that’s easy to learn but never mastered. This is for the simple fact that you’d have to map out every tangible type of protagonist and there are simply too many to name. Even if you could name them all, there’s always another possibility out there that could hold your reader’s attention even more, perhaps even better than the classic ‘this protagonist is an orphan’ move. That seems to be a popular one.
A Badass Villain
‘Why is the villain number one,’ you may ask. Well, I can tell you this much: if you don’t have an antagonist, or at least an antagonistic force, you really don’t have a story. This is just my opinion, but let’s continue before we debate. Unlike the hero, this guy knows from the beginning that he is going to be hell-bent on destroying what you, or the good your hero sees is in need of withholding with pride, to absolute smithereens.
There are many important rules to keep in mind when it comes to the antagonist, but a few golden standards are something to always go for when creating your perfect evil-doer.
First, have your audience love the kind of evil they bring to the table; there’s nothing more attractive than an antagonist that knows what they’re doing and pulls it off in the intricate way that only a true villain knows how.
Another big one is to have your audience sympathize with them; if your readers begin to feel sorry for this person that’s just blown up an entire planet because he was left for dead by his mentor; you have won as far as pulling your readers emotions go.
Lastly, if you can make your readers begin to question their own moral compass, in the sense that everything the villain says actually makes a lot of sense and make them think, ‘hmm, maybe blowing up this city wouldn’t be so bad’, you’ve done an excellent job at both crafting a believable villain and stirring sympathy in your readers for that villain as well.
Great stories begin with the simple ideas that fall into these categories, but is anything missing? Comment below if you think so and let me know. The Three pillars of a story, narrative, description, and dialogue, are all equally as important to whatever you craft next. Check the links to learn more about the three pillars of a story.
Last of all, when it comes to making a good story, it’s too simple to say ‘own it’ or ‘believe in yourself’ when the simplest answer for solving your story’s problem has been in front of you the whole time: just write it. There’s a reason you don’t have to show your work to anyone until it’s finished. Until you say it’s finished, it isn’t. It’s a part of you, so make it unique in the ways that only you can and leave nothing to imagination when your pen meets the page.