Writer Beware is the public face of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s Committee on Writing Scams. We also receive sponsorship from the Mystery Writers of America. Like many genre-focused writers’ groups, SFWA and MWA are concerned not just with issues that affect professional authors, but with the problems and pitfalls that face aspiring writers. Writer Beware, founded in 1998, reflects that concern.
Although SFWA and MWA are US-based organizations of professional fiction authors, Writer Beware’s efforts aren’t limited by country, genre, or publication history. We’ve designed the Writer Beware website so it can be used by any writer, new or established, regardless of subject, style, genre, or nationality.
Good discussion of writing process, even though couched in terms of Southern Fiction.
Not at all dated. CLICK
Writing a Novel (Teach Yourself Series)
Click cover for Amazon source - used are available, cheap.
-- by Chris King Source: [http://www.creativekeys.net]
Successful storytellers have a variety of opinions about what makes a good story. Keep in mind that not everyone will love, or even like, our story. Not everyone will love, or even like, us as storytellers. I will attempt, however, to discuss what I feel creates a good story that is strong and that most listeners do enjoy and remember — the true test.
A good story is one that touches people in some way. As storytellers, our mission is to involve the audience, make them interact with us and the story, even if it is just in their thoughts or core. A really good story has a sense of truth and resonates with some basic universal aspects of being human. It doesn’t have to be profound, but a good story should move the listener, make him/her laugh, think, and ponder it afterward.
A good story has to have substance. Storytellers often talk about the “bones” of a story. This is the basic outline or its skeleton. If the skeletal structure is strong and it fits snugly, chances are you have a good story. Sometimes the story has lots of pieces, but no deep truth running through it — no backbone or substance. Even young listeners want to hear a story with direction and purpose. (We, as storytellers, should never talk down to our listeners, no matter how old or young they are.)
A good story needs conflict and resolution. Stories are made up of people, places, and happenings. Strong stories usually have a well-defined main character — a he, a she, an animal, a machine, or whatever — that encounters some kind of trouble (conflict). There is something blocking our protagonist, whether it is nature, another person, or even the main character him or herself. The action taken signifies personal growth and change — possibly an “ah ha!” — and finally, some sort of redemption. It is the believable action moving the story from beginning to middle to end that keeps the audience entranced. They want to know what’s going to happen.
A good story creates vivid images. Through our knowing, as the storyteller, what vivid images the story creates for us, we will create images for our listeners. They may not see the same images we see and imagine, and that is the exciting part of storytelling. We want them to imagine their own images that relate to them and their experiences as the story unfolds. This is the part that makes interaction so important. If our stories help the listener to think of his/her own stories, we have succeeded in igniting a storytelling spark.
A good story is not “wimpy.” In the excellent book The Storyteller’s Guide by Bill Mooney and David Holt (one of our book picks), many well known storytellers give their views on what makes a “wimpy story.” Michael Parent says, “The difference between a good story and a wimpy story for me is the wimpy story gives too easy a solution.” Laura Simms says, “A wimpy story is one that points toward something very obvious, that doesn’t have resonance inside, that doesn’t provide an experience.” Jon Spelman says, “To me, the strongest mark of a good story well-told is its sincerity. I think there is something about a wimpy story that is insincere; it’s unauthentic. It’s not true to the person who is telling it.” Kathryn Windham adds, “When you find interesting people, you are going to find interesting stories. I think, if you open your senses and maybe even your heart to people, you will find an unending source of un-wimpy stories, good strong stories.”
A good story is the story that is perfect for your audience. I already touched on this briefly, and we will have many more articles in the future about listeners. One of our most important tasks as a storyteller is to prepare properly for our audience, but then read them as we tell. We must keep in tune with the listeners and change direction if we aren’t connecting. Storyteller Ed Stivender is a master of this when he asks for audience members to call out a name of a character, a name of a time and place, and a popular story. On the spot he pulls them all together and creates an improvisational story that the audience definitely feels is the “perfect” story for them.
A good story is a story that you love and love to tell. Never, never, never, tell a story you don’t like, even if a client has requested it. As a storyteller, we are never on the outside looking in as we tell the story. We are a part of the story. We have internalized that story and we truly care about it. We can’t do that, if we don’t like the story.
Keep on telling your good stories, and they will become better and stronger with each telling!
No wimpy stories for us!
In the end, it's really all about telling a good tale.
One primary purpose of the plot is to force the protagonist to change, usually by recognizing and overcoming some internal conflict. Know your character, and you'll figure out your plot. Conversely, know your plot, and you'll find the character who needs that sequence of events for internal growth.
Tragedy is an imitation not only of a complete action, but of events inspiring fear or pity. Such an effect is best produced when the events come on us by surprise; and the effect is heightened when, at the same time, they follows as cause and effect. The tragic wonder will then be greater than if they happened of themselves or by accident; for even coincidences are most striking when they have an air of design. We may instance the statue of Mitys at Argos, which fell upon his murderer while he was a spectator at a festival, and killed him. Such events seem not to be due to mere chance. Plots, therefore, constructed on these principles are necessarily the best.
Plots are either Simple or Complex, for the actions in real life, of which the plots are an imitation, obviously show a similar distinction. An action which is one and continuous in the sense above defined, I call Simple, when the change of fortune takes place without Reversal of the Situation and without Recognition A Complex action is one in which the change is accompanied by such Reversal, or by Recognition, or by both. These last should arise from the internal structure of the plot, so that what follows should be the necessary or probable result of the preceding action. It makes all the difference whether any given event is a case of proper hoc or post hoc.
The best stories have a strong theme, a fascinating plot, a fitting structure, unforgettable characters, a well-chosen setting, and an appealing style. Try for all of these.
Successful storytellers have a variety of opinions about what makes a good story. Keep in mind that not everyone will love, or even like, your story. Not everyone will love, or even like, us as storytellers.. A good story is strong and one that most readers/listeners do enjoy and remember — the true test.
If an author writes, "The king died and then the queen died," there is no plot for a story. But by writing, "The king died and then the queen died of grief," the writer has provided a plot line for a story.
A plot is a causal sequence of events, the "why" for the things that happen in the story. The plot draws the reader into the character's lives and helps the reader understand the choices that the characters make.