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Telling the tale: how to craft your story

Updated on August 27, 2014

The idea for a novel or novella popped into your mind overnight. Hopping out of bed, you booted up your laptop and wrote your outline. As your eyes glassed over from a lack of sleep, you hit save. Now, you can get about 30 minutes of sleep before your day job comes calling.

Daylight breaks, the alarm clock blares and you’re ready to start your day. And review that outline. With your first cup of coffee, you pull up the file and immediately wonder — how am I going to tell this story

Now the hard work begins. It’s time to write. Time to give birth to characters and a plot that engages the reader and keeps the pages turning. Will this story be plot or character driven? Will you try to force the outline to work or are you going to let the characters guide you?

There is no right or wrong way to tell your story, but you have to be consistent and keep it real —even in fiction.

JE Jones, author of The Eternal Sphinxman, says, “I hate reading stories where characters say or do things that are so out of character to how an author presents them.”

That’s where consistency comes into play when crafting your story. Readers have to connect with the characters to keep reading the story. Imagine not liking Harry Potter. Would you have continued to read the series, which included an 800-page book?

Once your characters come to life, your plot has to be engaging, realistic and logical. Your character drives your plot in some stories. And in others, your plot drives your characters. Again, there is no right or wrong way to do this. But you know you’ve done your job when you have a well-crafted novel. And readers will let you know when you hit your mark.

National bestselling author ReShonda Tate Billingsley, who’s latest book is What’s Done In The Dark, knows that feeling well.

"I feel like I'm doing my job as a writer when my non-reading friends call me after reading my book, and say, "Reallly, ReShonda??? Just really? You're gonna leave me like that?"

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