The Art of Story Telling: Writing Tips from a Literary Enthusiast
I am not a writer
Ok, so... to start off, I would just like to say that I am in no way, shape, or form a professional writer or author. I am simply a literary enthusiast who, from experience, has learned a few tips and tricks about how to write stories. This post is 100% my own original opinion and is in no way what is going to work for every writer out there. That being said, I would just like to dedicate this article to those young, passionate writers out there who truly do want to pursue a future in this. I wish you the best of luck, and I really hope that this helps.
The features and elements of a story
So, every story of fiction, or at least every story that I’ve read, has basic features that are necessary to make it, well, a story. You have your characters: protagonist, antagonist(s), and minors. You also have your plot, which consists of the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. And within your plot you must have conflict (because without it, there is no story). I also like to think that every story should have sub-conflicts that, in the end, merge with the main conflict for the ultimate plot twist (but of course, this isn’t mandatory, it’s just my opinion). For example, your main conflict could be your character trying to discover who their birth parents are but your sub conflict is that they happen to fall in love with the foster child of their birth mom (I don't know). Along with the standard features of a fictional text, there are also elements that I believe add an extra something to a story, such as suspense, betrayal, romance, death, and (one of my all time favorites) a not-so-happily-ever-after.
Everybody (above the age of 9) should know the two main types of characters: major and minor characters. The protagonist is basically the star of the story. A common misconception is that the protagonist has to be “good”, or “not-evil”, but that’s false. For example, in the movie/book/play, "The Wizard of Oz", Dorothy is the protagonist because the story follows her through her journey, but in the Broadway musical, "Wicked", the protagonist is Elphaba; the Wicked Witch of the West. What’s significant about this is that Elphaba is the antagonist, or the character opposing the protagonist, in "The Wizard of Oz". Good or evil, vice or virtue, none of this really matters with characters because it’s all about perspective.
Your main character should not be perfect. If your main character has the perfect hair, the perfect skin, is the perfect height etc., and you make them hate their “flaw”, you are asking for your story to be burned at a bonfire. Unless someone is a fan of cliches and archetypes, I guarantee you, nobody is going to like your main character. That being said, having a minor character that everyone hates is one of the best things you could do for your story — especially if they’re a foil, or polar opposite (enough to emphasize opposing traits) to your main character.
Now, when it comes to your minor characters, I think they best serve the purpose of either bringing major characters closer together or wedging them apart (intentionally or unintentionally, doesn’t really matter to be honest). I always like to add in a super lovable minor character and then kill them off (or have something really tragic happen to them) when the reader least expects it in order to make the protagonist, or one of the main characters, realize something that could help them accomplish what they need to do in the end.
As most people (should) know, there are 5 parts to the basic storyline: plot, exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution — in that order, respectively. In my opinion, if you draw out the outline of your story, your longest or biggest part should be the rising action and the shortest should be the falling action (considering the exposition, climax, and resolution are mere ”points” in a story rather than a continuation of events).
In your exposition, the setting should be described and most of the characters should be introduced.
In the rising action, this is where you get to take your characters’ personalities to the next level and really build on them. Emphasize their strengths and weaknesses. This is also when the main conflict is introduced. Present your protagonist with a vivid want, and give them a legitimate reason as to why they can’t have it. For example, your character wants to find a cure for their life-threatening disease, but they need a living relative to sign off on the treatments and fly them halfway across the world because they’re a minor. However, their last living relative, their father, has just died. Towards the end of the rising action, a minor conflict should be introduced (if your story has one) but it shouldn’t be described as a minor conflict, but rather a fact which turns into a problem later.
As we all know, the climax is the turning point of the story. If the reader can spot your climax from a mile away, this is what we call, “a problem”. The climax should make the reader audibly gasp, or at least raise their eyebrows in surprise. The best way to get a “WOW” climax is to drop a little foreshadowing into the rising action and exposition—something that the reader doesn’t immediately recognize as foreshadowing, but rather extra (almost unnecessary) details.
The falling action is basically where all of the puzzle pieces start to come together and form the picture that is the resolution.
The resolution is literally the ending: how everything came together (or didn’t come together, if you're one of those authors).
Ok, so once again: this is 100% my opinion and you could do the complete opposite of what I suggested in this article and still have a bestseller. No matter what way you go with, if you stay true to your vision and to what YOU want to write, you’ve already succeeded as a writer. I wish you the best of luck, and if anyone here does (or doesn’t) take my advice and writes a story of fiction, tell me about it in the comment section down below because I would LOVE to read it.
© 2018 T Taiwo