How to Write Stories People Will Love
It is every writer’s dream to be able to write stories that inspire and leave an impact on the world. Whether you are a new writer or a seasoned one, it takes effort and perseverance to develop the skill of storytelling. The art of writing a compelling story entails more than just narrating a sequence of events in ornate language. A good story is a creative amalgam of several literary and artistic elements. The following blog offers insightful ideas that can help you write an enthralling story and make you a skilled storyteller.
Choose a setting that can alone tell the story
It is imperative to establish a setting for your story to allow the events in the course of the story to unfold naturally. A setting places your story within a context and has two major components- place and time. They play a crucial role in determining the values, attitudes, challenges and motivations of the characters in your story. The socio-cultural environment within which the action takes place reflects and reinforces the themes of one’s story. For example, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is situated in 19th century Victorian England, when social conventions were rigid and the subordination of women was seen as natural. Thus, the reader finds it easy to comprehend the motivation of the female characters in the story, who were socialised into thinking that marriage was a woman’s ultimate aspiration. The key is to choose a setting that is conducive to both- plot and character development and is easily visualised by the reader.
Devise an engrossing plot
The plot or dramatic structure is essential to framing the narrative. Aristotle, in his treatise on writing titled Poetics, expressed how a story must have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. The events must have a cause-and-effect relationship between them. The writer can introduce a conflict, sustain the reader’s interest till the climax and finally, offer a resolution. While many writers have creatively deconstructed this classical rule, it remains that for a story to convey meaning, it must be plausible and well structured. For instance, John Fowles, in his novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman, provides the reader with three possible endings to the story. What’s more, his novel The Magus doesn’t feature an ending altogether! Yet, both novels sustain the readers’ attention by employing engrossing narrative techniques.
Introduce relevant and universal themes that make it meaningful
To establish a story’s theme/s, a writer must ask themselves “What has inspired me to write this story in the first place?”. A theme is an overarching idea or concept that gives meaning to the narrative. It offers significance to the internal journey of the characters in the story. A writer can borrow themes by studying their contemporary reality and identifying issues that require attention. For instance, Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in order to foreground the issue of racial injustice. It has stood the test of time because readers can resonate with it even today as racial discrimination prevails throughout the globe. Thus, a story with themes that have universal relevance can make readers more aware and can contribute to bringing about change.
Build diverse and relatable characters
Readers tend to empathise with characters who have a unique voice, are flawed, have complex motives and are slightly unconventional. In fiction, a “well-rounded” character is an asset to the plot, as opposed to “flat” characters who do not spark any interest in the reader. Techniques such as giving the characters a compelling backstory help readers understand their intentions. We tend to relate to characters who have a well-defined arc to their personal story. They must grow from their experiences and acquire depth throughout the story. For example, the protagonist of the novel Jane Eyre defies social conventions. She develops from being a poor and unassuming girl to an independent and assertive young woman. The character remains relatable to date for many young feminists who draw inspiration from her arc. Most importantly, there is a growing need to break existing traditions of writing characters that are socio-politically privileged. Introducing diverse characters sensitizes readers to the diverse cultural and geographical realities that exist. Here is how and why you need to write diverse characters.
Adopt a unique technique of narration
Narration is the act of “telling” a story. The writer adopts a point of view that enables her to articulate the incidents to the readers. A writer can choose from any of the following types of narration-
- First Person – In this point of view, the protagonist tells the story. There is ample usage of the pronouns “I” and “me” or “we”
- Second Person – Addresses the reader directly using pronouns like “you,” “your,” and “yours”
- Third Person – An “omniscient’ narrator tells the story using pronouns like “he,” “she,” “it,” or “they”
The narration is conveyed by a narrator, whose perspective shapes the story. A reliable narrator provides a truthful and straightforward account of the events while an unreliable narrator challenges the reader by twisting the truth. Their telling of the story is not entirely credible or accurate. A popular example of an unreliable narrator in fiction is Holden Caulfield, the protagonist and narrator of J.D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye. The narrator admits that he is a liar, prone to exaggeration and uncertainty. In such cases, the reader is careful of placing their trust in the narrator.
Anyone can write a story. However, to write one that mesmerizes your readers, the basic elements- theme, plot, character, setting and narration must be employed in unique and creative ways. A well-written story that reflects reality can become a powerful medium for affecting social change. If a story is infused with these simple yet effective elements, then your readers are definitely going to root for your work!