Want to write stories readers LOVE? If you do, you need to make your stories satisfying. Consider your favorite story. Why do you love it, and read it again and again? I’m a huge P.G. Wodehouse fan. I read his books for the humor, and for the characters. Lord Emsworth and his pig, the Empress of Blandings, totally charm me, as does Bertie Wooster, wastrel that he is.
When we think about the stories we love, we remember the characters. We love our favorite novels because our favorite characters overcome challenges. They have goals and motivation. Trouble and conflict prevent them getting what they want. Readers want to see your characters achieve their goals. As your characters struggle, you’ll write stories your readers love.
Let’s look at some fiction writing tips to help.
1. Who’s Your Main Character, and What Does He (or She) Want?
Authors’ biggest challenge is making your character WANT something enough. It’s not enough for your heroine to lust after the hero. She has to want something so badly that she’ll do whatever is necessary to get what she wants.
The stronger you can make your characters’ desires, the stronger your story will be. Readers love to see characters struggle, and truly deserve their happy ending. In Linda Howard’s romantic suspense novel, Cry No More for example, the main character Milla Boone’s been searching for her stolen son for ten years. Milla is desperate to find her son, and her willingness to do anything drives the plot.
Try This: Interview Your Main Character.
Before you plot your novel or short story, interview your characters – or at least, your main character. ASK your character what he/ she wants, and why. I hand-write my interviews, and I’m always surprised.
When you know who your characters are, what they want, and why, writing a hot-selling story becomes easy.
2. Your Plot Is Your Character’s Journey to Get What He Wants.
There are various plotting systems. However, your plot doesn’t exist in isolation. In Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury says:
“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
What your characters DO is the plot. Your challenge is to motivate your characters, so that they ACT. They have no choice; they must act. If your characters don’t come alive for you, look to their motivation. They’re not acting because they don’t want something enough.
3. Everyone Wants Something, and Everyone Has a Secret.
Before you start writing, make a chart of what everyone wants. In a short story, you may only have three characters. In a novel, you’ll have many more than that, but be careful not to introduce characters just for the heck of it. You need to motivate each and every character. On your chart, create a column for Goals, and another column for Secrets. In every story you write, every character has a goal (want, desire, need), and a secret.
You’ll find your story “wants and secrets” charts immensely useful, because when you work out what a minor character wants, you’ll often see that the character deserves his own story.
So, in summary – to write stories readers love, your characters need to want something desperately. Their actions to get their “want” drive the plot.
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Updated: January 2, 2018
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