The beginning of a story

_MG_5486Open a scene with a broad description to provide setting and tone of the story and then narrow to a single person, usually the hero or heroine.

Set the mood of the story with description of surroundings, appearance of characters, or a symbol.

The beginning needs a hook or exciting incident to draw the reader in and turn the page to find out what happens next.  Throw the main character into the problem within the first couple of pages.  Add obstacles and characters as the story unfolds.  It should be a roller coaster ride not a slow climb to the end.

Start the story in the middle of a conflict and show raw emotions so the reader bonds with the lead.  Add a sympathetic trait to help the reader cheer the hero to victory.  The main character, problem, and why it can’t be easily solved should be clear from the beginning. Introduce the opposition trying to stop the hero from obtaining his goal or objective.

Somewhere in the early part of the story foreshadow the outcome of the story.

Each event should advance the plot, reveal character development, or make reader feel a specific emotion.

Each chapter is a mini story with a setting, problem, and solution that leads to the next chapter.

The arrangement of chapters is important to create tension and build suspense or conflict.  A common mistake it to reveal too much too soon.  Hold back information and only give the reader a hint or small nugget of information but build on it in the next chapters until everything is revealed at the end.

Throw in the unexpected such as a mysterious or dangerous character that could be friend or foe.

Don’t be boring.  The situation should be challenging and exciting with the main character taking charge.  Add other characters and put them in danger to reveal motives and weaknesses of the main character.  Each effort fails until the climax when the character achieves the goal and everything is tied together.


Editing a story

CampfireGrammar, grammar, and grammar.  Purchase some good grammar books and use them.  If in doubt, look it up.

Spelling a word correctly is the first step.  Do you know the word’s meaning?  Better check it.  What about slang?  Was the word used in your book’s time period if you’re writing a historical novel?

Watch for overuse of words, tags, phrases, etc. Eliminate redundant words, too many –ing endings, double verbs, too many adjectives or adverbs, correct word choices.  Eliminate the overused, unnecessary, and lazy verbs from your writing.  Use the “find” option and see how many times you use the word “get” or “up” or “very” in your writing.

State the story in one or two sentences.  It should be clear and concise.

Think of a blurb on the back cover of your book.  If you can’t, the story needs direction.

Is the plot interesting, clearly understood, and satisfying at the end?

Did you resolve your main storyline and subplots by the end?

Without re-reading it, how does the story feel to you? (Think in terms of flow, pacing, theme, etc.)

Do you like your story?  Work on the parts you feel are slow, boring, or confusing.

Cut parts of the story if they don’t add to the plot or characters.  Save it in a scrap file for another story.

Have you described each character?  Even minors ones should have a few words to create a visual image for the reader.

Is description clear, concise, and interesting?  Paint pictures with words.

Has the main character grown, or changed and does the story show the change and why?

What is the conflict, and is it personal and worth struggling for the entire story?

Does the main character grow, overcome something, and change?

Is the emotional journey of the main character satisfying?