Story is everything.
Because of that, here are 25 thoughts on creating stories, in no particular order. Though, I think #25 is well placed at the end.
1. A lot of things have beginnings, middles and ends — but that doesn’t make them stories.
2. True stories have two parts: first something bad happens, second something bad is fixed (or a fix is at least attempted)
3. Plot-driven and character-driven stories don’t really exist; all stories are conflict/tension driven.
4. Suspense, tension, conflict — these things shouldn’t be limited to specific genres.
5. Asking what happens next is probably the wrong question.
6. Asking what is my character’s goal (or what does my character want) is probably a better question.
7. Better yet: what can go wrong now?
8. Ticking clocks give your story a deadline and a destination. Also, tension. Can’t ask for much more.
9. Give your characters some story-level goals, i.e., decide what it is they want, have them go after it, and the plot will almost fill itself in.
10. Storytelling is a timeless human instinct — trust and embrace your natural ability.
11. Tell your stories like you’re talking to just one person — an audience of one is the right number.
12. Start with the end, and you’ll stay on track.
13. Most stories start too early.
14. Many stories end too late.
15. Stakes are essential. Usually the higher the better.
16. In real life, we avoid conflict because it sucks. In your stories, you must embrace, chase it even.
17. Things can always get worse — we’ll probably enjoy reading that more anyway.
18. Not all stories have to have happy endings, neat little bows are for packages.
19. A good story doesn’t preach or moralize — it connects and resonates.
20. Good stories leave out the unimportant parts.
21. You have more stories to tell than you realize. Trust. Yourself.
22. Complex isn’t necessarily better. Some of the most powerful stories are pretty simple.
23. Trying for theme will kill a story — theme comes last.
24. Plot is as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
25. And then? Keep asking until you figure it out.
Credit: Justin McLachlan
Illustration: Lynette L. Reed