Seven tips for writing good story

Story, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is an account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.

Here are some tips on what to do in order to attract people to your story – and to beguile them too:

1. Begin with an intriguing or a dramatic or a suspenseful introduction.

2. Make sure your story has an unknown outcome, so it feeds our natural curiosity. What comes next? is a universal human response to story.

3. Build your story around a problem and its solution. Every story is the story, in some sense, of a problem that the protagonist faces, and that, after he or she faces down various difficulties, he or she solves.

4. Include a recognition and identification factor. Some of the most intriguing stories take place in an environment with which we are familiar (marriages, relationships, friendships, workplaces). If we recognize the nature of the problems and challenges characters face we’ll appreciate solutions. We are interested in their choices because they confirm or challenge our own choices.

5. Create interesting characters (whether fiction or non-fiction) that face challenging problems which they have to solve. This provokes an emotional response in the reader.

6. Let your characters struggle with the emotional challenges that they face. That’ll ensure that the reader will identify with them and engage with your story.

7. Create a strong and satisfying ending. An old fashioned love story ended at the bedroom door – because all the difficulties in the relationship had been solved by then, and all that remained was bliss – which for third parties is boring. Steve Jobs story ends with the tale told of him on his deathbed saying a single word over and over that somehow captured the essence of the man: “Wow… wow… wow…” That’s a resolution that’s hard to beat.


Michele Rowe’s 5 writing tips for scriptwriters

  1. I would advise you see as many great films as possible, and get your hands on the scripts. I saw Citizen Kane in New York many years ago, and then was fortunate enough to be able to sit alone in a private room in the New York City library with one of the original drafts. I think it was a eureka moment for me. To realise that a great film began with these scraps of typewritten paper, with all its pencil marks and typos.
  2. Read as many great books as you can. Dickens, Nabokov, Tolstoy. The big sweeping epics are filmic in their construction. Chekhov’s short stories are great, anything psychologically astute. Jane Austen. And South African writers. That’s essential.
  3. Go and see as many good plays as possible.
  4. Get into the habit and routine of writing. You need a lot of stamina to be a screenwriter because the deadlines can be punishing.  So practice sitting down and writing for long stretches.
  5. Invest in a good pair of pajamas because you are going to be spending an awful lot of time in them.


Ten tips for writing horror

The Horror Writers Association says

Horror has once again become primarily about emotion. It is once again writing that delves deep inside and forces us to confront who we are, to examine what we are afraid of, and to wonder what lies ahead down the road of life.

And here are some tips and their sources.

  1. Emotional Disturbance. This is the element at the centre of horror as a genre. Why Horror Scares Us by Richard Spurling
  2. Pick something that could happen to your reader –   20 tips for writing the perfect horror short story by The Feckless Goblin’s World of Dark Fiction
  3. “An effective horror writer embraces the ordinary so that the extraordinary will be heightened.” Douglas Winter
  4. “I think the best stories always end up being about the people rather than the event, which is to say character-driven.” ― Stephen King, On Writing
  5. Give us characters we care about. The Horror of It All by Tim Waggoner
  6. Write horror for the senses –  7 Tips to Writing Horror
  7. Never state an horror when it can be suggested.” — H.P. Lovecraft
  8. Create and maintain suspense – How to Write Today’s Horror David Taylor
  9. “If you run out of ideas follow the road; you’ll get there”  ― Edgar Allan Poe
  10.  “….my advice to young writers stuck on a scene is to stop worrying about your arteries and give your wheel-spinning imagination what it needs to find traction: a tasty shot of fat and sugar.” Dean Koontz


Jo-Anne’s Ten tips for writing romance

Many people think romance writing is a bit like knitting.

There’s a pattern to follow and, even if you’re a bit clumsy at first, you can knock off a finished product in a few afternoons while the kids are out playing.

If you have approached romance writing with a swagger and a shrug, with the idea that “everyone knows” it’s easy as pie, you’ll have discovered the error of your ways.

And if so, you may have been left with the dejected feeling of having failed at something you thought would be a cinch. Being published seems the most remote dream.

Neither attitude is realistic.

Writing romance is hard work. Genre fiction isn’t easier than other forms of story-telling. But it’s not a mysterious process.

Here are my ten most important tips to make you a successful Romance writer. If you can make each of these work for you, you’ll have a humdinger of a romance.

Tip One: Believe in love – If you write romance, you need to believe in your story – and that true love is possible.

You can’t write romance with your tongue in your cheek. It’s too obvious that you don’t mean it. Lovers of romance read with their hearts. They become emotionally involved, immersed in the story you’re telling them. If you don’t believe it yourself, neither will they.

Tip Two: Believe in your readers. They’re not stupid. Most romance readers have some college education and many are educated professionals. Most work outside the home part or full-time.

They read for escapism – and for the emotional intensity. Don’t talk down to them.

Tip Three: Create strong characters. Romantic stories are character-based. We need to identify with them if we are to care what happens to them.

Let them have depth, and some quirks and contradictions. People aren’t one-dimensional, nor are they stereotypes. Neither should your characters be.

Tip Four: Create conflict. Something must keep your characters apart, while they are irresistably drawn to each other. You can’t just throw in a few arguments and misunderstandings. We must wonder how they’ll ever be together.

Conflict can’t be intractible. They can’t be so unpleasant that we worry about them being together in the end.

But neither can you construct a Romance based on two people meeting, having a few happy times together – walking on the beach, going out with his friends (who all like her), meeting his mother (who approves) and finally tying the knot. What’s there to keep us reading?

Tip Five: Write in strong scenes. We want the story told in a series of tangible scenes that show us what’s happening to them. Each should have a dramatic proposition that carries the story forward and develops your characters.

Don’t tell us what happened between them. Place us right inside the scene, so that we can see and hear it for ourselves.

Tip Six: Show, don’t tell. In other words, don’t include paragraphs and paragraphs of exposition. Show what your characters are like, don’t tell us. Don’t tell us she’s kind. Show us her kindness, and his inability to trust – through what they say and do, and how other characters relate to them

Tip Seven: Give them a believable setting. You must know it well in order to write it. You need to know far more than will ever appear in your book. But knowing the details gives you the confidence to write with authority.

Don’t get carried away by your research and write long details just for the sake of showing it off. Research is like good make-up. It should make you look better, but you shouldn’t be aware of it.

Tip Eight: Every detail has a job to do. Every description, every subsidiary character, every scene, must take the story forward or develop your main characters further.

Tip Nine: Write believable dialogue. This is what people first notice about a book. If the dialogue rings true, it brings pace and energy to a story. It helps you “show”, rather than tell what your characters are like.

Dialogue should be the appearance of real speech. But if you’ve ever recorded people speaking, you’ll see they do a lot of repeating and um-ing and ah-ing.

The challenge for the writer is to give the appearance of real speech, without its drawbacks. Allow people to interrupt each other, have them not finish their sentences, but don’t let them go on long, circuitous repetitions.

Tip Ten: Edit well. You can fix almost anything in the rewrite. Switch from your writer persona, who loves every word, to a more critical editor. Look at every scene, character and detail. Does it take the story forward. Be ruthless.

Cut adjectives and look for the dreaded sagging middle. If things sag in the middle, look for scenes where nothing much happens. Kill them or make sure something happens that will move your story along.

They’re easy to say, but harder to adhere to. I guarantee, though, that if you can make these points work for you, you’ll have a publishable Romance, full of love, conflict and suspense.


JT Lawrence’s tips for writers

• These things are essential: a thick skin and a vulnerable heart.

•  Start with short stories. They hurt less in every way.

•  Write for money and/or coffee. They fuel both your output and your need for validation.

•  Write every day. Keep count. That is where the violet-blood-pumping magic happens.

•  Your voice is Your Thing: your Golden Snitch, your Precious. Use it wisely and with confidence. No one else can do it better than you.

JT Lawrence is an author, playwright and bookdealer based in Parkhurst, Johannesburg

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