Here are some of the more important questions you should be asking yourself when constructing your story. The advice presented here is pertinent for any type of writing whether a short story, screenplay, or a novel.
This is a thumbnail of your story, what amounts to a brief encapsulation of not only the idea, with all the essential ingredients, like a beginning a middle and an ending, but also touching on the characters and their motivations/conflicts/goals. This also helps you to focus on the main and salient points of the story and characters.
Familiarize yourself as much as possible with the history of your characters. Live, breath and be on intimate terms with them, daily, as you write. Otherwise the reader will not believe in them. They must be as real as your friends, your family, or your neighbours.
- Is each chapter focused on a ‘plot line’, or are there subplots?
- Who, if anyone, is the work aimed at? What age range, social level, educational level, sex?
- Are there any themes or aspects of character growth that occur throughout the course of the work?
The characters must strive to achieve something, or to avoid something. Obstacles and sabotaging your character helps bring them to life; you have to determine what your character wants, and, how far she’ll go to achieve it. And just as importantly how far someone else will go in trying to stop them.
Conflict, Emotion & Desires
You don’t just tell a story, you must also drive the story. For it to succeed nothing drives a story better than conflict and emotion. A chapter should be made up of any number of things. So to make them work, just like the novel as a whole, they should have a beginning, middle and that all-important end. Move the driving forces of your chapter as you would the driving forces of your whole novel. Think, plan, prepare. Then execute. Move one chapter into another leaving the reader hungry for more.
The quality of passion
Stories should, for the most part, matter to you. Always try to incorporate something that is of particular interest to you into the story line. Fire and intensity can be all the difference between something mediocre and something dynamic.
- Always ask yourself questions as to where something/someone is going to see if everything follows through.
- Think story development as well as character development.
- Keep your lead characters active and interesting.
- Don’t make all your characters sound the same – try and diversify! (See: Character Development)
- Details are always important.
- Avoid false jeopardy, contrivance, and convenience.
- If you get your character into difficulty you must also give her the means to get out of it.
- Try and give each chapter a focus and or action, even if it’s downbeat.
- Provide your story with moments of emotion and or revelation, especially for the main character—readers want someone they can identify with.