For those of you who wish to write a story but for whatever reason feel intimidated to start, here’s some tips for you. Keep in mind this is for short story or novel writing. Other types of writing are a different story. (no pun inten….okay, maybe a little.)
First off, write it down exactly how it comes out of your head. Don’t try to “write good” and use fancy or poetic language. Some people naturally write like that and good for them, but if like me you don’t, then you need to write it as naturally as you can. This not only helps the fluidity of your writing but it also makes the voice of your writing your own. No one else thinks the same way you do and your writing will sound like you and thus be unique.
Second. Write the story as clearly as you can. Don’t go confuse the reader. If the reader doesn’t know what’s going on, they won’t care and if they don’t care, then you’ve failed as a story teller. Let the events unfold. Don’t rush. If something sudden happens, make sure the readers are fully aware of what’s going on. I don’t mean remove all mystery, I mean, make sure the readers know that something out of the ordinary is happening and let us have some time to realize it is out of the ordinary. Don’t have tangents where the story goes off into flash backs and flash sideways that have no purpose. Tell the story A. B. C. D. Not Z. U.G. T.A.
Third. don’t bore the reader, don’t go off on huge blocks of exposition. Sometimes its unavoidable, but try to break it up at least. Fit it into dialogue so it sounds natural. Don’t have the characters ask things they should already know. “Well, as you know Bill, the gravity fluxuation of the…” That’s what they did in the 50’s sci-fi and it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. When you start a chapter, especially the first one, tell us immediately who’s who and where they are. If we don’t know who the characters are, we simply won’t care. Fail. Unlike Charles Dickens, you’re not being paid by the word. We don’t need pages of description about the room the characters are in. However, we don’t want our characters standing in a white, plain room like they’re stuck in a scene from 2001. (great movie btw.) Tell enough and move on.
Fourth. Point of view. The two biggies are ‘First Person’ and ‘Third Person limited.’ First person has the benefit of allowing the reader to be immediately connected with the character. The character’s voice is the narrator and he/she is telling their own story. This can be great for strong characters. (See; Monster Hunter International.) My preferred method is Third Person Limited where the narrator knows what the characters know and nothing else. We don’t see beyond what the character sees and we don’t read the thoughts of other characters. Here’s an example:
She quickly closed the tiny hatch she wasn’t supposed to be looking out of and acted as if she had been straightening the crucifix that hung on the door.
Sister Elena walked up to her holding a roll of cloth uncleverly hidden in a dirty sheet. She went back too looking out of the hatch. If there was one nun in the entire monastery that wouldn’t care about breaking a few rules, it was Elena. Perhaps that was why they were such good friends.
Fifth. Rules of your world. Unless you’re writing realist fiction, we need to understand the rules of the world you’ve created. If its magic, we need to know how it works and above all, it needs to be consistent. You can get away with anything like flying cyborg Medusas, if you let us know the rules and keep it consistent. The “magic” must seem natural and ‘realistic’ to that world. If for example, once our flying cyborg Medusa has been established that she can only fly 100mph and she has one laser gun built into her arm, we can’t have her suddenly teleporting like a ninja or shooting missiles she didn’t have before. At that point the reader will break from the connection to the story and wonder “WTF?”
Sixth. Write. There’s no way to get better unless you actually do it. If you want to write you have to glue your backside into the chair and write. Write everyday. Even if its just a page or a paragraph, write something everyday. If you’re working on a story, this is even more important because you have to keep the story fresh in your mind in order to keep the momentum going. Also, read. If you want to write, you have to make time to read. Reading will let you see ways of doing things you wouldn’t have otherwise.