Writing Tip: How to Make any Story Good

Writing TipLast week while I was cooking supper, my thirteen-year-old son walked into the kitchen and asked, “Do you know what makes a movie good?”

I looked up from peeling potatoes, and the expression on his face told me it was a rhetorical question. He didn’t want to know what I thought; he wanted to tell me what he thought made a movie good.

My son is a Marvel fanatic. He’s watched them all: Captain America, Hulk, Thor and, his favourite, Iron Man. He’s also seen Guardians of the Galaxy multiple times. He’s analysed them, critiqued them and guessed at the story line. Immediately after watching a movie or Agents of Shield (the TV show connecting with the movies), we know to expect his mind—travelling at light speed—to start churning ideas, and his mouth—also travelling at light speed—to start sharing them.

So when he asked me a question like, “Do you know what makes a movie good?” I start thinking about the action, the story line and the puns. After I provided the wrong answering, he said, “No,” and took a seat. I knew I was in for a long-winded explanation.

What makes a story good“The best movies,” he said, “are the ones where everything the characters fear will happen, happens.” He smirked. “We can’t let Ronan get the orb. What happens? Ronan gets the orb.”

(Guardians of the Galaxy: The orb holds the power stone, and Ronan is the bad guy.)

He continued. “We can’t let Ronan get on the ground.”

(If Ronan reaches the planet Xandar and is able to touch the orb to the ground, everything will be destroyed.)

He smiles. “Ronan gets on the ground. See, it’s gotta happen that way.” He got up and left, leaving his wisdom for me to mull over.

Scattered Stones 12aI agreed quickly that he was right. Whatever the characters feared most had to happen. Then, as writers, we have to figure out how they either save themselves or the world in which they live. Through this action, the characters grow and become more interesting to readers.

After hearing this simple but great plot path, I wondered about my own stories. Did I apply this philosophy, which in turn—if I did it right—would make a story good?

I can’t give examples of this happening in my novels without giving away spoilers, but when I think about the fantasy novel I’m editing right now—Scattered Stones—I realise I have done this: several things the characters feared happening, happened. Yeah!

What about you? Think about your story. What does your main character fear will happen? Does it?

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12 thoughts on “Writing Tip: How to Make any Story Good

    • Thanks, Diana. While editing today, I thought about this in my story, and…I did it without realising it. The biggest fears come true along with several smaller ones.

      Thanks for visiting, and for leaving a comment.

    • I agree, Pat. There should always be foreshadowing. It can’t just leap at the reader without some type of leading up to it. It doesn’t have to be obvious foreshadowing, but something, so when the reader looks back, they think, “I didn’t see that was going to happen, but I can see where it was leading to this point.”

      Thanks for visiting, Pat, and for leaving a comment.

    • Thanks, Colline. He is a whipper-snapper, that son of mine. He’ll be happy to know others think his idea is good; he already knows I think it’s good.

      Thanks for visiting, and for leaving a comment.

    • I think it all depends on the reader; some want constant action, others want a lull. In Marvel, it works because the audience expects it. In novels–mine anyways–I think there’s a happy balance. A character might fear a dozen things; they all shouldn’t happen. I think if you target the biggest fear and let that happen, the rest don’t matter so much. Then again, if their biggest fear is dying, then you can’t always make that happen. The story would end there.

      Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

    • Of my three kids, if I had to guess who would be a writer, it would be him. He wrote his first short story (only about 200 words long) when he was six. He’s the one who illustrated “The Farmer and His Animals” with his friend Ben in grade five. He thinks about story lines, creates his own for the shows he watches and comments on my writing. He’s a funny guy who has no problem expressing his opinion–whether I want it or not. lol Thanks for visiting, Darlene.

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