Want to Write a Good Story?

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Every writer has heard the question many times: Where do you get your ideas? The answer from most of them is almost always the same as it is for me …

Everywhere.

Many aspiring writers believe they need to wait for a sudden flash of inspiration to write well but, in truth, generating ideas is more of a process than an epiphany.

You aren’t going to be standing in the shower, humming to yourself, with hot, soapy water cascading over your shoulders when, suddenly, serendipity smiles and you have a flash of unmitigated brilliance.

It’s the idea to end all ideas, and you’re certain you’re a genius!

Except, when you get home after a long day and a treacherous commute, the muse has abandoned you, and you can’t seem to recall that moment of morning insight.

Surely, it’ll come back once you’ve had some time to unwind, right?

If you’re like most people, myself included, there’s a good possibility it won’t. Ideas are notoriously elusive and hard to hold on to.

Jot Things Down
It may seem old-fashioned in the electronic age, but keeping a pen-and-paper notebook nearby has advantages. For starters, writing in longhand boosts memory, making your ideas seem more real and encouraging you to actually do something about them.

If you’re old school, like me, the act of writing things down will also remind you to focus and be in the moment. And that’s important. The best writers are also keen observers.

Revisit Your Ideas
The best method for storing your ideas is one that encourages you not only to keep them, but to use them. Keeping track of them is only useful if you have a plan to come back and put the best ones to use.

Finding what works best for you will probably involve trial and error. Some creatives have been known to use a pen to scrawl a brilliant idea on a napkin or even the back of their hand.

Maybe, if you’re older than three, you’re eccentric enough to even get away with writing on the wall.

Pay Attention
Knowing how to write a good story is a powerful skill. The human mind is drawn to stories. Recite a laundry list of events from your day at work and our eyes glaze over. But tell us how the unarmed local constable heroically saved the day by stopping the crazed bank robber with some duct tape and a paper clip and we’re riveted.

You can learn to do this by paying attention to what’s going on around you. Those snippets of conversation you overheard at dinner; the car you witnessed going the wrong way down the freeway during rush hour; the elderly man trudging down a dark alley, repeatedly calling a woman’s name, could all spark a story.

Although some of the events you describe may be extraordinary, they don’t have to be. They just have to be interesting.

Ask “What If?”
Events aren’t necessarily stories unto themselves, but they can germinate fabulous stories when the writer plants the seeds by asking questions, and letting the characters respond.

What if the car you witnessed heading the wrong way down the freeway at rush hour was driven by a pregnant woman in labor who needed the fastest route to the hospital?

What if the elderly man calling out in the dark alley was a forgetful widower looking for his deceased wife?

One of the primary questions I always ask to get a story started is exactly that …

“What if?”

Remember
Stories are not just sequences of random events … they have to go somewhere. Any good story begins with a character who wants something. The story describes the character’s journey toward getting what he or she wants … or maybe not.

Not everyone gets his heart’s desire and stories, after all, don’t have to have happy endings, only acceptable ones.

Keep your character’s struggle to get something he desperately wants in mind as you build your story framework, and watch your character’s story come alive.

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On September 18, 2018, I’ll be attending the Freelance Writer’s Marketplace Group at the Barnes & Noble store in Rochester Hills. I wrote in the last blog about the things you need for a book-signing. Next month, I get to practice what I preach. I’ll be signing books at Lake Orion High School on October 13, and again at the Books & Authors Event at Leon & Lulu in Clawson on October 28. I’ll also be attending the fabulous Rochester Writers’ Conference at Oakland University on October 20. If you never attend any other conference, you should try to go to this one.

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Gentle Readers, my books have all garnered some terrific reviews. You can see all of them by using the Amazon link below. Check them out. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

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You’re invited to visit my author’s website, BROKEN GLASS to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” on The Authors Show. You can also like my Book of Face page, find me on Goodreads, or follow my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.

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Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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4 Responses to “Want to Write a Good Story?”

  1. Mary Hackstock Says:

    Always interesting! Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. hellojenbug Says:

    My story is a “what was.” I think about it all the time. I do jot things down. I have a list of memories that I need to make sure come up in the story before it’s finished and edited. Good post Ron.

    Liked by 1 person

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