Tips for writing a story

We all know that writing can be fun, rewarding… and frustrating. If you want to write a story but aren’t sure where to start, look for what has worked well for others. Even if you want to forge a new path in creative writing, it will probably be easier if you first master the basics.

Write about what you know

It’s always easiest to write about what you know. One of the things that makes stories so interesting and engaging is the author’s insight into the characters and their unique perspectives. We can generally “get inside the head” of our characters better if they are based on the kind of people we have known well and interacted with. Of course we can create characters who are very different from anyone we know, or characters who come from the past or the future and are situated in environments that are unfamiliar to us. But that requires a great deal more research and creative thinking.

If you are new to fiction writing or feeling stuck, try writing about situations and interactions that you know well. You may think your life activities are pretty mundane, but if you really think about it you probably know all kinds of quirky people and have had many interesting and unusual encounters just in your day-to-day life.

The three act structure

Use tried-and-true methods of getting people interested in and keeping them engaged with your story. In a classic three act structure, the first act introduces the main characters and ends with a disaster that changes the main character and determines the course they will have to take throughout the story. The second act is the longest, and involves a series of minor setbacks and a disaster even worse than first. The third act contains — you guessed it — an even bigger disaster still.

Combining the three act structure with the always popular hero’s journey story type usually sets the foundation for success. It may not be innovative in form, but there’s still plenty of room for creativity within this structure. Star Wars and Harry Potter are good examples of hero’s journey stories.

Keep reading and writing

No matter what techniques or writing exercises you use, the most important thing is to keep learning and practicing. Read a lot, both to actively learn from and passively absorb good writing. Most importantly, keep writing. Write as consistently as you can, and you will see great progress over time.