Hints & Tips
Ten Steps To Creating an Awesome Story – Plus a Couple More with Candice Scott
- Imagine. Imagination is the most important part of a story. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to do everything ‘right’ we forget to just ‘write.’ Let your mind wander and go crazy with ideas. One is sure to become the beginning of a story.
- Ingredients. You can’t make a cake rise without the right ingredients. You don’t need much to start a story but you do need a character, a setting and a humungous problem to solve.
- What’s Your Problem? Remember that stories are all about problem solving. If your character isn’t faced with a problem, there’s no story.
- Make Life Tough. Don’t make life too easy for your character. Not only should your character’s problem be hard to solve, there should be plenty of obstacles to make this even more difficult along the way.
- Chuck out the clichés. Have you heard what you’ve written said before? Rewrite it in a new and interesting way that suits your story and the characters in it.
- Fleshing it out. Have fun with descriptive words. Play around with adverbs and adjectives. It’ll make your writing more exciting and will help sort out Tip 5 problems.
- Five senses, or six? Use your senses. Sometimes we forget there are five senses. Try and include more than just one. Besides what your character sees, think about what he/she can hear, smell, taste and touch. I add a sixth sense to this – instinct. Allow your character to follow a ‘gut feeling’ sometimes. You might be amazed what ends up happening in your story.
- Find out stuff. You don’t have to write what you know, but you have to know what you write. Most stories need some research. I knew nothing about space when I started writing my space adventure stories that will be published soon. I didn’t even know the order of the planets. BUT I read lots, spoke to lots of ‘spacey’ people and watched a lot of DVDs.
- Experiment. Try different things. Write with a pen, type on a laptop, keep a journal, create a scrapbook, read some short stories, read a fantasy, write a mystery, write something funny.
- Ditch the structure. Forget about story structure for a while and write whatever comes to you. If you get stuck, cause some more trouble for your character and see how he or she gets out of it.
- Think you’re finished? Think again. The big job comes after you’ve finished writing your story. Reread it, rewrite it, read it aloud to your friends, your family, your pet dog, anyone who will listen. By hearing it read you’ll be amazed how easily you notice any mistakes and pick up things that could be changed to make it even better.
- Writing is fun. Have fun! If you enjoy what you’re writing, chances are people will enjoy reading your stories.
11 Tips for Writing Suspense
- Hook The Audience.
Begin with the mystery or in the middle of the action. Descriptions of places and people comes later.
- Don’t explain everything.
We only know what the character knows. If she hears a sound outside, is petrified and can’t investigate, then we too have no idea what is going on. Too much detail – an ‘information dump’ – kills suspense.
A creepy setting leads naturally to a creepy story. Think about where you might make the action happen.
Keep the story rattling along, but allow regular ‘breathing’ times for readers. Reveal information a little at a time, not all at once. Keep the reader following to find out what happens.
- Red herrings.
These are false, but believable clues that lead to dead ends. Too many are annoying, but a few – where the character and the reader are misled – are good.
- Time is short.
Crank up the urgency. The hero must act within a short time frame or all will be lost.
- End chapters on a cliffhanger.
This is easy to do if you write a scene, just cut it in the middle. That cut becomes the chapter end. Readers should be eager to turn the page.
- Show don’t tell.
We read, therefore we are moderately intelligent. Flatter us. Let us into the story using the human senses, body language, feelings, tone of voice etc.
- Create a villain that is a real match for the hero.
The danger must be real.
- Never make it easy for your character.
Throw dilemmas and complications at them constantly.
- Be unpredictable.
News writing for beginners
A news story gives readers the facts of an event. It is very different from narrative writing because the most important information is contained in the first sentence. The details and less important information come later in the story. A news story does not rely on sophisticated language, metaphors or similes to tell the story. It must be simple and clear.
Here’s how to write a news story:
- Gather all of your information before you start writing the story. You will need to know:
- What happened
- Where it happened
- Who was involved
- When it happened
- Why it happened
- How it happened
- A news story starts with a lead. This sentence contains the most newsworthy information in the story and draws the audience in. It answers some of the above questions but not all of them. The news reporter must therefore make a decision about which fact is most important to the audience. Ask yourself what is new, unusual or interesting about the event you are reporting on. Keep the lead clear and simple.
- A news story flows from the most important facts to the least important information. This is very different from narrative writing that builds to a climax. The audience should have answers to all of the above questions by the end of the news story.
- News reporters interview experts, officials, witnesses and other people to gather information for their stories. These people are quoted in a news story to back up the information and to make the news story more interesting. Quotes must be attributed so the reader knows who is speaking. The attribution goes at the end of the first sentence of the quote. (“I have never seen anyone eat thirty seven eggs for lunch before,” Great State School teacher Julius Stout said. “I’d say we’ve broken a record.”)
- Not all sources are reliable. People have all sorts of reasons for hiding or distorting the truth. Sometimes they just have their facts wrong. Use at least two sources to confirm information.
- Balance your story by including opinions from both sides of the story. If someone is calling for a vacant block to be turned into a skate park, there are bound to be others who don’t want it. Make sure you include all relevant views.
- Read your story aloud to make sure the story flows well. Simple sentence structure is essential and never use a complicated word when a shorter one will do.
Got a story to tell? Submit your breaking news stories to the SRC online writing competition Read All About It. Julie Fison has contributed three stories to this summer’s edition of the Summer Reading Club online news and has generously donated copies of her Hazard River Series, Snake Surprise and Shark Frenzy as book prizes! Check it out now.
How to Construct the Perfect Mystery
So you want to write a mystery story?
Before you start, before you even think of picking up a pencil and a notepad, first do me this one thing. Think of it as a test. Ready? All right, let’s begin.
Stick your hand in your ear. That’s it. Nice and deep. As far as you can jam it in there. All that wax should ease the trip in. Right up to the wrist if it doesn’t cause a nosebleed. Comfy? Good. Open your hand as far as it can go. Nice and wide. That’s the way. Now I want you to grab as big a chunk of your brain as you can possibly fit in your fingers. Careful though. This is your brain we’re talking about. You may need it again sometime. Got a good-sized bit? Excellent. Now this is the hard part: I want you to twist that brain as hard as you can to the left. No. To your left. That’s the way. Twist! Hard!
Terrific. If you’ve managed to get this far and your left leg is not twitching uncontrollably you probably have the makings of a good mystery writer. Because when you write a mystery you are creating a brain-bending puzzle that has to lead the reader though a baffling series of seemingly random clues that eventually builds to a jaw-dropping climax that leaves them wide-eyed and breathless.
Your aim is to have a twist in the tale that is so unpredictable that the reader could not possibly see it coming but at the same time, once the twist has been revealed, be so obvious that they are kicking themselves that they didn’t realise it all along. And that takes some twisted thinking.
My advice is to work backwards. Think of a diabolically clever ending to a story. That is your destination.
Now trail backwards from that point, unspooling strands of a narrative that get twisted and tangled along the way, but always with the end point in mind.
Take one of the strands as your starting point and begin. Read how other mystery writers do it.
On summer holidays I used to love reading Agatha Christie books at my grandmother’s house; she is the master of the murder mystery (Agatha Christie that is, not my grandmother). See how she constructs her stories, how she places her characters in situations, leads the reader up false trails and eventually reveals the killer. It’s gripping stuff.
Ready to start? Okay, let go of your brain, pick up a pencil and get stuck in!