By: Joe Abercrombie
Character A goes to location B, takes action C, and achieves event D. This sentence might have the minimal elements of a plot, but it’s not a story. A story grabs you, pulls you in. A story has ups and downs, a plot that twists and turns, it has surprises and drama, it has action and heart. It’s easy for anyone to come up with a basic outline for a story, a vague summary of events where good triumphs over evil, but when it comes to writing it, to actually
telling the story, there’s so much more to it.
It’s not enough to cast your characters and have them make a beeline for whatever quest they’re set on. That kind of straight line plotting leads to bland and generic storylines. Nothing should ever be that simple in a book, at least not if you want to keep people interested. The story should grow organically as you write it, branching out through the world of the novel. The line of your story arc can go off in odd tangents, twisting and warping into brand new shapes, so long as it doesn’t spoil the pacing. The key skill is to try and make every part of the story interesting, to never let a chapter or scene be dismissed as “filler,” you can tell the great writers by the way they make a character going to get coffee something you want to read.
The easiest way to liven up a story or scene is to add conflict, it can be as simple as having your hero squabble with a stubborn shopkeeper over prices, or as epic as two great armies clashing. A bloody clash will always have an impact, but that stubborn shopkeeper with the quirk about selling his last pair of travelling boots also has the potential to stick with the reader and provide a moment of levity. It doesn’t even have to be an external conflict; it might be within the mind of your characters, in the form of phobias or neuroses. A writer can make even a seemingly pedestrian task into a riveting mini story.
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