Elements to a Good Story
When you read a good book, are told a compelling story, or watch an incredible movie, you know it. But what constitutes a great story? What makes you keep flipping the pages? I would say that there are five main attributes to a good story.
The first of the important attributes is characters that the reader cares about. Characters are the driving force of a story, and the reader has to care enough about them to want to watch them on their journey. If you pick up a book and all the characters are bland, static, and boring, you aren’t going to keep reading, and I don’t blame you. You need compelling characters.
Secondly, an intriguing problem that the characters face is a must have. This also kind of corresponds with the inciting incident (ie the thing that kick starts the characters journey). What would The Giver be without Jonas being picked to be the receiver and all of the problems that come with it? A story needs something that the character needs to overcome, preferably learning something or doing interesting things in the process.
Thirdly, constant tension and change is needed (which kind of goes along with my second point). I’ve heard two pieces of advice that I have come to adopt as something I constantly think about when writing, “There needs to be a death in every scene” and “If your scene is boring, make a guy with a gun walk through the door”. The one about a guy coming through the door with a gun doesn’t have to be literal, but the idea about inserting a character that would cause tension is a great thing to do if your scene needs a little spice. Nevertheless, readers will stop reading if it gets boring. This is obvious. The way to combat that is tension and change.
Coming in fourth is building towards a climax and fulfilling your promises. The climax is the most intense and fun part of the story; it’s when everything comes together and everything you’ve been waiting for finally happens. It’s when there’s so much tension that you think you’re going to snap like a rubber band. It’s necessary. If you haven’t been building your story towards a big, climactic moment, you might want to change that. Or, even worse, if you have been building towards that but you don’t deliver, your readers will feel like they’ve been cheated and robbed. You don’t want that.
Lastly, writing with precision and description is a given. When I say this, I mean from sentence to sentence it makes sense and gives you a little bit of insight into either the characters, the plot, or a necessary part of the setting. This skill comes with time, but if you try to use good writing techniques it will elevate your writing and make it much more professional and impactful, which is necessary for a great novel.
Sneak peak: next post will be about little things that slowly kill your novel.