Continue to article content All presidents lie.
I left for work. So then, what is a story? Centuries ago, Aristotle noted in his book Poetics that while a story does have a beginning, a middle and an ending, the beginning is not simply the first event in a series of three, but rather the emotionally engaging originating event. The middle is the natural and causally related consequence, and the end is the inevitable conclusive event.
In other words, stories have an origination, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution. But at its most basic level, a story is a transformation unveiled—either the transformation of a situation or, most commonly, the transformation of a character.
Simply put, you do not have a story until something goes wrong. At its heart, a story is about a person dealing with tension, and tension is created by unfulfilled desire.
Without forces of antagonism, without setbacks, without a crisis event that initiates the action, you have no story. The secret, then, to writing a story that draws readers in and keeps them turning pages is not to make more and more things happen to a character, and especially not to follow some preordained plot formula or novel-writing template.
Instead, the key to writing better stories is to focus on creating more and more tension as your story unfolds.
Understanding the fundamentals at the heart of all good stories will help you tell your own stories better—and sell more of them, too.
You mix together certain ingredients in a specific order and end up with a product that is uniquely different than any individual ingredient. In the process of mixing and then baking the cake, these ingredients are transformed into something delicious. In essence, you want to set reader expectations and reveal a portrait of the main character by giving readers a glimpse of her normal life.
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If your protagonist is a detective, we want to see him at a crime scene. Something will soon rock the boat and he will be altered forever. The story might begin while your protagonist is depressed, hopeless, grieving or trapped in a sinking submarine.
Which brings us to the second ingredient. Typically, your protagonist will have the harmony of both his external world and his internal world upset by the crisis that initiates the story. One of these two imbalances might have happened before the beginning of the story, but usually at least one will occur on the page for your readers to experience with your protagonist, and the interplay of these two dynamics will drive the story forward.
Mythic, fantasy and science-fiction novels often follow this pattern. In crime fiction, the crisis might be a new assignment to a seemingly unsolvable case. In romance, the crisis might be undergoing a divorce or breaking off an engagement. In each case, though, life is changed and it will never be the same again.
Larry finds out his cancer is terminal. Whatever it is, the normal life of the character is forever altered, and she is forced to deal with the difficulties that this crisis brings. There are two primary ways to introduce a crisis into your story.
Either begin the story by letting your character have what he desires most and then ripping it away, or by denying him what he desires most and then dangling it in front of him.
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People haven’t stopped buying things, . Forget three-act structures, formulas for plot, and even beginnings, middles and ends. Write better stories by propelling your protagonist through a .
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On Wednesday, after the announcement that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo would not be indicted for killing Eric Garner, the NAACP's Legal Defense Fund Twitter posted a series of tweets naming 76 men.
I remain the official Senior Maverick for Wired, a magazine I helped co-found 25 years ago. I do one article for Wired per year. My most recent published writings are listed here, in chronological order. My newest book, The Inevitable, a New York Times bestseller, is now available in paperback.