How to Write a Good Story (6 Tips for Aspiring Authors)

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Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Reading a good story isn’t just entertaining; it can be a powerful, profound, even life-changing experience. We become emotionally attached to the characters, discover insights of our own human experience, and often end up with a “book hangover” for a few days after we finish (or is that just me?).

But as an aspiring author, how do you take a story idea and actually write a good story that evokes all of the above? I’ve got some insight on how to navigate the creative writing process to produce a good story that captivates your audience. There’s no precise formula to apply when considering how to write a good story, but understanding essential story elements can help you tell a tale that capture’s a reader’s attention.

Fundamentals of a good story

At the heart of every great story are the fundamentals, or building blocks, that create its foundation. Characters, plot, and setting all work together to bring your story to life. Character development is crucial to help your readers feel connected, while the setting helps the reader envision what’s going on and places them in the story.

Generally speaking, the content (or plot) of your story should involve elements such as conflict, tension, suspense, and perhaps some controversy. When you have well-developed characters, a defined setting, and a solid plot line, you’ve got the basis for a great story.

1. Storytelling techniques

When it comes to storytelling techniques, foreshadowing and flashbacks are some of the elements that hook readers and make the story an entire experience.

Foreshadowing involves subtly hinting at what’s to come in the story, creating anticipation within the reader. Sometimes, authors make foreshadowing pretty obvious, on purpose; while other times, the reader will experience a full-circle moment without having seen it coming. Symbols, imagery, or dialogue can all serve as elements of foreshadowing.

Flashbacks, on the other hand, bring readers to a past situation within the story that will provide insight to a specific character or plot point. Perhaps the character recalls something from their past that another character said and the plot thickens or the character has a dream about a past situation that propels the narrative.

2. Engaging, memorable characters

A good story typically hinges on engaging, complex, and memorable characters, and usually, these characters are pretty relatable, too. Focusing on character development in your story is a surefire way to captivate readers. A well-thought-out character arc — the transformation characters go through in a story — gives your protagonists and antagonists depth and, in turn, transforms your readers’ perspective.

Your characters should convey varying degrees of humanness (even if they’re not human!). They should have strengths, weaknesses, flaws, and quirks. Perhaps they have a bad habit or speak in a certain dialect. Additionally, your main character (and others, too) should move through a transition — their character arc — that tracks their growth and development.

Think about some of your favorite characters in stories you’ve read and list some of your favorite aspects of their personalities. What gave them depth? What made them relatable? Add some of these elements to your own characters and your story as a whole.

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3. Plot development

Having a well-developed plot includes having a consistent throughline— maybe it’s the problem your narrative is attempting to solve. From beginning to end, you want to make sure your plot always comes back to the throughline.

Of course, there can be plot twists throughout, but having one over-arching, central issue the story is working to resolve helps keep readers engaged and furthers the plot. You’ll also want to make sure the pacing of the plot makes sense and accelerates when there’s action and urgency and slows when there’s a need to develop a plot point or dive into your characters. This push and pull in your plot development and pacing makes for a more interesting and captivating read.

4. Climax and resolution

The climax of your story is the moment when all the suspense and tension, or the rising action, culminates. It typically serves as the turning point of the story, where the main character faces the conflict and must find the resolution.

If the climax is there to have an impact on the reader, the resolution gives your reader closure. Viewed through the lens of your story structure, this is where the many of the questions raised in the book have been answered, the action has abated, and now it’s up to you to either tie up loose ends, leave threads untangled, or to leave the future of characters up for interpretation.

5. Dialogue

Just like with a play, you can tell an entire story through character dialogue — if the dialogue is created to advance the plot. Mastering the dialogue in story writing helps move the narrative forward, creates more developed and interesting characters, and evokes more emotion from your reader. Good dialogue an excellent way to “show” not “tell” the action and suspense in your story.

6. Edit and polish (and edit…)

You can have the greatest plot twists, most suspenseful rising action, and incredibly well-developed characters, but misspellings, inconsistencies, and glaring grammar errors will take your reader out of the narrative and their suspension of disbelief. Do yourself and your reader a favor and work with a professional editor to ensure any errors are addressed before your book hits the shelves.

Writing a good story is truly an art. It combines imagination and structure, decision-making and creativity, and weaves it all together to create an experience your readers will be thinking about long after they’ve read the last page.

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Related Posts
Want to Write a Great Story? You Need to Raise the Stakes.
How to Write Characters Who Aren’t Like You
The Importance of Setting in Your Story
How Will You Build Suspense in Your Story?
How to Harness the Power of Foreshadowing


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