How to Write Compelling Stories

Wow. Has it really been a month? This is the last post of this series (and is probably way to big a subject for a single blog post) and, man, was I not looking forward to writing it. But it’s been promised, so time to don the blindfold, smoke the last cigarette, and face the music. Standard Disclaimer: You know the drill by this point.

What makes a story compelling? It’s the big question right? Is it characters? Themes? Setting? Dialogue? Or some mystical uncapturable Zen concept?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes.

The problem with writing compelling stories is that different people are compelled by different things. Some people love to travel and experience different cultures and for them the setting might be what makes your story interesting to them. Other people find psychology interesting and enjoy seeing how people react in different situations and deal with the various foibles of life, so your characters are what draw them in. Some people just want to escape to a different world where their daydreams of escaping a cubicle are fully realized from the comfort of their armchair, so it’s the whole package they find compelling.

Basically, you can’t please everyone. If you try, you will drive yourself crazy and fail miserably.

Frustrating ain’t it?

Ready for the good news? You don’t have to please everybody. Take a second and think about how many people there are in the world. When was the last time you went out during a Black Friday Sale? Why not? Too many damn people, right?! This is actually a good thing, because there are enough people that even when you only are pleasing 15% of them, that’s a huge number of individuals.

So how do you get your 15%? Write compelling characters, write compelling dialogues, write interesting scenes (any of these sound familiar 😉 Don’t overtly manipulate your plots to make things go the way you think they should, practice letting your story flow realistically so your readers can immerse themselves in the story.

But in the end, the real trick is to keep writing. Keep telling stories you are passionate about. If you need a break, throw some reading in there. Then keep writing. It takes a lot of time and a lot of practice but you know what all these best-selling authors have in common?

They never quit writing.

So don’t you quit either.

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2 responses to “How to Write Compelling Stories

  1. I used to think I could find my story by simply writing. Armed with only a seedling of an idea, I’d write about 30 pages—the first act—and get stuck. I usually knew how I wanted the story to end, so I’d write the last 10 pages. But the middle was a mess. I couldn’t figure out how to get my hero from point A to Z in a logical and compelling fashion.

    • The dreaded middle. Jim Butcher has a fairly detailed post with advice on how to get through the middle, with some tips and tricks but in the end you have to write through it. Ususally it will take longer than you want and you wind up with a lot of verbage that needs to be cut but at least you’re through!

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