Steps for Story Writing

Everyone loves a good story, and every good story is composed of basic elements. How you develop these components is up to your imagination and creativity. The most important part of the story is the beginning because you want to grab the reader's interest at the start. Keep the story interesting and the reader will stay with you to the end.

The Basics of Story Writing

"Hook" the reader with an opening paragraph that sets the stage for conflict. Compare these two sentences, which are included in "Short Stories: 20 Tips for Creative Writers," by Kathy Kennedy and Dennis G. Jerz.

I heard my neighbor through the wall. (Yawn.)

The neighbor behind us practiced scream therapy in his shower almost every day. (Let's keep reading.)

The rest of the paragraph expresses the main character's conflict about what he should do.

Develop your main character (protagonist). Help the reader visualize the character by describing his appearance, actions and thoughts. When he talks, his speech should reveal his character and personality and should fit his character.

Choose a point of view for the narration of the story. The story can be told from the first person point of view. This narrator can be the protagonist or a secondary character telling the story about the protagonist. Another option is to use the third person point of view. This perspective can be limited to only his viewpoint, or it can be omniscient, meaning the narrator knows everything about all the characters.

Write meaningful dialogue. Show, don't tell. For example, instead of telling the reader that a character is nervous, let the reader figure this out by having the character stammer as he begins to speak. Each character should have his own paragraph in the dialogue to avoid confusion about who is talking.

Establish the setting of the story, which includes the time, atmosphere, context and location where the action takes place. Include only the details that contribute to the development of the story and help the reader visualize the scene. The descriptions should appeal to two or more of the senses. Provide details so that the reader can experience the setting the way the characters do.

Set up the plot. Plot is what happens or the action of the story. The most important aspect of plot is the conflict, or the challenge the character must face and overcome. Conflict builds suspense as obstacles arise to interfere with the resolution of the conflict. The tension that develops from the conflict is what keeps the reader turning the pages to find out what is going to happen next.

When the rising action of the story reaches its peak, this is called the climax or turning point. The most dramatic part of the story, the climax, occurs when the protagonist understands what has finally become clear or realizes what must be done. After the climax, the tension begins to unwind.

The final element of the story is the resolution of the conflict. This can be accomplished with a clear-cut outcome or an open outcome for the reader to determine the meaning of the ending.

Think about some of your favorite stories and why they appeal to you.

Use specific nouns and verbs instead of adverbs and use powerful, descriptive adjectives.

Write the story all the way through before editing and revising. Then rewrite until you are satisfied with it.