The past 6 months, I’ve been writing a story under the teachings of Frances Dowell, who is an accomplished writer and author of multiple published books. I’ve learned a lot from her, including these parts of a story that I am going to share with you now.
1. What if? question. Every story needs an idea to start with and probably the best way to do it is to come up with a What If? question. If you don’t know what this is, then you’ll be surprised, because you probably do this every day! A What If? question is like a seed, an idea, that you plant and grow off it. Examples of a What If? question would be: What if humans disappeared off earth? What if all the water on earth disappeared? What if animals ruled the world? Those are mostly generic questions, but with enough innovation, you can come up with a very good What If? question and grow an amazing story.
2. Now we have gotten into the beginning of the book, last the planning stage. The next stage is an opening action scene. You have definitely seen these in a book, because they are a great strategy to drag your reader in. If you don’t know what it is, and opening action scene is a scene where someone is doing something, and it’s like a day in their life, except nothing has been explained yet, so you are very curious about what is going on in the story. This influences the reader to keep reading. An example of this would be: Jessica ran as fast as she ever could, her legs speeding across the wet pavement, and then onto the street. She ran so fast that she never even saw the car coming. Now, this is a very short opening action scene, so just like the What If? question, you have to build off this. A more developed opening action scene would be: The pitter-patter of the rain on the wet concrete was drowned out by the noise of Jessica’s heart beating, perfectly in sync with her feet as she ran as fast as she could. Her legs spun in countless circles, and she ran so fast that a second seemed dragged out into years. Suddenly, and opening appeared, and she knew where to run. Where to escape. And as she sped across the street, she ran so fast that she didn’t even see the car coming. This is a great opening action scene.
3. After the opening action scene, you’re going to need SOME background, or else your reader won’t want to keep reading, because who wants to read a book when they don’t know anything that’s going on? Anyway, this is illustrated in Dovey Coe, which has a great example of a good opening action scene, which is then followed by a background check. A background check is basically a short backstory that can be told in 1st, 3rd, and if you want, but I don’t recommend, 2nd person. Of course, the opening action story can be told in any perspective also, and so can any part of your story. That being said, it is a little bit of a backstory leading up to the moment of the opening action scene. It can be a little long, but your background check should NOT be the whole story. It can be the beginning of the story, and then the rest leads up to the opening action scene, or it can be right before the opening action scene, or whatever. It can be in any time period you want, but do not make it too long.
4. After this, you need sticks and stones. These can be small problems leading up to the big monster problem, also known as the climax. The sticks and stones are seriously under appreciated. They are FUNDAMENTAL in the telling of a story. They can be little clues of the ending if it’s a mystery, they can be small emotional points if it’s an emotional story, and it can be small skirmishes if it’s an action story. But really they can be anything you want. They are called sticks and stones because they are like little sticks and stones that the character trips on in their story, but they should not be sticks and stones for the whole story. Eventually, they need to start getting more severe, as they’re leading up to the climax more. Again, these are seriously under appreciated, and I can’t stress how important they are. They can be hard to control and fit together, though, especially if you’re writing a mystery, because you need to string together everything.
5. The Climax. This is undeniably the most important part of the story because it is like the final boss battle. It is also the most emotional part of the story, so you need to incorporate a lot of good writing in this part. The thing about this part is that its very important to have a good ending. This should NOT be one of the longest parts of your story, and it might even be the second shortest. However, I repeat: this is the hardest part to write, because it needs the PERFECT length to draw your reader in. But if you’re writing a mystery, if I’m honest, if your story is good enough, make the climax as long as you want. People will definitely want to read it to find out what happens! Also, there is a thing in a story called the “emotional low point,” where the character is at their absolute worst. They are either mad, sad, or anything else. This can be during the climax, right before it, or, rarely, after the climax. This takes a considerable amount of skill to do, though, because it’s difficult to weave into the story.
6. Finally, the resolution. This is after the climax, and it basically ties up all the loose ends. Some stories don’t have resolutions, which is acceptable, but it is not really a good idea to do that, because you might have a lot of loose ends left. Loose ends are really bad because they subject your story to a lot of criticism, and if your story is one in a series, plot holes can seriously mess the book, and even the entire series, up. Again, this should NOT be the longest part in your story, and should instead be one of the shortest. If you have a lot of loose ends, then yes, it can be long, and yes, people do enjoy reading what happens to their favorite character(s). BUT, it’s not wise to keep going for multiple chapters saying “then this happened to them, then this, oh and this person turned out like this, and this person like this.” You get the idea. The resolution should be at MOST two chapters. If you have a lot of loose ends, then maybe 3 or 4 will suffice.
I learned a lot from this story, but we’re not done yet. You still need to edit your story, which is what I did, and I learned a lot. When people edited my story, they mostly pointed out that the same thing had different names in the story. This happened because when I was doing different drafts, I accidentally put the different names for things, because I was considering different names at the time. That really saved me a lot of questions from people. Another thing I got was that I had some errors with dialogue lines, and thank goodness I fixed those, because dialogues lines are one of the most important things in your story, and if they’re wrong, then it’s a big mistake.
But I didn’t just get feedback from my peers. I also got feedback from Frances Dowell herself. I’m going to start with what I learned from the feedback she gave to my peers, and then what I learned from the feedback she gave to me. Something I learned from the feedback to my peers was that the first sentence of a story can hold so much power and weight, and it’s really much more important than you think. One of my peers had a particularly heavy first sentence, and it made me want to immediately read the story. Another things I learned from the feedback to my peers was that you need the perfect amount of action scenes, even if your story is a mystery or even an emotional story. The number of action scenes needed varies from different genres, because a Wild West drama would have a lot more action than a story about a nuclear family in the 1950s. Something I learned from the feedback she gave to me was that the traction you give to your story to move it along requires dialogue, thoughts from the character, and narration. Think of it like a baking recipe. Too much of one thing spoils everything, so you must come up with the right amount of those three things. Also, you must think of good character development, because if your character stays the same the whole time, and doesn’t change or learn anything, nobody is going to root for your character, because they’re a bad person the whole time!
So! If you follow all these steps, you should have a perfect story, right? Well, WRONG. Writing is extremely hard, and there are trillions of things that could go wrong, and even the smallest thing can mess up everything. That being said, after I followed these steps, I came out with a story that I ultimately disliked. They’re not bad steps. I didn’t skip a step or anything. What I did was poorly write. I added in things to the story thinking they could add to it somehow, yet I ended up going nowhere with them, so I had random things in my story that were there for no reason. Also, some parts had way too much narration, some parts too little, and a lot of parts of the story had not enough dialogue and too much thinking from the character. The book was over 4200 words, and yet, only a few days pass within the story. And the ending? Sloppy, careless. Remember what I said about plot holes ruining the story? Well my ending was riddled with plot holes and loose ends. I worked hard on this story, yet I hope that next time, I can do a better job.
Frances Dowell is getting a copy of my story, and when she does, I have some questions. What did she think about the ending? My ending was bad, as I mentioned, so I’d like to know what Mrs. Dowell thought of it. What are some plot holes you noticed? I want to know if there were any parts that didn’t make sense. Are there any parts that are unrealistic in the story? I tried to make it as realistic as I could, but there are some things I don’t understand about the world, so I tried to guess about what happens in the world as well as I could in the story. I am going to put an excerpt of my story into this because I want to give her something like a trailer of what’s to come.
It’s one of the last days of Thanksgiving break. I come back from the shop and reach inside the door. I turn the knob, the jars balancing on my arms. I try not to drop them. That would be bad. As I walk in the door, my mom greets me before we use the jars. I walk over to the coffee table and get the needles ready. As I insert the clear liquid, happiness runs through me.
As I walk to the shop, I start my daily routine. My mom always told me that I was innovative. I tried the impossible, she would say. My dad would too. So that gave me all sorts of ideas when I was younger. I’ve also always loved some sorts of traditions, so that’s why I do this morning routine. I’m guessing it’s fun. You can’t really tell without the antidote. So I start the routine.
First thing I do is walk to the weird place behind the elementary school. I go here because sometimes, I find some money behind the place. But I don’t see any money. Most people would feel discouraged or sad about this, but not me.
So, after that, I go and keep walking to the store. I look for anything discounted on the shops nearby, but still nothing. Again, most people would feel sad, but these days I don’t feel any sadness about it anyway. I would, but… I don’t. I guess I should explain…
I’ve cut out the last part because I don’t want to spoil it. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and thank you.