Focus on your STORY - writing tips

Nov 25, 2013

Focus on your STORY - writing tips (By Sanjoli) (Thanked: 6 times)

    Lovely article by Yashodhara Lal is the author of ''Just Married, Please Excuse'' please read:

I have been doing quite a bit of reading on the process of writing. My first novel, http://www.justmarriedpleaseexcuse.com/ is largely autobiographical; as a consequence, it was just that much easier to write. The 'story', the 'plot' were derived from real life, and so it was more a question of putting the story down in a way that would make people laugh, which was my goal.

 

The second novel, which I've just completed, has proved to be more of a challenge - largely because it is far more 'fictional'. And one of the things that I've really struggled with is the very basic question about the story itself. And that's why I'm writing this right now - because I think this is the central point, and it applies to whether you're looking to do a great short story, or write a full length novel.

 

Luckily, I chanced upon this article, which I highly recommend you read right away - it provides a really good perspective on the story-writing process: ''The biggest mistake writers make and how to avoid it.''

 

It really got me thinking, and I'm just going to put down my salient take-aways from this article as well as whatever I've learnt so far:

 

1. The basic elements of a story are - protagonist, goal, obstacle, weight, resolution. It makes sense to familiarize yourself with these. Every story follows this. Someone (protagonist) has something they want (goal), there's something which is an opposing force (obstacle), and the importance of the goal, especially at climax ( weight) shows up and then there is a ...Resolution. Works right from the great works of fiction to ...Hansel and Gretel. Pretty much! Obviously, there will be variations but this is a good basic structure to keep in mind.

 

2. The idea of how the story actually affects the protagonist is an important one - a month ago, while my editor was discussing my second book with me, she asked ''but how does this main character (Sid) really change at the end of the novel? How does he grow as a result of what happens?''. I recently rewrote parts of it keeping this question in mind. It is important - it helps you relate to the characters and stay interested, and walk away with a feeling of satisfaction at the end - whether you realize it as a reader or not. I certainly didn't actively recognize it even as an author well into my second book, until the great Chief Editor pointed it out over a cup of coffee!

 

3. It's easy to get lost in working on the prose itself rather than keeping the focus on the story - but the idea is not just pretty writing ( or in my case, humorous, or whatever else) - it is about moving the story forward. That's the crux of what people are really interested in. The writing is the icing on the cake, and hopefully, you'll have honed your voice enough over time to have got that right in any case. Clean-ups on the writing can also be done later. When it's the first draft ( which according to me, and I keep harping on this, is the most important) - it makes sense to focus on how the story unfolds.

 

The challenge of writing a good short story is before you for this contest - and everyone says that writing short stories is an art by itself. I'd say that as long as you keep your focus on the story ( especially important given the word limit!) and attempt to write as un-self-consciously as possible, you'll be doing justice to your attempt. This is where the whole theme of 'Real stories'' had come in - we had recognized ( or let me say above-mentioned Chief Editor recognized) that it's a very tough thing to do to write a good short story- so she had proposed we go for encouraging people to draw upon real life experiences. Much like my first novel flowed so easily for me, given it's inspiration in real life. This is important to understand - where we're coming from on this is to encourage you to write as naturally as possible, inspired by incidents and stories you've observed or been a part of in real life. But they still have to read as stories ( and not autobiographies or biographies), which is where the above pointers may come in handy!

 

Go for it! Hope this helps...and do write to me for any specific questions you have :). I'm at yashodhara dot lal at gmail dot com.

 

Yashodhara Lal is the author of ''Just Married, Please Excuse'' and blogs at http://www.yashodharalal.com/. You can follow her on twitter http://www.indiblogger.in/getpublished/forum/profile/yashodharalal

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