Action, adventure, spirit, emotion (real emotion), tears, laughter, surprised gasps, and a few shudders. -laughs-
Every story needs real raw emotion, the moments where the reader can say "I've felt that!" or "I've done that" etc. Even fantasy needs to feal REAL. Just because it's fantasy doesn't give the author the right to make plastic characters with the excuse that "The action and magic will make up for the emotion". It won't! People want to cry over a book, laugh over it, relate to it. That's what makes a book that will be read again and again.
My stories revolve around one or two main characters--the protagonists. They find themselves facing a challenge, one that stretches them. So they go for it and in the process things quite unexpected begin to happen. The next thing you know they're up to their ears in trouble and struggle to get out. As this goes on they grow, change and become more than they ever were before.
Somewhere along the line they come to a climax event. This is it. Either they are done for or they win. And--since this is not a tragedy--they do win. The good guys win and the bad guys get what's coming to them.
Then we wrap it up, tie the loose ends together and finally answer the questions hanging out there. So the story ends. Hey, I know life isn't always like that, but this is, after all, a story.
The basic ingredients of a story are characters and conflict. All the rest of the so called story elements are frosting on the cake.
We are told that conflict is the necessary core of a good story. For me, I like to see something new in a story. I want to see it begin somewhere new, take a new road to where it ends. The end of a story must show or prove something that is better than good, higher than ordinary.
A good plot, strong characters and a surprise ending.
The Way, The Truth, and The Life!
Multi-dimensional, multi-faceted characters and an awesome plot as well as a story line that is unique and yet universal is the recipe for a great story.
A good story or book must have a good idea, varied well thought out characters, who's dialogue expresses their personalities. The plot must be well thought out and move fast enough to keep the reader engaged, but not so fast that it runs out to quickly. Visual imagery is crucial, with out that all a book/story is are words printed on a page instead of a whole different world from our own.
|I think of it as setting, characters, and plot. I have to define the first two before I can have the last. Once I get to know my main character and figure out where he or she is going to act, then I have them interact and do something. Of course, the story has to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. There has to be conflict, a compelling problem the protagonist has to solve. I like to write about "man against himself", or, rather, hero has to cope with a loss and still get the job done. The "man against evil" conflict is also a good choice for me, and I often combine these. Hero has to cope with a loss caused by the villain. My heroes are always good, or in the process of becoming good. Sometimes I reform the villains. In my stories, I want to have a good moral example in the main character, and that character either uses or learns how to use healthy communication and coping techniques to deal with his problems. I say 'his', but most of my main characters are women. I try to show the problem, but concentrate more on the resolution, or the coping process, and the communication process between characters. I don't like stories where the hero gets hurt and just gets up and keeps going; where he doesn't tell what happened afterwards, how he coped, how he found the strength. So, I guess I'm not an action novelist, I'm more into what goes on psychologically with the characters, the impact on the hero and his family or friends, or both. Faith is also a factor. Most mental health professionals agree that people are mentally healthier when they believe in some religion, than those who don't have a way to draw strength from a higher power. My characters are, or become, good because they have great faith. The end of the story comes, not so much when the problem is solved, but when there is a change. The hero gets away from the villain and progresses to the point that, he is still hurt, but he finds a way to be happy anyway. Or, the heroine gets to the point in her grief process, it's not as overwhelming any more and she can see past it. It's still there, still painful, but she can smile part of the time and mean it. Sometimes I have a lot of time pass and the main characters look back, to see how far they've come. Sometimes, I just get to a point where it feels right to end it. I do try to begin with some excitement, and end where there's not any, with a sense of another person looking at it and giving a fresh point of view. The middle gets a few twists and turns so the story's not predictable.
An original plot and a bagful of honesty.
I think stories are like songs. Some songs can have silly lyrics but the tune makes up for it. I don't think that you always need to be a genius with words. I think I good idea is where it is at!
Who. What. When. Where. How. Why. ... sometimes it's fun to leave out a couple of those ingredients and let the reader define it themselves. ...
I recently watched a movie - I think it was called 'The Color of Magic'. Completely absured story line - about a flat disc planet that was supported on the backs of 4 giant elephants who stood on the back of a monsterously huge turtle that floated through space. How and Why... not at all relevant - in fact, the inhabitants of the planet were more interested in 'the sex of the turtle' than how and why their flat planet came to rest on such a support system in the first place...
And... it was absolutely captivating, charming and wonderfully written. The acting, supported mostly by Tim Curry who really carried the cast, was average - but the story itself was just absurdly fantastic!
Reality and metaphor.
The tension between the reader's expectation and the new view of the world the writer throws at her--anything else is just filler.