3 Things You Need for a Good Story

My dear friends,

I present to you today the most valuable piece of writing advice that you will ever receive.  (Probably.)

I would like to share a concept that I have used for years, whenever I critique stories (either my own, or others’).  This is the idea of the Golden Three, or, the three things you need for a good story.

And, they are, of course, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

If your character has these, your story will shine.

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Here’s the thing: a good story isn’t just one event happening after the other.  A good story is about something, or someone.  And I have found that a great way to break your story down into its simplest parts is to look at the structure of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.

Your main character(s) should always have these three things:

1. The Goal:

What does your character want?  What are they working towards in the story?  This can evolve as the story progresses, but your MC should always be striving for something.

2. The Motivation:

Why does your character want that?  What is driving them?  What is motivating them?  What makes them want this?  Again, this can change throughout the story, but there should always be a motivation behind your character’s actions.

3. The Conflict:

What stands in the way of your character’s goals?  What is hindering them?  This might be a person, a circumstance, a government, or an internal barrier.  While this will also change as the story develops, it’s often helpful to have one overarching Conflict, as well as smaller Conflicts along the way.

Have your characters want things.  Give them dreams and reasons they dream those things.  Give them things that stand in their way.  And if you find yourself at a point in your story where your character doesn’t want something, then mix things up.  And if you find that there’s nothing too tricky standing in their way, have everything go horribly wrong for them so that the conflict in their path is enormous.

At least, that’s what works for me.  Those are the stories I enjoy reading, writing, and watching.

Also, a note, others have talked about this before – this wasn’t my original idea.  It’s just one that I discovered a long time ago and have loved since.  There’s even a book called GMC that is supposed to be excellent.  But I don’t think that this topic is discussed enough, so I thought I’d share it around.

Okay, hope you are all having a lovely day, and that your writing is going swimmingly.

 

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The Setting of a Writer

// Setting: noun. the place or type of surroundings where something is positioned or where an event takes place. //

As writers, we sometimes discuss the setting in our writing: the forest where the lost traveler finds himself at night, the tavern where the princess in disguise strikes a deal for her father, the garden where the love interest finally confesses his burning passion.  But what about the setting of our writing: where it happens, what it looks like, how it feels, what we wear?

Today, I wrote for a short while at my local Panera Bread (excellent choice for writing, if you ask me).  Tonight as I scrolled my twitter feed (follow me, @3lizabeth_A) something caught my eye: an author I follow (Ally Carter) posted that SHE had been writing at HER Panera Bread today as well.  And.  Wow.  For a shining moment, I saw myself as an author.  Not just a writer, like, someone-who-writes-for-fun, but an Author, someone who publishes books.  I had been working on a novel at a Panera Bread, while, at the same time, one of my favorite authors had been working on her novel at another Panera Bread somewhere else in the world.  It was a magical feeling.

So.  On the topic of writing and setting and all that jazz.

I wrote my first novel, The Sound of Color, almost entirely in my bedroom.  Sixteen-year-old Beth was a little terrified of the fact that she was writing a novel, so she kept it a secret for a while – a private, behind-closed-doors thing, only shared with a select few.  I wrote it in an armchair from my grandparents, with slippers on my feet and silence in the room.  It was a late night love affair, requiring only a Lord of the Rings soundtrack and a wild imagination.

But THEN, the 2015 NaNoWriMo struck and everything changed.  A busy Senior in Highschool, if I was going to write 50,000 words in a month, I was going to have to get creative with where I wrote.  So I brought my laptop to school and wrote between classes.  I’d write during carrides and lunch breaks, letting my novel-writing bleed into all the other areas of my life.  It was so freeing to write anywhere and everywhere.

And then I moved off to college.  And to be honest, I’ve struggled to find a time and place that feels right for writing when I’m away from home.  But I am teaching myself to let writing bleed into my “adult life” as well.  I’m teaching myself to look for Writing Spots.

So now?  Now, writing happens at Panera Bread in the half hour before meeting a friend for lunch.  It happens late at night with candles lit because the power has gone out, and I’m hoping my laptop battery lasts until I finish the chapter.  It happens in a childhood bedroom while I wait for my best friend to get out of the shower after I’ve dyed her hair.  It happens at the table after dinner, dishwasher humming in the background, family members talking in the other room.  It happens in a quirky coffee shop on campus, or in a busy college library.

One of the things that I’ve learned about myself in the past year is that I tend to write better when I treat is as something professional, or official.

Power to you, writers, if you can write in sweats and sweaters, laying in bed, with the covers pulled up to your chin.  The writing you do is still valid and still hard work and still important.  But I’ve found that I write the best if I take five minutes to put on real shoes, do my hair, and pretend like I’m going to a meeting.  If I try to write when I’m in bed or in my room, it’s too easy to sneak over to YouTube or Facebook or Twitter.  But if I dress like I’m off to a meeting, and I take my laptop to a table or desk, then it feels like I’m there to get something done.  And so the writing gets done much easier.

So, I’m curious: what do you all wear to write?  Where do you write the best?  I’m fascinated by how different settings can effect my writing so much, and I’m curious if you all experience the same thing.  Let’s chat in the comments.

// ps, this post is partially inspired by my friend Vivian’s recent post about writing and sweaters and books.  she’s great, go check her out. //

Some Bad Poetry, Because I’ve Been Busy

Hello, lovely writers!  Happy New Year – I hope you’re all having a wonderful January, and staying warm!  (Or staying cool, if you live in a currently-summer location.)

It’s been the holidays, as you all know.  Which for me, meant road trips and presents and family time and not a lot of working on my novel. 

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But now, I’m home, I’m recovered from being under the weather, and I’m ready to write.

I’m planning on grabbing my laptop and my Starbucks giftcard, and spending tomorrow with my novel and a Venti Mocha Latte.  To be fair, it is okay to not write for a while.  But, at the same time, I really want to be writing.  Which is good.

I know I’m a writer because not-writing feels wrong.

Anyways, in my free time, I’ve discovered that I really quite like writing poetry.

Mind you, I don’t claim to be a poet.  I’m a novelist.  I don’t write good poetry.  But there’s actually a lot of freedom in allowing yourself to write bad poetry, and it’s a lot easier to finish a poem and feel satisfied than it is to finish, say, a novel.

So, thanks for sticking around when I’ve been MIA for a while, and I’ll see you soon with more writerly content.

And until then, here are some mediocre poems by someone who is not a poet.

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My Three Goals for Winter Break

Hello, lovely writers!  I just got home from college yesterday, and it’s so nice to not have HOMEWORK assignments or EXAMS or PAPERS.

Without further ado, I’d like to share with you my plans for my Winter Break.  That way, I have to actually stick to these plans, because I’ve told people about them!  Accountability, you know?

Okay, goals.

1. Edit every day.

I have a project that I really really want to work on.  It’s a YA Urban Fantasy featuring sassy characters, baby dragons, and a lovely platonic relationship.  It’s about two years old now, and it’s in the “slightly edited, but still needs a lot of work” phase.  So this Break, I’m planning to edit for 30 mins (or more) every day.

Because here’s something that NaNoWriMo taught me: writing projects work the best with consistent love.  So I’m pledging to write/edit 30 minutes every day that I am physically able to.  I want to finish this book.  I want this story to get out into the world.  I want to give it the time and love it deserves.  And I have the time to now, so I just have to make myself do it.

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2. Blog More

The end of the semester was a bit crazy, and I didn’t have the time or energy to put into this lovely new blog I have here.  But no longer!  I  have free time, and I’ll be working on a novel every day, so I will have lots to say (hopefully).  I love blogging, and I really do feel like it helps keep me accountable to write more regularly.  So stick around, follow this blog, and you’ll probably hear from me once or twice a week.  YAY!

3. Read ALL THE BOOKS!

Good writers are good readers.  I have a TBR pile that’s a mile long, and I’ve been slacking on my reading lately (again, exams don’t give much time to read).  Like this one famous writer dude said, writers need to read.

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// If I don’t see you all until the new year, I hope your holidays are full of joy and happiness. //

Thank You, NaNoWriMo

Hello, writers!  As I’m sure you know, today is the first day of December.  Another NaNoWriMo is here and gone.

To wrap up this year’s November, I thought it would be appropriate to write an open letter to the entity that is NaNoWriMo.  (Okay, it’s more like a thank you note.  It’ll be fun, I promise.)

Dear NaNoWriMo,

Thank you for the yearly challenge to try something crazy.  Your dare is irresistible, and your community is so welcoming that I can never say no.

Thank you for helping me expand my mug and T-shirt collections.

Thank you for a third year running, and a “lifetime wordcount” (from three novembers) of over 95,000 words.

Thank you for connecting me to a couple writers in my area and many many writers online.  For building a community of support and friendly competition and cheering each other on.

Thank you for reminding me that I can fit writing in my busy everyday life.  And also for letting me have space to focus on homework when I needed to.

I may not have hit 50,000 words this year.  (That was so 2015.)  But I did make friends, and cheer people on, and introduce myself to a new story, and meet unexpected characters, and have a blast writing and planning and being a writer.

I’ll win again some other year, but for now, I have a novel to finish writing.  And another one I want to get back to editing.  I’ll see you next year.

 

// alright, lovely writers.  I’m off to take a nap for about four years.  I’m a bit exhausted from a million papers and 25,000 words.  I’ll see you next week. //

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Thoughts During NaNoWriMo

I wrote similar post to this two years ago, and it was a lot of fun.  (Find it here.)  So, even though I’m very very very behind on my word count, I thought it was time for another fun blog post.  Best of luck to my fellow Wrimos – I hope your writing is going amazing.

Without further ado, here are some Thoughts I Have During NaNoWriMo:

  • Time to make coffee!  And write!  WOOO!
  • I like this novel I’m writing.  I really, really, do.
  • You know, I should clear my browser history
  • Okay, hopefully my professor isn’t going to notice me writing in class instead of taking notes
  • Sleep? What’s that?
  • WHERE DID THIS CHARACTER COME FROM?
  • Just one more cup of coffee
  • I want to be a paid, published author. I want that as my job.
  • Why does every single professor assign us an enormous paper that’s due during November?  Don’t they know we’re all over here trying to write novels?
  • Wait.  This character is going to have to die, aren’t they?  Darn it.
  • Come on, Beth.  Get off twitter.  Go write.  Hehehe, that’s funny, I should re-tweet that.
  • Social Life?  Huh?
  • Wait… staring at a blank page doesn’t get my novel written?
  • I want there to be write-ins year round.  Write-Ins are EVERYTHING.
  • Also, word sprints are great.
  • THIS PERSON.  BEAT ME.  IN A WORD SPRINT.  BY THREE WORDS.
  • I’m not going to hit 50k this year, am I?  *sigh*
  • Just.  Keep.  Writing.
  • It’s okay, I can always finish this novel in December… hehehe.

Don’t forget to blare some Christmas music, drink some hot cocoa, and get to writing.  Your story matters, and it’s gonna be great!

Three Lovely Things

November is two-thirds over, and I am only halfway done with my NaNoWriMo goal of 50,000 words.  But despite that, it has been a month of many wonderful and special moments so far.  I’d like to share some of my favorites with you, if that’s alright.

1.  Monday // 11:24 pm // My Dorm

Sitting in my room, writing a story that I’m falling in love with.  I’ve just hit 25,000 words on my NaNoWriMo story (only 5 days behind schedule lol).  I’m checking out @NaNoWordSprints on twitter, seeing if they’re running sprints so that I can use some friendly competition to fuel my writing.  They ask us how we’re doing, and ask us to share a graph of our wordcount for the month.  (Here’s mine, by the way!)

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So we all screenshot our graphs, and post them in a reply, and then there’s this glorious thread of graphs and writers and people cheering each other on.

2.  Nov 15 // All Day // My College Campus

November 15, 2017 was my best writing day.  Ever.  I wrote 4,200 words that day.  I got up in the morning and wrote.  Then one of my classes was cancelled so I wrote.  I brought my laptop to lunch and wrote at the dining hall.  I brought my laptop to the library and wrote all afternoon.

And as the day went by, I fell head-over-heels in love with writing again.  The feeling of a story seeping out of you through your fingertips and onto a page.  The thought of giving life to characters and plot ideas that you’ve hoarded in your head.  The thrill of a new character popping up unexpectedly and rocking your world in the best way possible.

3.  Days I Can’t Write // Days I Can

Let me be honest, folks.  I’m a full-time college student.  I’m taking 18 credits this semester (for my wonderful non-American readers, the ‘typical’ course load is 15 credits).  The end of the semester approaches, which means papers and tests and more papers are swarming me.

The days I spend 4 hours writing 1700 words for a British Literature paper?  I’m done writing for the day.  I have nothing left to give to my novel for that day.  And that’s okay.  But, NaNoWriMo has been reminding me of something essentially important: writers write.  Especially when I’m working on a big project, like a rough draft or a big edit, I need to put in the hours.  Many hours.  It’s okay to take days off, but they should be rare and they should be followed by many more days working.  And when I do that, writing may still be hard and difficult at times, but there are just as many times when it is pure magic.