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.

Oh look at that.gif

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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A College Campus

Hello my lovely writers!  Sorry it’s been a while.  The fall semester just started up here in the US, and I’ve been a little busy.  This is the third week of classes me, which my friends and I affectionately call “death week” – it’s the week when all the first papers are due, every class suddenly has ten homework assignments, a quiz, and fifty pages of reading, and oh by the way you have an exam next week so START STUDYING!

I’m actually pretty on top of my homework-game.  Not so much the writing-game, but, you know, priorities.

she needs to sort out her priorities

Anyways, if it’s been a while since you’ve been on a college campus, let me tell you: it’s an amazing place for writerly inspiration. 

I’ve said before that I view characters as a jigsaw puzzle of details.  Well, if you need some details, look no further than your college campus (if you live on one).  The extraordinary and strange surround us every day in the form of sleep-deprived young adults and strangely-purposed buildings.

Here are some examples from the few weeks I’ve been back on campus:

  • The guy in the coffee shop at 10pm, bare feet proudly displayed
  • The lady in the library whose office has about two hundred books, a spinning wheel, and a beautiful vintage bicycle
  • The guy in a sports jersey watching a football game alone in an empty lounge, standing and pacing as he watches.  His team scores a goal, and he jumps into the air, complete with the fist punch and cry of victory.
  • The girl with twenty body piercings who is the most gentle, quiet, Hufflepuff-like person I’ve met
  • The guy who skateboards around sitting down on his skateboard
  • The professor who curses a lot, has tattoos up his arms, and is passionate about medieval literature
  • The guy who, no matter the weather, is always wearing a trenchcoat
  • Those two girls that you always see together, no matter what.  Do they never get tired of each other?
  • The guy who can’t help but put his feet on the table in class
  • The girl who snorts when she laughs, even when in class

It’s not just people, it’s places, too:

  • The coffee shop with green and black walls, abstract paintings, and metal chairs that feel like they’re from the 80’s.  Also purple couches, mirrors along one wall, and low, pulsing music that makes you want to dance a little.
  • The oldest building on campus, with narrow, catercorner halls and no elevator and little half-staircases every fifty feet.  It smells like a mixture of old carpet and old books, and it’s very easy to get lost in.  Unmarked doors that seem to lead to Nowhere or Narnia.
  • The little courtyard and fountain, with wooden benches and flowers around it.  If you walk there early in the morning, it feels like you’ve just missed the fairies.
  • The quiet section of the library, back where the endless rows of books stand – a place where whispers earn glares, and it feels like if you make too much noise you’ll wake the furniture.
  • The whole campus on a Sunday morning: quiet and empty; a city with sunshine and birds but no people.

College campuses are fun places to be most of the time.  I’d love to hear your experiences at university if you have any unusual ones to share.  Don’t forget: inspiration walks around you every day, not matter where you go.  (It’s just a little more obvious – and more strange – on a college campus.)