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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Set Loose a Dragon

As I write and re-write this novel, I’m constantly drawing on the wealth of information that I earned while writing my previous novel(s).  I’m especially struck by the idea of tension, and how to use conflict and tension to build suspense and draw the reader into the story.

You see, when I first started writing, I just wrote whatever came into my mind for my characters to do.  They’d go places and do things and generally have a grand old time until the Big Baddie showed up towards the end.  I couldn’t figure out why my story felt slow and floppy, like nothing was happening.

And then I read this blog post:

Micro Tension

…and my whole life changed.

I realized that every chapter in my story should buzz with tension.  Besides just the BIG PLOT tension, there should be secondary conflicts and plot arcs, and even tertiary ones as well.  My story should be layered, full of smaller problems for my characters to face as they work towards the Big Problem of the story.

In the aforementioned blog post, the writer suggests taking basically every scene and stripping it down, looking for ways to up the stakes and up the tension.

So.  I learned all of that while editing my last novel, trying to go back and add tension and conflict into the weak parts of my story.

It’s been so great to know about tension as I write THIS novel.  For example, this past week, I was writing a scene where two characters meet in person for the first time.  Already pretty high tension, but then I was thinking: what if I added a dragon?

I was setting out to write this scene, thinking, what else could go wrong?  So I set loose a dragon.  A baby dragon stows away in the main character’s backpack, and gets loose just as the two characters are meeting.  She causes a bit of chaos, making the whole scene 100% more interesting and tension-charged.

So that’s my advice for you: if you’re feeling bored with the chapter/ scene that you’re working on, try upping the stakes.  Or creating a misunderstanding between two characters.  Or making something unexpectedly go wrong.  Or setting loose a dragon.