How to craft stories that take the reader's breath away.
Writing a book and getting it published are two different skills.
I know several writers who have started a draft or are working on it. But only a handful of them have published books.
I learned this the hard way while editing my book.
Writing a book requires dogged determination and consistency. But editing is a different ballgame. It will challenge your core and force you through the most brutal crucible before you can finally hit the "Publish" button.
While editing my book, I realized what was fundamentally wrong with my story and why it might not work. I made copious notes and highlights to improve the storytelling and make it more engaging.
As I write this, I'm still working on incorporating all the notes in the final draft. But I thought I might as well document the writing process to help storytellers who might be feeling stuck.
In this post, I've listed the three lessons about storytelling that I learned while writing my book. Whether you're a novelist or a self-improvement writer who dabbles in storytelling, these lessons will come in handy when you next sit to write.
1. There's a recipe for writing likable characters
What are three traits you'd say Harry Potter has as a character?
Courage. Resourcefulness. Selfless determination to succeed in his quest (defeat Voldemort and save the magical world).
Next, what three traits you'd say Batman has as a character?
Courage. Resourcefulness. Selfless determination to succeed in his quest (defeat whatever villain threatens Gotham city and keep it safe).
What about Jon Snow?
Courage. Resourcefulness. Selfless determination to succeed in his quest (prove he's worth better than the scorn of being a bastard).
Do you notice the pattern?
Every time you fall in love with a character, if you analyze their most appealing traits, you'd notice it boils down to the same few characteristics every time.
Which brings us to the critical question: If all protagonists have the same traits, how should writers ensure their characters stand out?
Truly memorable characters are the ones who survive enormous odds and achieve the most impossible-seeming results.
This brings me to the second point…
2. Engaging climaxes are formulaic
Every good fiction book ends with a climax. It's the one scene (or series of scenes) that the story builds up to for the entire book.
There's an inciting incident, followed by rising action, all culminating at the climax, followed by resolution.
Every book follows the same formula. But do you know which ones stand out?
The ones where the climax has impossibly high stakes.
If the protagonist has to over insane odds stacked against them, their journey becomes more memorable.
The more sacrifices they make, the harder the reader will root for them.
The closer they're to losing it all, the more the reader will want them to win.
The authors who manage to stick to these formulas to the dot are the ones who write the most widely-loved books.
3. Flow can make or break your story
Writers tend to get absurdly attached to their words.
If they believe a chapter is perfect, they'll think ten times before deleting it.
But a chapter being good on its own doesn't warrant you letting it remain in the final draft. If a chapter doesn't —
a. Take the story forward, or
b. Add some depth and dimension to the characters,
then it doesn't belong in your novel. Really, it’s as simple as that.
4. The real "hero" isn't the plot
If you want your readers to remember your book long after the last page is turned, don't give them just a killer plot.
I mean, of course, a killer plot can be the differentiator.
But the actual game changer is the character arc. Throughout the story, your book would feel half-done if your character hadn't undergone some significant change that required them to give up many of their past beliefs.
No matter how seamless the plot is, the X-factor in any story is the character growth.
To write memorable characters, write them with a flaw, and have them grow out of it by making extreme sacrifices throughout the book.
5. Characters shouldn't disappear
While writing a story, it might be tempting to add side characters who serve no purpose in the story other than to push the protagonist's character arc forward. Once their role is done, they disappear from the scene. There's no resolution to their story, and they're quickly forgotten.
A few famous writers might have gotten away with this, but the readers are more intelligent than they used to be. If you create characters who have no goals and aspirations of their own and only exist to push the plot forward, then the impression you leave on your readers won't be that lasting.
Create characters with substantial backstories to create an impactful story. Their actions should be self-driven but fit into the plot, so they help the protagonist make progress on their journey.
Bonus points if you can give individual character arcs to each side character. A fictional world populated by memorable characters is a fictional world worth revisiting.
Well-written characters and a solid plot back a successful book. I hope my analysis gave you something to ponder over as you plan your next novel.
If this post made you feel I'm close to finishing my novel, you're not wrong.
The editing is in the final stages, and I'm excited to see my novel soon hit the press. I won't be looking for a publisher this time as I'm too impatient to query, wait for months, and finally publish.
I'll self-publish and treat it as an experiment in marketing as I make the book reaches as many people as possible. If you'd like to be a part of this journey as my first full-length novel sees the light of day, you can join my Twitter family here.
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