I meet people every day who tell me they can’t write a story. The truth, however, is that we’ve grown up writing stories, creating make-believe worlds and imaginary scenarios. No one has lost the ability to write a story, in fact, I’m a firm believer that anyone can write a story. But, if you’re struggling to get going or barely know where to start, here are the four simple steps you need to create a narrative.
Firstly, you need to figure out who your story is about, and what characters can join them on their journey. Starting with one or two characters and figuring out others as the narrative progresses is fine, but you need to start with someone. Ask yourself some questions to really get to know your protagonist:
What’s their name?
How old are they?
What do they look like?
What is their passion in life?
What makes them sad?
What’s their biggest fear?
What’s their best and worst quality?
The list goes on… but truly getting inside the mind of your character is the best way to make them real and believable. If you need help developing a character, this article can give you the tools to really find who they are and bring them to life.
The story can follow someone, be about someone or something can happen to someone and that makes the story exist. For example, Harry Potter is the main character and the books follow his life but Katniss Everdeen becomes the main character because she is chosen for The Hunger Games.
Once you have someone to star in your story, the rest can evolve from there…
Your location is where the story is set, and where all the action takes place. Depending on your genre, this can be real or a fantasy location. If you decide to go down the fantasy route, this gives you loads of scope to do anything to the world you create. If you choose a real location, make sure you know it well enough to enhance your story and pick out the features and locations that could resonate with readers. Once you have chosen your location, the features of that setting, regardless of whether it is real or something you have created, will assist in developing your plot and even your characters.
Another key aspect to think about where your story is set is to also think about when your story is set. For example, both The Fault in Our Stars by John Green and Divergent by Veronica Roth are set in the US, however the latter being in the future creates a very different setting for those characters, as opposed to the ones created by John Green.
You can choose to set your story in the past, present or future, and within all these are limitless options for how your plot can unfold. If you choose to set it in the past, make sure you research key events and the reality of existence for people in that time to keep it engaging for readers passionate about your era and to really bring your story to life. Present-day stories are incredibly interesting for many readers, particularly those inspired by realism. Finally, throwing your plot into the future is an amazing way to get creative and project your vision of our future. Whether dystopian or utopian, 10 years or 1000 years in the future, lovers of fantasy and sci-fi can flourish with this.
To add a whole new level of excitement, why not combine fantasy with time, and set your story in an existing time period, but in a fantasy world. Think Game of Thrones, which hosts a ‘medieval’ location (associated with our past) but is really a fantasy world with dragons and more.
While location might often be overlooked, this could even be a better place to start prior to creating your characters. Allowing your location and time-period to thrive is the key of a good location, so get creative and follow your vision.
Status Quo and Changing the Normal…
A story is created when something happens that disrupts the normality or ‘status quo’ of the everyday life of your world or character. Regardless of your setting being fantasy or real, dystopian or utopian, micro or macro in scale, any change can ripple and evolve into a brilliant story.
This change or disruption can be positive or negative. Characters can fall in love, win the lottery or survive a life-changing accident. What would happen if something positive influenced your character or your world? Try mind mapping, drawing, bullet-pointing or anything that gets your brain going, all the different branches you can think of that might come as a result of a positive change. Perhaps they all lead on from one-another or perhaps they could all be a story in their own right. Which one will you choose and how can you transform your characters’ or world’s lives?
Negative change can often be more significant or even more fun to write. Anything from your protagonist forgetting their wallet to whole world invasions and wars – whatever scale you see this negative change will still cause waves of change to your story and create something exciting for readers to engage with.
Perhaps your negative change could evolve into a happy ending. Maybe what seems positive on the surface will actually have detrimental effects. Something NEEDS to change for a story to be created. Let your mind take you to endless possibilities and see which one can grow into a mind-blowing story…
The key to a good story is planning it and knowing all the twists and turns you might need to take to get to the finale you might envision from the start. Take your time to work out these core things, and the more you immerse yourself in your world, the easier it will be to bring to life.