1. Getting started
Sometimes it’s hard to think of ideas, but here’s a trigger that might help you. I’ve often used “objects” as story starters. In fact, one turned into a novel, “A Pocketful of Rocks”, which is based on a rock that my son found. Many of my stories have an important object in them that is meaningful to the character. In “Time & Again” it’s an old-fashioned nib pen that the main character Kate finds. In “The Twisting Road Tea Room” Emma finds a mysterious ring. If you can’t come up with an idea, try this. Think of an object, something from your past, or something that someone else has but you would love to have, and ask yourself all sorts of questions about it. Why is it important to you? What if you found it and wanted to keep it, but had to give it back? What if you lost it and someone else found it? Now open your workbook and start writing without stopping. Don’t worry if you make a mistake, just keep going and let your mind drift off in different directions and consider all sorts of possibilities. Let the words flow from your imagination right through your pen and onto the page. You’ll be surprised at how quickly a story can happen when you try this!
2. Character development
A story couldn’t be a story with the characters. A story needs a MAIN CHARACTER, who faces a PROBLEM and finally SOLVES the problem. There are also SECONDARY CHARACTERS in the story, who are the main character’s friends and enemies. Friends help the main character to reach his / her goal, and enemies try to block the main character from accomplishing this. Some of the main character’s friends can be ‘jokers’ who see the lighter side of the problem, others can be ‘mentors or teachers’ who help guide the main character through the problem. Sometimes these friends can be a combination of both. Try to get into your main character’s head, to understand how they really feel and what matters to them, what makes them tick, and create someone that the reader will really care about. Give your character both strengths and weaknesses–nobody’s perfect, after all. Sometimes a character will discover hidden strengths as the story progresses–all characters have to grow in some way during the course of a story. Try to learn more about your story character by writng a one-page diary entry for him or her. How does your character feel about life in general? How does s/he react to a good or bad day. What are their deepest thoughts, dreams and wishes. Ask yourself what they look like, where they live, what their bedrooms are like, what their tastes are in food, music, clothes, movies, school subjects. This will help you to develop a character that the reader will really be interested in learning more about.
The description used in a story helps to establish the setting, mood, atmosphere and characters. Simple language is the most effective; some writers ruin their style by using too many words, like extra adjectives and adverbs. When describing, you must remember that we experience the world through our five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, the one which writers tend to overlook most often. Imagery in writing is created by using the senses, the details that your reader can identify with. Sights and sounds are obvious, but what does an experience feel, taste and smell like? For example, an amusement park with “pavement as sticky as cotton candy, the air full of hot waffle smells, the whirling blur of the midway rides, the candy-apple sweetness of the confection booths.” Try this: Describe a colour to a blind person, using as many of the other four senses as you can and an absolute minimum of words. “The colour RED is the fresh smell of a strawberry, the sweet burst of flavour on your tongue; it’s the colour of rage, when your whole world is falling apart; it’s the smell of a bonfire on a crisp autumn day, the hot prick of a needle on your arm.” “The colour WHITE is the whisper of snow falling on a winter morning, the chill of snowflakes on your tongue, the wooly coat of a lamb, the crunch of popcorn.” Try this with other colours: green, purple, yellow, black, orange, blue, brown.
Dialogue is important for a story in many ways. It makes your story far more interesting, because when there is dialogue, you are SHOWING something happening rather than TELLING how it happened. It can add life to your story and reveal character and personality, and even setting. It can add new information that changes the situation and moves the plot along. It exposes conflicts when two characters have a difference of opinion and confront each other. And it helps the reader become more attached to and involved with the character, because you feel as though you’re right there, eavesdropping! Speaking of eavesdropping, it’s a good way to find out the various different ways that people talk. Listen in when you’re on a bus, in a restaurant, in a group of people. Take notes!! This will help you to write your dialogue in a natural way. Remember that there are pauses in dialogue when we are speaking, we usually interrupt each other in conversations, and we don’t often speak in long rambling paragraphs as if we’re giving a speech! SAID is a good word, and better than using all kinds of synonyms for said, which just clutter up the dialogue and confuse the reader. Or, instead of using “said”, try this: “I’m not going!” She stamped her foot and rolled her eyes. “And nobody can make me!” All of these ideas will help to make your dialogue sparkle with life!