How to Write a Story

Tustin Mace, Copy Editor

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What is the point of a story? To envelop the reader? To occupy the thoughts of busy imaginations? Well, yes, but it’s more subjective than that. Every writer is different, and there are different types of readers for every writer. The best writers though are the ones who can appeal to the most audiences, through intriguing characters, an engaging plot, captivating ideas, and most importantly, an overwhelming villain.

First and foremost, a story is based around its characters, so how do we write interesting characters? The best characters need flaws. Flaws are what make characters relatable, and readers like to relate to who they’re reading about. Whether it be a fear of the dark or a sense of not being able to do something, readers will relate. The challenge then is to find flaws that most people relate to. An easy way around this though is to write a silent character. The reader relates to the character by filling in the words for the writer. Examples of these characters are the Vagrant from “The Vagrant” trilogy of books, who stays silent because of their past. Characters need past and a future; where have they been, and where will they go? Every character, like every person, has a backstory which has influenced them to be the way they are.

Second, you need your world. What are the rules of this world? What does the world look like? What has already happened in the world? For a story to be set in a world, you need to know what your world is like. Plenty of stories are set in worlds similar to modern Earth, but just as many are set in fictional worlds. Fictional worlds take large amounts of effort to design to allow them to feel a certain way to the reader. A key to designing worlds is to be patient, and if you’re struggling with designing it, don’t be discouraged, and rather go smaller scale with your designing. Go from making a country, to a town. And from a town to a single house or building. And further, from a single building to a room inside that building. Describe everything in that room. The cracked wood countertops, and their color. How the countertops cast a shadow onto some bottles. Describe the bottles and their labels, and get the reader thinking about them. If you go small enough in scale, you’ll end up with a story on your hands, in one way or another. Whether it be how the countertops got the cracks in them, or by who is the person who left the bottles on the ground.

Extending off of the world, you need an engaging plot. Writing takes time, and your first idea for a story doesn’t always work out. Being willing to try multiple times with story ideas and making multiple drafts is key to finding a story worthwhile to write. In order to have an engaging plot, you need your interesting characters and world, but also something a little more. This little “umph” your story needs can come in many forms. A little change in the pecking order, a new person in town, maybe even a support character who pushes the main character to do something new, and everything goes wrong. Don’t be afraid to make your character suffer. Putting them through the worst makes for an interesting plot, and allows for character development.

What things should you put your character through anyways? That’s where your antagonizing force comes in. They most often appear as a villain. The best villains are written around their heroes or the main character, always one step ahead, and challenging everything the main character does. The best villains also have the same end goal as the main character. This way, they’re always in conflict. Villains with a different end goal make it so the main character and them may only cross paths once or twice, which doesn’t make for a super interesting story. Villains also need to be bigger than the hero. They need to have vastly more power, whether it be through resources or through mental capabilities. An underpowered villain is easy for the main character to defeat, and doesn’t make for an interesting story. The best example of a properly written villain is the Joker from The Dark Knight. Following what was said above, he has the same goal as Batman. To gain the soul of Gotham. He is constantly in conflict with Batman because of this. He’s also the perfect villain for Batman, two steps ahead at all times, knowing exactly the next move to be made by his opponent.

Writing a great story takes time, but it can be done. Don’t be afraid to write multiple drafts of a story before you really make the product, because you don’t always know whether or not the story is worth writing. Put time into making your characters, and make them feel relatable with flaws. Build your world around them, and let your plot fall into place as your villain takes control. And if your story is ready, you’ll know.