Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Five Tips for Writing Exciting Stories

I love receiving letters and emails from readers who have enjoyed the Adventure Island series.

They often ask great questions too. 

Where do you get your ideas? 
How many dogs do you have? 
Are you going to write any more Adventure Island books?




Sometimes readers ask for writing tips.

For example, Maddie e-mailed me a few weeks ago and asked if I could give her any tips for writing exciting stories.

As I was replying, I thought it might be nice to share my thoughts in a blog post too.

I'm sure there's nothing here that hasn't been said before, but here we go!


1. Don't spend too long on background information at the start of the story - try to get into some action or drama quickly. A really good sentence or short paragraph at the beginning will hook your readers in to the story.

2. Think about the structure of your story. In most stories your main character will have an important goal or a desire they want to get to. If you let them achieve their goal too easily your story will be dull - not to mention short! So try being a bit mean and throwing lots of problems at them to make it difficult - so it's like a giant obstacle course. Depending on the type of story you want it to be, the problems can be funny or dangerous or dramatic.






3. A great way to come up with ideas is to ask yourself What If? This will often involve a character making a discovery about themselves or another character. It helps if you are a bit of a worrier, because you'll be really good at thinking of things that might just happen.

4. Mix things up. Don't be afraid to weave ideas from books you have read into your stories.    Just make sure you don't copy whole lumps at a time. Take little threads or snippets and combine them with a new setting or different characters or a different goal, and with your own personal style, to come up with something original.  

5. Try to make your writing come alive by showing the characters in action. One way to do this is use the 3 Ds; Description, Detail and Dialogue.

By description, I don't mean long flowery paragraphs about the landscape (although you might want that sometimes to set the scene), but rather, describing how a character moves/walks/speaks/eats a pizza/blows their nose/writes a text)

By detail, I mean including some specific things about the scene or action that make the reader feel they can really see (hear or even smell) the action. These make your writing feel original and interesting.

Dialogue. What characters say to each other and how they say it is really important. Writing  dialogue that sounds natural is quite tricky though. Try reading it out loud to make sure it sounds like people actually talking to each other. 

To see the 3D's in action, here is an example. This sentence that tells a little bit of a story you probably know. 
It does the job of telling what happened but it's not exactly very exciting.

The Big Bad Wolf went up to the door and told the little pigs to let him in.





Now, imagine that the wolf is angry and bossy and a bit of a thug. How can you show that in your writing with the 3 Ds?

How about something like this?

The Big Bad Wolf marched up to the door and banged his fist on it until the hinges shook. ‘Oi! You Pigs! Let me in!’ he yelled. ‘Or else!'

I've described the wolf's actions with one or two words. (Although adjectives might be the ones that spring to mind when you think of "describing words" this example shows that picking descriptive verbs can often do the job even better).

'marched up to the door'
'banged his fists on it'
'he yelled'

I've added a detail that helps to really see what is happening
'until the hinges shook'

And I've included some dialogue that doesn't just tell us what the wolf wants (to come in) but also a lot about him - that he is being bossy and rude!
'Oi! You pigs!' and 'Or else!'

If you want to practise this for yourself, try rewriting the Big Bad Wolf sentence again, but this time, instead of an angry bossy wolf, show that the wolf is nervous and scared (perhaps an even bigger wolf is chasing him) and is begging the pigs to let him in.

Or how about a swaggering, smooth-talking conman of a wolf who's trying to trick the pigs into letting him in so he can sell them some genuine "designer" watches. You can really have fun with the dialogue here!

Good Luck!

If you decide to write a story and you are 14 or under, how about sending it to me and I will put it in my story showcase on the Young Writers page. 

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