Losing the Plot? 5 Top Tips on Writing a Good Story

Losing the Plot? 5 Top Tips on Writing a Good Story

In narrative writing, the term “plot” refers to the events that make up a story. But how do authors approach plotting a story? And what makes a good plot in the first place? We have a few helpful tips!

1. Plotting Your Plot

Once you have a premise for your story, think about where it will go and create a plot outline. You might even want to come up with an end point and work backwards! This will help you get a sense of how the story will progress and how different events will be connected.

Many story plots follow a classic three-act structure.
(Image: Bratislav/wikimedia)

You don’t have to stick to this outline as the story develops, so don’t worry if it isn’t perfect at first. The point is to give yourself a structure to work with so that your writing stays on track.

2. Build a Story Around Character Arcs

Plot is important, but it needs to be supported by strong characters. After all, if the characters in your story don’t have believable goals and motivations, how will the story move forwards?

One good tip is to make sure your main characters each have a character arc. This refers to how characters change or overcome challenges during the story. To get started on this, think about who they are, what happened in their pasts, and want they want to achieve.

3. Use Subplots (But Not Too Many!)

The main plot in your story will be what drives everything forward (the ticking bomb that cannot be ignored or forgotten, perhaps literally if you’re writing a thriller). But subplots allow you to flesh out a story with smaller narrative arcs that develop characters or themes related to the main plot.

Adding a few romantic entanglements or mysteries that need to be solved can therefore add an extra dimension to your writing. However, any subplots you include should help move the main plot forward in some way (e.g., by revealing important information). If you add too many unrelated subplots, on the other hand, your story may become difficult to follow.

4. A Twist in the Tale?

While your overall story should be easy to follow, you also want to surprise your reader now and then! Think about where you could add a plot twist to complicate things.

However, make sure any twists you add follow from the logic of the story up to that point. And it’s probably better to avoid any ending that can be summed up as “and it was all a dream.”

“And he was dead all along” has been done, too.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

5. Explain Your Story to a Friend

Finally, don’t struggle alone! As with most things in life, writing a story is easier if you ask for help. Before you start writing a first draft in full, try explaining the plot of your story to a friend.

If there is something they don’t understand, you may want to work on clarifying how that part of the story fits into the overall narrative. You can always ask for feedback on specific issues, too!

And once you have a first draft, we can help with the editing process.

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