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Story Craft

Story Craft

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Story Craft

213 pages
2 hours
Aug 12, 2014


 Idea to manuscript in one book. Few authors understand how to produce a story, and most never finish their first attempt; running out of energy, interest and time, long before they type "The End."

Story Craft shows what to do, and how to do it. Beginning with the basic tenets of storytelling, through planning story activities and characters, Story Craft gets down to the serious experience of writing and makes it easy for authors to understand how to turn an idea into a story. 

Emphasizing  the process and craft of writing,  Story Craft shows the steps and techniques that lead from premise to finished story.  Extras include tips to enhance story planning and development;  using computer tools to improve writing efficiency;  a Punctuation Primer to help every writer improve their writing skill;  and an editing method to assist with common errors.  A first book for the writer's bookshelf.


Aug 12, 2014

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Story Craft - Bruce Anthony


Other books by Bruce Anthony

It's All About...

Forever Friends

3 Short Stories

The Woman Below

How To Build a DIY E-Book




Bruce Anthony © 2007, 2014

Beginning Creative Writing

ISBN 978-0-9784565-8-0 © 2007

Beginning Creative Writing - Story Craft

ISBN 978-0-9784565-9-7 © 2014

All rights reserved.

Katie Books Canada

This book is intended for personal and individual use only.

To draw attention to the contents of this book,

please use a link to:

Cover photo k1841727 ©

Graphics © Katie Books Canada

Table of Contents

Other Books

Title Page



Getting Started

About Stories





The Story Process

Creating Your Story


Punctuation Primer

Writing on a Computer

Customizing the Keyboard

Computer Tools

Recommended Software

Selling Your Story


This book is imperative, pedantic, prescriptive and repetitious because new writers benefit more from instruction and explication than encouragement. The prime reference for spelling and usage is the CD-ROM version (COED11) of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Eleventh Edition)—Canadian spelling is favoured (British with American variants).

Writing stories is more complicated and more work than beginning writers imagine. If you want to write without planning and development; if you think editing is not necessary; if you'd rather not worry about punctuation, grammar or spelling—you're reading the wrong book.

The generalized term, writing, covers much more than placing one word after another. Putting words together requires little knowledge and no skill at all—children learn by grade three. Thereafter, despite subsequent education, the writing skill of most adults remains constant—because everyone who can print believes they can write.

Writing is a combination of creativity, craft, and commerce. From concept to first draft is creative, from first draft to final story is craft, after that it's all business.

The most important fact an aspiring writer must understand is that a writer should be called a rewriter. The task of creative writing is one of continual restructuring and editing to find the essentials of a story and present them in an orderly and interesting manner. Much like a sculptor chipping away at a block of stone to find the form within, a writer must cut away excessive, unclear and unnecessary verbiage, to hone and polish a story into something that might interest a reader and perhaps, a publisher.

Always remember:

Grocery lists and letters to mother are written; stories are constructed.

Basic Overview


Every story starts out with a premise that establishes conflict.

The wife of a rich and famous man is forced by circumstances to choose between saving the life of her lover, thereby making public her adultery and losing her wealth, position and prestige, or letting him die alone and abandoned.

Without conflict there is no story. The primary conflict is between the protagonist and the antagonist—the hero and the villain.

The hero is someone readers believe could be themselves or someone they find sympathetic. If the hero is unsympathetic readers will lose interest and stop reading. The hero is almost always a likeable individual of average capabilities, who is forced in a new direction by uncontrollable circumstances.

The antagonist can be anything. Another person, society, the elements, a belief, even something about the protagonist's character could create a conflict. The antagonist must be someone or something that could overcome and destroy the hero. The basis of their conflict must seem real and threatening. The conflict between hero and villain is the reason for a story. What happens because of the conflict forms the story structure.

The progress of a conflict towards a solution is the main story line. However, it is not what a story is about. While story conflict provides a structure and context to hold the aggregate together, a story is really about how characters react to challenges caused by a conflict. Stories are about characters, not the conflict that causes their actions. The primary challenges and reactions are those of the hero and villain. Everything else provides an appropriate setting. If a setting or minor characters become too important, the story will be messy, the reader confused, and the author in trouble.


A plot is instigated by a main story conflict, and formed of character reaction to events. A writer must ensure a plot is a logical progression of increasingly dangerous or important events leading to a final confrontation between hero and villain. A plot must never contain any element that does not in some way logically advance a story toward its conclusion.

Authors must construct and test the logic and necessity of every plot twist and turn to ensure a reader is never confused by what happens. All plot lines must be resolved before, or by the end of the climax, and the protagonist must emerge personally changed by what has happened in the story.


To provide emotional relief from story conflict, a subplot may be introduced with characters contrasting with the hero and the villain. While subplot characters may be on either side of a conflict, they tend to be companions of the hero. Subplots complicate and interrupt a reader's understanding of a story and should not be introduced except to advance the main story. Writers must understand that subplot elements exist to relieve tension, presage events, and introduce information necessary to the main story. If main and subplot themes alternate in too regular a manner, a writer ends up telling two stories to the detriment of both.


Readers need an introduction to appreciate character qualities and understand the type of person they meet in a story. The goal of characterization is to reveal social position, personality, and moral fibre.

The introduction of major characters precedes the introduction of minor characters. As major characters enter a story, scenes should illustrate their reaction to events and how they treat and speak to other major and minor characters.

While the names or presence of minor characters may be acknowledged in early scenes, their characterization is usually delayed until later in the story when major characters are not present to influence their actions or reactions.

As with subplots, characterization is used to reduce tension, provide an interlude between confrontations, herald future events, and provide personal information.


The purpose of dialogue is to reveal information, personal character and relationships to the reader. The main thing to understand about dialogue is that it should be indirect. Dialogue should never be an exchange of question and direct answer, or statement and reply, and should give characters enough to say to advance the story.


How are you?

I'm fine. How are you?

I'm fine too. Thanks for asking.


Honey, you're looking tired. How are you? Feeling drowsy?

What do you care. My health is my business. Why don't you mind your own.

Baby, you are my business—I just want to know if the poison I put in your coffee is working.


Before starting to write, plan the setting, scenery and props needed by the story. Make sure descriptions of real locations are accurate and reflect the period of the story. Ensure story movement between locations is logical, possible and necessary. Understand the props mentioned, and be able to accurately describe their appearance and function. Whether a teapot or tennis ball, know what the props are and how they operate. Ensure their possession by characters is logical and relevant.

The Reader's Perspective

In this age of movies and videos, inexperienced writers visualize stories on the private screen of their imagination and write what are essentially voice-overs. New writers don't realize readers can't see the scene authors imagine inside their heads, and don't understand writers must use words to provide the clues necessary to guide a reader's imagination. That doesn't mean long descriptive narratives are necessary. It means authors must use words to provoke the mental images needed by a story.

Starting Stories

Every story has an opening. The purpose of an opening is to orientate the reader. The opening establishes the period of the story; the location of the story; and introduces a character, usually the protagonist, by full name. A concluding sentence provides a transition to the first story event. Three sentences are enough.

If there isn't a mainline story event happening by the end of the fourth sentence to pique a reader's interest, not necessarily physical or violent action, but not something mundane or common either—start over.

Never start a story with weather, backstory, descriptive narrative, any explanation, waking up, a dream, or dialogue until you become one of the rich and famous authors who can do as they please.


When writing, keep in mind that everything written can, and routinely is changed. Cutting, pasting, deleting and rewriting should be carried out vigorously and frequently. As writing progresses, new story elements will require major changes to plot and character. Perspectives and story elements will change magically. Characters will be born, mature and disappear. Story conflicts may change—completely altering a story. Yet, endlessly polishing of story, characters, grammar and word usage is the only way to change amateur scribbling into creative fiction.

Proper Tools

Writing and rewriting need proper tools. Writing a story by hand or typewriter is archaic. The only sensible tool is a computer with specialized writing software. A computer greatly eases the rewriting task by allowing a writer to edit text and even save deleted text for future use. For a writer, using a word processor is as important as grammar and spelling.

Not all computers and word processors are created equal. Most word processors are bloated, useless pieces of overpriced software. The more functions a word processor is touted to perform, the more useless it is to a professional writer.

Computers and word processors are very personal things and finding a comfortable combination is as difficult as finding a good mechanic or a loyal friend. Many writers will swear by the writing system they use, because it took them forever to learn how it worked. Some will insist their system is best because it has hundreds of features. They refuse to admit they've wasted their time, effort and money.

Computer salespeople cannot be relied upon to provide competent advice. If they really knew anything about writing or computers, they wouldn't be working in retail stores.

Software for Writing

Choose writing software first. Find an application that is simple. Writing requires the ability to add, change, copy, move, paste, delete, save, save as, and print text. Little more.

The ability to insert a previously saved text file into the current file being worked upon, and to separately save a portion of the current file, is important. Very important is the ability to control the format of printed pages. Writing software should be able to count words, not because it's important, but because publishers want to know.

Many publishers today and in the future will insist on manuscript submission using computer media or Internet connection. They may also insist on a proprietary format specific to a certain word processor or e-book reader. This could influence your selection of software. Buying a utility application to convert between file formats may be a requirement.

A satisfactory computer and productive software is all that's needed. Don't change unless there is an important reason to restart your learning curve and waste an enormous amount of time learning a new system.

Learning to use your computer and word processing tools is just as difficult and time consuming as learning to speak a foreign language, but it's necessary for a writer.

Black and white print is all that is needed for printed output unless you intend to publish your own material. Cheap, ink jet printers are no match for a good quality laser printer. Buy a printer supported by your word processor with a printer driver that can fully exploit all the printer features. Printer manufacturers provide the best drivers for printers.

Learning to Type

The ability to touch-type is essential for a writer. Changing thought into type should never require a conscious action which interrupts the thinking process. Typing should be as automatic as speaking. Typing is a physical skill that is completely dependent upon practice. To learn to touch-type, a writer must practice, practice, practice. Great speed is not necessary. The ability to hit keys accurately is the important factor. There will be pauses during typing to determine what to write next, and a typing speed able to keep up with the speed of thought is enough. Writers soon realize that going back to correct typing errors is the real demon.

Touch-typing is best learned on the computer system used for writing. Many computer applications exist to teach typing. Acquire one that can speak the letters or words to type, and has an audible beep to indicate if a typing error occurs. That way, a typing student can look elsewhere while practicing, and avoid looking at the keyboard or screen. Watching words appear on the computer screen is acceptable, but watching the keyboard is not.

Learning where letters are on the keyboard and learning to hit the correct key is the biggest problem faced by a new typist. It's a process of training motor skills. With practice, letters will not be thought of individually and words will flow naturally from the fingers. The ability to do this is totally

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