How story ideas are born Authors generally start with one of three elements (character, setting, or conflict

) and use the one chosen to come up with the other two. There's no right or wrong order to this process. An idea for a conflict (for example, high school bullying), can lead both to character ideas (Who's the bully? What motivates him? Who are the victims? How will they respond?) and also to setting ideas (What kind of school do these characters attend? Where is this school located? Is it a rough public school, a snooty private one?). An idea for a setting (for example, a Mississippi cotton plantation just before the Civil War) can lead to conflict ideas (slaves forcibly separated from their children), and character ideas (a pregnant slave willing to risk her life to keep her unborn child). Or an idea for a character (for example, a woman who is obsessed with neatness) can lead to conflict ideas (In what situation would the character's obsession with neatness become a problem? In what situation would she face a mess she couldn't control?), and setting ideas (the woman's ultra-organized apartment with its elaborate systems of cabinets, compartments, and labeled containers). There are three elements that a story needs: a character, a setting, and a conflict. A piece of writing is not a story unless something happens in it. If nothing happens, the piece might be a description or an article or a philosophical discourse, but not a story. In a story, something has to happen. It happens to someone (a *character*), and it happens somewhere (*a setting*). A *conflict* -- or problem -- is what makes something happen.

5 ways to get character ideas How do you get ideas for characters? Here are five different ways. EACH ONE of these is a gold mine. Method # 1: People-watch. Observe people who pass you on the street; go to a mall or a café and watch the people around you. Look at how they dress and present themselves, their facial expressions, their gestures, how they move, how they interact with each other. Try to imagine their lives. Watch people in line at the supermarket -- listen to their conversations, pay attention to what they're buying. Do they live by themselves or with children? Do they have pets? Do they cook a lot, or do they keep precooked food in their freezers? Are they planning a party? Or, are they possibly drinking too much alone?

She is tall and lean -. That's great.Every one of these people can become a fictional character in your stories. They're fictional characters that you have invented. it can be limiting. or just write down the first three names that occur to you. Often. Try to picture a person with each of the names you've chosen. Choose the names at random from a phone book or another directory. Your Gertrude is probably completely different from mine. and what might her husband have been like? The people you imagine are likely to be very different from the real people involved in the news item. writers base characters on real people they know. and she has a swift. What might have caused a particular woman to shoot her husband? What kind of person might she be. Take notes on what you imagine. but in other cases. A name triggers a complex set of associations. Whenever you need character ideas. a woman named Veronique. a woman named Donna. try to imagine the people behind the headlines. When you read about ordinary people in extraordinary situations. It can be hard to stop thinking of the real person and imagine the character separately. She wears no makeup and has deep lines along the sides of her mouth. Wedding announcements and obituaries are another great place to look for character ideas. Here's a different method to try: create a character that mixes aspects of several people you know. based also on the people we have known or heard of with that name or similar names. Newspapers are a rich source of character ideas. Take a moment to picture a woman named Gertrude. . What images do these names bring to mind? I imagine three very different women. based on its sound and the way it looks on a page. Method # 3: Get ideas from names. Now you can use them however you like in your stories. That sometimes works well. That's fine. Use your imagination to fill in the blank space around the information the newspaper reports. write down three names. determined stride as if she's always on her way to solve an urgent problem. You've just come up with the seeds of three characters! Method # 4: Mix and match.she takes long walks every day. Method # 2: Get ideas from the newspaper. The name Gertrude makes me think of a sixty-year-old woman with graying chin-length hair pushed back behind her ears.

What's the character's family like? . you might invent a character who is partly based on your father. at the same time.For example. but make that character a woman. How to develop a character Once you have an idea for a character. Feel free to change any of the questions or add new ones: . Or. Method # 5: Turn characters into more characters.Is the character in a relationship? What's his or her partner like? .What is his/her greatest fear? . Who is in your character's family? What are your character's parents like? Who is your character's best friend? Who is your character's enemy? What kind of person gets on your character's nerves? What kind of person attracts your character romantically or feels attracted by your character? Brainstorm on questions like these. and partly based on your boss at work. you can start developing the character by imagining more aspects of this person and his or her life.What are your character's greatest strengths? . Each character you create can be the seed of more character ideas. then develop the answers into new characters.Does your character have hobbies? What does he or she enjoy doing? . unique. you might base a character on your father.What's the character's occupation? . The result of each combination will be a character who shares similarities with all of these people but. You could base the character's physical appearance on a waitress you saw at a restaurant.What is the character's home like? His or her neighborhood? . partly based on one of your high school teachers.What are his or her greatest weaknesses? . is different from all of them. Here's a questionnaire that you can use to create character profiles.What is his/her deepest desire? .

It might be an internal struggle. but she's already married to someone else. The keys to effective conflict If readers care about the result of your story conflict. A *viewpoint character* is a character whose perspective is used to tell the story. . . Readers see the story through that character's eyes. there is no reason for her to take action. There is no reason for anything to change. They're frustrated when the character encounters obstacles and relieved when the obstacles are overcome. for example. Why you need a conflict A story conflict is a problem facing the main character. but it will help you to flesh out the characters in your own mind so that you can write about them in a convincing way. Here are some examples of story conflicts: ..Harry Potter has to save the world from the evil wizard Voldemort. And no change equals no story. the character has to overcome a particular fear or a bad habit. They're triumphant or in despair at the end of the story when the character either succeeds or fails.Mary falls in love with the perfect man.What is something this character doesn't know about himself or herself? Most of this information will not actually go into your stories. experiencing what that character experiences.John wants to be president of his high school class. This problem might be a romantic rival or a horde of attacking zombies. they will keep reading to find out what happens. . but he is terrified of public speaking. Readers tend to identify with the viewpoint character and feel as if they're resolving the story's conflict along with him or her. 2) The readers identify with your character -. If everything in your character's life is perfect. Conflict is important because it makes things happen. readers imagine themselves in your character's place.What is something this character desperately wants to change about himself or herself? .in other words. What makes readers care? 1) The result of the conflict matters a lot to your character.

who identifies with the character.. How does your character react? 5) What is one of your character's greatest weaknesses? Imagine a situation in which your character must overcome this weakness or risk losing something s/he cares about deeply.) 2) What is one of your character's greatest fears? Imagine a situation which forces your character to face this fear in order to achieve an important goal. 3) Who is someone your character hates? Imagine a situation which forces your character into a major struggle with this person. (What obstacle? You decide.. 7) Who are the people your character cares about most? Imagine a situation in which your character must choose between two of them. but there is a terrible obstacle in the way. A story plot normally goes like this: 1) The character and the conflict are introduced. This gives your reader. 4) Who is someone your character loves? Imagine a situation which threatens to cut your character off from this person. it's generally best to have one viewpoint character and develop a conflict that matters to that character. 6) Imagine a situation in which something your character doesn't know about himself or herself is about to ruin his or her life. unless the character is capable of making drastic changes. a stake in what happens.When writing a short story. . which gives you the seed for a story. You can repeat the techniques with new characters and come out with a completely different story every time! 1) What is something your character deeply desires? Imagine a situation in which your character has the chance to obtain this desire. then come up with a viewpoint character who will be directly affected by the result of that conflict. If the starting point for your story idea is the conflict instead of the character. 7 ways to get conflict ideas from your characters Here are seven surefire ways to turn a character idea into an idea for conflict. Plotting 101 The word *plot* is used to describe the structure of a story's action: the main events of the story and the order in which they happen.

This moment is called the *story climax. What's still missing is the third dimension. Solid research here comes to great use and don't be afraid to a use a didactic approach to your writing where appropriate. write with that amount of detail rather than just saying "a brick wall". Some key points to consider: Be creative The more creative you are. If you have a character idea and a conflict idea. 3) The character's struggle builds to a win-or-lose moment which will decide if the story ends happily or not. Brush up on Technical Skills Being creative as a writer is important for those who want to write fiction but learning basic punctuation and rules of grammar makes what you write a whole lot easier for others to understand. Using cliched phrases is something to avoid. you have everything necessary to plot your story. Take Risks All writers will face rejection at some stage. the more unique your writing becomes. If you see a cracked red brick wall about 5 feet high covered with graffiti. Express Yourself! Be clear in what you are trying to communicate and do it in the words that come naturally to you.* 4) The character either is either successful or unsuccessful in resolving the conflict. You'll need a setting for your story and details that will bring it to life for your reader. Try to use your own words to convey the same imagery. Being creative means taking risks. The word choices you make are very important as selecting a 'big' word in favour of a simpler word . Think very carefully when your write. Good writing is not necessarily complicated sentence structures and fancy use of linguistics. sometimes it doesn’t. instead of using the cliched metaphor "raining cats Pay Attention to Detail Be very specific and explain anything the target audience may not understand.2) The character struggles with the conflict. For example. Sometimes it pays off. Description should be used to engage the reader and get their imagination working.

leave the piece for a few days – then come back to it are more confident using could create an inverse effect and end up sounding awkward. For many writers. A bald jerk cut in front of me in line. with a red pen in hand. Just completing a small finished piece can help if you’re bogged down in a longer story. Work out the time of day when you’re at your most creative. or something to procrastinate over for as long as possible. we writers can end up feeling that our writing is a chore. after the rest of the family have gone to bed. your characters bore you to tears and you’re convinced that a fiveyear old with a crayon could write better prose … take a break. Write a poem or a 60-word “mini saga”. this is first thing in the morning – before all the demands of the day jostle for attention. If you’re stuck for ideas. If your plot seems wildly far-fetched. Don’t be afraid to experiment! Don’t agonize over getting it right. scene or even a sentence comes out perfectly the first time. forced. something that “must” be done. Others write well late at night. when he pulled a gun on the blond lady behind the counter.     How to write short stories from different points of view Your story's narrator is the voice that is telling the story. and an unusual phrase may be prompted by something you see or smell. Tips and tricks for beginners  Do some short exercises to stretch your writing muscles –Many new creative writers find that doing the washing up or weeding the garden suddenly looks appealing. For example. All writers have to revise and edit their work – it’s rare that a story. Start a completely new project. so I was about to go say something. carry a notebook everywhere and write down your observations. Force yourself to get through these early doubts. I realized he was holding a gun. Suddenly. ask a fellow writer to read through it and give feedback. . Once you’ve completed the initial draft. compared to the effort of sitting down and putting words onto the page. You’ll get some great lines of dialogue by keeping your ears open on the bus or in cafes. read the same scene described by three different narrators:    I pulled out the gun and showed it to the cute blond bank teller. something which is purely for fun. who gave a little yelp of surprise. even if it’s just for ten minutes. HAVE FUN! Sometimes. I hate cutters. Try to get into the habit of writing every day. This bald guy came up to my counter and reached into his jacket. If you know there are problems with your story but can’t pinpoint them. or unnatural within your individual writing style. and it really will get easier.

Limited voice . For example. This option can work well if it's handled right. . it will be hard for him to describe what the police are doing just then to solve his kidnapping. How to write short stories in the first person There are certain things a first person narrator normally shouldn't say.If your narrator is a seven-year-old. she can't talk convincingly about politics. but you want to keep the murderer's identity a mystery until the end. known as unreliable narrators. but you have to make sure the readers don't feel cheated or manipulated by the story.." How to write short stories . One thing that drives me crazy is when a first-person narrator who is supposed to be a child. She doesn't know what the other people around her are thinking.If your narrator has a colorful or appealing way of talking. or an uneducated farm worker or manual laborer suddenly launches into a poetic description of the weather using twenty-dollar words and references to Greek philosophers. How to write short stories .Your narrator only knows what she knows.All of these examples use first person narrators.Your reader has the chance to get to know the narrator by listening to him. come on.disadvantages of a first-person narrator:    Limited scope . That means the narrator is also one of the characters in the scene. she might have to be tricky or evasive. For example: "My bald spot looked particularly shiny that day.You can give the reader a first-hand perspective on the story." "me." Why? Because you can't see your own bald spot unless you're looking at yourself in a photograph or a mirror at just the right angle.advantages of a first person narrator:    Directness . even if they have been manipulated by the narrator. Difficulty withholding information . Intimacy . Another thing that sounds strange in the first person voice: "I have no idea that. let's say your narrator killed his brother. Voice . I mean. If your narrator has been locked in the trunk of a car. One strategy is to drop hints from the beginning that the narrator's account might not be totally trustworthy." Your first person narrator can't give information he doesn't know. How is the narrator going to inform your reader about the murder without this little detail coming up? Note: some stories have narrators who mislead the readers or lie to them outright. That limits the information she can supply to the reader." etc. this can add flavor to the story-telling.If the narrator knows something that you don't want the reader to know yet. I died.. and he or she tells the story using the words "I. Also always an awkward statement: "Then. She doesn't know what's happening two miles away.

But with a third-person narrator. I might choose to limit my thirdperson narrator to Jack's perspective." etc. "He." The effect here is almost as if this had been written in the first person. The narrator talks all the time about "you. and it's harder to use without seeming contrived or defying the reader's common sense (I know that I didn't rob a bank!) ." Second-person narration is more unusual than the first or third person. A third-person narrator tells the story using the words." A third person narrator might even have a supernatural ability to be in more than one place at once. seeing everything that's going on. as if they are living his particular experience. You might decide to limit yourself to one viewpoint for each section of the story and use line breaks or another visual cue to let your reader know when you're switching. If your first-person narrator's a ghost or a dog or someone who's been buried alive in the desert. Across the city. wondering if Jack would possibly manage to pull off the robbery." "she. Or I could move from one character's mind to another. wondering if the police were already outside. Question of how the narrator came to tell the story. how did the story come to be written? I've noticed that some writers choose to ignore this logical problem. who looked like he was about to protest until the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at the blond teller. How to write short stories in the second person A story written in the second person treats the reader as the story's character. Tip: readers will often feel more intensely involved with a particular character if you limit the story to that person's point of view. This would give readers a sense of connection to Jack. please. But it always bugs me when they do. then reached for your gun. How to write short stories in the third person A third-person narrator might be completely outside the action. Miriam paced back and forth across their small living room. please don't have your character die in the last line. you have to be careful not to confuse or disorient your reader. you walked up to the bank counter. Example: Jack felt faint as he hurried out of the bank." "it. unaware that police cars were already surrounding the building. Third-person narrators may also have limited or complete access to one or more character's thoughts. and I'm probably not alone. So if you're writing a story in the first person. I'm not limited by Jack's voice. For example: "A bald man suddenly cut in front of the teenager boy." they. It's common to locate the narrator partially inside a particular character's head. What would happen to Miriam if he were arrested? The thought was unbearable. If you switch points of view in the same story." This kind of narrator with unlimited vision and knowledge is called an omniscient narrator. Example: "Customers screamed and ducked to the floor. he tried to push it out of his mind. with Jack telling the story." "Nervously.

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