Story Structure, Writing and Story Structure, Author

//Story Structure, Writing and Story Structure, Author

Before I became a published author, I spent a significant amount of time studying story structure. If I read a novel that kept me turning the pages, as soon as I was done, I went back and analyzed how the author structured the story. How did she grab my attention? What techniques did she use to hook me at the end of the chapter? Why did I care about the characters? I still do this today and it has helped me tremendously as a writer.

Is your book a page-turner? Here are five tips that will help you write a novel that keeps readers turning the pages.

1. Conflict, Conflict, Conflict!
It is essential that you have conflict in every single chapter of your novel. Conflict engages the reader and entices them to keep reading. Conflict doesn’t mean people are arguing or yelling at each other. For me, it means the presence of one force working against another. There’s a struggle or collision of interests: The prosecutor wants the defendant to go to jail, but the defense attorney is determined to see that his client goes free. Every story must have conflict. No one wants to read a book that meanders along with a bunch of happy people. That’s boring!

Once you’ve set up your conflict, don’t tell it all! String the reader along. Set up the fact that Misty has a secret in Chapter 1 hold off on telling the reader exactly what it is until later in the book. If you reveal the secret halfway through your novel, you must incorporate something else to keep the suspense going. If you string the reader along to a big buildup, make sure you reward them with a bombshell that is believable and worth the wait.

2. Create Characters the Reader Cares About.
To really hook your readers, give them characters they can root for as well as against. If your protagonist is an underdog with the odds against her, make sure there’s a reason for the reader to root for her. The same goes for your villain. If he’s a real scoundrel, readers will want him to fail. So build your plot so that they are not disappointed in the end. Your characters must be intriguing, yet human enough to make readers relate to them and want to know more about them.

3. Understand the Impact of Narrative vs. Dialogue.
Generally speaking, dialogue and action (i.e., people doing something) will speed up
the pacing of your novel, while extensive narrative will slow it down. Literary fiction, which is character-driver and lauded for its poetic prose, typically has more narrative than dialogue. Commercial fiction, which is plot driven, often includes more action and dialogue. Compare, for example, a James Patterson mystery like Four Blind Mice (commercial fiction) versus a novel like the Emperor of Ocean Park by Stephen L. Carter (literary fiction). The latter is heavy on the narrative, the former has far more action and dialogue. If you feel your story is dragging, analyze the amount of narrative versus dialogue and action and make the appropriate changes.

4. Hook Your Readers and Hold On.
Many readers who aren’t already familiar with an author will make a decision to buy a book after reading just the first few pages. Hence, your opening scene is your chance to grab their attention. But don’t stop there. Make sure you grab them throughout your tale. You can accomplish this through conflict and suspense and by presenting engaging characters. You should also end your chapters with a hook. Make it hard for the reader to put down the book because he’s dying to know what’s coming. If your protagonist narrowly escapes a tough situation, present him with another crisis that will keep the reader turning the pages. Keep your readers on the edge of their seats wondering, What’s going to happen next?

5. Record Your Own Book On Tape.
The last step in my writing process is to read my entire manuscript into a tape recorder and listen to it with pen in hand, ready to make any necessary changes. I often hear things that I don’t see when I’m simply reading the manuscript. I’ve discovered things like word repetitions that I missed, a lag in the pacing, and inconsistencies in my story line. After several hours of listening to my story, I’ve sometimes discovered that it takes too long to get to the big event. So I go back to the drawing board.

If you’ve never listened to a book on tape, try doing so before you listen to your own book. Ask yourself if the story grips you and if not, figure out why. By the same token, if the book doesn’t grab you, analyze what the writer could have done differently to engage you. If you only follow one piece of advice from this article, please follow this tip! You will be amazed at how much you will be able to sharpen your manuscript as a result of this exercise.

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2018-06-27T16:05:16+00:00 June 27th, 2018|Categories: Discover Cities in My Online World|Tags: |