Writing the perfect story is a lot like producing a lip-smacking dish. All the ingredients must be carefully selected and measured before they are blended to create a melting pot of spices that entice a foodie’s soul. But no matter how good you are at crafting an engaging story (or cooking a delectable dish), there are always ways you can improve your creative writing (or cooking!) skills.
Here are 10 ways you can polish your creative writing skills and take your scrumptious dish to the next level:
Spend Time Crafting a Killer Opening
It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a mammoth novel, a short novella or an even shorter short story. The opening of your book is the most important part because the first few paragraphs determine whether your readers will continue reading your tale or put it down. The best way to create a killer opening is by grabbing the reader’s attention with an unexpected action, a conflict, or a powerful image. It should make the reader interested enough to continue reading your story.
Cut Down on Unnecessary Details
This is perhaps the most common mistake several amateur storytellers unconsciously make – adding unnecessary details to the story. All too often writers get caught up in the details and forget to progress the plot. Cut down on adverbs. Get rid of flowery pose. Instead, choose words that are powerful. Choose words that conjure images in a reader’s mind.
Conflict is Your Best Friend
The thumb rule for writing a good novel is: The more the number of obstacles the protagonist faces, the spicier the tale is for a reader. Producing tension by having the protagonist face a number of conflicts either internally or externally will keep readers sitting on the edge of their seats. You can create conflict:
Internally wherein the protagonist is against himself or herself
Externally wherein he or she fights off another person, a group of people, nature, technology, God or society
How can you build conflict? Here are some useful tips:
Tease readers that a conflict is brewing at the start of the narrative
Increase the problems and obstacles the protagonist faces
Make the conflict or conflicts complex
The more the conflict can resonate with readers, the better
Let the readers know that the stakes are high for the protagonist
Shock your Readers
Readers are smart. Usually, they can guess a number of things. Your job as a novel writer is to shock them. Make the conflict (or conflicts) that your protagonist faces complex by adding an unexpected fact or perspective. Bonus points if you can add a flair of drama to the story. Shocking readers also ensures that they keep turning the pages of your book.
Add a Bit of Foreshadowing
Conflict and shock is great but don’t leave readers high and dry all the time. Drop some hints here or a suggestion there as to ways your protagonist can resolve their conflict. This is a great tip particularly for horror and suspense writers since their readers are constantly guessing the identity of the murderer or villain in the story.
Show, Don’t Tell
Emotions are a writer’s best friend. Use them liberally to show what your characters are feeling. Good stories express the author’s feelings. Great stories generate feelings within the readers. It makes them sympathize and empathize with the characters. Simply telling readers what a character is feeling is boring. But showing them how a character feels is interesting.
Which is better?
John missed Mary.
John woke up with a start. He had another dream about Mary, the love of his life. His heart longed for her touch, to hear her melodious voice and to kiss her strawberry blonde hair one more time.
The second sentence, right? That’s because you can feel John’s feelings.
Develop Your Characters
Fiction writers know all too well the significance of developing intriguing characters that readers can either relate to or love to loathe. In order to develop a group of fascinating characters that drive your story, you need to know more about the characters than the story demands. What are their hobbies? Do they have pets? What is their favorite color? Don’t include every detail of your characters but have them clearly formed in your mind.
Write Engaging Dialogues
In the same vein as show, don’t tell, remember to craft short and crisp sentences while writing your story’s dialogues. Dialogues help create the tension and conflict we talked about previously, so spend time creating captivating conversations between characters (or in the case of a monologue, a captivating thought process of the protagonist).
Finally, Reward your Readers – The Payoff
Finally, your climax must reach its peak and resolve the protagonist’s conflicts. This is the payoff – the part where you reward readers for sticking to your story. Of course, there are different ways to end a story and most don’t always conclude with a happily ever after.
Here are some common endings:
Open-ended: Where the author doesn’t offer a definite conclusion to the tale.
Resolution: Where the author ties the story up in a neat little bow with a clear-cut outcome.
Back to the beginning: Where the author concludes the story of the image he or she showed readers in the beginning of the narrative.
Monologue: Where the writer ends with the protagonist talking to himself.
A conversation/dialogue: Where the novelist concludes the drama with two or more characters having a conversation.
An image: Where the storyteller completes the plot with an image that can either be literal or symbolic.
Draw on your Own Experiences
They say reality is stranger than fiction and in some ways this is true. Often the best stories are the ones that were inspired by something that actually happened to the author or based on a character they actually met. Which is why it’s important to draw from your own experiences (or someone else’s experiences) while writing a riveting story.
Now that you have these valuable tips in hand, it’s time to put this article down and write that incredible tale brewing in your head!