Your story, be it fantasy, action, or romantic comedy, is about a character going in pursuit of what they want. They want something, they go out to get it, and things get in their way. The story resolves when they either have it, or have accept they won’t get to. But to make your story really powerful, you need to think about what they have to give up during that journey.
Your Protagonist, the main character, of your story usually need to be likeable. I say usually, because having a Protagonist who is unlikeable happens occasionally and it can work, but it makes it harder for your audience to connect to their journey. A likeable Protagonist will draw your audience into following their story, and make them invest more easily.
Your story “continuity” is making sure that from one scene to another, nothing changes about the people or the environment they’re in, that wasn’t intended to change and tracked by the writer. In film and TV errors, continuity errors can happen due to wardrobes changing suddenly, placement of props on the set, or weather, but I’ll be focusing specifically on the written word because as a writer the story continuity is your responsibility to control.
Sometimes as part of your story, you’ll have information that needs to be delivered in order for the story to make sense. This could be rules of magical lore within your Universe, details of a quest your character goes on, world building about the environment they live in if you’re writing in high fantasy or sci fi, or politics of the time such as a war they’ve been engaged in or who is in charge. But, ultimately, either your audience, or both your character and your audience, need information to be delivered to them in order for you to tell your story.
The resurrection of characters that have died can be a dramatic game changer that enhances your story, however, if used too easily and without careful construction, it can have the opposite effect. Your audience can be left feeling like all the tension has been sapped away because if characters die it doesn’t really mean anything.
If you are planning a series of books or films, then you need to write the first one in a way that will encourage your audience to come back for the second installment, and excite them to read further adventures with those characters. One way of doing that is with a cliffhanger, so you leave part of your story untold and end it at a point of tension that the audience hopes to be resolved next time. However, there are negative consequences to that decision.
If you’re writing a book or script where there is risk or peril, and you want your audience to believe in it and feel tense during scenes with fights or danger, you need to be willing to kill your main characters. But killing them needs to be done in a way that actually causes the sense of tension you need your audience to feel.
In most of these pieces of writing advice, I reference the conflict, because there is no story without conflict. So what actually is conflict?
Causing your audience to have a strong emotional connection to your story, even to the point of being moved to tears, is how you make a story stick with them well after they’ve finished your book. Nobody remembers the story that they had no feelings about, it’s the stories that impacted us on an emotional level that we hold in our hearts. But how do you do it?
A coincidence in a story is an event that happens that has no foreshadowing and no intent, it wasn’t something the character looked for or is a consequence of previous action, it just happens to them and impacts them and they react to it. Coincidences can trigger an interesting story, or progress an existing story, but they have to be handled with care. Having too many coincidences in your story can make it weak, and it shows a lack of planning and intent. I’ll be writing about why coincidences are a problem, and how to avoid writing them.