If you have ever asked yourself that question, then chances are you’re a good writer. Why? Because a good writer is conscientious. They want to tell a good story, a perfect story, the best story possible. They will listen to their critique group. They will consider feedback from others. Basically, they will do whatever it takes to improve their skills and the story. In theater there is a saying: “It’s all about the play.” Well, in writing the same can be said. “It’s all about the story.” If a writer is ready to put that first, aside from what they think will sell and what is popular now, then they may just have something special.

            Of course, what you think is a good story may be different from what I think is a good story. Like it or not, it’s all very subjective. And that’s where the writer needs to trust their instincts. I remember not long ago I started a story one way and changed it on the advice of my critique group.  Later I presented the story to an agent who advised that I should have started the story differently…which just so happened to be the way I originally had written it. Naturally I was frustrated and then I realized something — I need to trust myself. As a new writer, that isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do. So how do you know if the story is good? Here are a few things to consider –

1.    Get Inspired. Let the world inspire you and from that consider what would make a good story.

2.      Pay attention and listen. Notice what’s happening around you and how people react in different situation. Remember that people are not flawless or perfect. Perfect does not usually make for a good story. Pay attention to how people talk and move. Anything that helps the story feel more real, even if the story is utter fantasy, is better because when a story has that “real” feel to it, people can relate.

3.      Read other authors. Learn from them. Pick the stories you like and decide why you like it and do the same for stories you don’t like. Read modern writers but don’t forget the classics. What makes the story so good even today?

4.      Develop you story. Begin with POV and plot. Remember there has to be something at stake in every story or otherwise, no matter how well written, why does the reader need to keep reading? The reader has to care. Recall that suggestion about making it real? A reader cares if the underlying story speaks to them. It doesn’t matter if the story takes place in Russia or on planet Chip Ahoy, as long as there is some conflict, some tension, some sense of “Oh my God.” And it needs to end with some resolution. Wrap it up. The wrap up doesn’t have to be happy or perfect either so long as it leaves the reader thinking.

5.      Revise. Edit. Revise. Edit. Repeat after me. Get feedback. Consider opening lines. Visualize the story in your head and move with it step by step like a movie. Consider all angles, the character’s perspective, and the possibilities of the action. Ask yourself questions: if my main character hits the bad guy with a screw driver, where did he get the screw driver? If the bad guy falls, how does he land on the ground face down when he was hit in the face? The scene has to make sense and have a sense of “real.”

These are just a few ideas on how to write a good story. There are a lot more tips available, but the bottom line is, believe in your story and have fun. Chances are if you had fun writing it, you and your readers will recognize it as a good story.

About L. Thomas-Cook

Moved from upstate NY three years ago in 2011 to live along the Grand Strand. Retired early childhood education administrator. Certified speech therapist. Volunteer board member in SCWW in 2011 as grant writer and 2014 conference chair. Volunteer and board member in Murrells Inlet Community Theatre. I love to write fiction with twists and turns, the not-so-usual topics, forbidden lovers, conflict, challenges, and psychological thrillers where good fights evil, ghosts haunt the living, and life after death is debated. I love the beach, nature, photography, my family (husband, son, daughter) and my dog, Sonny. Oh, and I'm a napoholic too.
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  1. Beth Browne says:

    Great post, Linda! Plenty of food for thought!

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