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Tips, Inspiration, & Resources

The Seven Elements of a Compelling Story: A Checklist

THE SEVEN ELEMENTS OF A COMPELLING  STORY

 

1. WHAT DOES YOUR CHARACTER WANT? (a/k/a, THE GOAL)

 

Some examples of goals:

  • Love, appreciation
  • recognition
  • the need to be understood
  • defeat of an enemy
  • basic human survival
  • recovery from trauma
  • closure after tragedy
  • finding a reason to live
  • finding a purpose
  • making peace with the past
  • triumph over adversity of any kind.

 

2. WHAT'S STOPPING HIM/HER FROM GETTING IT? (a/k/a CONFLICT):

  • Conflict takes many forms: Oneself (we are our own worst enemy), other people, situations. 
  • Infuse conflict into every scene.

3. WHY SHOULD YOUR READERS CARE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER'S STRUGGLE? (a/k/a SYMPATHY)

  • Reveal the truth about your hero, even if he doesn't know it himself.
  • Give your characters layers and dimension—even villains are human beings; even heroes have flaws. 
  • Go easy on the self-pity, even infuse humor if possible. 

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The cure for writer's block: Embracing the "I don't know"

Not knowing is supposed to be a bad thing. However, with storytelling, not knowing can be the best thing that ever happened to you.

 

Because if you surrender to the "I don't know," then anything can happen.

 

Suddenly, you're in a magical world of endless possibilities.

 

You are a kid in a playground. A park. A candy shop. A toy store. You're in a place where you can have anything you want, be anything you want, go anywhere you want, travel to any time you want. It's one big game of pretend. No limitations.

 

HOW DO YOU DO IT? HOW DO YOU GET PAST THAT BLOCKED, SCARY PLACE?

 

 

Rule number one: Don't freak out.

It'll just waste your time and make you feel worse. Know that whatever you are going through is temporary. Tell yourself that you WILL get yourself out of that blocked place. Tell yourself you have nothing to lose by trying the methods in this post. 

 

Rule number two: Step away from the vehicle.

Stop trying to turn over that engine in your head. It's flooded with too much analytical, know-it-all thinking. The know-it-all is not your friend. The know-it-all is not going to get that sentence, that page, that chapter written. Because you are going to step into the land of "I don't know." Willingly!

 

Rule number three: Decide that you are in the wonderful land of "I don't know," where magical answers appear without any effort.

If you're saying to yourself, "yeah, right," with a big dose of sarcasm, tell that naysayer voice inside to take a hike. Tell yourself that it costs you nothing to believe in the magic of "I don't know." Go ahead, just give it a try. Allow for the possibility. Suspend disbelief. You don't have to tell anyone. And what do you have to lose?

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