You take up a story to read. And you come across a narration like; “I got up at dawn, had my breakfast and went to work.” What would you feel? Would you treat it as a story? It has almost everything a story should have; a main character and a chain of events that lead to a consequence. It also has the three elements of a plot, a beginning, the middle part and an end. Unfortunately, that is never going to happen. A narration like that will simply prompt you to skip the story. It does not have a crisis and an important event that transforms the life of the protagonist. It also lacks a discovery. What I wrote above is not a story, but just a report.
Go and tell this to your friends or co-workers; you are sure to get strange looks. But you don’t have to despair, it happens naturally. Teachers all over the world teach their students to focus on the structure of a story. Unfortunately, the cliché is not going to benefit a true storyteller. This comes up with the next question.
What is a story?
A story, according to Aristotle, should have an event that emotionally engages the reader. The middle should be a consequence that happens naturally because of the event. And the end should be an unavoidable conclusion that follows because of the consequence. It should transform the life of the main character. The character has to be vulnerable. This is a must for a perfect setting. The character should make the choices that determine the sequence of actions that lead to the conclusion. The vulnerability of the character and the setting should organize themselves in such a way as to arouse the curiosity and gain the empathy of your readers. To be simple, a story is a transformation that happens to the protagonist because of a crisis in life. The observation leads to the conclusion; an interesting story does not follow a set pattern. It creates tension that intensified as the plot unfolds.
Following are some of the things your story needs to prompt your readers to open and keep on reading.
- A relatable narrator
The first thing you should determine is the voice you plan to use. You may use first, second or third person as per your preferences. Whatever is your choice, your main character is the person with whom the readers spend most of their time in your book. Make sure that the personality of the character and the narration match well. The protagonist, even if it is a villain should have some virtues. This creates a liking for the character in the reader’s mind.
- A moral consequence
The consequence that follows the initial event should be moral. I can talk of a negligent pilot who forgets to check the components of the engine. He crashes his plane and kills all the passengers aboard. The ending may appear theoretically correct. But it is not going to interest your reader. Unpardonable negligence never deserves empathy. The plot becomes a story if the pilot’s wife and children are there among the passengers. Here, the pilot has to bear the guilt of his tragic mistake all his life. And he would want to atone for it in every way he can. This is sure to attract the empathy of your readers because the consequence has a moral value.
- A conclusion that transforms life
The consequence that follows the event should transform the life of the character in a big way. It can either be happy or tragic. Whatever it is, make sure that the conclusion is a natural one.
There are great many other things that you should keep in mind when writing a story. But these three factors will serve as helpful pointers for a beginner in the field.