I read an article in Writer’s Digest written by Steven James, The 5 Essential Story Ingredients. Mr. James wrote that writers think that stories are just a beginning, middle, and end but it’s much more than that. A story must emotional engage the reader so they invest in the heroine’s outcome.
Aristotle claimed stories must have an origin, an escalation of conflict, and a resolution. The resolution must transform either a situation or a character. The very heart of the story is how the character deals with the tension created by the conflict. Without tension, conflict, and crisis there is no action.
The tension in the story must build as the story unfolds. There are 5 essentials that make a good story. Using them will draw readers in and keep them turning pages. How these essentials are developed make the story unique.
Grab your reader’s attention from the very start through the setting, mood, and tone and with a heroine they care about. If they don’t care about the heroine, they won’t care about the story. The reader already knows that something will change (after all it’s a story). The orientation is the baseline, starting point, from which the change will take place. It’s the standard by which they will judge the success or failure of the story.
Introducing a crisis, usually internal and external, that tips the heroine’s world out of kilter must be one she cannot immediately resolve. This is the challenge that sets the story in motion. Her life will change and will never be the same. There are basically two ways to introduce the crisis, begin with the heroine having what she wants and take it away or desiring what she wants and have her pursue it.
According to Mr. James, there are two types of characters – pebble people and putty people. One is rigid while the other is malleable. The main character needs to be a putty person. She is the one that has to change. She will struggle to get back to ‘normal’ but she is forever changed. The more intimate, personal and devastating the struggle the more the reader will keep reading.
At the climax of the story, the heroine realizes that her life has changed and will try by wit (cleverly putting the pieces together) or grit (showing perseverance or tenacity) to get back to ‘normal.’
The irony of storytelling is that the reader wants to predict the outcome but he wants to be wrong. The resolution of the story is more satisfying when it ends in a way that is inevitable and unexpected.
Here the heroine either transforms or dies. Whatever happens, she will never be the same. The change marks the resolution of the crisis and culmination of the story, moving the heroine to a new normal.
“If you render a portrait of the protagonist’s life in such a way that we can picture his world and also care about what happens to him, we’ll be drawn into the story. If you present us with an emotionally stirring crisis or calling, we’ll get hooked. If you show the stakes rising as the character struggles to solve this crisis, you’ll draw us in more deeply. And if you end the story in a surprising yet logical way that reveals a transformation of the main character’s life, we’ll be satisfied and anxious to read your next story.” … Steven James.