1. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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    Sterling's Guide to a Good Story

    Beginners, Intermediates, and full Novelists.









    I've been a GBAtemp member for quite some time now. Back in the earlier days of my membership I was known for being a writer. I wouldn't have called myself good, or even passable but write I did. In those days I had issues with insomnia and I had a lot of trouble falling asleep. I wrote until I felt tired and it wasn't unusual to put 300 or more words into a blog. Eventually it turned into a relatively long story. Since then, I've been honing my skills and I've decided to try and give some experience back to the community. Well, here's my best shot at some advice to make each and every one of you better writers.


    Coming up with the content.

    The backbone of every story.








    What I've learned about writing a good story is that sometimes the story isn't straight forward. Sometimes it twists and turns and can get confusing for both the reader and the author. So, if you have trouble keeping your story coherent and easy to follow, then you should try to consolidate your ideas. In other words, "Brainstorming". Brainstorming is the art of releasing ideas and thoughts in quick bursts, and using the basic structure and ideals as fodder for your story. This gives you the inspiration you need to make your story interesting. Brainstorming is a way to give your thoughts proper release. This is the most basic tool in any writers' toolbox. I will do my best to help you understand and properly use brainstorming.



    Decide what you want to write about. If you don't have anything in mind, then say the first interesting thing that pops into your mind out loud. For the purposes of this guide, we'll be using, "Medieval".

    Brainstorming is all about gathering the thoughts in the turmoil and refining them into usable subject and details for your writing. Here are a few things to consider when Brainstorming:
    • Who is my target audience?
    • What does the idea mean to you?
    • What could the idea mean to my target audience?
    • What do I want my target audience to think?
    • How can I keep the target audience's attention, and get my message across?

    Now, there is much, much more to it, and many more things you could ask yourself, but these are here to get you started. Using these questions, you should reflect on the base word. For example, I'd be writing a story on medieval times for a teen to young adult audience. Medieval means RPGs, dragons, chivalrous ideals and many more things to me. My target audience might have the same view as me, but they might think horses, or a damsel in distress and knights in shining armor. I want to describe the ideal of medieval to be bloody and full of violence, while keeping the ideas of basic chivalrous values. To keep my audience's attention, I'd want to make the main character fall in love, perhaps use tragedy or victory as key plot points. The list can go on and on.

    Next, when you've found your subject and you've reflected enough to have basic plot points and wide details, you'll need to start thinking about the main points in your story, or chapters as they're called. The chapters are the bigger and broader details of your story, so they're really important for keeping your story organized. The meat (or details) of the chapters is what will keep your audience interested. Do this correctly and the backbone of your story (chapters) will have a rib cage to provide more support. The best way to organize a story is via an Outline.

    • Medieval (basic idea)
      • Knighthood(Chapter)
        • From rags to shining armor (subject in said chapter)
          • [-](details)
            [-](details)
            [-](details)
            [-](details)
            [-](details)

    This is the basic outline. If you have trouble organizing, use this to keep you straight. You don't have to plan out everything, just keep the stuff vague to encourage elaboration.



    Separation of sentences and paragraphs.

    The organs of a good story.








    Alright, so you've got your outline. You have that pen and paper, and you're ready to write a kick ass story. Well, you're wrong! We still have to discuss the organization of your story. When it comes down to the bits, it'll separate the great from the mediocre. You see, while a good concept and an organized outline make up the skeleton of your story, the real inner workings are made up of the words. If these words aren't properly organized, then the organs are just scrambled sacs of meat.

    • Always indent your paragraphs. It keeps things simple so the reader knows there is a break in the story. If you are unable to indent, then a larger than usual capital letter at the beginning of a paragraph adds a bit of flair, and style. Although, just a double break can make the paragraph easy to discern.
    • Make sure each paragraph is easy to read. Long sentences and large paragraphs can make reading a chore.
    • Grammar and spelling and proper vocabulary for your target audience are the most fundamental elements to a good story. It's what separates the word doodles from the actual works of art. If your audience cannot understand what you are trying to convey, then you will have failed as a writer.


    Peer evaluation.

    The doctors of the text.








    As a person, I'm prone to mistakes simply because I'm human. One person alone isn't much parity, but when you add your peers into the mix, consistency and redundancy skyrockets. Many people will catch multiple mistakes that would slip by that single person. So, as an aspiring writer, it is your duty to help your peers out. Besides, you never know when that regard in your work turns out to show that you're a retard (its only one letter).


    Tips and tricks to make sure your beautiful story has no blemishes.

    A story may work well, but it must be attractive and ready to party.







    • A good music playlist can do wonders for a mentally blocked writer. Just load it up and go to town.
    • Inspiration can come from anywhere. The sky, food, music, and believe it or not family vacations.
    • If someone poops on your work, just clean it off. Just because someone doesn't like it, doesn't mean that you can't continue to improve it.
    • Fresh air is just as important as paper cuts. Don't be reclusive, get out there and be with the outside world.
    • Forums like GBAtemp are good places to receive feedback on your ventures. Just don't feed the trolls.


    User Submitted Content

    Hell yeah, people are paying attention to me.










    Ok, I'm back with a some more advice. Hope these can help.


    [2] Don't just follow the "in" thing - Personally, I am getting sick and tired of all the "supernatural being falls in love with humans" genre that seems to have come out of nowhere ever since twilight destroyed the horror icon that is the vampire. Please, for your own sake, write something that means something to you, a story that is yours, rather than going along with what's popular. In fact, props to the next writer who starts a decent trend in future novels.

    [3] Take what works; discard/fix what doesn't - Part of a writer's responsibility is to make sure their story works as a whole. If certain parts or aspects of it work to drag the whole thing down without contributing anything, then you should edit it out or find a way to make it fit in with the rest of the working parts.

    [4] Write for your audience - Writer's more-or-less have the story in their head; writing is a way to convey it to another person. Unless you burn your manuscripts and bury the ashes or encrypt all your documents and then give yourself amnesia, chances are people will find out you've written a story and they will want to read it. Hell, you might even want your story published (props to you). So always remember that when you are writing, you do it for your audience. That being said, never (I repeat: NEVER) sacrifice your story just to please your audience..

    Cheers! [​IMG]

    ---

    Just one thing to add this time, though it's rather long...

    [5] Understand your story and write it as such - This might sound a bit profound or confusing, but allow me to explain.

    If you are writing horror, for example, don't write:


    QUOTE
    He saw a monster in the shadows.


    Instead write something like:


    QUOTE
    He saw a multi-headed, scorpion-tailed creature snarling at him from the shadows.


    Because horror as a genre concentrates more on the characters, creatures (if there are any) and the unknown coupled with a story that serves to scare, concentrate on these aspects. Because that's how horror stories work.

    If it's sci-fi instead of:


    QUOTE
    There was a lot of radiation.


    write something like:


    QUOTE
    There was over 9000 units of radiation according to the geiger counter.


    Since sci-fi, while not entirely factual, still focuses more on facts, figures and a sense of "can that happen?".

    I think you get the point. Of course, don't go overboard. Moderation is key.

    • [1] Don't plagiarize - My favorite author said that most writers start out by making stories (mostly in their heads) that basically mirrors the stories we have read or watched. However, a writer should always write their own stories, because that is the point of writing.
    PS
    Of course, if you are writing a story in a hybrid genre (or a new genre altogether) then it is up for you to decide how exactly to write it.


    QUOTE(Shinigami357 @ Jun 6 2011, 01:26 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
    Ok, I'm back for tip number... Uh, 7, right?


    [7] Dissect your setting - Your setting is the story's backbone and background, at the same time. This tip focuses on the "where" aspect of the setting.

    To my knowledge, most stories are either plot- or character-centric, or a combination of both, though this masks with extreme subtlety the importance of the settings. If you dig deeper, whatever the focus of the story is, its setting dictate a lot of the story as it goes.

    Allow me to give three examples.

    - Anyone who has read all 7 Harry Potters know that through the 7 books [not counting the spin-off books like The Tales of Beedle the Bard] almost all the aspects of the story and the backstory connect to, well, Harry Potter. I won't elaborate, so as not to spoil it. Anyway, throughout the books, the twists and turns brings Harry and pals back to Hogwarts; even in the beginning of the main storyline, Harry starts off just before he goes to Hogwarts, and it ends as he sends his children there.

    - Similarly, any Dark Tower fan [again, not counting the myriad of existing and future connections to other SK works] knows that the story is about the quest, more than Roland himself. But the quest itself is centered on the Dark Tower itself.

    Before any rabid DT fans gnaw my head off, yes, I know that the majority of the setting is from mid-world and onward or the various versions of NY. But, think about it, NY holds "the rose" which is heavily connected to the Tower and Roland, after a fashion, journeys through mid-world and beyond on the beam, which is a direct path to the Tower.

    - Lastly, all Hunger Games fans essentially understand that the focus is split on its heroine Katniss [it's actually told in first-person], and her continued quest to survive and potentially end the Hunger Games. Still, it's the dystopian and militaristic world of Panem that gives the story its bite; it's the land that sustains them, and yet the majority of them are naught but disposable slaves in it.

    So, what do I mean when I say dissect the setting? It's easy, just dig into it, and fit your story into it. It's not the focus, and it doesn't have to be, but whatever the focus of the story is, if it fits the setting, the story gains more depth. It's probably why some stories are said to have characters or plots that fit seamlessly with the settings.

    [​IMG]



    QUOTE(Shinigami357 @ Jun 11 2011, 01:33 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
    I've been going on and on about symbols for the past half-hour, and then, of course, it hits me. So, without further ado...


    [8] Symbolism - Stories are abound with symbols. After all, if we were to write stories that are purely literal narrations, then more than half the fun, art, and meaning would be lost. This is part of what makes prose such a vibrant and ever-evolving thing. Again, to start off with, let me list out a few examples in well-known and contemporary fiction that some of us should be familiar with. I won't even explain them - if you know a particular symbol, you know what it stands for [the basics, at least]. And that's the beauty of it.

    LotR [the grandaddy of them all] - Frodo "the ringbearer"; The one ring; Gandalf the grey → Gandalf the white; The fellowship of the ring etc.
    HP [7 books] - Harry himself aka "The boy who lived"; The order of the Phoenix; The Deathly Hallows etc. [the series is loaded with them, actually, LOL]
    DT - Roland "The last gunslinger"; Roland, his ka-tet and their fathers before them are referred to as "the white"; The Dark Tower itself etc.
    the Hunger Games - Katniss "The girl who was on fire"/"The mockingjay"; Panem [though it's more a literal symbolism than anything]; The Hunger Games themselves etc.

    Also, drawing from Sterling's example in the front page [Medieval], look at the second bullet on the list beneath it: it says "what does it mean to you", and in this case, Medieval is clearly not just a time period, but a symbol for what it entails as well. So it is now a setting and also a source for the plot itself as well

    Within a story, a symbol can be anything. It's sometimes imbedded as an integral part of the storyline. Person, place, thing, event, ideals, as long as it makes sense and evokes the idea attached to it, it can be a plausible symbol. As far as I can tell, symbols in stories have to do 2 things:
    First, they have to stay true to their attached meanings as much as possible.
    Second, they have to persist throughout the narrative and attach themselves to the reader.

    Again, this is not to say that some your symbols should be pre-established or anything. Sometimes one just evolves along with the story [I should know this well. The character I'm working on shifted from "girl doing a job" to "vengeful spirit with a mission"], other times, it's just a natural part of it [for example, if a character dies, it can symbolize defeat, the loss of the ideals the character stood for, etc]. As long as they're integrated without having to force the storyline, a symbol can add further depth to a story. In fact, some stories are remembered by its symbols.

    One more thing. In some rare cases, a story can be centered around a symbol, and sometimes it doesn't even have to be in the story. I don't have a specific example, but most sci-fi stories from the decades past were symbols of man's need to learn and do more, and in fact, some of them foreshadowed things that we know/are able to do now. They say early mythologies were man's way of explaining nature and natural occurrences like death and sickness, etc and that the Gods are symbols of how we needed to explain what is happening around us.

    Hope this helps a little.

    PS
    Also, be careful of your symbolism, lest you end up a la The Da Vinci Code, which was bashed by the church.
    If you see any mistakes in this guide, don't hesitate to point them out. Also, if you wish to add to this guide, shoot me a P.M. with what you wish to be shown.
    *Format credit seems to go to Densetsu9000, but I added my own flair.
     
  2. Narayan

    Narayan desu~
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    good guide. will help a lot of people. i only found out about having an outline for the flow of the story when i was trying to write chapter 2 of my story. it still has a lot of flaws, my story i mean.

    but i didn't have much a hard time writing the first paragraph. it's mostly the details that i find a bit hard to express.
     
  3. boktor666

    boktor666 Gbatemp's official Solar Boy™ Is Back!
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    tnx for this Argentum Vir, I guess this will help me alot.

    Off topic: Btw, do you actually play Guild Wars or something?
     
  4. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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    I used to, but I haven't in awhile.
     
  5. Shockwind

    Shockwind DIEEE!!!
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    Wow, that one will help a lot and can help others have a good story! Thanks for that and for making this topic! [​IMG]
     
  6. KingdomBlade

    KingdomBlade Blade v3+ (I R SHMEXY)
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    Thanks. It could help me with my book. (already started on 2 chapters but it's my secret project no one knows about [​IMG] )
     
  7. Ikki

    Ikki GBATemp's grumpy panda.
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    I read "Guide to a Cool Story" and I thought you were trolling, morning isn't nice to me.

    That's a really good guide, really. Might come back and check it out again when I need to write or feel like writing something.
     
  8. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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    I have to admit, I laughed. I thought that was funny because I just read it that way myself.
     
  9. CherrySkitty

    CherrySkitty GBAtemp Regular
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    Sticky Sticky Sticky [​IMG]
     
  10. Shinigami357

    Shinigami357 Current "give a fuck" level: Honey Badger
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    I'm actually in the middle of writing a "novel" (a story, in any sense)and I find that you make good points. I think you should add something about finding the "focus" of the story. Some stories are centered on the storyline, some are more on the character(s), and others are centered on a topic, for example. Then there's POV, which is largely a choice between the "outside narrator" and a first-person viewpoint (there is the lesser-used "shifting consciousness" though, where different characters tell different parts of the story). Oh and the best piece of advice to anyone writing their own stories: enjoy it.

    Cheers!
     
  11. Shockwind

    Shockwind DIEEE!!!
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    Don't bump it! [​IMG]
    Yup. The guide that you shared to us really helped a lot. I'm gonna write a story next week and I'm gonna apply your guide to make it better. [​IMG]
    Hmm... Maybe this should be stickied. [​IMG]
     
  12. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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    Good luck with your story. Many writers start off without raw talent. They find their own way. If this is going to be stickied, it will happen only if the mods deem it so.
     
  13. Shockwind

    Shockwind DIEEE!!!
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    Thanks! [​IMG] I don't know if the mods will sticky this if they after they saw this thread. [​IMG]
     
  14. Shinigami357

    Shinigami357 Current "give a fuck" level: Honey Badger
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    Ok, I'm back with a some more advice. Hope these can help.

    1. Don't plagiarize - My favorite author said that most writers start out by making stories (mostly in their heads) that basically mirrors the stories we have read or watched. However, a writer should always write their own stories, because that is the point of writing.

    2. Don't just follow the "in" thing - Personally, I am getting sick and tired of all the "supernatural being falls in love with humans" genre that seems to have come out of nowhere ever since twilight destroyed the horror icon that is the vampire. Please, for your own sake, write something that means something to you, a story that is yours, rather than going along with what's popular. In fact, props to the next writer who starts a decent trend in future novels.

    3. Take what works; discard/fix what doesn't - Part of a writer's responsibility is to make sure their story works as a whole. If certain parts or aspects of it work to drag the whole thing down without contributing anything, then you should edit it out or find a way to make it fit in with the rest of the working parts.

    4. Write for your audience - Writer's more-or-less have the story in their head; writing is a way to convey it to another person. Unless you burn your manuscripts and bury the ashes or encrypt all your documents and then give yourself amnesia, chances are people will find out you've written a story and they will want to read it. Hell, you might even want your story published (props to you). So always remember that when you are writing, you do it for your audience. That being said, never (I repeat: NEVER) sacrifice your story just to please your audience..

    Cheers! [​IMG]
     
  15. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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  16. Shinigami357

    Shinigami357 Current "give a fuck" level: Honey Badger
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    Just one thing to add this time, though it's rather long...

    5. Understand your story and write it as such - This might sound a bit profound or confusing, but allow me to explain.

    If you are writing horror, for example, don't write

    He saw a monster in the shadows.[/p]

    Instead write something like

    He saw a multi-headed, scorpion-tailed creature snarling at him from the shadows.[/p]

    Because horror as a genre concentrates more on the characters, creatures (if there are any) and the unknown coupled with a story that serves to scare, concentrate on these aspects. Because that's how horror stories work.

    If it's sci-fi instead of

    There was a lot of radiation.[/p]

    write something like

    There was over 9000 units of radiation according to the geiger counter.[/p]

    Since sci-fi, while not entirely factual, still focuses more on facts, figures and a sense of "can that happen?".

    I think you get the point. Of course, don't go overboard. Moderation is key.


    PS
    Of course, if you are writing a story in a hybrid genre (or a new genre altogether) then it is up for you to decide how exactly to write it.

    PPS
    Sorry, couldn't resist the meme urge. Chill!

    PPPS
    Just noticed I wrote writer's instead of writers at the beginning of number 4... Shame on me.

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Shinigami357

    Shinigami357 Current "give a fuck" level: Honey Badger
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    To celebrate Sterling's recent name change, here's another tip

    6. Read a lot - Reading expands your horizons, your knowledge and it stimulates the brain. Writers with the dreaded writer's block sometimes turn to reading (prose unlocks the story sometimes). Also, you never know if an obscure idea or fact is the key to making the story flow.
    The other thing about reading is it exposes you to different writers. You might find someone whose style and advice you agree with. This will help you learn a lot. Just remember, don't plagiarize, and you'll be fine.
     
  18. Sterling

    OP Sterling GBAtemp's Silver Hero
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    Alright guys, I have completely rewritten the Guide.
     
  19. KingdomBlade

    KingdomBlade Blade v3+ (I R SHMEXY)
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    Why is this in the Review section?
     
  20. Shockwind

    Shockwind DIEEE!!!
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    "GBAtemp Reviews and Guides"

    This is a guide, y'know?
     
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