5 parts of a story for new writers

Many writers struggle to pinpoint how they would like to see their story play out. Many times they feel inundated with feelings of despair of where their story is going or how the progression of their story is seemingly marching off into an unknown distance with no end in sight. It is easy to fall into this trap, however, if you stick to the basic five parts of a story you will be assured a structured and well-rounded story. There are different thoughts as to how a story is broken up into different elements. It serves to give a new writer a foundation to plot how they would like to structure their story. The Most popular of these is the 5-act Dramatic Structure developed by Gustav Freytag.

The first element of Freytag’s Dramatic Structure is Exposition, or in a sense the background behind the story. It allows the author to relate to the reader the story behind the story or the events that lead up to the beginning of the story. This is where the author introduces the characters of the story as well as the conflict in which the characters face. This is the most important element of the story, as the author must sell the characters to the reader, if the reader becomes disinterested in the cause of the characters the rest of the story is in jeopardy.

The second element is the Rising Action. The Rising Action is the part of the story where the characters and incident is already established and now events transpire that build a lead up to the Climax. This is where an author may place related events that add interest to the story or perhaps convey important themes that assist in the buildup toward the climax. Many times authors author use this part of the story to allow their protagonist to grow or learn lessons that will prepare them for the climax.
The third element is the Climax. The Climax is where the excitement of the story is at its peak and all other previous elements are drawn together for maximum intensity for the reader. It serves as the point of the story where the characters begin to solve the problem.
The fourth element in the story is the Falling Action. The Falling Action portion follows the climax and is where the author draws together any loose ends within the story. The author may choose to save the final moment of suspense until this point or resolve the conflict between the protagonist and the antagonist.
The fifth and final element within the story is the resolution. The resolution is after the conflict is resolved and the author lays out for the reader what will happen to the characters after the conflict. Generally the author will try to garner a sense of emotional release from the reader leaving them satisfied with the outcome of the story.

Keeping to this easy outline will give a story structure and allow for little unnecessary deviation or digression that will lose the reader. While it is not necessary to follow the structure for success, it will set a new writer up for success as they learn their craft.

Learning history through fiction

As archeology techniques improve and the technology to validate facts about historical events become more accurate a better picture of our past is painted for us to study. History books however relate the information about historical events but paint less of an interesting picture. Fortunately there has been a proliferation of historical fiction at our fingertips to access information on a variety of topics.

In the time of Homer many history was passed down from one generation to the next through stories told by elders. It was in a sense lesson taught to the younger generations to learn about the history of their people. Many of the stories were what we would consider today a version of historical fiction. The idea of telling it in story form would be to make an impression on children and inspire them, rather than bore them with facts. Epics such as the Iliad would motivate generations of warriors from the heroic feats of Achilles and Hector. With the advent of the printing press story telling began its decline and fell out of fashion in the verbal form and stories were then conveyed in book form.

Today, there are many genres devoted to history. Such genres as historical fiction have greatly improved with advances in archeology, allowing the author to accurately tell their story. More importantly, it gives the figures in history substance, something other than a name for readers to identify with. This connection allows the reader to become enveloped in the story and recall information easier, rather than memorize dry information and potentially lose it later on.

Another advantage to reading historical fiction is there is a human aspect added amongst all the facts, which gives the story a more relatable view. The author is able to put the reader into the mindset of a person from the topic time period, something unavailable in a textbook. For instance, history books may tell us why a prominent battle took place, perhaps detailing the political or strategic motivations, but it does not enlighten the reader of the psychology of those who fought the battle.

In no way does it offer any explanation why a particular person from either side would fight the battle, their thoughts on the battle, or the struggles they endured that led to them to take up arms. This is information that is left out of the history books but it lends parts of the story that perhaps completes the picture for the reader.

By no means can historical fiction be a substitute for textbooks, but more of a vehicle to inspire interest on a said topic. Many times authors must bend the facts about history or even make educated guesses about how people may have behaved in the past. Sometimes they downright change certain important events to better their story. What historical fiction is meant to do is interest the reader in a period of time or a historical figure. Hopefully, if the writing is interesting enough, it stirs the reader to do research on the figure or historical event and furthers their knowledge about a historical topic.

Ultimately historical fiction is another means to convey the stories from our past. Authors of historical fiction give life to prominent figures from our past and stir our imaginations as we visit events in history.

An Original Thought

It is easy to say that it is hard to come up with original ideas when you are writing. Just walk into any bookstore and you will be immediately overwhelmed at the selection of books at your disposal. There is a book; it seems, for every topic imaginable. It can be daunting when you are first starting out as a writer to find your style, or come up with original themes that you feel aren’t cliché or overly written about.

In some form or another people tend to group stories into genres and then further classify them by the plots in the story. There are, as well, many “recipes” that have been developed over time to generate a good story. That is to say, a little bit of action, perhaps a love story woven into the plot to spice it up.

What will set a new writer apart from feeling as though they are stealing a theme or copying a plot to someone else’s story is for that new writer to write from their own personal experience. It is important for someone who wants to be set apart from other writers to do so by putting as much of themselves into their work. A good example of this is painting. As a painter develops their craft they begin to prefer certain brushes, or favor different colors, or perhaps they enjoy certain brush strokes. Whichever is the case they are beginning to develop idiosyncratic tendencies that are apparent in their work.

This is very much the same with writing. As a new writer begins to develop themes from a past experience or views they have on certain topics, they are drafting their writing style. As time goes on they will add more and more preferences to their work, or write from a certain viewpoint. Sometimes a person enjoys writing about one character and then wants to see where their character will go throughout their life and dedicates a book series to that character. They may very well develop their own successful “recipe” for the type of books they write.

A key to having a unique style is to enrich yourself with the world you live in. Good writers that have seen adversity or traveled to far reaches of the world have seen and experienced so much in their lives and it shows through their work. Ernest Hemingway lived in Spain and fought in World War I, these experiences solidified his identity in his writing and his stories.

Many people will use personal experiences to drive their story, or they will litter their themes with personal beliefs. This is an effective way to stay motivated when adding a unique touch to the plot. Everyone has a different perspective of the world and a variety of people can see the same events and interpret them in many different ways. In that respect a persons own viewpoint is as original as it gets, now all that is needed is to put the words to paper. In any case as a new writer naturally progresses in their career they will build a distinct style that readers will identify the writer with.

Starting out as a new writer

Starting out as a new writer is hard. It takes a lot of dedication and time to get to the point where you can make a living out of it. Anyone can write, but it takes a certain person to be good at it and to get paid for it. Here are some simple ways you can use to improve your writing.

A good way to learn writing styles is to read other people’s work. The good thing is there is an abundance of examples at your fingertips. Pick a genre you enjoy reading and read as much as possible. As you read you will begin to see the different tactics used to keep the readers attention. You will also have very good examples of sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation. Once you have read as much as you can take, read more. The more you read the more you will notice what belongs in your writing and what doesn’t.

Join a book club. Joining a book club is a useful way to add variety to the books you are reading. It will force you to read outside your comfort zone and learn topics that will add to the arsenal you will use. Furthermore, it will allow you to see how other readers react to the work you are interested in. You will see how readers receive a variety of books and how they interpret the different themes. This will help you to develop your own themes and write them in such a way so your audience can understand them. It is a very useful tactic to get into the mind of your target audience.

Practice writing. There is no better way to improve your craft than by practicing it. This will allow you to have examples of your writing you can show others and get feedback. Feedback from friends and family is important, they are just regular people too and they will give you no nonsense answers about questions you may have about your work. It will also allow you to analyze your writing for structure and mistakes you may be making.

Take breaks from your writing. If you are writing a novel or a work intensive project, it is important to step away from the project and come back to it when you have a clear head. Sometimes it is easy to lose yourself in your work. While you may feel you are on a roll and there is good work being put on paper, it is easy to overlook mistakes. Therefore, give yourself a break, even if you do not need it. Then come back to the project and read over the work you just completed.

At the end of the day the most important key to being a good writer is to be able to love what you are doing. Writing is an art and your emotions are seen in your work. If you hate writing, it will be very obvious to the person reading your material. So write because you love it, write because you have a story and you want to share it with someone.

Where have all the Classics gone?

When was the last time you read Moby Dick or perhaps Pride and Prejudice? It seems that more and more often classics are overlooked in today’s world than ever before. What’s worse is that they are free on kindle. These days you can walk into any bookstore and will be confronted with a myriad of books on display in an attempt to seize your attention. It seems logical enough to put the new books out front for potential readers to engage them and hopefully buy them. But do these books compare with the classics? Are New York Times Best Sellers going to relate as well as inform? Or is it just another biography about a cast member from a famous reality television show. My guess is it is just that. It seems as if the mainstream media has hijacked literature in an attempt to achieve maximum profit. It’s not about content, but only what is popular in the eyes of today’s youth. At the end of the day, are we sacrificing our children’s ability to have access to quality books that will enrich their lives? Certainly any book about a boy wizard would be entertaining for any child, but can it be compared to say, The Tempest by William Shakespeare, even though that boy wizard garnered millions of dollars in profit?

There seems to be a modern version of what quantifies success in the 21st century and that is sales. Sales are what put a book on a pedestal for the entire world to see and adulate in. But as time passes, something bigger or better comes out and what is popular is quickly considered out of fashion. Many books that are considered “best-sellers” do not stand the test of time. They become irrelevant and are cast into the dark corner of our imagination to be lost.

It is the classics that we come back to time and again. They are becoming more eclectic, in the sense that they are being read by some segments of the population as well as literary aficionados. They are still appreciated as the works of art that they are but in such a way that an aficionado would appreciate a good cigar or perhaps someone who appreciates a good wine vintage. So why is it that they quickly being forgotten by today’s youth when clearly in terms of quality they stand on their own?

In most cases it appears that there has been a saturation of literature written that attempts to engage with the younger generations. As time passes books are written at lower reading levels to meet a demand of those who perhaps aren’t educated at a level to read complicated works such as those by Milton or Conrad. To add to that, there is little marketing for the likes of Homer or Dickens either: their publicists are long dead and their only exposure appears to be re-created in Muppet films. Being relevant in today’s world takes work on part of the person wanting to be relevant and if you are not alive to do so then you are doomed to be forgotten.