Have you set down to write a story that you saw clearly in your mind, the characters, personalities, their speech and actions? But on the page it didn’t come out the way you intended. All writers have this experience. There is a huge gap between your imagination and the written word. It’s one of the best reasons to read as many books as possible to see how other writers fill the gap.
You have a fertile imagination and you know the story your want to write. Characters are walking around, talking, arguing, communicating, so you sit down to write. But you write the scene and it doesn’t come out as you intended. The action isn’t right, the characters aren’t as you planned. What happened? There is a big gap in what you had in your head and what comes out on the page. It happens to every writer. There is always a gap between what you imagined and the written word, which can never equal that flash of inspiration in which the story unfolds perfectly in the mind.
Cover of The Mysteries
Words are not multi sensory. They are symbols which work through suggestions to the readers imagination. A writer must learn what information to present and in what order. The answer is to write a lot. You will get better through trial and error. Read books and stories of all kinds. Pay special attention to how the writer presents his information. And keep writing. Your imagination, what you see around you, your beliefs, powers of perception and interests are not teachable, but what is teachable is the craft. Craft can help you narrow the gap between the story in your head and the story on the page.
What you write at the beginning is closely connected to the middle, and the middle gives birth to the ending. It’s your job to bring it all into a whole. Every story makes a promise to the reader. A mystery promises an intellectual challenge and insight into how human nature operates under pressure. A love story confirms that “loves conquers all.” A literary novel delivers emotions of horror, guilt or recoil, and unsettles our view of the world.
Sometimes the writer doesn’t know what that promise is at the beginning of his story but it should reveal itself during the first draft. What’s important is remembering that you are making a promise to your reader even though you aren’t sure what that is.
In a short story you should have one person to focus on and she should turn up immediately. She should be an individual and not a type. Description should be accomplished in a short space. The language you give your character can define a personality and a certain kind of mind set or class. In a novel the main character can turn up later.
Conflict arises because something happens that is unexpected. Your reader should suspect it early in the story. It can be subtle but it should be there. Often short stories hint at conflict in the first line. Novels have a little longer to introduce conflict. Begin with an indication that something isn’t going as suspected. or something is about to change.
A credible story uses only as many words as it needs to create an effect. That doesn’t mean it can’t be repetitive, but it shouldn’t sprawl. You can use crisp sentences or long ones. It’s usually better to have a short sentence after a long one. Just be sure it is easy to read. Don’t use a lot of flowery words. Keep it simple.
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