How to Get Short Story Ideas

Techniques to come up with short story ideas.

The fun thing about short stories is that there’s such a compact and flexible medium. It’s pretty easy to jump in without much planning. Short stories are pretty much all essentially about change. Really stories in general are about change. No matter where your idea comes from or where it starts what you’re looking for is change either within the character or the readers understanding of the character. Look for a way to add goals, tension, conflict, and antagonistic forces.

The first technique would be to start from a character. A lot of stories start with a character. Often this isn’t a fully fleshed out character, but just a character type. Sometimes this detail starts with someone you observe in real life while people watching, someone you know or it’s just a more general detail or type that you find interesting.

Some examples of a character type would be a teacher or a dog walker. These are character types but they’re not really characters yet. However, if you have one you want to write about you can turn that character type into an idea.

None of these character types lend to stories in themselves, so what you have to do is complicate them, add another element to take this idea from a character type to an original character with a story. Combine this character type with something unexpected to ignite the story and the conflict and find that change you’re looking for maybe your teacher is also a dog walker and accidentally loses the dog. Now they have to scramble before the end of the day when they have to return the dog to their owner. Now you have a specific situation you can work from. You can also use a similar process a setting whether you want to write a story set at the bottom of the ocean, or a medieval castle, or the edge of a volcano.

Setting can be a really fun place to start a story idea. Setting is especially a good place to start if you’re a really visual writer and you tend to work well from imagery or atmosphere. Drop a character into your setting and see where it takes them. You have a character type you want to work with and a setting you want to work with combine them to see how they clash and see what the setting can bring out of the character. Similarly to working from characters, you could also try working from a character relationship. It’s quite common for a short story to explore the essence of a single relationship. The nice thing about this is because with two characters it gives you tons of opportunity for conflict.

Common relationship types you could explore would be friendships, parent-child relationships, romantic relationships, sibling relationships, and even these more familiar relationships we see often in fiction can be really interesting from a new angle. Try to add in some sort of contrasting element to ignite the conflict. Maybe you want to talk about the rival returned friendship of two gardeners who work on opposite sides of a hedge and only communicate by talking through the hedge. They have never actually met.

You could also try working from form. Normally you would create your form to match your story but the fun thing about short stories is that they can really do wacky experimental things and you don’t have to commit to it for the full span of a novel. You could do something really wacky like second-person future tents from the point of view of a light bulb. Instead of having to plan out how this is going work and play out technically for ninety thousand words you can just see where it goes. The puzzle now is creating a story to fit the form you want to work with rather than the other way around. If you have an idea for a form that’s really intriguing to you, it can be a fun way to write.

Finally you could try writing from a prompt if you’re really stuck. Prompts can actually be a great way to start writing. You can use anything as a prompt. I often like using photographs as prompts. I’m a very visual writer and my ideas usually start from some random image. Sometimes it helps if I just seek out the image instead of trying to create one. If you really like music you could use songs as prompts. You can really use anything or you can try using actual writing prompts.

How to Write Physical Descriptions of Characters

Writing physical descriptions of characters are a tricky and can be hard to insert naturally into the narrative. They can easily come across as cliche or force and for first-person narrators if they’re not done well they can make the first person narrator come across as very vain. Here are some ways to take your physical descriptions from bland to interesting, make them work harder in the narrative, and make them a part of the story that’s actually interesting and important.

Avoid something that just feels necessary. Let’s address the great debate. Do I need a physical description of my character. That is a strong yes. Readers seem to fall into two camps: readers who don’t need physical descriptions and if there is one we’ll probably just ignore it and readers who really need one or they can’t picture the character.

The next thing is how to insert that description into the story. This is where a lot of writers struggle. Decide if your story is high energy or low energy. Put your descriptions and how you physically describe your character in as soon as they are introduced. Keep your descriptions short. One of the great pitfalls of character descriptions is when they go on way way too long. When in doubt, three sentences. If you are doing two characters at once then perhaps a full paragraph.

What you should avoid in a physical description of a character and what to include.

Avoid cliches. Simple descriptions often fell prey to cliches in how the description comes about.
The next thing you want to avoid is over-the-top detail. If you have too much in detail the reader won’t retain it. It would be much better to go with fewer bolder traits that are strongly described than a lot. Make your descriptions interesting. We can describe eyesin an interesting way without them being glimmering orbs of ocean.

Include voice. Voice is such a great story element and is very important to consider in your physical description. Like everything else in the story, the voice of the character and as well it should be in the tone. Tone is the view the story has towards itself introduced to the description. You can think what is the view the character has of their own appearance: insecure or confident. A side character what’s the view that the main character has towards them.

Make your language interesting or you have to make the features interesting. Both would be good. Example of making traits interesting: her face was narrow and she had hawk-like features strangely soft like she was. A broken piece of marble weathered by centuries of current curls fell ragged around her face, knotted around her ears, pale, uncombed, and grappled into an unraveling braid. She looks like an unfinished doll abandoned by her maker.

This is very important and I think it was touched on quite well in that last example. Flaws are more interesting than perfection. It’s also important to notice that the lack of description of flaws can cancel them. They’re not flaws if you describe a character to someone and you don’t mention the flaws. Even if you just describe them in kind of simple ways the reader will probably picture them as like conventionally attractive because that’s how people are.

If left to our own devices we should really just picture attractive people because people like looking at attractive people. If you don’t specifically point out the flaws and you don’t go out of your way to make sure you comment on the flaws, the reader will not picture them. I also want to note that if the word perfect or any of its synonyms or any similar word appears at any point throughout your physical description, you should delete it immediately. Anything that is perfect is not interesting. Rather than trying to convey how attractive your character is, convey how interesting and unique your character is.

Find little details specific to that character whether it’s a birthmark, a scar, or your clothing choices for that character. Next time you want to include more than appearance or the way to character looks you will discover it teaches a lot about their personality, their lifestyle, and their habits. Just describing their natural traits it’s also describing how they work with their natural traits.

Clothing is also important. You can say a lot about your character and you’re physically describing your character. Don’t make the aim that the reader can picture them, make it so that the reader can learn about them as people.

Use a physical description in the form of showing the character’s personality layers and depth to your physical description. This is what I mean about making a physical description work harder. Make it pull its weight in the story. Make it accomplish more than just physically describing the character. A physical description is a good time to more overtly include other details beyond just the basics.

How to Avoid Melodrama In Your Writing | Writing Tips

One of the most common writing problems for new writers is melodrama. Here are some strategies for how to spot melodrama and how to avoid it. What exactly is melodrama? Basically melodrama is when the emotions being presented are not supported or earned by the storytelling. The story is too emotional and because of this it actually loses its emotional complexity. If the story becomes over the top, instead of becoming impactful it just kind of becomes cringy or sureal.

It can be really very hard to find the balance between too subtle and to over the top when it comes to expressing emotions. Writers generally overcompensate in this area so then they withhold too much and it’s boring and detached. If you are scared of the writing being bland, boring and not emotional and can begin expressing emotions way too much. Watch if you start thinking “this isn’t coming across”.

Melodrama generally is the result of the writer thinking there is no emotion and not trusting their ability to convey emotion. Trust yourself, trust your skill and your ability to convey an emotion with a sentence rather than five paragraphs. Just write your first draft and come back later to adjust the emotions. Get out your thoughts and then come back to it later to get the balance between emotion and melodrama.

Ways to avoid melodrama:

1) Melodrama comes from using language that is more intense than is warranted. It can just be word choice. Some word choice is just very very loaded and very emotional.

2) Mentioning souls in regards to emotion. EX: anger bubbled in my soul or I felt sadness in my soul. The concept of a soul can be in essence very melodramatic and emotional. At first it might be best to avoid mentioning souls in relation to an emotional context. As you get better at writing you can see where this might work itself in to your story.

3) Pathetic fallacy often refers to when the natural world mirrors the characters emotions. So for example, it’s raining because I’m sad. It’s not actually raining right now it’s sunny and I’m happy.

Another form of pathetic fallacy is just personifying the natural world. Now personification isn’t a bad literary device but personifying the natural world especially in excess can become quite melodramatic it’s kind of similar to the soul thing where it gives the natural world this lofty spirituality.

4) No subtext. Subtext is basically everything the characters aren’t saying. When characters just say what they mean without subtext it often means the thing they’re withholding is that really dark deep emotional feeling that they don’t want to express. If they just say it out loud, if there’s no subtext whether in dialogue or in the characters narrative, then it becomes quite melodramatic. It also removes the subtlety and possibility for interpretation in your story. It can also about drama. It’s best to have subtext. An exception to this might be very young characters or if your character is drunk. They’re exceptions to this. An interpersonal conflict involving an adult who has control of themselves will probably be speaking with some degree of subtext.

5) Cliches. Cliches especially even on the line level can be really melodramatic because they’re just familiar. I don’t really know why they feel what they do. If there are a lot of cliches or familiar phrases it just makes it seem melodramatic even though there’s nothing really inherently emotional about a familiar phrase.

6) Forced suspense. Suspense would be another example of a writer not trusting themselves. They don’t trust their ability to create suspense so they tell you that their suspense is. When you end a chapter with no idea what was about to happen. Ending every chapter on this really forced line, forced cliffhanger, where you’re really hitting the point way too hard. It sounds like you are saying it’s suspenseful keep reading. It’s actually super melodramatic and also cringy. It kills the suspense because it’s telling instead of showing the suspense. It often happens at the end of scenes where the writer wants to wrap things up but keeps you reading. When the writer throws this one-liner at you where it’s like keep reading because this is suspenseful it’s also melodramatic you know it is being forced.

7) Talking too much about abstract concepts. This is going to relate to what we often say about show don’t tell in terms of emotions. Talking about abstract concepts like sadness, anger, love, peace, are quite melodramatic. Similar to the soul concept. Even if it’s not the main character saying I am sad. It’s not even a telling thing, it’s just having a discussion of abstract concepts in the narrative rather than showing them through the character’s world, how the character experiences the world, even showing them through symbolism would probably be a stronger way than just having the character going on a little side tangent about the nature of sadness. Occasionally you can learn these things especially in a novel where you are going to have more leeway with melodrama.

8) Being off balance between telling and showing. Both too much showing and too much telling can cause melodrama. If you tell too much it’s too over the top. Things like she was angry is not interesting, there is no emotional texture. I think it’s common for writers to be very aware of this show don’t tell rule and so they go overboard with I need to show. They show way too hard. If you show with too heavy a hand and you hit those points too hard then, it’s just overblown and so it’s again about trusting. Trust that you can convey emotion with a line, with a subtle character gesture, rather than going on this long tangent about emotion and having the character cry. You can convey things in subtle ways.

9) Dreams. There are cases where you can use a dream and it makes sense. In most cases dreams are forced symbolism or very bad ways of conveying information. In fiction it’s used to show us something the characters feeling deep down, through their subconscious, through their dreams. It can end up being an extreme situation that is not subtle at all.

It is often thought of as a subtle technique where it’s like oh I’m just going to use dream symbolism and not actually show what the character is feeling. Then it’s quite evident through the dream that the main character has seen her brother standing on a cliff, then he disintegrates and she’s standing among the ashes or something. It’s not actually that subtle at all. It’s pretty obvious, but it’s meant to be subtle and so then it’s really melodramatic. When the main character is too aware of the symbolism you don’t really need it. If the main character have some object like a locket and represents her mommy issues because it holds the secrets of her family. If the main character is aware that it’s a symbol, it’s not really a symbol. A symbol is one half of a metaphor. You just kill it being a metaphor by going oh yes this is the metaphor. You have to let symbolism speak for itself and be somewhat subtle or else it’s very heavy-handed and melodramatic.

11) Murphy’s Law. Murphy’s Law is basically everything that could possibly go wrong goes wrong. Now obviously in fiction and in writing things are going to go wrong. That’s the nature of conflict. Things might go wrong more often than they go wrong in real life however, abusing Murphy’s Law is like every single thing is bad. There’s literally no light, there’s no hope, every possible thing that could go wrong goes wrong. Or when you throw in random hardships that don’t really play into the main plot, that becomes quite an abuse of Murphy’s Law.

12) Overly intense character reactions. It’s not just the reaction itself, but how it’s described. Giving your characters appropriate reactions to things and then also describing them with the appropriate level of intensity is so important to your story.

Have genre awareness. Some genres are going to be inherently way more melodramatic. Some will be less melodramatic. Know your genre and what is allowed, what the standard is, and what people would be expecting.

3 Great Writing Tips No One Ever Talks About

Three writing tips that are not talked about that much, but are great and really helpful.

1) If your characters plan succeeds don’t tell the plan beforehand, it’s more fun to not know what the plan is so the reader can be surprised as they are seeing it succeed.

If the characters plan fails, do tell the reader the plan beforehand. Your reader can only really know the tension of a failing plan if they know what the plan is beforehand. Readers can see that the plan is going wrong.

2) If you’re stuck on writing, listen to audios of people reading their writing. Audio input is good for getting your brain working. Hearing people read their writing helps you start to feel the rhythm of what writing sounds like. You can use the rhythm with your own idea or your own story. Go to an actual reading if there are any in your area. You can start to hear the voice of your story so well just by getting the input of those rhythms of someone else’s words. It gives you a rhythm to jumpstart your brain. Take a little notebook to jpt down things that you will be able to use in your story later.

3) Distinguish when you should be using scene versus narrative summary. Use a narrative summary when you need to move time or the plot but the character is not being active. If your characters are not doing anything active there’s not really anything to see played out in a scene. As soon as your character is doing something active let you see it played out in scene rather than narrative summary. It’s a really good rule of thumb to follow. There can be exceptions to these things but when in doubt it really helps to find the balance between narrative summary and scene. A lot of writers can struggle with this balance so I hope this helps you with your writing.

MORE Common Mistakes Writers Make

A lot of writers not just newer and novice writers are making these mistakes in their writing. If you’re a bit more aware of them you can definitely improve your writing and take it to the next level.

1) Thesaurus madness or thesaurus disease. It is when writers seem to be afraid of using the basic English language. Words that are straightforward and that people use all the time to describe things. They look up synonyms and antonyms of those words and decide the big fancy word with a lot of syllables will make me sound really, really smart.

When you can use a 1 cent word you actually come across as either pretentious or like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you are using 2 or 3 dollar words. If your reader has to look up the defination to understand what they are reading it can annoy them and they often stop reading your writing.

Synonyms aren’t always that accurate in substituting for the word you are trying to replace. The synonym may not have exactly the same meaning especially in the context of the sentence. You want to have clear concise words that the majority of readers are going to understand. You want to avoid misusing words and essentially sounding dumb. When you use fancy words you often sound like you are trying too hard.

When you have way too many characters with names and elaborate backstories that don’t do anything concrete or important in the story, it is often called character soup. Unless your story is about a group of friends you do not need 15-20 characters. It is way too hard keeping track of who they are or being able to tell them apart.

A character who doesn’t contribute to the primary plot, the conflict, or character growth are essentially deadweight in your story. When you have character soup combine characters. You may find that you have supporting characters in different places in your writing and they essentially perform the same function just in different places. Challenge yourself to take character X, Y, and C and put them into one character. Or take character X and get a little bit creative with how this one character would be in all of these places but essentially performing the same function. You are going to end up with tighter characterization and a more dynamic book.

Recognize when dialogue and scenes fill a lot of pages but they don’t actually move the plot forward. Look at scenes in your books and think how does this contribute to the overall plot or your A plot, B plot, your conflict, or character growth. Every scene should do something, every bit of dialogue should do something, whether it is character development or moving the plot forward.

Create a scene card for every single scene in your story. Put where the characters are, who is in the scene, where they start, and where they end. Clarify the function of every scene in your book and you can start to see that if you can answer the question of where do they start, where they end up, and what is the point of that scene. Rearrange as necessary for your story to flow.

Be very careful with tense shifting. You can use the free version of Grammarly to assist you with tense and any other grammar issues. There are great resources to help you with this so you can relax and write.

Typically your book is going to be told from a single point of view. If you are doing a close point of view then you should only be showing the reader and doing things from the perspective of that character. You can of course have multi points of view but don’t shift back and forth in any single scene or section. If you want to switch POVs (point of views) to another character in a multi POV story especially if you are doing third-person, you would want to do that with section breaks or chapter breaks.

Avoid using overly formal language and refusing to use contractions. Many writers feel contractions are too informal.
Using contractions especially in dialogue can be a character choice. It is a way to present a character who is more formal. Pull back from contractions if you were writing a historical piece but generally if you are writing any modern fiction and you want to have your readers not to be tripping over words, use contractions.

Don’t be afraid to show your work to other people. Sharing your work with others and getting feedback from peers essentially critique partners is so valuable to the writing process. None of us can really write and be creative in a vacuum. You’re always going to have to get feedback from other people. Hear that constructive criticism, take it on board, and then use that to improve your work. You’re going to get constructive criticism from an agent, you’re going get it from an editor. You’re going to have to learn to work with an editor and an agent so the best way to do that is critique partners. Share your work, don’t be afraid of criticism. You can look for critique partners who aren’t going to tear you apart.

You can ask for a compliment sandwich for constructive criticism or even sometimes cheerleading. If you do not share your work you end up writing in a vacuum and thus never improving. Started recognizing and breaking yourself of the habit of hiding your writing. Share your work with others and be open to hearing feedback, actually taking it on board, and using it to make your writing better.

We are, of course, all quite attached to our writing. When we’re not beating ourselves up for being horrible because of impostor syndrome. We tend to like our writing, it’s precious to us because it comes from our hearts. We pour it onto the page, we love the stories, the characters that we have, and very often we do get very sentimentally attached to scenes that we either had a lot of fun writing, or we had a really clever idea, or we really got funny in that scene, or a character has a moment in that scene. You have to learn to let go even of the things that you love.

You’re always going to have things that are relatively easy to cut because you’re not super duper attach to them. You’re like okay fine. In every book there’s going to be that thing that you love, you really love it. It could be a sentence, or a character, or a chapter, or scene, or what have you and you have to cut it. It is an obstacle in the way of your book working. You might resist at first. You have permission to resist at first, because we all resist at first. You’ll find that when you eventually come around and you learn to kill those things that are precious to you, it unlocks the whole book. It makes everything better. You miss it, but it was the right thing to do.

Start on the journey of learning to kill your darlings. You can start off slow, cut a sentence, cut a scene but save everything. Some of those darlings that are sitting off somewhere else every once in a while you will find a way to use some of them. Darlings that had been cut in other places, whether it’s a character that you had to kill, or if it’s a turn of phrase that just was not working on that page or happened to be in the middle of a theme that later was dead weight, and you had to cut the scene. Save these things. You can use them later, perhaps in the same story or in another story.

MORE Writing Advice!

Stop making excuses about not having enough time to write because you do have the time you just have to want to make the time. Every single writer has to do this. No one really has the time, we are all incredibly busy, we have responsibilities, jobs, family, and so on and the reality is something’s got to give if you are being serious about writing. You make the time. You get up early before work to write, you stay up late, you don’t watch the TV show you want to watch, you don’t make plans with your friends every weekend, you make the time to write.

Now of course there are always going to be times when you just don’t have the emotional bandwidth or you need to exercise self-care but I’m not talking about those times. I’m talking about all of you out there who are making excuses for why you can’t write because oh you just don’t have time. I guarantee you that 99% of the time something can be thrown out of your life schedule so you can make time for writing. All of us have to do it so buck up buttercup and make the time.

There are people out there who are just naturally more talented at writing, there are people out there who do have more time than you do, there are people out there who have this ideal set of traits that makes them a natural at writing. It can be hard to write but decide why you want to write and that will help you not only find the time but write as well.

Just because someone else is more talented than you are or writing comes more easily to them doesn’t mean you can’t stay with your plan to write. You can get just as far as they do or even surpass them by putting in the work. Putting in the time does make a difference. The first piece of writing that you put out into the world as your professional writing debut matters. People do consider first impressions so the first creative work that is associated with your name can often stick with you and follow you.

If you are impatient and you are rushing and you just want to hit publish on something but you are not taking care with what that thing is you might have to make some edits to your work. This industry does reward a little bit of patience and strategy when it comes to your creative career. You can also do everything right and your debut still doesn’t go the way you want it to and you just have to kind of grin and bear it, acknowledge it, strategize to move forward, and move on.
You just have to do your best and work around it.

Great books fail all the time it’s not necessarily about quality or how good you are, sometimes you’re just unlucky, things don’t go your way, you either never get your shot on that amazing book that you wrote, or you publish it yourself and no one reads it. Or you can get an amazing huge book deal and then no one cares or you’re badly reviewed or you just fall into a black hole. It happens all the time and you just have to be resilient and pick yourself back up and move forward or you let Publishing swallow you whole.

There are those who have a ton of side projects, who have a ton of creative projects that are kind of related to writing but are not actually writing. They are kind of dancing around writing. If you do all of these side things in lieu of seriously writing, of writing books, of completing projects, and getting out there and actually being a writer that you’re essentially spinning your wheels and wasting your time. There always has to be balance between all the side stuff that you do and actually writing.

Many people are more in love with the idea of being a writer than actually being a writer. It is easy to talk about writing, to style yourself as a writer, to be really great at Twitter or Instagram or YouTube or what have you or starting other businesses. You can do those things if you were doing them and actually writing and actually pushing forward in your writing career. If you are just spinning your wheels because you like the idea of being a writer, you like styling yourself as one but you are never actually writing and moving forward in your writing career you need to look at your motive and desire to be a writer. Some people just like to play at being a writer. You are not a writer if you are not actually writing.

Actually do the work, make the time, sit down, write the books, deal with the fact that publishing can be super unfair, and just do the work. Even when you do the work, it is not always necessarily going to work out the way you want. Not everyone is going to love everything you write. Nothing is universally loved and inevitably someone is going hate what you wrote and you will have to learn to deal with that. You are going to have to learn to deal with rejection, with criticism, or just understand that people love having opinions. Their opinion of you doesn’t matter so do not take it personally.

Once you put something out into the world, it no longer really belongs to you. People can say anything they want about you. Develop a thicker skin, toughen up, brush stuff off, and let it roll right off your back. If you let any negative review or criticism destroy you, you are not going make it. Be more resilient than that.

Just because you have got a great idea doesn’t mean you should write about it. Sometimes there are simply projects and ideas that are so far outside of our lane or just really badly timed that you shouldn’t do it. Carefully consider your ideas, what they are, and why you want to write them. The soul-searching of why you want to write certain ideas, why you feel that you are the person to bring this idea to the market, that process is really valuable and you may find at the end of it you know what you can write. Do research on your topic and then decide if it is the right time to write about your topic.

Sometimes no matter how sensitively you approach something it is just not going work. If you are the wrong person to write the idea you may get a lot of flack and a lot of blow back. Really consider what ideas you work on and why you want to write them. While you might be the right writer to write something, sometimes the answer is to take a step back and let go.
If you get the feeling you know that’s a great idea, but I just don’t think I’m the right writer to write it and then don’t.

Having a great voice in writing matters a lot. It can be make-or-break for a career. You can’t teach voice. You really can’t learn voice. You know it when you read it and you do too as a reader when you pick up a book. If you were reading it and you get this sense that no other author could write like this, no other author does write like this, or you read a line and go oh that was written so well. If you are reading something and just the mood, tone and atmosphere and a specificity drips off the page that is voice.

If you love writing and you love stories, you don’t just like the idea of being a writer, you’re actually a writer who writes things, you don’t let yourself get distracted by side businesses and projects, and you are able to pick yourself up and just forge forward and deal with all of the things others are saying about your writing then you are going to make it. Just enjoy every aspect of your writing career.


Stop twisting yourself into pretzels over your writing idea being perfect or original or worrying about what another author already did. Writing what brings an original spark to a book is how you write it.

By writing books you are going to teach yourself how to write stories and twist them to make them interesting and original. It is a process. Let go of that desperate need for validation and attention and just write your book. All writing is practice.

Stop making excuses for not starting and not writing and not pushing through and not finishing your book. They are a complete waste of your time. Writer’s block is an illusion that doesn’t exist, it is an excuse for not writing. You have to form a writing habit and just discipline yourself to write even when you don’t feel like it. Not feeling like writing is an imaginary writer’s block. Teach yourself how to push through this.

Keep writing and keep improving. Practice more or write another book or try a different idea. Sample different genres and see what you like. This is how you grow as a writer. Put yourself out there and face rejection if it comes, embrace it, learn and grow.

Brainstorming endlessly about your book isn’t writing. You can spin your wheels for weeks, months, years preparing to write. Talking about writing is not actually writing. Find what is holding you back and stop procrastinating.

Writing is largely solitary, you do it by yourself. Write for the right reasons. Like writing, love writing , do storytelling, do revising, do editing and find the thing that you love. Pursue that thing or try different strategies, invent games to make writing fun. Write, throw away all the fear and the excuses and write. You can’t be a writer unless you write and you can’t get better unless you write. Just be happy writing your book(s).

Decide if you want to publish the book yourself or explore traditional publishing. Then learn everything about each method of getting your writing published. When you are ready, you will know which way you want to go.

9 Tips for a Satisfying Plot

9 tips on how to write a satisfying plot.

1) Genre awareness. Genres exist for a reason so that people can find books they will find enjoyable to read. Know what makes a satisfying plot in the genre you select. Some principles and obstacles in character relationships really exist in all genres but they appear in different ways in the different genres. It is especially necessary when talking about writing a satisfying plot.

2) Change and growth. Stories are essentially made of change. A novel is made up of many little changes that add up to create the primary change. If there is no change, there is no story happening. There is no narrative and is just a situation. Where nothing is changing that is not a relevant moment to be including or the moment isn’t pulling its weight within the plot.

Little changes in the plot should be causing changes within the character also. If the characters emotional state and just state as a human are not changing throughout a long period of time then that’s also not really relevant to the plot. The story is a story because of the character and what is happening to the character. With no changes you have created kind of a lull in your plot where nothing is essentially happening. Change and growth are the foundation of the plot.

3) Setup and payoff. This is a term that is used a lot in screenwriting, but is very important for no matter what kind of story you are writing. Setup and payoff is quite simple. As a concept it essentially just means that what you introduce into the story pays off later on. You introduce in the beginning even things that might not seem substantial which turn out to be substantial and affect the plot throughout or often towards the end. If you are feeding threads into your story and then they never affect it, those threads aren’t really necessary or satisfying. Introduce threads into the beginning and have those threads weave all the way through. Then have a causal relationship where they effect the plot in the end.

4) Have an element. Whenever that element is introduced in the beginning, it might seem important at the time or not. When that element is relevant and important, hopefully in kind of an unexpected way, that can be really satisfying later on for its unpredictability. We generally expect that a good story isn’t going to be predictable and a boring story is going to be predictable. In some books unpredictability comes from possibly a drastic plot twist where everything is shaken up. You don’t necessarily need a plot twist or a dramatic turn, but rather it just means that the plot progresses in a way that could not be foreseen from the beginning.

5) Causality. It essentially is a domino effect with every scene being necessitated by the previous scene. In Poetics by Aristotle (which is one of the oldest books on storytelling theory) he explains that a strong plot is one where you cannot disrupt or remove a single event without disrupting the entirety of the whole. For the most part, the majority of your plot has as many scenes as possible that are caused by a domino effect. Every time you are hiding the scene ask yourself if the previous scene wasn’t there could this scene still happen? Then ask yourself does this cause the next scene?

6) Mystery and revelation. You know stories are made up of questions, a plot line or a premise. It is just a bunch of little questions that make up the book. A lot of them will need to be answered for clarity, but others need to be left on the table for suspense. Ask questions a) who is this person b) what’s going on c) what’s going to happen.

Those questions will be more specific based on the actual plot and this pairs with revelation. Revelation is the other part that goes along with mystery. Mystery sets up. Revelation ties together. These two together are what make a plot satisfying. It needs to happen at the proper rate. If you don’t answer any questions your plot will be really confusing.

There is going to be a lot of information you are going to need to setup at the beginning. Those are the questions that are being answered. Answer the questions that you need to answer for clarity. Then there are going be some questions you want to leave open.

7) Suspense and snap. Suspense is a common term and is often tied to mystery. Mystery is more of an intellectual thing whereas suspense is more of a visceral reaction and the stress you feel related to unknown outcome.

Snap is the jump-scare. Snap is the culmination of suspense in this energetic moment. This is often a key moment off an important one in the plot. It is that you have been building up – so much suspense and then it snaps. Those moments especially in certain genres like thrillers you expect. Many genres cna use this kind of snap moment and it can appear in different forms. It is the actualization or action making use of that suspense you have built up.

8) Emotional balance and cohesion. I hear writers often say I want my reader to be taken on an emotional rollercoaster or I hear readers say the book was an emotional roller coaster but I would be careful with this idea. Obviously emotional range is really great and important if it is the same emotion throughout. If this emotional rollercoaster you have created is lacking in other elements like logic or causality especially, then it is actually not very satisfying. It can really impact your characterization. If your character doesn’t have a stable emotional thread whether they are an emotionally stable person or not, it can be hard to track and feel their emotions.

If they are just jumping from emotional state to emotional state to make the reader feel those emotions it can actually be really hard to invest in the character and develop a sense for who the character is. The reader is not actually getting a chance to experience who the character is or learn about them or what their emotional threat is because of this jumbled mess of emotion. Emotional range is good as long as it’s cohesive and there is causality to it.

Another aspect of this is the push and pull of hope and despair. It is essentially the idea that at any point in time in your story there should be both hope and despair. There is always despair in the hope and there is always hope in the despair. Without hope in the despair there is no point going on because there is seemingly no possible way that this problem could be resolved. Hope is what keeps the reader and the character going. Without hope there is no tension at all. Hope means that there is no conflict, everything is resolved.

9) Unrest and resolution. A story is essentially the story of unrest. In most plot lines by this model, you have a character who has some sort of emotional or internal unrest but they don’t have a way of changing it. The inciting incident gives them an opportunity to change this unrest that they feel within their life no matter what kind of form it takes. They have an opportunity to change.

The resolution doesn’t necessarily mean they have achieved what they wanted, but it means their opportunity in which they could see the kind of change in their life they wanted has come to an end. Through this example you have unrest and then the resolution caps it off, whether this is positive or negative. Whether the character has succeeded or not, whether they have changed their life or themselves for the better or not.

Resolution basically means that the plot is now going to de-energize and the reader knows that part of the story is over. This aspect of the character’s life or maybe the character’s life as a whole is not going to be changing substantially or have the opportunity to change substantially anymore. In the way we were exploring this idea throughout the story with the reader. Sometimes this resolution isn’t always fully explored, it is the imminent promise of resolution.

The reader knows that resolution is about to happen shortly after the end, but that is basically the same thing – the imminent promise of resolution. Or resolution itself signals the end of the period of unrest no matter what the characters emotional state is. It means the character can’t affect or change their life any more really to any significant margin so the reader kind of feels that sense of closure. The story is over no matter what that means emotionally that’s kind of what makes your story feel like a whole.