Last week I asked the question, “Just what is it that makes a story great?” This seemed like an important question to answer since I’m working on my first book at the moment. It also seemed like a good idea to share what I came up with with all of you Epic Dreamers since many of you will be doing NaNoWriMo next month.
Since there are so many elements involved in a great story, I split the answer to this question into three posts. In the last post, I talked about how important characters are in a story. In this post we’ll go over dialogue, twists, and tragedies.
So, let’s continue our list. Great stories…
Use entertaining dialogue
Dialogue fills a large portion of a book, so it’s pretty important that readers find it interesting. Fill your story with uninteresting dialogue and your readers will feel like they’re listening to the teachers in a Charlie Brown comic.
Luckily, dialogue is fun to write. It’s a chance to show personalities and to see how characters interact with each other. It’s also a way to make readers grin.
Take this short bit of dialogue between some characters in Brandon Sanderson’s Alloy of Law.
Wax: You’re going home. That is that.
Marasi: I’m staying. That is that.
Wayne: I need to get something to eat. Fat is fat.
It makes us laugh, but it also conveys each character’s personality. We can tell that Wax and Marasi are both a bit stubborn while Wayne doesn’t take things too seriously and has a bit more of a care-free personality than the other two characters.
Yep, all that in those short little lines. Dialogue is pretty powerful.
Have twists and turns
Nothing makes me more excited to keep reading a story than an unexpected turn or a secret discovered. Twists and turns are an excellent way to keep readers interest and make your story memorable.
Who could every forget them moment they found out that Snape had actually been helping Dumbledore or that he’d loved Lily, Harry’s mother?
There is just something so thrilling about being surprised in a story whether it’s finding out that the sweet little maid was the one who committed the murder or discovering that the dedicated teacher is actually a part of a secret society sent to draft the main character.
It works even if the reader happens to figure it out before the big twist is revealed. Readers love to guess what’s going to happen next. We like to be surprised, but we also like feeling like a world-class detective smart enough to figure it out before the protagonist.
Get readers sobbing their eyes out
Name your top three favorite books. I bet they all have at least one scene in them that brought you to tears (or at least made you feel a little twinge of compassion for all you cold-hearted out there 😛 ). Most have more than one scene that was tear-inducing. Think of how many deaths and tragedies were in the Harry Potter books or the Hunger Games trilogy.
This doesn’t mean that a story has to be laced with tragedies to be great. In fact, adding too many tragic events can have the opposite affect and make your story seem ridiculous. But if done the right way, a tragedy can make your story memorable.
Why is this?
Any time a strong emotion is cultivated, the memory of that event is stronger and stays with a person longer. It works in real life and it works in books.
But why does it have to be sad emotions? Why can’t the story use happy emotions to make it stick with readers?
For one, readers wouldn’t feel happy for the characters unless they had some not-too-happy events to compare them to. Second, we’ve all gone through tough spots in out lives and watching characters go through similar or even worse circumstances gives us the strength to do the same.
Besides, it’s really difficult to relate to character’s whose lives just keep getting better and better with no adversity.
If you aren’t liking the thought of all this writing all this sad stuff, don’t worry. Great stories also bring a smile to readers’ lips. But that will be next week’s topic, so until then let me know what you love in a good story.
Until next week! Dream on Epic Dreames! 😉