Monday, March 3, 2014

What Is Your Story Lacking?



You've just come up with a brilliant story idea. The outline is created in detail and you can't wait to get started. Or perhaps you've already finished the first draft of your short story or novel. However, there's something nagging at you. You don't want to pay attention to it after all the hard work you've just put forth, but the feeling can't be ignored. Something isn't right. Something is missing.

Knowing something is lacking in your story is discouraging, but you don't have to allow it to become daunting. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started in delving into the root of the problem:


1. Get a Different Perspective

Look at your story through the eyes of a reader. Really make the effort to forget that you know this story inside and out; distance yourself. What might you, as a reader, expect to come next? What would you want from the story? (Tip: Pretend you're in the movie theater and imagine your story on the big screen. What are your hopes for the outcome of a good plot?)

2. Risk a Twist

Take your crucial moments and use a different scenario. What could bring something new and unexpected? New characters? An unexpected death? Secrets? Surprise yourself and you'll more than likely surprise your reader.

3. Boy, Girl…Neither?

Your male protagonist is a Black Ops agent,  but what if he was a she? How would that change your story's perspective and even overall message?

Perhaps your story is about three law or rule-breaking friends. What if your characters were animals? That would certainly add a twist to your perspective, setting, story lines, and perhaps your intended audience.

4. Personality

Your protagonist is naturally shy - or is she? Is she simply quiet, or is that a defense to hide a darker secret? By asking similar questions, you create opportunities for a deeper story line.

5. Driving Goals


I was once developing a story set in the 1940s. I could see the vision perfectly in my head…but there was something terribly wrong with the story, and I couldn't put my finger on it.
Finally, after doing some comparison with other story ideas to get to the root of the problem, I realized there was no focus in the plot. I'm not just talking about a theme. Look at it this way: What is it your characters are striving for? What's the one obstacle, whether physical or inner emotions, that your character has to overcome? How does this affect the story? (I recommend author K.M. Weiland's post on Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack Solid Story Goals. )

If you are struggling with your story, I hope this will give you some inspiration and heading in asking the right questions. Remember — that feeling of discouragement and insecurity about your story doesn't mean you have to start from scratch or throw the whole idea away. Be looking for ways to improve your story and characters. You'll eventually find the confidence you're looking for in a great tale.

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