Tag Archives: conflict

Memoirs: Is my life that interesting?

Memoirs. We all have stories to tell. Yet, most of us don’t publish them.

Back in time, it was common to have a diary, but now, not even teenagers have it anymore. Yet, we have as many stories to tell as before.

What’s the conflict?

You can find, in the book market, thousands of memoirs, some with more success than others. If this is something interesting to you, as a writer, ask yourself: what they all have in common?

Most of the successful ones are about famous people that had a profound impact on the world. Yet, there are also many stories of ordinary people that had a huge problem and solved it. Familiar? Yes, it’s the conflict in any story!

So, answering the title question: is your life that interesting? I would ask: what’s the conflict?

Is it interesting enough?

It might be boring to read someone else’s story from the very beginning. Yet, you don’t need to tell everything from the day you were born. Everyone has a story to tell or a conflict in their life. A specific moment or happening that it is, indeed, interesting. You just need to choose right.

Think about some happening that may have changed you or the way you see the world—some specific time in your life, a problematic or extraordinary phase. Eventually, you can talk about the way some big external happening had an impact on you and your family. How did you deal with it? It can be a war, a natural catastrophe, an economic crisis…

It is, indeed, a story

Telling your story is like telling any other story. It must have emotion, description, character development… Use dialogues and all the tools you use in fiction novels. It will be way more exciting and have a bigger emotional impact. Your readers need to empathize with you and understand what you went through.

Use your own voice, don’t write it as an essay for college, but rather as a beautiful novel. This way, your readers will feel closer to you and your story.

If you want to write your memoirs, it’s because you have something to tell. And you should! However, as with any other genre, it takes hard work to be good. Choose carefully what you want to tell and read other people’s memoirs to inspire yourself.

Planning: a story is more than an idea

When you start to think about a story, what you usually have are some episodic ideas. Despite their quality, those ideas are not a story, even less a novel. Those need a plot and a structure.

I’m not saying that your ideas are not necessary. Every time you have an idea, you should take note of it with all the details, situations, and pieces of dialogue. It might be useful when you have the actual story. Some of those ideas you’ll use, some you will not. You’ll never know which ones are good enough at the moment they occur to you, so write them all down.

Major steps of planning

Writing a good story or novel takes some planning. Planning a good story takes some hard work.

When preparing your story, make sure you have all the main points worked out before you start writing the first draft. For that, you can’t neglect four important steps.

1. Know the genre

First of all, you must know the genre you’re trying to write in. There is no other way of doing this than read a lot of books in that genre. Study them.

Observe their structure, realize what they have in common, the distribution of the scenes, the rhythm. Try to find out why is the book interesting (or not). The most you know about it, the better.

2. The conflict

No conflict, no story. The most critical part of your story is the conflict. It is what makes your audience interested and catch your readers.

There is no story without a conflict, which makes it a massive step towards your goal. Take all the time you need in it. Do some research on tips and good practices. The conflict is the center of everything, and you need to think carefully about it.

3. Organize your ideas

Remember those ideas you wrote before? The ones that came into your mind in the most unexpected places? That’s right. It’s time to get and organize them.

Reread what you wrote, improve the best ones and try to see where (if) they fit in. At this point, you are already working on the actual structure of your story. Start choosing what goes in each chapter.

4. Go deeper into each scene

Before you start writing the first draft, retake a look at your former ideas. At this point, the best ones should already be scenes for your chapters.

Observe what you have now very carefully, and go deeper into each scene. Add descriptions, dialogues, and other essential details. That will make your life easier when it comes to the time to start writing.

Outline

Outlining your story is, without a doubt, a great help. There are, nonetheless, authors that refuse to use an outline. Well, that’s okay, it’s not exactly mandatory, but it will definitely, make your work faster and easier.

With an outline, you can try ideas, explore them without making them permanent. It allows you to explore more without so much commitment.

The outline gives you the possibility of not being stuck at one point. You’ll always know what to write next, and as you’re writing, new ideas will keep coming to your mind. All of them help to turn the original plot even richer.

Inspiration is hard work

Many people think that a great writer has a stroke of inspiration, sits down at his desk and write the next Nobel Prize nominee. That’s far away from the truth!

Inspiration is the fruit of several months (sometimes years) of hard work. The good news is that, in the end, you might have that masterpiece after all.

No conflict, no story

The conflict is the center of any story. You have a conflict, and subsequently a story but NEVER, ever, the other way around.

When you’re thinking of writing a story, the first thing to think about is the conflict and your plot is to be built around it. If there is none if it seems not to be ideal for whatever you were imagining, then think again. You might not have a story there.

Usually, you have this sort of structure: you have a main character that has a goal, but there is something keeping him from reaching it, a problem to solve, then your character will take action to solve the aforementioned problem, usually other issues and difficulties will be showcased along the way (most provoked by his actions to solve the first one, the big one), then he solves the main problem and the story ends. Simple.

The “problem” might be something as simple as an argument, unrequited love or someone just trying to sabotage your character. It doesn’t need to be (but could very well be) a world-changing problem.

So, how to do it?

It’s actually quite simple and you don’t need to have a tremendous epiphany to start. Usually, when you’re thinking about a story, you have a character in mind. Now, think about a goal for that character. Something that makes them move, tick, or something they otherwise want very much.

Now, the problem. What will actively try or passively keeping him from reaching that goal? Or who? How? What is going to happen?

Now that you have the main part, you just need to think, about what your character is going to do to solve the problem or get rid of their obstacle. These actions will most likely raise new problems and new actions need to be taken to solve them.

And, with this, the hardest part of your job is done! Next, you develop your scenes, starting from this last point onwards to the main goal.

5 tips for your first page

In the previous post, we talked about how important the first page is to the success of your book. A good first page is, without a doubt, the difference between someone actually buying and reading through your whole book or merely picking it from the shelf, opening it up and setting it back.

It’s normal, especially for a new author, to feel scared about writing such an important part of their book. That why I’m going to give you some tips that might make that task less daunting, or even slightly easier.

1. Protagonist

The main character in your book must be interesting. Is it already? Good. Now, the thing is: you don’t have much time to showcase that to your readers, so… why not on the very first page?

When we met someone new, we often judge them from the first few seconds of our interaction with them. Very often we’ll naturally catch their most obvious characteristics and label them into categories that make sense to us, for personal insight in order to know how to proceed. So, you’ll need to use this knowledge, in order to introduce your protagonist in a way which is sure to leave a great impression.

Showcase their most peculiar and important traits of personality, leading your readers to create an image of your character in their heads from the very beginning, especially one that intrigues them.

2. Dialogue or action

This is the safest way to go with, on that very first page. As soon as they start reading, there is already something happening. It’s better and usually more interesting than a description…

3. Conflict

Start with a problem, show that there is something wrong, or about to go that way, in this world the readers are going to be exploring. You probably shouldn’t expose the full main conflict of the book, unless you want to risk giving away too much information right from the beginning, but it’s definitely a safe shot to present your character with a problem or conflict to resolve, right from the start.

You can also choose to show that there is a major conflict about something, without specifying precisely what it might be.

4. Mystery

Every story needs some mystery, something that is not that obvious to keep the reader interested. Why not present something like that, right on the first page?

A good way to do it, is to start writing in the middle of a scene as if the reader just arrived when something was happening, and he must continue reading, in order to understand what is taking place.

5. Write it later

Starting to write a story’s beginning, with an amazing scene, when we’re still not sure of what will happen along the entire way, might turn into a huge struggle.

Don’t get stuck on that first page, just keep writing. Allow yourself to get to know your story a bit better, and then, taking into consideration that omniscience you have on your story’s world and how it will be presented, you will most likely be able to write a much intriguing and integrated first page, which connects seamlessly into the story to come!

9 quick tips to improve your writing

Improvement. That’s an amazing word and fundamental for all of us who want to continuously get better at our jobs. As I already said in previous posts, there is plenty of competition in the writing field, so, if you want to write for life, you must be good at it.

You might read a whole lot and that certainly helps you in becoming a better writer, but even then, there are some points or specifics regarding your work that seem to lack that special something, right? There always is. I leave you here with some tips on how to improve your stories, your books, or, wherever you’d like to write.

1. Make them cry but also make them laugh

No matter how sad your story is, your readers will be delighted with some giggles somewhere in it. A safe way to do it is by creating a rather funny character, even among the most horrifying tragedy, he or she will have something fun to say, or even do. Your story will be all better for it, and much more interesting, believe me.

The same should happen in the opposite direction. You can be writing a fun story, but come on, nobody likes a full-time clown. So, some serious moments might prove useful.

2. Be logical

You may write about a completely crazy fantasy world, where nothing seems real, however, you should be coherent. Even within craziness, you need some logic. If everything is random and non-logical, people will lose interest.

So, you must decide for some rules when you’re creating your fantasy world, no matter how crazy they are, all that matters is that they are applied from the very first page to the last.

3. Structure

The classical structure of a novel or short-story is a character who needs to, somehow, solve some conflict in order to achieve some goal. You should always keep this in mind!

Now, of course you can fight the classical structure, but, you should be careful and have a purpose for it yourself, such as, getting a specific reaction or surprising your audience in some clever way. However, also keep in mind that usually, the further you move away from that classical structure, the smaller your audience will be.

4. Run from stereotypes

There are many successful stories about stereotyped characters, they usually intend to criticize some class or type of person. You could go there, if you wanted to, but remember, the stories who keep people talking about them, aren’t usually like this.

They have unique characters, deep thoughts and actions. They give their readers something to think about, analyze and interpret, almost all on their own with subtle clues, actions and dialogue within the storyline. Let your readers make up their own mind about a character.

5. Your reader is the most important one

This builds on the conclusion from the previous point. Do not treat your readers as if they don’t know anything. They are important and you want them to be interested in your story, right? So, let them have an opinion, don’t tell them everything, make them think, lead them to take their own conclusions.

6. Paper and pencil is the best way to start out

You might never think about it, but when you sit at your computer you’re being limited by it. Pick up a paper and a pencil and do whatever you want. You can write words, you can draw, make a map, anything you want. And don’t worry, it’s just for you, nobody will see it, so it doesn’t really matter if your cow ends up looking like an ostrich.

7. Take a walk

Writing is a solitary job, usually sitting down, closed off in a room by yourself. But the creativity and fun stories are out there, amongst LIFE. Get out! See people, talk to them, observe them, think about them and their issues. You’ll see your characters become more interesting and your writing improving.

8. You have 5 senses

And so do your readers… You should never forget about that, use it in your favor. When writing your amazing descriptions remember all of them and try incorporate them into your writing. Talking about the smell, the feeling of the wind against the skin, the sound of the forest will make your scene that much more interesting and detail-rich.

9. Nobody is definitively good or evil

If you want your character to be interesting and catch the reader’s attention, you must humanize it. The bad guy could have some positive characteristics and the hero can be a real jerk sometimes. A hero too good tends to become boring and a villain too bad is unrealistic (they can’t be all crazy, all the time, can they?)

How long should my story be?

After finishing your stories, how many times do you find yourself wondering if it’s too long? Perhaps you instead wonder if it might be too short? This is something that bothers a lot of writers and keeps on raising many a doubt. Technically speaking, and in order to be practical, a story should not have more than 30 000 words (or it would most likely be a novel), and in fact, a really long story might make it harder for you to get it published. Actually, ultra-short stories are currently very popular and you’ll find many a magazine where you might be able to publish them.

But the truth remains as such: there is no ideal size for a story. You’re not selling fabric! However, there are some tips you should indeed keep in mind:

1. There is no story without conflict
A story isn’t finished without solving the conflict, so, forget how many pages you’ve already written and focus yourself on these points: contextualize your story, develop your characters, present a conflict and solve/resolve it.
Don’t be afraid to write a short story, that turns out, in the end, to be a very long one. You’ll find the time to improve it, most likely afterwards and cut out all of the stuff that doesn’t really matter, but first, you’ll need to develop it as much as you can in order to make it good.

2. If it is boring as is, it’s too long
Again, forget the number of pages. If the story seems boring, it’s already too much. A good story will make you lose track of time, not have you looking at your watch every two minutes. IF it’s not interesting, put it aside.

3. Too much ‘blablabla’
Never write something just so you can fill a page. Write freely while you’re building the story, but in the end read through it again and evaluate each sentence and idea. Were they necessary? Do they bring something new, important or really beautiful to your narrative? If you think something does, keep it, otherwise cut it out or rid the work of it.

4. Emotional experience
Each reader looks for something different from a story he or she chooses to read, although, if a person chooses to read fiction, it’s likely that they seek some kind of emotional experience. Your story needs to make the readers feel something.

5. Why choose this story among thousands?
Let’s face it: people do not have time to spare these days. Most of us are always running about, so if you want someone to stop and read your story, it must be worth it. Confused? Just read it critically and find out if your ideas, sentences, every single detail of it is good enough for a reader. Think of your story as a sort of reward for your reader, who is tired from another long day at work, and just wants to relax and feel all sorts of emotions.