Want to be a better storyteller? It’s time to get back to the basics. No matter how many tips and tricks you utilize, the most important elements in storytelling will always tie back to two things: plot and character.
The Central Plot is the Unifying Plot
Most good stories have at least one or two subplots going on in the background. That’s a great storytelling technique, but only if you remember what story you’re telling. Every piece of the puzzle, including the characters, drama, and tension of your subplots, must build into the final conclusion. The main plot rules all. It helps define your theme, highlights lead characters, and generally motivates readers to pick up your book in the first place.
Evolve Your Characters
If your character is the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning, then something is missing. It doesn’t matter if you write an epic fantasy adventure or a slow-paced drama starring an elderly couple in a cottage by the seashore. They should experience some kind of transformation. Keep in mind that these changes may not be obvious, but they do need to tie in with the central plot. Even characters in short stories must change. Always remember, as attractive as the conflict in your story may be, readers fall in love and immerse themselves in your characters.
Go for the Meat of the Story, Not the Garnish
It’s easy to get sidetracked when you’re writing, especially if you use an exotic or original world setting. You have so much to explore, and you want to show off this dazzling place. Good showmanship doesn’t always equate to good storytelling, though. Don’t fall into the trap of throwing in extra scenes just to show off something cool that doesn’t influence the plot. Resist creating flashy scenes with random, action-packed encounters that fail to move the story forward as well. These may be fun to write in the moment, but they are nothing but distractions.
Character Motivation Is Everything
We keep talking about plot, but how do you know if you have a good one? That’s simpler than you think. Define your plot by character motivation and conflict. Decide what the character wants or needs, then present an obstacle. They may need and seek understanding with a difficult spouse. Maybe they want to save their home. Struggle generates plot. If you spot your story wandering away from the characters’ primary motivations, then that’s a sign you should sit and rethink your original plan. Keep things believable. Even in a world with spaceships or dragons (or both), readers must understand the characters. If a character is easily sidetracked from their key motivation, then they must not want it that badly. That destroys tension and releases readers from the grip of your narrative.
Every story is different, even if they all rely on these crucial elements. Dig into the roots of your own narrative. How could you tighten up your story?
And I learned apparently sometimes avoiding filler can lead to plot improvements.
I was going to have a chapter that was just going to a location to destroy a short-lived side enemy, so I moved that confrontation into a necessary chapter, which led to another thing that fits nicely in the plot.
I tend to over-write by about 10k words in the first draft and then cut and move things around to tighten up the later drafts.