Building the End of the Story – my results

You can see more of these exercises here.

For some very good reasons, these posts will be shorter and not on schedule!


In the last post, I urged you to write an ending that diverges from the obvious…

a_fork_in_the_path_-_geograph-org-uk_-_821812

The straight, expected path represents your story without any twists, nothing unexpected. The right ending, however, takes the reader off that path to a better, more meaningful ending. It doesn’t have to be a happy ending, but it does have to require the reader to pay attention every step of the way.
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Building a Short Story Part 3 – The End?

You can see more of these exercises here.

For some very good reasons, these posts will be shorter and not on schedule!


My Story So Far

In the middle of my story-in-progress, Memory Exchange, I added the interplay between the two main characters that gives two main complications to the story. In my case, the ending has already been telegraphed somewhat. Robert, my MC, has his reservations about using this power that teleports him at the cost of specific memories. Carla, his lover and mentor, appeals to his desire to be with his mother for Thanksgiving and his desire to truly use this new ability she has taught him.

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Building a Short Story Part 2 – Results

You can see more of these exercises here.

 

For some very good reasons, these posts will be a bit shorter and not necessarily on time. I’m still teaching writing to advanced ESL students in September – these posts are helping me build a new approach, so I will work to get them finished!


From my last post:

My Story So Far

Main Problem:

An amateur stage magician learns real magic from his lover and mentor, but is unprepared for the mental cost of using his newfound power.

Conflict 1:

MC learns that his flight to New York to see his ailing mom for Thanksgiving has been delayed, but his new powers offer him a way to get to her.

Conflict 2:

MC’s lover and mentor persuades him to try, despite his reservations. Clearly she has another motive for wanting him to advance so far with his magic so quickly, but MC can’t see it through his love for her and his desire to do something great with his power.

Writing the Middle

The middle of your story starts after the main problem facing the MC has been set up, and covers everything up until the additional conflicts have been laid out. As you write, check that the conflicts build off the original main problem to make it worse. The reader should feel that the MC is under more pressure, or that their life, the life of someone they care about, or any desire they value greatly is threatened by the escalating conflicts.

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Building a Short Story Part 2 – Raising the Stakes

You can see more of these exercises here.

In the last post, *I shared the beginnings of a short story. I attempted to set up the ‘reality’ of the magic in the story – our main character (Robert) can teleport himself, but it uses up his memory. The reader can also see how his mentor and lover (Carla) has a lot of influence over him – she’s clearly been goading him along through his magic training despite his reservations.

Now I can set up more conflicts and make things worse for my main character.

Robert wants to go back to his mother’s place for Thanksgiving. He’s planning to buy a plane ticket and just fly there, but Carla appeals to his vanity.  He wants to do much more with his magic than simple tricks – and Carla picks up on that and tells him to use magic to get to his mom’s place.

Robert is hesitant. He’s only been practicing short range teleport tricks, and he’s having trouble controlling the cost of the magic to his memory. Carla keeps pressing him, saying that the distance doesn’t matter – the magic works the same way regardless of the distance. She tempts him with a promise of more magic spells if he can prove his mastery of teleportation.

These are my complications – for this short story, I have two main complications that make the initial problem worse. For a longer story, you’ll need more complications – each one somehow relates to the initial challenge facing the main character (MC) and makes it more difficult then they realized.

My Story So Far

Main Problem:

An amateur stage magician learns real magic from his lover and mentor, but is unprepared for the mental cost of using his newfound power.

Conflict 1:

MC learns that his flight to New York to see his ailing mom for Thanksgiving has been delayed, but his new powers offer him a way to get to her.

Conflict 2:

MC’s lover and mentor persuades him to try, despite his reservations. Clearly she has another motive for wanting him to advance so far with his magic so quickly, but MC can’t see it through his love for her and his desire to do something great with his power.

Now come up with extra conflicts for your story.

If you are writing flash or slightly longer fiction, you’ll probably only need two conflicts that relate to the main problem and make it worse. Get the problems from your story’s environment, your character traits, or sudden accidents or incidents that could develop from the situation you’ve imagined. Your MC should be in a really difficult situation – and the reader should wonder just what they will do next.

I’ll share my results on Thursday.  See you then!


*Yay, I finally got links to show up blue, like they should be!

Writing Exercise – Why Can’t Your characters have what they want?

Last week, I asked you to write about your characters and what they want.

Now we’re introducing some conflict and setting things up for the real story. It’s time to figure out obstacles that stand in the way of your characters. Problems that they strive to solve, and thus give the reader an interesting story.

One key thing to keep in mind about this problem – it should be bad for your character, but not too bad at first. Later, we are going to make this problem even worse, so the problem should start off as something difficult, but surmountable.

I’ll give you an example. Here’s one of my characters from last week, and three potential problems for him to face:

William Flynn, rookie newscaster

William Flynn is a rookie newscaster who is chosen to report from a colony ship on its way to a new planet.

More than anything, he wants to propose to his long-time girlfriend, Darya Fitzgerald.

As a reporter, he wants to see history in the making and be the first to break the story.

He wants to be adored and respected among the colonists of his ship.

I’ll start with the second problem – he wants to be good at his reporting job. A reporter, however, is supposed to be objective – but when an alien contacts the crew, it is Flynn who can understand and translate. He becomes the story, and can’t just sit on the sidelines anymore!

Let’s simplify this into a character goal and a conflict blocking the character’s progress:

Character Goal: Flynn wants to be a good news reporter.

Conflict: He can’t be a reporter because he is the story now. He has to figure out his new role, and how his skills can help.

 

If you are writing a short story or flash fiction, you may only have one protagonist and one goal to focus on. You’ll have just one main conflict, which will later get worse.

For longer stories, you’ll have multiple characters, and even have multiple conflicts for each character. Don’t get too carried away, though – you still have to be able to reduce the plot to simple elements for your book jacket, and the best way is to make sure you don’t go in with too many twists planned from the start.

Now it’s your turn. Take one character from one of your stories and describe their goal and a conflict that stands in their way.

 


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