old woman story tellingBy: Sean Wesen '22

Having trouble with low stakes, boring characters, or an uninteresting narrative? We’ve got you covered. Below are a list of tips and tricks to help you develop your story into a compelling narrative.

Respect the Stakes

All writers want readers to be invested in their story. That is why you need to be very careful with your story's stakes. They are sacred and should not be taken lightly. Set the stakes early on and if your characters don't heed said stakes, make sure they face repercussions. Never do anything to weaken these stakes or undermine them because if you do, it makes your character's struggles much less interesting.

Choose Your Names Wisely

A memorable character starts with a memorable name, so spend time coming up with interesting names. Think about how differently you might feel about Holden Caulfield if he had been named John Smith. You can find inspiration by looking through a book on baby names, or taking a walk through a cemetery and pulling names off the headstones. Even a random name generator can do the trick.

Find Distinct Voices

Each character should have their own unique voice, their own mannerisms and quirks that set them apart from the others. Your readers should be able to tell who is speaking without dialogue tags. You can still use dialogue tags, but if it is obvious who is speaking, then the narrative will play out much more smoothly in the readers minds.

Keep it Complicated

If you ever find your story is getting stale, add a complication for you protagonist to address. There are many tiny battles your character should face before they finally win or lose the war.

Develop Choices and Costs

No choice comes easy. Every decision your characters make should have consequences, and those consequences are what will ultimately drive your narrative. If a choice has no consequences then why should your readers care about what the characters decide?

Let Your Characters Struggle

You may find that after throwing so many curve balls at your characters, you want to hold back. But don’t. Your characters can change and grow to meet the obstacles you set, and if they can’t then that is just as interesting. Save happy endings for fairy tales, and make your characters work for what they want.

If you take one thing away from this article, it’s that the more you challenge yourself as a writer, the more you will challenge your characters, and it's that challenge that makes a story truly worth reading. Good luck, and happy writing!

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