Moving Your Story Forward

Today I’d like to talk a little bit about forward movement in fiction. A good story starts at the beginning, moves through the middle, and ends at the end. But this isn’t as simple as it may sound because without forward movement, even good characters get stuck in dull stories. If your characters are reflecting, wondering and thinking a lot, be wary. Odds are all that thinking and wondering aren’t getting them from point a to point b.

Characters must do things, say things, go places, and interact with other people. A young man thinking about death isn’t a story. A young man digging his own grave is. Don’t ask who your character is; ask what your character does. Trust in your skills as a writer. Your character will reveal who he/she is once you’ve undertaken the task of describing him/her through their words or deeds. This happened to me while I was writing my first book, All You Need Is Love. A secondary character I created, the heroine’s Gram, wound up becoming the real life Gram I wished I had while growing up. Reviewers even mention the quirky senior citizen as endearing and memorable. Go Gram!

When your character’s personality and motivations emerge, this revelation may be so deep you might have to make changes to your plot when you’re done with your first draft. Gram’s constant knudging, made me change her from a one scene character to a six scene character. Quite a difference.

Our characters often reveal themselves to us when we least expect it and this is what makes being a writer, at least for me, so much fun ☺ These aren’t just voices we hear in our heads urging us to write their story down, they become real people we can relate to through the process of writing their story, and in some instances we hate to say goodbye to when the story is over.

Plot turns into story when we convey emotional information to the reader. A woman discovers the end of her marriage. A young man is left at the altar by the love of his life, a child realizes his mother isn’t coming back. Use these emotional discoveries that make real life interesting, horrifying, and beautiful.

Once you entwine them into your story, you begin to mesh plot and character together. Your reader will experience real heart break, loss or joy. Through this process of meshing you’ll feel the difference because the emotional information you convey will create a memorable three-dimensional character that might just grow his/her own fan base : )


Cathy Tully

4 responses to “Moving Your Story Forward

  1. Great post, Cathi! Another thing that moves the story forward is conflict and the choices the character makes under pressure. I love when a character is placed between difficult choices and they have to choose, not liking either choice. That’s great conflict.

  2. Pingback: I am back to the writing board and struggling to move my story forward | Write on the World

  3. What a great post! This was wonderful advice. The characters that become almost tangible are the ones that stick with us for a long time.

  4. Thanks stacey and Christina! I agree : ))))0

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