Greetings! Today on The Indie Spot I am hosting author John Coon during his blog tour. John is sharing his thoughts on writing a compelling and entertaining story! Take it away, John. . .
Who’s Driving Your Story?
Ever watch a horror or science fiction movie and quickly become frustrated with the direction that the story takes? We’ve all experienced this feeling from time to time.
One trait common to these bad movies is characters who take a particular action simply because the script requires them to do it. Their actions and behavior defy logic and don’t ring true to how a real person would react when confronted with the same situation. What was designed to move the story along only serves to shatter the suspension of disbelief.
Taking this approach to building a story as an author will only alienate your readers.
Never underestimate or insult the intelligence of your audience. Readers will notice when you construct plot armor and force your characters to do your bidding like puppets on strings. And they will not like it one bit.
Let Characters Drive the Plot
There’s a simple thing you can do as an author to move a plot in a plausible and realistic direction. Invest sufficient time in creating each character you intend to place in your story.
You should know each character as well as you know a family member or close friend. Sketch out their life histories, physical characteristics, personality traits, hobbies, personal beliefs, and other pertinent backstory details before you write your novel or short story. This will give you a better idea of how a particular character will react if you drop them into a particular situation.
Creating dynamic fleshed-out characters will take your story in unexpected directions. Let those characters hop into the driver’s seat and steer through the twists and turns of the plot. You will create genuine tension and suspense and your readers will be unable to put your story down until they finished the final page.
Say No to Cardboard Characters
One glaring sin common to poorly written novels and stories is an abundance of stock characters who are walking and breathing stereotypes. Even good authors can fall victim to relying on a cardboard character.
You can’t always avoid using stock characters. If stock characters didn’t have so many real world counterparts to draw from, they wouldn’t exist. On the other hand, you can avoid populating your narrative with a slew of cardboard characters. You can even take the stock characters and give your own twists.
In my horror novel, Pandora Reborn, I took a stock character of a crazy hermit in Dean and gave him a dynamic presence in the plot by fleshing out his story. One way I did that is to give him a tragic backstory where the antagonist murdered everyone he loved in their previous encounter 55 years earlier. It turned Dean from a potentially laughable character to a deeply sympathetic figure.
I took a similar approach in new novel Under a Fallen Sun. I let my audience see an inside perspective on the antagonist alien race through the eyes of Melody. It lets them learn the aliens’ motivations for coming to Earth and the tragedy and desperation driving their actions and behavior. It helped make what the aliens do in Travis feel more believable and, ultimately, even more terrifying.
When characters drive the plot, everyone wins. The author gets a more dynamic and engaging story and the readers are rewarded with a richer reading experience.
John Coon has possessed a love for writing since age 12 when he typed out his first stories on an old typewriter belonging to his parents. For 15 years, John has worked as a sports journalist. His byline has appeared in multiple publications and on multiple websites nationwide. John currently writes for the Associated Press and Athlon Sports. He is a graduate of the University of Utah and currently resides in the Salt Lake City metro area. John published his debut novel Pandora Reborn in 2018. Under a Fallen Sun is his second novel.
Links to purchase Under a Fallen Sun: