Want to write a page-turner of a story that your readers just can’t put down? Wondering how to go about it? Here are our top tips for writing a great story!

1. Focus on your character when you develop your story

Characters often stay with readers far longer than plots do. Think about all the books you’ve ever read, and from Harry Potter to Scarlett O’Hara and Nancy Drew to Arthur Dent, I bet you’ll remember more about the characters than about the intricacies of the plot. If you begin by creating a character that your readers will love, you’re onto a winner. Easier said than done… but if you spend time getting to know your character before you start writing, you’ll be well on your way.

2. Give your main character a goal that matters

What is it that your main character wants to – or needs to – achieve within the context of the story? When your reader cares about your character, they’ll keep turning the pages because they’re rooting for your character and want the character to achieve that goal. Make sure the goal is something hugely important – stake everything on it: your character’s happiness, their future, or their life.

3. Pit your character against someone or something

Conflict is the driving force of any good story. You don’t necessarily need to include a traditional nemesis in your story – you could throw a natural disaster at your character, or you could give them a weakness that becomes their own downfall. The key is that your character needs to be under threat from someone or something, to create and sustain tension throughout the story.

4. Start your story where the action starts

Draw the reader into the story by beginning at the point where your main character’s life is turned upside down. Within the first couple of pages, the reader should begin to feel a need to read on, to find out what happens. By dropping the reader into the middle of the action like this, you grab their attention and get them turning the pages. 

5. Skip anything that doesn’t contribute to the story

Your story should only include the events that make up the story. If you’re relating events that don’t actually move the story forward, you risk boring the reader. You can, in a fraction of a sentence, skim over the character’s morning routine, their entire day at work, or an intervening few years – if nothing important happens during that time.

6. Make your character’s life difficult

Have you ever read a story where everything went according to plan for the main character? Nope, that’s right – stories are all about things going wrong. You need to throw problems at your main character, and don’t let them resolve those problems too easily. The job of the author is to make the character suffer! Even better if the character’s attempt to solve one problem goes wrong and only creates further problems…

By building in these six elements, you’ll be well on your way to creating a gripping story that will grab your readers attention and keep them turning the pages right through to the end.

And if you’re an Auckland writer looking for more writing tips and support, check out our next creative writing course.