How to start writing a story

Have a story in mind

The likelihood is that, if you have a story in mind, you'll do well. That is, at the very least, half the battle. It sounds relatively obvious, if not the most obvious think, especially to non-writers. But it is absolutely KEY. it doesn't have to be a 300 page treatise for your story, but it does need to be a vague skeleton.

What else?

I have to admit, I myself find myself in this camp all too often. It's just the way my brain chooses to work - I am a writer, a good writer I hope, but my brain likes to discuss scenarios, characters, not the minutiae exactly (God, that's dull) but the surroundings for a story. Sometimes a story spawns from that but more often than not it simply fizzles out into nothing and although it can begin with gusto it becomes more depressing when it ends with... well, apathy.
Remember the wisdom that says that there are only 7 basic stories in the whole of literature. I'll make it large:

The 7 basic stories in literature

  1. humankind vs. nature
  2. humankind vs. man
  3. humankind vs. the environment
  4. humankind vs. machines/technology
  5. humankind vs. the supernatural
  6. humankind vs. self
  7. humankind vs. god/religion

Just looking at this list gets my brain moving and my thoughts flowing. The first thing my brain says is "No way, there has to be more to literature than that" - OK, so if that's true, thinking about it is a very powerful process. It gets you thinking about books you've read, recently or not, movies you've watched, plays you've endured. The point is that you're thinking about stories - not just literature, not just yourself, you're thinking about stories as a whole. Very powerful. Use it well. The second thing that list does is make me say to myself "Good lord man, it's been a long time since you studied those 7 rules, I'm quite impressed you remember them!"
It's also said that there are a few "rules" that make up a good, classic story. I'm sorry to say that I stole these from somewhere but I don't remember where. So - you want it to be good? Make this your tick list of things you need when writing a story.

Classic things you MUST include in every story

  1. Every story needs... a hero! This is the person through whom the story unfolds, though that doesn't necessarily need to be first person - against the backdrop of the larger story, a hero is the character that we know is being changed and moved by the story line.
  2. Every hero needs a character flaw. It's sad really, but every character needs a weakness or, in some other ways, any kind of defence mechanism that stops the hero, makes him/her pause, something that gives the journey an obvious breaking point.
  3. The next is what they call "enabling circumstances" which I've never quite gotten on with. Effectively, it's all about the situation that gives the character his flaw but also a reason to move through the story, and, ultimately, fight that flaw.
  4. The ally. Yay! It's the Han Solo of the story - someone who's there helping and guiding without always meaning to. The enabler for the hero, not necessarily the wise old man, not necessarily the cocky sidekick, though often.
  5. The anti-hero. Well, I say anti-hero but there's a lot more to an anti-hero than meets the eye. Often it's an opponent - usually a person but not always (could be a government, a faceless organisation, that kind of thing). We're looking at opposition here - something that prevents the hero from getting where the story wants to give him/her, it doesn't have to be villainous, it just has to be someone who prevents the completion of the overcoming of the characters flaw. Jeez, that was a bad sentence. Forgive and move on...
  6. There has to be a life-changing event, something that happens to the hero which makes him/her need to challenge the character's biggest flaw. It can be an opportunity that comes up as well as a problem that arises. That's the fun of the life-changing event! :)
  7. Drama and jeopardy. Oooh baby, there really has to be something that the hero has to risk to overcome that flaw. Here's where the real sparkle of the story needs to happen. It's kinda like point 6 except that point 6, when you're thinking about it, should be about a journey from A to C. Point 7 is what happens at point B - it's much more fun and should be for the reader, too.

^ Back to top/menu