How to Write a Story
  • Here’s how you create a setting:

    One hour before nightfall, on a pink-and-blue evening in the third week of August, 2011 …

    Here’s how you create a character:

    a solitary man traveling on foot …

    Here’s how you introduce a situation:

    entered the small, tree-shadowed town of Clifton — an isolated village around which many rumors circulated.

    Here’s how you introduce tension:

    Several people from their windows and doors eyed the traveler with suspicion.

    Here’s how you heighten that tension and begin your plot:

    And yet one, a young slim woman upon her doorstep, who had never laid eyes on the traveler before today, felt an icicle skewer her heart the instant she saw him — and the instant she saw also the strange and unmistakable key he wore on a golden chain around his neck.

    Here’s how you further develop your character:

    The traveler was a man of medium height, lean and lithe, thirty or perhaps thirty-five. He had wheat-colored hair cut high-and-tight, and there was in his posture a certain military bearing, an excess of energy which set him apart.

    Here’s how you further set your scene:

    The day was dying. Wind went warmly about the grass. The village was silent.

    Here’s how you introduce foreshadowing:

    He passed by a small cinema the lights of which shed a blood-like crimson sheen over his hands and face.

    Here’s how you introduce a new character, a potential conflict, a new paragraph:

    Among those watching him that day was a strong-looking young man, alone and hatless, who stood hidden with the statuary, in the black shadows of a grove of conifer trees. He and the traveler looked in some way alike, yet the man in the shadows was younger, and his face was charged with suffering.

    Here’s how you intensify your plot and introduce dialogue:

    Quickly the woman left her doorstep and, with a tremor of intent, approached the traveler. “I’ve been waiting for you,” she said.

    Here’s how you develop your main character through dialogue:

    “Yes,” he said. “I know.”

    Here’s how you intensify your situation again and at the same time give the reader an idea of your novel’s theme (which in this abbreviated example is: superstition in an insular and cultic society):

    At last her eyes went to the strange-looking key that he wore around his neck. She’d consciously been avoiding it, but now that her eyes fell upon it, she could not look away. The key was very beautiful. It was made of a bright and heavy-looking metal, which she couldn’t at first identify,┬ámodern and yet somehow science-fictional-looking, not at all as she’d been told. In its dark silvery glint, she caught a quick reflection of the stone gargoyle perched on the building behind them. The instant she saw the reflected gargoyle, her heart paused for a half-second and then released a thunderous beat. A rill of sweat slid between her breasts. Unexpectedly, then, she felt a sexual surge run through her. She did not understand.

    Here’s how you raise tension through dialogue:

    “Time is running short,” the young woman said. “Please come with me.”

    Here’s how you further develop your plot:

    She said no more after this but turned and walked toward the cinema, which stood burning with a hellish glow in the August twilight. The traveler followed her.

    She hadn’t noticed the young and tortured-looking man watching from the shadows.

    But the traveler had recognized him instantly….


About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

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