By Roseanna M. White
Hi, my name is Roseanna, and I write novels. There. Got that out in the open, LOL. Coming into a situation where the focus is on memoir, I felt the need to put that out there ASAP. But maybe you’ll find the best way to share your story is on the wheels of fiction—I have many friends who have done this. I pray this post will help you craft your story in the most powerful way.
When sitting down to plan the story you’re writing, there are two main things to consider and balance: the things that happen and the people they happen to. In fiction, these are plot and characters. In non-fiction, you might not call them by those names, but the same elements appear. And any story well-told takes these basics and finds the most compelling way to share them with the reader.
Your goal should be, from sentence one, to draw the reader in and make them love your main character. Make them want to invest the next minutes or hours or days reading this story instead of turning to another. Creating empathetic characters isn’t always easy though. Too perfect, and the readers roll their eyes and walk away. Too flawed, and they shake their heads in frustration. But no one is really too perfect or too flawed. If we as writers have presented them that way, the problem isn’t with the character, but with the way we’ve chosen to put them onto the page.
As we’re crafting these word-people, we have to remember God loves them, because they are lovable; their story is worth telling; they’re about to change, but through whatever the plot brings, something in them will remain them, and it’s our job as writers to help find and reveal that. We take a character who by definition must undergo change and show how it’s made them more them just as all our pains, struggles, and tragedies do with us.
If you’re keeping that basic tenet it mind—that the people you’re writing about are lovable and deserving—it will serve you well. When developing the plot or your character’s experience, you must choose where to begin and finish this story you’re writing right now. You can do that by identifying the story’s main action, then follow it out in both directions. Where did that action start? Your story needs to begin just before that. In novel writing, we call it the “inciting incident.” And though the character’s life certainly doesn’t end when that action finishes, your story will—because the plot has reached its resolution.
To tell your story best, focus on one story in each piece you write. Though it may be a big, long story, focus on one aspect and the events (and only the events) that directly influence it. That might mean you ignore other things going on at the same time because they don’t play into the story.
We choose the parts we include for one purpose and one purpose only: to best tell the story we’re telling. And if you identify these key ingredients, you’ll be well on your way to telling the best version of the story on your heart.
Roseanna M White
Roseanna M. White is a bestselling, Christy Award nominated author who has long claimed that words are the air she breathes. When not writing fiction, she’s homeschooling her two kids, editing, designing book covers, and pretending her house will clean itself. Roseanna is the author of a slew of historical novels that span several continents and thousands of years. Spies and war and mayhem always seem to find their way into her books…to offset her real life, which is blessedly ordinary.