Make your story move forward: when we are writing, we usually have one big idea that comes from our obsession with something. At least, that’s the case with me. I can’t stop thinking about life in boarding schools or detention centers. I’m very interested in those settings. No wonder why my next two novels will be in one of those and also my first book was in a military fantasy boarding school.
Or you could have a character that you love and you play with them in your head. You talk to them, you know them, but you can’t put it on the story.
Or you built a world that you love and you would love for the characters to explore the world, however, you don’t know WHAT HAPPENS in the story.
This happens to me frequently. I know the characters, I know the settings, and I have cool worldbuilding that I would like to use. The only problem is: I don’t know how to connect all the pieces. I don’t know how the story will move forward.
How to Make Your Story Move Forward
I don’t even know what I want to write about
It’s about how you NEED to write about the thing you love the most in your life.
With that, you won’t be able to stop writing about this thing.
To find this topic, pay attention to what you talk about with your family and friends, what you keep thinking about all the time to yourself.
Take a look here, I explain everything about how to do it here.
How to Join All the Scenes Together: Make your story move forward
In Neil Gaiman’s Class 5 he teaches about Developing the Story and I learned a lot about this topic with him.
How to make the story go from A to Z? How to make the readers keep turning the pages? And how to connect all those scenes that seemingly are totally disconnected?
There are a few ways to do that and here is what I know on the matter:
So you have a general theme, you know you want to write about that, however, you have no idea how to join everything in a story. The secret to doing that is by adding conflict.
It took me forever to understand what this meant. Everybody kept talking about that you should put the conflict in your book but I always thought: I can’t have a dragon setting fire to the city in every chapter!
Conflict is not only that.
Conflict is anything that troubles your character.
It could be that they don’t know which outfit they need to get to work. It could be that they ran out of toothpaste in the morning.
Your character needs to be faced with conflict and problems all the time. When they go after solving it is what will make the story advance.
Let’s see an example:
For example, you have two scenes you really want to write. One is your character in school and the other one is that they are saving their friend from a fire. However, you don’t know how to get from school to the fire.
This is when I would advise you to outline. You can learn more about outlining here. So you could see what could happen between these scenes. However, every scene from the school to the fire must have a conflict that your character will have to solve:
A) They are in school and the principal announces about the fire. It troubles your character when they see that it was close to Jessica’s, their friend, house, and Jessica is not there.
What will they do?
B) They can call Jessica. Nobody is answering. They can tell a teacher. The teacher doesn’t pay attention to. Conflict: your character don’t know if Jessica is safe, nobody is helping them. What can they do now? They can run away from school and go see themselves what is happening.
They decide they will run away to go see if Jessica’s safe: How will they do that?
What will they do now?
C) Conflict: they need to find a way out of the school building without getting detention and FAST to save Jessica. They can ask to go to the bathroom and escape. The teacher doesn’t let them get the hall pass to go. What will they do?
Conflict all the time. Makes your character go forward.
Conflict is different from the attitude
Your character can go through all the conflict in the world, how they will respond to it is determined by their personality.
It doesn’t mean that you’ll have a super sad book just because there’s a lot of conflicts.
Your character can curl in a ball and cry or they can be sarcastic and laugh, and go solve the problem.
A character that suffers and complains all the time is BORING for the reader.
So, beware of that!
See, Jack Sparrow is always in a lot of conflicts and he laughs and jokes around it.
2. Questions: The Key to Make Your Story Move Forward
Another way to advance the story is through questions. A question that the reader wants to be answered. They will keep reading it to find out the answer. And if it’s not answered until the last page, the story is not over.
You could have a lot of different questions or only a big epic one. Neil Gaiman gives us the example of Frodo’s journey: Will he be able to get rid of the One Ring in Mordor and come back alive?
This is the central question while multiple small subplot questions keep the history interesting. For example, when Gandalf says the famous “You shall not pass” line: Will the dragon pass?!
Keep giving questions to the readers. Will they survive? Will they be together? Will they find their way to destroy the Death Star? Will Harry find and destroy the Horcruxes?
3. What the characters want and what they will get
The characters must want something and they must get what they deserve, not what they want.
The boy wants the girl. They get the fact that the girl is with the bully.
This will create the conflict and the questions mentioned above. It will make your story keep going forward, it will make you be able to connect the scenes.
Your character can’t lose all the time either. This will be boring and frustrating for the readers, especially if they see themselves in that character. However, the opposite is also true. If they win all the time, they will be boring and unrelatable.
Balance is key to writing.
Exercise: Brain Dump
One of the exercises in Neil Gaiman’s Masterclass is called Brain Dump, which means that you must get a place and write everything you know about the story. Brainstorm and let it take you. You’ll be surprised about how much you know already. A lot will be more clear and you’ll start to see connections.
After that, I’d probably start to outline.
How to keep the reader turning the page: And then “What Happens Next?”
Neil tells us that this phrase is the most important phrase a writer must know.
This is the secret of how to make them keep turning the page.
But HOW to do it?
There are some ways:
- Keep the information from the readers and the characters
Only you know. You leave small clues and hints through the book. And when they find out, it will blow their minds.
- Your readers know, the characters don’t
Your readers know that the character is getting close to a trap. You’ve told them. The characters don’t know anything. It’s like when you’re about to see a car crash in a movie. You close your eyes because things are about to get ugly.
- What can they lose?
You must make it clear what the characters can lose and make the readers afraid that this might happen.
It’s getting close to the end: WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?