Writing techniques are difficult to pin down, as writers are so different. But which ones are useful for the beginner? Here are 5 practical techniques that researchers have found most helpful.
Beginning, Middle and End in Writing
This is a widely used writing mantra, but what does it really mean? Every writing begins and ends, after all. So it is not enough to have a “beginning, middle, and end.” It is the quality of each one that counts. The principle has only one job to do and that is to attract the reader. It’s a bit like asking someone to dance, old-fashioned. You must get their attention, take them by the hand and lead them to the track. Once you’ve captured their attention and persuaded them to stay with you, begin the middle.
The stories are essentially a character’s journey from A to B, with obstacles along the way. So the medium also has an underlying shape that attracts the reader. As long as you create that sense of narrative pull, the reader will stay with you. The endings are the feeling the reader leaves with.
They have a disproportionate impact with respect to their length. Thinking of “beginning, middle, and end” in an experimental way like this is a useful technique to help you focus on the reader. You are building a relationship, not just passing on information. Try to think of the seduction, the sustaining and the parting, rather than the beginning, the middle and the end.
Write a powerful start
Creative writing techniques often mention story hooks. It’s true, it needs to attract the reader’s attention. But a hook doesn’t have to be a big, flashy event. You just need to intrigue the reader to keep reading. That is your main job. So does your first paragraph intrigue the reader? Does it create tension, ask a question, or arouse curiosity in any way? Do you have a visual element that begins to build the world for the reader?
The most common problem in opening stories with too much information. For example, the writer has entered three or four characters in the first paragraph. Or, they’ve written a page on one character’s point of view or location and then quickly jumped to another. It is as if the writer was so excited and full of ideas that everything spilled out at once.
Readers need time to adjust to a story, tune it correctly, and get to know the characters. Writers need tight control of how information is developed. Think of leading the reader on a journey, rather than bombarding them in a scattered way. Often times, it is helpful for writers in the writing process to focus on just “three things” to give a precise focus to your opening. A character, a place, an object. A single compelling character in the opening paragraph is more attractive than three or four plots.
Powerful Middle Part
The writing techniques for half the stories are difficult to pin down. However, lack of tension is by far the most common problem. This happens even in stories with a lot of action. In fact, high-action stories without character changes can be the most boring and lifeless of all. If there is no character change or transformation, the story is linear, in a straight line. Even if there’s a lot of action and a rising plot, it’s still linear. Structurally, this type of story is more like a report or anecdote.
How to create a well-formed story
In a well-formed story, the story has an important hinge or turning point where the character undergoes a significant transformation. They do so by facing challenges and emerging changed from the encounter. A story without a character change doesn’t make sense. It is just a list of events. A feeling of connection comes from identifying with the character on some level and experiencing some of their inner conflict and change for power.
To create a powerful medium with this kind of change, it can be helpful to think of stories as having a “beginning, confusion, end.” If in the middle part you give your character internal and external conflicts, they can grow and show what they are made of. To do this, put them under pressure. Give them a difficult decision to make. And make sure the stakes are high. Choices determine character. Give your character tough choices, and the medium will have the intricate quality it needs for a strong form of story and writing.
The end is the impression your readers leave. It leaves a disproportionate effect on how they feel about your writing. So you need a very careful reflection. The climax is the climax of the action, for example, when the hero says goodbye to his lover or the evil antagonist dies. After this high point, the reader needs a “descent” time. Time to process events. If the story ends too abruptly, the reader will not be satisfied. If the climax is the climax, think of the ending as the afterglow. This does not mean tying up all the strings of writing neatly. It simply means giving a sense of closure, to take the reader out of the world of the story.
Think about your audience. How do you want them to feel?
Thoughtful? Happy? Devastated? Private? Read the endings of your favorite stories and analyze them. How do they make you feel? How has the writer achieved this effect? Of course, the final moment must be “earned” through the story as a whole. But the last sentence and the last paragraph have a disproportionate effect on how readers feel leaving the story.
Even the last word can transform the reader’s experience. On a radio show a curmudgeonly judge appeared to have a difficult relationship with his wife. But his last word to her was “honey”. In a single word, he redeemed himself. It is often effective to write an ending that has a sense of openness or possibility. That way, the story can raise questions in the reader and resonate in their minds. For example, a departure is the beginning of a new journey. Closing a store opens a new stage in life. See if you can find a way to introduce a “forward” note to extend the life of your story in the minds of your readers.
Using objects in writing
Large and small objects are a great way to bring a newsroom to life. Why are objects powerful in storytelling? Because they are external to the characters. When you put the characters on opposite sides of the object, you have instantly created a dynamic relationship. A character can read the secrets of the book. The other cannot, but wants to. Right away, you have created a conflict between the characters.
Try to start the writing with only one object and two characters.
Choose an object and brainstorm verbs that the characters can use to interact with it (eg throw, lose, break, discover…). Try to pair verbs with actions of opposite force (throw / catch; break / repair; lose / find; discover / hide). Maybe these actions can finish the story? Using objects with verbs like this is one way to dramatize inner conflict. Think of the movie The Piano and the way the piano is used in different ways, breaks, floats and is even played like an instrument.
Objects can also be used in rituals. Rings and birthday cakes are classic examples. So are gifts, crowns, and many types of clothing. Family rituals are helpful because they can act as a handy shorthand for the status quo. We all know what a typical birthday or archetypal wedding should look like. This is why a “wedding interruption” scene creates a strong tension in the movies. Look at the objects associated with family rituals and see if you can interrupt their use in a new way.
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