Tip #2: The Five Parts of a Story

by Peter Raymundo


Tip #2:  The Five Parts of a Story

1. THE CHARACTER - Obviously there's endless things to say about developing a good character.  But let me just say this:  NO ONE else should be able to fit as your main character as well as the one you have.  Think about that.  It's a simple concept, but can take a little bit to really understand.  Why do we like him?  Why do we care?  What's interesting or ironic about him?  What's his main characteristic?  What's his job, passion, and goal in life?  What do other say or think about him?  

The answers to these don't need to be complex.  In fact, they can be quite simple, but they need to add up to the best possible character for your story.

2. THE SETTING - The "Setting" is not just the background.  It should be an absolutely critical part of the overall story.  The best advice I have for this is to think of the Character and Setting as one big, conflicting element.  The main character must be at odds with the setting (whether that's a school, island, city, or whatever).  And the Setting must be at odds with the main character.  But I find that usually the setting (at least initially) is the more dominant factor.  (like an honest man in a city of liars).

3.  THE PROBLEM - This is basically summed up by the questions I posed in Tip #1.  We find that the  main character wants (better yet, NEEDS) something.  This can be almost anything, but my advice is to keep is very understandable, like food, or love, or safety, etc.  And again, the obstacle between the character and what he wants should usually have something to do with the setting itself.  And then give this opposing setting some kind of "champion" that our hero can actually face off against.  

4.  THE STRUGGLE - This is often the bulk of the story.  The "second act" in movie terms.  It's basically all of the stuff that the character does to try and overcome the obstacle in the way of his goal.  (to get a tad deeper, this usually involves the character first overcoming some kind of internal struggle, THEN being able to find the ability to overcome the physical obstacle in the way).  There's really no easy answer or formula on how to do this, but some of the most basic things to keep in mind here is to keep escalating the stakes.  Your character starts off with what he feels is the most efficient path, but this leads to a whole new (harder) set of problems.  And this repeats at higher and higher levels,  until often, even in children's books, the main character faces death itself in order to attain his or her goal.  And when this Struggle is at it's absolute peak, at it's tipping point, that is called the Climax.

5. THE RESOLUTION - Or how it ends.  I think when you are first formulating your story, it's only important to know whether it ends positively or negatively.  Does the hero achieve his goal or not?  The exact details of how and where and when can be worked out later on in the process.  For me, knowing how the story basically ends is as important as knowing where you are going when you're driving.  I mean, if you don't have a distinct destination, you will just end up getting lost and driving in circles forever.  That may have it's benefits in real life, but in story terms, it just means a boring, meandering story that no one wants to hear.