Writing is a craft that each person brings different strengths and weaknesses to. We can read and study all we want, and while knowledge and skill is good, ultimately do we know how to tell a story with believable characters? If we cannot, then all of the reading and studying and grammatical perfection will not do us any good.
Some writers can have an idea and run with it all the way to The End while others have to plot everything out from Beginning to The End. That is okay—there are as many ways to write as there are writers. So, I will share how I approach writing a story.
The Boy and Girl Story
Boy meets Girl
Boy likes Girl
Girl likes Boy
Boy gets Girl
Boy is dumb
Boy loses Girl
Boy gets Girl back
In simplified form we have Beginning, Middle, End, and key points within each section. Each key point is made up of various elements that also help propel the story forward. Of course, once I start writing I sometimes find myself altering the outline because of new ideas, and there are a few times when the story simply takes off in a direction that I did not anticipate—stories sometimes do that, you know. In either case I amend the above outline so that I have some idea of what is happening and I can keep my eye on the goal—The End.
I mentioned telling a good story. A story is more than colorful, awe-inspiring paragraphs strung together from Beginning to End. A story is made up of paragraphs, each of which propels the story forward, whether about a used car salesman, a football player, or a volunteer teacher in a school. Each paragraph builds on the previous, becoming part of a whole that, when the reader is finished, they close the cover (or turn off the device) with regret, yet happy that they read a great story.
Once the outline is established it is time to write a few words about the characters, meaning names, physical description, and personality traits. Write your observations of the way people speak, not only their accent, but how they pronounce words differently from you. Even write down your observations of hand mannerisms, the way people walk, or stand.
If I am writing a novel, then the biography is more detailed. I believe we are a product of our environment, therefore knowing where the characters come from helps explain who they are and why they behave the way they do.
This is all important because there is nothing worse than an otherwise good story being populated with flat, stereotypical characters. Each person is unique, and each of your characters should be unique. Make use of the biography of your characters—as the story progresses your reader will begin to unconsciously develop an image of your character as well as their mannerisms. Your characters will become real to the reader, and that is critically important.
And do not forget the background, the environment that the story is taking place in. That too impacts the story. A city or farm environment will have a different impact on the characters that they in turn will respond to.
Of course, the amount and type of information associated with your outline will vary depending on whether you are writing a short story or a novel.
Though I save much of the research on my computer I also print a fair share of it too. The research, outline, and background information go into a manila folder.
So, in a nutshell that is how I approach writing a story or novel.
But remember, no matter how much research and background development you put into your writing, do not forget to tell a story with believable characters. It does not matter if you are writing about the Roman Empire, the Crusades, the Civil War, or even a traveling shoe salesman, never forget to tell a story with believable characters.
Good luck and happy writing!
Stan Hampton, Sr. is a full-blood Choctaw of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a divorced grandfather to 13 wonderful grandchildren, and a published photographer and photojournalist. He retired on 1 July 2013 from the Army National Guard with the rank of Sergeant First Class; he previously served in the active duty Army (1974-1985), the Army Individual Ready Reserve (1985-1995) (mobilized for the Persian Gulf War), and enlisted in the Nevada Army National Guard in October 2004, after which he was mobilized for Federal active duty for almost three years. Hampton is a veteran of Operations Noble Eagle (2004-2006) and Iraqi Freedom (2006-2007) with deployment to northern Kuwait and several convoy security missions into Iraq.
His writings have appeared as stand-alone stories and in anthologies from Dark Opus Press, Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy, Melange Books, Musa Publishing, MuseItUp Publishing, Ravenous Romance, and as stand-alone stories in Horror Bound Magazine, The Harrow, and River Walk Journal, among others.
In May 2014 he graduated from the College of Southern Nevada with an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Photography – Commercial Photography Emphasis. A future goal is to study for a degree in archaeology—hopefully to someday work in and photograph underwater archaeology (and also learning to paint).
After 13 years of brown desert in the Southwest and overseas, he misses the Rocky Mountains, yellow aspens in the fall, running rivers, and a warm fireplace during snowy winters.
As of April 2014, after being in a 2-year Veterans Administration program for Homeless Veterans, Hampton is officially no longer a homeless Iraq War veteran, though he is still struggling to get back on his feet.
“The Gates of Moses.” Melange Books, August 2012.
BLURB: An engineer dedicated to saving Venice from the rising seas, fails in his task. As a severe storm and high tides threaten to burst through the flood walls, he resolves to remain in Venice with a ghostly lover who claimed his heart years before. A woman from his staff who loves him, does not evacuate, but remains to battle his ghostly lover before he dies in a sinking Venice…
EXCERPT: The dull booms, like the measured beats of a primeval heart, echoed through the gray drizzling afternoon. Each boom was a countdown to a finely predicted cataclysm that man, through his mistaken notion that he could control nature, had finally admitted that he was powerless to hold back.
Dr. Gregorio Romano, tall, with dark brown hair and watchful hazel eyes, stood before the open tall narrow window of his corner office in the ornate, gilded Ducal Palace of the once La Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia, the Most Serene Republic of Venice, and peered into the gray drizzle toward the unseen barrier islands. The almost submerged islands of Lido and Pellestrina, with their channels opening onto the Adriatic Sea, formed the southeastern perimeter of the timeless Venetian lagoon. He listened to the echoing booms of the rising, stormy Adriatic, and thought of a mythical, prehistoric mother who gave birth to an imaginative species that dreamed of the impossible and often made it happen. And now the mother was ready to take back one of the greatest dreams of her children, ready to clasp it deep within her bosom.
“Yes,” he replied as he gazed at the gray choppy waters of the lagoon.
“Have you reconsidered? Are you ready to evacuate?”
“Not yet.” Gregorio tilted his head slightly as a sleek dark gondola glided effortlessly across frothy, white-capped waters and halted before the flooded wharf, the Riva degli Schiavoni, in front of the Palace.
Patrizia Celentano, the first and last female gondolier of Venice, looked up at him and gave a friendly wave. He raised a hand in return. Her gondola was a traditionally built and shaped boat, but rather than the traditional black as required by law, she painted it a dark wine color. Though she offered to erect a shelter to protect Gregorio from the elements, he always preferred to ride in the open.
“We can evacuate you by force if necessary.”
“You won’t,” Gregorio smiled as he turned to face his computer on the polished wooden desk. The broad, bearded face of his boss, Dr. Niccolo Ricci, nodded in agreement. “There’s no need, and a helicopter is scheduled to pick me up from the roof of my home tomorrow morning at 0600 hours.”
“The calculations might be incorrect. The gates could break tonight…”
Hampton can be found at:
Amazon.com Author Page
Amazon.com. UK Author Page
Goodreads Author Page