What Makes a Good Story?
By Aaron Shepard
Good writers often break rules – but they know they’re doing it!
Here are some good rules to know.
A theme is something important the story tries to tell us—something that might help us in our own lives. Not every story has a theme, but it’s best if it does.
Don’t get too preachy. Let the theme grow out of the story, so readers feel they’ve learned it for themselves. You shouldn’t have to say what the moral is.
Plot is most often about a conflict or struggle that the main character goes through. The conflict can be with another character, or with the way things are, or with something inside the character, like needs or feelings.
The main character should win or lose at least partly on their own, and not just be rescued by someone or something else. Most often, the character learns or grows as they try to solve their problem. What the character learns is the theme.
The conflict should get more and more tense or exciting. The tension should reach a high point or “climax” near the end of the story, then ease off.
The basic steps of a plot are: conflict begins, things go right, things go WRONG, final victory (or defeat), and wrap-up. The right-wrong steps can repeat.
A novel can have several conflicts, but a short story should have only one.