E2, I'm sure, is probably so packed with hopeful writers and authors that if they were to get together all at once, fire marshals around the nation would be apoplectic, beside themselves with fear and dread of a possible fire breaking out with so many people in one spot. After all, when writers convene, sparks are bound to fly. Bonfire of the vanities, I think is what they call it. We writers are so damn vain about our ideas, when we hear that Carly Simon song we stand up with our hands over our hearts, like it's our anthem. Most of us are bad writers- our vanity is a dead giveaway. Another clue that you might be in the presence of a bad writer is when he or she absolutely refuses to give good advice.
It's the good writers that will tell you this very simple truth: it's not the words you write, it's the story you tell. Like sex and that old addage "it's not the sword that matters, it's how you wield it." Writing is much the same way.
Anyone can put a string of letters and words together to form a sentence. It takes talent and skill to make that sentence worth reading. The case of Richard and his wife, Sally:
"Sally. I went to the grocery store to get some milk and ran into your mother. She's quite pissed about the baby. The doctor says that she'll be fine, though."
What the hell does that mean? Poor Sally has to decipher her husband's story and it could mean any one of a hundred things. Is Mom okay? Did Richard actually run into Mom with the car? Was a baby hurt in an accident? Who is Mom pissed at- Richard, Sally or someone else? What doctor? Who is going to be okay- Mom or the baby? Poor, poor Sally. Richard is not a good writer, apparently. If he ends up leaving his audience, in this case his wife Sally, with more questions than answers, then he's in trouble.
If Richard was a good writer, here's what he would have written:
"Sally. You'll never believe who I met at the grocery store today while getting milk! Your mom! She's pregnant again. The doctor says the baby will be fine even though she's a little late in years. Your dad was out of town when she got the news and he won't be back for another week- very upsetting for her because, you know, she hates to wait for anything. She wants you to call her soon. Love, Rich."
When writing a story, or anything for that matter, it's a must to keep things in order of importance. Use qualifying sentences. In the revised note to Sally, the qualifying sentence says that Rich met Mom at the grocery store. Any other info that comes after that is made valid by stating the source, Mom, which was done properly.
Next comes the pivotal plot point. The pivotal plot point can be a character, an event, a situation, an object or an idea. The PPP gives the story drive and lets the reader "connect" in some way to the story as a point of reference. In this case, it's the fact that Mom is pregnant.
Subplot. In every good story, a subplot is a must. Without a subplot a book or story tends to be very, very lean. For Rich's story, the subplots are two-fold: the doctor feels that Mom is going to be okay despite her older-than-normal age to have children and, secondly, Dad still doesn't know because he's out of town. A subplot gives the story body and structure. It can help round out a character's development, add credence to the main story, build mystery or any damn thing else the writer wants. It's usually good to give the subplot a resolution before the very end of the story. It's great when the subplot is resolved in conjunction with the pivotal plot point. I can not stress more how important a subplot can be to a story.
The point of the story is not the same as the pivotal plot point. Sometimes they have absolutely nothing to do with each other by direct connection. And, sometimes, they have everything to do with each other. Some stories are told to make you think, some to inspire, some to make you laugh or have another emotion. The point of the story is usually found in the climax, where everything having to do with the story comes together and erupts. For Sally, the point of her husband's story is that her mother wants a phone call. The purpose of a story doesn't always have to be complex or long-winded. It can be something as simple as making the reader go, "Wow. Fresh idea."
Resolution, ending, denoeument, closure- call it what you will, but all good things must end. "Love, Rich" puts on that final touch, don't you think? It says, "That's it. I wanted you to know because I care about you and I know you'd care about this." The ending of a story comes quickly and concisely, if the writer is smart. Why? Well, a good writer wants the audience to beg for more. This does not mean the audience should want more answers- that leads to a desire for bloodletting and could be messy. No. This means inspiring the reader to get motivated and get more of the story. You can be rest assured that Sally will want to call her mom for more on what's going on. Richard has given her enough information to work with, but if Sally wants more, she knows where to get it: Mom. The resolution can sometimes have elements of foreshadowing for a sequel. For instance, if Richard has more of the story to tell, he'd say, "That's the good news. Better news when I get home tonight from work!"
The audience is always in the mood for a good story. They want to be interactive with the tale, to make it feel worthwhile. All the best ideas in the world, all the best plot lines and characters in the world would be pointless unless they have the proper structure.
And so, my dear friends, in my pursuit to be a good writer, I have imparted some wisdom. Perhaps some of you know it already, perhaps some of you don't. Although I am unpublished (as yet), I have yet to be told that I write bad stories. I hope that this little w/u proves useful for those of you who feel that their stories lack "something." Just remember the important rules of how to tell a story and you should be right as rain.