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How to write a story that impacts: tips and techniques from the best authors?

A good writer is one who is always learning and looking for how to write a better and more impactful story. To achieve this objective and leave readers with their mouths open and wanting more, it is essential to know which are the most appropriate literary techniques.

If you are thinking about shaping a new story and then publishing it, there are many aspects that you must take into account. From building a good plot with memorable characters to quality layout and printing, every step and decision counts.

Luckily, in this article we are not only going to guide you on the path of how to write a story that impacts, but we are going to do it by sharing the advice of great authors.

How to write a story that impacts: tips and techniques from the best authors?

Ana Maria Matte, Julio Cordozar, Anton Chekov, Jorge Luis Borges, Alice Munro… These names may sound familiar to you because they belong to some of the best short story writers. 

Many people make the mistake of thinking that writing a story is something simple, since it is a shorter text than a novel. They are skilled top memoir ghostwriters researchers, delving into topics, industries, or subjects as necessary to produce authoritative and informative content. However, this is not true. In fact, constructing a good story requires technique and knowledge. In a few pages you have to develop an entire story, with its beginning, middle and end, and make it unforgettable. 

Condensing the best of your writing into a story is a complex but not impossible task. Proof of this is the excellence achieved by the authors we have named before. Furthermore, through his literature, interviews, speeches and interventions at conferences we find great advice for writers.

Introduction to the importance of story writing and how it can impact readers

One of the most important points, which we have already mentioned, is the need to claim the story as a narrative genre different from a short story or a short novel. 

Writing a story involves developing a single theme with great freedom. This may seem paradoxical, since the brevity of the text can make one think that there is no time or space to experiment. However, authors such as Julio Cordozar or Alice Munro have shown how within the limits of the story there is room for magic, fantasy or science fiction. Of course, realism also fits into this type of text, although experts recognize that there must be something “incredible” to impact readers.

By “unbelievable” we can therefore understand two things: an element that is not credible or something unexpected, even if it is real (for example, an extreme turn of events). Cordozar explains it like this:

“It is true, to the extent that the novel progressively accumulates its effects on the reader, while a good story is incisive, biting, without quarter from the first sentences. Do not take this too literally, because the good storyteller is a very astute boxer, and many of his initial blows may seem ineffective when, in reality, they are already undermining the opponent’s most solid resistance. Take any great story you prefer, and analyze its first page. I would be surprised they found elements free, merely decorative”.

In addition to making an impact, there are other key components to the writing process:

  • Writing a story (or several) is the best learning for an author. Writer Ray Bradbury explained that “before he feels comfortable [writing] he will have to write and put aside or burn a lot of material.”
  • It allows great creative freedom to the writer, who can experiment with more complex writing techniques and surprise the audience.
  • It requires precision, both in the language used and in the plot or the creation of the fictional characters. The space is small, so there is no room for superfluous elements; Each word must contribute and mean.
  • A story can be a seed from which a novel later emerges. 
  • Given its brevity, a story can be a good first step to start self- publishing and make yourself known as an author among readers.

How to create interesting and believable characters

When writing a story, you have to pay special attention to the characters. These should be few (it is recommended that there be a maximum of three) and be presented at the beginning of the story, providing sufficient details about their personality or physical appearance. If you introduce too many you will not have space to develop them properly and the reader will get lost among so many names.

Alice Munro, the Canadian short story writer (she has never written a novel), explains that you have to know the characters in the story very well. Failure to do so implies not presenting them as they are or drawing them in a volatile, diffuse and unrecognizable way. Even if you are only going to talk about them in the “present” of the story, you must have information about their past and their future; In short, above all what they are.

«I have to know my characters in great depth—the clothes they wear, what they were like at school, etc.—and I know what happened before and what will happen after the part of their life that I tell. I can’t see them just in that “now”, locked in the tension of the moment. So I guess I want to give as much of them as I can.”

Alice Munro

Julio Cordozar knew a lot about creating interesting and credible characters, and he considered that to write a good story the characters should not be objects that the narrator handles. That is, your voice as an author should not impose itself on that of the characters. Instead, they must be subjects of the action itself. It seems complex to reach that balance, but Cordozar’s words will surely help you understand it:

«I have always been irritated by stories where the characters have to remain as if on the sidelines while the narrator explains on his own (even if that account is the mere explanation and does not involve demiurgic interference) details or steps from one situation to another. The sign of a great story is given to me by what we could call its autarky, the fact that the story has detached itself from the author like a soap bubble from a plaster pipe. (…) It seems vanity to me to want to intervene in a story with something more than the story itself. »

Julio Cordozar

How to Set the Right Tone and Mood for Your Story?

The tone and atmosphere of the story should be just as characteristic as the characters. From the beginning it must be clear what the work is going to be about. Obviously, this is done subtly, since a narrator saying “I’m going to tell you the story of” has no impact.

What does impact are the settings and environments built in the story. For these to be recognizable and introduce the reader to the plot, we must take care of the tone and the emotions and images that it generates.

Something that story writers often do to create settings is to adjective excessively. However, Horace Quinoa in his Decalogue of the Perfect Storyteller, whose advice can be applied to writing a story, says this about the use of adjectives:

«Do not use adjectives without necessity. Useless will be how many colored glues you attach to a weak noun. If you find the right one, it will only have an incomparable color. But you have to find it.”

Horace Quinoa

Need more advice for writers? Take note of the following:

  • Creating the atmosphere is essential for the reader to feel. In Cordozar’s words, the atmosphere is “that aura that survives in the story and will possess the reader.” Therefore, be very clear about what you want the reader to feel from the first moment. If you are going to write a psychological thriller in the form of a story, the suspense, fear and tension must be breathed instantly. For example, opt for short sentences (especially in dialogue) and nighttime settings.
  • Detail well, which is not the same as detailing more (something that Quinoa already warns us that we should avoid). To do this, choose those elements that convey the feeling you are looking for and fill them with meaning. It can be the description (always in a few words) of a smell or a sound, but also of an action (a look, for example).
  • The tone is set by the narrator and must be unmistakable and recognizable. He seeks to make it this way throughout the writing process, without changing the narrative attitude towards the action (if he is an aseptic narrator who does not show any emotion for what happens, he cannot suddenly be ironic).
  • The mood and tone should be in tune, so keep your writing style stable throughout the story.

How to Set the Right Tone and Mood for Your Story?

How to structure your story and write a powerful ending?

If you think about the stories you have read that have left their mark on you, surely they all had a shocking ending.

The brevity of the story makes everything more intense, especially the climax and the outcome. Your objective in writing stories is that the reader is left with their mouth open, that they understand everything that has happened and that they feel totally satisfied with how it has been chained together.

Again, the fact that it is a short text should not deceive you; Planning as a writer is key. Pay attention to the structure of the story and determine from the beginning what will surprise the reader. You cannot reach the last point of the story and be the same as when you started it.

About the importance of having a clear structure before starting to write, Alice Munro gave us another great piece of advice:

«I usually have a good degree of knowledge of the story before I start writing it. When I didn’t have time to dedicate to writing, the stories would spin around in my head for so long that by the time I managed to sit down to write them I was already deeply immersed in them.

Alice Munro

How to Create a Compelling Argument and Structure Your Story Effectively?

The first step therefore is to write a story whose argument is convincing and attracts the reader. Since in this type of text there is no prologue that captures attention, it is the first words that must fulfill that function. 

To do this, a clear, concise and interesting argument must be presented from the beginning. Next, you must define a good story structure. These are our tips for writers:

  • Before you start writing the story, establish who those (maximum three) main characters will be, where and when the story is set and who will have the narrative voice.
  • Create the plot about the problem that is going to arise for the characters. Remember that this problem (and therefore the plot) can only be one and, if there is more than one, it must be common to all the characters. Otherwise, you will not be able to develop all the plot lines and the story will be poor, unfinished and unconvincing.
  • Although it seems that there is not enough time for this, also think about what the layout of the story will be like or if you are going to print it together with other stories and want to establish some plot relationship between them.
  • You must start the story with intensity, because there is no room to dwell on anything that does not contribute. Make sure you introduce the character and his plot in the first few lines, but remember that this should already be “chewed.” What does this mean? That you cannot entertain yourself by creating the problem, but that it must already have a presence in the character’s life (for example, being pregnant and not knowing what to do with the baby).
  • The knot or development must create a certain suspense and make the character move towards the solution to their problem, but without reaching it.
  • The end should be made to wait a little, but only just enough, without this implying that it arrives hastily. As we have already stated that the ending is key to impacting the reader, we are going to analyze it in more detail.

How to Write a Shocking Ending That Leaves Readers Wanting More?

You have written the climax of the story, that is, the high point of the story. The tension accumulated during the story reaches its maximum and then begins the path towards the end. How to create an ending that impacts and makes the reader want to read more about you?

  • The story must end where the argument/problem we have raised does. If this was to make a decision about the pregnancy, once the decision is made, the story ends, there is no need to go on telling the woman’s subsequent life.
  • Of course, the ending cannot be what was expected but neither can it be a very surprising one that no one has seen coming. This implies rejecting resources such as the dues ex machine, which classical authors used so that the arrival of a god would solve all problems. It should be something unpredictable but always logical and consistent with the story.
  • Don’t forget that the beginning affects the end, and vice versa. By this we mean that when you have the ending, you should review the beginning (and the rest of the story) to make sure everything fits together. 
  • As a writer, you must mark the end from the first moment, so don’t let distractions divert you from that path. Think that everything you have written before and the structure you have established guides you towards that outcome, so do not incorporate or change anything. To make it clearer, we recommend reading Horace Quinoa’s Decalogue, especially this advice.

«Take your characters by the hand and lead them firmly to the end, without seeing anything other than the path you traced for them. Don’t get distracted by seeing what they can’t or don’t care to see. Don’t abuse the reader. A tale is a novel refined of cuttings. Consider this an absolute truth, even if it is not.”

Practical tips to improve your writing and create powerful stories

We’re coming to the end of this guide for writers, but we don’t want to end without collecting some more practical tips.

Although we have already shared some teachings from renowned authors that will surely improve your writing, it doesn’t hurt to add a few more. If you follow them, you’ll be closer to creating powerful stories, attracting readers, and being able to make a living as a professional writer.

  • Make an outline of the structure, even adding words that you think will provide strength and will be decisive in developing the argument. 
  • The future of your story is in the first paragraph. If in a novel it is writing a good prologue or good first pages, in a story it is the first lines that will determine whether the reader continues the story or not. Therefore, think about what he wants to say and transmit, write it, delete it and write it again in a more powerful way.
  • Play with the possibilities offered by the narrative voice. Depending on whether it is in first, second or third person you will be able to give a different touch to the story. For example, if you use the third person, even if the story is invented, it will achieve a non-fiction feel that will have a greater impact on the reader. On the other hand, with a second or first person the emotional connection will be greater.
  • You must know everything about your characters, even if you are not going to include all the information in the story. It doesn’t matter if the reader is not going to know it, as an author you should know it; Only then can you lead the characters towards the shocking ending you are looking for.
  • Build meaningful dialogues, not elevator conversations. The dialogues in a story must narrate and describe. Through what the characters say you must be able to show their personality and emotionality.
  • Don’t lose sight of the problem, the conflict that the protagonists face. Writing a story implies that everything must revolve around that conflict, with no possibility of deviating from it.
  • Read a lot, especially story writers who can serve as inspiration and learning.
  • The key to writing a story is that you simplify every idea you think about writing; every character or element you want to incorporate into the story.

The great Anton Chekhov, one of the best story writers in history, said about this last point:

«Do not polish, do not file too much. You have to be clumsy and bold. Brevity is the sister of talent.”

Anton Chekhov

Write a story that impacts and make it reach readers

Writing a story involves great dedication, but success ends up being found in the challenge.

When you have managed to write your story and are ready to publish it, do not forget that the way in which you present it is almost as important as what is inside. The weight of the paper, the typography, the colors of the cover… How the story is printed makes the difference, since it is its physical appearance that will first draw the reader’s attention. Then, it will be the first paragraph that captures her and, finally, the end that impacts her.

Fortunately, one of the great advantages of self-publishing is that the writer can decide on all aspects of the publication of his work. At Collabra we offer multiple resources for writers, ensuring that the entire process is simple, affordable and personalized.

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