5 Ways to Instantly Improve Your Story

November 25, 2012 — Leave a comment

When you need to improve your story quickly, you don’t have time for long lectures, expensive courses or to hunt down that how-to writing book you read three years ago. When time is running out, simply apply the following five strategies to instantly improve your stories.

1. The Slash Strategy.

As hard as it might be, cut as much as possible. Like a crazed literary sociopath, slash away at paragraphs and whole pages. Consider cutting the first page. Sometimes stories take too long to get started. Cut as many pages from the beginning as possible since that’s where most stories fail. Hack, hack, hack. The resulting version will often be a cleaner, stronger and more powerful story.

2. The Merge Strategy

How many characters make up the fictional cast of your story? Whatever the number, consider reducing the cast by asking characters to  play more than one role. Can the best friend also be the cop? Can the love interest also be the boss? Combing roles often adds layers of richness to the story, while complicating the relationships. Both qualities of a riveting story.

3. The Tension Strategy

Add tension to every page of the story. If you don’t have time for a complete tension makeover, add tension to every page for the first 20 pages. If tension already exists on a page, add another form or strengthen the current form. The more tension, the better. Many stories fail for a lack of tension, especially in the beginning.

4. The Craving Strategy

What does your main character, the protagonist, want more than anything? What about the antagonist or villain? Make them want it more. The higher their motivation, the better fictional battle. Ask, “How can this goal matter more to my character?” Keep asking the question until you increase the craving for the goal three or four times.

5. The Take-Away Strategy

Make a quick list of what your character needs to accomplish his or her goal? Maybe it’s another character, a special item or some secret knowledge. Whatever the character needs, take it away. All of it? Not necessary, but it’s a good idea to consider slowly and surely removing all the things the character needs. This creates suspense and a growing dread that the protagonist might not win in the end. In other words, a nail-biting experience for readers.

I hope using these five strategies will help you improve your writing quickly. You might want to make a copy and post it somewhere within eyesight, or save it to your computer for easy access. If you’ve enjoyed the tips, please also consider sharing them with your friends and followers. If you want to see the strategies applied in narrative form, please check out my latest novel, Dark Halo.


Christopher Kokoski


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