How to Craft a Compelling Story
A good story requires good writing. Good writing is a serious craft that takes considerable time to develop and fine tune. In other words, you need to write and re-write, over and over. For stories that I have used in speech contest in both Singapore and USA, I have re-written some stories with over 15 versions.
Unless you are a genius, don’t expect your story to be brilliant without a good effort in crafting it. By crafting, you ensure that every word counts. When this is done right, you capture the emotions, the context and the key issues at stake. Here are the key elements you need to consider in crafting a good story. They have worked for me. As the say, the proof, is in the pudding. I ‘ve been very fortunate that most of my stories have won a number of speech contests. Honestly, there s a lot more to learn.
Characters at Work
When a story is character-driven, it is exciting and relatable. The characters breath life into the issues. Without characters, the story will be stale and lifeless. So, who is the driving force or character behind your story.
Reveal a Goal
As humans, we are naturally sympathetic of others; particularly those with worthwhile goals. Thus, to capture your audience, by always giving a good guy, a good goal that that will keep the audience rooting for him. Such a goal could be to overcome debt or to get out of jail to help a child in school. Noble goals are relatable. They also serve as a hook, ie keeping the audience engaged in finding out the outcome.
Antagonise the Good Guy
After revealing the good goal, don’t make it easy for him. Put him to the test. Put him through trials. Throw in a couple of bad guys to mount a series of road blocks to obscure the good guy. These obstacles or detours add intensity to the story. They also make it more interesting and intriguing.
Focus on Humanising
In writing the story, don’t make the mistake of casting your protagonist or the good guy as an all-knowing wise man. Instead, you should give he or she a number of human flaws. His failures and shortcomings will make him or her more relatable. In other words, you don’t need to sanitise your character(s), otherwise they wont be credible to your audience. We tend to love the people that have shortcomings like us.
Teach a Lesson
The essence of a story is to educate, persuade or entertain. Thus, use your story to teach or transfer important life lessons to others. Every story should have a moral or message that informs, inspires or influences someone to act differently. Every story is unique; it does not have to be earth-shattering to inspire someone else.
The moral of your story is the pay-off or the benefit to the audience. Whoever listens, takes the moral or pay off as their reward for having to listen or read the story. This means that, you must carefully think through your moral or message because that will linger with the listener for a long time.
Good storytelling starts with a good premise (idea) and ends with a good pay-off or reward that inspires a listener to be a better person in life.