I am really grateful for the platform that Lit provided me to use and abuse. This is my way of giving back.
This is intended for new Writers/Authors who are interested in learning a practical, technical method of developing their stories. Since I am posting this on Lit, the article focuses on Authors wishing to write and post on Lit and similar forums. If you use your head however, you might be able to apply the contents to writing in general. I have divided it into three parts. The first part is a broad introduction to some aspects of writing, the second is a look at classical story structures and the third is a description of a method which I find to be practical and effective for developing ideas into stories.
I am an experienced writer of motion picture fiction and give creative writing workshops from time to time. I developed this method by piecing together what I learned in Art School and from my experiences writing and teaching. May I add though that I do not use this method when writing what I submit on Lit (it was never my intention to post for a broad porn audience). If you do read my other submissions, allow me to quote well in advance the Man from Nazareth, who once said, "Do as I say, not as I do."
When I attended Art School, I was rebellious. I chose to become an artist because I wanted to be free in my creativity. I did not want to be limited by so called "established" rules and conventions. I was like, "I wanna do my own thing, I don't wanna imitate this or that person..." I was not the only student with this opinion (artists, right?).
However, a favorite Professor said something very interesting to us. He said,
"There is nothing wrong with breaking rules, but you gotta know them first, so you know why you are breaking them."
I hope you will find something of use for yourself in these 3 submissions.
What is a story?:
Looking at it from an Author's point of view, a story is an artificial construction, created by a story teller to give a convincing illusion of reality. Though you might feel emotional attraction or attachment to characters, events or dialog in a story, these are all really artificial, abstract constructions that only exist in the head of the storyteller, in our case, the Author.
This definition applies even to a story based on real persons and/or events. First and foremost, everyone's memory is selective and subjective. Though we all tend to say, "This is the way it happened," what we should actually say is, "This is the way I (choose to) remember it." Even when an author models a character on a real person, he/she can never write everything about that person, without easily reaching a million pages. What you do (or should do) is select aspects of that person's character that are relevant to the story you would like to tell, and leave out the rest. The same applies to any events, places, objects and so forth, that you include in your story. You might equate a story to a map of a city. A map is drawn to a scale and shows a two dimensional plan of a city. You can find real places on it, you can use it to navigate accurately from one point to another, but the map and the city are not the same. Writing a good story is like marking a route on a map, that gives you the easiest, most direct way to get you from your starting point to your destination.
What constitutes a good story (generally speaking):
Correct English (or whatever language you are using, smart Aleck):
The first and most basic components of a well written story are correct spellings, grammar and punctuation (except within quotation marks). Errors tend to irritate readers, therefore, it is advisable to use Spell-check and proof read your work.
Disciplined writing as opposed to carefree waffling gives you a focused story with a clear structure that is easy for a reader to follow. Waffling and aimless, uninspired meandering tend to distract, bore and irritate readers. A skilled Author may like to constantly confuse his/her readers and force them to keep on their toes and use their heads, as Tarantino did in Pulp Fiction. I remember a mate of mine going, "How come Travolta got shot but he was still alive at the end?" I responded with, "Use your head, fool!" (Pulp Fiction is made up of three plots, and Tarantino or his Editor moved some stuff around the "time-lines", so they are not told chronologically.)
Readers with taste tend to appreciate an author with style, as in, a wide vocabulary, vivid imagery, a clever way with words, usage of puns and well, all those little things that differentiate and elevate a word smith from just another writer, and give him his/her own particular signature. Be assured though that you do not have to be a wordmeister in order to write a good story. And beautiful, superfluous language alone doth not of a boring story an interesting one make. (You may try to aid a limited, dull, redundant vocabulary by consulting a Thesaurus though.)
A story which has impact does not happen in the readers' heads but in their hearts. Readers become emotionally involved if they either sympathize with or despise a character's personality, ethics, goals and actions. The Author has to get the readers to a point where they wish the main characters ill or well. Needless to say, if the readers do not care either way about any of the characters and events in a story, then they will be bored and the story will just breeze past them. They will probably just stop reading way before they reach your carefully planned climax. For example, I will watch Miami Heat because I like them and want them to win. I will watch the Knicks because I don't like them and hope to see them lose. But I don't care about The Pistons, win or lose, so I wont bother watching any of their games. ZAPP!!! BYE!
Tension is created and heightened through conflicts. The more and the bigger the opposing forces you have in your story, the higher the tension. The opposing forces can come in the form of internal conflicts, whereby a character has to fight against his moral values, beliefs, fears or logic and so forth. Or they can take the form of external forces, as in other people or the environment which make it difficult for a character in a story to achieve their aim.
Suspense is created when the reader wishes for a particular outcome, but is not sure if it will come to pass or not. It is also created when the reader fears for a character who is threatened by something or someone. If the outcome of a story is clear after the first couple of lines, you could equate this to attending a boxing match knowing that the ref has been bought and one of the boxers has accepted a million bucks to take a dive after 30 seconds. Unless you were weird, or had a lot of money riding on it, you would simply be bored and would not bother attending the match.
The plot is the sequence of events in your story. Obviously, the more interesting the things that happen in your story, the more interested the reader is. However, "interesting" does not that something out of the ordinary or supernatural has to happen in your story. The points in your plot that add to the tension and suspense are "interesting." If your story has superb, unexpected "twists and turns" going off at spectacular tangents, but they do not add to the tension, suspense or the readers' emotional involvement, then they will have no impact.
The subject matter of your story has to be of some relevance to the reader. You should look at a story like a question and answer session. The question is posed somewhere at the beginning of your story. "Will he/she succeed or fail?" Will he/she be caught or not?" and so forth.
If you write about something that is very trivial and carries no weight for the reader, this is like posing a boring, uninteresting question. Its rare if not impossible to have an interesting answer to a boring question. Why should a reader stick around till the end?
Since this seems to a major point of conflict between Authors and readers on Lit, I will devote a fair amount of space to it.
Terms like "convincing", "logical" and "realistic" tend to be confusing. Often, readers post comments like, "Your story was very realistic (or convincing)," or , "Not convincing at all..."
I have already described a story as an artificial construction. Therefore, how does one give this artificial construction a veneer of realism? A realistic story is one in which your artificial construction makes sense, that is, it has no logical flaws. There has to be congruence between characters you establish, and the setting (physical and social environment) and the plot.
In real life, water flows downstream. However, readers of fiction are very lenient and tolerant. They allow Authors to create worlds where water flows upstream, Vampires prowl the nights, Aliens zoom about in space ships, Terminators come from the future and so forth. At the beginning of your story, you as an Author are free to establish any types of characters and societies, abiding in any sorts of fantastic worlds, which follow any sets of rules that you can conjure. However, once you have established the characters and "natural laws" of your story, the readers expect and in fact demand of you to remain bound by them. If you suddenly change any of these, for no apparent reason that can be understood, the readers will sense a flaw in your logic. They will feel annoyed and cheated, like you are playing with loaded dice.
As a kid I once watched a Kung Fu movie with a Bruce Lee look alike, aptly named Bruce Li. The title was, "The Third Leg of Bruce Li." Just before the end of the movie, the bad guys had Bruce Li all trussed up on the floor. One of the baddies raised an evil looking machete to hack off Bruce's head. And then, lo and behold, out of the blue, a third leg appeared on Bruce's hip, and kicked all the baddies and killed them. Then it disappeared. Everybody in the cinema fell over laughing, because this was simply ridiculous. Throughout the whole movie, there had been absolutely nothing to suggest that Bruce Li might have some type of third leg. Mind you, I am not talking about his penis here, I mean a real leg, thigh, knee, and foot in a brand new Chinese shoe. Though we were kids, we just didn't buy that. We thought the film makers were dumb morons and we laughed at them.
The same applies to your story. Whilst you do not have to reveal everything at the start, if something of importance, like a third leg, supernatural powers or aliens and stuff is to play a pivotal role later on in your story, you have to at least give the reader some veiled clues.
The same applies to characters. If you establish a character as being morose and very vindictive, and then they suddenly become light of spirit and very forgiving, for no apparent reason, the reader will become irritated. In real life, people can suddenly change and do something unexpected, for no apparent reason (or reasons which we are not aware of). That is life. However, in a story, this is simply irritating for readers.
I have just checked the Feed Back Portal for examples and I picked out this one randomly. Here is a quotation from a reader. I hope the Author does not mind... (Blue88-A study in scarlet)
"JOHN cannot find his soon to be wife at a new years party.... when he does she is face fucking some other guy at the stroke of Midnight.... when John breaks it up the other guy starts a fight... and she slaps JOHN her husband to be in front of EVERYONE... and John decides to marry this cunt? what on earth for? you see this story fails b/c JOHN is given NO motivation about why he decides to forgive her. Does she give great sex? great BJ/s? does she have fantastic tits? is her family fabulously wealthy? WHAT? What is it about her that is SOOOOOO compelling that a street smart guy like John would risk a marriage after that awful Humiliation? Anyone? anyone at all with an answer?"
I haven't read the story, but I hope you get the point I am trying to make. The reader is not saying, its not realistic for a guy to catch his wife-to-be blowing some other guy at some New Year's Party, get smacked by both of them and still go off and marry her. What he is saying is, its not realistic for this fictitious character that you have established as being "street smart", to up and do that, for no apparent reason.
Selling a story to readers:
Obviously, when you post a story, you are ultimately selling something to your readers, unless you are writing to live out your fantasies or piss people off.
Any story you write contains some kind of message. This lies in the nature of story telling. In the past, stories were used in all cultures to transport lessons, wisdom and messages to present and future generations. Whilst this may no longer be applicable to all the stories that reach us nowadays, stories are in essence vehicles for transporting something. In other words, selling something.
Generally, it is easy to sell an readers a character they can identify with, especially if they sympathize with his/her goal. Conversely, it is difficult to sell an audience characters with thoughts, morals, behavior and fetishes that they find abhorrent and despicable, unless these people are punished or made to change their opinions. (Kind of like how many people used to go and watch Muhammad Ali hoping to see him getting bashed)
I know this sounds conservative, but readers are generally conservative. More so on Forums like Lit. People who read stories in a particular Cat are looking for stories with a particular direction and fetish.
However, if you write cleverly, you can sell readers almost anything. I mean, the makers of "Pretty Woman" managed to sell the conservative, religious folks in the mid west, the south and the rest of the country the story of a millionaire fornicating with and then marrying a common whore.
There are several factors which determine what readers will buy, the most important of which being,
To put it briefly, this is their sense of right and wrong. Readers, just like cinema audiences, can be made to accept and support a character doing something they consider wrong, if he/she has plausible extenuating circumstances. A good Author can even make his readers end up supporting something they initially considered to be wrong. For example, many homophobic people were made to feel for the gay guy played by Forrest Gump, I mean, Tom Hanks, in Philadelphia, right?
What does a reader expect when they read your story? What are they looking for?
A readers expectations encompass things like;
What type of figure do they want as their main character?
What (or maybe who) do they want him/her to do?
And how do they wish the story to end?
Literotica/Porn Site expectations
Obviously, on a porn site, the majority of readers want "hot" sex that they can frig or wank to. However, they expect something more.
For example, readers of Incest want stories about a protagonist who gives in to their lust for close blood relations. They want their protagonist to have wonderful sex, and probably happily continue it. Therefore, obviously if you write a story in which a character commits incest and is punished severely for it by the law or the society, you are not meeting their expectations.
Lesbian and Gay readers generally seem to seek stories about straight people who succumb to their homosexual desires and find hot sex and probably love. They also seem to like stories of straight people that are "raped" by someone of the same sex and love it. Therefore if you write a homophobic story about lecherous gays who are punished for their "gay" desires, you are not meeting their expectations. (I did it on purpose a couple of times and damn were the gays mad!)
The people who read the Mature Cat wish for stories where an elderly and a younger person succumb to their attraction for one another and find great sex and probably love. I once came across a story in this category about a lonely, sweet elderly lady that was raped and debased by an uncouth, obnoxious young buck who found her wrinkled flesh and sagging breasts disgusting. She then became his willing slut. Needless to say the writer was bashed by the readers of the category. He failed to meet their expectations completely.
I for one do not usually read Non Consent stories because I believe a man who has to force himself on a woman who does not find him at all attractive should be punished (not necessarily coz I am anti sexism, but maybe coz I never had problems getting laid). However, the readers seem to like stories where pretty women are raped and debased and love it, usually for no apparent reason (at least not one that is logical to me). I have only posted once in that Cat. I wrote the story of a teacher who is raping and abusing his students with impunity, until he gets raped and debased himself. I was surprised that the story was well received and rewarded with high scores. I was actually expecting to piss them off. Them readers didn't fulfill my expectations.
Therefore, I would suggest that you carefully consider what the expectations in the Cat you intend to post in are, if at least so that you know when to be prepared for some heavy flak.
Two problem categories:
There are a couple of categories where many Authors seem to fail to meet the readers' moral values and expectations.
Loving Wives is a problem Category. It seems like both Authors and readers agree that "Loving Wife" stories should be about cheating wives (Don't ask me why? I mean English is a foreign language from that distant, tiny European Island, right?). However, it seems like most of the readers are interested in stories about wives that cheat on their husbands and end up being punished for it. The writers however, seem more interested in stories where the cheating wives get away with it. Usually the husbands are portrayed as wimps that are physically and mentally inadequate for their wives. They end up as willing cuckolds, who are sometimes even humiliated and made to watch, eat cream pies and perform fellatio on their wives' studs. This usually annoys many readers of this particular Cat, who constantly complain about male humiliation and demand vengeance and retribution. They obviously like cheating wives and vindictive, self righteous, all powerful husbands, but hate cuckolds and wimps.
The other problem Cat is IR. Judging from the people who post comments, most of them want stories about White Men and black women. However, they seem to hold Black Man, White Woman sex to be morally wrong and unacceptable. The fantasy of BM WW sex seems to fascinate them, yet they despise the characters. Therefore, they expect the white woman to be portrayed as whore and and the black man as a brute. They "demand" that the IR sexual experience should destroy the white woman, and make her lose everything; divine punishment for a mortal sin, if you will. Stories in IR written by white men tend to satisfy these expectations.
Those written by white women who prefer black men or fantasize of having sex with them do not conform to this and are usually met with the wrath of white male readers. The constant outrage from white readers towards romantic IR stories has led to several Authors in the category posting stories that are intentionally very insulting to white men, which in turn provokes more rude comments from the morons. I for one enjoy pissing those morons off too.
If you post in IR or Loving Wives, you better have a thick skin.
Some terms used in classical writing defined loosely: