Good Stories—Day 5

Ah, good old Friday the thirteenth. Now there’s a date to set a mood, especially in October. How did the 13th superstition get started, anyway?

Days like this make me thankful that Christ freed me from the tyranny of such fears. If you’ve ever lived in a culture that looks at such things seriously, you know how oppressive it can become.

Still, makes for good writing fodder. 😉

– – –

I found it interesting that both Katie and Nicole, in their comments about what makes books memorable, mentioned aspects of characterization.

Though I too am convinced that engaging characters—ones that are sympathetic, that have character qualities we admire, or who want something we can identify with—are necessary, I remain convinced that story trumps all.

The thing is, these characters we love make the story. The characters do not operate in a vacuum, mind you. Painting wonderful characters is not enough. But having wonderful characters in the center of a storm makes for a good story.

The characters make the reader care about the conflict and its ramifications, and interesting, unique, unexpected, tense circumstances swirling around those characters make the story memorable.

So that brings me to additional elements that I believe contribute to a good story.

Characters in motion. Characters who don’t have to say what they believe. Rather they act out their beliefs.

Theme that is significant, if not profound. A memorable story deals with universals, but not in a surface way.

Varied conflict. Sometimes intense, sometimes mild. Focused internally for a time, then externally. But always present.

I’d like to look at these elements in a bit more detail next week. If there are any particular elements I’ve overlooked, please point them out and I’ll do some digging so we can learn together.

Published in: on October 13, 2006 at 5:00 am  Comments (4)  


  1. This is actually something I’m trying to learn. Usually if I can’t think of something that makes it “intense,” I tend to force the action…then later decide that was stupid and take it out (ex: I’m bored…umm…man-eating plant! Oh wait…that was Jumanji…).

    Sorry I haven’t said much. Sometimes it’s better to listen. 0=)

    You rock.


  2. Hi

    Great posts on good stories! Very interesting. Anyway, I wanted to let you know, today I received the copy of Violet Dawn which I won a little back.

    I can’t wait to read it. Or should I say, finish reading it. I was one of those lucky people who read the first 12 chapters over several weeks before it was release.

    Dopey me, I thumbed through the book this morning and saw that there’s a sneak pique of book two. I read the first sentence and I’m already hooked. It’s gonna be a long wait.

    Thanks for the book. I love your blog. As Remade says above, you rock.

    Todd Greene
    Straitjacket Chillers:
    Get Strapped In . . .


  3. Kaci, there’s a lot of wisdom in your comment about listening! 😉

    One thing I firmly believe—there’s never a point where we can stop learning and rest on our laurels (if we have any). Story—the use of language, the act of communicating—is vibrant. In my opinion, we need to be as vibrant in our approach to our art.



  4. Yay! 😀 I’m so glad to know Violet Dawn arrived, Todd. It really is a good story, and the Kanner Lake crowd will be fun to hang out with in the next few books, too. My guess is you won’t have to wait too long for Coral Moon. Zondervan has been releasing a Collins book about every six months, so maybe February?



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