While in college, I took a creative writing minor that required me to workshop my work a lot. I’m grateful the experience, even if it was nerve-wracking at first to showcase my work. But throughout all of my classes, we would often talk about what makes writing good. If you’ve been writing for a long time, it might seem obvious, but there’s more to it than that.
Everyone talks about how what to include in a story to make it good. They talk about how your characters need to be three-dimensional, how your plot must follow a logical course. Everyone talks about what everyone already knows when it comes to how something in a story should be written, but no one talks about why that makes it good.
I wanted to cover the basic components of good writing in this post. You’ve most likely heard about why these aspects are important to get right, but here’s why your work looks good when you do get these right.
Plot: It Looks Good When You Utilize Logos, Ethos, and Pathos
Teachers will talk about how logos, ethos, and pathos are beneficial for constructing a good argument, but I think the same can be said for the plot of a story as well. Think about it. Your readers need to be guided through the story, in a logical manner (logos), for one thing. Obviously, it’s not as simple as going from point A to point B (that would be boring), but every direction you take your story makes sense. Readers walk through your plot going “Oh, we’re going this way now with the plot? Awesome!” And when you take things in an unexpected direction but it’s believable and only adds another layer of excitement, that’s when readers praise your plot.
You also have to be credible when you write (ethos). Fiction or not, readers expect you to know what you’re talking about when it comes to the topics you introduce in your plot. Sure, you can make stuff up in some cases, but if it’s obvious that you’re breaking basic rules in, say, mathematics, when you were trying to introduce a mathematical concept, someone is bound to notice and call you out for it. The idea of being credible also proves to the reader that you were willing to put in the work. You did the research, and now they get to read it. The plot then becomes convincing, as if it could happen since the science is right.
Last but not least, emotion never fails readers when it’s done correctly (pathos). You have to allow the reader to feel without being overdramatic about it. You boil it down to the correct word choice, the nouns and verbs and adjectives that give the passage depth and emotion. But what happens when you get this right? This is the last thing you need to get your readers into your story. You can have a plot they can follow, and you could have done research on everything, but nothing is truly going to be believable if nothing is human. When you tap into that emotion, the story is complete. Your plot is completely rounded out when you use all three.
Setting: It Looks Good When the Readers Are Anywhere but Here
Besides plot, you need everything else. Setting is more than a place to put characters that’s vaguely similar to our own world but with more fantastical elements. You need to find the right balance of putting your characters (and your readers) in a new place while still retaining all those human qualities, otherwise it’s not going to be a place people will want to escape to. No one can relate to it.
So what happens when you accomplish this? The readers are somewhere else. And if you recognize that you need to write it this way from the beginning, it also gives you the chance to work on putting your readers where you want them to be. If your focus is on an authentic setting (something your teachers and editors and everyone else wants you to push for), then the more effective a world becomes when you’ve strengthened the reader bond with it.
Characters: It Looks Good When You Have People that Talk Back
Finally, everyone talks about making characters that are three-dimensional, exhibiting the human (whether they’re human or not) and just generally being someone a reader can relate to on any number of levels. When characters like these are created, they’re not going to be forgotten easily.
It takes time for your people to come to life. They start out as an idea in your head, or maybe based on someone you know or have known, then they gradually morph into what you are aiming for them to become. But honestly, it doesn’t matter if you have a good plot or setting it your characters are dull. Good writing also stems from a true understanding of how people act in real life. And people are complicated. Your characters need to be complicated too, but not overly so, and what they do should reflect the personalities you have set up for them. When they become “fleshed out,” as we writers call it, they get to walk through your story like they belong there.
All in all, good fiction writing has major core factors that come into play, but when they all come together, good things happen. If you’re new to writing, it might seem completely logical when someone says “don’t do this in your writing,” but what happens when you take their advice. And even if you do everything right, your story isn’t going to be perfect. That’s where practice comes in. It’s just when you recognize what’s good and what’s not that you can create something meaningful.
Want to know more? Click the LEARN MORE button at home. You’ll find some helpful links to my own work in journals (which I have started posting here too!). You can find my work at Ariel Chart, the Cedarville Review, Nailpolish Stories, Bluepepper, 50 Word Stories, The Aurora Journal, and Writing in a Woman’s Voice! Also look for me in Anti-Heroin Chic and Sledgehammer Lit later this year!
Want to see a sample? Check out this post!
Need help proofreading a story before you send it out? You can find me on Fiverr!