C.J. Darlington, co-founder of TitleTrakk, is running a great series on her blog: She started a series of blog posts in which industry professionals (editors, agents, publicists, authors, etc.) share their responses to this question:
"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"
...continues today with Steven James!
Stories are driven by tension, not events. Just because you write a list of things that have happened doesn’t mean you have a story. To have a story something must go wrong. So, as you work on developing the plot or movement of your novel don’t think in terms of what happens, think in terms of what goes wrong.
Then, with the progression of your story, continually make things worse for your main character. Keep tightening the tension, keep ratcheting up the action, keep heightening the suspense. It may seem strange to say this, but readers want the main characters of the story to struggle. We want to worry about them, about whether the guy will live happily ever after, or if he’ll get the girl, or how he’ll escape from being chained to the shipwreck fifty feet below the surface in shark-infested waters. We want them to suffer until the very end, when we want to see some type of satisfying resolution.
So, start with an intriguing struggle and then look for believable ways to make it worse and you’ll move to the top of the stacks of other novel submissions that only include meaningless, although eloquent, descriptions of events.
--Steven James, author of the novels The Pawn & The Rook as well as other nonfiction titles. Visit his website here.