The Events That Happen and Why
Events are like the landmarks in your story, points in your story’s plot that turn characters, aspects, and situations in different directions. Without them, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, so it’s important to know when to use them and how to use them well.
First off, everything happens for a reason, whether it’s on purpose or accident. Whether it’s from a battle, a change in the main character, a disaster, a meeting, there’s a reason why things took place at those moments. Some of these can be accidents or unexpected trials that make the journey even harder for the characters, while others can be expected or anticipated events that were expected to take place. In order to have a good story, you need to make sure those events have a purpose and use them in combination with each other. If something happens for no reason and there’s no explanation for it, the reader is going to assume there was some hidden meaning and unknown significance for it to happen when there really wasn’t. Something like that can be awfully distracting, and later make your reader think it was supposed to happen in relation to the plot when it really wasn’t.
When it comes to flow, the story should change from event to event smoothly like quicksilver. There will be times of conflict, and there will be times of peace. Even if your story is focused around a war and your main characters are on the frontline, there would still be times of ceasefire in between battles. If battles run too long, they’re going to get tiring and the sting and shock of death is going to lose its significance. Periods of long peacetime are okay since it gives time for characters to prepare for the road ahead and develop further, but don’t let them run really, really
long, otherwise it’s going to seem like the original threat that spurred the characters to embark on the journey disappeared or wasn’t really that big of a threat in the first place…
Lastly, try to avoid having the same events happen again and again and again. If it happens on more than one occurrence for a reason, such as a villain using a particular means to kill his enemies since it’s effective or it’s to his personal liking, then it’s not a problem. But, if it’s blatant coincidence that causes the same event to take place again and again, the story is going to lose much of its variety and will be rather predictable and uninteresting to the reader. Trust me, readers love variance to a story that is clever and unpredictable with plenty of new surprises. Keep them fresh and new as much as possible.
Painting the Picture
Description is the vital element that makes your story come to life for the reader. It is the very lifeblood and the flesh of your story. Without it, your story is just skin and bone. It is extremely critical to have good description in order for the reader to get an idea of what is happening. Undoubtedly, a good or bad description will make or break your story. If you fail to provide a good description of characters, their surroundings, and the situations taking place, it will immediately lose that touch that makes the story stand out and be unique from every other story out there.
Since you are the author of the story you are writing, you can already grab a mental picture of what is happening and the environment that you have created. However, the reader has no idea of what you have been imagining this whole time for your story. The clever use of description will illustrate to your reader what you have been thinking of, and will be able to give the reader a feel for what is happening. If your reader can accurately picture and imagine what is going on for themselves, then congratulations, you’ve done your job. It’s incredibly vital to keep this aspect alive as much as possible for as long as you can.
Here is one example of what a story looks like with barely any description or development:
Ken looked toward the sea.
“I guess I will have to leave soon.” Ken said, “I will have to leave upon the ship.”
“Yes, I guess you’re right, Ken.” Sarah said, “I will miss you.”
Then, Ken left her behind and headed toward the ship.
Plainly put, it’s awful. If the words “sea” and “ship” weren’t even there, you wouldn’t be able to tell where they were. Not only it is impossible to make a mental image in your mind from reading that, but in essence, the characters have lost all emotion and feeling, and practically aren’t even human, they’re more like lifeless puppets.
And now, here’s the same situation, with much more dedicated description:
Ken’s lowly, brown eyes gazed toward the setting sun that was slowly sinking behind an ocean with the colors of the horizon painted all over it. A small gust of wind had blown past him, moving through his brown hair and covering his body with a cool breeze. He stared at the rippling ocean for some time, and then he slowly turned toward Sarah, who was standing only a small distance away from him.
“Sarah, I’m sorry but I have no choice,” Ken told her with a feeling of regret, “I was the one who volunteered to be in the Navy. This is what I have to do. It won’t be long now before I have to board the battleship and head off to sea.”
“Ken, I’m sorry that it has come down to this, I know this isn’t what you wanted.” Sarah responded with the look of desperation in her eyes, “Please keep in mind that I will never forget you. Never.”
Ken had heeded Sarah’s words as he put his arm on her shoulder to comfort her. Sarah then quickly hugged Ken as firm as she could, grabbing onto Ken’s navy blue uniform tightly before she decided to release her grasp. Then, Ken had kissed Sarah on the cheek softly before he looked at her one last time. He took a deep breath and said goodbye to her.
Soon after, he walked down the old, wooden pier and then headed toward a long and black metal platform that lead into the awaiting battleship that was docked in the harbor. He had joined many other Navy officers dressed in the same uniform he was wearing as they walked down the long metal plank that lead to the inside of the enormous vessel. Just before Ken had disappeared into the dark, black hull of the massive battleship, he turned around and waved Sarah goodbye one last time.
Obviously, now you can tell what is happening much more clearly and most importantly, why
it’s happening. The characters seem far more like humans, with detailed characteristics and have a much more significant display of emotions. Now, you can see how description makes all the difference…
Yes, I will not deny that packing a story with description will make it longer and will take you more time to write it. That really isn’t such a bad thing and it will be worth it in the end. You just need to be patient with it. Don’t rush through your story just to get to the one event that you want to have happen. Don’t blaze through a scene that will make the story easier to understand for the reader about what exactly is going on just to get the main character in another gunfight.
The core foundation of using outstanding description is to be able to visualize yourself what is happening. Imagine what the scene that you’re thinking of would look like in real life. What would people be doing and how would they act considering the situation they are placed in? What would be around them, and what would those things look like? Then, you need to use the right words to describe those actions and surroundings. What words will create the same image that you created in your mind upon being read for the first time? Once you think you’ve found the right descriptive words, use them in union with the surroundings and people you have created. Then, read it over one more time. Can you get an idea of what you were thinking about? If not, then try adding more words to each aspect. Maybe take more pieces of the world around your character and bring them to light.
Keeping these aspects in mind when writing will definitely give you a better idea of what it takes to provide your readers with the rich and colorful world that you have created. Making a reader see exactly what you had in mind will make the experience of reading your story far more enjoyable than before. They will remember your story with much more clarity.
Also, as one last note, keep a story moving while you are describing everything. Don’t make an intermission in the story just to describe one object unless it’s very important for the reader to know what it looks like if it has a great significance in the story (i.e. a powerful artifact or the like) or if its something that doesn’t exist in the normal world, and the reader will have no general idea of what it looks like (Like a new creature you created for the story). Again, notice how the example of the story between Ken and Sarah kept moving along in pace while still adding description. Describe the biggest and most obvious pieces of the scene first, and save the smaller pieces for when they become important and after the story has moved on a bit. Notice how the pieces of the battleship were only explained later on when Ken was boarding it, rather than in the beginning. Make the reader aware of its presence, but only go into detail if it is involved with the story. Describing something like a flock of seagulls in the distance would have been unnecessary, and would have only slowed the story down for unnecessary reasons. But mentioning their presence in the light of the sunset would have been perfectly fine, and would have added to the scene if they were really there.