by • July 25, 2012

Barnaby Conrad: On Writing

6 rules for writing a great story

1. Try to pick the most intriguing place in your piece to begin.

2. Try to create attention-grabbing images of a setting if that’s where you want to begin.

3. Raise the reader’s curiosity about what is happening or is going to happen in an action scene.

4. Describe a character so compellingly that we want to learn more about what happens to him or her.

5. Present a situation so vital to our protagonist that we must read on.

6. And most important, no matter what method you choose, start with something happening! (And not with ruminations. A character sitting in a cave or in jail or in a kitchen or in a car ruminating about the meaning of life and how he got to this point does not constitute something happening.)

Hone your opening words, for just as stories aren’t written but rewritten, so should beginnings be written and rewritten. Look at your opening and ask yourself, ‘If I were reading this, would I be intrigued enough to go on?’

And remember: Always aim for the heart!

Conrad is the author of The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction.

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