Rules, Rules, Rules: Story Development

With an art form and business like writing there are TONS of rules to follow. Some are factual, industry standard if you will, but most are preferential, a thing of individual comfort. Now, the tricky part is to differentiate between the two. There are thousands of rules floating around. One rule is “Show, Don’t Tell”. Another one I’ve heard is “Never ‘head hop’ more than twice in a section or chapter.” From where I’m sitting, one is fact and the other is opinion. Though the opinion can be just as solid of a rule to follow for someone as the other.

I, a person who likes to learn, share, and teach (in that order), am interested in both. Factual rules are great staples of the art form that help solidify your work, while personal rules are great ways to cultivate and relay your own creative style.

One of my favorite philosophies is “Learn the basics and run with it!”. Most of us know a good amount of basic writing rules, rules that we all have to stick to, to get by, but most of us also have a set of personal rules that we adhere to in order to really “get by”. From developing a story, actually writing it, and then editing it, we all have rules that we follow to keep us on track, either because they are factual and we have to follow them, or because they are personal and it’s what works for us. Either way, I’m interested in both.

I like to see how other writers “write”, it’s one of the only ways to really advance your own skills. Stumbling across something you never thought about but is someone elses daily routine. Some stick to the rule book, some write their own rules, and others, like me, use a mixture of both. So with this particular post, the first of four, I’ll share the top 10 rules that I follow when I develop a story.

These are my 10 rules, but they’ve also become the skeleton of my basic writing process.

[1] Concept: Start here, inspiration, plot, conflict, twist, resolution.

[2] Outline: List key events, separated by Acts, that have to happen, from beginning to end, in order for the story to even take place.

[3] Summary: Break Acts into Sections or Chapters and summarize events.

[4] Character: Develop characters created from the last three sections.

[5] Organization: Based off of characters, develop any organizations they may be apart of.

[6] Races: Based off of Characters and Organizations, develop the races each character is a member off.

[7] Locations: Develop locations based off of settings/environments needed for the story.

[8] World: Use all of the above to create and solidify the world your story takes place in.

[9] Science: Based on characters created, develop the sciences they follow: Religion/Beliefs/Magic, etc.

[10] Technology: Based off the world created, develop all necessary technology needed for the story.

There you have it. Short and sweet. It works for me. For you? Maybe, Maybe not. Who knows, but what I want to know is what rules do you follow to develop your story? Don’t be shy, lol.

2 comments

  1. Texanne says:

    You have about the same items as me, but mine are ordered differently. Idea first–create rough draft of sentence (30 words, max)–you’d call it a logline. Then, work on characters because they give me the conflict. Next, work on world, because the layout of the world (neighborhood, house, planet) affects how the conflicts play out. Then dream up incidents, scenes I’d love to see these characters engaged in. Write a flowy, story-like synopsis. Put incidents into the best order for logic, emotion, & fun. Write the first draft. Let it cool. Later, read it to see where it went wrong, right, surprising. Take the cool new things and build them. Take the boring parts out. Check spelling. There ya go!

    Like

    • Hey, Texanne,

      You are correct, we do have a lot of the same items. I’d say the one aspect of your list that I would like to learn how to do better(or even at all, lol) is the synopsis part. I know a lot of writers run screaming from them, and it’s something that I definitely want to conquer and add to my normal routine. If you don’t mind me asking, how do you go about writing yours? Does it just flow from your head, or do you use some sort of template?

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your rules!

      JW

      Like

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