Tips for young writers: How to make your story more exciting

Update, May 2015:

Margaret Pearce’s creepy new science fiction/fantasy novel, The Year of our Invasion, was recently published by Ravenswood. Cath Isakson – blogger here at Great (book) expectations – was the editor.

In this guest post, Margaret demonstrates ways to make your creative stories more exciting.

Tip #1

Book cover for The Year of our Invasion by Margaret Pearce

Cover for Margaret’s new book, The Year of our Invasion. Cath was the editor!

For a story to be exciting it has to show not tell what is happening. You want your reader to feel that he or she is there experiencing what is going on.

For example, being told that ‘the dog bit the man, and the man bit back’ is telling and not showing.

Instead of telling, try Tip #2.

Tip #2

It’s always good to start your story with something happening. A story that begins with action is more likely to be gripping for the reader than, say, description.

‘Ouch!’ the man yelled when the dog bit him.

Tip #3

We live in a technicolour world. Bring attention to the vivid colours around us.

The man’s blood dripped down into the hole the dog had dug. The ripe tomatoes on the dug-up tomato plants exactly matched the colour of the bright red blood dripping from the man’s hand.

Tip #4

Try a different perspective or point of view. Another way to think of point of view is to imagine the story as it is seen through another character’s eyes. Sometimes writing your story from a different point of view can change the effect completely.

In the following section, the focus shifts from the man’s point of view to the dog’s.

The dog snarled, baring his white sharp teeth. He’d thought burying his bone would keep it safe, but this intruder had found it anyway.

Tip #5

Add dialogue. Too much narrative (telling) can bog a story down. Adding dialogue can make it more exciting for your reader.

‘Digging holes in my garden!’ the man yelled. He wound his white handkerchief around his hand, and it quickly grew spotted with red. ‘Look what you’ve done to my prize tomatoes!’

Tip #6

Show emotions through action. If I write that the man was so upset at the dog burying a bone in his tomato patch that he got angry, I would be telling, not showing. In the next passage, the man’s loss of control and temper are shown by his shouting, high face colour, heavy breathing and irrational behaviour.

The dog didn’t care about the prize tomatoes. He dragged his large bone further into the shelter of the tomatoes, destroying more of the plants.

The man’s face was now as red as his spotted handkerchief.  He was breathing heavily. If he had been a steam engine there would have been steam coming from his nose.

‘My tomatoes. My prize tomatoes!’ he howled.

He ran after the dog through the tomato plants. He swung his heavy, mud-laden garden boot forward into a kick. But the dog ducked low to the ground. The man missed the dog and overbalanced.  He fell down, flattening even more of his precious tomato plants.

Even on the ground, the man flailed about, trying to grab the dog. The dog dropped his bone and turned to have another go at the man. But the man managed to clamp the dog’s muzzle shut. He pulled the dog’s head closer.

Tip #7

Think of an original ending. For a short story that is funny, an unusual finish can be exciting.

‘Bite me, would you?’ the man shouted. ‘How do you like being bitten?’

The man chomped his large teeth on the floppy dog’s ear. He bit down, hard. The dog howled in pain and tried to pull away, but the man’s teeth were too firmly attached.

The dog whined and stopped struggling. He was beaten. He had never heard of humans biting dogs before. The man let go. He spat out dog hair and blood and stood up.

‘Now get out of my garden and stay out,’ he screamed. ‘And take your bone with you!’ he yelled and hurled the bone after the fleeing dog.

Margaret Pearce, author of children's fiction

The elusive Margaret Pearce.

Margaret Pearce has had around 28 books published, mostly for children and teenagers. She can be found lurking in an underground house in the hills near Melbourne, writing.

Margaret uses many of the techniques described in this article in her writing. Find out more about her very creepy new science fiction/fantasy novel for young adults on the Ravenswood website. There are tentacled aliens that communicate telepathically! (Told you it was creepy!)