Story Writing Tips

Tips on Writing an Enticing Story

by Terri Forehand

There are thousands of story writing tips, but don’t let them entrap you until you want to quit. Think of writing rules as guidelines written in stone… but only for a while. For now, they will keep you focused so that you can write a properly structured story that is clear and intriguing.

Yes, learn the story writing tips, but after you’ve sold to a few small markets and a couple of bigger ones, branch out and experiment with style. See what works best for you.


Most creative writers use some form of outlining to capture the essence and form a plot before they start writing. A formal outline offers beginners crucial structure that makes the story flow. If that idea scares the bee-gees out of you, you aren’t alone, but give it a whirl. It might surprise you. Although some writers fear it will starve their creativity, facts point in the opposite direction. It’s always a good idea to use a road map on a trip.

Whether you do it mentally or by analysis, you must know where the story is going. It will save rewrites and editing in the end. Outline by scenes and fill in the details as you go.


Research is essential. It might broadly define insanity, responsibility, or foster care, or it may be so detailed that it includes extensive history of an area, government operation, or clinical trials for a new cancer treatment. Invest research time in your story/article to add realism and convincing arguments.


Verbiage is the fancy word for writing tight. Fall out of love with your words. Learn to brutally delete favorite phrases and anything that doesn’t move the story forward. Store those deleted phrases and use them another time. Most writers can delete 500 words out of 2,500. Slash unneeded adjectives and adverbs that end in –ly. Use descriptive adjectives and active verbs that make a statement. Anything that survives the cut will be solid meat.


Another story writing tip: use settings to your advantage. Spoon-feed the reader atmosphere, time, and place, but don’t dwell on it. Engage the reader by using imagery. Easy. Just mix one or more of the five senses in combination with scenery. Example: The smell of salt in the air brought pangs of homesickness for her seaside home.

Show, Don’t Tell

All stories have some “telling” but hold off on the narration by “showing” scenes. There are several ways to do this. Dialogue and imagery are two methods that work well. For example, instead of saying, “Her hair was bleached,” show it with dialogue: “I see you bleached your hair. I love it.” See? The reader can fully imagine the scene better because their imagination was involved in the process. Let your reader think and feel independently by drawing on his/her personality to make the story real. Above all, never narrate emotions. If your character is angry, don’t tell it – show it. They can stomp, kick a hole in the wall, or smash a glass. Let your reader experience the events as they might happen in real life.

What do you think of these tips? Have any of your own? Share them with us in the comments below!

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How to Develop a Hook Sentence

The Hows and Wherefores of Hook Sentences
by Deborah Owen

You and your readers are engaged in a game. Your duty is to keep them guessing. Their duty is to outguess you, properly decipher the clues, and predict the ending. Needless to say, you’d better win this contest if you want to keep your readers.

How long do you take to develop a hook sentence? Would you believe – it should take hours, days, or even weeks?

When I first started writing, I never gave the opening line a thought. I just sat down and wrote whatever came to mind. Of course, I didn’t sell anything – and that should have been a clue! So here’s what I learned.

1. It’s futile to worry about the opening line when you first write a story. Save that for later when you edit. For now, scribble something out and come back to it when it’s cold. About 95% of the time, you can ditch the first two or three paragraphs and actually begin on the third or fourth one anyway. Any details that you wanted to keep in those first few paragraphs can be worked in further down.

2. Your opening line should set the tone for the entire story. Is it a romance story? Then you might want to open in the middle of a love scene. (That could be very interesting.) Is it a horror story? You may want to start in the middle of a murder. Is it non-fiction drama? Start in the center of the drama. Whatever your genre, design that first line to fit your story.

3. It has to be snappy. Something that will reach out and grab the reader by the throat. You might want to use heavy alliteration. You might want to scare the daylights out of your reader and send them scampering for covers. You might want to stir their emotions. That first line must grab your readers and pull them in.

This is called “setting the hook.” Sounds like fishing, huh? In a way, it is. You’re fishing for readers and trying to keep them from trading your story for another.

Would you rather read a beginning that says, “Dad had to kill chickens that day so I ran away and cried.” Or “Dad entered the house with bloodshot eyes, carrying a bloody axe. I scrambled for the back door, screaming.”

This is misrepresenting a scene, but it works, and seasoned writers use this method all the time.

Here’s another hook sentence I used recently: “Both shuddered as the madman smashed bottles and cursed downstairs.” Now… who could stop reading before they found out what was going on?

Play on your readers’ curiosity, and use all the excitement you can muster to hold their attention.

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Low Self Esteem Vs. Developing Confidence

Develop Self Esteem to Develop Confidence
By Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

Low self-esteem can make new challenges a daunting task, but developing confidence brings a new perspective. Have you ever accepted a new challenge and afterwards wondered if you had the ability to complete it? Such feelings are often due to low self-esteem.

Do you look at the negatives and compare yourself unfavorably with others despite evidence to the contrary?

How can you improve self-esteem and develop confidence?

You are a unique human being. Yes, you have faults but, more importantly, you also have strengths.

1. Tackle life one day at a time.
2. At the end of each day, list everything you accomplished.
3. Praise yourself for every victory.

In due time, you’ll find others reacting more positively toward you. That’s because your self-esteem is improving and you’re developing confidence.

Take this short self-esteem quiz. When someone compliments you on an achievement, do you:

1. Accept the compliment with delight because you feel you deserve it?
2. Think you could have done better and consider all the mistakes you made?
3. Wonder if the compliment was genuine or not?

Don’t doubt others or yourself. Work on developing confidence.

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The Secret of Weaving Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions

Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions
by Deborah Owen, CEO Creative Writing Institute

Creative writing calls for all the talent you can muster. If you wonder what it takes to become a writer, think about whether you can write a decent informal letter. If so, you can learn to write. Writing is a learned skill. We have yet to see a baby born with a pen in its hand.


What is a theme? It is the one thing you want the reader to remember when they have finished reading. The theme is the undercurrent from the beginning to the end, but is never spoken outright. Gone With the Wind is a story of manipulation. Moby Dick centers on revenge. Pinocchio is a story of morals. The Ten Commandments is about choices and judgment. What is your story’s theme?

Every sentence must point to it. If you’re writing imagery or scenery, weave it into the theme. For example, if you’re writing a romance story and your opening scene has snow and Christmas lights, the scene should build to something that connects with romance. You could, for instance, use it to introduce a character or a situation that will tie into the deeper story.

But beware. If the snowfall adds nothing to the atmosphere, delete it. If you have a dog in the story and its purpose is to show a person’s loving kindness, (part of characterization), that’s fine, but if the pooch has no purpose for being there, delete it.

Build your story to a climax and let it unfold in a cataclysm. The dialogue must create the right mood. Some of the dialogue may seemingly relate to something else, but in the scheme of things, it should point to characterization, setting, or plot.

Using the romance theme, let’s suppose you have a scene where two neighbors are gossiping over the back fence. How could the gossiping scene relate to romance?

• It could introduce a new character
• It could build the characterization of an existing personality
• It could shift the scene to a closer part of the theme
• It could show “discovery” (something the reader doesn’t know)
• It could “foreshadow” an event (a precursor to the event)

What is Arcing?

Arcing is the rise and fall of the story. As you weave the theme, natural questions will emerge and you must answer them. Questions are little trails that lead to an unnamed destination. They wind upward, increase the reader’s interest, and elevate emotions to a fever pitch. The climax scene (sometimes called the plot scene) should fall between the half and two-thirds mark. This is the highest pitch of emotions, the turning point where you solve problems and show that good overcomes evil. The first part of a story is “flat.” The middle arcs (elevates to a high point). The conclusion resolves to a flat line again.

What is a Resolution?

Note that the end of the story ties up all the loose ends and stops at a higher plane than where the story began. That’s because the reader becomes one with the characters, and becomes involved in their motivation and desires.

Intertwine one piece of the puzzle with another until all the pieces mesh together to form the whole picture. This is called weaving. A writer is an artist that paints words on paper and waits for someone to open the cover and discover the picture within. As with all paintings, develop each picture methodically and with purpose.

Resolve the story by answering every question you have raised. Tie it up in a neat little bundle and in the end, the reader won’t have questions.

Please take a moment to “like” us and make a comment. Thanks! Find more great tips in The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at, the only school that assigns a personal tutor to every student.

Earn Money Writing Travel Tips

Travel Writing Tips
by Deborah Owen

Travel writing pays well and is a perfect way to pick up extra income, yet most creative writers don’t take advantage of it. Why?

• It takes extra time
• It can be intimidating
• Writers are a procrastinating bunch
• Laziness

Travel writing is available to everyone – even those who don’t travel. The trick is to look at commonplace locations as though you are seeing them for the first time.

Where to Begin

Start reading travel magazines and analyze what you read. Magazines use various styles of writing. Choose the one that uses articles similar to your writing style. Analyze the articles. Do they use a lot of interviews? Pictures? Quotes? Statistics? What style do they like? What angle? There are no new subjects so the angle is everything.

Travel magazines like articles on little “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants that are off the beaten path.

1. Tell your audience how you found it, what they serve, how it tastes, prices, atmosphere, and background information.
2. Who owns it? When was it founded?
3. Find a unique angle
4. Take pictures for human interest

Always be armed with a camera, a notepad, pen and a tape recorder. You never know when a story will present itself.

The field of traveling is wide open. You can write an article on a park, a museum, gas station, antique shop, taxidermy studio, an old-fashioned drugstore, a lake – almost anything can become a travel story.

Tell how long it takes to travel to that destination, the unusual things that you saw, and what other tourists think of the place. Are there other places that you could use for comparison? You can write virtually dozens of articles on one trip.

Top Reasons for Failure

1. Straying from the subject.
2. Covering too much material. Focus.
3. Not choosing your market before you write the article.
4. Not matching your article to the proper publisher.

ALWAYS check the publisher’s guidelines.

Search the Writers Market, Duotrope, Worldwide Freelance, or other markets to find the right publisher. Writer’s Market is $40. Be sure to get the online edition since it is updated monthly, but be aware that this is a huge market and competition for big magazines will be fierce. Writer’s Market also offers folders to keep track of your submissions.

Be sure to note when you submitted, to whom, the name of the editor, and when their guidelines say they will respond. If you haven’t heard from them a week past their estimated time of response, send an inquiry.

It’s debatable where you should or shouldn’t query a nonfiction market, but most experts do. If you don’t, send your article with a cover letter and self-addressed, stamped envelope. Success lies in persistence, so submit a new article every week.

Finally… if you sell an article from a vacation trip, you can write part of your expenses off on your taxes. Ask your accountant about this.

So why not try travel writing this year? Be thorough in your research, take good pictures, perfect your work, match it to the right market and, above all, enjoy it. A good journal will give you plenty of food for thought when you get home.

I love lower California. What is your favorite place to travel?

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