Timmy and the Tuba

A boy named Timmy wanted to play the tuba in the school band. So he did. Is this a story? No! The worst writing sometimes skates by with a great story. Yet the best writing cannot function without a good story. For many, setting a high enough goal , creating worthy adversaries and giving us an impassioned character are the keys to building a story worth writing.
Writing Tip for Today: When you start writing a novel, you may think you’ve attained those three elements listed above. Yet as you draft, opportunities will likely arise to ratchet up the tension through higher stakes (what’s the character got to lose?), bigger or more formidable adversaries/obstacles, and a main character who feels deeply about this goal. Many writers will say, “Of course the stakes are high! My character is willing to die for the goal.” I say, “Really?” Why would Timmy be willing to die to play the tuba in the school band? Consider these scenarios:

  • Maybe his mother is too poor to afford a tuba. She works another fast food job so he can join the band.
  • Timmy gets the tuba but the bully pushes him and his prized instrument into a mud puddle. Every day.
  • Timmy knows that if he can play the tuba well enough, he’ll be able to give his dying grandpa the best gift ever.

You get the idea. When considering the stakes of your novel, instead of thinking about earthquakes, car chases and mayhem, aim for the EMOTIONS. A good story always pits deeply held emotions against obstacles that test those emotions.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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