I recently read Wired for Story by writing instructor and former literary agent Lisa Cron. Cron makes the good point that our brains are wired to be attracted to stories and offers insights about how to make stories more naturally appealing.
Here are some of my favorite tips from the book:
1. Internal vs. External
The interplay between external action and a character’s internal reactions are very important for driving the plot forward. In most scenes, something will happen to the character (external), but it is the character’s emotional reaction and interpretation of the event (internal) that provides the necessary firepower to keep the story moving.
On a larger scale, characters will have both an external concrete goal as well as an internal goal that drives it. For example, Laura might have an external goal of creating a successful startup. Her internal goal, on the other hand, might be that she has always felt a need to win the approval of those around her. Note that the internal goal and external goal aren’t always compatible – perhaps Laura’s struggle to make her company successful ends up alienating those around her. A conflict between external and internal goals can make for great tension.