You are here:

Writing Books/What a story needs.


I am an 18 year old business student from South Australia and have become weary of the life business provides and will provide for me. So i began writing a book at  the start of the year. NOT GOING WELL!!!

I have a brilliant idea, or what i perceive to be brilliant, but i am lacking something and i am not sure what.

the story is fictitious fantasy, and follows the journey of a boy who will right the wrongs of his ancestors. It is set in an imaginary world. I guess it is just a common fantasy with swords, mythical creatures and lots of horses.

Could you please tell me what is needed in a story, be it conflict, a hero, or a castle with a malfunctioning drawbridge.

Any help on the essential elements of a story would be great and hugely appreciated.



First of all, best of luck with the writing.  I hope you don't become weary of it, as well!

In my mind, there are two things that are at the top of the list in importance for a good story:  

1) Solid, well-developed characters that your readers will have feelings about... whether good or bad.

2) Conflict, and lots of it.

The first is vital because characters are what make stories memorable.  Yeah, we remember plot and other things, but it's how these other things affect the characters that make everything stick in our heads.  You can have the greatest plot in the world, but if your characters are duds, no one will care.  Much.

Conflict is important because this is what focuses attention on the characters.  It's what allows the reader to see what the heroes and villains are really made of.  Not to mention that it keeps our interest, builds suspense, and so on.

There are MANY things needed in a story, but these two walk away with top honors.  So I would focus on these two things first.

Clearly, you have some idea of a plot.  So what you need to do is dwell on your characters.  I mean REALLY dwell on them.  For the major characters, write biographies of them.  Write about their childhood years, their adolescent years, on up to their present.  Talk about their hopes, their dreams, their aspirations, their fears.  The things they love and hate.  Their opinions on the great questions of life.  All this is for YOU, not for the reader.  It's what will firmly entrench the characters in your head.  And if you know them well, you'll be able to write them well.

You also want to develop characters that will work the best for the kind of story you're writing.  Make sure your hero isn't too heroic.  And that your villain isn't too evil.  Heroes need flaws, and villains need to be human, so to speak.

Then focus on the conflict.  Think of how many ways you can give the hero a setback on his goals.  Think of how you can put him in moral dilemmas.  Etc. and so on.  You get the idea.

That should give you plenty to work on for now.  And when you've got that down, I'll be here.


Writing Books

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Vincent M. Wales


I am a speculative fiction novelist (fantasy, science fiction, and so on). While I may be able to answer questions on non-fiction, my specialty is fiction. Please keep that in mind when asking questions.


For four years, I taught a series of fiction writing classes in Sacramento, CA.

BA in fiction writing.

Awards and Honors
My 2004 novel, ONE NATION UNDER GOD, won BEST FICTION in Fresh Voices 2006, BEST FICTION and BEST YA FICTION in the NCPA Book Awards, and placed as a finalist in BEST BOOKS 2005. In 2002, my novel WISH YOU WERE HERE won awards for Best Fantasy and Best Fiction/Drama in the 8th Annual SPA Awards. My latest work is a trilogy titled THE MANY DEATHS OF DYNAMISTRESS (a superhero memoir). The first book, RECKONING, was released in 2013 and won the SF category in the 2014 San Francisco Book Festival, took second place in the 2013 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards for the SF/Fantasy/Paranormal category, second place in the SF category of the 2013 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards, and was finalist in Foreword's 2013 Book of the Year Awards, Fantasy category. The second book, REDEMPTION, will be released in early 2015 and the final book, RENAISSANCE, is scheduled for release in late 2016.

©2016 All rights reserved.