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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.


Hello Matthew!

What a coincidence - I am writing the same story, only with a girl heroine! The title is CHILD OF THE CLOVEN HOOF. If you like, you can read the first three chapters at www.webspawner/users/rand49/index.html.

That aside, I would ask if you have read very extensively in the fantasy field? If not, I would advise you to seek out the best and sample their works: Tolkein for sure, his compadre C.S. Lewis, Ursula Le Guinn (short stories in particular), E.B. White (THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING); Lord Dunsany's THE CHARWOMAN'S SHADOW is a favorite of mine.

Meanwhile, here are some suggestions for your own work:

1. Each story must have conflict, a point of view, a hero(ine) and a villain, a beginning and an end. It should follow a cause-and-effect structure except for the event that starts the action, often called "the precipitating event," which can be random.
2. A fantasy/adventure story is expected to contain fantasy elements: magic, supernatural/paranormal elements and characters; the frightful unknown - to exaggerate these wildly for effect is allowed - no, encouraged.
3. It should not ape those that have gone before, but be your own creation, with features only you could have thought of. Strive to be original, strive to be different. Don't take the first 3-4 things that come to mind; they are bound to be cliches.
4. The most time-consuming task of a work like this is creating the alternate universe. You can go into great detail, as in Tolkein and Lewis's work, or leave out many of the details or make your alternate world quite like Earth which requires less work (the medieval period in England is popular). Lewis's fantasy trilogy beginning with OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET (A SPACE TRILOGY) is the best and most convincing example of an alternate universe (wholly weird!) that I have ever read.

It is not necessary for you to know EVERYTHING about your fantasy world, but you should know as much as possible, to avoid glaring errors. A lady(?) named Patricia C. Wrede has through stunning effort, accumulated a number of questions that can help you in this task, you can find them at Sorry, you'll have to cut and paste as this site does not support hyperlinks.
5. The story should be set against some kind of background; often it is war, as in Tolkein's work (and many others). The action in MAIA by Richard Adams is set against an asassination plot - he is the author of WATERESHIP DOWN; both excellent examples of "alternate reality" stories (as opposed to "high" or "straight" fantasy). This lends scope and breadth to the story.

There are at your library many books on writing fantasy (usually coupled with SCI-FI, unfortunately). Explore them; they are very instructive.

I hope this has helped. If it has, a nice rating would be greatly appreciated. I am proud of my high score over 180+ questions.

And good luck with your book!

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Susan Rand


I can answer questions about the elements of fiction and non-fiction writing: how to get started, writing techniques, re-writing, etc. I will NOT write for you, do critiques except from my website at, or give you ideas. I will not answer home-or-schoolwork questions in any category. If English is your second language, please say so, and I will make an exception. Please submit no more than one or two questions at once, as I tend to go into detail in my answers.


I wrote my first book in 1957 and have been writing and studying writing since. I have a BA in Written Communications, and have taught writing both privately and through adult education for 15 years. Have also edited (fiction books) for an online publisher and edited/wrote more than 100 articles for a teen sex education site. Currently writing web content and mentoring beginning writers.

BA degree in Written Communication

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