Writer's Tips and Guidelines

How to Write a Story

You already know how to tell a story.  You do it every day!  Every time you tell someone about something that happened to you or something you did, you tell the "story" of what happened.  For example, if something funny happens at school, when you tell a friend about it, you've created a story.  The trick is to be able to write it down.

You can write a story about anything you want.  All you need to know are the basics -- the ingredients of your story.  You can't bake a cake without ingredients, right?  So here they are -- all the ingredients you need to write a good story.

Story Structure
What's wrong with this story:

They went to the store, but it was closed!  Nobody was on the street at all.  Laughing, they went home and had ice cream from the refrigerator.  The End

The story above has no beginning, so it doesn't make much sense.  It doesn't have much of an ending either.  It's a story because it tells about something, but it's a pretty silly one.

All good stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Some stories even end up in the same place they started.  For example, in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," the story begins with Tom at home.  During the course of the story, Tom travels all over the place and has all kinds of adventures, and ends up back at home.

So, before you begin to write, sit and think for a little while about the beginning, middle and end of your story.

Ready to begin writing?  Then grab a pencil and paper, or open up a new file on your computer, and get started!

Main Character
Who is your story about?


Sample Character Web

Every story starts with a main character.  It can be an animal, a person, or a thing.  It can be anything you want.  If you want to illustrate your story, choose a main character you like to draw.

Start by asking yourself some questions:

  • Who is your main character?
  • What does he, she or it like/dislike?
  • What is your character's personality?
  • What does your character look like?

When you start getting answers, draw a character web.  Put your main character's name in the circle in the middle, and all of his or her characteristics on the lines coming out of the circle.

Hint:  Draw a picture of your main character to help you visualize what he or she is like.

Where does your story takes place?


Every story has to happen somewhere.  However, the setting can have either a large or small impact on the entire story.  For example, what would Batman be without Gotham?  Just a story about a guy in a cape running around some generic town.  Think about Batman being set in a little town like Mayberry, USA instead of the magical, mystical town of Gotham.  Not very exciting, huh.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Where does the story take place -- in space, in China, in your back yard, or someplace completely from your imagination?
  • When does the story take place:  in the past, the present or in the future?
  • Has the setting helped develop the main character's personality?
  • How does the setting impact your main character's problem?

The Problem
What is the challenge your character must face and overcome?


When you give your main character a problem to solve, your story comes alive.  Be sure to make it a big enough problem.  Remember:  choosing what color to paint your nails isn't much of a problem, but choosing the right color wire to clip to disarm a bomb is a very big problem.

Important tip:  Use conflict in your story.  Conflict means someone or something tries to stop your character (the hero of the story) from solving the problem.  For example, your character needs to complete a science project, but keeps getting thrown off the track by a visiting cousin.  To keep the story interesting, the more times your hero tries and fails, the better.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is your main character's problem?
  • Is the problem big enough so that it will take a whole story to solve it?
  • Do other characters help create the problem?
  • Does the setting influence the problem?
  • What steps does your hero take to try and fail to solve the problem?


How does the main character finally solve the problem?


The story must have a satisfying ending.  The best ending is when the hero is about to give up but solves the problem at the last minute before disaster strikes.  It doesn't have to be a big disaster, of course.  It's the relief from the story's confict that makes it interesting.

Hint #1:  It's best if the story's hero solves the problem on his or her own.

Hint #2: Look back at your character web to see if one of your hero's characteristics can help solve the problem.  It's great if one of the hero's faults turns out to be a strength that leads to the resolution of the story.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How does your main character finally solve the problem?
  • If possible, can they solve it using their own strength or wits?
  • Does the story or character end up back where it started?

The Secrets to Good Story Writing

  • Set your mind free.  Have fun and be creative.
  • Write your story all the way through before you edit it.  Don't allow the editor in you to dampen the spirit of the artist in you.
  • Think about a story you like.  What makes it good?  Can you identify the main character, the setting, the problem and the resolution?
  • Writing means rewriting.  A first draft will never be your best effort.  Write until you're satisfied with your story.  Change and rewrite the story to make it stronger.
  • Are you having fun?  If so, that's great.  If not, make it fun.
  • Write about things you know.  That doesn't mean you should only write about the things you see in your room or at school.  If you want to write a story about something that happened on the moon, just read and learn about the moon!
  • The biggest secret to writing a good story:


You now have the basic knowledge to write a good story.  Go write one!