Entering a written storytelling competition is a great way to improve your skills and grow more confident.
Below are a few tips for written storytelling competitions. We hope these will make the process less intimidating and more enjoyable.
1. Find a central theme or message for your story
Finding a central theme or message for your story is an important step in the writing process. It can help you to stay focused and to develop your story in a cohesive way.
When choosing a theme, you don’t need to have all the answers, but it’s helpful to have a general idea of what you want to say.
If you’re stuck, try brainstorming on paper or with a friend. You might like to try one of these writing prompts.
2. Write from your own experiences
Personal experience is powerful inspiration for stories.
Real life experiences are the most emotionally engaging and can be written with depth and credibility.
If you’re writing about a fictional character, sometimes it can be hard to make them sound convincing… because you don’t really KNOW them.
But when we reference real-world experiences, the story comes to life.
Don’t be afraid to tap into your own experiences to help bring your characters to life.
Furthermore, telling stories about your own experiences helps to build your personal voice as a writer.
If you’re uncomfortable sharing personal information, you can always use a fake name or change some of the details.
3. Hook the reader in with your first paragraph
The first paragraph needs to make an impact on readers and should draw them into the story. It’s important here not to give too much away or reveal anything that will spoil the rest of your story.
For example, you could start with,“I was woken up at 2am.”
This doesn’t tell the reader too much about what’s happening, but it builds intrigue.
Or for a more suspenseful version, “I woke up to someone screaming.”
This presents an opportunity for suspense and tension – it triggers curiosity!
Consider that if your goal is to build suspense, then you’ll want to leave some questions unanswered and create open loops. This will ensure that readers are compelled to read on.
4. Write tension and conflict into your story
Tension and conflict are where the action is. It’s useful to have some sort of internal or external obstacle for the protagonist to overcome.
These elements make a story more emotionally engaging.
One way to create tension is to have your characters face difficult or impossible situations. For example, you could have them trying to escape from a dangerous situation, or struggling against overwhelming odds.
You could also use EMOTION as a source of conflict…
- How does the protagonist react to a problem?
- How does it make them feel?
- How do other characters show their feelings?
By making use of these emotions, you can make your writing FEEL MORE REAL for readers.
Remember that suspense is a powerful tool, so use it sparingly for the greatest impact.
And by the way, not every story needs tension and conflict. So don’t feel pressured to include them just because you think they’re necessary.
5. Think about story pace and flow
Ensure that your story moves along at a good clip, without being rushed or slow.
As I’m sure you know from experience of reading a long and drawn out story that’s full of too many details and long sentences, it can soon get boring and hard to read.
On the other hand, short and focused scenes are great.
The events in your story should make sense and be logically connected. This will keep the reader engaged and prevent them from getting bored.
If something doesn’t seem right or makes the reader question what’s happening, then you need to revise it.
6. Show us, don’t tell us
One of the best ways to make your writing more engaging is to show what’s happening, rather than telling. This involves using descriptive language to create a visual for the reader.
When describing something, be specific and use sensory details.
For example, you could write “The room was spinning around me,” instead of “I felt dizzy.”
Or “His face strained as he struggled to lift the box,” instead of “He was struggling to lift the box.”
This will help your readers to build up a good picture of what’s happening. And by including sensory details, you can increase their experience of the moment and make it more real for them.
7. Structure your story with a beginning, middle, and end
The beginning introduces the characters and setting, while the middle contains the bulk of the action. The end wraps everything up and brings the story to a conclusion.
However, not all stories follow this pattern exactly. Sometimes the beginning is also where the action takes place, while other times the ending is where most of the action happens.
Regardless of how your story is structured, it’s important to make sure that each section flows smoothly into the next.
Otherwise, readers will be confused and may lose interest.
8. End with a resolution or learning (if appropriate)
Ending your story with a resolution or learning can be a powerful way to leave a lasting impression on readers.
It shows the growth or change of the protagonist over the course of the story.
For example, your protagonist might learn that it’s more important to be yourself than follow what other people expect from you.
If you choose to go this route, make sure that the resolution is satisfying and logical.
9. Write an engaging title for your story
Your is the very first thing people see. It determines whether they read your story or skip past it, so a little extra effort goes a long way.
The title pulls people in and makes them curious to know more.
So write a title that will entice your readers by focusing on something exciting, intriguing, or funny.
You could also try drawing on the emotions of your characters in order to give readers a glimpse into what they’re going through.
A good exercise is to write 5-15 title articles and choose your favourite.
Many people find it useful to choose your title AFTER writing the story, so your story has room to grow and change direction as you’re writing.
10. Get feedback on your story
Feedback is a great way to develop your writing, especially from other writers.
It can help you to identify what works and what doesn’t, so that you can edit your story or adjust your writing style in the future. You’ll also pick up errors that you might have missed, or highlight points where your writing is confusing.
Just remember, feedback is only one individual sharing their opinion. So listen to it, but don’t feel like you have to act on all of the suggestions.
It’s your story and at the end of the day, you decide what changes or stays.
If you’d like to receive feedback on your story, click the option that says “Would you like to turn comments on so others can share feedback?” when you post your story.
Finally, written storytelling has no hard rules
Don’t be afraid to break the mold.
As long as you’re writing, that’s all that matters.
Follow wherever your creativity takes you. Change your story if the idea changes during your writing process. If you’re struggling, let yourself forget about the plot of your story and just write.