I was reading some other author's story the other day who is in my estimation a GREAT writer. His descriptions are clear, his word choice awesome, etc.
Unfortunately, he has no 'conflict' in his story.
It is basically "My wife woke me up and asked me if she could be a slave. I laughed at her, and then said okay." so she begs him for no apparent reason, no internal conflict as to why other than she just wants to do it.
Then he starts ordering her around and she brings over her best friend who doesn't know him. The friends after a little wine to be his slave, also. No limits, no time duration, just 'forever' apparently.
Then he runs the two of them through the ringer the way I have Jamie and Wendy in my latest story, except no one seems to mind. The girls love being tied up outdoors in front of school buses, and so do everybody else.
I need conflict. My stories are about this:
A: Main character doesn't want to do something
B: Someone wants main character to do it.
A+B = conflict
"You don't want to be naked, then get naked."
It could be the other way around too. The main character WANTS to do something, someone/something (even their own conscious) doesn't want them too. Same difference.
The story is about their decision, to comply or face the consequence, and how they feel about it after.
Some times the conflict is internal. We are our own harshest critic. "I want to do it, but I don't" or "I gosh do I regret doing that, what can do to change that?"
Some conflict are mental, some are physical, some are a little of both. The conflict of the whip to hurt an ass. The conflict of a word to break a heart. The conflict of imperfect people who don't always choose wisely.
Usually I do not outline my stories. I start with the characters, then the setting then just see what they will do.
I tend to have a foggy notion where it is going, but nothing like a formal outline. That would be boring and constraining to me.
I do have some general things I need to see:
1. Growth: The character at the start of the story, better not be the same at the end. I want to see them evolve.
2. Conflict: As I mentioned, if everything is easy, then I am writing the wrong part of this persons life. Tell me about a time when they had to try harder and face a challenge.
3. Taboo: No actual animals were harmed in the making of this blog, lol. No more than the producer of the Freddy Kruger movie stays up late at night worried that their story will result in someone acting upon what they see on screen, do I worry that someone will act on my stories.
Anyone who would was already deranged, my story is not a suggestion to do anything, nor does it have the power to make a non-deranged person act it out.
Repeat that a few times if you still doubt me, because it means you may be deranged.
These are adult stories about taboo/naughty subjects for people mature enough to know the difference between talk, and action. As long as you keep it all in your imagination, think about any nasty disgusting things you want if it turns you on. I certainly do.
4. Betrayal and Retribution: I was told by a dear friend, that the first person the audience sees is the one they relate too. If it is the jewel thief they start to side with them getting away. If it is the cop, they start to side with him catching the thief.
So I try that in my stories, but I want the first person you see to be flawed. Imperfect.
If they are the best person in the world with no flaws, it is hard to accept them getting betrayed and kicked down.
My stories the main character will get drug down, beaten up, knocked around mentally or physically some how some way. If they didn't who would cheer when they eventually triumph?
I know a teensy bit about Greek tragedy. What I know is it is really the key in my opinion to writing good characters. They build someone up, bring them to the top and then knock them down.
They do so by establishing a hubris, a flaw. Usually the persons fall is by their own undoing. That is how life is.
5. Pacing: I usually write stories that have a slow build up. This is because I personally like to first introduce the character and provide the background.
I know that a good writer's trick is to give you some sort of lead-in, and then say "Let me take you back to three months ago, how this is all got started" or something like that.
I don't like to use the same tricks over and over.
I try different things and techniques in writing, but what is consistent is that there is some sort of pacing.
It is like a roller coaster, I may start you out on that slow trawl to the top, then PLUNGE down the line to the very bottom.
The fact that I choose to turn the coaster (my metaphor for the pacing of the plot) left, right, loop-de-loop upside down doesn't mean I am inconsistent. It means like any good roller coaster designer, I want my reader not to be sure where they are going next, but to feel like they are on a 'ride' and not a jerky, stop/start broken contraption.
Some times I'll elevate the energy of the story a little, then take it back down then up again, then down, other times arc it WAY UP, so the drop is going to be extreme.
I don't believe in a formula, like sit com writers. They can play mad-libs by introducing one conflict that gets resolved in the 30 minute episode, along with one sub-plot.
6. Details: I see, smell, hear, touch details all the time in life. I love the details of life.
People tell me I focus too much on details. I write about the smells, and the sounds, and the crowds in the background.
If you don't like details, don't by a HDTV. You'll see a lot of it.
7. Humor: I've got to have a little bit of humor in my stories. In real life, I'm surrounded by irony and humor. My stories reflect real settings. So yes, I take the time to let the characters joke around. That is what real people do.
It also amuses me.
I can get turned on, and laugh at the same time. If you doubt me, send me a photo of your penis. ;)