by Renea Guenther @ReneaGuenther
A story can fall flat when your story does not have the momentum to push the reader forward page by page.
A strong narrative drive directs everything in your story toward one point and keeps the plot from wandering and focused in the direction it needs to go.
We grab the reader’s attention by presenting the protagonist with heavy consequences for failure to reach their goals.
Each action builds upon the last until we finally reach the end.
Cause and effect. Plain and simple.
Anything that doesn’t fit into this cause-and-effect relationship doesn’t belong in the story, unless it is part of a parallel plot or subplot.
There are three steps to strengthen your narrative drive:
1. Give Your Protagonist a Worthy Goal
Your protagonist’s goal should be clear to the reader.
It should be something the reader can relate to that is important to the character.
This is your chance to show how your protagonist’s past has defined them and their dreams for the future.
Use it show why they want this goal and why it is so important for them to obtain it.
But be sure to limit their backstory to only what is necessary.
You don’t want to overwhelm your reader with unnecessary information or take the focus off the core conflict.
Too much backstory can slow the story to a drag if you’re not careful.
2. Introduce Life-Changing Stakes for Failure to Reach That Goal
All worthy goals have high consequences. It is what makes them so satisfying when we finally reach them.
Easy goals are not worth the time of the reader or the writer.
There should always be the chance the characters will fail to overcome the obstacles presented to them.
Just be sure never to make the consequences larger than circumstances warrant.
Not everything is life and death.
Choose stakes realistic to the situation and difficult to overcome, which personally affect the protagonist.
3. Focus on One Goal Per Scene
The longer and more complicated the story, the more goals your protagonist might have.
But focusing on more than one at a time will only confuse your readers.
Narrow the focus to only one goal wherever possible.
If another goal needs to be addressed, try to do it in another scene.
Or at the very least, reduce the focus on it, so it is obvious which goal drives the scene.
Everything you write should contribute to the story in some way.
Every description and action should contribute to the main goal, pushing the story forward to its inevitable end.
Each step should be logical and realistic, from sentence to paragraph, scene to chapter.
If you use cause and effect to focus your story, you can’t go wrong.
What else can we do to keep our stories pointed in the right direction?