This series starts right here. Read parts one and two then come back.

You want to know the secret to writing a good story? Come here, real close, and I’ll tell you.

We know it’s not the ideas, because they’re all taken. It’s what you do with them. I’ll show you what I meant by it.

I hope you saved that little story you wrote yesterday, because we need it again. (If you posted it like I told you to then it would be in the comments from the last post. Get it then come back.)

Okay, let’s look at the story you wrote. Something really exciting, right? The best thing that ever happened to you. Or one of the best. It doesn’t matter right now for what we’re going to do with it.

Mine was about the first time I ever rode the “Revolution” rollercoaster at Six Flags in southern California. I was a young teen, and I’ll never forget that night, the darkness and the white tracks of the coaster with the small lights around the loop yellowish in comparison. The wind in my face, the rush of the last drop into the loop, the way my stomach rose and fell at the changes in gravity, and the fear at the top of the loop that we might fall, not make it around after all. The relief as we did make it then the plunge into the blackness of the tunnel after the loop, mist chilling us in the hot summer evening.

Was yours like that? Or did you forget the details? If you forgot to put in what you saw and how you felt, not only your emotions but your bodily feelings when it happened, go do that now.

Ready? Okay. Now get your story where you can see it and look at the elements of it. Who, what, where, why, how. Using mine as an example:

Who: me, as a young teen (c. late 70’s)

What: riding a rollercoaster for the first time at night

Where: Six Flags, a theme park in southern California, USA

Why: there with my family for an outing. On the rollercoaster even though I was scared to prove to myself I could do it.

How: We drove there, I waited in line, etc.

You make a list of elements for your story.

The next thing we’re going to do is to change one or more of the elements on the list but keep the feelings. So what if instead of me being on a rollercoaster, I’m on a raft in whitewater rapids, going over a waterfall? Or on the back of a dragon, swooping down towards the ground? Or copiloting a stunt plane? Or in a spaceship, plunging towards the sun?

How did I get there? What might I be feeling and seeing that would differ from my rollercoaster ride? What would be the same? Why am I here? What had to happen to get me to this point? What might happen next?

Try changing some of the elements in your story (you can change any or all of them) and make a new little story (real short, keep it less than 300 words or whatever the comment post limit is here). You can post it if you like.

You did it! You wrote a story!

This just showed you that writing a story isn’t some arcane thing. The story was inside you all along.

So the secret of writing a unique story? Make it real. Make it your story. There is no other you in the whole world.

Some people say this as “write what you know”, which I think confuses people because I don’t have to have ridden a dragon to know what it’s like to go into free-fall straight down ten stories. I rode the rollercoaster.

We’ll talk more about writing tomorrow.