I started thinking about this question even before writing my first manuscript. Now that my story is complete the question of what makes a good story is still there but now I have some answers. I’m glad I discovered these by reading a ton of great stories and finding growth in my own writing journey.
- Exciting plot. In the break neck pace we have in our lives, taking time to read is a valuable commodity. Readers of my story (especially 10 year old boys) kept telling me to keep the chapters short and get more action. I followed their recommendations. No one wants boredom while reading. We want to be transformed into other worlds and see how others solve their problems.
- Great characters. You can have a well-developed storyline but if readers can’t relate or sympathize with your protagonist then all is lost.
- Conflict. “Character A” takes a class in modern dance, practices, and wins a competition. The story might be very well told but without conflict who cares about the outcome? Making the journey with a few speed bumps will enhance the reading experience. Maybe the character is worried how his dad will react when football has always been the activity of choice in the family. Or maybe an injury takes place right before the big tryouts. Conflict makes a story move forward.
- Theme. Growing up is learning about life and how people behave. A theme reveals those two components in a story. As a writer for young people by the end of the book the reader should have learned something. They then can compare it to how they would have handle the same situation.
- Laugh and Cry. Balance these two for a winning story.
Yesterday I did an online search for how others might answer this question. I was not far off track with my original thoughts: