Cheat Codes For Writing a Great Story

Hey, everyone! Bethany here. Today I thought I'd write about how you can create a rich, in-depth story without dedicating four decades of hard work to it, and by that I mean I'm going to share with you nine years of experience and give you a few tips on how you can gain that same level of experience in less than a third that time. Therefore onward, and I shall share with you the benefits of sticking to a story like tree sap to your fingers. That stuff never comes off...

I've been writing for a long time in general, but I've been writing my book series, The Redemption Chronicles for a shorter but still fairly long time. Almost five years in fact.
Now, I recognize most people haven't been working on the same book for nearly as long. In fact, most writers really have trouble sticking to one story, which is something I plan to discuss in the future. But for now, I'm going to briefly go over some of the benefits working on the same story for such a long time has given me. Afterward, I'll be talking about how you can reap the same benefits, without having to have worked on your story for the same amount of time. That's what you get for reading advice from a fifteen-year-old fiction writing veteran, cheat codes. Cheat codes that may or may not work, depending on how you use them and whether or not I actually know what I'm doing.
Nah it's okay, I'm pretty sure I do.
I mean, I think I do.
Ah, I can see your faces now...
Benefits of Writing the Same Story For a Long Time:

1. Character Development

Perhaps the most obvious benefit of writing one story of the course of the years, but you get to be really familiar with your characters, not to mention have a chance to give them EXTREMELY in-depth backstories. Take my MC's best friend/sidekick, Shanti (I'm gonna clear this up right now, it's pronounced Shaun T. *chuckles, coughs*) When I first wrote this character he really wasn't anything more than a supporting character, two-dimensional or 'flat' as it is said. Shanti came into the story around my 2nd/3rd year of writing this book. Other than a winning sense of humor and a bookish personality, he really wasn't much more than a (yes, I'm going to quote my book directly) wiseacre. So what changed? Well over the years a Sam/Frodo relationship began developing between Christopher (My MC) and Shanti. Shanti started to really drive my plot by egging Christopher on and prompting wars (haha, just kidding! [You hope.]) It wasn't like I did it on purpose it just sort of happened. Subconsciously I began delving into this character's psychology by writing several traumatic and earth-shattering scenes of which he was involved in. Because of this I without even realizing it put a reason behind Shanti's 'smart guy' attitude and eventually his sense of humor. Trifle little things like that really made this characters the one you see today, an intelligent, funny, sarcastic poet with a strong fighting sense. Not to mention I made up some pretty funny inside jokes along the way...
You can obtain the same effect in your characters simply by taking a set amount of time (let's say a week) and writing (once every day) a traumatic scene your character is involved in. For me, this was the death scene of Shanti's little sister. By doing this you'll get to see how your character reacts to these sorts of situations, which in turn will help you understand him/her better. Before this scene, Shanti was an emotionally closed book, now, I realize that he's such a jokester because it helps him deal. He doesn't want to think about anything painful because it hurts too much, therefore he makes jokes. Ever started laughing about something trivial during a sad scene of a book or movie? That's you subconsciously avoiding letting your emotions control your brain. This is what Shanti does. 

2. Lore

This mainly applies to the fantasy genre, but you may find it useful in other situations too. By writing the same story about the same mythical world for five whole years, I have come to recognize the cultures and backgrounds of several races's, as well as familiarize myself with the world's layout (I have eight different maps I've drawn of the same continent and not one of them is the same) and the landscape. Every city, ever village, every outpost has a story behind it. Does that mean you have to tell that story? No way. No one's ever going to need to learn the exact date that house was built in the far reaches of the countries borders. But you know what they might (not need but) like to learn? The stories the people who live in that house tell their children. Having a fantasy world means that you have to come up with everything at some point. So what territories believe what stories? What legends of great battles have been passed down from generation to generation. I have a legend about 'One of the Ancients' who was the morning sun, and the woman he loved, who was the night sky. When the woman died the 'Giant or Ancient' wove her light into a cloak. Every evening when he lays down to sleep he hangs the cloak in the sky. This a legend based upon the Plains of Talibeth, a wide open expanse of land over which hangs a sky of the brightest stars. 
How can you develop the lore of your world to such a degree without spending years inside it? Well, the answer simply is that you can't. It takes time to become so familiar with your fantasy world that you can tell every story behind every mountain range, every tale of every ancient battle, every name of every mysterious and mythical creature that resides within. However, while this is one of the more difficult results to mimic, you can achieve a similar end by taking the time to write one, just one story behind each of your 'main event points'. Have a city your character spends a lot of time in? Don't write when it was founded, write when it was burnt to the ground and rebuilt, write about what the commonly accepted stories/legends of the people are. You can do the same with landscapes as I did with the Plains of Talibeth. It takes practice, but don't force yourself to come up with stories behind your world's existence, let the ideas come to you. Seek out inspiration. Put yourself in the shoes of a nomad or villager who saw something inexplicable, then try to explain it. Works for me, so hopefully, it'll work for you. 

3. Relationships and Crazy, Crazy Plot Twists

Relationships: I can't tell begin to tell you how much writing relationships bugs me. They all seem so fake and ridiculously over-emphasized. I hate it when an author 'hints' again and again that there will someday be something more between two characters. Like, I GET IT, you don't have to tell me every sidelong glance and wisp of a smile in her twinkling eyes. THEY LIKE EACHOTHER I UNDERSTAND. Every romantic relationship I've ever written disgusts me. I don't want my MC and his love interest to become Percabeth. I hate Percabeth, am I seriously the only one?? Well I can tell you that if you have two people destined from the beginning to fall in love and you write a story about them for five years, at the end of that time, they're not going to be Percabeth (Thank the Lord). In fact, observing a relationship for a long period of time makes you realize what's natural and what isn't. There generally is no sudden pronouncement of love. It can start as simply as two people who are completely terrified of what lies ahead of them subconsciously reaching out and grasping the other's hand for support. It doesn't seem weird to them because they're friends. That may be the moment we know there's a romantic relationship before them, but to them, they're simply scared and they're reaching to that person they trust for support. 
You can't get those sorts of moments without either having experienced a relationship before or feeling like you're directly linked to both members of the relationship. Since I've been working on this relationship from the beginning, it's one of the longest standing plotlines of my book. Since I can easily connect with the mindset of both parties due to experience, it's easy for me to write those 'moments'. I can't really recommend any direct way to achieve a similar end, but I can say that you should avoid being cliche and try to make your characters react how you might react. In the case of reaching out the hold hands when they were scared, my MC wasn't thinking about the fact he was holding hands with this girl, he was thinking about how scared he was but how glad he was he had someone he could depend on. In all honesty, he probably didn't even realize they were holding hands. They just were.   
I know that because 1) I recognize the situation. 2) I can empathize. and 3) I know how each character reacts to different sorts of situations. 
So that's easy enough. Know your characters and know how they react. Don't be cliche and try to picture how you or someone you know would react to the same situation. Yeah, probably easier said than done, but this falls into the 'character development' category, so there's a lot of stuff out there that can help you learn to know your character better.  
Plot: Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. If you want to come up with crazy, crazy plot twists go free write your story. Pick a scene you haven't reached yet and write from there. The only way you can throw bricks at your reader is if you ensure that 1) You don't know what's going to happen yourself and therefore get hit first. 2) You make sure the bricks are heavy enough that they're not going to break before you get the chance to start throwing them. 
Analogies aside, there's no dodging this bullet. If you want an insane plot you have to work at it, and I mean WORK! You can only drum up a killer plot if you're willing to take the time to figure it out. It takes time, it takes caffeine, and no sleep is required. It's taken me years to get where I am, but if you work even harder than I did (I was under 14 for pretty much all of those years so yeah not a TON of work was actually done...) You can do it in waaaay less time. I cannot recommend free writing (for developmental purposes) enough. Don't outline your inspiration, let it take you where it's meant to go! 
Well, that's all I've got for now because I really need to go work on my book now! (Yes I know, I'm obsessed. But at least it's over a good thing, right?) 
Thanks for reading folks! I really hope you got something from that, because if not I may need to rethink my methods of brainwashing...
Until the Dimming of the Stars, My Beloved Readers 

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