“How To Write a Compelling Story”

Buffalo on site where the movie, “Shane”, was shot with Tetons in background.
Photo by Award-Winning Writer-Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek


In every story, there must be a beginning, a middle,and an end.  It must contain a main theme that holds everything in the story together.  The story should also have a main character who has to achieve a goal in the story.  There should also be an opposing force,an antagonist, and/or a villain who has the same goal, but for a different reason and who goes about achieving the goal in a different way.

Another key element to writing an effective story is to make sure you are “showing” the story and not “telling” the story.  The way you accomplish this is to pay special attention to your verb usage.  Using passive verbs results in “telling” the story.  Using action verbs results in “showing” the story.  You must have the instinct to know when to use passive verbs and when to use action verbs.  This will make a big difference in the effectiveness of your story.

A compelling story always contains these story elements.  It is in the execution of these elements that determines how compelling your story will be.

I hope this is of help to you.

Best Regards,

Donald L. Vasicek

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and Nebraska Summers

“Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” and Nebraska Summers
Donald L. Vasicek

Augusts in Ord, Nebraska were stifling. Temperatures were in the 90′s and the humidity was also as nearly high back in the 1940′s and 1950′s. When I wasn’t in the swimming pool, or on the golf course, or sitting in the shade with my twin brother eating some of Mom’s canned sauerkraut we filched from a dirt basement under our house and arguing who was a better baseball player, Mickey Mantle or Eddie Mathews (my favorite was Eddie Mathews, a third baseman for the Milwaukee Braves, he played third base, and his swing from the left hand side of the plate was as smooth as marble), I spent my time in the Ord Township Library.

Mrs. Smith was the librarian during those years. A somewhat grumpy woman who said little, but always dressed very professionally with her gray/white hair always up in a bun. I was intimidated by her, but equally, I was very close to her. I guess I got on her nerves because I was the kind of kid who always asked questions, probably too many questions, about books, like the Hardy Boys mysteries, “Is the newest one in yet, Mrs. Smith?” I asked in a wavering voice.

“Donnie,” she’d always say, I’ll call your Mom when it’s in.” She would turn then, and go back to stamping library cards, something which always fascinated me. She’d pound the stamper, an oblong-handled device with a square ink pad on the bottom of it, on staid cards. And what once was a blank space on the cards, now had a date on them.

So, I’d meander through the library, checking out books, until I found one. I remember one, “The Jungle Book” (1894) by Rudyard Kipling. A short story in the book, “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”, about a valiant young mongoose’s adventures, particularly with cobra snakes. I sat down and begin reading it. Before I knew it, Mrs. Smith notified me that it was time for the library to close. So, I tried to check out the book, but she told me I’d have yet to have returned 3 other books that I checked out, and she warned, “You know the rule, you can only check out 3 books at a time.”

I said okay. I put the book back on the shelf and planned to return the next afternoon to check to see if the newest Hardy Boys Mystery book was in, and to read more “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi”.

This past August I was in Ord with my brother to check out our roots back there. The temperature was in 90′s, so was the humidity. I stopped in the library. It was the only place in Ord that had WiFi, and I had some emails to attend to. So, I visited with Kristi Hagestrom, the director for a bit. I told her about Mrs. Smith and my visits to the library when I was a boy. She was riveted by the story. And I found it heart-warming to have been blessed with good health to be there and embrace the smell, the sounds, and the sights of a place that will always be cherished by me. For it was in the Ord Township Library that shaped my future for me and where I’m at today.

How to Write a Story

How do you write a story? Anyone want to venture a guess? My guess is that you have a theme that should work like a thread that holds the story together. The story should have a beginning, a middle and an end. There should be a main character who has a goal and transformation arc. Seeking the goal should cause the main character to transform. This way, the story won’t fall flat because the main character is changing.

And every story should have an antagonist (in fiction, an antagonist can be a person, object, thing, etc. the fine point of this is that an antagonist is different than a villain. A villain must represent pure evil with no redeeming characteristics. Whereas, an antagonist should have redeeming characteristics). By having an antagonist, or a villain, you should also have the antagonist or villain seeking the same goal as the main character, but for different reasons. This, in turn, then causes conflict. And this, in turn, creates drama. Without drama there is no conflict. Without conflict there is no story. And all of this is applicable to anything one writes including fiction. So, do some reading and check it out. You’ll find this article is right on for you.

Award-Winning Writer/Filmmaker Donald L. Vasicek (on the right)