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Characteristics of a Good Story

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January 2010
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Read a good novel, such as such “Nineteen Eighty-four” by George Orwell, “Portnoy’s Complaint” by Philip Roth, or “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, and you will discover that each of these novels has certain attributes that make these novels memorable reads. For starters, these books are well written. Second, each is based on a unique idea or subject. Next, the authors know how to use the elements of fiction. And finally, each of the authors knows how to tell a good story.

How do you write a good story? A good story has certain characteristics. These include the following:

  • Hook. The beginning of the story grabs the reader’s attention and inspires him/her to read on.
  • Desire. The author creates a protagonist to be to achieve a goal.
  • Conflict. The author creates need conflict that the protagonist must deal with before he/she can achieve his/her goal.
  • Challenge and Obstacles. The protagonist must face obstacles and setbacks throughout the story before he/she can achieve the goal.
  • Climax. The story must include a turning point. Usually, the protagonist confronts the antagonist in the story.
  • Resolution. In the ending, the author must tie up loose ends and answer any unresolved questions.


Telling the Story

When telling the story, use a hook, create desire, introduce conflict and challenges, include a turning point, and resolve your story.

  1. Always begin your story with a hook. A good story begins with a hook, something that grabs your reader’s attention and compels them to read on in the story to find out what happens next. Your hook might be a conflict or problem by which the protagonist must solve. Suppose you are writing a sci-fi novel, your hook might be an inciting incident, one in which aliens invade earth.
  2. Create desire in your protagonist. A good story includes a protagonist who must solve a problem or achieve a purpose. As well, the protagonist must be motivated, in some way, to achieve this goal or purpose. In writing the sci-fi about aliens invading the earth, your protagonist might have to fight to survive, protect his loved ones against the aliens, or struggle with his/her own fears about being exterminated.
  3. Include several types of conflict. A good story must include conflict. The conflict of the story might be man against himself (a psychological conflict), man against man (protagonist versus the antagonist), man against society, man against the environment (tornado, flood, catastrophic event), or man against the supernatural (ghost, demons, aliens). A good story has several conflicts. For instance, in your sci-fi novel, you need one conflict might be when the aliens begin to invade the earth, set up a civilization, and begin exterminating humans or transmitting a lethal virus.
  4. Include challenges and obstacles. A good story includes obstacles and challenges. Before the protagonist can achieve his purpose or goal, he must face challenges and obstacles. For instance, in writing a sci-fi story about an alien invasion, the challenge the protagonist might face is to outthink superior intelligence, conquer advanced technology, or survive an attack by the aliens.
  5. Include a climax. This is the high point or turning point in the story, at which the end result becomes inevitable. It is the dramatic high point. The climax occurs when the protagonist confronts the antagonist. For instance, if you are writing a sci-fi story, your climax might be when the hero finds a way to defeat the aliens.
  6. Resolve the story. Tie up loose ends and answer any questions that were raised earlier in the story. Be sure to make your ending believable. Be sure to make your ending a logical outcome of the casual events of the story. Be sure to dramatize your ending to make it memorable. For instance, in a sci-fi novel about aliens invading earth, you might conclude with the protagonist annihilating the aliens with a nuclear weapon.


  1. […] Most stories have a certain number of common characteristics that get the reader/watcher’s attention and causes it to remain in their memory. They are: a hook, desire, conflict, challange, climax and resolution. (a detailed list can be found here.) […]

  2. sudhir kumar says:

    Information given on this page is precious for the upcoming writers. I appreciate the effort made by this website.

  3. Jeanne says:

    1. Stories provoke curiosity and compel repetition
    2. Stories unite us in Holistic way to nature, our common stuff of existence
    3. Stories are a bridge to one’s culture
    4. Stories bind us to all of humankind, to the universe, and human family
    5. Stories help us remember
    6. Stories use a special language
    7. Stories restore the original power of the word
    8. Stories provide escape
    9. Stories evoke in us right-brain imagination, tenderness, and therefore
    10. Stories promote healing
    11. Every story is our story
    12. Stories provide a basis for hope and morality
    13. Stories are the basis for ministry

  4. divine nunekpeku says:

    hi, am much greatful for this information. i will be back again sooner or later. thank you

  5. Shem says:

    Fantastic article. Keep it up!

  6. Ndukwu Ikechukwu.J. says:

    Tragic ending is emotional.It makes it more realistic.

  7. Ndukwu Ikechukwu.J. says:

    Tragic ending is emotional.It makes it more realistic.I love good fiction.

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