Thursday, September 16, 2010

Writing the Story of Your Life

Recently, as I was judging entries in a writing contest, it dawned on me that the “rules” for creating a compelling fictional story also apply as we create our real life stories.

Rule #1: The story should feature an interesting-but flawed-lead character.
We are the lead characters in the story of our lives. We should strive to be interesting, but accept-even embrace-our flaws. There’s no such thing as perfection, and it’s our flaws that enable others to relate to us. Takes the pressure off, huh? Besides, every flaw has an upside. Case in point: I'm impatient as heck, but because of this impatience I rarely procrastinate.

Rule #2: Don’t complicate the story with too many subplots.
The less important things often try to take over the story of our lives, distracting us from the primary plotlines. We should focus on what’s really important and eliminate any “subplots” that don't bring something of value to our life story. For instance, I ignore the subplots of laundry, dishes, and dusting in favor of writing, playing keeno with friends, and goofing off with the hubby and kids.

Rule #3: Eliminate secondary characters that don’t serve a meaningful purpose.
As hard as it may be, cutting out “characters” who serve no meaningful purpose in the story of our lives will streamline our stories and give us more time to focus on the characters who really matter to us. Of course, for various reasons, it's impossible to eliminate some secondary characters, no matter how much we'd like to. Put those ones in the footnotes.

Rule #4: Lots of conflict makes for a great story.
We shouldn't fear conflict. It’s only when we stand up for what we believe in-and ourselves!-that our life story can really move forward. And, just like our flaws, conflict can have an upside. Sometimes a good kick in the pants can work wonders.

Rule #5: Keep up the pace.
"Scenes" drawn out longer than necessary can bog our life stories down and make them boring. Wrapping up our “scenes” efficiently will keep our stories moving forward at a good pace.

Rule #6: Develop a high-stakes plot.
To make sure our life stories really matter, we'll have to take some big risks along the way. This may mean taking a chance on a new career, moving across country and leaving behind the people and places we've grown up with, or having the courage to chase our dreams no matter how high the odds are stacked against us. No wimps allowed!

I hope that the story of your life will be exciting, compelling, and fulfilling, and that it ends with a happily ever after!

Diane Kelly’s debut novel will be released September 2011 by St. Martin’s Press.

Visit Diane at


Angela said...

Great post Diane! It's too bad real life isn't more like writing. If it were we could rewrite those annoying secondary characters instead of getting restraining orders. :-)

Christie Craig said...


Wow, I love it. I'm gonna print these out. Thanks so much and Congrats on joining us at KF!!


Jana DeLeon said...

Great writing tips, Diane! Welcome to KF!

Edie Ramer said...

Terrific post! Obviously I shouldn't have vacuumed today. That was one too many subplots in my life.

Trinity said...

What a refreshing way for a writer to look at life. I agree with your thoughts completely. That's why I'm reading your blog instead of doing the dishes.

Gemma Halliday said...

So happy to have you on board, Diane! And a "killer" first post! ;) (Sorry, couldn't help myself...)


MiaMarlowe said...

Words to live by as well as write by, Diane.