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What makes a good story?

This is a question I’m often asked, my little lemon drizzles, and depending on who you ask, the results often oscillate from ‘the characters need to be empathetic to the reader,’ to ‘it needs a good plot.’ Other people will tell you that you need to ‘channel what you know’, or that you need to write as ‘truthfully as you can’. All these nuggets of sage advice are glorious to behold, but you need to find out what works for you. Sometimes all this information can get jammed in the metaphorical blender that is your mind, and instead of writing that 300,000 word bible, you simply sit staring at the blank page, dribbling slightly from the corner of your mouth. And then you switch off your laptop and turn away, thinking that you’ll start on it tomorrow. But when tomorrow comes, you find another excuse, don’t you? Because you’re a procrastinator. Yesssssss, my little flushed blueberry, I can see it in your eyes. You’d prefer to binge out on the sofa Netflix and chilling, wouldn’t you?

Yes, okay…but what makes a good story?

Everyone has their own way of working. You may be a night owl, tapping away at your keyboard in the wee hours of the morning. Or, my little thrombotic twitches, you may start early – to get that fresh active mind zeroed in on the keyboard like a military ballistic missile. Whatever the routine, ALWAYS BE WRITING. You want to binge watch the latest West World episodes on TV? Turn that nefarious contraption off, it’s merely a distraction. You want to procrastinate on your phone by updating digital friends about what you had for dinner? Turn that rectangular box of mind control off, it’s merely a distraction. READ MORE. WRITE MORE.

“The most important things are the hardest things to say,”

writes Stephen King. “They are the things you get ashamed of because words diminish your feelings.” Most great pieces of writing are preceded with hours of thought. In King’s mind, “Writing is refined thinking.” When tackling difficult issues, make sure you dig deeply. King says, “Stories are found things, like fossils in the ground … Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world.” Writers should be like archaeologists, excavating for as much of the story as they can find.


I have over 50 resident writers, exploring the town of SHALLOW CREEK now. That’s not bad, considering I announced the competition last week, but I want more. Like a shambling zombie or a jittering heroin addict, I want more. I want to feast on your words and gorge myself on your narratives. I want to be left with a bulging stomach, unable to move due to what I’ve just read. Roald Dahl has stated in his short story collection, ‘Fear,’ that the real purpose of a spooky story should give you the creeps and disturb your thoughts. The best ghost stories don’t have ghosts in them. At least, you don’t see the ghost. Instead, you only see the results of its actions. Occasionally you can feel it brushing past you, or you are made aware of its presence by subtle means. If a story does permit a ghost to be seen, then he doesn’t look like one. He looks like an ordinary person. But I digress. What makes a good story? Hell if I know – just keep me engrossed in the world you’re creating, my beautiful little space monkeys, make me turn those pages with avid determination…and maybe, just maybe, you’ll remain a resident in Shallow Creek for years to come…

You’re not really helping me here, Mallum.

Hahaha, my dear reader – who said anything worthwhile having came easy? You want your words in my tome, to showcase to the world? You want to be coveted as the SHALLOW CREEK champion? Then work for it, bitch.


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