View Full Version : What Makes an Original Story Great

07-24-2012, 05:04 PM
What is that extra boost that makes an original story awesome in your opinion. Personally I like hearing about the character flaws and life problems a hero has. It makes them more realistic in my eyes.

07-24-2012, 05:51 PM
What is that extra boost that makes an original story awesome in your opinion?

I like a large scoped world with relatively few main characters, but plenty of secondary characters. Like Harry Potter, actually. Example of overdoing it would be Game of Thrones. The idea is that more characters and/or a large world adds resonance to the plot. It also makes it more believable. I think it's overdone in GoT, however, because there are simply too many and with too many characters it's annoying trying to remember them all.

In fanfiction I think a lot of people make the mistake of forgetting certain characters, like Hagrid. While these characters aren't that important overall, and I doubt anyone really misses them, I can't help but think that they make the fanfictional universe a lot smaller by focussing on a smaller part of the character ensemble.

07-24-2012, 06:34 PM
The little details. Reread the HP books and you'll see them, and if it's only your second time reading, you'll notice tons of new stuff you forgot about. Hagrid has hands the size of trashcan lids,and feet the size of baby dolphins. Dudley finally succeeded at what he'd been threatening since the age of 3: finally becoming wider than he is tall. Veela seem to entrance everyone when they are singing. The Lovegoods are mentioned before book 5. Cedric has sparkly skin. A two year old was able to enlarge a slug just by poking it with a wand. A team of 500 ministry workers built the quidditch stadium, so the society must be a decent size. Stuff like that that are just second hand comments, but add a lot of flavor to the story, and it's stuff like that that writers have a tough time replicating.

07-24-2012, 07:36 PM
Generally it depends on the writer and where their talent lies, to me.

I think certain people have styles that lend themselves to certain things, and while its very possible to branch outside of it, it becomes noticeable where someone is writing outside of that. Some people can make a story with a very small cast and a streamlined telling work. Other people thrive in the sprawling plots and the large group of different characters - or in the case of, say, GRRM, a few character archetypes that are similar so there's a certain type of character in each differing place.

Personally, I like when the world is a character, if not one of the better characters. Its something I always try and work at to varying degrees of success, but I think that it is something a lot of people underestimate the importance of. I'm not simply talking the supporting characters or the descriptiveness of a location, but the fact that we live in a world that is alive. (no treehugger) Cities thrive, they live and they breathe, they have personality and they have differing faces depending on the time of day, what's going on, and so on.

Double points for me if the world itself actually seems to have a motive in an abstract way beyond simply existing.

Phantom of the Library
07-24-2012, 07:59 PM
Slowly getting to know the characters and empathically experiencing their hardships because of the bond between you and them.

By that I don't mean simply 'liking' the character. I tend to actually empathize with utterly deplorable characters quite often, simply because most (talented) authors will take the time to make you understand their motivations.

I can forgive a lot of things about a book if it can manage to choke me up when bad shit happens to a character I've come to know well, because that knee jerk, genuine emotion is quite hard to pull off.

It's probably why I tend to favor the first person perspective (if it's done well.)

Alive and Free
07-24-2012, 08:41 PM
I'm not sure that I can point to any one thing and say "that's what makes this an awesome story". I think it's a combination of things - character, plot, world-building. It all has to work together. The best stories bring it all together while lesser stories tend to lag on one element or another and bad ones just fail everywhere.

07-25-2012, 09:08 AM
The ability to make the reader feel as if he is in the story; to see the world and its people through the characters' eyes and to understand and empathize with each characters' hopes, goals and emotions. Rowling does this well, I remember shedding a tear when Dumbledore died and I skipped immediately to the end of the book to see if he was still alive; I felt the anguish as if it was my own.

08-17-2012, 11:58 PM
this is a bit of a minor necro, but I think the conversation needs to be continued.

I think the best part of any original story is how far they go in portraying the antagonists of a story. Its relatively easy to make a person like a protagonist, but it's hard to make you identify with the villain. I take no small amount of enjoyment when a story portrays a genuine human being as a villain who just so happens to be against your hero. Who has flaws, who has some decency to them, and it's believable why they do what they do.

That's the marking of a great story, imo.

08-18-2012, 12:19 AM
I think the best part of any original story is how far they go in portraying the antagonists of a story. Its relatively easy to make a person like a protagonist, but it's hard to make you identify with the villain. I take no small amount of enjoyment when a story portrays a genuine human being as a villain who just so happens to be against your hero. Who has flaws, who has some decency to them, and it's believable why they do what they do.

That's the marking of a great story, imo.

I agree with this, but at the same time I really enjoy when it's on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. I don't necessarily want my protagonist to be a saint, but if the big bad is truly rotten to the core, that can be very interesting to read about. Definitely give them flaws, but at the same time make the competent enough to make whatever they're trying to pull off realistic, and I'll usually at least finish the first book.

Also, another thing that always makes a book or a series for me is an interesting magic system. Bonus points if I get to follow the protagonist while he's learning magic. Harry Potter is a prime example of this, and it seems like the Dresden Files' system keeps getting more and more complex as the series grows.

08-18-2012, 12:24 AM
Disclaimer: I might be drunk right now, having discovered the joys of mixing Ginger Ale with Brandy (who'd have thunk that'd be good?)

One thing I've given some thought to is that... a lot of the really enduring stories seem to have generated a lot of fanfiction. Harry Potter has been over for a while now, but the fandom and interest in it continues. There's a lot of fanfic. There's a lot of fanfic of Star Trek TOS (even if it's slash and I've always avoided it, there's a lot of legit "fanfic" in the form of novels). There's loads of Naruto fanfic.

And yet there are some excellent stories, very good books, that don't generate that amount of fanfic. There's less Fullmetal Alchemist fanfic than many animes sport, yet I think it's one of the better animes. There's not much Mistborn fanfic, though I thought those were good stories (save for the feeling that there was a character sheet lurking just underneath the text for each character). Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear seem to be incredibly popular stories, but don't seem to generate a lot of fanfic.

So forth, so on.

So it made me wonder -- is part of making a story that's going to sell tons and remain popular... screwing it up a bit?

I mean, half the fanfic of Harry Potter is "what if this happened instead" or "what if Harry wasn't a dumbass with no ambition" and "what if this much more interesting thing happened" so on. It's like most of the fanfic out there is trying to *fix* problems that people felt like existed in the story.

If you write a story that's solid in most every way... there's not quite as much fanfic is there? Or maybe I'm wrong, as Dresden fanfic seems popular, and there aren't the number of issues with canon that HP or Naruto or whatever seemed to have. So I just don't know.

Maybe my point is that one thing that makes some original fiction great is that you need to leave room for other options, other avenues, other plots to exist or have existed. If you plot it too tightly then there's not much room for imagination on the part of the reader... and while that's good in some ways, and it'll make your stories great, it also leaves something to be desired in the "what if" category.

...and yeah, damn, Ginger Ale & Brandy. I needed to stop drinking an hour ago, but there was still a bit of Ginger Ale left in the can...

Cheers buddies.

08-18-2012, 08:09 AM
1. Character and the conflict between characters. Character is what pulls the reader in and makes them stay.

2. Secrets. Loads of them. Make your world full of secrets and hint at them. The reader will be obsessed with trying to figure them out.

3. Worldbuidling. You rarely like a story because of the world. In the first instance you like it because of character. Character is what gets you interested in the world. But once you're interested in the world, then worldbuilding becomes very important. People want to know shit. And what you don't tell them is just as important as what you do tell them (see: secrets).

If you want people to write fanfiction, you need:

1. Easy to spot points of divergence. Post-OotP lol.

2. Secrets to make people want to write their own answers to said secrets.

3. As Cheddar said, you also need to give people the desire to fix stuff.

08-18-2012, 10:54 AM
Believable and competent characters whose belief and actions the reader can understand.

Interesting world combined with the right way of showing the world. (Here is the genre important.. Sci-Fi allows for a lot more of "simple" info dumbing than Fantasy etc.)

And in my opinion what makes a story special is a great relationship/friendship. Properly written such a thing adds a lot to a story.

And I wouldnīt say that Fanfiction is a sign of a good story. It is a sign a popular story. In Fact people write Fanfiction because the original didnīt satisfy them.

08-18-2012, 11:16 AM
And I wouldnīt say that Fanfiction is a sign of a good story. It is a sign a popular story. In Fact people write Fanfiction because the original didnīt satisfy them.
That was my point, actually.

Harry Potter isn't as good of a story as a lot of other stories, though it's good, partly because it wasn't perfectly "satisfying."

But it has been pretty enduring and make a crap-ton of money. More money than many better stories.

Fanfiction helps to keep interest in something alive. If it wasn't for HP fanfiction I probably wouldn't have thought about HP past possibly re-reading them once after they all came out. I certainly wouldn't still be interested in it years later as an adult.

08-18-2012, 08:51 PM
I think another thing to keep in mind is that while dissatisfaction plays a big role in some fanfiction, the world of the story has a lot to do with it too. In a story like the name of the wind, the skill of the author in weaving his tale trumps the setting. In fact, so far I would say the setting for those stories is very traditional in a lot of ways. But something like naruto or harry potter or star wars: these are worlds that beg to be played in because they give you so many great tools to use. The fact that the authors are arguably less excellent just makes it easier for an amateur author to create something that bears some resemblance to the original.

08-23-2012, 05:15 AM
Regarding all this, I can't help but think of the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series, which can boast of pretty spectacular world-building, fairly interesting characters, and nigh-on immaculate plotting (I use it as a model pretty much every time I have to introduce a new student to the idea of plot arcing). Yet Percy Jackson doesn't get nearly the same fan-fic love as Harry Potter. That was what clued me in: it isn't the variety and versatility of the world-building that's key, it's the author's inability or failure to utilize it.

There may be plot holes in "Percy Jackson," but they're few and far between, and Riordan develops nearly every aspect of the world he introduces. "Harry Potter" has the world-building down pat, but Rowling doesn't do anything with it. Ergo, fan writers swoop in to fix it/make it better/go in a different direction.

I don't do anime or manga, so I can't really comment there, but the same is obviously true of "Star Wars." That universe has so much potential, and Lucas chose to focus on arboreal teddy bears. Good movies -- just like Harry Potter made for good books -- but they could have been so much more!

08-23-2012, 10:55 AM
True. Though I never really got into Percy Jackson as much. I think part of it was... well, the adults were generally useless. I mean, granted, they were pretty useless in Harry Potter, but at least HP acknowledged several times that the kids shouldn't be the ones having to deal with everything.

PJ arranged it so that only the half-bloods really could do anything, as the gods themselves couldn't/wouldn't get into it and the normals weren't able to deal with things. Also since half-bloods didn't often survive their youth they were all kids.

So it was explained, but it was just... handled strangely I guess. Good books though, I'll definitely give them that. Very clever on how it handled mythology. I haven't read the second series though, perhaps I should.

08-24-2012, 01:49 PM
You people forget that Harry Potter is a series which changed a lot over the books.
I think that the first 3-4 books were really good and had solid world-building for children books. After that the target audience shifted and the books became of lesser quality.

Similar things could be said about many fandoms with high story counts. Naruto, Bleach etc all had a great beginning with a new idea but lost a lot of quality with the latter books/arcs.

And that is probably also one of the things that makes a series/book great. The ability to manage a long plot that is necessary with such series. And not to overpower your hero or villain. That is one of the things that Dresden Files manges nearly perfect in my opinion. Even if Dresden fights against really powerful beings you have never the feeling that they were not part of world from the beginning and the old and defeated ones still remain dangerous if you compare them to the new ones.
This is were most writers fail. They have a great idea, a great world and a great hero and they want to show us that.. and after the first 2-3 books they notice that they have shown everything but still have to finish the story.