What writing method do you use for short stories or novels? There are many. There’s the Skeleton Method that Angela Hunt uses (and taught us at our Fall Conference). Or there’s the Chapter Method where the story is first summarized in one or two sentences and then each chapter is summarized on index cards. The Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson, starts with a one-sentence summary, and then a paragraph summary, and then that paragraph is expanded into characters, and then into scenes and so on.
You may be familiar with the good old sandwich analogy. Take two pieces of bread—the beginning of the story and the ending—and layer the rest of the ingredients in between. This is the basic three act structure that fits almost every kind of fiction, no matter if it’s a play, a short story, or even a full length novel. Put simply, every story must have three basic parts: the problem; the problem gets worse; the problem gets solved. While the middle usually makes up the bulk of the “sandwich,” the “meat” if you will, the choice of bread on either side can make or break the story. A weak beginning and readers may not continue reading. A weak ending and they will be left feeling unsatisfied and probably won’t be back for more.
Middles have a way of sagging. I’m talking about books, of course!
That’s our motto. We want to make sure that once we’ve shared with our readers the journey our characters have taken, we also grant them a satisfying ending. It doesn’t matter how great the story is; it must leave us content on some level by the time we turn the final page.