story with a captial S

Over the course of my writing career I’ve struggled with what it is that makes a good story. Since writing is so subjective, it’s a given that there will always be someone or groups of people who won’t like your story. I used to think that in order to have a successful book, it had to be well-written. But not all books that are well written make an impact. And not all books that are badly written will tank.

TwilightTake Stephanie Meyer and her Twilight series. It was a resounding success in both the book and movie realm. But ask any regular writer about how well the Twilight series books are written and you’d get an answer that is certainly not a ten star review.

So, how did the Twilight series get so popular? The tone of the books, a forbidden love that goes beyond the norms along with the cost this love has on each character along the way, is alluring. Every character is perfectly flawed and appealing in their own way.  Twilight had story with a capital S.

I was just discussing this with another writer the other day as we were dissecting Twilight. We came to the conclusion that Meyers had the knack for keeping the reader hooked and wanting to turn the page to find out what was going to happen next. The audience became attached each time something happened to keep those lovebirds apart. Readers were rooting for Team Edward or Team Jacob. Whether you liked or read Twilight or not, this series had an emotional investment we all want to have between our characters and story and the reader.

Andrew Stanton, a Pixar writer and producer, shared what made Pixar’s stories so good in his The Clues to a Great Story . In his TED talk, Andrew shared the points to focus on in creating a resounding story.

  1. Make Me Care. You have to care about the characters right away. What is happening that makes you identify or have empathy for this character? Is the character suffering an injustice? Is the character thrown into a new situation that is difficult or emotional and you automatically want to root for them? Is there a secret that is intriguing and needs to be figured out? All of these make us care for the character immediately.


  1. Take Me With You. Give the reader a promise, a problem that will make the story worth reading. Is it the promise of adventure? Is the character fighting to overcome something? Is it revenge? What is it that the reader is going to expect to find in the pages?


  1. Be Intentional. There has to be motivation for the character. Is the character searching for love or acceptance? Do they require vengeance against some force that wronged them? Are they working to overcome a difficult past? Each character has to have a reason for being in the story.


  1. Let Me Like You. Your characters have to be likable. This is the part I struggle with because I tend to be black and white, especially when it comes to my villains. But every evil character thinks they are the hero in their own story. Let us like them for some reason, to at least understand what motivates them to do what they do. An evil queen must have been a sweet girl once. Let’s see what makes them vulnerable so we understand their despicable actions.


  1. Delight Me. Charm your audience. Get them on your character’s side. Make them cheer for the hero who counters the death spell and turns the rabid wizard into a slug, who’s then swallowed by the shark they’ve been mind-controlling. Let’s sigh with relief when the protagonist finds the decree that saves hundreds of innocent lives in the kingdom. Let’s feel it when the hero kisses the heroine when the town is saved from a gun-slinging bad guy.


We may not read or love vampires like in the Twilight books, but we can learn how to create beloved characters who are placed in a dire situation that the readers stick with until the resonating end.

It’s all about story with a capital S.

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Dawn Ford

Dawn is a young adult fiction author, creating authentic stories that cut through the lies we hide behind to break through to our inner truths. Her passions are her faith, family, shoes, purses, things that sparkle, and anything steampunk. Keep up with Dawn's news and events at

10 thoughts on “story with a captial S”

  1. Totally agree. Story is definitely the key to success–it’s coming up with the story & characters, that fit all those Pixar guidelines that’s a challenge. Nowadays people want their stories to happen quickly, unlike 100 years ago when authors could be more descriptive and daydream a bit in their books.

    1. So true! We don’t get much room for extraneous words or musings. But, I find that I do skip over parts that don’t get to the point when I read (especially in YA), so I can’t really complain.

  2. I have a list of writers that are great storytellers, but average writers (Dan Brown being just one). It’s very, very rare, to come across a writer who excels at both. I would like to say that Pixar’s work in general is outstanding in nearly every department. Have you seen Toy Story 3? It’s SUCH great storytelling, capping off the adventures of Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toy gang so well. There are two scenes in it that make me cry, and part of that is the emotional payoff from the storytelling throughout the films. SO well done. I would highly recommend that movie to study from a storytelling aspect, and how to make an ending that will leave your readers/viewers wanting more, but also feeling highly satisfied.

    1. Can you believe that I’ve never see Toy Story?? I’ve heard people wax poetic over the movies and I just never got the appeal. I guess I need to rethink that. Checking my public library now to see if they have a copy of it. They likely will. I see Toy Story viewing in my future. LOL

      1. Kav, I think you’ll like Toy Story. There are so few animated movies that I really like (Beauty and the Beast being one I loved and still love although it may have something to do with a reading protagonist), but Toy Story is surely among the ones I watch over and over.

      2. Kav, you need to see all of them, as I think Toy Story 3 has the best payoff of any movie I’ve ever seen. The first two are good, but the third brings it home.

    2. Toy story would be a great one to show how well story works! I love how they bring all of the threads together and take us along for the ride. I also love how they sneak different pieces of other stories/movies in as well. Always fun to try to find those references.

  3. Love these points, Dawn. They make a lot of sense. Definitely something to remember while writing but also explains what’s happening when I’m reading and not getting into the story. Not a Twilight fan at all. Aside from the subject that lacked appeal to me, I found the writing stilted. Tried watching the movie and didn’t last to the half way part. So slow…and the actors…totally didn’t get the appeal. But clearly I’m in the minority.

    1. I agree the writing was stilted. That’s what fascinated me about it, so after it blew up in popularity I had to read it to see what the deal was. I really liked the books more than the movies (I don’t personally find the actors appealing or good actors, except for Taylor Lautner. And I really didn’t like the fact the protagonist was so enamored with the glittery vampire. Blech. That’s why we (my friend and I) were dissecting the appeal. And, really, that’s teendom for you.

  4. “Once Upon A Time” held me in its thrall for a while, mainly when I found out that the evil queen (named, Regina, of course – evil queens are ALWAYS named Regina . . .), was, originally, a normal girl who had her love torn from her by someone SHE loved. It was at that moment that I knew there really was a STORY in there. I’ve since lost interest, but that stuck with me! Great post, Dawn!

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