1. Analyze books you love. And TV shows and movies. Stories anywhere, really.
Take one of your absolute favorite novels, or TV episodes, or films, or plays, or other form of storytelling. Read (or watch or listen to) it again. Pick out exactly what the features are that make you love it. The setting and the way it’s shown and used? Certain characters’ personalities, and the way they change (or refuse to) over the story? The dialogue? The beauty of the language? The overall atmosphere and mood?
Then once you’ve listed the stuff you love, make another list; or rather, more like an outline, a sequence. What happens in the story, briefly, and in what order? Reverse-engineer the plot. How does it begin? How does the story introduce us to the characters and the conflict? How does it make us care what happens? Notice pacing: how quickly (or slowly) does the story unfold? What are the big events, and how much time do we (and the characters) have to recover and react between them? Notice mood too: how does each scene make you feel, and how did it accomplish that? Also notice what each scene is there for, because each one most likely serves some important purpose in the story.
Once you’ve vivisected a beloved story in this way, you end up with a better idea of how to construct one you’ll enjoy working on yourself.
That’s all for today. Come back for tip #2 tomorrow!