A good story must have multiple characters in it. A single-character story is single-dimensional and, hence, boring.

Today I want to play your friendly neighbourhood science guy. Only that I won’t be doing much besides talking. Trust me. You don’t want me doing anything in a science lab. The last time I tried…people are still recovering from it. You, on the other hand, shall conduct an experiment. Then you shall write a story based on that experience.


Take a fighter fish and put it in a small glass tank. What do you see? You’ll see it swim around until it gets tired and slows down to a stop. You’ll see the movement of its gills as it breathes. You’ll see the way it feeds. All very nice. Now to some business. Write down your observations. I’ll check after 1 hour.

Just kidding.

You could write about the shape, size and quality of the glass tank. You could write about the beautiful colours on the fish. You could write about its swimming style. Oh, yeah, include the feeding bit. Great. Now use your notes to write a story.

No matter how you think and what you eventually write, there is a 99.99% chance it is going to be flat, dull, sleep inducing, call it what you may.

Let’s go back to the experiment. This time put a second fighter fish in the same tank. Ooh! And what do we see? Each fish having a go at the other one. The fight is going to either be a swift one or a slightly drawn out battle, but eventually either one of them or both shall succumb.

Now, note down your observations. Write about the arrival of the second fish in the tank. Write about the reaction of the first fish. Write about the reaction of the second fish. Write about the way they sized each other up. Write about who made the first move. Write about their individual fighting styles. Who do you think was tougher? Did you feel bad for the weaker one?

Rewind to the beginning. Write about how welcoming the fish tank looked to the first fish. Write about how it went around marking its territory. Write about how he felt like a king until – that’s the most important bit – something changed, the second fish arrived.

A story cannot survive with only one character in it. You may add excitement to it by throwing in some events but, by and large, it is going to be a boring one. However, if you had two characters in it, you could think of a million ways to make them interact with each other.

One fish is no fun.

Ansh Das

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