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Use the concept of 4C to improve your story telling skills

Written by April Zhang on Monday, 10 July 2023. Posted in Chinese Writing Contest

Use the concept of 4C to improve your story telling skills

The majority of submissions during the previous Chinese Writing Contests were short stories. While some were exceptionally good, there were stories that really confused me. This year I hope to receive more of the former, none of the latter.

This is the reason that we’re going to talk a little bit about the 4C in story telling. I’ll use some successful entries from 2022 to illustrate.

Good story telling skills are crucial. Unfortunately, or fortunately, there isn’t any universal standard for all writers. It’s an art that is worth developing over a long period of time.

For all aspiring writers, myself included, the best way to improve our story telling skills is to examine some common traits of good stories and try to use them in our own writings. 

In this article, we’ll use the concept of 4C to look at four stories that are published in Easy-to-Read Chinese Short Stories, Book 2. (You can find out more about all previously published entries here: )

4C is a good starting point to think about your story if you’re currently writing one for this year’s Chinese Writing Contest. It refers to Causality, Conflict, Complications, and Characters. 

We’ll take a look at them one by one.


  • Causality

It means that, in your story, you write clearly on how one event leads to the next, and to the next.

One example is Why Do Small Things? (By Jasmine Wang). 

This story starts with an elder lady who got some help with her bag. This leads to the next event that she gave some delicious snack to a worker. This leads to the next event that the worker witnessed a beautiful sunset. The story went on and ended with a happy family dinner.

Think about your story, how one event triggers the next, and the next.


  • Conflict

It means that, in your story, there is a goal that seems difficult to reach for your characters.

One example is Wait (By James Kennedy). 

In this story, a young man and a young woman were in love and wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. But their families viewed each other as enemies and they didn’t approve their relationship. This is the conflict.

As we read the story, we want to find out whether or not the conflict was resolved and how. (By the way, James really wowed his readers in the end.)

Think about your story, what is the conflict?


  • Complications

It means that, in your story, there are obstacles that make things complicated.

One example is The Day Nothing Became the Best Thing (By Gregory DuQuella MD). 

In this story, the entire family wanted to impress their King. But one by one, they failed, until Xiao Ming who showed the King a different side of life.

Think about your story, how many obstacles are there for your characters to overcome?


  • Characters

It means that, in your a story, you need your characters to be alive and convincing. There are many ways to do this. One of them is to show them in action.

One example is Mother’s Flowers (By Gale Lichter). 

In this story, the mother handmade many flowers to cheer her daughter up. Mother’s loving heart became self evident through her action - making flowers. 

Think about your story, what does your character do to show their personalities?


I hope you find this article helpful. And you can start using the concept of 4C to make improvements, and ultimately delight your readers. 

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the founder of MSL Master and she enjoys teaching and interacting with students. She constantly explores new and interesting ways of teaching Chinese through creative and imaginative activities.

With her help, many students have achieved outstanding result, which has enriched their understanding about China and has significantly contributed to their work.