I first start out with the main idea: what is the story about?
One of the reasons why my stories tend to stretch a little farther is because of the many different things my characters do to help stretch it out. Right now, it sounds like I just add in unnecessary stuff, but I don’t (
well… I hope I don’t).
For example, in my previous story, the main idea was how my character was visiting Rome for the first time for two weeks with her sisters. So it stretches out because they do go sight-seeing and being tourists. A lot of the chapters are where they go out on adventures.
The next thing to think about are the subplots: what else happens in the story? And how does it delay their goals?
Subplots can be anything from a mixture of genres to various ideas that are held in the genre you’re writing in. For example, if you’re writing a romance, you can add in paranormal, fantasy, or science fiction elements to it. Or, if you’re writing a romance, you can add in romantic drama (like say a love square (like a love triangle) or something of that sort). This will also help you write conflict and ways that can help delay their goals.
If you’re writing a teen fiction and your character is about to go confess their love to their best friend, you can make them get into a car crash as they’re driving to their house. Boom! That adds a delay. If you’re writing a story where the characters have a disagreement, you can have them do what everyone else told them not to do and have everything blow up in their face. Boom! There’s a detour to their goals.
You’re basically trying to take a detour in the plot, which will take longer to complete. And, not to mention, you just have to be creative with it.
So back to my story, there are two main subplots: a romance and family drama. While my character is visiting Italy, she meets one of her favorite authors and they soon get into a relationship. So that adds to the story. However, there is conflict in the romance which makes us take a break from that “relationship goal.” And, while everything else is going on, she has fights with her sisters. She isn’t very close to her older sister, but in the story, she learns more about her than she ever knew, which draws in that sisterly love.
Overall, you can also add in backstories and baggage that catch up to your characters. For instance, I once read a story where the love interest had a secret and eventually, he ended up facing it head on. The secret was later said that he got into a car crash and killed his best friend’s brother, and felt guilty the entire time. And it caught up to him because he ran away to a secret hide-out to be alone for a few days (I think it was like every few months; his parents knew where he was as well) and his friend confronted him. It was like a huge twist in the story.
Also, you don’t have to write 50-100 chapters. Some stories are just shorter than others. I once read a book that had thirteen chapters. And I’m currently reading a book that doesn’t really have chapters (it’s like separated by specific scenes). For example, the first “chapter” was 99 pages long. xD
Characters don’t have to be likable. They just have to be relatable. If you make them relatable, then you’ll have readers who would like them (or not, depending on the reader). All in all, make them human. And once you do that, you’d realize that not everyone is perfect; not everyone is likable or understandable.