Do you wish to do fictional writing but are unaware of how to do it? Don’t worry, we’ve got you! Read this article to know everything you need to know about fictional writing and ace the way to write it.
Two of the most common types of prose writing are fiction and nonfiction. Fiction is a story that an author invents from their imagination, even though it may make references to real persons or events. Even though many of them contain truth-related components, fiction stories are not true stories. It only takes a small bit of effort and imagination to write your own piece of fiction.
Understanding some basic fiction mistakes
Don’t start too slowly
While some authors do begin their works slowly and let the dramatic tension develop over time, this needs a degree of practice and talent that the majority of beginner authors just haven’t yet mastered. Conflict must be established as early as feasible because it is essential to fiction. Known short story author Kurt Vonnegut once shared the following advice:
“Screw the suspense. If cockroaches ate the last few pages, readers ought to have a good understanding of what is happening, where it is happening, and why. If not, they should be able to finish the story on their own.” Hopefully, cockroaches won’t consume your novel, but readers might not understand why they should care if the first few chapters are filled with regular people going about their daily lives without any obstacles or problems.
Establish the stakes early
Your narrative must have definite character stakes if you want it to be interesting. These don’t need to change the world, but they must feel significant to the characters. Every character needs to desire something, even if it’s just a drink of water, according to Vonnegut. The primary character must desire something and feel justified fear that they won’t obtain it. Reader engagement with non-clear-stakes stories is exceedingly difficult.
For instance, it generally won’t be the end of the world for everyone else if a heroine doesn’t end up in a relationship with the guy she loves, but it should be very essential to the character. When the characters fail to destroy the One Ring, darkness will eventually conquer Middle Earth, as in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, the stakes can literally be the end of the world. Fantasy and epics are typically the finest genres to use these kinds of stakes.
Avoid exposition-heavy dialogue
The dialogue between the characters must sound real. Consider this: When was the last time you told someone you had just met your entire life story in a speech? Or gave a detailed account of everything that transpired during a prior encounter in a direct message to a friend? Likewise, don’t have your characters do it.
Expository dialogue of this kind is frequently referred to as “info-Logue.” Although it might be a simple approach to give the reader background knowledge, it tends to seem strange unless it is done extremely well. One error that novice writers frequently make is using an info-Logue.
For instance, the first few pages of every book in Charlaine Harris’s well-known Sookie Stackhouse series sometimes involve “catch-up” reading about events from earlier books. For instance, the narrator will frequently interject to directly remind the reader of a character’s identity and purpose if there is a mentor-mentee relationship between the characters. This can hinder effective narrative and keep the audience from connecting with the characters.
Don’t be too predictable
You don’t want to fall into formulaic storytelling, despite the fact that a lot of literature follows fairly well-known plotlines — just think of how many novels revolve around heroic quests or two individuals who first despise each other but eventually fall in love. If your reader can foresee every outcome, they won’t be interested in reading the rest of your novel.
An example would be a romantic story where the protagonists’ circumstances or character defects make it difficult to see how they would live happily ever after. Readers will be surprised at how, despite all appearances to the contrary, things do turn out in the end.
But avoid being duped by the “it was all a dream” fallacy. Readers typically feel duped or conned by ending twists that undermine everything about the story that came before them, therefore they rarely work out well.
The show, don’t tell
One of the fundamental principles of fiction, yet one that is frequently broken. Instead of explaining to your readers what happened or how a character felt, use actions and reactions to demonstrate emotions or story points. This is known as “showing rather than telling.”
Give the character something to do, for instance, rather than writing, “Yao was upset,” which tells the reader what is happening: Without having to say it, Yao’s clenched fists and a rush of colour to his face made it clear to the reader that he was unhappy.
Watch out for this in dialogue tags as well. Consider the following sentence: “Let’s go,” Jenna remarked anxiously. “It implies that Jenna is impatient but doesn’t demonstrate it. Now think about the following: “Come on!” Jenna yelled and tapped her foot on the ground. Although you didn’t have to explain Jenna’s impatience to the readers, you have just shown them.
Don’t believe any rule is set in stone
This may seem paradoxical, especially after hearing various things to stay away from when writing fiction. You should feel free to experiment because part of writing is finding your own voice and writing style.
Remember that not all experiments are successful, so don’t feel terrible if you attempt something new and it doesn’t quite have the desired effect.
Preparing to Write Your Fiction
Decide what format you want to write your fiction in
Depending on the kind of tale you intend to tell, this might apply. For instance, a novel (or perhaps a series of novels) may be preferable to a short tale if you’re trying to write an epic fantasy that spans several generations. A short narrative can be the best choice if you want to delve inside the mind of only one character.
Get an idea of some sort.
Every book begins with a little notion, dream, or inspiration that grows over time into a more substantial and in-depth expression of the same notion. If you’re not passionate about the topic, it will show in your writing. The idea should be something you’re interested in that means a lot to you. Try these if you’re having trouble coming up with ideas:
- Begin with your knowledge. Consider stories you could tell about places similar to your hometown if you’re from a small town in rural Alabama.
- Do your research before writing on a subject you don’t understand. Although it could be entertaining to try to compose a mythical tale about Norse gods in contemporary surroundings, this is unlikely to be a success if you have no background in mythology. Similar to this, if you want your historical romance novel to be read by readers and be set in Regency England, you’ll probably need to perform some study on social mores and such.
- Make lists of arbitrary items like “the investigator,” “the cat,” “the curtain,” etc. Each word should have a few things added. Where is it? It is what? When is that? Write a paragraph on it. Why is it in that location? When did it arrive? How? How does it appear?
- Create some fictional people. How old are they? When and where were they born? Do they actually reside here? Which city are they currently in, and what is its name? What are their name, age, gender, height, weight, eye and hair colours, and ethnicity?
- Make a map if you can. Construct an island out of a blob, or make rivers out of lines. Who resides in this location? How would they proceed?
Start keeping a writing journal
It’s a good idea to capture thoughts as they occur to you while writing. Writing down your thoughts can aid in their retention and further development. When it comes to generating creative ideas, journals are an incredible resource. Since inspiration can strike at any time, always carry your journal with you!
It’s not necessary for your “journal” to be a diary or notepad. Notes can be made on sticky notes or in a memo app on your phone.
Brainstorm your topic using “Cubing.”
Cubing challenges you to look at a subject from six different angles (hence the name). Consider these perspectives, for instance, if you want to create a narrative about a wedding:
- Tell us what it is. (A wedding or other union of two people; a gathering or celebration; a ritual)
- What is it like or not like, in comparison? (Like: various religious ceremonies; different kinds of gatherings; not like a typical day.)
- What else does it cause you to consider? (Costs, clothes, churches, flowers, connections, disputes)
- Examine: What components or pieces does it consist of? (Traditionally, a bride, a groom, a wedding gown, a cake, some guests, a location, some vows, and decorations; metaphorically, stress, excitement, tiredness, and joy)
- Use: How is it put to use? How might one employ it? (Used to bind two persons in a binding legal marriage contract)
- Consider: How can it be defended or resisted? (Supported: Couples in love marry to share a happy life; Resisted: Some individuals wed for the wrong reasons)
Make a mind map of your topic
Making a mind map, commonly referred to as a “cluster” or “spiderweb,” can allow you to see the relationships between the many aspects of your story. Draw lines outward to various ideas starting in the middle with your main character or conflict. Check out the results if you join these other pieces in various ways.
- Any type of knowledge can be organised succinctly and visually using mind maps. They can aid in your understanding of the relationships between various characters and other components of your story and help you remember important ideas.
- Use software or an app like Mindmeister, iMindMap, or SpiderScribe if you need assistance getting your mind map started.
Ask “what if” questions about your story and characters
Making a mind map, also referred to as a “cluster” or “spiderweb,” can allow you to visualise how the many aspects of your story are connected. Draw lines to additional ideas by beginning in the middle with your main character or point of conflict. Check the results of various connections you could make with these additional components.
- Any kind of knowledge can be organised in a clear, visual fashion using mind maps. You can use them to make it simpler for you to remember important ideas and to picture how various characters and other aspects of your story are related to one another.
- If you require assistance starting your mind map, think about utilising software or an app like Mindmeister, iMindMap, or SpiderScribe.
Brainstorm your topic by researching
Do some research if you want to write about a certain setting or event, such as the mediaeval Wars of the Roses. Learn about the key historical individuals, their deeds, and the reasons behind them. His passion for the English mediaeval past served as the basis for George R.R. Martin’s well-known Game of Thrones books, but he used his study to create his own world and cast of people.
Use other sources for inspiration
Participating in other creative endeavours might serve as a springboard for your own. To gain a sense of how those storylines often develop, watch a number of films or read a number of books in the same genre as your own. Create a musical score that reflects the tastes of the characters in your novel or the soundtrack you envision for the film version of your work.
Feed your ideas with observations.
A good writer is also a good reader and a good observer. Make observations about the world around you that you may want to incorporate into your fiction. Take notes on conversations you hear. Go to the library and read up on interesting topics. Go outside and look at nature. Let the idea mix with other ideas.
Figure out the basic setting and plot
Before you begin writing complete scenes and chapters, you must have a firm understanding of the universe of your novel, the people who inhabit it, and the events that will take place in it. Let your characters’ personalities and foibles direct your storyline if you have a solid grasp of them, which you should have after brainstorming.
- To determine your setting, consider the following: When is that? Is it at this moment? The upcoming? the earlier? greater than one? Which season is it? Is it chilly, hot, or just warm? Is there a storm? Where is it? It exists on this planet. An alternative world? Another universe? Which nation? City? Province/State?
- Plot-related inquiries might include the following: Who is there? What part do they play? They are either nice or bad. What are their weaknesses? What targets do they pursue? What is the initial precipitating event that gave rise to this story? Does there exist a possibility that something that happened in the past will have an impact on what occurs in the future?
- Even if you begin in the middle of the action, it’s crucial that you have a general understanding of what occurred earlier. If there is a well-established history, it will be simpler for you to be internally consistent and for your readers to fill in the blanks, even if you merely suggest or hint at the events that occurred before the beginning of your novel.
Decide what point of view (POV) you want your story to use
In fiction, point of view is crucial because it affects both the information that readers get and their emotional response to the characters. Your fundamental options are first person, third person limited, third person objective, and third person omniscient, despite the fact that point of view and narrative are extremely intricate topics. Some authors choose to write in the second person, albeit it’s less popular than the other options. Whatever option you choose, stick with it.
- Because they will identify with the narrator, readers of first-person fiction are more likely to be emotionally engaged. However, because you have to limit the narration to what your main character could know or experience, you are less able to enter the minds of other characters.
- I-pronouns are not used in third-person limited fiction. One character’s point of view is used to tell the story, and they can only share what they can see, understand, and experience. Fiction writers frequently employ this POV because it still allows readers to relate to the characters. This method of telling a narrative allows for the exclusive use of one character’s point of view (like the protagonist in Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”) or the ability to switch between numerous characters (for example, the POV chapters devoted to different characters in the Game of Thrones books, or the alternating POV chapters between heroine and hero in most category romance novels).
- If you do switch between points of view, make it extremely clear with a chapter or section break or with clear chapter labelling when this has happened.
- Only what the narrator sees or hears is included in third-person objective fiction. Because you can’t go inside a character’s head to explain reasons or ideas, it can be challenging for readers to connect with the characters while using this form of POV. A lot of Ernest Hemingway’s short tales are written in a third-person objective, demonstrating how well they may be employed.
- You can learn everything about everyone’s ideas, feelings, experiences, and acts in third-person omniscient fiction. The narrator has the ability to enter any character’s thoughts and can even reveal to the reader details about events or secrets that the characters are not aware of. Dan Brown’s books typically use third-person, omniscient narrators.
- Second-person narratives engross the reader by placing them in the narrator’s or POV character’s position. Instead of “I” or “he/she/them,” they say “you.” For instance: “Even though it’s only November, your bones are already starting to feel the chill of winter. To protect your nose from the chilly air, you draw your scarf up over it.”
Outline your story
Write a few sentences or paragraphs outlining what will happen in each chapter, using Roman numerals.
If you don’t want to, you don’t have to have a really extensive plan. In fact, it’s perfectly normal to discover as you write that your novel diverges from the original outline you had. Instead of attempting to determine what precise events take place, authors will occasionally only note what the emotional beat of a chapter should be (for example, “Olivia is upset and questions her decisions”).
Write your fiction
For the first draft, you might want to try writing by hand rather than using a computer. If you’re using a computer and there’s a section of it that you simply can’t seem to get right, you can find yourself typing and retype for a long time as you try to figure it out. Simply write it down on paper using a pen and a piece of paper. You can skip it and continue if you run into trouble. Simply begin writing wherever it is appropriate to do so. When you lose track of your destination, refer to your outline. Continue till you reach the conclusion.
Use tools like Scrivener to get started if you’re more of a computer person. These programs let you create numerous small documents, such as character bios and story summaries, and preserve them all in one location.
Approach your writing in chunks
You can be setting yourself up for failure before you even get started if you try to start by telling yourself, “I’m going to write the next great American novel.” Instead, focus on one modest writing objective at a time, such as a chapter, a few scenes, or a character sketch.
Read dialogue aloud as you write it
Writing dialogue that sounds unlike anything a real, breathing human has ever spoken is one of the hardest challenges for novice writers. The urge to make the language sound sophisticated and elegant, often at the expense of allowing readers to connect, is especially strong for authors of historical fiction and fantasy. Even though it will likely be shorter and more significant than real-life communication, dialogue should flow organically.
- While people frequently repeat themselves and use filler words like “um” and “uh” in regular speech, these phrases should only be used occasionally on paper. If overdone, they could distract the reader.
- Use dialogue to advance the plot or provide information about a character. While useless or superficial interactions happen frequently in real life, they are hardly amusing to read about in writing. Use the speech to establish a conflict or major story point, to show a character’s emotional condition, or to provide subtle hints about what is happening in a scene without actually saying it.
- Avoid using dialogue that is too obvious. If you’re writing about an unpleasant marriage, for instance, your characters definitely shouldn’t express it to one another directly. Instead, use conversation to express their rage and displeasure. You could, for instance, have one character ask the other what they want for breakfast while having the other character give a completely unrelated answer. Without needing to have one of the characters explicitly state, “We’re not communicating well,” this illustrates how difficult it is for the characters to listen to one another and communicate successfully.
Keep the action plausible
Your story’s action should be driven by your characters, thus you shouldn’t make a character act completely out of character just to suit the storyline. If the circumstances are special or if it is necessary for the character’s journey (for instance, if they finish up in a different location than they did at the beginning of the novel), characters may act in ways that they wouldn’t typically, but they should generally maintain consistency.
Since the plot requires her to travel to another state, your main character, for instance, wouldn’t just board a flight there casually if she’s frightened of flying due to having survived a plane accident as a child.
Similar to this, your hero cannot declare his undying love for the heroine and pursue her without hesitation if he has already experienced heartbreak from previous loves and has become emotionally distant. Even in imaginary scenarios, viewers expect realism because people don’t behave that way in real life.
Take a break
Similar to this, if your hero has experienced heartbreak from past relationships and has become emotionally distant, he cannot just decide that he is in love with the heroine and pursue her without hesitation. Readers anticipate realism, even in fantastical circumstances, because people don’t behave that way in reality. Once you’ve completed the first draft, step away from the story for a while.
Ernest Hemingway, a renowned author, is directly quoted as saying that he always took the night off because “if you think deliberately or fret about [your narrative], you will kill it and your brain will be fatigued before you start.” Visit the movies, read a book, ride a horse, go swimming, have dinner with friends, or go for a walk. Moreover, workout! When you take breaks, your inspiration for your story is higher when you come back to it.
Re-read your work
Hemingway, who stressed that you must “read it all every day from the start, correcting as you go, then move on from where you stopped the day before,” supports this suggestion as well. Use a red pen to make any comments or revisions you’d like as you’re reading. Actually, take a lot of notes. Find a better word, please. Do you want to change certain sentences? Does that conversation sound too childish? Do you feel that a cat ought to be a dog instead? Note those modifications! Reading your work aloud will help you spot errors.
Understand that first drafts are never perfect
If a writer claims to have finished a flawlessly written, masterfully plotted novel in one sitting, she is lying to you. Even renowned fiction authors like Charles Dickens and J.K. Rowling produced subpar first manuscripts. Large sections of writing or a storyline may wind up being cut because they are no longer effective. Not only is it appropriate, but it’s nearly always necessary to create the polished product that your audience will long for.
Revising your fiction
Revise, revise, revise.
Literally, the word revision implies going back and looking at something. Consider your fiction from the perspective of your readers rather than from your own. Would you be happy if you had spent money to read this book? Do your characters evoke any strong emotions in you? Revision can be tremendously difficult, which is why it’s frequently referred to as “killing your darlings” in the writing industry.
Cut off sentences, paragraphs, or even entire portions if necessary. Most people use unnecessary words or sections to lengthen their stories. Cut repeatedly. The secret to success is that.
Experiment with different techniques
Change it up if something in your story isn’t working. Put it in the third person if it was written in the first. Check out which one you like. Try something new, add new elements to the story, introduce new characters, give an existing character a new personality, etc.
When you’re first starting out, especially, you could try to communicate things quickly by overusing adverbs and adjectives to describe how something feels. Mark Twain provides some sound guidance on how to handle flowery language: “When you’re tempted to write “very,” replace it with “damn.” Your editor will remove it, leaving the writing as it ought to be.”
Slice out clichés
Because they are fairly common methods of expressing a concept or an image, writers frequently rely extensively on clichés, especially in early versions. The problem with that is that everyone has read about a character who “lived life to the fullest,” therefore it lacks real impact.
Think about this piece of counsel from writer Anton Chekhov: “Show me the glitter of light on broken glass, don’t tell me the moon is shining.” This instruction also emphasises the value of demonstrating rather than narrating.
Check for continuity errors
These are the minor details that can be overlooked when you’re drafting but which readers pick up on right away. It’s possible that your character changed from wearing a blue dress to a red dress in the identical scene at the beginning of the chapter. Or a character leaves the room in the middle of a scene but returns a few lines later without being explicitly shown doing so. Readers can become easily irritated by these minor mistakes, so proofread carefully and fix them.
Read your fiction out loud
Dialogue occasionally appears to be flawless on paper but sounds horrible when it is actually delivered by people. Or you can find that you’ve written a sentence that runs into a paragraph and you find yourself lost at the conclusion. You can find problematic passages and locations where there are information gaps by reading your work aloud.
Submitting your fiction
Copy-edit your manuscript thoroughly
Look for typos, misspellings, grammatical mistakes, weird words and idioms, and clichés as you go through each line. You can either try to fix everything at once or go through the document looking for a single thing, like spelling mistakes and then again for punctuation faults.
You will frequently read what you believed you wrote rather than what you actually wrote while copy-editing your own work. Ask a friend or family member to assist you with copy editing your work, if you can. A friend who reads or writes fiction might be able to point out mistakes that you missed on your own.
Find a journal, agent, or publisher to submit your work to
While many journals will take short story manuscripts, most publishers do not. Unsolicited manuscripts by authors without an agency are often not accepted by large publishers, but some smaller ones are willing to consider submissions from debut authors. Find a space that fits your style, genre, and publishing objectives by doing some research.
- To assist writers in finding a venue for publishing, there are numerous guides, websites, and groups. Start with Writers Market, Writer’s Digest, Book Market, and Writing World.
- Another alternative is to self-publish, which is becoming more and more common among writers. There are instructions on how to publish your book with places like Lulu, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon.com.
Format your work and put it into manuscript form
First, adhere to any instructions provided by your publisher’s submission criteria. Even if they clash with the information provided here, adhere strictly to the submission rules. Make your margins 1.37″ if they want for 1.37″. Submissions that don’t adhere to the rules are rarely read or approved (standard margins are, however, 1″ or 1.25″). There are a few general guidelines to go by when formatting a document for submission.
Submit your manuscript
Observe all the submission requirements exactly. After that, relax and watch for a reaction! Make a cover page that includes the title of the work, your name, your contact information, and the word count. Each line should have a gap between them and be centred both horizontally and vertically.
- Alternately, write your contact information in the upper left-hand corner of the first page. Include your name, phone number, and email address. Put the word count, rounded to the closest 10, in the right-hand corner. Enter the title after a few entries by pressing enter. The title can be in all caps and should be centred.
- Start a new page for the manuscript. Use a serif font that is easy to read, like Times New Roman or Courier New set to 12 points. Do not single-space any text. Justify your text on the left.
- To start a new section, use the “enter” key after centering three asterisks (***) on a new line. New chapters should begin on a fresh page with the title centred.
- Include a header with the page number, a condensed version of the title, and your last name on each page except the first.
- Print the manuscript on top-notch 812″ x 11″ (or A4″ 20lb bond paper before submitting it in print.
- It’s extremely possible that you may receive a few (or more) rejections when submitting your story for publication before someone decides to publish it. Please do not let this discourage you; it is very normal. Your work may be rejected by one publication but not by another.
- Sometimes a tale will be rejected by a publisher, not because it’s horrible but because the style and content aren’t what they’re looking for.
Fiction writing tips
The advice provided here focuses more on the technical and artistic aspects of writing than it does on the business side. You can choose to employ a few or all of these writing suggestions. And by leaving a comment, you can contribute your own advice on writing fiction.
- More fiction should be read than written.
- Don’t confine yourself to a single genre (in reading or writing). Even if you have a preferred genre, branch away from it once in a while to avoid becoming overly bogged down by clichés.
- Discover what works and what doesn’t in storytelling by dissecting and analysing the stories you enjoy in books, movies, and television.
- Keeping your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard is a challenge for all writers.
- Not for the market, please. Describe the tale that lives in your heart.
- Before, during, or after finishing your rough draft, you can create an outline. You will receive a road map from it, which is a really effective tool to have.
- An outline is not always necessary. Give a discovery essay
- Real-life experiences inspire some of the best fiction. Write down any stories that catch your attention, whether you learn about them through a friend or via a news item.
- Characters can be greatly influenced by real-life experiences. Take a look at your neighbours, loved ones, and coworkers. You may create a cast of credible characters if you emphasise and combine the most compelling facets of their personality
- Examine the state of humanity.
The creation of fictional prose texts is known as fiction writing. Fictional writing frequently takes the form of a story intended to entertain readers or express the author’s point of view. A short story, novel, novella, screenplay, or drama are all examples of fictional literary genres that could arise from this.