The Art of Writing Fiction

You've heard it said before, "The meaning of your communication is the result you get." With any writing we need to look at the result from the viewpoint of the audience. What are they seeing? What are they getting - or not getting - from our communication? As writers it is our job to reach the reader, to bring her into our world. This can only happen when we consider her wants.

And what does a reader want? A reader wants to know the truth. However we convey this, we must always remember to be honest with the reader. No stupid tricks or secrets. It's one thing to hold out a vital piece of information for the sake of building suspense. But it is bad form to lie to the reader, no matter how you think you'll resolve the argument.

When we are honest with the reader we elevate our storytelling to a higher level. It draws people in. It makes them turn the pages without even thinking about 'turning the pages.' They somehow get lost in the story. And that's the whole point, right?

So how do we tell a story? Well, we can begin at the beginning and travel through it chronologically, or, we can mix it up a bit by starting in the middle and going back and forth with flashbacks and other elements. No matter where we begin, each story must have a protagonist (main character) and a theme or plot. It's usually good form to have a conflict that the protagonist must rise above or meet. Conflict creates tension which, in turn, creates drama which almost all stories include. And, of course, the ending. The denouement (conclusion or ending) must be equally as compelling as the conflict, if not more, because the last thing the reader sees will stay with her even after she's put the book down.

So in all, a good story captivates the reader from the very beginning, whether the story starts in the middle are at the outset of the action. The story must have a protagonist, a conflict, and an ending. It's a pretty simple formula and it can be altered and added to to suit your needs. But the heart of any story is its vocabulary.

You can usually tell a lot about a story within the first two paragraphs. By asking yourself a few questions, you can know the era, the class or status of the speaker, and the general mood - will this be a dark, visceral piece or a light, airy dramedy? If we learn to ask the right questions we will always get the right answers. Take, for example, the vocabulary. Is it roguish or refined? Does the narrator use broken English or High English? Is it colloquial or studied? What is the author trying to show us about the narrator? What clues is the author dropping for us to pick up on?

By the time we are done with the first chapter, we should be fully involved and salivating for more. If the writer has done his job, we have become the hero and are living vicariously through the words on the page.

The hardest part for many writers is the denouement - the conclusion. Here's how to make the process a bit easier. 1) Make an outline of your story: the beginning, the middle, and the end. You don't have to get into details here, you just need to set it down on paper what you expect the story to look like when it's all said and done. 2) Write, rewrite, and rewrite again are finally satisfied with the ending. 3) Remember, questions are the answer. Does your ending seem natural? Did the hero take/maintain the lead role in the conclusion? Are there any loose ends that need to be tidied up before you say 'goodbye'? This can refer to new characters that were introduced during the conclusion, conflicts that may have been left unsolved, and expectations that were not met. Did you leave anything undone? Questions are key.

As the months progress, I'll be adding to the information on this page, and, on the whole site in general. So please come back and see what else I've shared.

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