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Fiction Writing

Most people have probably heard the dictum: write what you know. The acclaimed writer Flannery OíConnor had a slightly different approach: start with anything you can make real.

Many people who take up the craft of writing turn to fiction. Perhaps writers gravitate to fiction because everybody has a story to tell. You can create fiction from life or from your imagination. You can create fiction that tells a 500-page story or one that tells its story in a few pages.

Unlike other genres that fall within the non-fiction world (such as memoirs), writing fiction throws open the gates to the allowable imaginings of almost anything.

Story Concept
Itís vital to have a concept or idea in mind first. Once you have this, itís a good idea to plot your story. Remember to have an unexpected twist or two in the story; a basic structure of a beginning, middle, and end; and a thorough knowledge of your characters. Fiction takes dedication, so be prepared to spend a great deal of time on it.

Once you have finished and its ready for the publisher, your focus turns to a synopsis. This gives a perspective publisher a clear understanding of what your story is about in clear concise paragraphs. Donít be afraid to reveal the entire plotline to your publisher. They need to know your book is worth their effort and the money it takes to produce, market, and ultimately sell it. If they donít think it will sell then they wonít waste their time.

Enjoy the Ride
When writing fiction, donít make readers arrive after the fact, have them on the edge of their seats waiting for that big bang.

I watched Jessica disappear under the car.

Could become:

Jessica stepped back onto the road to take in the whole sunset over the mountains. A loose rock stole her footing just as a car hurtled down the gravel shoulder and headed straight for her. I leapt toward her, willing my legs to move faster. I shouted, but it was too late. I glimpsed Jessicaís wide eyes before her body disappeared under the moving vehicle. Her fading screams echoed through the deafening screech of brakes and the sickening thud of flesh mingling with metal; burnt rubber filled the air.

Now we can see it, hear it and feel the anguish and pain--we're experiencing the action as it happens.

Give Life to a Scene
Read your work out loud. This will help to expose many grammar errors that can slip in or phrases that don't make sense. It allows you to get a better feel of how your manuscript is flowing.

As writers, we learn how to describe a scene, but are you describing it efficiently?

The sun shone on the golden sand as taupe foam pulled away from the receding waves that struggled in the sand.

This certainly paints a picture, but is it doing enough? If we add the other four senses then it may become something like this:

A salted sea breeze crept towards the shore and mingled with the dayís humidity. The sun threw down unforgiving rays of fire that scorched the sandy beach. Rolling green waves crash upon the thirsty sand while hopeful seagulls cried out beneath the clear blue sky in search of food.

Not every setting will have something for each sense, but stop to notice the sounds, tastes, smells and tactile elements. Remember that these sort of descriptive passages have their place. They tend to slow the pace, so you wouldn't have a full on descriptive passage in the middle of a scene where you want to create excitement or urgency.

Characters
Most novels and short stories are about a person or group of people with a goal. In many cases the events of the story dictate that goal. This can be as simple as a teenager deciding to take a job at the local surf shop, because he has a crush on a girl who works there. Everyone he meets and everything that happens in this village can be linked to the romance.

Develop your characters. Decide on the traits your characters will possess and give your characters experiences. If someoneís a gentle and kind person then you may have that person help someone find a lost pup. A mean spirited person might stomp on a childís favourite toy. Sticking a quick-tempered person, who is running late for an important meeting, in a traffic jam on a hot day has potential for the writer. The character could rant and rave, even kick the car if it boils over. It shows the characterís demeanour and keeps the storyline interesting. Use situations that stimulate emotion and create a fuller storyline. Emotions also help readers relate to your characters.

Dialogue
Make the characters believable. A small and local farm equipment supplier isn't the kind of personality whoíd say something like this:

I apologise for the delay with the arrival of your orders. Our courier experienced a shipping displacement that should be resolved in twenty-four hours.

It would be more likely for this character to use language that would suit the clientele. Perhaps something like this:

Sorry mate about your hay order. Somebody put it on the wrong truck heading the opposite direction, but itíll be here tomorrow, you can count on it.

A person who had little education would speak differently to someone who was a scholar. A business person would talk differently to a rock musician. Think about who your characters are.

Add a Twist
Referring back to our story about the teenager working at the surf shop for the love of a girl could end with a happy ending, but what else could happen? Think about the possibilities. After several dates, the surfer realises this girl isnít for him, but in his attempts to win her over he has become a skilled surfer. He competes against the best and wins. He gains popularity and a sponsor where he meets the sponsorís daughter. You could even throw in another twist and have the readers reeling in their seats wondering what else was going to happen.

Revise, Rewrite and Edit
Itís more than just taking your manuscript from the seeds of imagination to having it actually written, it still has to be presented to the appropriate publisher. Your story needs to be a saleable product. You may dream about being a professional writer with your books in bookstores all over the country. However, publishers care about their investment in a product and how well that product will sell. Thatís why itís up to you to present the best copy to a publisher.


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