Fictional writing is a unique form of creative writing that often carries with it deep meaning and intense feeling. It’s not just about telling an entertaining story, but capturing the reader’s imagination with something deeper than reality.
This post will cover everything you need to know about writing fiction, from the basic elements of plots and characters down to the finer points of symbolism, voice, structure, and style. By the end of this post you’ll have a better understanding on how to write fiction like a pro!
1) Character Development
2) Plot Structure
3) Scene and Summary Writing
4) Symbolism and Imagery
5) Voice and Style
6) Sentence Variety
An overview of basic fiction writing elements:
1. Characters Development
In order for your reader to be able to follow along with your story they need some sort of reference, something that they can relate to. This is where character development comes into play. The better developed the characters are in a story, the more interesting it becomes for the reader.
If all you’re writing about is a group of faceless “good guys” fighting against an army of faceless “bad guys”, then there’s not much creativity or imagination involved in the reading process. But when you can give your characters names, a life, and a voice of their own then you’re writing something worth reading.
Bad character development usually takes the form of one of two things: naming every character Bob as a way to avoid having to come up with more names, or giving everyone in the story some sort of quirk… for example making everyone in the story talk like a robot or have an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Good character development is what separates a good book from a great book. Take J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series for example. The characters in those books were so richly developed that they seemed real.
The reader could actually imagine them as characters in their own lives. Before Harry Potter books were published, J.K. Rowling had been writing fan fiction for years that was amateur at best, and often full of spelling errors. It wasn’t until she published her first book that the true potential of her story-telling ability became evident.
As you can see, the development of your characters is one of the most important elements to writing fiction as it sets the foundation for everything else you do. If your characters are realistic and developed, you’re halfway there in creating a good story.
However, don’t just create a character that doesn’t have a name and start writing about them. If all you’re doing is telling people your character’s name and how they view the world around them, then that’s probably not enough to earn anyone’s attention for long. Make sure that your character has some sort of life outside their own perspective that corresponds well with what happens in your story so readers can feel attached to them.
Aside from character development, a good book has great pacing and a clear plot structure which allows it to be solidly written. Let’s take a look at these two elements now:
2. Plot Structure
Plot structure is a set of rules for writing a story that includes three main points: beginning, middle, and end. When you’re writing a new story, it’s important to imagine a clear beginning, a middle (or tense), and an end.
Your main character will most likely have some sort of problem that will need to be solved by the end of the book. The problem should be a conflict between two or more characters, usually either yourself and your main hero(ine), or other characters in the story. By having this conflict, it gives your reader something to read about and once they’ve read the book they want to find out what happens next.
Most fiction books are broken up into three or four parts, each part usually covering a specific period of time in the book. Part one is usually the beginning which introduces your main character or characters, gives them a goal to reach, and then launches into a series of conflicts so that they can learn how to overcome the obstacles ahead.
Part two is sometimes called the middle, or the tense. It’s where all of your conflicts come to a head and all of your sub-plots start to weave together with your main story line.
Part three is the end which is where you execute the big conflict and the last obstacle to your hero’s goal has been overcome.
These three parts are what make up a typical story. This example of a plot outline would look something like this:
There are many different types of plots that writers can use, from modern day politics, to love stories, to fantasy/science fiction and even time travel. A good plot will have a strong conflict that moves your character through their own concerns (their own problems) until they reach the final goal at the climax (usually of some kind) where they overcome an obstacle and achieve their own personal victory over whatever has been keeping them down in life all along.
When you’re first getting started you’ll probably have a lot of unconnected ideas floating around in your head. It’s sometimes hard to focus and decide on just one or two things to work on at a time, so it’s best to get a plot outline going early on. This way, you can narrow down what you’re writing about and your main character will be able to follow through with their goals without getting sidetracked by similar ideas that aren’t related to the story.
A good outline will have three parts: introduction, conflict/conflict resolution, and climax. These are the main points of any plot and you can use any combination of them to flesh out your story however you need.
3. Scene and Summary Writing
When writing a fiction or non-fiction book, there are times when you want to write in more detail than others. If your main character is walking down the street, you don’t need to write out their every move if it’s irrelevant to the plot. Instead, just mention they were walking down the street and keep on going with your story.
If you’ve got a protagonist (heroine or hero) who has just been thrown off a cliff and is now dangling on the edge of death, then that would deserve more description than someone getting out of bed in the morning before work.
Sometimes you’ll need to write a summary, and sometimes you’ll want to write out a scene. It all depends on what your story needs at any given time.
Sometimes you’ll need to write in scene, and sometimes a summary will suffice. It all depends on what point in the story is relevant for what you’re trying to say. A plot structure is just a set of guidelines that help plan your writing overall, but they’re not always followed to the letter. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another.
A summary is just a look at the plot points that relate to the point in your story you’re currently working on and are related directly to it. This helps clarify what’s going on in each scene while giving readers important background information, without taking up too much time with unnecessary details.
4. Symbolism and Imagery
Symbolism is a literary and artistic term for using an object or an animal as a way to represent something else that’s important to the story. Symbolism in writing is most often used for representing things like love, hate, fear, dreams, or a major plot point.
In this example from Herman Hesse’s ‘The Glass Bead Game’, the snake represents evil:
“Drive him away! He has come to bite us all,” [the merchant] said with dread. “How did you get in here? What do you want?” he asked the snake in a soft voice. The snake looked at him with glittering eyes and turned his head slowly from side to side. The merchant had no doubt that the snake would bite him at any moment. Then the snake went on his way. The merchant followed him with a lighted candle as far as the door of his room. As soon as he was inside, he bolted the door.
Symbolism is probably one of the most important ways to make your writing stand out, but also one of the hardest to master. It’s one of those tools you can use sparingly or even completely ignore if you don’t know how to do it right.
A good symbol is one that directly works for your story, but one that’s also used in a way that’s easily understood. Some authors use symbolism to make their writing more meaningful or artistic. Other writers use it to subtly play with readers’ heads and thoughts, which is a great way to get them involved in what you’re doing.
As you can see, symbolism is used to represent something in a way that’s both powerful and easily understood by readers who were expecting it to be there.
5. Voice and Style
Voice is the personality of your characters and the tone you take in writing about them. It’s something you must be very careful of when developing your characters as if they have no personality, no reader will be able to relate to them at all.
Your writing style is your choice of words and sentence structure. If you’re not a natural at writing, then it’s best to get in practice with your sentence structure by breaking down the different kinds of sentences you can use. Here’s a great place to start:
Find out what the different kinds of sentences are and how they each work. Find one kind of sentence that you feel comfortable with and can write easily. Practice with that sentence until it becomes second nature. Then find another kind of sentence to use until you’ve got them all down pat.
And remember, it’s okay to write in a style that’s not your personal preference. The purpose of reading is not to force yourself into one set of rules. If you’re not drawn toward a particular kind of style, then find something else you can appreciate and learn from.
6. Sentence Variety
One of the most common problems in writing is monotony. Writers can sometimes get so focused on just getting the point out that they fail to provide any variety in how those points are expressed. That’s not to say that every sentence in your work should be different, just the fact that nothing’s exactly the same.
Not only will using different words and phrases help break up monotony in your writing, but they’ll increase the reader’s vocabulary, which makes English more interesting to understand. Using different themes and literary comparisons in each section will make it feel like you’re talking directly to a person rather than a computer screen.
Don’t forget to read a lot
When you’re a beginning writer, the best way to learn is by reading other people’s work. Books are the best way to practice writing because they help you get used to the original author’s voice and style, exposing you to different ways of expression. Not only that, but reading is a great way to learn new vocabulary from different authors.
Put all your thoughts down on paper
One tip that many writers have found useful is to put your thoughts and ideas down on paper, no matter how good or bad they might be at first or second glance.
Don’t just write, write well!
As with any endeavor worth doing, writing takes practice and patience. But in the end, it’s all worth it. Learn about how to develop your characters as people rather than just fictional avatars for the story. Create a clear plot outline that starts with something happening that sends your main character off in search of their own goal or problem to overcome. Learn how to write fiction by organizing your writing for maximum effect.
Practice your writing skills with each book you write. You’ll find that you write better the more you do it, and eventually you’ll be able to turn out a book every six months and make a good living at it.