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How to Make Fiction More Engaging

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

Ananya Nair

Fiction is a celebrated and dominant genre when it comes to literature or filmmaking. Fictional narratives are powerful and popular, often gaining cult followings and becoming cultural phenomena and legacies. Fictional literature has been around for centuries, with satirical pieces it has served as a mirror for humanity, as a reflection, it has served as escapism, with fantasy and magical realism, it has served as a recollection of culture and tradition. The genre has enabled people to build communities, inspired further artistic endeavours and added a sort of shared experience that generations will remember living through, the Star Wars or Harry Potter franchises for instance are fictional universes that will act as defining elements for an entire era’s perception of popular literature and cinema. From children’s literature to psychological or war literature, fictional pieces have a certain unbounded quality to them that allows the imagination to break free and dwell in the stuff of dreams. From fables to fairytales to myths, fictional literature has existed in every culture on this Earth to entertain, teach morals, recollect traditions, celebrate heroes or even instil fear. The beauty of fictional writing is that anything is possible and there will be no questioning, one can craft a whole world of one’s imagining, replete with rules, laws, languages, social norms and even species, and breathe life into it with nothing but our thought, creativity and words. In a 1968 interview at Oxford, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the magnificent series, The Lord of The Rings, said “The story is frankly always a human story. It’s back to always be about one thing on that. Death, the inevitability of death.”

The human condition and its fatality will always find expression in art but the wonderful thing about fictional literature is that one can craft that reality and present it in numerous unique ways and people will always relate to it because deep down we all yearn to understand our own existence and keep searching for its meanings in everything.

A storyteller, be it a writer or a vocal storytelling artist, relies on engagement from the readers/audience, and this engagement can only be built on a delightful story that gives people something to think about. This can only be possible if the story has some key characteristics that contribute to making it a worthwhile piece. Many stories have promising beginnings but end up having dull plots and underwritten characters, some stories overdo the descriptions but never reveal the true point of the plot, and some have obvious plot holes that are left unexplained, all this adds to the lack of finesse and a loss of interest in the reader. Some things to keep in mind while attempting a good story are:

  1. Captivate people with your characters, make them the life and soul of the story, give the motives and consequences of their actions, make them feel hurt, make them win, and give them a rollercoaster of emotions. Dull characters kill a story faster than a grammatical error.

  2. Realize your freedom and put it to good use, writing fiction can be liberating, making up things as you go and putting it out for the world to see can be an enthralling experience, however, it is necessary to use this freedom to come up with creative and meaningful ideas that can be built upon. A blank paper or screen is waiting for you to give it the best you have got, so do not hold back.

  3. Set up a plot that you are familiar with, a narrative that the author knows like the back of their hand is the best narrative, this way you can delve deeper and spin it the way you want, even ridiculous plot twists can be justified if the plot setting is ample enough to allow it. Therefore it is necessary to research and learn and truly have an idea about what you wish to write, a familiar and well-researched plot setup can allow for wonderful plot points to flourish.

  4. Feel what you write, if it makes you feel, it will make the reader feel. If you write a shallow piece with an emotional streak without truly coming from a place of lived emotion, then it will rarely be possible to make it impactful. Write from the heart and not from the dictionary, using words to beautify a sentence won’t nearly have the same effect as writing words that feel raw and true and fitting for that setting.

  5. Do not leave any plot holes, cover up your openings, and never leave an unattended conflict. Nothing is more frustrating than finishing a book and realizing that one of the side conflicts was never brought up again. Your main plot, as well as the subplot, are equally important in making your story a compelling read.

  6. Never try and incorporate too much in one go, it can be exciting to have a blank canvas and want to fill it up, however, do not forget the central theme you began on, stay on the theme and do not deflect towards the end, it takes away from the plot if the central theme gets sidelined and gets hurriedly resolved towards the end.

  7. Lastly, remember that fiction is a powerful tool, create vibrance, create life, death, fights, romance, and suspense, create to your heart’s content and do not shy away from going out of your comfort zone. Be confident and consistent, newer ideas always take time and patience.

Good stories always bring people together, the successful and beloved stories of the world all rely on their ability to unite people and create communities that share ideas. These stories have the power to sway people, keep them on their toes as well as touch their hearts. People often find themselves in stories, relating to one character or the other, this sentimental connection makes them anticipate the future of the tale and keeps them hooked. Such stories are also, always more than what they seem to be, they go beneath the surface and explore something more significant, acting as double agents of entertainment and exploration. A well-written piece of fiction doesn’t need to have happy endings, politically correct characters and an overdone plotline full of conflict to make it likeable, those are not what makes a great story. A great story is made when the characters are complex beings with dilemmas when the story is compelling and thought-provoking, when it raises the curiosity of the reader when the plot has a rising action, a falling action, a well-set-up resolution and a fitting climax, such stories capture the heart and wring it through a whirlwind of emotions and choices, forcing people to imagine a reality like that, allowing for an inextricable bond of life and art, imitation and inspiration.


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