An All-in-one Guide!
J.K. Rowling. Nicholas Sparks. Dan Brown. Sidney Sheldon. Stephen King.
These are names we know well because of their prowess in fiction. So, why can’t we be one of them?
The answer: we can.
With a lot of willpower to continue writing—in spite of setbacks, criticisms, and days on end of writer’s block—and with as much guidance, we can become titleholders of fiction.
But what is fiction exactly?
Fiction is prose, meaning it is written in the ordinary level of a language and not in a poetic, metrical sense.
Fiction is imagined, meaning its events are figments of the author’s creative inventiveness. It is not necessarily fantasy; fiction stories can be in any genre. For instance, let’s go back to those names we mentioned earlier.
We all know J.K. Rowling and her Fantasy Fiction masterpiece, the “Harry Potter” series. Nicholas Sparks leans into Romance Fiction; in fact, his tales of love are so profound that several of them has been transformed from pages to movie screens. Dan Brown is an acclaimed writer of fiction under Thriller, Mystery, Conspiracy genres. Sidney Sheldon is celebrated for his Crime Fiction, and Stephen King for his goosebump-inducing Horror stories.
It all goes to show that fiction can be anything—and we can be masters of it.
We can start making unforgettable fiction stories now, through these writing tips specialized to help us make our imaginations come to life, onto book pages, and into our readers’ hearts.
The Basics of Writing
Before we look into tips for fiction, let’s first take a look into these four elements that will kickstart our writing journey.
All stories start with ideas. Whether we get this inspiration from personal experiences, observances of ongoing issues, random midnight musings, or conversations with a stranger, every idea has a potential to become a story.
The important thing to ask is, “What idea am I passionate about? Which one gets my blood buzzing with electric excitement whenever I think of it? Which one do I really, undeniably like?”
When we have an idea that we cannot stop thinking about, one that we keep circling back to no matter what else we try to occupy our minds with, then we know that that is the one to write a story out of.
Why? As novelist Toni Morrison once said, “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.”
Write something that you would want to read. It is this interest that will make our stories personal to us as the author, and therefore, personal to our readers, too.
Before you write, know very well first: How do you write?
Do you like to make an outline first of your story? Do you like to keep a strict schedule of your writing practices?
Or do you like to just write a story as it comes to you? Everything else just follows suit; you write in the moment, and you discover your tale as it goes.
You can find out through our guide here.
If we force ourselves into a writing style we do not personally connect with, then it will be easy to lose interest. Knowing our writing approach motivates us to make writing habits that we can consistently and passionately do. This will define how much we write, if we even write at all.
Perspective is yet another crucial element of writing because it is through a certain point of view that we will let our readers experience our story. The point of view is the proverbial shoe that our readers will put themselves in.
Usually, the first person and third person limited points of view are used—in any case, it is important to choose the most apt and effective lens, one that will serve our story right and give our readers impact.
Related to our story point of view is the voice of the character whose perspective we are writing. The voice includes not just the dialogue, but even the thoughts of that character. Simply put, the voice can also be how we narrate the perspective of our story, especially if we are writing in first person.
An important tip to remember here is to write in a natural voice fitting the circumstances of the character. This makes it easier for readers to relate, empathize, and mold themselves into the point of view.
We can also do this effectively by being consistent with our tone. Are we being serious about the matter at hand? Or are we just taking it lightly? Do we portray the events in a hopeful or despairing tone?
The Specifics of Fiction
Now, we move on to the elements that will make our fiction stories live in the minds of our readers even long after they have finished our book.
Let’s look at our stories in terms of these essentials: our research, our plot, and our character. Based on these three, we will look into the most important things to remember for us to write fiction.
Ironically, fiction is factual.
Or at least, it should be if we really want to connect with our readers and make our stories believably superb.
Just because what we are writing is fiction, doesn’t mean that we can completely let go of facts already, unless of course, we want the point of our stories to be fantastical, absurd, or exotic in a whole different level.
Otherwise, we must remember that 1) fiction is grounded on truth, 2) it makes sense, and 3) it includes elements that are real, normal, and mundane.
As such, being logical by researching the necessary details is key for our stories to be consistently appealing to readers. It gives our story authenticity, possibility.
Take Dan Brown’s novels like “The Da Vinci Code” as an example. The documents, artworks, and places mentioned in the story are real.
Now, what effect does this have? The story itself, though essentially fiction, becomes true as well. As the reader, we cannot help but believe what takes place in Dan Brown’s books because the plot does not just stay on the side of the imagination, but borders on both fact and fiction.
Speaking of plot, here are particular tips on how to execute a compelling storyline.
Tip 1: Don’t explain.
When we begin our stories, it may get tempting to explain first what is going on just to establish the plot itself. Don’t do this.
Instead, we should get on with the good stuff to grab our reader’s attention and get them hooked.
“Show, don’t tell.”
As the author, don’t just describe what is going on; rather, make things happen in the story and portray them with dialogue, actions, thoughts, emotions, and everything in between. Trust that the audience can figure out everything else based on the circumstances that we allow to pan out in our fiction.
Tip 2: Give just enough details.
A common writing mistake is to give out all the details, to illustrate the scene down to the dust that floats in the air between the characters. This is yet another no-no.
Sure, we should show instead of tell, but only show what is essential at a particular moment of the story. Leave everything else up to the readers themselves; don’t dictate the entirety of it because after all, reading is supposed to exercise our minds, to expand our capacity to imagine. We will only hinder this purpose if we state how everything should be and not how they can be.
And so, allow readers the room to imagine, to make their personal place in the story. Give them space to invent everything else around the scene that we, as authors, have provided.
Tip 3: Remember the box.
What is the box, you ask?
This holds the essence of our stories, which is that stories basically happen when a character wants something that they do not have but is having trouble getting it, so they try and try until they succeed…or maybe not.
The point is, in that metaphorical box is our main character. What they want is outside of that box, so they do everything to get out and get it.
Now, this forms our basic storyline. To grasp it better, we can follow the steps below.
*Come up with a character who lacks something.
*Make an incident happen that leads the character to want what they lack.
*Define the world in which the character moves and tries to achieve their goal.
*Give the character several obstacles until they reach their lowest point.
*Make the character realize their weakness or shortcoming that stops them from completely getting their goal.
*Inspire the character to change so they can succeed.
*Let the character confront a final but most important challenge.
*Either the character gets what they want, or they don’t. Either they are set free from the box, or they aren’t.
However the story turns out, we must remember that there is an essential theme to what we are writing. The message is up to us, along with how we will serve it throughout the events that take place in our story.
Creating characters is vital to all stories, including fiction.
The role of character-building may have been mentioned already in the previous portion—where we determined that stories actually start with characters—, but now we expand on what our characters need to have and why they must have them.
Tip 1: Make them flawed.
The reasons why we read are different for every person, but one thing remains when we open a book and settle into a story—and that is how we put ourselves into a character, from whose perspective we are experiencing the narrative.
To make this empathizing process more fulfilling for our readers, we have to let them believe the realness of our characters.
We do this by coming up with personas who have flaws—because aren’t those what make us real human beings?
What’s more is that a person’s flaws contribute to the storyline itself because as detailed earlier, a character’s weakness or shortcoming is what hinders them from completely getting what they want. After all, if a person has everything and if they are perfect, then there would not be a story in the first place.
Once the character realizes they have this flaw, they will try to overcome it, which leads us to a character arc.
Tip 2: Make them hurt.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Before we achieve a character arc, first we need to make our characters suffer.
In life, when we face problems and failures, we may lose a lot of things, but we do get at least one thing out of them: a lesson, a realization.
Sure, it’s possible that we already know what’s right in the first place, but our experienced pain is what really drives a lesson into our core.
The same should go for our character. Without these obstacles, our character would not realize they have to grow into a better person before they can get what they want.
Tip 3: Make them change.
This brings us to the final essence of a character, which is the character arc. This refers to their pivot point, to their turn of transformation.
Once our imperfect character has realized—and more importantly, admitted—their shortcomings due to the many hardships they have gone through, they will now change into someone better.
Mind you, characters, like persons, will always be flawed—again, this is what makes them real. But it is in this attempt to become better versions of themselves that they ultimately become heroes.
Whether or not you let the character get what they want in the end, what is important is their self-journey.
Writing from a Box
Much like the characters that we write about, we, too, as authors, have our own stories and live in our metaphorical “box.” We want to become writers but sometimes, we do not even want to write.
We may also experience shortcomings and setbacks in our writing, but that is okay and part of the process. With the help of others through their feedback and mentorship and with the resilience to go on and write better, we can achieve making our fictions come true.
And in this, we become heroes of literature.