Fiction writing is an expression of our wants, needs and a reflection of society – past, present, future. Many people say they have great story ideas, they just don’t have the time to write them. Most failed fiction writers fall into this category. But you want to be different – not only do you want to write – you want to be published. For this article, I talked with some of my author friends and editors for their suggestions as well. Luckily, Nikita Gordyn offered some suggestions and wrote them down for me, instead of having me remember them. LOL
How does one learn the craft of writing? Do courses help?
Nik: Absolutely. Though I’d suggest taking a course from a published, established writer instead of a high school or college course in creative writing.
Cyn: I also think any course you take on creative writing will help get you started, especially if it’s taught by a published author. Why? Because they’ll get you passed the old grammar and into the actually physics of writing fiction. There’s a huge difference between writing fiction and non-fiction. Though grammar is important, in this case, it’s learning the ABC’s of writing that is wanted.
What are the basics of writing? How can your prose stand out from all the stories out there?
Nik: Read, read, read and research. Take the time to learn the craft of writing while you’re creating your stories. Writing and learning together will have you putting into practice what you learn immediately.
Cyn: Basics are starting with a good storyline with a plot framework. There must be well chosen words that move the story from it’s beginning through the climax to a fulfilling end. Otherwise, why bother writing it? How can you stand out? Simple– put a unique twist that someone hasn’t done before.
Just as a story has a beginning, middle and end – so does writing said story. There are many components that makeup a good, saleable story. From a solid plotline, likeable characters, to self-editing, the goal is to produce a piece of fiction that takes a reader out of their daily grind and transports them elsewhere.
Where do we start?
A good story idea!
Not all story ideas are good for a full-length novel. Some work better for a novella. Others are anthology oriented. Then there are those that just don’t work.
How do you know what will work for what size? This is where plotters (who plot everything) and pantsters (who write by the seat of their pants) agree – it takes experience and working it out.
But since I’ve mentioned the two schools of writing let me say this – I’m a hybrid. I have a bare bones plot with definite goals, motivations, conflict. I have the main crisis points in my mind. Yet I allow myself and the characters to direct the story to get to those points.
Which are you? Let’s take a quiz to find out.
1.) When presented with a puzzle, do you dive in without looking at the pieces and the picture?
2.) Do you enjoy lists; being told in concise steps how to do something?
3.) Do you hate rigid rules that don’t allow you to change things?
4.) Do you get directions to a place you’ve never been to, or try to find it by yourself?
If you answered yes to number one – you’re heading into pantster territory. If you said yes to number two – you’re showing a plotter gene. Yes to number three? Pantster or just anti-authority, LOL. Direction getter on four? Plotter. Wander on four? You’re either male or a brave pantster with a sense of direction.
How we handle things that matter shows us how we handle our writing. So now that we have an idea on the type of writer we are, let’s get back to the story idea.
Or do we? When you think of this story idea, do you see only this scene or are you seeing a domino effect?
When I get a story idea, it’s a movie trailer in my mind. Not only do I get the opening sequence of the book, I see some highlights of what’s to come. This is one of my ways of knowing whether or not a story will be long or short.
What are some of the clues we can use to help figure out whether a story idea is good enough to write?
1.) The idea deals with an age-old theme.
2.) You can see subplots emerging from the pain issue.
3.) You’re willing and able to expand the original idea to encompass more.
Why don’t we take an example to show you what’s meant. If you want more information, I highly recommend 20 Master Plots and how to build them by Ronald B. Tobias.
Example 1 – Star Wars
The Star Wars saga is an age-old theme of good versus evil. More than that, it’s a traditional Hero’s Quest. Boy sets out on an adventure to fight against the bad guys. He has a sage guide him, a possible love interest, and a battle for good at the end when he truly believes in himself and what he’s becoming.
Example 2 – Labyrinth
A girl has accidentally sent her brother to the Goblin King. She must get him back – by solving the labyrinth, meeting new people and that the Goblin King has fallen for her. Notice the way subplots help boost the main plot AND provide distractions to accomplish her goal.
Example 3 – Any news article
In the news recently, there was an article about a discovery of a song never performed by Johannes Sebastian Bach. Imagine, your main character, had tracked down a lead that brought him to such a discovery. What clues? What hindrances? What would he do once he retrieved it? Notice how something that is one dimensional can be broadened and expanded. Take a look at Steve Berry’s book, The Alexandria Link.
Now that we’ve looked at the beginning of the story idea, the next step would be to take that idea and create a plot. That’ll be next week’s topic: Plotting- Do I have to?