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Writing techniques in a novel

How to write a novel: 25 rules | Book Trust

Fiction technique is a set of rules for writers who want to write quality fiction for novels, novellas, or short stories. They were developed through trial and error by fiction writers throughout history, including authors from ancient Greece. Some rules are rigid, whereas others are flexible. It is the astute writer who endeavors to master fiction writing that will know which rules to adhere and which to break.

This is a work in progress and is a HOW TO manual on developing good fiction writing skills. It should not contain content for "How to get an agent", "How to submit a manuscript", "How to get out of the slushpile", "Negotiating contracts", "Dealing with rejection", or English grammar advice. Those don't describe how to write good fiction. The following is a suggested outline of the planned article structure. This comment should be removed once the sections are fleshed out.


The 3 Acts[edit]

The Greek play: Beginning, Middle, End

Character Development[edit]

  1. Characters are what they do on the page
  2. Justifying the behavior of characters (show their fears, hopes, loves, hates, motivations and how these lead to action)
  3. What readers need to know about a character -- less than writers think!
  4. Multidimensionality -- fleshing out cardboard cutouts
    1. What do they hate?
    2. What is their favorite color?
    3. Are they obsessive about something, and if so what?
    4. What are their favorite expressions and exclamations?
    5. What are they afraid of?
  5. There is no need for gushing physical descriptions!

Plot Development[edit]

Conflict and turmoil The opening scene: getting to the conflict quickly Showing versus telling Narrative and exposition Weaving back story Plants and how to use them unobstrusively The basic plots (there are fewer than 25 original plots) Which comes first? The character or the plot. Secondary plots

Climax and Plot Conclusion[edit]

The reader expects closure: satisfying the reader or playing on their expectations The rise and climax of conflict When to quit

Setting and Scene[edit]

Where, when, who Scene as the driver of plot Beats How to arrange and order scenes Keeping the story moving and keeping the reader interested Alternation of fast action and slow action What scenes are needed, which are useless Describe the scene

Point of View[edit]

Is it First Person? Third? Be clear on how you set this up and keep it consistent, unless as a clear and distinct device (e.g. Game of Thrones).


Showing through dialogue Revealing back story through dialogue (and making it sound natural) Revealing character through dialogue Dialogue Mechanics-- attributions and tags Interior monologue

Self Editing[edit]

Less is more and eliminating redundancy and useless words Eliminating errors and rooting out plot mistakes The overuse of adverbs (the -ly kind) to substitute for weak prose Speaker attributions _____, he said. Not ____, said he. Limiting descriptions on attributions _____, he groaned. ______, she cried. _____, they beckoned. etc. Adverbs and attributions Paragraphing The cliché and hackneyed Deus Ex Machina

Mastering Fiction[edit]

Getting organized Writing an outline or synopsis Using index cards Research: locale, history, people, customs, etc Writing as habit Ideas Allusion Metaphor Theme Prose as art Rhythm, word selection, sentence and paragraph length, variation Reading (and imitating) the works of the great authors

Writer's Block[edit]

Techniques to break through
  1. Write down anything that comes to mind. Try to draw ideas from what has been written.
  2. Take a break from writing.
  3. Read other peoples' writing to get ideas.
  4. Ask others if they have any ideas.
  5. Write with the screen off, it limits your inclination to edit as you write.
  6. Don't be afraid of writing awkwardly. Write it down, and edit it later.
  7. Set deadlines and keep them.
  8. Work on multiple projects at a time
  9. Avoid sitting for hours on end staring at a blank page. Go out and do something different, then come back when you have more ideas.
  10. If you are jammed where you are, stop and write somewhere else, where it is comfortable.

Resources for Fiction Writers[edit]

Web Books on writing
  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Brown and Dave King, technique Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway, technique The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers, by John Gardner, technique Writing Down the Bones, by Natalie Goldberg, inspirational On Writing, by Stephen King, inspirational Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott, inspirational Writing to Sell, by Scott Meredith, technique The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr., technique Guide to Ficting Writing, by Phyllis A. Whitney, technique with some inspiraton Novel Metamorphosis:Uncommon Ways to Revise by Darcy Pattison, techniques for editing and revising
Magazines Newsletters The public library Software Word processers Story generators Writing classes Groups Paying for professional advice

Recommended Reading List[edit]

A list of masterful works you should strive to learn from. Novels: The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway Catcher In The Rye, by J.D. Salinger Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Cormac McCarthy Short stories The Raven, by Edgar Allan Poe Cathedral, by Raymond Carver Famous Authors Edgar Allan Poe

External links[edit]

See also[edit]


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