Writing Mini-Lessons: What’s Hard about Writing Good Fiction?
“Fiction is truth’s older sister.
~ Rudyard Kipling
This quote by Rudyard Kipling, a novelist and poet you might know best as the author of The Jungle Book, speaks to the nuance of fiction and the truths it gradually unveils to readers.
You’ve been writing truth in your memoirs/personal narratives and in some of your poetry. As you move into fiction, you’ll need to stretch as a writer, standing on tiptoe so you can hold your own with truth’s older sister. Fiction can be such a challenge to write because it’s an act of invention rather than simply an act of thoughtful, thorough description. Nevertheless, the satisfaction derived from crafting a strong fictional narrative more than makes up for the challenges.Since we’ve already reviewed some of the major pitfalls that make it easy to write bad fiction, let’s consider what’s hard about writing good fiction. What do writers crafting good fiction need to think about, create, include, and leave out?
What’s Hard about Writing Good Fiction?
The writer of good fiction has to…
- Develop a main character who:
- has convincing thoughts and feelings
- talks and acts like a real person
- has a definite personality
- is believable and consistent
- has a problem/is facing a conflict
- a reader can be with and wants to be with
- Create a problem or conflict for the main character.
- Create a working plan or storyboard, so the story is intentionally crafted, not just a daydream on paper.
- Create a lead/engaging beginning that draws in the reader.
- Create a conclusion that wraps up the plot and resonates for the reader, pointing to the So what? or theme.
- Keep a steady pace: action that’s not too fast or too slow.
- Create a climax/high point: the event of greatest intensity in the story.
- Create a specific time and place—a setting.
- Create a new world, with sufficient background information to make it convincing.
- Create a So what? or theme.
- Base the plot in grounded experience: the writer’s knowledge, gained firsthand, observed, or learned about through reading/research.
- Create dialogue that’s relevant and moves the action forward.
- Keep a balance of action, dialogue, and the main character’s thoughts and feelings.
- Keep a consistent verb tens (present or past) and narrative voice: usually first person (I) or third person (he or she).
- Create a movie of the story behind his or her eyelids, then open his or her eyes and capture the specifics of the action on paper: invent details that make the story visual.
- Beware of too much plot.
- Leave out or delete the parts that a reader will skip.
- Write enough, in terms of length, to develop all of the above and invent a believable world.
- Create a title that fills the reader in, invites a reader, and fits the whole story.
- Put significant time into the piece: multiple weeks is probably the average for a sixth grade fictional narrative short story of merit