i was just reading, in this forum, a discussion that gave me a few a-ha moments as well as some ideas to share with those of us who are not proficient
fiction writers, whether or not we are experienced in writing, in general.
i, myself, am still very new at the art of fiction although i've been a poet all my life and have actually had a few of my poems published in
honest-to-god legitimate printed anthologies (which means it was NOT poetry.com - is that place still in existence?)
i just happened to check the properties of my poetry folder yesterday and was blown away by the fact that there something like 181 files in it - all
being what i consider viable poetry. i had no idea i'd written so many!
yet, as far as what i've done that i consider viable non-fiction, whether prose or short-story, or what, i've got less than i need 2 hands to count
with! but what i've got, i'm happy with and i think it is not because of plot but rather several other things that most of us forget are just as, if
not more, important than plot and storyline when writing entertaining fiction.
the bottom line is, if you don't capture your reader's attention, in the first few paragraphs or pages (depending on the reader's
, it doesn't matter if you've devised the best plot ever devised or read by mankind! if they aren't seduced long before you've
set your plot, they'll never even know you had a plot!
the plot is the idea you want to share but all the other stuff that falls under character and setting is the reason the reader reads your plot. Also,
the plot itself has elements of character, much like personality in your characters and ambiance in your setting, that are of interest to the reader
but are sometimes not as appreciated by the author in regard to their importance.
when reading fiction, the reader must be able to vicariously experience the events and happenings in the story in order to absorb
underlying message that the author seeks to convey.
ALL writing, fiction or non-fiction, is created for the purpose of communicating; the sharing of ideas from one soul to another. with non-fiction, we
know this and often seek out the particular topic of which we seek to be informed and expect to be informed. with fiction, we don't always know this,
on the surface. when we seek fiction to read, we usually either desire to be entertained or to escape the non-fiction of our present moment, for
whatever reason. however, the motive of all writers, or all genres, even poetry, is fundamentally the same: to inform. granted, that information might
be of a very intimate and personal nature but nevertheless, it is information!
there is a lot of preparation and practice required to write fiction that is successful for your particular purpose; that is, that shares the
information you want to share with the audience with which you want to share.
here are some ideas for personal writing exercises that can help give you the ability to enchant your reader, no matter who your audience or what your
- develop your characters and flesh them out until they are living breathing confidants. build them from the inside out but illustrate them to
your readers from the outside in. this is how you can create a solid point-of-view that doesn't change unless your character changes, and whose
actions can be somewhat predictable, but still able to surprise (even you, the author) is interesting. actions that are easily pre-known and
invariable are BORING for both author and reader.
your main characters are much like plots in that you must unfold them, revealing their personality and habits little by little, in tandem with the
plot and conflicts therein.
make up characters as an exercise, and keep the product of your labors organized in a notebook to draw upon at a later time. the existing sketches can
easily be modified and adapted to the story at hand, once you've become a proficient character-creator!
- create environment sketches much like character sketches, only it is not "who" but "where". this is a good time to also do research and
fact-checking so that if and when you do use a particular locale or scene in a story or novel, you won't have to spend so much time doing collateral
work. you won't get out of it, completely, but it will help.
when you do a setting sketch, do it from a point of view rather than just a narrative or impersonal perspective that describes only. the setting
interacts with the characterization and creates interest through the unique combination every set has with a different character. at first, just put
yourself in the character's place for point of view and get the feel of both first-person narrative as well as your own style of word-painting. for
truly it is like painting an image on your mind's canvas, as well as your readers', when you set the mood and atmosphere with setting.
read it over to yourself.
does it create itself in your mind's eye? if not, then try again. you will get it.
if it paints an image without effort, is the image what you intended? are there surprises showing up that you didn't realize you were painting? do
these surprises add or detract?
then do your re-write. re-read and re-write until you see that you are an artiste~!
- practice dialogue.
you can write little skits, mini-plays, to say something with ONLY dialogue. be varied and unconventional in what you choose to convey in these skits.
make it something hard to explain and it can be anything from a recollection of situation or event, an ethical principle, or a philosophical idea.
make sure your dialogue is truly a back-and-forth exchange rather than just one character saying what you'd write if you were just sharing your
chosen subject in the conventional manner. use nothing but dialogue and then ask someone to read it and tell you what they got from it. your goal is
that your reader will express to you exactly the same which you intended to convey.
imagine a favorite scene from a movie or television show that you love and have therefore seen a thousand times but felt didn't go the way you
thought it should. now, re-write that scene, dialogue only, the way that you would have liked it to be.
go somewhere like an internet cafe, mall promenade, or busy public park or zoo, and take your writing pad, think-pad, or laptop. sit somewhere that
gives you a view to a variety of different groups of people - families, couples, friends, etc. choose one at a time and while they are there, observe
(clandestinely!) their non-verbal communication in regard who is speaking and who is listening. watch their responses and interactions, facial
expressions, and body language. don't write, just observe and maybe take a note or two, but notes detract from your ability to observe. don't worry,
you'll remember what you see long enough to do the exercise, which is to then write down what you imagine your subject of study was talking about and
what each one said, congruent with the non-verbal cues you observed. this will add to your talent when it's time to include dialogue in your story
combined with description. you will be more confident about what facial expressions go with the emotion of your speaker and all that kind of thing.
it will make your story very believable to the reader's psyche, which is the determining aspect of personality when it comes to living vicariously
the flavor of dialogue is linked with characterization so this is an exercise that works best after you'd played with characterization some, and
tweaked around with the results.
those are just some ideas i came up with, in writing this and thinking about what i might do to help myself as well as what i perceive from thinking
about the things i've enjoyed reading the most. you have to capture attention and then keep that attention, hopefully intensifying it so that
in-between conflict passages are welcome rest breaks rather than lulls that might tempt your reader to quit reading.
in recalling many of my favorite books and stories, i remember the characters and the moods, etc., just as much, and sometimes more, than the plot.
i've read countless books but only remember the ones that i participated in, while reading! i was easily transported into the story, even if not as
the protagonist or antagonist, i still experienced the story from WITHIN the story rather than from without, as an observer. and in this way, my life
and outlook was impacted forever. somehow the author affected me and influenced my knowledge and understanding of life, which is the accomplishment of
an author's goal.
albeit this is vicarious experience, but outside of personal experience, it is the next best way to live life!