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The Basics of Writing Good Fiction

Updated on August 13, 2015

Whether you're a newbie or have a lot of experience in this field it is never a bad idea to go back to the basics. You may have forgotten a few things along the way or you may have gotten by without knowing these basic rules at all. Either way this article is for anyone who loves writing and is seeking to improve their writing.

Use Proper Spelling and Grammar

This should go without saying and most of you are probably rolling your eyes at me right now for thinking you are not aware of this rule already. But it can't be said too often. This is important because if you don't have this covered then it doesn't matter if you got everything else right. Yes there are editors but if your manuscript isn't even readable by the time the editor gets it it'll be too much work. However you don't have to be an expert but the better you are at it the easier it'll be for you.

Create Believable Characters

Avoid Mary Sues at all costs. Yes Mary Sues exist in best-selling literature as well but don't ignore your mistakes just because it worked for someone else. Bella Swan from Twilight was a Mary Sue and now that the hype has died down most people do actually hate Twilight. For those unfamiliar with the term a Mary Sue is generally an unrealistically perfect character that is liked by everyone except the bad guys. She is beautiful, intelligent and has no flaws, at least no flaws that work against her. And male characters can be Sues as well but they go by the name of Marty Stu, Larry Stu or Gary Stu. The name is not important. Just make sure your character is realistic and that readers can relate to it.

Make the Reader Care

This is really important. You want to make the reader feel something when they read your story. If something bad happens to a character you want the reader to feel sorry for the character and if a character dies you want the reader to mourn their death. This cannot be achieved without giving your character a proper introduction. You, the writer may have spent lots of time getting to know this character and you may care about them but the reader does not know the character like you do. Give the reader an opportunity to bond with your character. Give some information about the character's backstory or tell your reader a little about the character's life. What does the character look like? What is their hobby? Stuff like that, though try not to get side-tracked.

Keep it Simple

Don't try to decorate your writing with fancy words. We have passed the Victorian era. It won't make your text better, it will tire the readers if they have to have a dictionary next to your novel. And cut out any unnecessary words if they are not there for any other reason than to raise the word count.

Show, Don't Tell

One of the most important rules when it comes to writing fiction. You're not telling a story to a friend you are writing a story for your reader. Make the reader feel like they are there with your character, let them experience it with your character. To accomplish this you must describe things using the character's five senses. Sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. Show the reader what happens through those five senses. Don't just tell them what happens, let them experience it.

Let the Characters Guide You

You may have thought up the perfect plot and you know exactly what you want each character to do. But can they do it? Do they want to do it? If what you want the character to do does not fit the character's personality, figure something else out. They're real people now, or as real as they are going to get. You can't force them to act against their will. This sounds strange, I know but ask yourself, "Would my character really do this in this situation?" If the answer is yes go right ahead and write it the way you planned it. If the answer is no then figure something else out. The reader will notice this if you do not stay true to the character.

Put it Away and Read it Again Later

Put it away and don't look at it for a week. Then look at it again with fresh eyes and check for any mistakes. It is practically impossible to write a first draft that is so good that you do not want to change anything about it. And if that is the case then you are not qualified to judge it. And that does not mean you are bad at writing but you need a second or even a third opinion. Not because they're better than you but because they are simply not you. They will see things a way that you do not and their input will help you improve whatever it is you are writing.

Rules are Meant to Be Broken

Sentence-structure, sentence-length, a word repeated too often? There are lots of rules when it comes to writing. But the beauty of it is that these rules are allowed to be broken. Listen to the voice inside your head. Read your text aloud to figure out what sounds good. A good writer will know when to break the rules. But this does not mean that you are not required to use correct spelling and grammar, oh no. Have fun with your writing!


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