ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Writing Fiction Tips (Part I)

Updated on December 16, 2010

Whether Stuck in the Middle or Ready to Edit

       What makes me qualified to offer tips of how to write fiction? As someone with no formal training and not a single published book all I can say is not a damn thing. But I am a reader, which is exactly who writers are trying to appeal to. I am also a writer and have had the opportunity to review multiple rejection letters. I am also actively involved with two forums in which writers swap stories and critiques. Some of the tips I am offering here are among the most common points I have either given, gotten or both.

1.)    Be your own audience.

The best way to truly know if a story flows is to read it out loud to yourself. Sure you know how it sounded in your head but reading it aloud gives a better idea of how other readers will take it in. I know of no better way to begin the editing process and move past rough draft then to understand how the story comes across to readers. This helps find the places that need extra description, could use some trimming, trip up on too many awkward words or have a repeat of words like said during conversation. In fact, on that note…

2.)    Let’s talk about talking.

Almost every piece of writing above flash fiction length could use some conversation. Stories can unfold without it but dialogue helps break up the monotony of the story telling format and offers insight to the characters. Sure you can simply introduce a new character and write that she is from the south or you can have her enter the story like this:

      “It is just spittin’ ice out there,” came a hard southern drawl from under a mound of teased red hair. She swiped lingering bits of hail from the shoulders of her rain jacket. “Don’t get much of that back in Alabama.”

      Because people can be from the south and have no accent and some come equipped with not just the accent but a wide array of colourful sayings that can only be found in their neck of the woods.  

3.)    Know what I’m sayin’?

The other key to convo is to avoid using a dull structure to carry it out. I have read many an otherwise good piece of fiction with a rather important conversation and can’t get past the fact that each line starts with he said, she said, he said, she said… Mix it up; this is where creativity and passion for the art of writing should be the difference between writing a science text book and composing a work of fiction. So for example:

     He said, “It looks like it is starting to hail outside.”

     She said, “Yes, I hope the horses have already made it to the barn.”

     He said, “If not they’re surely on their way.”

     She said, “True, besides it probably won’t last long.”

 

(Painful, right?) So with little effort it can be transformed into:

     From the doorway behind her he said, “It looks like it is starting to hail outside.”

     She glanced up from the sink, suds clinging to her hand as she used a finger to push aside the curtain. “I hope the horses have already made it to the barn,” she replied.

     “If not they’re surely on their way.”

     “True,” she said as she nodded her head, “besides it probably won’t last long.”

The word said is still used twice, but by altering the sentence structure and peppering in some elements to make these two bantering humans feel like real people the result is (hopefully) more engaging.  

 

4.)    The last thing I will say about what is being said…

Lastly, on the topic of conversation, do keep it real. People do not talk the same; whether it is a heavy Russian accent, a tendency to drop their G’s, the use of curse words, an attempt to use big words out of context, or anything else you can think of; try to offer a little distinction if it adds to understanding a character or shows how educated one person is over the other or demonstrates both are inner city gang members. Whatever their situation and lifestyle make the manner in which they speak and the vocabulary appropriate and realistic.

 

5.)    Cliché critique #1 – write what you know… or at least be informed.

While this tip is tired and overused, there is a reason for it. The easiest and purest approach to writing your fictional piece is to write about emotions, situations, events, career details, etc that are familiar to you so they seem authentic in the story and for your characters. It is much easier to write about the main character being employed as a graveyard shift waitress if that is something you have done or are somehow familiar with enough to know the little details that make it not just real, but accurate.

     Of course this isn’t always possible and if you have a character or situation that needs to be in your story but you are unfamiliar with it then educate yourself on the topic. Search the internet, especially for forums with discussions to monitor, or ask people you know. Even if you haven’t been to Puerto Vallarta but want it mentioned in the story find a snippet or two that make it real (aside from just a Mexican beachside town popular with tourists). Have the characters meet outside of Rosie & Ritchie’s (the Italian restaurant that’s been on the malecon for 12 seasons). Or if you are going to make it up, make it plausible. For instance don’t write details about a job that a pro in that field would easily identify as incorrect.

     Please don’t settle for cliché. If your character has been doing yoga for 12 years but you have never even considered it, do not simply mention the practitioner doing downward facing dog pose because it is the only pose you have heard of; it is overused and if you want to make someone sound like they are very into something it is good to have a better example.

What type of canvas would a painter use with oils?

What type of music would your average 14 year old listen to right now?

Would a beachside restaurant in Puerto Vallarta be busy on a Tuesday evening in August?

What type of gun does a cop carry?

Can a story that mentions lottery tickets be set in a state that doesn’t have a lottery? 

Would a pet Husky be a good fit for a bachelor living in Miami, or is that a better example because it shows he doesn’t care if the animal is uncomfortable as long as he gets the pet he wants?  

 

Get the idea?

            That’s a lot to digest so stay tuned for Writing Fiction Tips #6-#10

 

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)