There’s something about writing fiction that transports you from your regular life to an entirely different dimension, and the beauty is… you choose the dimension. To add to the thrill, you take your readers with you – immerse them into a wonderful fantasy world and introduce them to fascinating characters created from the deep depths of your imagination. It’s magical! Or atrocious, depending on whether you have a David Walliams’ kind of mind or Stephen King’s. I like to think I have a bit of both. Just like the moon, we all have a shadowy dark side that no one else gets to see… I’m just kidding – well, not really.
If I were to reflect on a time when I wrote my very first story, I would be nostalgically flung back to my school days – where I wrote an action story called “Delta Force”.
What? Hey, don’t judge me, I was nine! Or maybe fourteen… but that’s not the point!
It was an action-packed story… blah blah blah. The fact is, at the time, I didn’t write for an audience, or on my agent’s advice or even in a particular genre because it was trending at the time. No, I wrote for pleasure and pleasure alone. And that’s what made it so great. There was no pressure, and that helps with getting those creative juices flowing. People often forget that writing is an art and art was done for pleasure – creating a masterpiece was simply a consequence and monetary gain, merely a bonus. For a writer, the pleasure, pain and prize is and always will be in writing itself, and, of course, other people reading it. For, it going unread would be comparable to making a ship that never sailed or a plane that never flew or… you get my drift.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure you didn’t want to read a blog with me waffling on about the weird and wonderful world of writing, or perhaps you did, either way, I have to set the sails in the intended direction and give you some serious tips on how to write great fiction – so, here goes…
Tip 1 – Get people hooked from the get-go!
That’s right – you have no time to waste. And nor does anyone else, especially the person reading your work. Unless you can get the reader hooked on what you’re selling, which in this case is your story, they will lose interest and miss out on your wonderful book.
There are plenty of great examples of how writers get readers hooked right from the get-go; here is the opening line from my upcoming book,
“It’s not like every day you get told that you’re sick. I mean really sick… like dying sick.”
Immediately, the reader is sucked into a serious situation. Someone is sick and dying. This gets the reader instantly involved and eager to know more.
But readers need more than just a captivating first line; you have to charm them with a grand opening to the book – an invitation to treat if you will.
Some writers use this as an opportunity to throw in exposition, some slog at setting the scene and others arrange to get you acquainted with the characters. However you choose to craft the beginning, it must be done with skill.
Tip 2 – Make every word count
Don’t you hate reading something that has pages bursting with words but says hardly anything? I call them the page fillers. Some writers are very descriptive and feel the reader needs to be told lots of details, and this is fine, but it has to be performed with care.
You have to trust that readers are not stupid and can work some things out for themselves. Plus, if you tell them every single thing, how can they use their imagination to build images of your story? The last thing you want is your readers getting bored with crazy descriptions of absolutely everything.
In saying that, you don’t want to give them hardly anything either – I think what I’m trying to say is: find a balance.
Tip 3 – Showed it don’t tell it
In a way, there is a sour flavour of irony present in the commonly thrown around advice of “showing rather than telling” as stories were always told and not shown. I mean when was the last time you heard J.K Rowling is the best story show-er of all time? Exactly!
Authors are storytellers – they tell you a story that enthrals you, mesmerises you, puts you in the shoes of protagonists and antagonists, and sends you to places that do not even necessarily exist…
OK, I think I’ve gone off on one again. Let me rewind…
Yes, stories are told, but to get a reader truly immersed in yours, you must show the setting, scenes and the actions of your characters.
Let me give you an example:
Telling: She was extremely happy and didn’t know what to say.
Showing: She found it impossible to wipe the smile off her face and tears of joy streamed down her cheeks, making her mascara run. She wanted to say something, anything but was unable to utter a word.
Telling can bore the life out of a reader. This isn’t to say that it can’t be or even shouldn’t be done; rather, it is simply implying that readers respond well to showing. They can visualise and use their imagination to set the scene rather than being told. The aim of the writer should be to show readers 2+2 rather than telling them 4. Let the reader work things out. It gets them invested in the story.
Well, there you have it folks, some great tips to help improve your writing.