10 Tips for Top Fiction

Sue Emms

Every writer has their own voice and by definition, creativity is personal and individual. Even so, there are principles of writing that will help a writer’s voice to shine.

Here are ten aspects of writing that can help your voice be louder and clearer.

1. The ability to show scenes and not tell them

Writing that creates an image for readers to interpret is stronger than text that is direct or informative. Say ‘Curved fangs sank into his neck’, for example, not ‘the vampire bit him’.

2. Strongly controlled point of view

Readers of fiction like to identify and engage with characters. That’s not easy if the story isn’t told through a character’s perspective. Don’t write about what you see or think a character is doing. Get insider her head and write through her eyeballs – say what she thinks and feels and sees, not what you observe about it.

3. Unpredictability

Stories can follow formulas, but within a structure, take a creative leap.The journey, for example, of how a character in a romance finds true love should be interesting and unique. If scenes are predictable, why will the reader turn the page?

4. Clever plots

Stories can be unpredictable and plots can be fiendishly complex and clever: but the key with plot is logic. It is cause and effect. Action A results in Action B, which leads to Situation C…think dominoes. If there isn’t a domino effect, think about the connections in the story.

5. Narrative drive

Story events, description, plots, everything in a story, should keep the story moving forward.  Rambling dialogues or endless description, or scenes that simply meander about will kill narrative drive stone dead.

6. Relevance

Every word, every plot device, every character and setting should count for something in a story, and every one of those elements should have a purpose in the story.  If the interesting old guy in the shop, for instance, doesn’t impact the story in some way – cut him out, or make him count.

7. Believable characters

If the character is poorly written or unbelievable, the story will falter, even if the writing is good and the plot clever. In the end, it is characters the reader identifies with.

8. The right balance of description

Readers need description. It sets the scene of a story, is where the action takes place, will impact the plot and characters. Not enough description will leave the reader in a kind of vacuum – but too much description can bog the story down.

9. The ruthless editing of dead words

Any word like seems, as in ‘The dog seemed uncomfortable’ slows down the narrative. Be direct. ‘The dog was uncomfortable’ Or, even better, ‘The dog whimpered and curled up in its basket’. Other dead words and phrases are those that have a character watching and hearing when they don’t need to. Say ‘Snow tumbled down the mountain’, not ‘She watched the snow tumble down the mountain’.

10. Have a purpose

Best writing has an underlying theme or purpose that holds a story together and gives it direction. Identify your theme/s to help keep your creativity focused.

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