How Long Does It Take To Build A 10-Story Building How to Write Fiction: Part 2 – Practical Techniques for Writing

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How to Write Fiction: Part 2 – Practical Techniques for Writing

The writer must learn techniques in order to write a story. Too often with new writers they may have a good story idea, but once the story is written it ends up being flat. Often it is a series of scenes or character internalization’s with nothing that holds the story together, and it doesn’t have a driving story line.

My first book was like that and I had to ask a number of experienced editors to help me. Then I began to read books on fiction writing. There are a lot of good ones out there. Let me mention a few, as well as some principles within them. All of the books below have been of great help to me. If you can learn these basics you are well on your way of knowing How to Write Fiction.

What makes a story?

To write fiction, your story needs the following elements. These are found in the book, ‘How to Tell a Story’ by Peter Rubie and Gary Provost:

a) World: This is the narrative world in which you take your reader. People read fiction and narrative nonfiction to escape their lives. Strong stories take you to new worlds and introduce you to new and interesting people and ideas. People want to read about how characters resolve high powered ethical and moral dilemmas.

b) Active: You want characters who take action, not someone who sits back and watches, observing the action without getting involved or just reacting to the events of the story. Without an active character, there is no emotional power to your narrative. In a word, it becomes a boring story.

c) Goals: Think about whether your characters have clear and definable goals, goals that can be visually dramatized on the page. Ask yourself, What does this character want? It should be something specific and imaginable.

d) Stakes: There had better be something really important at stake.

Does your story have a story line? Here is a generic story structure from Rubie and Provost. As a writer you have flexibility in how to apply this, but if you have this basic story line you can be sure that your story will hold your readers’ interest.

The generic story line:

“Once upon a time something happened to someone and he decided that he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop him he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, he learned an important lesson and when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously, he had to decide whether or not to take it, and in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been created by someone in his past.”

Now let’s expand this a bit. Here is a generic plot line combining ideas from Rubie and Provost and Wendell Wellman’s book, “A Writer’s Roadmap.” Consider these when you write your fiction story:

1 Meet and Greet: Once upon a time something happened to someone. What situation do we find her in? What is the background? What are the relationships? What institutions surround the character in? What is the status quo?

2 Inciting Incident: What happens to the person in their situation? Tension is created. There defines the problem, the story question that needs to be answered. And he decided he would pursue a goal. (A story question). (What is the story?)

3 Entering the Forest: So he devised a plan of action. Because of the inciting incident it motivates the character to do something. In some cases it is a choice. In other cases the character is forced into doing something. In any case, the character decides to do something. It may not be a fully devised plan, but at least the next step is chosen. The plan may go from step to step, or it may be more long-term.

4 First Major Battle: And even though there were forces trying to stop him he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. The character confronts the enemy early on. In some cases the character recognizes the enemy, whereas in others, it is an unknown force, or the character may think he is facing one enemy, but it might actually be someone else, or something else. There is a battle with the enemy early on.

5 Further Battles: Throughout the story, there are numerous encounters with the enemy, each resulting in some kind of battle. There is tension and conflict.

6 Major Catastrophe and Further Battles: At some point in the story there is a major catastrophe. This might be early or later in the story. The character seems to be overcome from that point on, but the character starts to fight back.

7 Belly of the Beast: And just as things seemed as bad as they could get. Things get worse and worse until they are as bad as they can get.

8 Climax encounter: There is a final encounter with the enemy, where the enemy is overcome.

9 He learned a lesson: There is some resolve, either total or partial, but the problem is dealt with. Through this, the character learns a lesson. It is a special insight in which the character learns something about the problem she faces and about her self. It can also be an understanding about the people around her.

10 And when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously, he had to decide whether or not to take it. Most often there is a decision that needs to be made.

11 And in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been created by something in his past.

Another book that has been most helpful for me is “Scene & Structure” by Jack Bickham. Before I begin writing each new book I always review the principles in his book.

For me, the most important principles in Scene & Structure are Bickham’s explanation of Cause and Effect. He says to build your story in such a way that every cause you put in has an effect downstream in the story, sooner or later (and preferably sooner!), and for every effect you plot out, you have to figure out a cause that would make it happen. Look at every turn in the story-every event- and make sure that there is a cause for it.

This is then built upon a series of scenes and sequels (character internalization’s that link scenes together. He says that The scene is the basic large building block of the structure of a story. It’s a segment of story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story “now.” It is not something that goes on inside a character’s head: it is physical. The scene most often has three components:

a) Statement of goal

b) Introduction and development of conflict

c) Failure of the character to reach his goal, a tactical disaster.

One scene should lead to another and you link them through transitions, or through sequels. Sequels are internalization’s that consist of a character expressing his or her emotions, the characters thoughts or reviewing, analyzing and planning, a decision, and then an action that sets up a future scene.

Within the story line, the scenes and sequels, there is also description, dialogue and tension. These need to be mastered in order to be a story writer.

To answer the question of “How to Write Fiction?, I’d advise a beginning writer to read fiction with new eyes. Don’t just be absorbed by the story, but look for the techniques used by the author. Look for the basics that I have listed above. See how the author has used them.

And then apply these basics as you outline your own story. And remember that these are not formulaic. There is freedom in how each author uses them. But they are needed. Every house needs a foundation and these basics are the foundation for your story.

In the third article in this series I discuss something that is not discussed very often in how to write fiction, but it is something that most good writers find themselves in. It is the writer’s zone.

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