Crafting Your Fiction

Josip Novakovich, author of Writing Fiction Step by Step, gives some steps to stay in fiction-writing shape.
Author:
Publish date:

"Since we now have the telephone, we do not stay in writing shape; most of us are quite sluggish with the written word, and when we are on the page, we feel awkward and brittle, like an unskilled skater on ice." That's Josip Novakovich writing in the introduction of his book, Writing Fiction Step by Step.

Here are some steps Novakovich recommends for staying in fiction-writing shape:

Character motivation rules the world of characters, but don't forget to add the flaws and oddities that make them real. Pick three people you know and construct one character from them, which Novakovich calls the fusion method. Use their most dramatic traits, their most unusual features. Incorporate a distinctive voice, and you have a realistic, multi-dimensional person.

Setting. It's best to give descriptions of setting while the action is taking place, in bits and pieces rather than pages of history. As you follow your protagonist — a doctor, let's say — in a walk to the office, you could give us that perspective on the smells, sounds and images of a hospital. You must bring us into a place so we can see it. One exercise Novakovich recommends is to walk through a forest and describe what it feels like, using all the senses. Forests are wonderful, diverse places. You'll need this diversity to hold readers' interest, especially in a novel.

Dialogue. Among Novakovich's tips:

  • Strike a balance between realism — with repetitions and false starts — and idealism, with everyone speaking correctly and always to the point.
  • Vary sentence lengths. Both half-liners and sermons become monotonous.
  • Let the characters say something surprising — to surprise not only each other but also you. It's healthy to have characters say something outrageous now and then. To get started in this, try writing a dialogue between two liars trying to outdo each other. Start with mild exaggerations and gradually shift to outrageous boasting.

For more advice on crafting fiction, with myriad exercises that will help you stay in writing shape, check out Josip Novakovich's Writing Fiction Step by Step.

new_agent_alert_barb_roose_books_such_literary_services_adult_christian_fiction_and_nonfiction

New Agent Alert: Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management

New literary agent alerts (with this spotlight featuring Barb Roose of Books & Such Literary Management) are golden opportunities for new writers because each one is a literary agent who is likely building his or her client list.

Grinnell_10:28

Evoking Emotion in Fiction: Seven Pragmatic Ways to Make Readers Give a Damn

Evoking emotion on the page begins with the man or woman at the keyboard. Dustin Grinnell serves up seven straightforward tactics for writing tear-jerking stories that make your readers empathize with your characters.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 546

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a spooky poem.

Richard_Shadowlands

Learn Better World-Building Strategies Through World of Warcraft and the New Shadowlands Expansion

WD editor and fantasy writer Moriah Richard shares five unique ways in which writers can use World of Warcraft to better build their worlds—without playing the game.

Hall_10:27

Seven Tips for Intuitive Writing: The Heart-Hand Connection

Award-winning author Jill G. Hall shares her top tips for how to dive into your latest project head-first.

bearing_vs_baring_vs_barring_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Bearing vs. Baring vs. Barring (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use bearing vs. baring vs. barring on with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

15_things_a_writer_should_never_do_zachary_petit

15 Things a Writer Should Never Do

Former Writer's Digest managing editor Zachary Petit shares his list of 15 things a writer should never do, based on interviews with successful authors as well as his own occasional literary forays and flails.

Green_10:26

Evie Green: Imaginary Friends and Allowing Change

Author Evie Green explains why she was surprised to end writing a horror novel and how she learned to trust the editorial process.