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Writing Fiction

Fiction is writing that includes imaginary characters, events and/or settings created by the writer. All of the components of a fictitious story do not necessarily need to be fictitious though:

·Imaginary characters might be set in a real world setting such as a well known city or a particular country.

·Characters might be fictitious, but set in a “real” event. For example, you might write about the experiences of a fictitious character during World War II.

·Real characters may be used for a fictitious story that embraces an imaginary event or setting (eg. a story about William Shakespeare travelling through time; 00or something more realistic, like a summer’s holiday at a fictitious beach resort, taken by a famous historical figure such as Mozart).

 

Two Types of Fiction

There are traditionally two types of fiction:

 

a) CATEGORY

Also referred to as ‘genre’, these stories have a distinct theme and as such are easy to categorise. Examples of category or genre fiction are science fiction, westerns, adventure, historical, romance, erotica, mystery, suspense, fantasy and war stories.

 

b) MAINSTREAM

These stories are aimed at the widest possible audience. They typically deal with most aspects of modern life including relationships, careers, and the search for success and fulfilment. Popular mainstream writers include Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, Colleen McCullough and James Michener.


 

Want to Learn More?

Consider our Fiction Writing Correspondence Course

This 100 hour course has eight lessons as follows:

  1. Scope & Nature of Fiction
  2. Components of a Story – beginning, middle and end
  3. Technique
    • The Creative Process–conception, developing a plot
    • Writing a Draft
    • Editing and rewriting
    • Method Writing
  4. Conception and Research
  5. Drama
  6. Fantasy
  7. The Short Story
  8. The Novel

Course Aims

  • To explain the nature and scope of fiction writing
  • To identify the components of a fiction story
  • To apply different techniques in order to conceive a fiction story
  • To apply a systematic approach to developing a story
  • To review and edit completed work in order to improve a manuscript
  • To plan and undertake research for use in a fiction story
  • To develop different types of fiction stories including fiction, fantasy and short stories.
    To plan a novel
  • To describe the way in which a manuscript should be presented to a publisher

click here to enrol

Extract from the Course Notes:

"Two Types of Fiction

There are traditionally two types of fiction:

 

a) CATEGORY

Also referred to as ‘genre’, these stories have a distinct theme and as such are easy to categorise. Examples of category or genre fiction are science fiction, westerns, adventure, crime, historical, romance, horror, erotica, mystery, suspense, fantasy and war stories.

 

When selecting a genre or category of fiction to focus on, it is best to choose one that suits your interests, knowledge and experience. Otherwise, be prepared to do a lot of research so you can credibly write about your chosen subjects. For example, if you have an enthusiastic interest in medieval English times and you have read extensively about feudal society, the king’s court, knights, the crusades, peasants etc, you would be in a strong position to write a historical novel set in that period. But you probably should avoid starting with an adolescent girls’ novels about a pony club if you dislike children and know nothing about horses.

 

b) MAINSTREAM

These stories are aimed at the widest possible audience. They typically deal with most aspects of modern life including relationships, careers, and the search for success and fulfilment. Popular mainstream writers include Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, Colleen McCullough and James Michener.

 

Characteristics of Category Fiction

There are five characteristics which are usually common to category fiction stories:

 

1. A strong plot

Frequently the age-old standard plot is used, where a hero is confronted with a very serious problem; he pursues a solution but faces more and more problems; then finally, faced with a desperate situation, the solution emerges to result in a happy ending.

The underpinning driver of plot is conflict. Conflict is situation or person that undermines the perfect ideal of how things “should” be. This could mean a literal conflict between two characters, or some other form of cataclysm that interrupts the harmony of your protagonist’s existence. Conflict is an essential ingredient to good storytelling. It provides the momentum for the plot, the reason for your characters to exist and interact, and it sets up the eventual denouement or resolution to your story. In fact, without conflict, you don’t have a story.

 

For example, if you went on a holiday to a tropical destination, the weather was beautiful, you sunbathed on the beach, read books, slept, relaxed and had an essentially perfect holiday, it would be a very boring story to tell your friends when you got home. But it would be a completely gripping yarn if everything went wrong. Imagine they lost your bags at the airport and you arrived at your hotel with nothing but the clothes on your back, only to discover it was on fire and all the guests had been evacuated. You could not find a room anywhere so you then spent the week camped under a palm tree in driving rain with only a garbage bag for shelter. During a particularly gusty wind you were knocked unconscious by a falling coconut and spent the rest of the trip looking like an extra from The Mummy Returns after the hospital over-bandaged your head to protect your 17 stitches. The sun finally came out on the last day you were there so you rushed out to the beach to make the most of it and got third degree sunburn, necessitating taking your flight home wearing nothing but a sarong and lashings of aloe vera lotion. You finally arrived in your home city, reeking of unwashed body and with small animals living in your matted hair, only to find your bags waiting on the conveyor belt as though they’d never left. The labels on your luggage indicated that it had arrived via Denmark, the Ukraine and Dubai. All had been opened and searched, your underwear was missing and someone had replaced your hairdryer with a handgun and a pair of pliers. You could eat out on a story like that for years.

 

If you watch a typical situation comedy on television (eg the Simpsons) you will see a classic conflict-driven story-telling structure. The program begins with the status quo, a problem arises, more problems ensue, then the problem is ultimately overcome and the status quo is reinstated by the end of the show.

 

2. A hero or heroine

The hero is the main character of the story, also known as the protagonist. He/she usually has strong personal qualities and engages the sympathies of the reader. It is important that your readership is able to identify with or admire your hero in some way. If the audience doesn’t like or engage with your hero, they will quickly lose motivation to read the rest of your story.

 

In some cases you may choose to create a protagonist who is an anti-hero – that is, someone who does not fit the traditional heroic mould but who has other redeeming qualities. For example, Bruce Willis’ character in the movie Armageddon is a rough, anti-social oil-rig owner with a violent streak, bad manners and poor parenting style. But he is a loyal friend, loves his daughter fiercely and ultimately sacrifices his own life to protect her future (and to save the world). An anti-hero should be used only if his/her character is shown as being strong and true to their own set of values (which may differ to the values of the reader).

3. Obvious motivation

The purpose to which the hero or heroine aspires must be clear and easily grasped by the reader, whether it be to achieve love, fame, fortune, conquer evil, survive a series of trials or something else equally positive and easy to grasp. If the hero’s motivation is unclear, your story will appear to lack direction and the reader will become frustrated. The experience for the reader would be rather like watching an unfamiliar sport and not knowing the rules – the players would appear to be running around with no purpose and achieving nothing. If your hero has no clearly defined goal, his/her actions will appear pointless, rendering your story pointless, and the reader will lose interest.

 

4. Plenty of action

To keep your audience interested, your story should include plenty of action. Look to develop situations which will lead to problems which must then be solved, and perhaps while solving a problem, further problems will develop. The story should include frequent confrontations between characters and their environment. You may also introduce changes in scenery (the characters move from place to place), to generate interest and opportunities for further problems. For example, your characters may be on a quest to find treasure and face many life-threatening dangers on the way.

 

If you choose to set your entire story in a single location (eg a single room, a cave, a prison cell) you will need to work harder to create interest and opportunities for conflict and it is likely that your protagonist will have a more passive role in the story. In the case of a prison cell, the central action will derive from characters (guards, visitors, other prisoners) or other entities (weapons, digging tools, drugs, rats, food) coming and going from the space, rather than from your protagonist’s actions.

 

5. A colourful background or setting

Exotic or out-of-the-ordinary locations are frequently used to enhance the category story. Depending on the category and plot, the story might take place on another planet, a cavern beneath the earth, another period in time, or even amongst people leading a lifestyle in our society which is quite different to the norm (eg. people in high society, people living in a commune). If you are going to set your story in an out-of-the-ordinary location, make sure you have considerable knowledge about that type of location, or your descriptions will lack credibility.

 

Characteristics of Mainstream Fiction

A typical popular modern novel has the following characteristics:

1. A strong plot with a traditional beginning, middle and end. It has believable motivation and conflict.

2. Plenty of action, and some intrigue.

3. A hero or heroine with whom the reader can identify.

4. Romantic interest.

5. A happy ending.

Of course, there are countless variations, but these are the main elements that you will find in mainstream fiction."

[17/10/2018 23:34:02]