Five Ways to Improve Your Fiction Writing
Considering these five elements in storytelling will increase your ability to publish.
Write with an Authentic Voice
Voice is the feel and tone of the overall story and is usually carried by the narrator (called the narrative voice). This is dictated by your audience, your story and the characters in it. Each character in your story also has a “voice”. This includes their unique gestures, how they move and laugh as well as their own vernacular. A character’s “voice” provides a reader with information about that character’s history, family background, region where they’re from, education and philosophy.
Use the Most Appropriate Point of View
Stories may be told through any number of viewpoints. The most common is the limited third person, where the thoughts of one of several persons are revealed, one at a time, usually within a scene (e.g., “she felt the chilling wind through her coat”). The first person narrative is common in detective stories (e.g., “I saw something shiny on the floor”). Although it is most limiting in that only one person makes the observations, it is also the most revealing of its POV character. In the omniscient viewpoint, the writer is essentially narrating to the reader (e.g., “the people feared him like he was a god”), and is usually reserved for grand epics. Novice authors often choose the omniscient point of view by default or tell their stories through no particular point of view, switching from person to person haphazardly in the same paragraph. It is important to consider which point of view best suits your story and stick to it; who is the best person to tell it? The dreamer or the cynic?
Adopt Active Verbs over Passive Verbs
Verbs fuel sentences. Novice writers often use passive verbs (e.g., were, is, being) or weak verbs (e.g., walk, went, fall, leave, etc.) then add adjectives or adverbs to strengthen the phrase. This only serves to make the sentence longer and weakens the impact of the action. Verbs represent movement and need to do so clearly. If the verb is powerful the sentence is powerful. For instance, which version is more compelling: “she walked quickly into the room” or “she stormed into the room”?
Show, Don’t Tell
Telling is a form of exposition that simply imparts information to the reader (e.g., He was angry and walked out of the room). Showing, on the other hand, reveals the information through a character’s experience (e.g., her face heated and she staggered back, breathless). When a writer elects to show and not tell, this often uses more words but creates a more vivid scene.
When a writer elects to show rather than tell, they open themselves to metaphor and imagery that bring life to a story. Showing also lets the reader more deeply experience the emotional, sensual and visceral aspects of the scene.
Unclutter Your Writing
Sentences of early drafts are often repetitive (e.g., two sentences that say essentially the same thing) or contain repetitive phrases and adjectives and adverbs. When editing an early draft of our work, look for ways to express each sentence more succinctly. One way to do this is to remove most of your adjectives and replace each verb with a more powerful one, thereby removing the need for an adjective.