If you’ve ever toured an art museum, you can’t walk far without confronting the power of images. The paintings tell stories of animals, families, wars, and kings, each holding a special significance for onlookers.
Every fiction writer has fallen in love with stories and dreams of engaging readers the same way. Few, however, are interested in poetry. In our modern age, this art form fights a losing battle against flashier entertainment.
I used to avoid nonfiction—in both reading and writing—until I discovered that creative nonfiction employs literary techniques usually associated with fiction. How could this be? And would trying it expand my skills?
Sometimes characters come to us in pieces. A whisper of dialogue, a murmur of a dream, or even a feeling can ignite a glimmer of inspiration that demands to become a person. But a character is more than a rushed scribble inside our notebooks.
“You wrote a great story, but it needed a proofreader.” No one likes to hear that their writing is full of mistakes. Whether we’re submitting to a website or writing a story for family, we slave over our words. We don’t want our masterpieces diminished by typos.
If your story features more than one character, it probably contains dialogue. Unfortunately, dialogue can be challenging to write, because it needs to sound natural or it will fall flat. As if that isn’t bad news enough, cultivating an ear for dialogue is not an overnight process.
“Be specific,” they say. “It will help your story,” they say. This is good advice, but it’s not always true. “Be specific” does not mean “be specific with every word you write.” The wrong kind of details won’t help, especially in action sequences. Painting a vivid image is all about balance.
A unique setting isn’t about how you describe it, but about how a character perceives it. Everything in a story revolves around characters, including setting. Descriptions are not foreign elements that must be incorporated solely because characters need a place to plant their feet. Showing the setting through the eyes of a character gives it purpose, direction, and meaning.
You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. What’s next? At some point you’ll need to show your manuscript to a beta reader or two. Seeking an outside opinion is an invaluable and inescapable step in your writing process.
Writers tend to instinctively sense that grammar, mechanics, and style are important. But what are they, really? How are they distinct from each other? Do they overlap? And do they actually matter, or are they just terms that writing experts throw around to sound fancy?