Writing Fiction By Example

Learn to write fiction by reading and analyzing excerpts from published novels.

8 Steps To Brilliant Fiction Writing

1.) Write Clear
Know what you want to say. Say it. Clear writing is brilliant writing. Specifics follow.

2.) Write Scenes
Once you know what you want to say, decide which details you must show in order to communicate that message. Since a fictional story communicates its message by showing, you need to write the story in scenes. Since you are going to write the story in scenes, plan the outcome of your scene before writing it.

This circles back to point 1, know what you want to say.
Knowing your scene-ending outcome will provide you with a clear point to drive toward, so that you may allow your characters to act it out.

3.) Show, Don't Tell
When you begin to say it in a story, stop and show it instead. Do not tell me Bob is brilliant, caring and handsome. Show me.
Showing is going to take longer, but that's because your reader will see Bob come to life, instead of just having you -- who may be unreliable -- tell him.

Terrible: Story Sample 1

Bob was a nice guy. People thought Bob was handsome. Bob was very smart.


Better: Story Sample 2

At 6:30am Bob yanked his front door open and hurried to his car. He looked at his watch and wondered if he'd arrive on time for his meeting with the eccentric client. As he placed his hand on the door handle of his BMW, he heard a whining sound coming from somewhere at the front of his house. He turned his head and
paused. Again, a high-pitched whining came from behind the bushes.

Directed by the sound he walked to a shrub at the side of his house and found a Chihuahua licking its front left paw.
"What's wrong little pooch? Did you get hurt?" Bob looked at his watch again, then bent down and picked up the dog and carried it next door. He rang the doorbell and after a few moments the door opened to reveal a woman with auburn hair, rubbing her eyes and yawning.
"Hello, Ms. Yates," Bob held the small dog up and smiled.
"Oh, Peaches," the lady said. "You bad little puppy. Did you get out again." She took the dog and hugged her tight.
"I think she may have gotten hurt," Bob said, looked at his watch again, then showed her the wounded paw. As he removed his hand, it brushed against her arm and he noticed how soft her skin was. Their eyes met and Bob looked away. He could barely stand to stare into those beautiful green eyes.
"You're so kind, Bob," she said. "Would you like to come in for some, uh...coffee." She smiled and her eyes darted to the left. "You know you are always welcome here."
Bob blushed, looked at his watch again and fumbled with it. "I have to get to a meeting."

4.) Allow Your Reader to Experience
Do not interject feelings and commentary into the scene too much.

In the example, the reader learns and determines for himself (and thus believes) that Bob is a nice guy who attracts beautiful women (at least one). That is why we show.

This is exactly how our brains work in real life.
When you tell your child not to run in the house, she doesn't fully believe it until she's running and falls and hurts herself. We learn via experience. Allow your reader to experience. Don't lecture him all the time.

5.) Write the details
Closely related to show, don't tell. Since you are showing, you are going to need to describe the significant details. Do not allow your brain to wimp out.

No Wimping Out, Brain
Your logical brain will attempt to override your creative brain by telling it that it is ridiculous to be so specific. Yeah, well, tell that to one of the great artists who've painted individual hairs while painting portraits. Details grab readers.

Now, here are some specifics on writing clearly.

6.) Use Strong Verbs, Abhor Adverbs
Convert all of your weak verb adverb combinations into one strong verb.

Not: spoke roughly -- Instead: yelled, snapped
Not: took quickly -- Instead: snatched, ripped, jerked
Not: struck soundly -- Instead: punched, jabbed, slammed
Not: threw gently -- Instead: tossed

7.) Kill the Adjectives, Use Acting
: sad man -- Instead: slumped his shoulders and eyes filled with tears
Not: angry woman -- Instead: Her eyes opened wide and as she yelled, spit flew from between her teeth.
Not: vicious dog -- Instead: The dog's head lowered and the hair on its neck raised. It stood still and growled, then erupted into a barking fit.

8.) Watch the Action
Imagine watching a movie where a guy sits on a stool and tells you about a story. Wouldn't that be lame? Here the director has the ability to show you the story play out, and instead he has a guy sit on a stool and use words to explain it to you.

Unfortunately, that's what a lot of authors do. They sit on a stool and tell about something, when they should show it happen.

Terrible: Bob felt sad as he was walking down the street, but suddenly a vicious dog was running at him.

Better: The lady slammed the door in Bob's face and he turned and walked further down Lindle avenue. His head hung between his shoulders and he mumbled to himself. He heard a dog barking up ahead and raised his head. A German shepherd, teeth bared and hackles standing straight up, ran at him. Bob's eyes widened and he looked left, right and then back at the approaching dog.

You're Soaking In It Now
Soak these ideas in and allow them to become a part of your writing. It'll make you a better fiction writer.

Keep on learning, keep on writing.

  • LotrElN

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