How writers write fiction will determine their level of success in the writing world. They may write a novel, a screenplay, a short story, or other works of fiction. It’s a journey, undoubtedly a challenging one.
It’s paramount that an aspiring writer starts with an overview of what steps are involved in the writing process. It would not be wise to start a journey without knowing where you want to go.
The following 12 steps offer an overview for you to discover how writers write fiction. Learn these steps and research more about them. Practice them daily. Read books from popular authors to get a feel for how they create their stories.
Here are the 12 steps that will let you know how writers write fiction and how to rapidly grow your understanding and lead to your writing success:
1. Genre. What type of story are you writing? You’ll be ahead of
the game if you write about a genre in which you’re familiar, you enjoy
reading, or one you may want to explore. Popular genres include, but are
not limited to, science fiction, romance, comedy, dystopian, mystery,
coming of age, western, fantasy, thriller, horror, gothic, and
2. Vocabulary. Having an extensive vocabulary is crucial. Words are valuable gems. When reading or listening to conversations, you’ll discover words that inspire you.
Store them in your notes. Use them in sentences until you can recall them easily. Just as these words inspire you, they can also inspire your readers.
In other words, vocabulary is a toolbox of words. From this toolbox, you pull words and string them together to form sentences to create powerful images in the minds of your readers.
3. Descriptions. When describing characters or locations, do so in ways that will make them come alive in the reader’s consciousness. The reader then adds her spin to them. Great descriptions will stick in her mind long after she’s finished reading your work.
When describing Aunt Gretchen, for instance, you can write, “She worked in a candy shoppe for many years and is obese.”
Or you can improve Aunt Gretchen’s description by adding a touch of humor and by saying, “She worked in a candy shoppe for far too many years. Now she sports a toothless smile. In addition, her size is substantial to the point that when she walks, she causes a seismic shift.”
Using creative descriptions will make your characters and settings memorable. Step away from the constraints of the mundane.
4. Settings (location). Where will your story take place? Most stories have more than one location. If you’re new to writing, you may want to limit your locations.
Your setting(s) will depend on the type of story you’re writing. Also, it should be natural for your type of story, which will include its characters. If you’re writing a western, it wouldn’t be smart for the gunslingers to be sitting at Starbucks ordering a Shirley Temple, unless you’re writing a fantasy western.
Is your story set in modern times? Are your characters wealthy? If so, then they may live in a penthouse, or your story may take place on a yacht.
5. Characters. Characters interact with each other. Let your audience know about their inner demons, what their goals are, and how they deal with adversity. Your characters cannot sound alike.
You must know them well before you can write about them. A way of getting to know your characters well is to write their biographies. What were they like as children? What are their habits now? What is their socio-economic standing? What are their personality types?
The more you know your characters, the more they will come across as being authentic in your story. You can also create a character chart for each one that includes their quirks, physical features, age, siblings, and so forth.
Your reader must care about your characters, or your story will stall. Characters are complex. We need to see this complexity in the main characters—some fascination, some uniqueness. We don’t need to like every character, but each main character must show the reader some trait about which she wishes to know more.
6. Dialogue. When your characters speak with each other, their voices must sound natural and must sound like the character he is supposed to portray. If your character was born in Malaysia and spent all his life there, he should not speak like a Texan.
Listen to people talk in order to get a good grasp of dialogue. Remember, though, that you will need to whittle down what they say to exclude unnecessary words or provide clarification.
For instance, the following dialogue can be shortened:
Original: “Hey Richard, Melody’s birthday is coming up real soon. Remember she’s been hankering for a puppy? How about we check out some dog rescue places tomorrow and get one for her? What do you think? We got half an acre now, big enough for a dog.”
Shortened: “Melody’s birthday is next week. Let’s get her a rescue puppy she's been hankering for. We got a big enough yard now.”
Study dialogue until you get a good feel for it. And then study it some more. Learning never ends.
Trottier tells us that dialogue "should be lean. Avoid long speeches . . . Allow characters to interrupt each other on occasion. Let them lie to each other. Let them misunderstand each other” (73).
7. Conflict. There must be conflict in your writing. Conflict keeps your reader invested in your story. Encourage her to stick around for the final curtain.
Let’s say you’re writing a romance, and the characters, Ryan and Delilah profess their love for one another and are about to be engaged.
But Ryan’s old girlfriend Patrice arrives in town, and she wants Ryan to go away with her. She’s come into a sizable inheritance and can set him up in the business of which he’s always dreamed.
What will Ryan do? Will he leave darling Delilah, with whom he’s professed his undying love, and with whom he’s about to put a ring on her finger?
Note: This can also act as a plot twist, as described below.
8. Plot points or plot twists. These are turning points, significant events in your story that send it in another direction from the way it was previously going. This then changes the plot. It’s an about-face.
Suppose a panicky husband is on his way to make a ransom drop for the return of his wife. But just as he’s at the midway point in the woods, he hears a rustle behind him. Turning, he sees a massive bear charging at him. This plot twist is gripping and memorable.
As a writer, you must have unexpected events like these in your story, or your audience will become bored and will move on to a story that does have them.
9. Betrayal. Recall the topic of Conflict above where Ryan is faced with a life-altering decision. He decides to leave Delilah for Patrice and take Patrice up on her offer to go away with her and start his business.
He’s betrayed Delilah. Betrayal is when one trusts another only to discover that the other has broken the trust relationship, causing heartache.
Any act of betrayal has a devastating effect. But stories should have them in order for the reader to be moved emotionally.
10. Ticking clock. The ticking clock infuses an element of tension and urgency into your story.
The ticking clock represents the enemy. CrimeReads gives this great example:
The ticking clock should have your reader biting her freshly manicured French Tip nails. If she does this, you know you’re well on your way to learning how writers write fiction.
11. Ending. Did your reader know your story was going to end exactly in the way that it did? If the answer is yes, then you’ve failed her. A great ending must have an element of unpredictability.
Pay particular attention to how the authors of your favorite fiction stories write their endings. Grasp this process, and soon you will be able to understand more about how writers write fiction.
The ending of your story should sum up everything in a few sentences. It should answer questions that weren’t answered in the story. Note that not all endings are happy ones, but your story should have a satisfactory ending.
It should make sense and not leave your reader scratching her head. She’s invested her time to read your story. Reward her by making her feel her time was not wasted.
12. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. Realize that your first draft will disappoint you if you consider it as anything other than a first draft. Even seasoned writers are amazed that their first drafts are so crappy.
Just don’t let anyone see it until you have rewritten it several times. Make sure you’ve addressed the concerns of spell check. Do you use an app such as Grammarly? If so, have you addressed any comments it has called to your attention?
Let someone else read your work with spotting errors in mind. Rewrite after receiving meaningful suggestions.
After you’ve taken your eyes off your work for a few days, weeks, or months, reread it again and rewrite it if necessary. It’s not uncommon to rewrite a story upwards of 9 times.
If you’re satisfied after going over all of the tips above, it’s time to let it go.
Writers write in different ways. It's due to their individual personalities, how they view the world, and how well they are able to communicate. It also depends on their level of understanding regarding the writing process.
The more the writer knows about the process, the more of it she can put into her writings. In this way, she can give her audience a meaningful reading experience.
The above 12 steps have shown you many points on how writers write fiction. You've learned about the genre, vocabulary, descriptions, settings, characters, dialogue, conflict, plot points, betrayal, the ticking clock, ending, and rewriting.
Take each one of these tips seriously and practice each one until you become confident enough to start your writing journey.
Your first stories will be subpar, but with enough dedication, research, and practice, you’ll come to understand how writers write fiction.