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Creative Writing: Fiction 101

Fiction can be so freeing, especially for those of us who grew up writing nothing but essays in school.


You have a blank piece of paper before you, and you can write your universe all over it.


Make a world crafted only of diamond and stardust. Make a world of endless adventure, full of treasure nested within every dusty corner.


Anything can happen.


Seriously, anything.


Your heartbreaking hero can be caught in a love triangle, then board a plane to nowhere, then join a rock band and tour the world, then get caught in an underground bank-robbing scheme, then get kidnapped by a troop of angry centaurs, then be granted the power of flight, then begin training for the Olympics, then zoom off in a separate universe learning the ways of the Zox aliens.


Anything. Seriously.


But in a world of endless possibility, where do you start?


Writing fiction can seem like some sort of alchemical magic...but it’s not. 


Authors basically make stuff up and then write it down all pretty-like. Think of it like a daydream, except you write it down. 


Easy, right?


Well, I have to admit…it’s not all rainbows and ponies. There’s a method to the magic, and it requires a lot of work (a LOT of work). Successful authors spend hours and hours and hours researching writing techniques, reading books in their genre, learning about the things they want to write about, taking writing classes, sharing work with their peers, rereading and editing their own work, and practicing, practicing, practicing. Most really successful authors write several books that never see the light of day before they actually publish, all in the name of improving at their craft.


It’s like singing. Almost everyone can sing “Happy Birthday” and pretty much stay on key, but there’s a big difference between the casual person and an opera singer.

Writing is both easier and harder than it looks.


But if you want to become an author, you can. A journey of a million miles starts with a single step, and a book of 300 pages starts with a single word.


What does my story need?


To start, think of everything you’ve learned about fiction in school.

 

·       A good story needs a logical, dynamic plot.

·       A good story needs well-rounded, relatable characters.

·       A good story needs a solid theme.

·       A good story needs an interesting, well-described setting

·       A good story has gorgeous imagery that appeals to your five senses.

·       A good story has deep meaning in its use of color, symbols, and metaphors.

·       A good story...is good. There’s a certain X factor, here.

 

But what do I write about?!

 

Brainstorm story ideas.

 

Think: what is interesting? What genres do I like? Is this a short story, a novel, a play, a comic, or a movie?  What kind of world do I want to write about?  What are some characters that could live there? What adventures would they have?


Start freewriting (writing without a plan, to the rhythm of your thoughts). Start imagining. It’s like you’re a kid again, and you’re playing pretend with plastic swords or dolls, or costumes on a playground. 


Don't limit yourself. Don't stop and cringe at how bad it is. Don't worry about how similar it is to Game of Thrones. Let yourself play, without judgment.

 

Prompts

 

It can be hard to have no direction. If the creativity isn’t flowing, try out one of these prompts:


  • A protagonist obsessed with serial killers decides to make a documentary reenacting their crimes...when things take a turn for the worse.

  • A scene from the point of view of a teapot.

  • Four friends sneak out of camp and discover a cave. As they explore it, they discover a skeleton, a computer from the 80s, a slimey mouse-bird creature they’ve never seen before, and strange floating, glowing orbs.

  • An executioner in the middle ages falls in love with the next person to be beheaded.

  • An alien on a distant planet discovers a strange book--Green Eggs and Ham. The alien realizes that this must be a religious text of that human-infested Earth!

  • 1000 years in the future, robots have taken over...but a virus called Zombii might be taking over them. 

  • Three kids find themselves trapped in a mall with a lion. The doors have been barricaded shut by other people who have escaped. Using only what they can find in the mall, they have to kill or trap the lion before the lion eats them alive!



Still not working for you?

 

If worldbuilding and character creating aren’t your thing, but you still like to tell stories, try fanfiction.


Take settings and characters from your favorite movies, books, television shows, etc., and make up a new story about them.


It’s not publishing material (hello, copyright), but it’s good practice for new writers.

 

Okay...but literally, what goes on the first page?

 

You’ve got your characters, a unique bunch. You’ve got your interesting setting, your plot. What now?


Start with either the beginning or the most interesting scene, and write what happens like you’re telling your friend, out loud, the plot of a movie. 


Add interesting detail, use the five senses when writing descriptions, throw in some snappy dialogue, etc.


Then?


Just keep going!

 

Anything you want to happen can happen. Total freedom!

Write about anything you want.


Remember, if this is your first time trying out fiction, don’t limit yourself by thinking about what will sell, or what has been done before, or how bad you think you are at writing, right now. Yes, this is only scratching the surface when it comes to becoming a great writer. But just go forward. After you get some good practice, THEN you can worry about developing some more writing skills, and THEN you can worry about your marketability.


That opera singer had to start somewhere, and that “somewhere” wasn’t designing the poster for her Carnegie Hall debut. It was singing a single note.


A new world is at your fingertips.

Make it your own.

Make it all up.

Don’t be embarrassed.


What are you waiting for? Grab a pen and build your universe!

 

Happy Writing,

Christina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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