Fiction Writing Techniques Made Easy
If you’re embarking on the wondrous journey of writing a novel then you might have been considering fiction writing techniques. After all, novels don’t write themselves into fantastical tales of mystery. This, my friend, is entirely down to the author.
You might be considering writing a book about a magical land, or you might be hatching a plan for a brilliant who-done-it murder mystery, and you wouldn’t be far wrong if you thought that the fiction writing techniques for both fantasy and crime fiction would be similar.
There are similarities, the differences in the techniques is know when to use them and in what way.
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Fiction Writing Techniques
For example, imagine your building a magical world within the one we live in. For this to be a real world within a world, you must firstly recognise the structure of the one we live in. Still with me?
Let me break it down further
The structure of the world we live in is made up of several things. The most obvious to mention is the natural environment we live in. Forests, lakes, rivers, oceans, land, mountains etc. Now to think of this environmental structure through the topography of the landscape, you would then need to consider how this natural environment thrives or suffers. A simple example would be that weather has the ability to flood rivers or dry up lakes. This may or may not feature within the fantasy story, but understanding the makeup of the natural environment and how it depends on certain factors to thrive or suffer as we know it creates an opportunity within your story to use the environment as a plot device to tell the reader something, without actually say it. This plot device which is one fiction writing technique leads into another technique called foreshadow.
Foreshadow is a fiction writing technique that uses the current moment within a scene to plant a seed within the reader’s mind of something to come. This seed will remain until, you the author, decides to water the seed to reveal something later which directly links back to the moment you planted the seed.
For example, a character within a fantasy world might find it odd that the river had dried up during a month that saw their heaviest rainfall. Whilst the character may seem it odd and take that away, at this moment he will have no further clues or evidence of other anomalies to point to, and so the dry river bed remains banked with the reader from this moment on. Later on in the story further information can be revealed that suggests the dry river bed is not linked to the natural environmental system, but a deeper conspiracy to rid the locals of their water supply.
1. The initial dry river bed is the foreshadow of things to come creating conflict/cause for concern. The initial thinking would be to look at the natural environment to see what was causing an imbalance.
2. Discovering a bigger conspiracy later in the narrative can always link back to that initial sighting #foreshadow.
Now, if you are creating a fantasy world you’ll need to consider what it looks like. A world within our own world can be found in many places. Consider The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, and BFG to name just a few. Each fantasy world has its own boundaries and entry points. Regardless of whether your story is set in something similar to these, that sit within magical realism, or if it sits neatly within fantasy having its own world entirely separate from our own – a world just as you see right now, albeit it might be extraordinarily different, will need creating.
Your trees might be lollipops and the blades of grass might have razor sharp teeth. Imagine, if you will, how a character might be lured at the fantastical display of a lollipop forest only to be devoured by the carnivorous grass on their approach! This is another fiction writing technique or plot device that can be used by showing the reader something wonderfully familiar and trustworthy, and giving them something entirely different. Within any world that you create, you must first think how that world will play a role within your story. If you use the world efficiently then the world’s character can move the plot forward all by itself – with you simply showing the reader that this place is indeed no place like home.
Before we move into the next phase of world building, I want to emphasise the importance of showing a reader rather than telling them. This is a powerful fiction writing technique that you will not want to ignore. Using the example above, by presenting to the character a fantasy world made up of familiar trustworthy elements, which are soon revealed as deadly, there is no need for you to utter the words ‘this is no place like home’ because you have shown the reader exactly what is to be feared and what is not to be trusted.
Part of the challenge to writing a story is knowing when you’ve written enough to get your point across. Less is quite often more than enough – if executed well. TIP: Make sure you give your story to beta readers before you publish to make sure that you’ve nailed it.
Now, whilst we’ve discussed the natural environment within a fantasy story, there is equal need to build a natural environment within a crime novel. For a moment think of what a natural environment might be made up of within this genre. Do you have a few things come to mind? You wouldn’t be wrong if you considered trees, lakes, oceans because the reader will want a sense of what part of the world your story is set in, whilst this gives you the opportunity to use these environmental factors as opportunities within your plot.
If there’s a lake with an ancient story behind it, this could lead to uncovering the mystery behind legend of the lake. If there’s an abandoned tunnel network running below a street this could be a character’s escape route. For every element that you consider your natural world environment to be made of you will be awarded with the opportunity to weave your story within its fabric.
And there’s more!
Okay, so this isn’t the only natural environment I want to mention. Because a natural environment can be closer to a character. This could be their home. It could be their workplace. But that’s not all. Do you remember I mentioned that the natural world we live in thrives or suffers depending on what it’s given, such as rain and sun, for example? Well, the natural environment of a character can be limiting, hindering, aggressive, or it can be positive, uplifting and optimistic.
Imagine for a moment a character living in a hostile environment. Within a crime novel this might fit a stereotypical character profile for the criminal. Whilst you should be reaching for new ways to connect your character to their crimes that aren’t so stereotypical, it’s valuable in recognising why these stereotypes exist in the first place.
A character with a harsh, unrelentingly violent childhood home could naturally learn behaviours and take these into adulthood, creating a life of violence which leads to the crime later in life that they’re questioned for. That said, this would also be a really useful red herring, another fiction writing technique, to throw the reader mid plot to put them off the scent of who really committed the crime.
Now imagine a character that has a stable, nurturing home. This character has more credibility and less ‘surface’ motive (or none at all, in fact). Yet, as the plot weaves from this clue to that clue, reveals will be made that establish that this unsuspected good guy actually has a deep seated hatred toward the victim.
A natural environment has a lot to do with creating a plot based on every element that makes up your story. Absolutely NOTHING that you consider and create for this novel will be without purpose. Everything you create will link, connect and lead to the next point. Nothing goes to waste and nothing is wasted on the reader.
Using the natural environment as a plot device or fiction writing technique is a way for you to carefully consider what a personal environment can say about a person, and also what it can drive them to do.
If a character is living in an aggressive environment, will they learn to hit back? And if a character lives within a stable home does this really tell the reader who they are deep down? The possibilities are endless for the ways you can shape a character by their environment – which means that you can literally shape a character into displaying the characteristics of that environment, give them motivations to free themselves, or potential for growth, or be damned.
With natural world building, whether you’re writing fantasy or crime fiction, this fiction writing technique should be the very first thing you think of. Take the time to understand your characters through their environments and you should begin to see their potential, directly linked to their environment (past and present) to move your plot forward.
Respectfully your guide,