For fiction writers, writing is never just about writing. It’s so much more! For us, writing is about telling a story in a way that captivates a reader and transports him/her to another place or time.
It’s about changing the reader’s state of being, allowing an escape from the everyday and immersing him/her into a fictional world to experience the journey of the characters in the story.
For this reason, writers must perform some fundamental tasks well in order that we achieve these very lofty goals. If we fail to accomplish these tasks, our purpose for writing is not truly realized, and more importantly, the reader will be left feeling let down, or worse — cheated.
Here are three fundamental assignments we must carry out to assure our stories will not leave the reader with a feeling of dissatisfaction:
1. Have a good story idea.
If a writer doesn’t have a good story idea, one that is compelling, or different or interesting on some level, it doesn’t matter how well s/he can write. No reader will be interested. In our highly competitive market today, we should challenge ourselves to take a good story idea and turn it into a great story idea.
For examples, see my post: Pull Back the Curtain…See What Successful Writers Do that Other Writers Don’t Do
2. Use some form of plotting or outlining technique.
Most of the hard work of writing is done before we put words on a page.
Writers have to think about and formulate in our minds what’s going to happen in the story; then what’s going to happen next. That’s where structure comes in. Structure is key to telling a story well.
The reader has to be able to follow the plot in our stories to stay engaged.
If you plot is too confusing or is not structured in a way the reader can follow, s/he will become frustrated or disinterested and most likely will stop reading.
There are primarily two techniques which most writers use for developing the structure of their stories. Plotting and pantsing (writing by the seat of one’s pants) are the two techniques. Neither is right or wrong. It’s a personal preference for a writer.
A plotter will generally have very detailed, sometimes complex outlines for developing the structure of their stories.
If you’re a pantser, you should use some outlining technique to ensure your story follows a structure that the reader can follow and doesn’t get lost or confused. It can be very high-level.
The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers , a New York Times Best-seller, is one of the most highly recommended books dealing with structure in storytelling.
3. Do the research.
One of the great things about being a fiction writer is we don’t have to have an intimate knowledge of the subjects we’re writing about. But it’s imperative that we do the research necessary to give our stories authenticity. Research is key to making any fictional story believable.
If your protagonist is a medical doctor or some other professional you’re not, it will be necessary for you to do some research to make your character believable.
If your story is historical fiction, involves time-travel, is futuristic, etc., you’re going to have to do your due diligence.
Fortunately for writers today, most of the information we need is right at our fingertips — the Internet.
But we may have to go a step further and research books on a given subject or interview professionals who have the same skill set as the character we’re developing.
Research is time-consuming. And I have to admit it’s not my favorite aspect of writing. But I understand the importance it has so I do it.
I also have to admit that I’ve learned some fascinating things conducting research that I probably would not have learned otherwise. So there is some good that comes out of it!
There are other facets of writing that make it more than just writing.
Drop me a line and give me your thoughts on what writers need to do to meet these challenges.