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How to Write Fiction

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Anyone who says writing can't be taught is speaking nonsense: inspiration can't be taught, but writing certainly can. It's a skill, no different from, say, cooking. Some people have a greater appreciation for food, a natural sense for how different tastes work together. But they're not the only ones capable of whipping up a tasty meal. It's exactly the same with wanting to write. Almost anyone can learn how to put words on the page in a clear, intelligent manner -- they can even do so in a way that tells a story. If your goal is to write a story, or to learn to write better, these articles will help.

Freewriting.

Freewriting is one of the easiest ways to dive into writing, and it's a technique even experienced writers use when they're blocked. (Many people feel comfortable writing without much structure, but if you're not one of those people, then start with a writing exercise or prompt.) The best part about freewriting is that there is no wrong answer: anything you get down is A-OK.

Write Short Stories.

If you're feeling hesitant about how to structure your story, or you have pages of prose you'd like to shape into fiction, start by reviewing these basic rules. Don't be put off if writing a story doesn't seem simple. With a short story, a lot has to happen in relatively few pages. Some people are better at longer forms, but it's helpful in thinking about plot to start small.

Plot 101.

Now that you have an overview of the short story, drill down into each of the elements, starting with plot. Plot is what separates a freewriting exercise from a short story. No matter how great your characters or your setting, a story won't be successful if the plot isn't sound.

Characters.

That said, at least one character should be well-developed. Someone in the story must take action, and that action will only be believable if the character seems real to the reader. This exercise will help you develop the characters in your story.

Setting.

Some people believe that setting is the most important element of a story, that it drives everything else. If you're just starting to write, this may be a bit abstract, but take it as a fact: the setting counts. Work on your setting here.

Point of View.

Once you have your plot, characters, and setting, you must decide how to tell the story: first person or third person? Third person limited or omniscient? This article helps you think strategically about point of view, either before you start to write or between revisions.

Dialogue.

When you strive to "show and not tell," dialogue will almost certainly come into play. But as you've probably noticed in your reading, it's really easy to get it wrong. Find out how to get it right.

Writing Style.

Getting your story down may not be the challenge for you: you may have concerns about the way you're telling your stories. For the most part, style develops naturally, with years of reading and writing. However, there are elements of style to keep in mind, a baseline, if you will. Keep these rules in mind as you learn to write.

Books on Writing.

Continue your writing education with these books, classics in the genre. While you don't want your study of writing to keep you from the actual practice of writing, there is much to be learned from others' experiences. Books are a great alternative if you aren't quite ready for a writing class.
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