Fiction is often a form of story telling, with loveable characters, problems to solve, a goal to reach and difficulty in reaching that goal. The process of writing this type of genre is one that the writer must enjoy, because it is often unappreciated or mis-understood.
To write a novel all you need is a character with a passionate desire.
Genre Fiction – Romance, Mystery, Western, Science Fiction, Fantasy; usual focus is on a problem, action scenes, often includes side conflicts, conflicted but believable characters, and a plot that has built-in tension.
Focus is not on action – In broad terms, literary fiction focuses more on style, psychological depth, and character and tends to be multilayered stories which wrestle with universal dilemmas rather than with plot. They usually provoke the readers beliefs and thoughts, often with an outcome of changing or altering their audiences outlook on life. More often than not, literary fiction addresses what might be considered more serious issues to uncover a truth bringing its audience; by the way of the main character; to a deeper understanding about life. Most of what is considered the “classics” (ie. novels written before the 1950s) would be termed literary fiction. Most of these books are character centered rather than plot oriented; looking at the human condition and provoking the reader into some sort of change. In literary fiction, the plot bubbles underneath the surface. The important factors in literary fiction are: what is happening in the thoughts, minds, desires and motivations of the characters as they move about and within the setting. Adding a further layer upon that, are the underlying cultural expectations and social issues which influence the motivations and actions of the characters. Often a story will be built on religious or mythological symbolism or incorporating archetypes from other types of literature.
Parts of a story
An opening line that grabs attention
Point of View – decide whether one character will be an observer, or will you switch the point of view as the focus on one character switches to another.
Scene setting which is done over and over and over again from beginning, raising the stakes repeatedly to the ultimate climax (highest points of tension) of the story — regardless of genre or literary sensibility.
Foreshadowing – the ending should not come as a complete surprise to the reader, provide hints along the way.
Character building – conflicted but believable, described in physical detail, keeping to three or less for short stories, usually changes in some way by the end.
Tropes, or frameworks – basic storyline, often one seen over and over, evergreen situations like ‘boy meets girl, the quest or the marooned’ settings.
Setting – does the location work, is the description putting the reader in the local? This includes the scene where the action takes place. Worldbuilding – Imaginary futures, researched pasts – the need to provide believable and consistent details about the economy that drives motivation, the potential for hope in the characters, the conflict in beliefs, social problems become obstacles for the hero.
Plot – something must be happening that moves the protagonist away from their overall story goal or objective.
Conflict: Conflict is something competitive either physically (two armies fighting a war) or mentally (the decision to abort or not). Something happens externally or internally, but the results are almost surely external (an army wins, she keeps the baby, he’s happy, etc.)! The bigger the conflict; the bigger the stakes. Life and death conflict is arguably the conflict with the biggest result at stake, and that is why there is tremendous conflict when those two results are at odds. That is also why they are, in some way, in the vast majority of stories. The reader will be saying “what happens next” with eager anticipation.
Drivers – things that keep the story moving, sub-plots, ascent or descent, flashbacks, tension of internal and external forces. Characters learn new stuff, practice to get better and everything takes a toll of some sort.
Climax – the centre after removing all the layers
Often there are set ‘formulas’ to follow.
Speculative, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Popular Magic – avoid lumping all fantasy together. There are dozens of sub-categories ranging from high fantasy that requires a running summary-scorecard to track all the characters and sub-plots, to well written ‘hard’ science fiction novels that have plot and character constructions akin to the other genres of fiction but with a requirement for authentic references to Physics, Astronomy, Biology, Ecology with believable extrapolations. Some genre are dated, such as SF stories around technology.
Romance novels are often about delayed happiness and the pilgrimage the character goes through to the imagined happiness. Why the story is being told dictates its climax. If it’s a love story, it must end with the culmination of that love. A love story where the lovers come together halfway through the tale is not a true love story.
Thriller novels often feature a race against the clock, lots of violence, and an obvious antagonist.
Horror is often implied rather than explicit. It is often useful to tell the reader about a secondary event that occurred as a result of the graphic action that is taking place. Let the reader infer the primary action, and the horror will follow. E.g. watching a train coming towards him and describing his eye pupils dilating.
The pattern of the murder mystery is the same as the pattern of comedy: in an apparently orderly world, a disruption breaks in, and through a sequence of reversals and discoveries a fresh order is achieved. In mysteries it usually turns out that that apparent order was in some way corrupt.
Series – more than one book on a topic or about a story and theme.
You need a reference manual for characters and locations, research, science used, every detail including the selection of names, you will need to keep consistent throughout.