What is Fiction?
Fiction is lies; the writer is writing about characters that have never existed and scenarios in a novel that never happened. Reality usually is utterly dull. To make it more interesting, you have to complicate it, and complicate it some more. Occasionally, the reality becomes complicated and hectic, almost as complex as fiction. I’m sure many of us have been through those situations.
Telling Better Lies
Fiction novels are based on reality and then made more complex with exciting characters. You find an interesting scenario in real life and think that it can be made into a novel or a few scenes in a novel. The first thing you do is ask yourself, “How can I make this outrageous?”
As a new writer, you’re thinking, “But, I need to make it believable to keep the suspension of disbelief. This means that you hover too close to reality and being dull. If anything else, reading about a wealthy landowner who has ghosts that suck blood in their house probably won’t be boring. The idea is to set your fictional world, in the beginning, then your reader will be less in reality.
Star Wars, although a movie, started off showing a reasonably sized spaceship being pursued by a massive great big one. Going onboard the smaller ship, there was robots and laser beam fighting. After the first scene was complete, we had been taken to a space travel capable race and introduced to two main characters. From then on the characters were developed and exciting problems were included to outrageous standards.
1. Morning cliché
Clichés come in all sizes. There are as many clichéd scenes as phrases and words. For instance, how many times have you seen a book begin with the protagonist being “rudely awakened” from a “sound sleep” by an alarm? Have you written an opening like this? Where to start, you opt for the morning. Speaking of slipping into a cliché, I’ve been there and done that. We all have. Do not ever do it like that.
Joining that cliché is having the “bleary-eyed” character drag themselves from their bed, squinting against the intruding sunlight. Compounding that is showing the reader everything the character sees in that room. What happens next? They’ll pass or stand opposite a full-length mirror, and we’ll get the full rundown of the look and condition of the protagonist.
Are you cringing? I’ve made the same sort of clichéd scenes. Decide to leave that kind of morning-routine cliché to the writers who’ll begin to enter the writing like yourself. Do not start things in the morning or getting a cup of coffee/tea, but open in some action.
2. Answering the phone cliché scene
Another dangerous cliché scene is how people answer the telephone. This does happens even in the movies or on a stage. Be cognizant of yourself the next time your telephone rings. It’s such a common occurrence that we do not even think about it at all. But one thing you do not do is look up, surprised. You merely rise and answer it.
If your character gets a phone call and says, “Hello there?”
“This is Jane.”
“Hi, Jane. What’s up?”
3. The confusion of detail in a scene; the info dump
There may be a lot of information the reader needs to understand the following action. Listing all the information in one paragraph is awful. I do know about this as I have done it in my first chapter.
I do love coincidences. I’m fascinated by them, the happy ones and not the unhappy type. In fiction, if there is more than one in a novel that is too many, and even that one has to get managed well. The good coincidences and not realistic. They happen in real life, but in fiction, it is too convenient. Upsetting and unfortunate coincidences occur in life a lot, I know about that. Unhappiness is more realistic in fiction.
1. – On making the crime of the story matter to the sleuth. This is what is known as the inciting incident.
Whether the crime is large and threatens the future of humanity, or small and only threatens a person’s reputation, it has to matter personally to the sleuth. How this fits into a series novel, I don’t know yet. Maybe there must be an inciting incident in the first book and not in the second, but inciting incidents could happen fairly often.
2. – On generating ideas
I used to believe that I couldn’t write fiction as I wasn’t skilled at making up things. It turns out you don’t have to be because interesting ideas are all around you. Learn to tune in, and pay attention when your brain says. But the ‘What if…?” question is an ideal generator.
3. – On secrets that fuel your plot
In a mystery novel: Everyone has secrets, and it’s the revelation of those secrets that propel the story forward within their situation.
4. – On basing your story on a real person and event:
A real character or an actual event can make an excellent beginning point for a mystery novel. A large number of existing events are too bizarre and unbelievable for fiction.
5. – On advancing your character past cliché:
Interesting characters startle the reader. Be sure to build a disconnect between your character’s physical demeanour and true capabilities. Then mine the rift, be it through plot and action, reveal who your character becomes.
6. – On profligate adverbs;
“Oh, goody,” John said enthusiastically as he smiled radiantly.
Eradicate as many of those ‘-ly’ adverb words and replace them with excellent descriptions of what a character does. It’s the: SHOW DON’T TELL.
7. – On the unlikely villain:
Yes, you want to surprise the reader. But the surprise has to be believable and realistic. All the evidence has to bein the novel somewhere.
8. – On coincidence:
If some major part of your plot hinges on coincidence, readers will cry foul. Sure, there are coincidences in actual life, but your fictional world is far more demanding. Only unfortunate coincidences are realistic in real life and fiction.