If you have decided fiction is your medium, this takes just as much hard work as a well-researched article, because fiction, to be successful, must be believable. You don’t just get an idea for a story or novel and then rush to start writing. First, make notes about your characters. Transfer their looks, thoughts and conversations on to paper. Decide on their backgrounds. Write about the setting – but choose a place you have lived in or really know intimately.
Start with one giant character – the hero or heroine – then build your satellite characters. Some authors first decide on a subject, then they invent a story, or plot, as the framework. The main impetus of any short story or novel is the drama, moving from crisis to crisis.
Most novels contain or or more of these dramatic elements:
MAN AGAINST NATURE: (Robinson Crusoe; mountaineering books of J.R. Ullman etc.) Don’t make the story too grim, put the hero through unbelievable paces or treat nature solely as an enemy.
MAN AGAINST MAN: The chief danger here is to make your hero all good and his opponent all bad – every human is a little bit saint and also a bit sinner.
MAN AGAINST SOCIETY: This was the classical theme of writers like Victor Hugo, Emil Zola and James Baldwin.
MAN AGAINST HIMSELF: This theme is exploited by Bernard Malamud and many contemporary writers. Don’t overburden your story with psychologizing, and can avoid this by dramatizing your story elements.
The plot refers to what happens – the arrangement of the events in the story. It is the plan or design and should be planned so that events at the beginning prepare the reader for the future. These are the questions you should ask in devising your plot:
What conflict is there? What is the basis for the conflict? What does the hero want? Does he get it?
Next you should ask: How does the story create suspense? When is your curiosity aroused about what is going to happen? When is it satisfied?
Plot shows the cause and effect relationship between character and event. e.g. If you hear that a woman jumps from the fifth storey of a luxury apartment building, the incident is not meaningful until it is placed in a plot, in which you perceive how her character and previous events in her life led her to suicide.
In a good story, every detail contributes to the plot, but you must omit details which do not further this purpose. Choose those which best produce the effect you want. You must also choose scenes which show most effectively the relationship between character and events.
The climax is the when the outcome of the conflict is decided, and who (or what) will win the struggle. Involve the reader emotionally. Conflict, suspense and incidents in a well-constructed story build up to this final climax.
Happy writing. My new novella “Searching for Sarah” is now available on Amazon, or direct from me (firstname.lastname@example.org ); as well as some of my earlier books e.g. “The Pomegranate Pendant”; “Seeds of the Pomegranate” ; “In A Good Pasture”; my memoir “My Long Journey Home” etc. I am always happy to hear your comments and to help with any of your writing problems.