Writing Fiction:
Techniques to Improve Your Style

Writing fiction requires some of the same skills as writing anything else: clarity and precision, while being concise.

However, the writing techniques you'd use for non-fiction are not always the same ones you use when writing a novel, poetry or other kinds of fiction.

Here are a few to help you make your fiction memorable.

Details, Details

One of the things I suggest you do when writing fiction is practice small bits all the time. For instance, go downtown and watch people, then describe one or two that really caught your interest.

Some call this "object writing", where you use as much detail as possible about the object, person or subject you're writing about. Be specific, be wordy (one of the few times it's good to be wordy). Be creative, though.

Don't say the little girl you saw had "hair like sunshine". That's a cliche. That's a cop-out. Try something similar to "hair like the glint of sunlight through champagne", or "hair the color of a wheat field in late summer".

And try to use other senses, too. Don't confine yourself to what you see alone. If she was skipping along humming Mary Had a Little Lamb, let us know it. If she smells like cotton candy or bubblegum, let us know that. Let us imagine this little sprite in as much detail as possible.

Being Prompt(ed)

I hear repeatedly that other writers get blocked. Writer's block can be an authors worst enemy. I think it's also a crutch, sometimes.

If you feel blocked, uninspired or just plain lazy (okay, I can't cure that; you'll have to), try using writing prompts to get those brain cells to wake up. To me, the best kind are ones that make you practice a particular part of writing fiction.

Like this one from my book of writing prompts (available in the Bookstore):

Describe a room that is important to your novel's hero or heroine (or a favorite character from a book you've read). Give us plenty of detail (think of the five senses), and tell us why the room is important to him or her.

Or this one, which works on an entirely different fiction writing skill:

Create a short dialogue between two or three characters who are unexpectedly snowed in, using dialogue tags to let us know who's speaking.

If you can find or create fiction writing prompts such as these, and practice for ten to fifteen minutes a day, you'll soon be writing fiction like the pros.

It's a Figure of Speech

My third and final recommendation of writing techniques to help you with your fiction is one we could all use - even for non-fiction pieces.

This is the use of figurative language. Figures of speech are not meant to be taken literally. Usually, they compare two things that are dissimilar, pointing out an unexpected similarity between the two.

You can say "Arthur is a bull", and as long as you're talking about a person, we know you don't mean that literally.

What you're saying, instead, is that he has some characteristics of a bull: stubbornness, maybe a sharp temper or the tendency to charge into situations with his "head lowered", not considering the consequences first.

You can elaborate on the bull image by showing us his actions and reactions, and describing his expressions and mannerisms in ways that evoke a bull.

That is figurative writing. And it will enrich your fiction - and your non-fiction, if you write that as well - making it more vivid and memorable, and therefore, more likely to be read.

That, after all, is why you're writing fiction, isn't it? So it will be read?

So try these writing techniques to help your fiction surpass the doldrums of normal. I promise I'll read it if you do!

For more fiction writing techniques,
read these pages:

Creative Fiction Writing
Writing a Novel
Writing Fiction

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Return to How to Write a Novel homepage from Writing Ficiton page

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