Thinking about writing fiction?
Here’s a secret.
Start with the idea.
When we read fiction, we may be bored… Or we’re living through an unbearable life event and need to escape for a while. Perhaps we enjoy stepping into another world.
Whatever a reader’s reason for reading your novel, they read for entertainment.
When you’re writing fiction, you’re an entertainer
Your fiction is a diversion.
Since that’s the case, focus on making your fiction as entertaining as you can—and don’t be intimidated. Entertainment comes in many different packages, the operative word being “different.”
For example, I just finished reading Linda Coles’ novel, Hot to Kill. It’s a crime novel which is different because of the killer’s motivation. The main character, Madeline Simpson, turns into a serial killer, but she does it more or less by accident. Most of the novel’s told from Madeline’s point of view; the detectives are peripheral to the action of the novel.
Despite her murderous quirk, Madeline is a sympathetic character. She loves her husband and her friends. Her motivation is different and yet believable. And that’s more than you can say for the murderer’s motivation in many crime novels.
Your novel’s idea: make it different
Please remember the word different, because an alternate meaning for “novel” is “interestingly new or unusual.” I read a lot and I’ve never come across another novel in which a character has a similar motivation to Madeline’s.
Unsure how to motivate? Read Linda Coles’ novels. Her novels contain many characters; all believable.
Writing fiction: entertainment starts with your idea
Every author starts with an idea. Your novel will entertain readers, or not, depending on its idea.
Entertainment comes in many forms. When you read a novel or short story and enjoy it, ask yourself why you enjoyed it. What was different about it?
You can choose to make your characters different as Linda Coles does. Or as Jane Austen did. Two hundred years ago, her novels were considered different, but her characters still live in readers’ imaginations today.
Perhaps you’ll focus on the setting and make it different. I enjoy Ann Cleeve’s Shetland novels for the setting. Similarly, I’ve read and reread Michael Crichton’s Timeline for the setting: it’s a time travel novel in which the characters journey into the 14th century.
Speaking of setting, Jane Harper’s novel, The Dry, uses both characterization and setting well. The novel’s different too. Although many novels use outback Australia as a setting, in The Dry, the setting and characters are interdependent.
When you’re writing fiction, start with an idea, big or little, and think about how you might use it to make your fiction different.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.