Additional Ideas About How To Write FictionAdditional Ideas About How To Write Fiction

In the last article, I had launched into the question of style and I want to continue on that line, picking up from where we left off at suggestion 3.

Suggestion 4: Writers often use a special style - rather than just special words - in order to create an atmosphere. The feeling of oppressive authority for example in the very opening paragraph of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens: "Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it would be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born... the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this Chapter". Dickens means Oliver Twist was born in a workhouse. It takes time to get used to the style - but it's worth it! Using a special style is also effective if you are quoting the writing of another person:

"Whosoever may see this document, be he of this time, of a time decades in the future or even of centuries to come, I ask that you should give me some little fragment of sympathy for the terrible torments that I have lived through, the agony which I have suffered." from "Friends and Enemies" volume 1. This is in a totally different style from the rest of the book because the author behind the words is, in the story, a very special (and unpleasant) character.

Suggestion 5: Do not put judgments in the reader's mind. To use the example which I quoted from "She" in an earlier article regarding the very complicated sunrise, Rider Haggard writes "It was a wonderfully beautiful sight." Now if we had not already gathered that fact from the excess of language that Haggard had used, then the writer had certainly failed!

It also follows that if we should not put judgments in the readers mind then it may be better not to write "she looked angry." Instead, describe how she looked and then the reader can work out that she is angry. For example, if someone hisses in reply, or bangs his fist on the table, or scrunches a letter up in his hand, or squeezes an apple until the juice runs out between his fingers, you know that he is angry, without having to be told. Tolstoy stuck to this rule. That is one reason why his books, like War and Peace, are so long!

Suggestion 6. This refers back to the basic rule about making the reader feel that he is there. Reading passages in some books can almost be like a video playing before your eyes, but with only the essentials showing. Then you are on the edge of your seat! One way to do this is to include some short vivid detail (but not too much). An example: "Three men were sitting in a corner of the darkened wine shop, a tiny window beside them admitting just a few rays of sunlight." You can see it! Just 24 words, and it is there in front of you. But the author has first to have seen it, whilst he or she is writing it, in the "mind's eye". Cultivate that sense of being there, imagining it, making a 'hole in the paper' and seeing through it, as Stephen King writes.

(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission from the author, David Field).
by David Field
References and Bibliography
David Field is a professor of Astrophysics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has published numerous articles in many Astronomy and Physics journals. His most recent novel, The Fairest Star, the third installment of his Friends and Enemies Trilogy, has just been published. For more information, please visit: David Field.
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