Friday, September 14, 2012

So you want to write the next Hunger Games? Elements of Fiction Writing

Have you ever started to write a story that you couldn't seem to finish?  Have you had a great idea for a story, know how it was going to start and end but ran out of steam just before writing the middle?

Maybe it's because you were writing from the seat of your pants; believing that you have the ability to write a good story because you love to read and you've read so many good stories.

It's possible to write a very good story on instinct alone. But it might be the case that you need a little help to really craft a compelling and satisfying story for your reader.

Let's take a minute and think about some of the elements that make a story compelling, and see where you might have gone astray.

A work of fiction has Characters, Theme, Setting, Plot, Conflict, and Voice.

All of these areas require careful attention in order to create a cohesive story that creates a new reality for the reader -- no matter how fantastic the characters and events may be.

Today, let's examine the Voice of your story.  

To understand voice, do the following:

Want to try?  I'm going to flip to a random page in each of these books and quote a small section with the names all changed.  I'm going to use Sesame Street character names and use He for all of the pronouns.

Example 1:

'I think you should still follow that plan,' said Grover, 'I do not think the road will prove too hard for your courage.   But if you require clearer counsel, you should ask Oscar.  I do not know the reason for your flight and therefore I do not know by what means your pursuers will assail you.  These things Oscar must know.  I suppose you will see him before you leave..." 

Example 2:

I whip around. It's come from the left, so I can't pick it up very well. And the voice was hoarse and weak. Still, it must have been Ernie. My eyes peruse the bank, but there is nothing. Just mud, the plants the base of the rocks.

Example 3:

All the same, it wasn't what you'd call the perfect end to the day Kermit thought, as he lay awake much later listening to Fozzy and Beaker falling asleep.  There was a very good chance they were going to get caught by Miss Piggy or Animal,and yet Kermit felt he was pushing his luck.  The Count's face kept looming up out of the darkness -  this was his big chance to beat Big Bird face to face.  He wasn't going to miss it.  

Have you got your guesses ready?

I'll give you the answer.

The first example was from The Fellowship of The Ring, the last example was from Harry Potter and the middle one was from The Hunger Games.

I'm going to bet you got all 3 of them right (if you've read the books.)

The reason you could tell which was which was because of the writers Voice.  It's not what the author is saying but how she says it.  The way she puts words together. The detail. The imagery. Even the attitude or the personality of the story itself.  All of this together is the Voice, and it helps the reader identify with a story in the same way we identify with a good friend.

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