20 easy tips to become a better fiction writer

Banner photo by NS member Rodrigo Benatti

Start in the middle of the character’s story. Histories are more powerful when revealed later.

Create a character that even you don’t completely know. Make it a journey for you too.

Take the time to record background about the characters for your own reference. Where did they grow up? What did their parents do? Did they have siblings? When exactly would they break their moral code? How does this affect them?

Decide what change will happen to your characters. There should be some growth (for good or for bad). There should be some conflict.

Identify the protagonist’s passion. Make it real. You can have the best story in the world, but the characters have to care so the readers will.

Make it believable and relatable (even if it’s in an unrelatable world).

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar and familiar things new.” – Samuel Johnson

No one likes a “perfect” love story. Conflict and tragedy are helpful in stories.

Your hero or heroine must have flaws. They must make mistakes. We want to feel like we are smarter than the characters. Think about how addicting it is to watch people make mistakes in dramatic television.

Avoid long descriptions of action. Characters are more interesting in books even during battle.

Similarly, avoid long descriptions of character appearance. Get this out of the way when we first meet them and throw the occasional reminder in later.

Make your characters unique. You’ve read books. Don’t do what’s expected. For example, don’t aggravate and insult your readers with beefy male leads and curvy delicate female love interests. Can we get over that please?

Immerse us. We don’t need to know that your character got out of bed and put on her slippers unless it’s actually important. We can connect the dots. We want to connect the dots.

Don’t go crazy with language. Too many new writers try to show off with every sentence. Create an amazing world, not a series of fancy sentences.

Use short sentences more often than not. This will grow tension and keep people engaged. Long flowing sentences get old quickly.

Alternatively, use better words. For example, see this chart of alternatives for the word “said.”

Be your own critic. Go through your writing and find words you overuse and techniques you abuse. Don’t beat yourself up, but know that you aren’t perfect. We all need to grow and should enjoy the process.

Be patient. Stretch out the story – that’s part of the art.

Don’t assume your readers are stupid. Leave the hidden gems hidden!

“Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

Model your story after your favorites. Dont copy, but think of the instances in fiction that moved you greatly. Perhaps it was a hard-ass family member finally showing their love. Use these ideas in your story. Use what speaks to you.

Think of your story as a large crescendo. There is growth and release, but the big picture should be a continuous growth of tension leading to the final release.