Today, more freelance writers than ever are writing fiction. The reason? Fiction sells. Write engaging stories, which make readers feel, and readers will forgive you anything.
Not only does fiction sell when you write your own short stories and novels, ghostwriting fiction is beyond lucrative. With a stable of clients, you can make $10,000 for a novel in a popular genre, and a dollar a WORD for a 3,000 word short story. Happy days. 🙂
That said, fiction can be challenging, especially if you’re unaware of the necessity to write in scenes. Too much narrative kills your fiction.
Writing fiction: get the scene habit to keep readers reading
When I’m working with my writing students who are frustrated because their novels aren’t selling, I encourage them to focus on their SCENES. Invariably, if you can write powerful scenes, you’ll write a powerful novel.
You write in scenes so that you can engage your readers via their emotions. Of course, you need to understand your own emotions. 🙂 As I suggested in Writing Fiction: Think in Scenes for Easy Planning, Writing, and Revision:
To write great stories, you need to get on familiar terms with your own emotions, the emotions of those around you, and of course — your characters’ emotions. The more you can do that, the more your writing will improve.
Let’s look at some tips which will help you to write powerful scenes.
1. Make character creation easy: use an emotional adjective plus a noun to create your characters
Your readers’ emotional connection to your characters starts with you: create characters by choosing an emotional adjective, plus a noun. To get you started thinking about emotions, here’s a list of emotional tones and feelings.
- A jealous fashion designer
- A disgruntled detective
- A secretive CEO
Creating a “jealous” fashion designer gives you many more options when you’re developing a character, than if you chose just “fashion designer” as one of your characters. It also intrigues the reader.
(In today’s Facebook writing tip, I posted a tip about the importance of intriguing your readers in the first third of your novel.)
2. Give your characters something to fight for: when your characters care, so do readers
When you outline your scenes, focus on the emotional content. A scene “outline” can be a single sentence, it doesn’t need to be extensive. Not only does the emotional content of your scene draw in readers, it also makes the scene easier to write.
Vital: remember that when your characters aren’t fighting for something in a scene, readers are leaving. Every scene needs an emotional punch, and it can be subtle.
3. Know the ending: create it before you start writing: this applies to your entire short story or novel, as well as each scene
By nature I’m a pantser. Each and every time I’ve forced myself to outline a novel before I started writing, the writing process was grueling. My subconscious mind seems to feel that once an outline is written the book is done.
That said, it’s essential that you know your ending before you start writing. Of course, you can change it if you like. But if you start writing without knowing the ending it’s like setting off on a journey without a destination.
So, in our jealous fashion designer story (let’s call the designer Lola), Lola’s designs have been ripped off by a large company. At the end of the novel, after causing the company endless hassles, the company hires Lola.
As well as knowing the ending of your novel, you need to know the outcome of each scene. So in our Lola story, you could write a scene in which Lola meets the lawyers of the company which is ripping her off. Before writing the scene, you know that the scene ends with Lola being totally outraged, and determined to get revenge.
4. Every scene has consequences: keep your characters in pain (leaven it with humor)
The old saying that when your characters are having fun, readers aren’t, is true. Make life difficult for your characters in every scene. Not every scene needs to be filled with loud conflict or angst of course. However, even in a scene where all is well, make sure that something is off.
For example, in our Lola story, Lola’s just had a huge success. She’s signed a contract with a popular online store, which will stock her garments. At the office celebration, she receives a bunch of roses… and a dog bowl. She doesn’t own a dog.
5. Make your characters lose: every scene leads to your novel’s Moment of Despair/ Dark Moment
Lola’s jealousy has consequences. In our novel, Lola loses her business. That’s the novel’s dark moment.
Every novel needs a “dark moment.” That’s the moment when all seems lost. It’s also the moment that your character understands for the first time what’s been happening — and the character knows how to fix it.
The Dark Moment scene is one of the most important scenes in your novel (or short story.) If you focus on the emotion of every scene leading up to it, you’ll soon understand how to create the Dark Moment. It’s a powerful scene for readers, and at that stage, when they’ve read 75% of your novel, they’ll keep reading.
Well done. 🙂
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