Writing Fiction is Easy (Apparently)

A foreword to prose fiction writing. #1

Donny Setiawan
7 min readJan 26, 2024
Photo by Geilan Malet-Bates onUnsplash

Keep in mind, what makes a work of fiction be seen and judged as a great work? Namely through the following three basic elements:

  • Plots
  • Characters
  • Dictions

Write fiction with a good plot, have characters who have unique characters, and present interesting diction or use of words and anyone who reads a work of fiction like that will definitely appreciate the work more.

MAYBE FOR SOME PEOPLE think that reading fiction is a waste of time. However, if we master the three basic elements in writing fiction, as above, we might be able to CHANGE THEIR VIEW.

THEME

The first step, to get started, look for ideas.

Then, move on to another important part, DECIDE A THEME!

Is it about love? about war? about the character? or about other imaginative things, you can use it to start writing fiction.

FIGURE

If you want to write fiction DETERMINE who is in the spotlight in the story.
The profile structure is a basic description of the characters who will later fill our story.

Use these three basic benchmarks when determining characters:

  • What’s the downside?
  • What is his wish?
  • and, what are the needs?

REMEMBER! Each figure has character and the three benchmarks above.

Then, determine several basic requirements that must describe the character of each character in your story, such as:

Character Profile

  • Name
  • Career
  • Relationship
  • Characteristic
  • Lifestyle

Physical Profile

  • Skin color/condition
  • Head shape
  • Hair shape
  • Eye shape
  • Nose shape
  • Eyebrow shape
  • Chin shape
  • Lip Shape
  • Face shape
  • Body shape
  • Mustache (if needed)

STRUCTURE IN NARRATIVE

OK, now you have the characters you need to create a story. Now, we start writing. To write fiction, we have to be good at arranging paragraph by paragraph in each chapter of the story.

Each Part or Chapter per Act has at least two types of paragraphs, namely:

  • Opening Paragraph
  • Main Paragraph
  • Closing Paragraph

In writing prose texts, both long prose and short prose, essentially have the same narrative structure.

The basic narrative structure in fiction is introduction, description, and dialogue. The three of them complement each other in each paragraph in the fictional narrative.

  1. Introduction

An introduction is a type of paragraph that presents an introductory paragraph, before entering and moving from one act to another, the contents of which present the main discussion or main problem of a story.

Introduction is also referred to as the round that presents an introduction.

Introductions can be categorized into three types, namely action introductions, description introductions, and dialogue introductions

Action Introduction

An action introduction is an opening that is preceded by several sentences that present the actions followed by the characters and the information that follows.

Like,’ Adrian glanced at his watch. He walked towards the door that was blocking him, then pushed it in,’

or

‘Jane walked on the wet asphalt. Her shoes clicked on the road as she turned back.’

Words such as ‘walk’, ‘push’, ‘turn’, are words that present an action.

Introduction to action in the novel:

Marianne opened the door when Connell rang the bell.
— first sentence, Chapter 1, Normal People by Sally Rooney

Introduction Description

Descriptive introductions are usually written by providing information about who the characters are or when and where or what problems they face, both the main character and other characters, in fiction.

The descriptive introduction is quite complicated and a bit more complicated than the opening using an action introduction. In this opening, using boring sentences such as presenting detailed information ‘what and how’ the reader can understand the situation by using descriptive sentences.

Introduction description in the novel:

The following is a story as written in my notebook.
— first sentence, Chapter 1, His Last Bow by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Introduction to Dialogue

An introduction that presents dialogue at the beginning of the first chapter paragraph at the beginning of the sentence.

Usually, the introduction begins by involving a conflict, introducing a character, place or event.

Introduction to action in the novel:

“TOM!”
Nobody answered.
“Tom!”
Nobody answered.
“Where is that insolent child? Tom! Didn’t you hear me calling you?”

first sentence, Chapter 1, Mark Twain’s The Adventure of Tom Sawyer.

2. Description

A description of the part of a paragraph that presents in-depth knowledge or information about a character, time, event, place, or feeling.

Descriptions are more complex than the other two types of paragraphs. Descriptions can be categorized, into:

  • Character description
  • Description of objects
  • Time description
  • Description of place
  • Action description
  • Description of the situation
  • Sensory description
  • Description description
  • Description of past information, and
  • Description of thoughts.

3. Dialogue

Dialogue is a type of paragraph that presents a conversation as a form of conveying the storyline.
Dialogue can convey conflict, feelings, character behavior, or place/time situations and so on.
Dialogue is a type of simplification of a paragraph in a fictional narrative.

COMBINATION OF PARAGRAPHS IN A NARRATIVE

The combination of paragraphs is a combination, one might say a recipe, in fictional narratives.

The goal is to arrange each sentence in an interesting fictional narrative paragraph.

The following is an example of this type of paragraph combination in contemporary narratives:

Yellow = action, Blue = description, & Red = dialogue.
  • (introduction) action+description,
  • dialogue,
  • dialogue,
  • action+description + action+description,
  • dialogue,
  • dialogue,
  • action+description.

A paragraph for each number. Number 1 means paragraph one.

In the novel Normal People by Sally Rooney (translated into Indonesian) there are paragraph combinations: action + description, dialogue + dialogue, and action + description & action + description.

Or, an example of a simpler type of paragraph combination in a narrative, and one that is most suitable for novice writers:

Yellow = action, Blue = description, & Red = dialogue.
  • (introduction) Description (time) + Description (adverb) + Description (situation)
  • Description (remarks)
  • Description (character introduction)
  • Dialogue + Dialogue (reciprocity: Jane and Rake)
  • Action + Description

In the novel Dragonblade by Martin Baynton there are paragraph combinations: description + description + description, dialogue, and action + description.

It turns out, if we know paragraphs better, writing fiction will be easier and more fun, even for any type of writing.

PARTS IN THE NARRATIVE

A round is a stop or a kind of station on the entire train route. Along the railroad tracks there are stopping points, just like fictional narratives.
Acts can contain several chapters. For example, the first round contains chapters 1–8, then the middle round contains chapters 9–18, and the final round contains chapters 19–24.

Each act determines a part of the story so that it is interesting and moving.

First Act

  • Character introduction
  • Introduction to place
  • Introduction to conflict

Middle Act

  • Prefix conflict
  • Conflict towards the end

Formula: Yes, but… & No, and…

‘Yes, but… & no, and…’ is a formula commonly used in scenes during the conflict. The goal is to make the storyline more interesting and tense and not boring.

In this formula, every scene and action always gives birth to new consequences.

For example, in a conflict scene, a writer writes a paragraph (any sequence of paragraphs) of a scene such as:

In the pursuit of a prisoner by the police. The convict managed to escape and jumped into the barrel which caused the police to lose track of him (Yes), but it turned out that the barrel contained traces of a deadly liquid whose smell could cause respiratory problems (but).

The prisoner could not erase his traces from the police chase (No), and he was still being chased by the police (and).

Formula: Yes, and… & No, but…

‘Yes, and.. & no, but…’ is a formula that is commonly used (the opposite of the formula in conflict scenes) in fictional narratives to draw every scene and action that always has a positive ending.

The police succeeded in arresting the prisoner (Yes), and he took the person to his superiors (and).

On the way, the prisoner managed to untie the restraints on his hands and disappeared from the police (No), but fortunately his colleagues from the police managed to catch him first before the prisoner managed to run any further (but).

This formula can also be used in conflict scenes leading up to the ending or climax (resolution act) and the final act.

Final Round

  • Ending conflict
  • Introduction to endings (characters, places, conflicts)

SHOW, DON’T TELL

Tell (Say)

PLEASE REMEMBER! It’s best to avoid using Tell in writing fiction.

Why? Because it will look boring and don’t seem to move the story line in the reader’s mind. Readers will definitely feel bored and fed up. They need a storyline that moves their imagination — not given ‘dead’ information delivered passively.

Malik is shy and doesn’t like to seek attention.

Just write it down for keep it for the writer, don’t publish it to readers.
It is also important that the writer should keep a pre-writing draft, to remind the points — before the writer writes it into a draft for editing.

Usually the pre-written draft contains adjectives or dead (lifeless) words. Words like: ‘shy, hurt, angry, etc.’ must be conveyed through action to the reader.

Show (Show)

Instead write: Malik is shy and doesn’t like to seek attention.

Best changed to:

While people were busy telling stories and laughing in the living room, Malik stayed silent in his room and just enjoyed his books.

CLOSING REMARKS

Writing fiction is easy, but what’s difficult is getting started.
When we know the simple structures for writing fiction, will we, as writers, start writing fiction?***

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