5 Common Questions About Writing Fiction

Today’s guest post comes from author Christie Santo.

Christie has published short stories and poetry and has freelanced as a ghostwriter. She received her BA in creative writing from California State University Long Beach and has over a decade of independent filmmaking experience in writing, editing, producing, and acting. Ravens In The Rain: A Noir Love Story is her debut novel. She lives in Burbank, CA with her husband and two Boston Terrier dogs.

Photo from Christie Santo

5 Common Questions About Writing Fiction

1. What should I write about?

There’s a lot of truth in the saying write what you know. That doesn’t necessarily mean that to write about a psychopathic killer you have to be one yourself, but you should have done a lot of research. Another way to write what you know is by adding some of yourself into the character. So let’s say that you’re a middle child, traumatized by being left out or always competing with your siblings for everything. You can add that into the psychological breakdown of your character. Now understanding what they do and why they do it will be more truthful. 

Another way to look at this is, what do you have to say? Not every story is a message piece, but the genealogy of stories has its roots in fairytales so it’s common to say that many stories have a message. From what you’ve experienced in your life, what moral message do you want to share with the world? No matter what genre, there’s always a clever way to infix a message. And you don’t have to be heavy-handed. The best achieve this subtly and make you think after reading. 

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

2. How to start?

You can ask a million writers this question and get a million different answers. A story can grow from a thought, maybe the idea of a protagonist, and you like a certain genre. Genre writing gives you a lot of answers because you generally have an idea of where you end up. Which is what I advise. Know how you want the story to end. Then you can build everything around that, or more appropriately, toward that. 

3. Should I edit as I go? 

Editing as you go can be fine. It’s a delicate balance that you have to figure out for yourself. Here are some questions to ask yourself. Is the editing becoming more of your focus than the writing? Are you not moving on because you want perfection? If yes, then your editing is an issue. Stop editing and write. If you find that your editing is changing the major plot of your story, then step back and think about the story you’re writing. Workout some of those plot points before diving back into writing. Although, you could be someone who has to write to figure out where the story is going, and in that case edit-on and happy deleting. As you can figure out, everyone has a different practice, but the gist is that you shouldn’t let the technical aspect of writing get in the way of getting the story out of you. Even if your first draft is rife with grammatical errors, don’t worry, there is plenty of time to edit after you get the first draft onto the page. 

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4. How to write a good fictional character?

Give your character an arc and bring the character to life with characterization. You might say, (enter any name here) superhero didn’t have an arc. And to that I would say, he/she did. A flat arc is still an arc, and that is one way to go. Another is a positive change arc, and another is a negative change arc. If you are interested in learning more about character arcs, I recommend K.M. Weiland’s book “Creating Character Arcs.” Also, don’t tell us, show us. Characterization can be accomplished through your character’s thoughts and actions. Give them individual traits, interests, gestures, and mannerisms. Most importantly, don’t make them perfect. Characters with flaws are the most realistic and relatable. To be human is to be imperfect. 

5. What are common writing mistakes by new writers?

In my opinion, it is forgetting the reader’s perspective. Where are they in their head while they are reading? Meaning, when you are writing a scene, keep in mind where you are asking them to look. Imagine the reader like a movie camera. Are they jumping around too much and getting dizzy? Don’t forget that thoughts are also a location. So when and how often are you jumping into the character’s thoughts is another thing to think about. It is a balancing act that a writer must figure out because writing is entertainment. You are creating a performance in the reader’s brain. Do your best for an encore opportunity. 

Many thanks to Christie for taking the time to give us her writing advice! Click on the image below to check out her debut novel.

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