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The Written Word June 2009

Fiction Pointers



If you are a beginner, here are a few tips for crafting fiction:


      Limit dialogue to two people until you get the hang of it. Dialogue should move the story along and provide conflict, not mimic the boring small talk of real life. Conflict means one character trying to persuade another, and that works best with two people.  


       Stay away from the semicolon, colon, exclamation point, em-dash (long dash) and ellipsis until you have learned about them. Don’t overuse the comma. “When in doubt, leave it out.” Noah Lukeman’s A Dash of Style will help you. I also recommend The Chicago Manual of Style, Merriam Webster’s Manual for Writers & Editors, and the Associated Press Stylebook.


       Build your own library. At a minimum, you need a good thesaurus, one stylebook, and an up-to-date dictionary. Because some of my stories take place during WWII, I have a chronology of the war and other books about the period.


       Learn from others. Read extensively. You will soon benefit from other people’s strengths and weaknesses. Accept constructive criticism.


       Copy famous writers. (No, I am not endorsing plagiarism.) Take a paragraph from your favorite author and play with changing the words to your own while keeping the passion and emotion of the original writing. It’s great fun and a real style builder.


       Use spell-check but beware. Computers catch most typos and misspellings, but will not recognize substitution errors such as using lie for lay or passed for past.    



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