Category Archives: writing techniques

>Turning Reality Into Fiction

>Do you get ideas for stories from real life? A lot of my ideas over the years have emerged from real events, people, and places. After all, we’re surrounded by anomalies and as writers we try to take notice and advantage of them. But once you have a nugget from the real world, how do turn it into something more fantastical?

I used to have a hard time translating real world events and feelings into a story. Usually, you don’t want the real thing verbatim. You just want the essence of what happened, or the emotions that were present. Taking what you want out of context can be tricky. I had to work at it so that I wasn’t writing a documentary. What can you do to get what you need from real life, but still write fiction?

Gain some distance. If you’re drawing on real emotions, for instance, you may need some space from whatever happened to draw them out in the first place. If you’re too close to a situation, it’s tough to separate the feeling from the event. Given time, it’s much easier to take the emotions and redirect them in a novel or short story.

Remember, it’s still fiction. Even though you may be writing about an actual event or person, you’re still writing a story. Know your facts but don’t let them inhibit creativity. Take poetic license when the story calls for it. You’re writing a novel, not a non-fiction book.

Extract what you need. People may possess qualities or quirks that you want to use, but that doesn’t mean you have to recreate the whole person. You can extract what you like (or don’t like I guess!) from people, events, and places, and combine them with other things you’ve pulled out of context for something entirely original.

How do you use real life in fiction?

>Culling Fluff from Your Story


Every scene that you write doesn’t necessarily belong in the finished draft. A lot of things you may have written just to keep writing, or they were scenes you needed to know about but your readers don’t. Part of writing a first draft is learning about your characters and figuring out the story. So some of your initial writing may be you playing around, testing the waters. So how can you recognize the fluff from the important scenes?
An awesome trick I learned several years ago comes from screenwriting. Get a pack of index cards. Go through your novel or short story and write down a scene per index card. Number the scene, and in a sentence say who is in the scene and what they’re doing. Once you’re done, lay out the index cards and read your novel in summary. You will immediately recognize the cotton candy from the steak because the one-sentence summary will read something like “Rex and Sir Edmund chat” (from an actual scene card of an old story of mine). Laugh if you want, but I promise somewhere in your novel or short story is a scene like that and this method will smoke it out.

How do you cull out the filler from your stories?

>What Happens Next?


When readers ask this question, all they have to do to get the answer is turn the page. When writers ask this question, much more work is in store to find out. Sometimes you get to a point in a story where you’ve bled your ideas and have no clue where to go from there. Before you stall or move on to another project, try these two techniques to push your story out of the doldrums.

Go Back to the Original Idea
Sometimes to go forward, it helps to go back to the original concept. What got you to this point in the first place? A character? A scene? A snippet of dialogue? Revisit those first images or pages and try to remember your initial feelings about them. What about the idea drove you to write the story? What kept it moving? If you’re not sure, go back and analyze. There is a reason you started telling this story. And that may very well help you to figure out where it needs to go next.

Talk to Your Characters
Nothing happens without the characters. When all else fails, go back to them. Spend some time journaling from their points-of-view, interview them, write scenes and conversations that have nothing to do with the story. Let them live in your imagination. Watch them go about daily life and experience interactions and conflicts outside the main story. Your characters are leading anyway so let who they are and what they do lead you to your next move.

What happens next may not be as far off as it feels. Keep writing, thinking, and imagining and you will unleash the next chapter in your story.

Try This>>
Spend a writing session journaling from the POV of your main character. If you’ve never tried this, have your character talk about the story to get going. Let him/her ramble. It may take more than a page but stick with it and you will unearth something new and possibly unexpected that may just spark an idea for what happens next.