Some Thoughts on Writing Fiction, Part 3

In my previous two posts (here) and (here), I talked about setting up a structure and a process for writing fiction, and I mentioned that the details could be filled in at a later stage. So let’s look now at how one goes about filling in the details and what sort of details they might be.

Here are a few ideas and examples for bringing characters to life. Think about real people you know. What do you notice about them? What do you already know about them?

Marcia wears a ring that’s a little too big for her. She twists it around and around and seems to do it more when she’s upset. I think the ring used to belong to her mother, who died a couple of years ago. Maybe touching that ring gives her comfort.

Not only did I tell you something about Marcia that you can picture as you read, but I gave you some detail about her past and her state of mind.

How do you think your character would react in certain situations? And how do people in your story carry on their lives?

Jack was horrified when he heard that I’d bought myself a dress that cost three hundred dollars. It seemed like such an unnecessary extravagance to him. Jack is one of those guys who knows how to squeeze every penny’s worth out of a dollar. He’s always looking for bargains, and seems to consider it a major victory if he buys something at a deep discount. Maybe Jack is right. He never worries about how to pay the rent or whether he’s going to be able to retire when he reaches 65. Jack has peace of mind. But me — I’ve got the most perfect little dress I’ve ever seen. I’m the one smiling today. So what if I have to skip lunch for the next three years?

You learned something about Jack and you learned something about the “me” character. He’s very frugal and plans for the future. She’s more interested in instant gratification even if it means she ends up paying for it later. (This truly is fiction, by the way. In real life, I’m a lot more like Jack.)

What has happened in the past that helped build each person’s character? What experiences have influenced the events of today?

Melanie stood in her garden looking at the roses. The bushes were full of buds — the promise of bouquets that would soon grace her little house. Every summer, Melanie was overcome by a mixture of sadness and nostalgia. Rick had carefully planted each of the bushes and tended to them like a doting parent. After the divorce, her first inclination was to tear them out of the ground, one by one. But she never could bring herself to do it. And as time passed, she had come to love those roses, which now represented what she and Rick had shared in their early years. It didn’t last forever, but it had been very good.

Can you picture Melanie standing there? Can you see the garden? And now you know that she’s divorced, that it’s been a while, and that she’s mellowed about it. You’ve got lots of information about Melanie in that little passage.

I’m just writing these examples off the top of my head. They’re not Shakespeare, but I hope they show you the type of narrative that adds dimension and the kinds of details that paint a more complete picture for your readers.

What will you come up with?

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6 Comments

  1. Hello Judy Rose
    Thank you for this intro of good advice to writers. I am a writer myself, a teacher and homeschool mom of 15 years(now retired). I have lead writing workshops for very young writers and have three daughters who are full of imagination.I find your blog very refreshing. I am looking at possibly teaching writing at a community college close by and am putting together a resume of sorts. I have written many stories myself throughout my life, poems, songs and in 1988 was awarded the Jessie Perry Stratford Award for Historical Writing from Butler County Kansas. It was part of a Kansas History Class I took and they wanted me to write about a famous Kansas man or woman. I wrote about my grandfather. Well, I could go on, but really, I feel you are a kindred heart and I need some advice. Do you have any for me in preparing to teach writing at a community college level?( I do not have a master’s degree, although I do have BFA Graphic Design and Bachelor’s in Elem. Ed)I am also being asked to substitute teach at a Christian school, and teach art and music for homeschoolers, as well as teach a constitution class! My cup runneth over! So I am looking at each option and thinking through which is the best route. My mom is in the Alziemer unit and I must have a more free schedule for her.
    I look forward to any advice you would have to give.
    Sincerely,
    a sister in writing
    Holly

  2. Hello Judy Rose from Andalusia Province in Spain. I read your cover page of your blog. I was searching how to write proper english because although I am canadian citizen, actually I born in Paraguay and plus I travel a lots, constantly sumerged in diferent languages.

    I am trying to develop my literature project lately. It is not so easy even though I am my own alter ego that had been in 54 coutries so far completed 144 thousands kilometres in a 20 years on and off expeditions.

    I will mark as a favorite your blog. Nice to meet you here. Happy Eastern!

  3. Hi Judy Rose,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Concise and informative. Interestingly, the three narratives in part 3 of your blog on some thoughts on writing fiction, strongly featured women as the predominant characters in the short narratives. I read recently that women are the largest demographic when it comes to reading fiction. Is this true in your experience. Do you find it easier to write female characters into your work, how do I as a male of the species, begin to write about ‘real’ women, about what women feel, emote etc..
    Thanks again for a fabulous infoblog..
    Slan, Alan

  4. Some good advice here. As you say being able to “picture as you read” must be one of the most important things for a writer to get readers to do, or believe they do :)

  5. Nice post! I think the success of the writer is the ability to give that feeling to the readers which she wants to!! The writer’s words should be in such a way that the reader can visualize the scene very easily! Keep posting!

  6. Hi Judy! So glad I found your blog on StumbleUpon. I look forward to reading more posts!


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