I just got off a writing project with someone who wanted to submit an entry for a fictional storytelling competition, the requirement was simple: “Write a short story portraying an African culture.”
I found it interesting and so when I got her finished copy, I was so excited to read it. But I got my taste bud numbed because of the various gaps I noticed in her work.
She had a good story idea and plot but then, the other elements of fiction were not taken into consideration and she also skipped some important points which one should note when writing a fictional story.
In this article, I’ll be pointing out four tips that I believe will prevent you from making the mistakes she made and to help you write a compelling fictional story.
This is something you have to do especially when you are writing on a subject that is not your forté. Research about things you don’t know and things you’re not sure of as it has to do with your work.
If there would be a medical scene, research and ask questions about how consultations are being made, how emergencies are taken up, down to treatment and discharge of a patient. Don’t leave your work flawed or based on what you know or even what you watch on TV, it might not be so.
If there would be a school scene, well, you have passed through one and can easily write about any of the settings you want: primary, secondary, or even a university scenario that is obtainable in the country where you live.
If peradventure, your setting is in a country you’ve never been to like Ghana, USA, South Africa or wherever, please ensure you make researches to get what is obtainable over there before you include it in your work.
Research before you start and even while writing. Research puts you in total control of your fictional piece.
2. Be Realistic
I keep repeating this to anyone I come across, “please, be realistic when writing anything!” Your readers are not dumb, your editors and publishers are not dumb either so don’t think you can churn out just anything to them. You can’t just write anything you feel like, you have to write the best and you have to make it real.
So when writing please ask yourself if what you’re putting down is obtainable in real life. The picture you’re using words to paint, is it possible? Is it realistic? Is it relatable? If I’m in my character’s shoes, will I do this? The truth is, an educated reader can pick out fake reality and inconsistencies in your work.
You can’t choose or control who will read your story out there. While you still have control over the unpublished copy, ensure you make it good before turning it in.
3. Make Use of Real Places, Locations and Structures
We all know that a work of fiction is untrue but that does not mean the significance should be unreal as well.
One of the things you have to do while writing is that you must choose a setting. The setting is basically about the time and place of your story. The time tells us the period or era when the story occurred while the place tells us about the territory or location of the story.
This is so important in writing fiction as well as non-fiction. One thing you will do for your reader is to give them a setting they can easily settle in.
Narrow it down to your character’s present location, the physical structures namely the hospital, police station, market, schools and so on, use good description and narration to keep them real.
Apart from that, use names of places that people can relate to especially when it has to do with a particular tribe. Don’t just leave your audience to float in space, build them a haven to land and read your work.
4. Understand The Mannerisms of Your Characters
A great writer must know how to take up all the characters he or she is writing about and represent them well.
Male and female characters do not behave the same way and if you’re using a male, you need to know how they act and behave to be able to represent them well in your story. The female gender also acts in a certain way and you need to also represent them accordingly.
These people tend to change with age, work, environment, social status factor and they behave differently as well. Whatever you’re writing about needs to capture all of these and then ensure you help your reader understand each character.
Writing fiction is not so hard; with a good command of the tool of trade, creativity plus good editing, it will help you birth your masterpiece easily.
Maryann Ijeoma Nwokoye
Email address: email@example.com