Facts about Fiction 4

 From The Brain Rummager by Brian Barratt

 Different Ways of Writing

What is a story?

People write for various reasons, for example:

To record their experiences, as in a private journal.

To "get something off my chest", for personal reasons.

To pass on news, as in a letter to another person.

To express their ideas, as in a reflective piece.

To describe events, as in a news report.

To inform or instruct, as in a factual piece.

To influence readers, as in a persuasive piece.

To amuse or entertain, as in fiction or fantasy.

A dictionary definition of "story" is A narrative, usually fictitious, intended to entertain a reader or listener. A "narrative" is A recounting of events or experiences. To "entertain" is To keep amused, interested or attentive.

Keep in mind that when you are writing a story is that you are writing it for other people. Diaries, journals, "getting it off my chest" and even letters are essentially private pieces of writing. Story writing is public. Your readers are your audience.

Put the dictionary definitions in a different order: The story writer aims to keep readers attentive, interested, or entertained. There are one or two tricks that will help you in this process. Let's consider various types of writing for an audience.

Describing or recounting events

You might want to write a factual description for your readers. Here are a few points to consider:

It interests me. Will it interest other people? How can I make it more interesting for them?

Decide who you are writing for. Your choice of audience will influence how you write. (Note: This applies to all types of writing.)

Help your readers to feel that they are involved in what is happening. Choose your words carefully. Polish your phrases and sentences. Your first draft is never the finished story. I'll repeat that: Your first draft is never the finished story.

Even though it is factual, you can make it more entertaining by exaggerating some details and by introducing extra feeling or emotion.

Reflective writing

This often deals with experiences. Perhaps you want to share memories, ideas or beliefs with your readers. In this type of writing:

You are interpreting, not simply describing. You can explore, analyse, raise questions.

Expressing personal thoughts, imagine that you are actually talking to someone. Have a mental picture of your readers as real people who are listening to you.

Experiment with language to convey what you really feel and want to say.

Fiction (and fantasy)

An entertaining story needs several elements to hold the reader's attention.

Description, action and dialogue. Action and dialogue are very important components. They get readers involved in the story. Look carefully at stories you have read and enjoyed. Work out how the authors have used these three elements.

Characters. Fiction is about people. For a plot to unfold, you need at least one character. The characters must speak for themselves. In fiction, the writer must be invisible. That means the writer does not express her or his own ideas directly. This is important.

Encounter. An entertaining story involves some sort of "encounter" between the main character and somebody else or something else. The encounter can be a challenge, a question, a problem, a mystery, whatever. Your readers will want to know "what happened next".

You might want to get a message across to your readers through a fictional story. It might be to do with saving a species from extinction, or caring for the environment, or a religious belief. If you write this type of story, remember:

The story must stand on its own merits. It must hold attention, entertain or amuse as a good fictional story.

As the writer, you must still remain invisible. The story and its characters must convey the message.

Your aim is to make your readers think about an issue and perhaps make a decision. Do that through the story. In fiction, do not conclude a story by "preaching" at readers with a direct appeal. It doesn't kid anybody!

Copyright 2005 Brian Barratt. This material may be copied or printed only for use by students in school classrooms.

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