Writing for fun, rather than for class assignments, drew a small group of students to the College Union for a workshop May 2.
Communications Lab Assistant Lydia Rucker talked about the elements of fiction writing.
A good book is a book that is hard to put down, a book that is suspenseful, a page turner, Rucker said. Most importantly, a good book is one you wish would never end.
Knowing what makes a book good is the first part in writing your own book.
Rucker said it all starts with an idea. This can be a dream you had that has every detail of the story in it, or just one sentence that weaves its way into a novel.
In the workshop, students spent five minutes coming up with their own sentence that could be expanded into a work of fiction to get a feel for how to get started. The hardest part, she said, is “fighting the first word.”
After you have an idea, Rucker said, you need to think of the characters for your story.
She said it is important to know your characters before your plot because knowing how your characters will react to the different situations you will eventually put them in will make them seem more real to the reader.
Recognize that your characters have multiple dimensions. Rucker said to know all their scars, their fears, what makes them laugh.
Once you know your characters, then think of the plot. The plot is the organization of events that will take place in the story. It must be supportive, plausible and interesting to make a good book, she said. Let the characters influence the plot.
Rucker said a key part to a good book is weaving together description and emotion. When people experience a powerful emotion, they manifest it in five different ways: externally, internally, flashback, flash forward, and sensory selectivity. You should also write using those five experiences.
When someone feels fear, they should externalize it, start shaking. They should also start getting cold internally. Maybe they’ll have a flashback of the last time they were in a thunderstorm and power went out. Then they might start thinking this time the power will go out, only this time they’re alone.
Using all of these elements really makes the reader feel the fear that the character is feeling, Rucker said.
Also, you must think about all the different elements of your book, she said. Is your world going to be the real world, or is it going to be a world that you create?
Knowing and having “real” expectations for your novel will help you once you have finished your writing, she said.
Rucker said there are three main things to keep in mind when writing.
- Planning. Planning, Rucker said, is the secret to any successful book. Outline your story, outline your characters. Know where your story is going, and what is going to happen before it gets there.
- Revision. Revise your book many times as you go along. Revise it alone, don’t let others impute change your story, Rucker said.
- Creativity. Creative writing is supposed to be fun.
For more writing tips, visit the Communications Lab on the first floor of the Main Building, between the Coffee Shop and the College Union.