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Seven tools for today’s novelist
Learn the elements of compelling fiction, including plotting, characterization, scenes, point of view,
1. The Writer and the Creative Process
As we fill an empty page, we can participate with God in the creative act. Learn to recognize, then cultivate the germ of an idea, while discovering what you really want to say.
Study what a plot is and how it works. Plots arise from the characters and the situation the novelist places them in, which means the writer must learn to listen to those characters and adjust his ideas about the story as he goes. Learn three basic approaches to plotting. Learn internal vs. external plots and following the line of compulsion. Discover plot shapes and how to construct plot diagrams. Examine the problems of creating tension and that all-important sense of the ticking clock.
We never forget favorite fictional characters; some even name their children after them! Learn to create memorable characters and how to establish motivation.
4. Writing in Scenes
In its essence, a novel is a sequence of scenes — with nothing between. Learn dramatization (showing rather than telling), what a scene is and what it isn’t, and the ways to find a scene’s beginning and ending. Discover the dangers of narrative summary and how to avoid it. Also learn to handle exposition and flashbacks.
5. Point of View
The most important technique decision a novelist makes is choosing the point of view. Also learn the difference between voice and point of view.
Though far more directed, coherent, and intense than real speech, written dialogue must give the illusion of real speech. Learn how to avoid common mistakes, and also the importance of implication in dialogue: What is not said is as important as what is said.
7. Revision and Self-Editing
For many writers, this is the fun part. For others, it’s torture. How many times should you revise? What should you look for as you’re revising, and how do you fix it? Find the real beginning and the real ending of your story, and discover what your novel is really about.
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