The Mechanics of Fiction Writing
Click on thumbnails for video lecture links:
The Actual Words on the Page
If you want to be a writer, you have to get good at writing—a truism that doesn't get emphasized enough. But how does one get better at writing? In addition to learning the components of good storytelling, the mechanics of writing at the sentence level is an area you can practice and improve upon dramatically with steady effort. Learn how to get started here.
Thinking about your writing from your reader's perspective ensures that your writing is easy to follow and doesn't lead your readers off course. Failing to do so could mean alienating your audience without even knowing you're losing them.
The Base Clause
The base clause is at the heart of every sentence, explaining "what did what" or "what is what." Here we discuss the basics of the base clause and 4 ways to make base clauses more complex and interesting from within.
There are only a few different patterns for growing sentences beyond the base clause. Here, we look at 3 fundamental syntactic patterns that you can learn to recognize and use easily in your fiction.
Loose modifying phrases are a critical tool for the fiction writer. Once you master the basic concepts, they'll help you build long, flowing sentences that are easy to follow. Best of all, they're easy to use.
Direction and Movement
Sentence writing isn't just about conveying information. You can create many interesting effects in your sentences, like micro-suspense and movement, simply by understanding where you're placing your base clause and modifiers.
Parallelism & Cognition
Understanding how reading places cognitive demands on your readers can help to explain why common sentence constructions and patterns can be a writer's friend. A writer always wants to leave a little room in their reader's cognitive container.
Rhythms and Patterns
One of the often-overlooked elements of prose (as opposed to poetry) is how a writer's sentences sound. Rhythm is a tool good fiction writers can use to make their stories flow musically. Metre is a whole area of study unto itself, and we'll only open a window to it here, but even a small start is a better start than no start. So here we come, Virginia.
A discussion of why "rules" for writers, like "Don't use the passive voice," are sometimes useful and sometimes misguided. The key is to understand the reason for the axiom.
A Philosophy of Prose
A review of the major components of sentence building covered in our lessons on the text, complete with a top-ten list of (usually) useful sentence writing tips. We also dive into a passage by a literary great to demonstrate the need to vary sentence length.