Fiction is a form of prose writing that deals with at least partly artificial or imagined events and characters. This tag should be used for any questions relating to fiction, including fiction formatting and technique, fiction critiques, and the publishing of fiction.

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“All of a sudden…” ?

I am writing a manuscript for a novel. It's my first attempt, and often I find myself wanting to write "suddenly" or "all of a sudden". I do this when I want the scene to change in an instant, or ...
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7answers
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Do most novels not get published?

If a person writes a novel, grammar alright, decent story, word count, etc. everything okay, Is it a crap shoot for that person to get published? Is it just like the lottery or maybe better ...
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6answers
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Getting Inside Someone Else's Head

A common problem for novice fiction writers, and one that I feel that I myself haven't quite graduated from, is always writing characters who are like the author. Each character is merely some facet ...
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17answers
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Fan Fiction: a crutch or a good start?

Writing is writing, but I am not confident enough to take on creating a whole world from scratch. Will writing fanfic or writing in other shared world spaces be beneficial, or will it simply allow me ...
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5answers
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How to describe the point-of-view character without using mirrors

In fiction, the main character is often the first person we meet in the story. Given that the story is written from his/her point of view, how would you describe what they look like? The classical ...
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8answers
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Is it frustrating not to know the narrator's gender?

I have written a 1st person piece and reading it I realize it's very difficult to tell if the narrator is male or female. There are one or two clues, and they come pretty late in the piece. Would ...
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13answers
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Can a book be written without an antagonist?

I have had this thought running through my head and wondered what your thoughts were on it. Can a book, a story I should say, be written without an antagonist or antagonistic theme? I have an idea ...
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What is a beat?

I keep hearing the word "beat" in Writers.SE, as in "... break your scene into beats" from this question. What is a beat? How is it different from a scene?
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How do you make a character quintessential, but not cliched or cartoony?

I think it's hard to make a character standout and embody their traits without becoming cliched or cartoons. How do you do this? What are some tips to enlivening a character and making them memorable? ...
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What breaks suspension of disbelief?

So much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the viewer (or reader) to suspend their disbelief: The speed of light can be circumvented, magic works, vampires are real (and may or may not sparkle), etc. ...
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When should one *not* present events in chronological order?

Some stories tell well from beginning to end, all in a neat little line...and some don't. When can a story be improved by using a different order in the telling? Off the top of my head, I'd say ...
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Keeping track of multiple plot lines

How do you track several plot lines woven together? I usually run 2 or 3 plot-lines in parallel, so I detail those plots each in a separate document. But as the book goes on, it is sometimes ...
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5answers
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Signs of Bad Character Development

When creating a character, what red flags would show me that I'm creating an unbelievable or unsympathetic character? I know that to be believable and sympathetic a character must not lean too much ...
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Using the real world in writing

To what extent can you use locations, businesses, etc. from the real world in fiction? I know someone cannot copyright a city, but what about a particular location in the city that's private. Can I ...
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7answers
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Problem: Scenes that are unavoidable, but boring

More specifically: Two of my book series' main characters are (temporarily) diplomats. It's unavoidable to the progress of the plot. But diplomacy is inherently slow and boring. So, the general ...
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7answers
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What is the difference between writing in the first and the third person?

What kind of story is better suited for each one? Are there advantages or disadvantages inherent to each form? For example, writing in the first person you are always following a character, while in ...
14
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5answers
862 views

Can I shop an unfinished novel?

I've been writing a novel that addresses some very current themes. My belief is that if I can get it out there quickly, it will succeed well. I'm working on it frantically, but will agents consider ...
14
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4answers
457 views

How to avoid hearing “that's me!” from your friends when they read your characters?

I recently asked about getting inside of someone else's head for writing good characters who are noticeably different from myself and received some great answers. One answer suggested that you should ...
13
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5answers
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How do you make a story succeed in spite of an unsympathetic main character?

I'm looking for techniques specific to a story with an unsympathetic main character. Confederacy of Dunces, for example. Why does that work, and why wouldn't that work with a likable hero?
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What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person?

A lot of people are either on the side of first person or the side of third person. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of writing in first person for fiction?
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What is flash fiction?

Is it simply defined by its short word count? Or are there other accepted conventions in flash fiction? If it's just the word count, how short is too short? How long is too long?
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What makes first person plural a tricky narrative voice?

I absolutely loved Joshua Ferris's debut novel Then We Came to the End. Critics highly praised his use for the first person plural as a narrator. The work is set in an office and the "we" used ...
12
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8answers
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Is it so bad to end up with a “done before” plot?

I'm not delusional about the nature of the science fiction novel I'm (very) slowly working on. A brief run down might be as follows: Set 10's of millennia in Human's future but in a neighbouring ...
12
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7answers
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Should you read your own genre?

In terms of novel writing, I tend to avoid my own genre, at least for the most part. Some of the reasons why: Genre Blindness / Genre Trap: Too much reading of your own genre blinds you to the ...
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3answers
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How to create space

Recently, a few snippets of my fiction have received critiques along the lines of 'Does not give a sense of space'. Or 'needs more description, sights and sounds'. I think where I am going wrong is ...
12
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4answers
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How to get feedback about the quality of one's fictional writing from friends unbiased by the friendship?

It is a little strange to ask, but are there ways to get feedback from friends about the quality of fictional writing (whether they liked it, not more objective aspects like spelling/grammar/etc.) ...
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What should be in a cover letter for short story submission to a magazine?

It's been about five years since I last submitted any of my work for publication, and my memory of what I was taught then to put in my cover letter is getting rusty. What kind of information should ...
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6answers
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How to deal with common Earth references in a non-Earth setting?

Until now, I have mostly written in settings similar enough to Earth, mostly with human beings. For the first time, I am writing a short story set on a different planet, where the protagonists are not ...
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2answers
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What techniques are used to plot long (multi-novel) story arcs?

As a very visual person, I have always considered plotting a story to be somewhat like knitting or macrame. How do series authors handle multi novel story arcs? Do they just keep throwing out lines ...
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8answers
558 views

What's the benefit of using invented languages in-story?

I'm working on a fictional story set in a fantastical (although coherent) universe; I'm used to seeing, in works like this, invented languages: Tolkien's languages for The Lord of the Rings, or ...
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7answers
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How to start a book off?

I have been working on my book (on and off...) for about 6 months. I have a good bit planned out with the plot, story line, and characters. I even have a small idea on how to start the story but ...
11
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7answers
343 views

Do books have to be written in sequence?

So can we write the interesting action bits first, then add in the in between stuff, that maybe needed to understand the story or characters, but isnt so exciting by itself? For example the ...
11
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5answers
262 views

What can one do to get the most from limited writing time?

I do make an effort to write every day, and usually succeed, but I just have too much going on in my life right now to give my writing the time it would like to have. When I do have time, blog posts, ...
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356 views

What is Literary Fiction?

I keep hearing about literary fiction, and how it is so much better than genre fiction. What exactly is literary fiction?
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Should I remove scenes that I myself find “boring”?

Sometimes, I find myself writing a scene that does everything I think it should do: reveal details about the protagonist, drive the plot forward, show other elements related to the story, etc. There's ...
11
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3answers
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Where can subject matter experts volunteer to work on proofing the technical details in fiction?

I am not a writer (yet!), but I have been working in the computer field for over 10 years and would love to put in some time volunteering my services as a subject matter expert (SME) for programming ...
10
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6answers
645 views

alternatives to “he said” in dialog

I'm working on my first fiction story. And one mechanical thing I struggle with is how to identify the speakers in dialog without constantly saying "Bob said", "Mary said", etc. Any ideas? That is, I ...
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5answers
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How does one avoid bland, generic fantasy while they write?

I have been mulling over the plot and characters for an elaborate fantasy work for a number of years now. The longer I mull things over, the more possessed I am that this story is worth telling. The ...
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Why shouldn't I use a pen name?

I don't like my name. I feel like seeing my name on the cover of my novel will be an embarassment more than a moment of pride - I just can't take things I've written under my own name seriously, for ...
10
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7answers
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How little “fantasy” can be in a story and it still be recognizably fantasy?

How little "fantasy" can be in a story and it still be recognizably fantasy, and not mainstream fiction? The "recognizable fantasy" question is one I struggle with all the time. Fantasy exists on a ...
9
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5answers
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How do I balance work with my love of writing?

I'm a programmer and an aspiring writer. I love writing. Over the past year, I had been working on my first novel. Making the plot, dimensioning the characters, integrating conflicts etc. And when I ...
9
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7answers
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How to overcome the fact that I can't write long stories?

I have written some short stories (in fact, they are flash fiction). When I'm writing short stories, the ideas and the structure come to my mind by themselves. Something different happens when I try ...
9
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9answers
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Will my readers feel like they are reading a children's storybook if there are illustrations in my novel?

I'm writing a novel. I also have good drawing skills. I would like to add illustrations of the setting, locations and characters. I may include 8 or 10 illustrations (the novel is approximately 200 ...
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4answers
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Characters with no names

I've got a few short stories going, and I've foregone naming any of my characters. It started because I just didn't have any good names in my head and I was going to take care of it later, but now I'm ...
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4answers
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Balancing loads of equally-important characters

If you have a dozen good guys, but four of them are the protagonists and the other six are more in the background, it's not that hard to skew the pagetime of each character towards those that are more ...
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10answers
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Fictional diary for a novel

When it is appropriate to use the diary form for a novel? Which are the most effective published examples? (I mean fictional diaries, so not Anne Frank's diary).
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4answers
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How often do writers develop characters before plot, and why?

As someone who writes a little as a hobby, this is something that I haven't really thought about until just recently, but... Is it common for a writer to develop characters before actually coming up ...
9
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2answers
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What exactly do I do to get published?

I'm interested to know what the publishing process exactly entails for future reference. I'm in my last year of school and I recently finished my first substantial piece of creative writing (a subject ...
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4answers
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How to share the work, if writing fiction in a team?

How should one split up the work between two people? Should one write the even-numbered chapters and the other the odd-numbered? Does each person tell the story from the point of view of a different ...
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6answers
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What to do if I can't meet my chapter word count?

I usually set a word count goal for each of my chapters, say 2000 words. But sometimes I can't meet that goal, for any number of reasons. What should I do: A. Continue anyway, and hope to increase ...