This is the essence of what we have covered so far on the Open University Masters in Creative Writing. Five weeks. Five Subjects. Five sets of exercises.
- Beginning: What do they convey? Hard information? Atmosphere? A sense of the exotic?
Do they raise questions in your mind? Or introduce character? Are the senses engaged? Do they inspire emotion – or is their appeal more cerebral and detached?
- Character: An effective way to draw a reader into the story is to create a character with whom they can empathise. This is not the same thing as liking them; readers empathise with characters they can identify with. Often, this means playing on fears and concerns that are universal. Readers are likely to empathise with a character in jeopardy, who is vulnerable, or whose human frailty mirrors their own.
- Point of View: One of the keys to rendering a consistent and authentic point of view is establishing what the character whose point of view we are inhabiting knows. This is something you as the author need to have straight from the start, though it might only be made gradually clear to the reader.
- Dialogue: Observe how dialogue ‘shows’ us the characters, allowing them to reveal themselves through what they say (or don’t say) and how they say it. Building conflict into dialogue will give it energy and drive – and remember, ‘conflict’ doesn’t necessarily mean an argument.
- Plot: Often begins with the disruption of ‘normal’ life, usually precipitating a crisis or change of some sort. In the world of screenwriting this disruption is known as the ‘inciting incident’, and it is also a useful term for the fiction writer.