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Publishing of Book:The Art and Craft of Creative Writing

Art-and-Craft-of-Creative-Writing_cover Thanks for visiting my blog for  the past four years. During that time, I’ve read and learned about the writing life, poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction. I have read many books, learned a great deal, and written a couple hundred craft essays. In January of this year, I decided to write a book based on what I have learned. And so from April until a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a how-to creative writing eBook. It is called “The Art and Craft of Creative Writing.” It is based on what I have learned. To purchase the book, visit

The book is more than 400 pages long and includes the following chapters chapters:

 Table of Content

  • About the Author 3
  • Introduction. 4
  • The Art and Craft of Writing. 8
  • The Writing Life: Journal Writing. 16
  • The Writing Life: Reading Like a Writer 19
  • The Writing Life: Learning to Write Creatively. 24
  • The Writing Life: Finding Inspiration to Write. 29
  • Ten Myths about Writing. 33
  • Writer’s Block. 36
  • The Writing Life: Developing Your Writing Voice. 39
  • Blogging as a Form of Creative Writing. 44
  • The Writing Process. 49
  • Writing the Opening. 54
  • Writing the Ending. 57
  • Revising Your Work. 60
  • Poetry: An Overview.. 66
  • Free Verse Poetry: An Overview.. 74
  • The Title of a Poem.. 80
  • Finding Inspiration and a Subject for Your Poem.. 83
  • Writing Free Verse: Stanza, Line, Syntax. 87
  • Writing Free Verse: Word Choice. 93
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sensory Details. 96
  • Writing Free Verse: Using Figurative Language. 100
  • Writing Free Verse: Adding Sound Effects. 104
  • Writing Free Verse: Meter and Rhythm.. 108
  • Writing the Prose Poem.. 113
  • Learning to Write Free Verse Poetry. 116
  • Writing Short Fiction: An Overview.. 124
  • Writing Short Fiction: Creating the Setting. 130
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Plot 134
  • Writing Short Fiction: Character and Characterization. 139
  • Writing Short Fiction: Dialogue. 144
  • Writing Short Fiction: Point of View.. 148
  • Writing Short Fiction: The Theme. 152
  • Writing Short Fiction: Literary Techniques and Poetic Devices. 155
  • Writing Short Fiction: Voice and Writing Style. 161
  • Writing Short Fiction: Beginning and Ending. 166
  • How to Write a Short Story. 170
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: An Overview.. 177
  • The Ethics of Creative Nonfiction. 184
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Using Humour in Your Writing. 189
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Personal Narrative Essay. 194
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Opinion Essay. 202
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Meditative Essay. 209
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Lyrical Essay. 215
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Segmented Essay. 219
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literary Journalism Essay. 224
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: On Popular Culture. 229
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: Narrative History. 237
  • The Literary Journalism Essay: The Global Village. 243
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Profile/Biography Sketch. 248

For anyone who desires to embrace the writing life, write free verse poetry, write short fiction, write creative nonfiction, such as the personal essays, and more, this book is for you. It is filled with advice, tips, suggestions, how-to explanations, and more. You can buy it at Amazon for $7.00. To purchase the book, visit: I will not be making any more posts to this blog. It is time for another project. Good luck in your writing endeavors. Dave Hood,B.A.


Opening the Door to Memory

 By Dave Hood

How do you find material to write creatively about? You must open the door, peer into the basement, dust off long forgotten memories of childhood, turning points, achievements, and so forth. These memories of experience are the pillars of  the personal narrative essay, the memoir, the autobiography, and biography.  And when you think about it, memories plays a vital role in all creative writing, whether a poem, short story, creative nonfiction: When the present moment of time passes, it becomes a memory, a word picture.

In this article, I’ll explain how to tap into your memories and how to write about them in creative nonfiction.

What is the Importance of Memory?

“Memory has been called the ultimate mythmaker, continually seeking meaning in the random and often unfathomable events in our lives.” (Tell It Slant)

Memory also constructs the self– who you are.  The writer defines his or her sense of self from memories of life-achievements, misfortunes, sad times, charming occasions, and much more. Every life experience becomes a memory, which molds and shapes the sense of self. And the creative writer writes about self through the forms of personal essay, memoir, and autobiography.

Memories become fragmented in our minds, which are often filled with many thoughts, images of word pictures, feelings, sensory experiences. We must make order out of this chaos of memory. Writing is a way to do this.

A significant memory can be dredged up from the bottom of the unconscious mind by countless things, such as music, a found object, photography, toy, quotation, name of a place, or bumping into a long forgotten friend while traveling. For instance, ask yourself the following: What was your favorite toy as a child? Instantly, you will call memories of your childhood? Perhaps you enjoyed playing with a Barbie doll, Hot Wheels, the Cabbage Patch doll.  You can use your favorite toys, these objects, as  writing prompts, to tap into  memories filed away in your mind.

And so, your memories are the foundation of all creative writing.

The Five Senses

We experience memories through our five senses— sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Each of these senses can be used by the writer to evoke memories to write about.

Our sense of smell is automatic. Some smells we enjoy. Others smells are detestable. For instance, the scent of some perfume can be erotic, but the stench of rotting garbage can make a person want to vomit.  To write about memories of smell, ask yourself: What smells do you enjoy? Why? Then write about them. What smells do you loath? Write about them.

Our sense of taste is often acquired.  Food provides immediate gratification, fills our stomachs when we’re hungry, meets a need for comfort. The taste of food evokes all sorts of memories. To write about taste, ask yourself: What foods do I enjoy: Why? Write about them. Then ask yourself : what tastes awful? Write about it.

The sense of sound is a powerful tool for mining your memory. For instance, hearing a love song on the car radio as you drive to work can conjure up memories of a love that died, or a childhood memory, or a happy occasion. We hear sounds everywhere: Strolling along the street, we hear honking horns, roadside construction, the roar of the public bus. At home, with the window open, we hear the birds singing, the leaves rustling, the rain drumming on the concrete tiles on the porch. To write about sound, ask yourself , what sounds do you enjoy? Why. Write about them.

The sense of touch also evokes memories. We all desire touch. It is a human need. That is why sex is so important to humanity–as it expresses love and the desire to be touched in erotic ways. The sense of touch also allows us to do everything we take for granted, like walking, picking something up, lying down. Without our sense of touch, we would become disoriented in our surroundings. Sometimes touch can cause pain. Other times, it can arouse sensual desires. To write about touch, ask yourself: What are the most painful memories of physical pain, then write about them. Ask yourself, what are your most pleasant memories? Write about them.

The sense of sight is the most powerful of our senses. We see memories in our mind. They are word pictures, which we play over and over. Some are painful, sad, distressing. Others are pleasant.  The mind stores these short film clips of memory in the unconscious mind. To write about them, you must get in touch with them. Sometimes an old photograph can stir your memory. Other times, an old show on television can evoke memories. There are countless things that can trigger memories of sight. To write about memory, ask yourself, What is the worst thing you have ever seen?  Then write about it. Then ask yourself, what is the most beautiful thing you have seen? Write about it.

What Memories to Write About?

Author Louis Daniel, who has written a wonderful book called “How to Write Your Own Life Story”, explains how to dive into the deep-sea of your memory, find treasures to write about. Here are a few suggestions from her book that you can use as writing prompts to craft a personal essay or a memoir:

  • First experiences, like your first love, first car, first sex, first job. Write about first experiences that were memorable.
  • Achievement, such as graduation, awards, running a marathon. Write about those things you are proud of.
  • Turning points, like the death of a parent, job loss, illness, break up of a marriage. Write about experiences that changed you forever.
  • Inventions, like the iPod, computer, Internet, dishwasher, VCR player. Write about technologies had an impact on your life.
  • Family traditions, such as birthdays, holidays, vacations, anniversaries. Write about those experiences that had an impact.

Tools for Mining Your Memories?

There are many ways to mine your memory. I will discuss a few.

The easiest way to tap into your memory  is to use a writing prompt. There are many. For instance, find an old photograph of someone important in your life, then begin writing about that person, asking yourself, what memories pop into your mind.

Other writing prompts include brief encounters, favorite books and movies and music, diaries, newspaper articles, old toys, a diary, a wedding dress, or any other object that has been part of your life.

Author Judy Reeves has written a splendid book that will enable you to mine your memory. The book is called “A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion & Living Muse for the Writing Life. This book provides countless ways to tap into your memory–writing prompts, exercises, ways to find images and inspiration. For instance, she suggests writing about “what makes you laugh?” To write about laughter and humour, ask yourself: What are the funniest moments in your life? Who are the funniest people in your life? Who are those who have no humour? Write about them.

 Another way to get in touch with your memories is by freewriting. Here’s how:  Opening your notebook and write down the details of significant memories that pass into your mind. Write about anything that passes into your conscious mind. That is why it’s called freewriting.  Freewriting will open the door to your unconscious mind, bringing forth memories long forgotten. As you remember these details, other memories will appear in your mind. Freewriting is like knocking over the dominos: After the first domino falls, others fall over.

Another tool is to create a map of your neighborhood–the school, shape of the street, neighbor’s houses, the park. Then fill in the details of your friend’s, your neighbors, the place you played football or soccer or baseball as a kid. As you fill in the map of the neighborhood with details, write about them in detail.

A powerful tool for mining your memory is the time line. Essentially, you take a date, perhaps 1969, and then ask yourself, what important events happened that year? Where were you? What were you doing? How did you feel when you heard or saw the important events of history? For instance, where were you when you heard the news that John Lennon died or that terrorists had crashed a plane into the twin towers?

Tools for Writing About Memory

Your memory provides material for writing creative nonfiction, such as a personal narrative essay or a memoir. When you write about memories, you must share the details of the experience with your reader .  You could simply tell your reader what happened. But this is dull. Readers want to be entertained. To write about memories, you want to create order from chaos, and so there must be some significance in the memory, such as a lesson learned, and a universal truth that appeals to or is experienced by all of humanity.

When writing about memory, you put into use the tools of fiction and poetry. Here are a few ways to delight your readers with your memories expressed as personal narratives:

  • Show, don’t tell your reader. The best way to show your reader a memory is to make it vivid with details and concrete and specific descriptions.
  • When writing about memories use associations, such as the old man smelled like an open can of beer. The best way is to use similes  and metaphors to make the abstract concrete.
  • Use sensory images–word pictures that describe memories of sight, taste, touch, smell, hearing.
  • Write vivid descriptions.

Along with knowing how to write creatively, the ability to mine your memories for significant materials is one of the most important tools you have for constructing memorable prose. And if you are going to write a personal narrative essay or memoir, being able to open the door to the basement of your memory and turning on the light to see what’s stored away is paramount.

In summary, creative nonfiction is based on memory, and so you are required to dust off memories and then write about them in a way that is entertaining. That is why you must apply similes and metaphors and vivid descriptions to your memories.  Don’t tell the reader about a memory! Show your reader by using these poetic and fiction techniques, especially by painting your writing with vivid details and concrete and specific descriptions.

Freewriting, using writing prompts, reading ” How to Write Your Life Story”, using a time line—these are useful techniques to find material in your mind to craft creative nonfiction.


To find out more about the tools for mining your memories and writing about these memories, I suggest you read the following:

  • How to Write About Your Own Life Story by Louis Daniel
  • A Writer’s Book of Days by Judy Reeves
  • Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach
  • Tell It Slant by Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola

Writing Creative Nonfiction

What is creative nonfiction? It involves writing about personal experience, real people, or events. It is writing about fact, rather than fiction. The writer can write about anything, such as a personal experience, current events, or issues in the public eye. The writer can also inject personal thoughts, feelings, or opinions into the writing. Often, the writer uses the first person “I.” Popular types of creative nonfiction include the personal essay, memoir, autobiography, literary journalistic essay, travel writing, and food writing. Creative nonfiction is also known as “Literary Journalism.”

This article identifies the techniques of creative nonfiction, defines the various types of creative nonfiction, provides some guidelines, and lists several popular books and several resources to help the aspiring writing learn the art and craft of writing creative nonfiction.


How to Write Creative Nonfiction

The creative nonfiction writer produces a  personal essay, memoir, travel piece, and so forth, with  a variety of  techniques, writing tools, and  methods. He/she is required to use the elements of nonfiction, literary devices of fiction, and what Lee Gutkind called “the 5 Rs of Creative nonfiction.”  The following is a brief explanation of each:

Elements of Creative Nonfiction

The creative nonfiction writer often incorporates several elements of nonfiction when writing a memoir, personal essay, travel writing, and so on. The following is a brief explanation of the most common elements of nonfiction:

  • Fact. The writing must be based on fact, rather than fiction. It cannot be made up.
  • Extensive research. The piece of writing is based on primary research, such as an interview or personal experience, and often secondary research, such as gathering information from books, magazines, and newspapers.
  • Reportage/reporting. The writer must be able to document events or  personal experiences.
  • Personal experience and personal opinion. Often, the writer includes personal experience, feelings, thoughts, and opinions. For instance, when writing a personal essay or memoir.
  • Explanation/Exposition. The writer is required to explain the personal experience or topic to the reader.
  • Essay format. Creative nonfiction is often written in essay format. Example: Personal Essay, Literary Journalistic essay, brief essay.

Literary Elements

Creative nonfiction is the literature of fact. Yet, the creative nonfiction writer utilizes many of the literary devices of fiction writing.  The following is a list of the most common literary devices that writers incorporate into their nonfiction writing:

  • Storytelling/narration. The writer needs to be able to tell his/her story. A good story includes an inciting incident, a goal, challenges and obstacles, a turning point, and resolution of the story.
  • Character. The nonfiction piece often requires a main character. Example: If a writer is creating his/her memoir, then the writer is the central character.
  • Setting and scene. The writer creates scenes that are action-oriented; include dialogue; and contain vivid descriptions.
  • Plot and plot structure. These are the main events that make up the story. In a personal essay, there might be only one event. In a memoir, there are often several significant events.
  • Figurative language. The writer often uses simile and metaphor to create an interesting piece of creative nonfiction.
  • Imagery. The writer constructs “word pictures” using sensory language. Imagery can be figurative or literal.
  • Point of view. Often the writer uses the first person “I.”
  • Dialogue. These are the conversations spoken between people. It is an important component of creative nonfiction.
  • Theme. There is a central idea that is weaved through the essay or work. Often, the theme reveals a universal truth.

The 5’Rs of Creative Nonfiction

Lee Gutkind, who is a writer, professor, and expert on creative nonfiction, wrote an essay called “The Five R’s of Creative Nonfiction.” In this essay, he identified five essential elements of creative nonfiction. These include:

  1. Creative nonfiction has a “real life” aspect. The writer constructs a personal essay, memoir, and so forth, that is based on personal experience.  He also writes about real people and true events.
  2. Creative nonfiction is based on the writer engaging in personal “reflection” about what he/she is writing about. After gathering information, the writer needs to analyze and assess what he/she has collected. He then must evaluate it and expression his thoughts, views, opinions. Personal opinion is permissible and encouraged.
  3. Creative nonfiction requires that the writer complete research. The writer needs to conduct research to learn about the topic. The writer also needs to complete research to discover what has been written about the topic. Even if a writer is crafting a personal essay, he will need to complete secondary research, such as reviewing a personal journal, or primary research, such as interviewing a friend or family member, to ensure that the information is truthful and factual.
  4. The fourth aspect of creative nonfiction is reading. Reading while conducting research is not sufficient. The writer must read the work of the masters of his profession.
  5. The final element of creative nonfiction is writing. Writing creative nonfiction is both an art and craft. The art of creative nonfiction requires that the writer uses his talents, instincts, creative abilities, and imagination to write memorable creative nonfiction. The craft of creative nonfiction requires that the writer learn and deploy the style and techniques of creative nonfiction in his/her work.

Types of Creative Nonfiction

Creative nonfiction is about fact and truth.  The truth can be about a personal experience, event, or issue in the public eye. There are many categories or genres to choose from, such as the personal essay, memoir, and autobiography.  The following is a list of the most popular types of creative nonfiction:

  • Personal Essay. The writer crafts and essay that is based on personal experience or a single event, which results in significant personal meaning or a lesson learned. The writer uses the first person “I.”
  • Memoir. The writer constructs a true story about a time or period in his/life, one that had significant personal meaning and a universal truth. The writer composes the story using the first person “I.”
  • Literary journalism essay. The writer crafts an essay about an issue or topic using literary devices, such as the elements of fiction and figurative language.
  • Autobiography. The writer composes his/her life story, from birth to the present, using the first person “I.”
  • Travel Writing. The writer crafts articles or essays about travel using literary devices.
  • Food writing. The writer crafts stories about food and cuisine using literary devices.
  • Profiles. The writer constructs biographies or essays on real people using literary devices.

Guidelines for Writing Creative Nonfiction

Not only must the aspiring writer of creative nonfiction learn the techniques, but he/she also requires a good understanding of the guidelines. The following are 12 guidelines for writing any type of creative nonfiction:

  1. Research the topic. Both primary (interview, personal experience, or participant observation) and secondary research (books, magazines, newspaper, Web)
  2. Never invent or change facts.  An invented story is fiction.
  3. Provide accurate information. Write honestly and truthfully. Information should be verifiable.
  4. Provide concrete evidence. Use facts, examples, and quotations.
  5. Use humour to make an important point.
  6. Show the reader what happened, don’t tell them what happened. To do this, dramatize the story.
  7. Narrate the story. A story has an inciting incident, goal, conflict, challenges, obstacles, climax, and resolution.
  8. Write about the interesting and extraordinary. Write about personal experiences, interesting people,  extraordinary events, or provide a unique perspective on everyday life.
  9. Organize the information. Two common techniques are chronological or logical order.
  10. Use literary devices to tell the story. Choose language that stimulates and entertains the reader, such as simile, metaphor, imagery.
  11. Introduce the essay or other work with a hook. Its purpose is to grab the readers’ attention and compel them to reader further. Popular hooks include a quotation, question, or thought-provoking fact.
  12. End the creative nonfiction piece with a final, important point. Otherwise the reader will think, “So what!” “What was the point? It was an interesting story, but how does it apply to me or my life?”

Reading List

There have been many creative nonfiction books written about a wide variety of topics, such as divorce, abuse, and happiness. To help the aspiring writer learn the art and craft of creative nonfiction, he/she ought read creative nonfiction books by the best writers. By doing this, the writer acquires an appreciation for good writing and  learns how creative nonfiction is written. Some of the most popular creative nonfiction books include:

  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer
  • Paper Lion by George Plimpton
  • The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  • The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf

As well, there are several good books that are currently on many bestseller lists:

  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The White Castle by Jeanette Walls
  • Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi
  • Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
  • Nigh by Elie Wiesel


There are also many popular magazines that publish all types of creative nonfiction, including:


Resources for the Aspiring Writer

To write creative nonfiction, the aspiring writer must learn the craft.  He/she can do this by taking a course or through self-study. Both involve reading text books. The following books will help the aspiring writer learn how to write creative nonfiction:

  • Art of Creative Nonfiction by Lee Gutkind
  • Writing Creative Nonfiction: The Literature of Reality by Gary Talese
  • The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore
  • Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: The Art of Truth edited by Bill Roorbach
  • On Writing Well by William Zinsser
  • The Elements of Style by Strunk and White
  • Chicago Manual of Style (15th edition): The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers.

Next, I will explain how to write a lead and ending.

If you have any questions or comments, please post them to this blogs.

Elements of Fiction: Literary Techniques

The fiction writer’s choice of “literary techniques” is an important element of fiction. There are many techniques available to the writer, such as allusion, alliteration, allegory. Some popular techniques/devices include symbolism, imagery, and figurative language–such as simile, metaphor, and personification. The writer can use any number of literary techniques to tell his/her story. Unlike the other elements of fiction, which must be part of the story, the fiction writer has a choice about the literary techniques to use. The writer’s choice often depends on the type of genre he/she is writing and personal preference.  As well, the writer uses more techniques in a novel than a short story. The writer uses these techniques in his/her writing for the purpose of creating a more interesting, meaningful, authentic, and entertaining story. The following identifies the most common literary techniques that fiction writers use:

  • Allegory
  • Symbolism
  • Irony
  • Imagery


  • Allegory. The writer creates a story in which the characters and events form a system of symbolic meaning. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is a story in which each animal represents a specific person from the Russian Bolshevik Revolution.


  • Symbol. The fiction writer can use a word, object, action, or character in the story to suggest or mean something other than its dictionary or literal meaning. For instance, an owl can represent “wisdom.”

Symbols can be universal or cultural. These types of symbols are known to both the writer and the reader.

The writer can aslo be  use contextual symbols.  These are created by the writer for the story, and must be discovered by the reader. For instance, a motif is a recurring symbol that  is incorporated by the writer into the story to express deep meaning.

As well, a contextual symbol can be an archetype.  An archetype is a recurring symbol that embodies some essential aspect of human experience.  An archetype can be a theme, symbol, setting, or character. Essentiallly,the archetype is an “original model” or “type” after which other similar things are patterned.For instance, “‘Frankenstein’ , ‘Dracula’ , ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’  are  archetypes that have influenced all subsequent horror stories. The archetype has a dual nature, in the sense that it has its literal meaning and another meaning,  such as wind, sun, fire, water, and the four seasons. Examples of archetypal symbols include the snake, whale, eagle, and vulture. An archetypal theme is the passage from innocence to experience; archetypal characters include the blood brother, rebel, and loving prostitute. There are many others.


  • Irony. The writer can use three types of irony. The first is verbal irony. Essentially, the intended meaning of a statement is different from the actual meaning. It is often a form of sarcasm. The second type is situational Irony. It occurs when the expected outcome of an action is different than the actual outcome. The last type is dramatic irony. Essentially, the audience knows more about the character’s situation than the character does.


  • Imagery. The writer uses language that appeals to the senses to create “word pictures” in the mind of the reader. The writer can use imagery that appeals to the sense of sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing.

Imagery can be figurative or literal. Example: “The war zone looked like the moonscape” is an image that is based on a simile. Figurative imagery is based on figurative language. Literal imagery is the use of concrete and specific language to create vivid images. Example: The boy walked along the muddy, wet, gravel road, as the red maples and crimson birch blew in the cold autumn wind. 

 Some other popular literary devices include alliteration, foreshadowing, juxtaposition, word play, and stream of consciousness.

Figurative Language

A writer can also use figurative language to create a more interesting and meaningful story. Figurative language is language used to make a comparison between two different things. Common figures of speech include the following:

  • Simile. A figure of speech in which the writer makes a direct comparison between two unlike things, usually with the words” like” or “as.” Example: Her cheeks were as red as cherries…He runs like a race horse.


  • Metaphor. A figure of speech in which the writer makes an implied comparison between two unlike things, without using “like” or “as.”Examples: Love is a treasure box…Life is a journey, not a destination.


  • Personification. A figure of speech in which the writer assigns human qualities or attributes or abilities to an animal, an object, or an idea. Example: The angry wind knocked over the chair and slammed the shutters.


  • Hyperbole. A figure of speech in which the writer uses to exaggeration or overstatement for emphasis. Examples: The journey took forever…He was so hungry that he ate everything in the refrigerator.


Resources for Writing Fiction

There are several good books available to help you learn about the elements of fiction. The following books—and resources that I recommend— were used to research this article:

  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway
  • Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing by Colin Bulman
  • The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb
  • How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
  • A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

Next, I will discuss  “dialogue”, an essential component of fiction and one that the aspiring writer needs to master, in order to craft memorable fiction.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please post them to this blog.

Elements of Fiction: Style and Tone

Style and tone are elements of fiction. The writer uses a certain style and tone to craft the story. Style refers to the writer’s choice of diction, sentence structure, literary techniques, and use of rhythm. For example, Hemingway wrote very short sentences and he used simple words. George Orwell, on the other hand, used long sentences, including periodic and cumulative sentence types, and more complex diction. Cormac McCarthy, in The Road, used many sentence fragments and everyday language. He also referred to the main characters as “the boy” and “the man”. They were never addressed by name.

In fiction writing, the writer’s style is also created by the choice of literary devices that are used to create the story, such as imagery, symbolism, allegory, personification, and other figurative language.

Tone, on the other hand, refers to the writer’s attitude toward his/her story and to the reader. The writer’s tone assists in creating a mood or atmosphere for the story. Philip Roth uses a humorous tone in Portnoy’s Complaint.

This article discusses the following:

  • Style
  • Tone
  • Narrative Voice
  • The writer’s voice


Every fiction writer has a unique style. The writer’s style is based on many choices about diction, syntax/sentence structure, detail, dialogue, literary devices, and rhythm.

The writer’s style comes from the diction or word choice he/she uses. Does the writer use simple language or complex language? Is the language concrete or abstract? What does a word connote? What does the word denote?

The writer’s style comes from the types of sentence structure/syntax he/she uses. Does the writer use short or long sentences? Sentence fragments? Periodic or cumulative sentences? Simple or complex sentences? For instance, Cormac McCarthy, in The Road, uses many sentence fragments to tell his story.

Another way that the writer reveals his/her style is by the amount of detail presented to the reader. Does the writer go into great depth? Or does the writer use summary narrative or sparse prose?

And the fiction writer’s style is revealed by the content of dialogue. The dialogue a writer uses reveals a lot about each character, including the background and education of the character, his or her motivations, and what each character ultimately believes about the world. Much of what the writer says is based on personal experience, values, biases, and prejudices.

When reading passages of dialogue, the reader needs to consider how the characters’ remarks reflect or accentuate the writer’s voice. What do the characters say? How do the characters say it?

The writer’s style is also expressed by the choice of literary techniques the writer uses to construct the story, such as imagery, symbolism, personification, irony, metaphor, and symbolism. Many certain literary techniques over others.

The writer can reveal his/her style by the use of rhythm, which is the pattern of flow and movement created by the writer’s choice of words and the arrangement of sentences. What types of repetition does the writer use? Does the writer use alliteration? Rhyme? How does the writer use parallel structure? Single words? Fragments?


What is tone? It refers to the fiction writer’s attitude toward his/her subject and toward the readers. The writer’s tone creates an atmosphere or mood for the story. A writer’s tone can be humorous, satirical, passionate, zealous, sarcastic, condescending, and so on. The tone can be anything the writer chooses. For instance, humour is an important tone in children’s literature. Types of humour used by writers include surprise, exaggeration, incongruity, absurdity, and parody.

The writer’s choice of diction often reveals his/her tone. Tone is often expressed by the connotation of words. For instance, a certain expression might be interpreted as sarcasm. Another expression can be interpreted as vulgar.

Tone is also about the effect the writing has on the reader. What mood does the writer create in the mind of the reader?

The Narrative Voice

What is the narrative voice? It is the quality of the narrative, whether the story is told in the first-person or the third-person.  It is how the writer chooses to tell the story–casually, seriously, humorously, and so forth. The Narrative voice will belong to a character within the story, such as the protagonist.  Or when the story is told in the third-person, the narrative voice will belong to an unknown character, someone who is not a participant in the story.

Before writing the story, the fiction writer needs to decide what narrative voice to use: Serious? Comic? Detached? Or entertaining? Once the narrative voice is selected, the writer can determine what sort of diction and sentence structure to use.

The Writer’s Voice

The narrative voice is an extension of the writer’s voice. The writer’s voice consists of many elements, including style and tone. But the writer’s is created by many other factors, such as socioeconomic background, education, belief system, values, writing experience, and so forth.

Frequently, a writer’s voice is expressed through the following elements:

  1. Diction. The word choice of the writer.
  2. Syntax. The sentence patterns chosen by the writer.
  3. Subject matter. What the writer chooses to write about and his/her views on that subject matter.
  4. Tone. The attitude that the writer intends to convey about the subject to the reader.

Developing a Unique Voice

How does the aspiring writer acquire his/her own voice? It takes time to create a voice. It begins by developing an original style. From style, the writer needs to write and gain experience. Over time, the writer’s voice emerges. It is a process.

To help develop a unique voice, the aspiring writer can do the following:

  1. Learn to write well. Learn the rules of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. And then learn when to break these rules.
  2. Expand his/her vocabulary. The writer must use the dictionary to learn the meaning of unfamiliar words. The writer should also use a thesaurus to find similar words with different shades of meaning.
  3. Read widely and deeply. The writer ought to read fiction by the great writers. The writer also needs to read nonfiction, like biographies, and person essays. By doing this, the writer can learn how the masters constructed memorable fiction.
  4. Analyze the styles of great writers, such as Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and George Orwell. Analysis teaches the writer how to create setting, plot, characters, and use other literary devices.
  5. Experiment with different writing styles, such as word choice and syntax. Only through practice and experience will the aspiring writer develop a unique style.
  6. Learn the element of fiction and use them. (Plot, setting, character, conflict, and so forth.)
  7. Learn the literary techniques and use them. (Imagery, symbolism, allusion, and figures of speech, such as simile, metaphor, and personification.)
  8. Make writing a lifestyle choice. The aspiring writer must write every day. Only by writing on a regular basis will the writer develop his/her unique voice.
  9. Write in a way that comes naturally. The writer needs to use words and phrases that are his/her own. Imitation is acceptable.
  10. The writer also needs to place himself/herself in the background. To do this, the writer needs to write in a way that draws the reader to the sense and style of the writing, rather than to the tone and temper of the writer. (Strunk and White’s Elements of Style)
  11.  Avoid using a breezy manner. The breezy style is a work of an egocentric, the writer who imagines that everything that comes to mind is of interest and ought to be written on the page. Instead, the writer needs to make every word count, each word should move the story forward, and each word needs to have a purpose. (Strunk and White’s Elements of Style)


To learn more on style, the aspiring fiction writer ought to read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White.

 Over time, and with practise and experimentation, the aspiring writer will develop his/her unique voice.

Elements of Fiction: Theme

In the previous post, I wrote about setting. In this post, I will write about the theme of a story.

Theme is an important element of fiction, but not a necessary element.  The theme of a story  is its central idea. The theme is not the subject of the story. The writer incorporates the theme into the story from the subject. Sometimes the fiction writer has a specific theme or idea in mind before crafting a short story or novel. Other times the theme emerges as the fiction writer constructs the story.

This article covers the following:

  • Definition of theme
  • How the fiction writer can reveal the theme
  • Popular themes in fiction
  • Resources for fiction writers

Theme: A Definition

What do we mean by theme? The theme is the main idea of the story. It is an important idea that the fiction writer wants to convey to the readers. Sometimes a story has a single theme. Other times the story has several themes. Occassionally, the story is without a theme.

The theme allows the writer to comment on a particular topic. For instance, suppose the fiction writer crafts a story about war. The writer can reveal his/her own views about war by incorporating them into the story, and by crafting an ending that reflects his/her views about war. For instance, Timothy Findley, in “The Wars”, weaves several themes into the novel, one of which is “War is hell.” Another theme is that “innocent people die in war.” A third being “war is a waste of human life.”

How does the theme of a story emerge? Sometimes a fiction writer will set out, with a specific idea, and then write a short story or novel. Other times, the theme or main idea will appear as the fiction writer crafts his/her story.

Sometimes the fiction writer begins writing a short story or novel based on a particular topic. For instance, a crime writer might write a short about a murder. But this is not the theme of the book. The theme is constructed from the topic. The theme might be “anyone who commits murder must be executed.” Another theme might be that “crime doesn’t pay.”

The theme of the story can be explicit or implicit. Sometimes the fiction writer will state the theme explicitly, so that the reader knows what is the central idea. For instance, in “Paradise Lost”, John Milton writes that his intention is to “justify the ways of God to men.”

Other times, the theme is implicit. The reader will need to look for clues that reveal the theme. After reading the short story or novel, the reader can often identify the theme by asking the following question: What did you learn by reading the novel or short story?” In Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert L. Stevenson, a man is transformed into a monster. The theme suggested by the writer is that human beings have dual personalities, both good and bad.

Sometimes the title of the novel or short story provides the reader with a clue about its theme, such as “Catch-22”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “Catcher in the Rye”, “Portnoy’s Complaint.” Frequently, the reader will have to look for clues in the story to determine what the fiction writer is suggesting about the theme.

How the Theme is Revealed

For a theme to have any importance, the fiction writer must reveal it to the readers, either explicitly or implicitly. Here are four ways a fiction writer can express the theme of the story:

1. Themes are expressed and emphasized by the way the fiction writer makes the reader feel. By sharing the feelings of the main character, the fiction writer can also share the ideas that go through his/her mind.

2. The fiction writer can reveal the theme through the thoughts and conversations of characters. The fiction writer can provide clues by expressing his thoughts through the dialogue of characters. Dialogue can be used to state the theme. The reader can look for clues about theme by looking for thoughts or dialogue that is repeated by characters throughout the story.

3. The fiction writer can suggested a theme through the main characters in the story. How does the main character act? What does the main character say? The main character usually illustrates the most important theme of the story. The reader can discover the theme by asking the following question:“What does the main character learn as the story progresses?” In other words, does the protagonist experience an epiphany? Another question the read can ask is:”How does the protagonist change or develop as the story progresses?”

4. The fiction writer can reveal the theme of the story through the actions or events in the story. The fiction writer needs consider what an action by the character will suggest to the reader. In other words, how will the action express an idea or theme?

Popular Themes

Colin Bulman, in “Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing” identifies several common themes in fiction, including:

  • Love will conquer all.
  • Marriage is a natural and desirable institution.
  • Man is alienated from society.
  • The family is often dysfunctional.
  • Men and women cannot get along.


Other common themes in fiction are:

  • Life is not always as it seems.
  • Believe in yourself.
  • People are risk adverse.
  • First impressions are often wrong.
  • War is hell.
  • Society socializes humankind to behave in a just and righteous manner.

Resources for Writing Fiction

There are several good books available to help you learn about the elements of fiction. The following books—and resources that I recommend— were used to research this article:

  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway
  • Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing by Colin Bulman
  • The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb
  • How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
  • A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

Elements of Fiction: Character

In the previous post, I wrote about setting. In this post, I will discuss character and characterization.

Characters and Characterization

Character is an important element of fiction. Without a central character, there is no story. The goal of the fiction writer is to create characters that are likeable and memorable. Charles Dickson’s is well-known for his memorable characters. He created David Copperfield, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Oliver Twist. Most memorable characters are heroes. Sometimes, though, the writer makes the anti-hero the central character of the story.

But a good story needs more than memorable characters. A good story includes an inciting incident that impacts the main character. It includes a main character who has a goal or desire. It includes a main character who is confronted with some type of conflict. This conflict might exist within the mind of the character or be external. Often, the antagonist is the opposing force in the story. A good story includes a main character who is faced with challenges and obstacles.

A successful fiction writer knows how to develop characters by using description, dialogue, action, and more.

This article discusses the following aspects of character:

  • Types of characters
  • Characterization
  • The character profile
  • Dialogue

Types of Characters

There are several ways in which the fiction writer and reader of fiction can define characters in a story.

Protagonist and Antagonist. A story needs a central character, or hero, or protagonist. Often this main character must oppose a villain or antagonist. Both are major characters in the story. The fiction writer must spend a great deal of time developing these types of characters by using the techniques of characters description, action by the character, and dialogue.

Major and Minor Characters. Stories include major characters, such as the protagonist and antagonist. Stories often include minor characters. These are characters who the fiction writer defines by a single idea or quality. These types of characters are necessary for the story, but they are not important. These are secondary characters to the story.

Flat and Round Characters. A character can also be identified in terms of flat or round characters. A flat character is a minor character in the story. This type of character doesn’t change as the story progresses.

Round characters, on the other hand, must deal with conflict in the story and are change by it. The writer develops these types of characters by using character descriptions and dialogue. Round characters are all the major characters of the story, including the hero and villain.

Static and Dynamic Characters. Another way of defining a character is in terms of “static character” or “dynamic character.” A static character is a minor character in the story and plays a supporting role to the main character. Static characters don’t change as the story progresses. The fiction writer spends little time developing static characters.

In contrast, a dynamic character is a round character. This type of character grows and develops as the story advances. The fiction writer spends a great deal of time developing these types of characters. They are believable and can be memorable.


What is characterization? It is the means by which the fiction writer presents and reveals a character in the story to the reader. Although the techniques of characterization are complex, writers typically reveal characters through the following methods:

  • Action. How the character acts or behaves throughout the story.
  • Appearance. What types of clothes the character wears. His/her hygiene.
  • Dialogue. What the character says and how the character says it.
  • Thoughts and Feel. By what the character thinks and feels.
  • Relationships. The types of personal relationships, such as friends and acquaintances the character has.


Characterization is the process by which the fiction writer reveals a character’s personality to the reader. This process is very similar to the process real people go through when they encounter new situations or person. People form an initial opinion about a situation based upon what they see and hear. The fiction writer can reveal a character in the following ways:

  1. By telling the reader directly what the character is like (not a very subtle approach and not used often by writers);
  2. By describing how the character looks and dresses (What type of clothing does the character wear?
  3. By letting the reader hear how the character speaks (Does the character speak with a dialect? Is the character loud or soft-spoken?);
  4. By revealing the character’s private thoughts and feelings (What does the character think about other people? About himself?);
  5. By revealing the character’s effect on other people (Do people want to associate with the character? Do people do whatever the character asks?)
  6. By showing the character’s actions (Does the character treat people who respect and courtesy? Does the character make good decisions or poor ones?).

The Character Profile/Character Sketch

Author Nancy Lamb wrote in “The Art and Craft of storytelling” that the challenge of the writer is to create characters that live and breathe on the page. To achieve this, the writer must create characters that are:

  • Authentic.
  • Grab the attention of the reader.
  • Believable.
  • Appealing to the reader.

One method of developing a character is by using a character profile.

Before constructing the story, the fiction writer ought to have a good idea of what sorts of characters he/she will include in your story, such as the protagonist and villain. To help you write about characters. You can create a character sketch or profile for each character. For each character sketch, include the following:

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Name
  • Education
  • Job
  • Interests
  • Likes and dislikes
  • Important traits
  • Clothes
  • Body language
  • Name and moniker

The aspiring writer can ask the following questions to develop a character sketch:

  1. Where is the character from?
  2. What is the character’s social milieu or environment?
  3. How old is the character?
  4. What is the name of the character?
  5. What does the character look like?
  6. What does the character do for a living?
  7. How does the character deal with conflict and change?
  8. What is the character’s goal or motivation in the scene or story?


Much of what a reader learns about a character comes from what the character says and how the character says it. Keeping points in mind, the aspiring writer can use dialogue for the following purposes:

  1. To advance the plot. (Sam screamed, “I am going to kill you.”)
  2. To reveal and express character emotions and traits. (The mother said, “You are lazy.”)
  3. To allow characters to confront one another. (The boyfriend replied, “I am leaving you for my secretary.”)
  4. To crystallize situations and relations. (“I love you.”)
  5. To comment on the setting. (“I loathe this country.”)
  6. To introduce a motif, symbol, or allusion. (“You look like the Mona Lisa.”)
  7. To transition to a new scene or narrative summary. (“I will call you tomorrow.”)

For more information on how to use dialogue, read The Passion for Narrative.

How to Create Memorable Characters

There is no single method by which the fiction writer goes about creating memorable characters. Some get their ideas from real people. Others read about a character in the news. Some use themselves as a basis of a character sketch.

To create memorable characters, the aspiring writer can follow these suggestions:

  1. Early in the story, define the main goal or purpose of the protagonist.
  2. Create conflict throughout the story.
  3. Create a struggle that the character must endure and overcome.
  4. Create characters that are interesting and appealing to the reader.
  5. Create convincing motivations for your characters.
  6. Craft a story that the reader can relate to.
  7. Create multi-dimensional characters.
  8. Create characters that are able to defend themselves and overcome their antagonists or enemies.
  9. The hero must be the instrument of his own salvation.

Resources for Writing Fiction

There are several good books available to help you learn about the elements of fiction. The following books—and resources that I recommend— were used to research this article:

  • Writing Fiction: A Guide to the Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway
  • Creative Writing: A Guide and Glossary to Fiction Writing by Colin Bulman
  • The Art and Craft of Storytelling by Nancy Lamb
  • How to Read Novels Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster
  • The Art of Fiction by John Gardner
  • A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction by Jack Hodgins

Next, I will discuss the theme of a short story or novel.