A writer must possess certain learned skills. If you’re going to be a professional writer, you must respect the craftsmanship involved in becoming a selling writer and learn those narrative skills.
What Are These Skills?
Jack E. Bickham, author of many novels and nonfiction books on writing, said: “A story is the formed record of a character testing conflict, told from a point of view.”
Mr. Bickham taught that a formed record means an author controls the material. There is a formal structure. There is a consciousness of narrative principles. Classical ideas of dramatic architecture are followed. In other words, great stories just don’t happen.
A character is not just a person. In fiction, a character is a creation of many things. A character is an exaggeration of a real-life person in some respects. A character is much easier to understand than a human being, because their “tags” and traits, their attitudes, internal and external wants and needs, their conflicts are played on the stage of our minds.
Often, it’s much easier to understand what makes a created character tick than to understand why your spouse gets depressed if you blow off your anniversary to play golf. Or it should be easier. That’s the author’s job: make the character understandable by the reader and make the reader want to know the character.
Conflict is the driving force of fiction. Conflict is struggle. It is a fight that plays on stage for the reader.
Yes, sometimes conflict is a character at war with himself, but this isn’t enough. There has to be an external conflict driving the external plot and reflecting the internal struggle.
Don’t make the mistake of confusing adversity with conflict. Adversity is just bad luck, not conflict.
Point of View
Point of view, is what makes the story someone’s story. Viewpoint is necessary to fiction, because a reader wants and needs to identify with someone. The reader wants to cheer for someone and relate to the story.
Viewpoint is a carefully wielded skill by the writer.
A writer must make careful decisions about what kind of viewpoint to use, whose viewpoint to use, and how to use that viewpoint to not only relate the events of the story but also reveal character to the reader.
If you are just starting out, your writer’s tool box probably has lots of empty space.
Add these skills as quickly as possibly, and you’ll be on your way to writing salable fiction.