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Notes From: Writing Fiction For Dummies

Writing Fiction For Dummies

Book Lesson Highlights: The following are the highlights of the things I learned reading this book. If you want to become a better fiction writer I STRONGLY suggest you buy this book and put it into your "frequently accessed" library. 

Writing Fiction For Dummies
Writing Fiction For Dummies

How I found Writing Fiction For Dummies

I found it at the local library. It wasn't even the one I was looking for. As it turned out it was SO much better. The following are notes I took from this book. These notes only scratch the surface of the the book. I'm going to buy it and put it on my shelf to frequently access in my fiction writing. 

And now: The Notes

Writing Fiction for Dummies

The Ten Levels of crafting a fiction novel – All of these are needed to publish with traditional publishers.

1. Write your storyline

  • This is a one paragraph summary of your story.
  • It should define the primary character and his/her story goal.
  • Story Goal is that thing that drives the story.
    • Frodo must take the ring to mount doom.
    • Neo must find out if he is The One.
    • Little Red Riding Hood must get to grandmothers house.

2. Write your III Act Structure

  • Act One: The Conflict.
    • Takes the first 1/3 of your story
    • Something upsets his/her normal life and by the end a decision is made to pursue the story goal.
  • Act Two: (Could also be described as Act 2 and 3 if you thought of it in four acts.)
    • Half way through the mission started in Act One a setback occurs.
    • Act Two ends with a major conflict or set back.
    • Could end with the character looking defeated, gaining resolve in the start of act 3, or gaining resolve and starting act 3 running.
  • Act Three: The Final Showdown.
    • The main character goes on a final run to complete his/her story goal.
    • The character need not obtain the goal, only try to a final conclusion.
      • Happy Ending: Story Goal Achieved! Yeah!
      • Tragedy (UnHappy Ending): The Character Fails! “NOOOOO!”
      • Bittersweet Ending: Goal ends with a “Yes, But…” or a “No, But…”
3. Define your characters

  1. Let Him or Her be able to answer: “Who am I?”
  2. Name, Ambition, Story Goal, Conflict, Epiphany
    1. One Sentence summary of story goal
    2. One Paragraph summary of story goal.
  3. EACH character should have a story goal. Not just the main character. In real life everyone thinks they are the main character of their story.
  4. Each of your characters should think they are the main character and have a goal of their own, often conflicting with your hero’s goal.
    1. The best bad guys think they are the good guys, or at least have a goal and feel like the main character.
    2. It’s flat characters that have no goal of their own and only exist to support the story. 
4. Short Synopsis
  1. 1 Page Summary.
  2. Expound on the elements of step one, storyline.
  3. Summarize the three act structure.
5. Character Sketches
  1. 1-3 Paragraphs.
  2. Cliff notes. Backstory, Ambition, Values, Story Goal.
6. Long Synopsis
  1. 4-5 Pages.
  2. High Level Details. Expound on Short Synopsis.
7. Create your character bible
  1. Full Work Up. CIA level knowledge of your character.
  2. Name, DOB, Physical (Hight, Weight, Eye Color, Hair)
  3. Physical, Mental, Emotional, Spiritual Disabilities.
  4. Education, Training, Work Skills, Special Training or Abilities
  5. Fears, Hopes, Dreams, Backstory
8. Scene list (And Clips)
  1. Think MOVIE. A scene isn’t a chapter it’s a scene.
    1. The following is one scene in two clips.
    2. Clip One. Neo runs into the room to answer the phone and gets shot.
    3. Clip Two. Neo comes back and stops bullets, jumps inside the Agent and blows him up from the inside.
9. Analyze Scenes
  1. Do these scenes all make sense?
  2. Does the content within the scene work on it’s own without the others?
  3. Does the scene fit with the whole story? Should it be moved earlier or later?
  4. Does the scene support the story? Or should it be cut?
  5. Directors of movies cut scenes from movies that don’t move it forward. You should too!
10. Write and Edit your story
  1. Assess and ReAsses… write, and rewrite. Using the above 9 things to help you along the way.

You could be a Top Down Writer or a Bottom Up Writer

  • Bottom Up
    • Seat of the Pants – Just write what you feel. You can organize it later.
    • Edit as you go – Write what you feel, but make some minor edits along the way. Gain organization as you go.
  • Top Down
    • Snowflake - Make a plan but evolve it
    • Outline  - Thorough Master Outline before a word of story is written.
Components of a Novel

5 Pillars of Fiction

  • Believable setting
    • Geography, Races, Historical Context, Politics, Science, Social Stigmas, Sexuality and Sex Roles, Language, Entertainment.
  • Interesting Characters
    • Backstory, Ambition, Story Goal.
    • Inner Conflict. Conflicting Values. May not know the values conflict until they start to play out in the story goal.
    • NOT a stereo type. But not so outside of his/her norm that they don’t fit anything. People tend to group, and differ from their group. Define these for your characters.
    • Know MUCH MORE about your characters than you ever put into the story itself. Feel free to write pages and pages of backstory that nobody else will ever read. Then take the best of this, the parts that move your story forward, and bring it into your story in bite sized pieces. Just a fraction of what you know should show up in the novel.
  • Strong Plot
    • This was my personal weakness.
    • Scene Summary. III Act Structure, Scenes and Clips, Story Goal.
    • Also: Synopsis and Scene List
  • Meaningful Theme
    • Could be simple: “Crime Doesn’t Pay”
    • Could be deep: “Lord of the rings – Good vs Evil”
  • Style and Personal Flair!
    • There is only one YOU. If 1,000 people attended an event and all recorded the event in writing, and you were one of those, there would not be a single account exactly like yours. Some would be close, others completely different, some even appear to contradict. That’s why there are four accounts of the life of Jesus and they all have the same things differently.
    • You are the only you. No one has ever told your story from your perspective. No one has ever covered your topic from your voice. Find that voice that is yours.

7 Tactical Tools for Crafting a Novel

  1. Action
  2. Dialogue
  3. Interior Monologue (Inner Thoughts)
  4. Interior Emotion
    1. Expressed as experience “Sweaty Palms and clammy skin”, not as description “He felt afraid”)
  5. Description
    1. Always from point of view of the character. Help the reader experience what the character experiences.
    2. Five Sense Data. Cool Stone. Hot Asphalt. Taste, Touch, Experience.
  6. Flashback
    1. Use Sparingly, if at all, and ONLY when it moves the story forward.
  7. Narrative Summary
    1. This is when you explain or tell about something, rather than showing.
    2. Use VERY sparingly. Typically you should use the 1-5 to SHOW and not TELL. Only tell when showing would take too long and slow down the story rather than helping move it along.
    3. So then:
      1. “He was afraid” is narrative summary
      2. “His palms were sweaty. Neck hairs standing on end.” Is Interior Emotion

Things to consider

If you do your job right your readers should have the following:

  • Give your readers a powerful emotional experience!
  • Conflict + Change = Story
    • Make life hard on your characters.
  • Write to one person.
    • Define your ideal reader, and then write to that person.
    • “My readers are not disillusioned with religion and dissatisfied with life as it is and desire a life of supernatural good success.”
  • Define Your Niche
    • Are you a mystery writer? Fantasy? Science Fiction? Thriller? Romance?
    • What kind of genre do you write to?
    • What are the ruled of that genre?

Things you’ll need to publish your novel:

  • Query Letter
  • Proposal
  • COMPLETE Manuscript
  • Synopsis
  • Scene List
  • Storyline (Elevator Pitch)
    • Should be able to pitch your story in a clear and compelling way in 30 seconds or less, using your story line.
    • 10 seconds would be better.
Ten Reasons Novels are Rejected

  1. The category is wrong for that publisher or novel is miss-categorized.
  2. Bad mechanics and lackluster writing
  3. The target reader isn’t defined.
  4. The storyworld is boring
  5. The storyline is weak
  6. The Characters aren’t unique or interesting
  7. The Author lacks a strong voice
  8. The plot is predictable
  9. The theme is over bearing or preachy.
  10. The book fails to deliver a powerful emotional experience.


Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this. I'd love to make a community with this project. If you would like to add, comment on, critique, or otherwise participate... that would be great!

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Darrell's Reading List

Here are some books I've been reading lately:
  • Hacker: The Outlaw Chronicles (here) by Ted Dekker (Author). The story of a young Hacker girl, who went on a wild adventure into the supernatural realm beyond trying to save her mom, but saved her self too in the process.
  • Saint: A Paradise Novel (here) by Ted Dekker (Author). He's an assassin, or is he? He finds a secret to his past that unlocks supernatural abilities, at a cost.
  • For a full list of all my book suggestions, see my Amazon Store.

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