Musing about the Muse.
One of the most exciting and yet most frustrating things about writing fiction is the dichotomy between ‘the rules of fiction’ (Structure) and ‘the art of fiction.’ (Creativity) Every author has a sweet spot somewhere in between structure and creativity. The trick is to find out where yours lies and to get into it as often as possible. What some people refer to as a well-behaved and helpful Muse, I’ve found to be the balance between boundaries and imagination, knowing the differences, the strengths and weaknesses of each, and putting that knowledge to work for you.
First let’s talk about the Structure and Rules of Fiction.
The truth is good fiction has structure. There is a rhythm and process, an unfolding of scenes, necessary elements, and rules of communication that need to be present in order to convey a written story. These are often called the RULES.
I don’t know a single person who has seriously pursued writing who didn’t bang slap up against THE RULES sometime in their career. As painful as this whack upside the head can be, the earlier in your writing life that you encounter it, the better. Sadly, many writers either don’t know there are rules to writing good fiction, or they think the rules don’t apply to them. They would rather finger paint with words, slapping color onto paper with little definition or clarity. They just want to write. (Put wrist to forehead and sigh deeply here for the full effect — channel your inner drama queen.) Publishers know finger painting when they see it. You might just want to write, but they want to know you understand the structure of good fiction; what makes a good story a good story.
Check out what these titans in the industry have to teach you about the rules and structure of writing.
Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell
Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon
Once you learn the rules, you will also learn when it is appropriate to break them.
This is where your CREATIVITY comes in.
Writing fiction is an art form. Digging deep into your imagination while aiming to accurately reflect the story-world on the page, illuminating for others the truths you’ve learned, and vividly bringing to life characters and lands for the enjoyment of others. There is a serendipitous journey to be taken when writing a novel, where things unfold in surprising and exciting ways the writer couldn’t have foretold. Each novel brings a sense of discovery, finding out what it is you’re trying to say through the act of saying it.
Join me for the Part 2 of Erica’s post tomorrow, and learn more about her writing. Meanwhile, check out her blog: On the Write Path
Bonne Friesen says
Erica, would you add Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain to your list? It’s extremely structured structure, but sure helps me out of jams. (What’s wrong with this scene? Oh, right. It would help if it had a clear goal.)
Georgiana Daniels says
Finger painting with words–I love it! I suppose I’ve done that more than once 🙂 You’re so right about finding the balance between the rules and creativity. Great post!
Bonne, Swain’s book is an excellent resource, I just found it very dry! Much like Sol Stein’s book, not something I could read straight through, but very good for delving into for a cure to a specific problem I am having with my writing. Thanks for commenting!