Any book on fiction writing is going to have plenty of tips for the novice, but since I am in the middle of Swain’s book, I am going to touch on his 5 key story elements (pp. 131-135).
· Character: someone (MC) the reader identifies with
· Situation: the circumstance or problem the MC faces
· Objective: what the MC wants
· Opponent: who or what stands in the way
· Disaster: some dreadful predicament toward the end
Swain then uses these elements to ensure you have a story going before you begin the work of writing by creating what we would call a two sentence elevator pitch based on these elements. This distillation of your story in a concise format forms a basic framework to build on while ensuring you have a conflict that will maintain reader’s interest.
Prior to reading Swain’s book, I had formed vague plot ideas containing most of these elements before writing my novels, and then written elevator pitches when the drafts were complete. Now I can see how turning that process around will help sharpen my plots before I write a single scene. (Duh!) Starting from this point can also help develop an outline of your plot from the early stages. I have grown to appreciate the advantages of being a plotter rather than a pantser. More work up front means less work in the end!
By no means do I consider myself past the novice stage of writing, so I am always interested to hear what sources or tips have helped other writers hone their craft. What books or websites have provided you with the most helpful writing advice?