Writing fiction

“Fiction writing is great. You can make up almost anything.”

Ivana Trump, upon finishing her first novel.

Say that again, please?

Yes, well … I think that’s what fiction is, something made up in the writer’s imagination.

That is what I love about writing fiction; you can make up interesting characters, imagine beautiful (or dangerous or horrible) settings, create compelling plots and generally let your creative juices loose, flowing in interesting directions.

I love it when characters take over the story and you have no idea where they will take the reader – and you as the writer.

I love it when the plot I have in mind or on my outline page suddenly twists away, taking unexpected lane ways, leading me on a merry – or dangerous – chase through a land unknown.

I am delighted when unplanned, unexpected and delicious endings pop out on to the page.

The foundation of  fiction

Despite the imagination being the driving force behind all fiction, I believe it is important to realise that all fiction also has one foot in reality. Every story, even wild, out-of-this-world fantasy and SF, has to have an internal logic based on reality. If something is too illogical, the reader will switch off or stop reading.

Sure, some stories need a certain suspension of belief (eg a talking animal, and ogre who falls in love or an alien who speaks English), but once that is achieved successfully, the writer can blaze ahead.

The characters must also ring true to themselves, the setting must be based on places the readers can imagine and the plot must be feasible. I find more and more that I draw on real places, real people and real events for writing fiction. Many of my stories are based on true events; my imagination draws on those  events and asks, “What if..” Using this technique my imagination can run off in all kinds of directions.

An example: some time ago my brother told me of a skeleton he found on a sandhill on his farm. All we know from the investigating detective  is that the man was shot in the head twice and that he was not an Aborigine. I used the discovery of this unfortunate man and came up with a 4000 word crime and murder mystery story. My lecturer gave me a high distinction and she is a hard but fair assessor.

Let your imagination soar, and good writing.


4 Responses to “Writing fiction”

  1. Angela says:

    Hi there Trevor.
    I read your “smelly shoes” and thought yes I think he goes to Tabor college so I looked around further and yes you do.
    Are you doing it externally or do you go in.
    I am thinking of doing this course but not till next year
    I would like to know more your impressions of the course and how many contact hours etc.
    I popped over to look at your wife’s blog and well done.
    I will leave a message there sometime soon.

  2. Trevor says:

    Hi there Angela,

    Yes – I am half way through doing my Master of Arts in Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide. (My wife is also doing her MA in TESOL there.

    I am studying internally as it is an easy 50 minutes drive down the freeway from my home in Murray Bridge and very easy to get to. I know that many do the courses externally and get great support from the staff.

    I was given heaps of recognition of prior learning (RPL) because of the studies I did while teaching for 35 years. Last year I did six units (8 is full time) and that was enough of a challenge. Two of the units were selected from the English units, the rest were focussed on writing.

    The writing for children and the prose fiction units had Dr. Rosanne Hawke as the lecturer. We attended the launch of her 16th book late in 2008. She is excellent at helping people to develop their writing skills. She gives great encouragement, great feed back via email or in person and really knows the writing business through and through. The tutor Claire Bell is also excellent.

    The poetry units I did with the head of humanities, Dr. Mark Worthing. He is a good lecturer with very high expectations of the students and brings out the best in you. It was a hard slog and a steep learning curve but I got there with good results.

    All the lectures are about 3 hours long with a short break in the middle. The first half is lecture time, but most groups are small enough (5 – 15 students) for there to be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

    After the break there is always a workshop time where we work in small groups (up to about 6 or 7). These are the best aspect of the units because you are expected to complete a writing assignment every week and then have it critiqued by the group: confronting yes, but so useful at honing those skills.

    So from that you can see that actual contact hours are about 3 hours per unit per week for 16 weeks. To successfully complete the course you would need to add about 5 – 8 hours per unit per week of reading time, study of the unit readers and writing time.

    I would highly recommend the course and the lecturers. There is a high level of care and everyone is encouraged to succeed.

    In 2 weeks I start on my last required unit, and I will also be starting on my thesis paper – a 40,000 word novel for children. This will need to be presented by the end of the year at a publishable level of competence. That’s my challenge for 2009!

  3. Angela says:

    Thankyou so much for the wonderful feedback.
    I have done my grad cert Tesol at Uni SA in 2007 to add to my teaching qualifications.I have used that qualification in small ways while I am on leave from my permanent teaching job.This may be the next step to study more.I will need to pray now.I have read all of Rosanne’s books and know she would be a wonderful mentor.I live with my family in the Barossa Valley and the train/bus would work for lectures.My daughter did this while doing the Year of the Son.
    All the best with the thesis-indeed persistence.

  4. Trevor says:

    Thanks Angela. All the best as you work out what you are going to study.