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How to write a novel | details and authenticity


CANAL 001

When you are writing fiction it’s a good idea to make it plausible by including a few details that might otherwise go unnoticed. Last week I introduced you to my character Nick who I said could be someone who dreams of  becoming a gypsy and travelling. I thought maybe he could tour England in a camper van and that would give us a nice scenario for an adventure, a thriller or even a romance. If I wanted something really unusual, he could do the tour on a canal boat and experience England’s 17th century canals. Take a look at the picture and think what little details might make the story sound more authentic. There are fancy little benches along the canal on this stretch and notice the black and white mooring points too. A lot of narrowboats chose this place to spend the night a couple of weeks ago.

If you do your research you can add detail, but it should be detail that your reader needs to know. If for example your character gets into a car and drives off, the reader doesn’t need to know he opens the door, starts the engine, takes the brake off and all those trivial details that they already know happen when someone gets into a car to drive it. The roar of a supercharged engine could be a detail of interest to the reader though and make for more realism.

In a narrow boat story, the chug chug of the engine would be more appropriate and it glides through the murky water of a post industrial canal. The brightly coloured craft reminiscent of a gypsy caravan contrasts against the grey factories and warehouses lining this part of the route.

My character Nick could be a fugitive from the police, the canals would be a good place to hide away. On the road he might get stopped by the police, but on the canal; very unlikely. We all have a tendency to be curious, we like to ask why. Maybe Nick could be searching for something and travelling the length and breadth of England in his quest. He could be running away from something and also searching for something or someone. No one offered me any ideas last week, maybe you have an idea? What could he be running from? What could he be searching for?

We also have to think about his past. Who is Nick? Where did he grow up? What has he done with his life so far? In England, social class is also important. He could be working class and down to earth, middle class and quite well educated or even quite upper class and exploring a world that is unfamiliar and quite alien to him. The possibilities are endless and that’s why every novel is different. The things that novels have in common are grammar, punctuation and construction; they have to be readable. It’s not a good idea to underline words for effect, the printer won’t like it! It is far better to use italics…

Those three little dots at the end of the last paragraph are called an ellipsis, you use three dots, not four or five; you have to try to be professional. If you’re writing your first novel, something should happen after you have written around a hundred thousand words, (more in some cases); you start to become deeply involved in the story. You also start to become good at it, the whole process of writing takes on a life of it’s own and is much easier. If you don’t become totally immersed in the story, then maybe you are writing it for the wrong reasons. If you are writing a novel because you want fame and fortune, rather than because you enjoy it and have a story to tell; it might be really hard going.

I have given you a few tips that might help you write a novel and particularly if it’s your first novel. Now maybe you’ll see if you can write a comment below! I write another blog on a Wednesday about how to write fiction and that’s posted on a Zillion Ideas. If you want to read more why not pop over there?

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6 responses

  1. Pingback: How to write a novel | Research « Mike10613's Blog

  2. Pingback: How to write a novel | Character profile « Mike10613's Blog

  3. Pingback: How to write a novel | The story so far « Mike10613's Blog

  4. Pingback: How to write a novel | English Countryside « Mike10613's Blog

  5. Pingback: How to write a novel | transatlantic ideas « Mike10613's Blog

  6. Pingback: How to write a novel | places « Mike10613's Blog

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