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6 Elements of Good Fiction Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Dec 20, 2019 • 4 min read

Fiction stories have captured our collective imagination for centuries. Learning to write fiction can be an incredibly rewarding and exciting journey for new writers. Understanding the basic elements of fiction books and stories will go a long way in preparing you to write your own pieces.



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What Is Fiction Writing?

Fiction writing is narrative writing that involves elements of plot and character created entirely by the author, as opposed to nonfiction, which is based on real world events and real people. There are many different forms of fiction writing, but one thing that they all have in common is that a large portion of their source material is created wholesale by the author.

6 Types of Fiction Writing

There are many different types of fiction. Genres of fiction are typically defined by their tone and subject matter. The term “genre fiction” generally encompasses popular types of fiction situated within a specific genre outside of standard literary fiction. Some of the most popular forms of fiction include:

  1. Historical fiction: Historical fiction has characters based on real people and often bases its plots on real-life events. Generally, many elements of plot or dialogue are fabricated by the author, although it’s up to the writer how much to invent.
  2. Literary fiction: Literary fiction describes mainstream highbrow fiction. Literary fiction encompasses most books taught in high school English courses and most books that are up for major annual prizes like the Pulitzer Prize or Man Booker Prize. Literary fiction often depicts nuanced themes and incorporates literary devices.
  3. Mystery fiction: Mystery novels are plot driven thrillers based around a crime or other form of mystery.
  4. Science fiction: Science fiction is a genre of fiction that often depicts stories set against the backdrop of futuristic technology and dystopian societies.
  5. Children’s fiction: Children’s literature is a genre of fiction that can range from books for toddlers to full length young adult novels.
  6. Fanfiction: Fanfiction is a genre of fiction in which fans take source material from existing franchises and then spin them off into separate narratives of their own.
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6 Elements of Successful Fiction Writing

In order to write fiction successfully, it’s imperative that you understand the elements of fiction. The main elements of fiction are:

  1. Character: Novels are driven by fictional characters. Depending on the scope of a novel, you may follow one central character or several major characters. Most novels follow fully-formed round characters who resemble real human beings and undergo significant change over the course of the story. Additionally, a genre novel will likely also have minor characters who are flat characters who don’t undergo significant change. Good character development means understanding the backstory and background information that informs your character’s point of view. When developing realistic characters with clear points of view, it can be useful to think about your own point of view and how it has evolved as you lived through events in the real world.
  2. Plot: Plot is simply a series of events that makes up the narrative action of a story. Plot as an element of fiction generally revolves around rising action, followed by a turning point, followed by falling action and a denouement at the end of the story.
  3. Setting: Setting is one of the primary story elements found in fiction. Setting dictates the location and time period of a story. You might maintain a single setting for an entire story, or you might move between multiple. A fiction writer might choose to set their novel entirely on the same New York City block but jump time periods through flashbacks.
  4. Point of view: Point of view in prose has to do with the perspective from which you choose to write. The three main POVs in writing are first-person, second-person, and third-person. Most stories are written in third-person point of view or first-person point of view, though second-person is occasionally employed. The point of view from which you choose to write affects how a reader processes your story. A third-person narrator can bring a more objective, aloof tone to a narrative, whereas a first person narrator can make the story feel more subjective and intimate.
  5. Theme: Theme is one of the characteristics of fiction that authors can really sink their teeth into when writing a full-length novel. Theme is a larger message or motif that an author explores to make a larger point about everyday life or the world around us. All other elements can work together to convey themes in a work of fiction.
  6. Style: Style in creative writing starts with word choice. When we talk about fiction stories, we talk about the diction (or choice of words) that an author chooses to employ and the structure of their work. There are no style guides or rules for fiction stories. and novels are an exciting place for writers to play around with bold stylistic choices.


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