There are three keys to effective, dynamic fiction: Character, Plot, and Action. There are basic techniques that have been handed down for centuries that can be mastered to create vivid prose. Following is a succinct summary of everything you will ever need to know about these "tricks of the trade."


How do writers create believable characters? Through the use of language. There are literally hundreds, possibly thousands, of languages at your disposal, from the elegant timelessness of ancient Latin to the hip, modern sound of Jamaican Patois. Pick the one you are most comfortable in and watch the characters come to life before your eyes.

Compare the two following examples of the same scene, that of two lovers meeting for the first time. Sample 1A is written in complete gibberish, whereas Sample 1B is written in Modern English.


"gnoch velkonork shpeelgott" wempen flep.

Ginsy ofk wahkno blercht, ogpildow. Nappin wilken glong feirong.

"Gollow rempt, ggg" morlow forlow.


As they sat across from each other at the restaurant, he realized that she was the type of woman who joined CD clubs through the mail. He offered to show her a magic trick that he learned in Nepal, where he attended Ninja School. She politely declined, observing that he was not the type to iron his shirt in places that would be covered by his jacket. Six months later, they were married.

A NOTE OF CAUTION: Many languages are less widely used than others are. Some, such as the "Machine Language" of Sample 1C, are not even used by humans, but are exclusive to computer information systems. Notice how the same passage fails to evoke a sense of the characters in Machine Language:




The second vital facet of compelling fiction is "Plot." Plot is the vehicle that your story drives to the mall. No, maybe plot is the highway upon which your story commutes to work. "Plop" is the sound that mashed potatoes make when you serve them onto a plate, but "Plot" is the plate that the mashed potatoes of your story rests on before being devoured by the ravenous public.

How does one construct a tight, well-written plot? It is a subtle craft, made possible by putting spaces in between your words. This prevents the awkward pacing and "everything happening at once" that plagues many beginning authors. Note the difference in plotting between Sample 2A, which does not include spaces and Sample 2B, which is spaced in the commonly accepted mode.




"You got the stuff?" the Cuban asked.

"Yeah," I answered.

"You got the stuff?" the Cuban asked.

"Yeah," I answered.

"You got the stuff?" the Cuban asked.

"Yeah," I answered.

"You got the stuff?" the Cuban asked.

"Yeah," I answered.



The third and final ingredient is "Action." Of the three, it is the most often misunderstood and misused. It is simply death on the page to have paragraph after paragraph of two characters just sitting around talking. Ok, technically, talking is "doing something," but they should at least sit someplace interesting, such as the moon. 

It must be noted, however, that action does not need to be melodramatic or violent. Try to look beyond obvious things such as "killing a guy." You could also use seeking revenge, plotting revenge, getting revenge, avenging, seeking vengeance, plotting vengeance, as well as any number of others. 

To really get your readers engaged in the action, proper use of margins is essential. Note how improper margins make Sample 3A feel flat, repetitive and tiresome, while Sample 3B pulses with life and energy and leaps triumphantly off the page.

Sample 3A

Wilbur put the first book on the shelf. Then, he put the second book on the shelf. The third and fourth books were very slender, so he put them up on the shelf together. Just as he was about to put the fifth book on the shelf, he realized it was the sixth book. 
Sample 3B

And their hungry mouths closed on each other and there was a crackle of electricity as their tongues writhed together. They separated just long enough for him to pull her shirt up and over her shoulders. Her hands were shaking and sweaty as she slipped her right hand behind his belt and into his pants. 


Allow these simple rules to guide you in your craft. Once you have mastered the basics of character, plot and action, you will find that a new, exciting world of fiction will open up for you. Happy creating!

[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/rlarsen.html


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