Writing Fiction

ACS Distance Education offers a range of writing courses, including Writing Fiction. Click here to enrol. 

Fiction is writing that includes imaginary characters, events and/or settings created by the writer. All of the components of a fictitious story do not necessarily need to be fictitious though:
  • Imaginary characters might be set in a real world setting such as a well known city or a particular country.
  • Characters might be fictitious, but set in a “real” event. For example, you might write about the experiences of a fictitious character during World War II.
  • Real characters may be used for a fictitious story that embraces an imaginary event or setting (eg. a story about William Shakespeare travelling through time; or something more realistic, like a summer’s holiday at a fictitious beach resort, taken by a famous historical figure such as Mozart).

Two Types of Fiction

There are traditionally two types of fiction:


Also referred to as ‘genre’, these stories have a distinct theme and as such are easy to categorise. Examples of category or genre fiction are science fiction, westerns, adventure, historical, romance, erotica, mystery, suspense, fantasy and war stories.


These stories are aimed at the widest possible audience. They typically deal with most aspects of modern life including relationships, careers, and the search for success and fulfilment. Popular mainstream writers include Jeffrey Archer, Jackie Collins, Colleen McCullough, Dan Brown and James Michener.

Tips for Writing a Fictitious Novel

The way a novel is written often employs a raft of techniques and literary devices. Some are quite obvious, for instance the depiction of similarities through similes and metaphors. Others are less clear. A reader may not be aware of them, or only gradually become enlightened as the story progresses. Different techniques may be used to punctuate the story, to create change or mystery, to bring scenes to life, and to build a connection between the reader and the characters. Whichever techniques are utilised, they all serve to obtain and maintain the attention of the reader, and move the story forwards.     

Plots and writing dialogue have been reviewed elsewhere in this book. In this chapter, we shall discuss other creative writing techniques.  

Rhythm of the Story (Peaks and Troughs) 

Most stories do not have a constant level of action action throughout. There will be the high peaks of action, emotion, or events and lulls where less happens.  Peaks and troughs provide the rhythm of the story. Peaks are used to build action up towards a crescendo or climax. The ensuing trough enables the reader collect their thoughts and feelings, to adjust to what has just happened. 

Unless you wish to write a constant action story, there ought to be sufficient peaks and troughs. Too much action can be quite exhausting to read. However, too many troughs, or overly drawn out troughs, can make a story drab. It can meekly limp along barely harnessing the interest of the reader.  Change of pace is important.  

If you consider a basic story line involving a car chase, the plot may be something like this:

  • Car chase around the streets of London
  • Joe loses the car behind him
  • Next scene – at home asleep, resting. Telephone rings. Speaks to a friend. Jumps up, rushes out of his home. Jumps into car.

Next scene – drives off really fast 

Whilst this is not the most imaginative plot it does illustrate the use peaks (the car chases) and troughs (Joe's time asleep and on the telephone).

The change of pace allows the reader a period to contemplate and prepare for the next piece of high action. Generally speaking, the peaks become higher towards the end of the novel as the story reaches its ultimate climax. 

Landmark Events

Landmark events are events which are pivotal to the story. In a news story, there may only be one landmark event. In an advertising blog, there may be one important point, how great the story is. In a novel, there will most likely be a number of landmark events that affect the story. For example, in a story where a woman embarks upon an affair the pivotal moment might be when she first begins the affair, or it could be when her husband finds out, when she tells her husband, when she leaves her husband, or all of these.  

In the film Spiderman, a pivotal moment is when the teenage boy, Peter Parker, gets bitten by a spider. Other landmark events are when he discovers that he has new powers, when his uncle is killed, and so on. Other scenes revolve around these pivotal moments, moving the story onwards, but the pivotal scenes are the main events of the story.  

Crisis – Conflict – Resolution

In stories, there is often a crisis or conflict because they add interest.
The crisis may be a recognition, a decision, or a resolution. The character understands what hasn’t been seen before, or realizes what must be done, or finally decides to do it. It’s when the worm turns. Timing is crucial. If the crisis occurs too early, readers will expect still another turning point. If it occurs too late, readers will get impatient – the character will seem rather thick.
It is helpful to distinguish between a crisis (car crash, illness, loss of job, burglary) and a conflict (a difficult moral choice, internal mental struggle, a clash of wills, a personality clash).
A crisis involves a turning point after which things will never be the same.
A conflict is the existence of two or more conflicting thoughts, ideas, events, motives, and so forth.

The reader should care about the characters, and a conflict is one means of helping them to do that.

Here is an example of a problem scenario:

  • Crisis - The protagonist must free a kidnap victim before an incendiary device destroys them.
  • Conflict - The protagonist has an internal struggle, they must learn to trust another character they do not like because they need their help to diffuse the bomb. 
This conflict is what makes the story worth reading. It demonstrates the humanity of the character to the reader, and the reader may then empathise with them. 

Examples of conflict include:
  • Fight for survival (the individual versus death or illness)
  • Fight for justice and morality (the individual versus society and the law)
  • The individual versus him/herself
  • The individual versus another person
  • The individual versus the folly of other people
  • The individual versus the malevolence and bad behaviour of others
  • The individual versus the ambitions of others
  • The individual versus the interests of others
  • The individual versus the prejudices of others
  • Often a novel may feature a crisis, the character’s response to that (the conflict), and finally the resolution.

Polish Your Fiction Writing Skills by Studying our Fiction Writing Correspondence Course
(100 hours

There are eight lessons in this module as follows:

  1. Scope & Nature of Fiction
  2. Components of a Story – beginning, middle and end
  3. Technique
    • The Creative Process–conception, developing a plot
    • Writing a Draft
    • Editing and rewriting
    • Method Writing
  4. Conception and Research
  5. Drama
  6. Fantasy
  7. The Short Story
  8. The Novel
Course Aims include:
To explain the nature and scope of fiction writing
To identify the components of a fiction story
To apply different techniques in order to conceive a fiction story
To apply a systematic approach to developing a story
To review and edit completed work in order to improve a manuscript
To plan and undertake research for use in a fiction story
To develop different types of fiction stories including fiction, fantasy and short stories.
To plan a novel
To describe the way in which a manuscript should be presented to a publisher

click here to enrol