Does fiction writing have rules? By Paul Grainger

Many people, as well as being readers, are also aspiring writers, and what they often want to know is: is there a magical formula for good fiction writing?

Good fiction arises from situations where someone is in conflict with his or herself and with others. From stories that conjure up in a reader’s mind a living dream, in which every detail contributes to a total experience. From stories where the laws of cause and effect play a greater part than that of coincidence. The resolution of the conflict doesn’t depend on external factors, it is contained within it.

Good fiction allows events to run smoothly. The storytelling gives the reader a satisfaction that is celebrated at both an intellectual and a psychological level. The stories are constructed with elegance and efficiency, they are honest and generous, the reader is not misled.

Good fiction addresses both moral and social questions, but offers no easy answers. It can be strange yet familiar, unique yet commonplace, cause astonishment as well as recognition. It creates its own reality and its own truth.

In answer to the question: how can a writer bring all this to fruition, Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules for the writing of successful fiction, unfortunately no one knows what they are.” But in fact there is only one rule, and that is: there are no rules. There are, though, certain techniques and methods that a writer can apply but, paradoxically, it is the writer’s own talent in expressing him or herself that is likely to prevail in the production of a good novel.

Copyright Paul Grainger 2002

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