by Nomsa Chirisa

All great books start with an idea. There are no premised rules about what kind of writing to go for, but we all have our imaginative inclination to drive us to craft a great story. Today we are talking about fiction writing.

Fiction writing is creative writing; although it can be inspired by actual events, it is not real but imagined and created in the writer’s mind, who then pens down the story.

As I grew up, I read folktale books more often and their storylines were somehow magnetic. I vividly remember the talking animals, and those which lived in human shelters and could do all human activities. It was fascinating to read about the hare who would trick the lion and rob him of his meal. But was that real?  – No! It is only imaginary and created by the writer in order to hook the reader to the message in the story. We would all agree that fiction stories are entertaining, but they are also educative, and inspiring. They are written for a purpose and with the reader in mind.   

Types of fiction writing

  1. novel
  2. anthology
  3. folklore
  4. play
  5. drama
  6. comedy
  7. thriller
  8. horror
  9. crime
  10. mystery
  11. classics
  12. romance
  13. fantasy
  14. young adult
  15. historical

What are the elements of fiction writing?

When writing fiction, there are basic elements that bring out your story. It is like cooking, you cannot do away with the pots, burner, and ingredients. All features combined, bring out the story you want to tell.

1. Plot

The first thing to do when writing fiction is to plot your story. A plot is a chain or sequence of events in a story. A plot is a story map or, simply put, it is an outline. Every story should have a beginning, middle and an end. Once you have your story idea, plot down events such that it follows this framework:

i. Exposition/Background

Introduce and familiarise the reader with the theme of the story, characters, setting and the underlying problem. Set up your story and engage the reader to your narrative. This part will determine if your reader will keep turning the pages on or dump the book for another day.

ii. Rising action

These are the events proceeding from the underlying problem which lead to the main issue of the story.

iii. Climax/Peak

This is where the gist of the story is packed and it is after the development of events in the story. The climax is the outburst of all events which reveal the main theme.

iv. Falling action

At this stage, your story takes a deep breath after the peak and the impacts of all events are felt. The tension rising from the climax decreases as your story prepares to reach its resolution.

v. Resolution/Conclusion

This is the ending of the story where harsh decisions are made, or events take their natural and expected course to resolve the crisis which would have taken place at the climax stage. This stage brings solutions to the main problem of the story.

2. Characters

Characters are human beings, robots, trees or any other objects that convey the story to the reader. Without them, a story remains untold. You need to clearly define the roles and backstory of each character. Ensure all your characters have an active storyline; if not, cut them out!

3. Setting

The setting of a story can be a geographical location, yearly season, time of day, or a specific place. For instance, under the Msasa tree or on top of a mountain. Good fiction starts with a clear setting to engage the reader. One way to introduce the setting would be talking about a specific activity, for instance, “I was deep in thoughts when …” Pick the kind of setting you would want your reader to always remember long after reading your book but also make sure it sets the mood of the story.

4. Point of view

As the writer of a fictitious story, you need to pick a character to narrate the story. Here are your options:

i. First person narrative

The reader sees the story through the eyes of the character telling the story. It uses the terms “I, me, my, mine.”

ii. Second person narrative

The character telling the story is talking to the reader. It makes use of the terms “you, your, yours.”

iii. Third person narrative

The character telling the story is describing what’s happening – what he or she observes as the story unfolds. The narrator is both a spectator, and a character in the story; or either of each. It uses the terms “they, them, he/she.”

When making your choice, remember to choose the best character and point of view that will best tell what you want to, clearly and effectively.

5. Theme

Every story should have a theme. A theme is an underlying meaning; main idea; central issue; or subject matter which you convey through your story. It’s what categorises your work into a genre and exposes the lessons to take home. Stick to your theme and avoid fuddling.

6. Style

This is the way you tell your story. It’s a combination of your verbal choices, a unique way of using words and using certain figures of speech. A fiction book I once read had a lot of words such as “Word!, My, my, my! Oh, boy!” It was unique and it kept me captivated into the book. Choose your unique style which will make your writing stand out.

7. Plot twists

Plot twists make your fiction interesting and thrilling! When your readers think they have it all predicted, surprise them with a bit of sauce; just enough to keep them interested in your story. Turn away your story from the obvious, make your reader sigh as they read; take away their breath for a minute; let their eyes pop out from the sockets; make them go “Oh? Ok?” It’s your story after all!


Ever had a flash of inspiration from someone? What you see around you every day can manifest in a good fictional book. Get ideas; embrace your story; have a well-versed plot; write a captivating beginning; build thrill and suspense; and craft a suitable ending. As you write, pay attention to what you intend to convey through your story. While it is common to end up mixing ideas and character traits, stick to the particulars which describe the setting and characters and get your story straight. There, you have it! Free your imagination and let your creative prowess flow. You would be amazed at what you can write and the teachings you can impart. It is those take away lessons which the reader is waiting for.

You now have all the tools, what is stopping you from writing?





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