Writing Fiction - Part I

When something interests me, I live it, I dream it, I Google it, I surround myself with books about it. Among my multitude of current interests is about how to write captivating fiction. Another interest is ruby on rails, but that deserves another ultra nerdy post.

I got my hands on different books about how to write fiction. I can easily produce a short mediocre fictional story, but it is different when an expert helps you deconstruct a story and guides you into building a better one. Imagine visiting a museum with masterpieces hanging on the walls. You can appreciate the Artist's skills and mastery, but with an art expert or guide by your side, the history of the painting, what the artist felt at the time, what the use of colors mean, why are the brush strokes bold or scattered, all the little nuances that affect you subliminally, when appreciating art, are revealed.

I just finished reading the first few pages of "How to Write Killer Fiction" by Carolyn Wheat and already I began noticing things about fiction books and movies I have seen.

One of the things mentioned is that the protagonist is seldom a Superman; he is always imperfect with bad flaws and major weaknesses and even worse off than everyone around him. He has big problems, and is thrown in a situation where he needs to overcome his problems and solve the mystery at the same time. You end up rooting for the hero, wanting this miserable underdog to succeed, clenching your teeth when he goes into a potential fatal situation known to you but unknown to him and cheering for him when he manages to escape from the jaws of death and solving the mystery in one fell swoop.

I will sign off with the first lines of Carolyn's book:

THE BEST ADVICE on writing I've ever seen came from a fictional character. Seymour Glass, J.D. Salinger's cryptic antihero, tells his brother, Buddy, an aspiring writer: "You think of the book you'd most like to be reading, and then you site down and shamelessly write it."


  1. Ruby on rails will be an ultra nerdy post indeed. You are so knowledgeable DonVeto!

    Carolyn Wheat's book sounds very interesting.

    So are we to expect some DonVeto stories now ? :)

  2. Wow thats amazing advice Don. And it makes a lot of sense cuz personally I hate it when a character in a book or a movie is all perfect and the bad character is entirely evil. It's cartoonish and we're not kids anymore. Life is more complex than that. Anyway I would so appreciate it you'd save me the trouble of finding, buying and reading the book and just occasionally put some of your favorite advice from the book here on your blog, that would be awesome.

    Anyway, please do come visit my new blog. You'll recognize me when you get there nshala :)

  3. jewaira: Ruby on Rails, I like that name, reminds me of the Bob Dylan album, blood on the tracks, but completely different. About stories, why not? I have a few ideas but I am working on my writing style.

    1001: Welcome back, double Z, I will post more, that's why this is part I. I am glad you liked it.

  4. Hi Don Veto,

    I share your interest in both fiction writing and Ruby on Rails (the latter I just started to read about).

    Before I recommend some books, I would like to comment on the opinion expressed in Carolyn Wheat's book that the "protagonist is seldom a Superman." There are actually two types of fiction writing: Naturalist and Romantic.

    Naturalist writing, which is what Carolyn mentions, is where the protagonist is an ordinary guy (or gal) living an ordinary life with some adventure or struggle taking place. It describes life as it is.

    Romantic writing, on the other hand, represents the protagonist as an ideal human being, which portrays what man should be. In this sense, it allows you to imagine what you would like to become. This doesn't mean that characters are represented in black and white (the writer can add much more complexity to the characters). For example, you can represent a character that struggles to patent an invention, and is obstructed by other inventors who feel jealous because of his genius and potential accomplishment. The psychology behind the characters can be very complex, even though the characters are seen as good and evil.

    For more on the difference between the two types of writing, and on how to write Romantic novels, I would highly recommend two books by Ayn Rand:

    1) The Romantic Manifesto:

    This is a very philosophical book, and it explains the necessity of art in man's life, and what purpose it should serve. But it covers Naturalism and Romanticism more in-depth than the next book. I haven't read the entire book, but benefited greatly from what I've read.

    2) The Art of Fiction Writing: This book is a MUST! But be warned, it may make all other books feel bland by comparison... So don't blame me for making you feel guilty for wasting all that money on the other books :P

    It’s a short book, but rich in helpful advice, even advice on overcoming writer’s block, and how to get into the flow of writing.
    You can get the books either at http://www.amazon.com or http://www.aynrandbookstore.com.

    As for Ruby on Rails (and tons of great resources for web/web-app design/development), I would highly recommend http://www.sitepoint.com. They have a recent book out on Ruby on Rails development.

    I’ll comment more on this subject in the nerdy post :P

    That’s all for now… all the best,