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A checklist of essential elements in fiction

‘The Fiction Writer’s Handbook.’ By Nancy Smith

Some notes and quotes on writing fiction.

‘Real life events, all too frequently, are anything but logical; fiction must be.’

Nancy Smith, ‘The Fiction Writer’s Handbook.’

‘Life is all inclusion and confusion. Art is all discrimination and selection.’

Henry James

Emotive Themes

  • Rejection
  • Loneliness
  • Pain of being misunderstood
  • Death of a loved one
  • Enforced separation from a love one, animal or place
  • A feeling of always being on the outside, looking in.

‘One should evoke in oneself a sensation which one has experienced before, and having evoked it in oneself, to communicate this same sensation in such a way that others may experience the same sensation …’


‘A newly-invented metaphor assists thought by evoking visual images.’

George Orwell

‘The novelist destroys the house of his life and uses its stone to build the house of his novel.’

Milan Kundera

‘I write about the same things all storytellers have concentrate on … money, power and love.’

Judith Krantz

Ref: Georges Polti, The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations.

Checklist of essential elements in fiction

  • Plot
  • Conflict
  • Background
  • Setting
  • Characterisation
  • Dialogue
  • Theme
  • Tone/atmosphere
  • Suspense/Tension
  • Reader identification
  • Pace
  • Emotion
  • Symbolism
  • Motivation
  • Use of five senses
  • Viewpoint
  • Indirect exposition (show, don’t tell)
  • Flashback
  • Structure/shape
  • Immediacy

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