How to Write Convincing Fiction

An exploration of how to make your writing more convincing in areas you're uncertain about.

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Writing in a convincing way runs parallel to realism. If you are attempting to write comic or absurd fiction, you need to be careful that in seeking to convince you are not by default taken down the path of realism, and thereby derail your work.

For this reason, it’s tempting when writing absurd and comic fiction to disregard the need to convince, and yet all fiction needs to convince whether that is historical fiction, crime fiction, science fiction or surreal fiction. What is meant by being convincing? Let’s look first at identifying when something isn’t convincing.

When you write about things you don’t know well, or even things of which you’ve had some experience, there can a blunt naivety to a piece that sends out warning bells to the reader that you really don’t have a clue about the subject on which you’re writing. But the reason might not be a lack of knowledge or experience; to be convincing requires being relaxed with your subject matter. It also involves a loss of self, a oneness with it.

The issue is that fiction writing is not truth telling and no matter how much you know about a subject, if you approach it in a way that feels off, then the alarm bells will sound. How can this be resolved? The first step is research. The second step is not to pile that research into your writing but instead to use it as a check and balance for not writing something that seems off.

What more can I do? Read the work of other writers with a critical eye as to what works and what doesn’t. Where do they have you believing their tale and where can you see through it? Finally, research everything you can. Research the details of each aspect in your story, using it to avoid generalisations. Aim for specifics but smuggle those specifics into your story and make them a part of it. Don’t allow research to sit on the top of your story, undissolved.

Anthony Levings is a writer compelled by capturing moments in time and history.

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