So now there is a skeleton for the body which is about to be built, the outline for your book. Before you begin fleshing out the idea it is very important to begin firstly by understanding what the difference is between fiction and non-fiction.
As simple as that sounds there are sometimes places where there can be a lot of grey area. For example, you are writing a historical novel where the people in the book are drawn on inspiration from true people. Or maybe you are writing a book that is a true crime story, how do you categorize a book that is based on true events and you need to change the names to protect the innocent? These are a few examples of grey that need to be covered and addressed as well as making certain that you have the write elements for your book.
When you are writing fiction, the world is more or less your oyster as you are able to create any elements you would like without the constraints of reality, time and space. However, it is important when you are creating to make certain that you are not plagiarizing someone else’s work unintentionally.
Maybe, you are utilizing a character that you like from another book as your own without introducing enough new elements of development to make that character your own. Are you possibly using someone else’s setting without developing it to make it your own? As valuable as money in the bank is to people, ideas are the same for writers’. For this reason make sure you develop your own ideas, and your own characters, if they are loosely based on someone else’s you must invest more time in planning.
There are basic elements which must be utilized when writing a fiction manuscript:
Elements of a Fiction Manuscript:
Plot: This is the story and what you are planning to have happen. As you are thinking about the plot and the story line, imagine your book as a movie. What elements would make your book more intriguing here? Plan the entire plot out ahead if possible, as an outline of the chapters. Within your total book outline form a basic list of what will happen in each chapter.
Example: Jack and Jill
Chapter 1: Jack and Jill Go Up a Hill For Water
Chapter 2: Jack Falls Down
Chapter 3: Jack Breaks His Crown
Chapter 4: Jill Comes Tumbling After
Chapter 5: No One Got Water….
Chapter 6: What Happens Next?
Setting: Where is the story happening? This element is one of the most important parts of a book. The reader must be able to picture themselves in this location, for this reason it is important that the author write about a location which they have knowledge of or have experienced.
If it is a completely fictional location the author must imagine that they are in fact an artist painting every scene for the reader. The reader needs to know about the weather, how sunrises look, and the noises which are present in the atmosphere at night. It is important that the reader is able to imagine every element of the place. If it is completely a new universe the author must also explain the laws of reality as they apply to the new location.
Character: Who is the main character? What is their background specifically? If your readers know everything about the main characters you are writing about then they will be able to identify with aspects of the character’s personality. Each reader must see themselves through the eyes of the main character, this way they are able to identify with the character and form a sense of identification with the character.
Describe the way a character thinks, walks, and make certain to allow the reader to see the interior monologue of the character. If possible give the character an accent, or a catchphrase which will make the reader know more about the character. If the story takes place in the south, study the dialogue and the attributes of southern dialect. Deploy small little pieces of information about the character at key points in the manuscript, give away just enough information that the reader is dying for more.
Conflict: Every good book has a driving conflict. As in what is being solved by reading this book for the character? Has the main character become a vampire, is trying to overcome cancer, is learning how to speak Spanish while living in the country?
Whatever the main conflict is in the story it must be developed in great detail for the characters. The route that the main character is going to take should also be clear to the reader from the intonations internally that the character is making. Will this be an internal struggle or an external struggle and what are the elements which can be added to make the struggle greater?
Is it a familial conflict which is causing stress for all parties involved as they try to find their way through the situation, a battle between dueling lovers maybe? The reader must be so involved in the conflict that they think about it when walking away from the book. Also if you are thinking about having this made into a television show or a movie everything will be about conflict.
Symbol: A symbol is something which will represent other items in the book. If this is a vampire novel the color red could be used throughout to give the color of blood. Small elements like a red rose, or a particular reference to feathers. The idea is to pick one overarching image which can be used and can become a theme throughout the rest of the text. The next time your reader encounters a red rose if that is your symbol, while shopping at the local market the first thing which will come to mind will in fact be the book and the plot.
Point of View: How are you going to tell the story? Are you telling it in the third person like you are writing a text book, from the second person using you? Or are you telling the story from the first person with the utilization of the word I? It is important to decide this from the beginning of the story as you do not want to swap perspectives throughout the course of the text. You will drive editors and readers crazy.
Theme: This is the main thought and the main feeling you are leaving behind at the conclusion of the story. When the reader thinks back on the story that you told, this will in fact be the last statement that the reader is left. It is important to make certain that the theme of the work is clear in your mind from the beginning. In this way as the content is developed with the theme in mind instead of realizing that something was done off track and having to return and rewrite a section.
Now that you have a diagram for the beginning there is a rough outline, sit down and write up a blue print for your fiction book. Again this is the beginning roadmap that will continue to grow and develop as different elements are added to the plot and story. But this is a good place to start. Room is being left between the paragraphs to add your thoughts. Ask yourself:
What is my plotline? What is going to happen in the story?
Where is the setting? Where is the story taking place, what is my knowledge of the place? Do I need more knowledge of the place?
Who is my main character? Where is he/she from? What do they look like, what are their likes and dislikes? Does this person have a lover, what is their orientation, what music does he/she like? All of these little elements when thought out in advance will add spice as well as believability to your character.
Do you know someone you could interview from this corner of the world. For example, if your character is Russian, do you know someone from the same area of Russia who would be willing to give you a snapshot of life from his/her perspective?
Conflict: What is the main conflict of the story? If it is a person with cancer, do you know someone who has undergone this situation who would be willing to give you access to his thoughts and emotions? Do research into historical figures who have had similar situations to the character that you are writing about and find out how that person dealt with the issue.
What symbols are you going to use? What other authors have written about the same subject matter you are utilizing? What symbols have they used in their work to describe the situation? What is the historical significance behind the symbol?
For example, has it ever been a part of the lore of another culture? How can you play off of that association in your own text and add in small references to the symbols historical context? That historical association can add an element of universalism to the text which will transcend cultures.
What is your Point of View? Why have you chosen to write in the tense, and point of view you have? Is it because it comes naturally given the subject matter? Develop your thoughts as to why and how this is going to benefit your audience.
What is the theme? Where are your ideas about the theme of the book coming from? Is this something that is coming from other works like yours? What worked for them? And specifically, when people think of your work what is the key takeaway message you want them to have?
Hopefully now you feel comfortable to get started with planning the content of your fiction book. Remember that any of this can be modified along the way and until the book is published all of this is merely a work in progress.
While writing fiction allows the mind to wander and to imagine, writing nonfiction creates an entire other set of objectives. The goal of the writer is either to provide information, relive an experience, or report information much in the way that a journalist would.
The first step of writing any nonfiction book is to determine the purpose of the book. What is it in fact that you are trying to do, if you are writing a book about Elizabeth I, your objective would be to report all of the events exactly as they happened.
If you are in fact writing something like a true crime book, you would be recalling the experience as it happened as well, from the memory of the person telling the story. As mentioned previously this is one of those areas where grey area can become an issue.
Can you change the names of the people involved in a true crime incident and still have it as a nonfiction book? The answer here is absolutely, the beginning of the book must simply contain a statement which mentions that the names have been changed to protect the innocent. So now here are the elements which must be considered to plan an amazing nonfiction book.
Elements of a Non Fiction Book
Outlining. Since you started your book production you have been planning an outline. Now it is time to take those chapters that you have and put flesh on the bones. At the beginning of the outline look at your chapter titles. Underneath each one of these chapter headings place at least 5 items which are going to be included in the chapter. These items in the outline should be a mix of historical facts, items you wish to cover and small pieces of information from the story which will add to the credibility and interest level of the manuscript.
Looking deeper into this that should mean that the historical facts are what actually happened and the sequence of time is accurate when reporting facts. The pieces you want to cover should be smaller elements of the story which will add to the character development of the characters. And finally the last interesting facts should be pieces of information about the main subject, or odd facts to draw your reader in.
Research is the most important step in the Non Fiction writing process. As you are beginning to plan your outline and add detail into the outline, there is nothing more important than to conduct the most thorough research possible into your subject. Research all the books which you can find on the subject, cross check books to see if the authors have the same opinions. If it is a current topic check all of the local newspapers which might have reported on the subject. Check to see if the newspaper’s report any key witnesses with contact information you might be able to contact for an inside perspective into the matter.
Doing a personal interview with a person who might have been involved in the case will add credibility as well as give you an amazing insight into the psychology of the case. By having a first person insight into the case you will be able to vicariously relive all of the experiences of the situation.
You will be able to see all of the little details that the interviewee recalls including the sights, smells, feelings and appearances. This is by far the second best thing other than experiencing the event yourself.
Cross reference your files and your information. Make certain that at the end of the day the information that you have compiled is the most factual, detailed, and accurate. Try to avoid he said she said information from conflicting sources.
Character development, just like in a fiction book it is important to develop the characters with as much details as possible in a nonfiction book. In the same way that the characters can enchant and inspire in the fiction books, in non-fiction attention to detail is key to portray the accuracy of the situation.
Little items should be looked into such as if the protagonist had a lisp, the way the character wore his/her hair and dressed. Do not tell the story in generalities but get into the deepest details of the person and try to tell the story as if you were going to write an essay on the non-fiction character’s soul. All of those little details are again the window into the past so that the reader is able to envision themselves there and be a part of the conversation.
Dialogue development is mission critical as well for creating an accurate nonfiction manuscript. As many nonfiction narrative books have proven over the years, accurate dialogue can make or break the success of a book. By trying to recreate what was actually said in the past you will give insight into the story and also buy the credibility of the readers as they see the way things actually happened.
One thing that has been the challenge of history has been for the historians to accurately record conversations which were held along the sides of battle lines across the sand of time. When reporting a nonfiction event it is these moments which must be carefully recorded and dictated in the manuscript for posterity.
There are a few other elements we should consider here with nonfiction as well and reporting. What are the good elements of reporting, we must harken to our press hats. They are the famous Who, What, When, Why, and How, longingly known as the 4w’s and the H. These are also the chronic elements that for an accurate story must be told;
Who: This specifically outlines who was involved in a particular situation, their history, background, defining characteristics and every possible statistic. The people involved in the story must be considered in complete detail when researching and then when planning their development. One key point would be to make certain that you have covered all of the details of character development.
What: What is it that happened, what is the story you are telling? Make certain that you write all of the details and take the events from all perspectives that were involved. One easy way to do this is to make a full outline of all of the events in sequential order. After that another important step is to list all of the items and also the different points of thought in the outline and the names of the differing parties.
When: When did it happen? As you are taking notes and planning this element of the text, look into the details of the times. This as an author will help you to create the most believable environment, what were the clothing fads? What was the popular music, who was running the country? What were the political issues of the time, world issues, and local issues? Are there any other factors here which are not covered that might be relevant to the time period of the story? Are there any particular elements which might have to do with the time that pertain to the who, or the character in question?
Why: The next question is why did this happen? How was it culturally significant? What kind of impact did this event have on the community, the country and the world? What is the key takeaway from all of the information to describe how things are changing now and how it is relevant now?
How: How did things transpire? What took place? How did the situation start? How did the situation end? And how could a situation like that be prevented from happening again, or how could a good thing like that happen again? Is it possible that the situation could in fact be recreated?
Remember when covering these areas to think like a journalist and as Paul Harvey always comments, get “the rest of the story.” Many times when manuscripts are written they are only written from one perspective and sometimes the opposite point of view, other characters involved, or even complete historical facts which might have been game changers have been completely deleted or ignored form the manuscripts.
In order to offer a round and full perspective the interests of all parties must be represented and must be present. Nonfiction is about truthfulness, accuracy, and fairness to all.
Armed with these tools you are well on your way to navigating the waters between fiction and non-fiction and thereby starting an amazing piece of art. Using the fundamental elements of success outlined here you will develop the manuscript to its highest level of potential.