Traditional Publishing

Tips on writing fiction

By Ken Brosky
Editor-in-Chief, Brew City Magazine – Friday March 28, 2008

A lot of writers just don't get it. They think just because they can type on a computer, they have what it takes to write a story. The phrase "You know, I've always wanted to write a book" creeps into casual conversation so frequently that it's easy to believe that such a feat can be reasonably accomplished without any schooling whatsoever!

Of course it isn't true. And, while these tips can be used by anyone interested in writing a story, they are aimed at writers who have taken the time to educate themselves in the process of writing.

1. Use real dialogue. Unbelievable dialogue can be the bane of intermediate writers. It's the easiest way to get stuck, and oftentimes we find ourselves unwilling to use dialogue from the real world in our fictional writing.

USE IT. Dialogue can make or break a story, and if the reader doesn't believe it's happening, they won't be able to suspend disbelief in any other aspect.

2. Use "he/she said" as your primary dialogue tag. Don't use tags like "muttered" or "mumbled" or "spoke" or "hissed" or "retorted" or anything else you found in the newest Writer's Digest. Stick with "said" as often as possible, no matter what. If you find that the tags are becoming redundant, try to give the character talking an action so you can cut the tag out without confusing the reader.

3. Do your research. Even in the fictional world, your characters will most likely abide by the laws of nature and thus will interact with the world in a similar fashion. This means knowing exactly what the name of that thing that hangs down in the back of your throat. Pick up a psychology book. Pick up a literary theory book. Study how things work in our world and apply them to your fictional world.

4. Highlight the originality of your work. Sometimes this can be easy to forget, but the fact of the matter is this: somehow, your work stands out. Even if you're writing the same old "hero" tale that's been told a million times before, something about your story is a little different. Highlight that. Make it stand out. Make the reader care.

5. READ. Read the great stuff and read the crap and learn from it. Get a feel for what makes the great stuff great, and what makes the crappy stuff crap. Not only that, you're supporting other writers who will, in turn, support you. There's no point in publishing 100,000 books a year if no one's going to read them.

About the Author

Ken Brosky's first novel, Grendel, is now available through His short stories can also be found in World Audience and WTF Magazine. Ken also provides editing help to other writers at and is the editor-in-chief of Brew City Magazine.