Every now and again, it is good to review the basics.
Fiction writers have an advantage over authors of other mediums in that they have complete control over their stories. Theater and television authors work with directors, actors, and producers, but the responsibility of total ownership means that a writer of fiction has to do the job of bringing the idea of the story to life.
This is a short list of tools that the fiction author uses.
DIALOGUE is the act of having two or more characters speak to one another. It is the most easily recognized device because it is used in fiction, plays, movies, and television. A lot can be done with dialogue, but even more can be done to it.
DESCRIPTION, ACTION, THOUGHTS, and EXPOSITION are devices that playwrights and screenplay writers don’t have access to because these jobs are taken by the actors, directors, and producers I wrote about earlier.
DESCRIPTION is what an author uses to color a scene. This can be about the setting, the action, or a character’s thoughts. Without me advocating for the overuse of adverbs, description tells the reader whether a piece of dialogue was said casually, calmly, angrily, or giddily.
ACTION shows the reader what is happening. Remember, no one has to get punched in the face for it to be considered action. All movement is action and how it is written shows as much about a character’s mood and intentions as any dialogue could.
Character THOUGHTS establish perspective and orient the reader to the point of view with which you want them to identify. This helps make your lead characters more sympathetic, especially if they are difficult to like in the first place.
EXPOSITION tells the reader what is happening instead of showing them. This isn’t always best, but it works if there is a lot of information that a reader needs to know to understand the scene.
Armed with these basics, the fiction author shapes every aspect of his or her story.