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That Thing Called Prose Fiction

There is more to fiction than novels and poetry. Leave your poetic prowess behind for a while and focus on writing clear and concise pieces—a few of the basic elements of prose fiction.

Prose is an imaginary work of fiction with no formal metrical structure.

Writing Prose Like a Pro

  • Use adjectives and adverbs moderately. Too many of them may kill your prose, too few or none at all is not advisable either. Use better nouns or verbs instead whenever possible. Adjectives and adverbs must only be used for accurate shading of meanings.
    • Draft: He swam gracefully into the vast sea.
    • Better: He swam into the sea.

As to adjectives, when in doubt, strike it out.

Mark Twain
  • Forget the passive voice. If a sentence sounds wrong, and an active voice will not work, just try playing with the words around until it sounds right. Active voice is still the more stylish way in prose writing.
    • Draft: I was left by him.
    • Better: He left me.
  • Weak qualifiers are for the weak. Qualifiers do nothing for sentences and must be avoided as well. The following sentences are much better without the provided qualifiers.
    • I feel (very) happy to be with you again.
    • Martha sang (really) well in the contest.
  • Less is more. Avoid unimportant words. Keep everything short and simple as much as possible. If words can be cut without compromising the meaning, then it would be fine.
    • Draft: The truth is that James is not feeling well.
    • Better: James is not feeling well.

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Ernest Hemingway
  • Be positive. Positive statements are often perceived to be much stronger than negative ones.
    • Draft: You did not make me feel that I belong here.
    • Better: You made me feel that I am a stranger here.

Life seems but a quick succession of busy nothings.

Jane Austen
  • Concrete is better than abstract. This one speaks for the need of the details to be told.
    • Draft: Dad bought me a car, and I have never felt this happy before.
    • Better: Dad bought me a car, and I felt like I could touch the sky.

Just because writing prose does not require your poetic prowess, does not mean that creativity and style are unnecessary. Make your prose creative and stylish by balancing simplicity and variety in your work. To keep things even more interesting, add dialogues and refrain from using clichés. Most importantly, trust your readers to understand what you are trying to get at. Your prose will be even more exciting to read if you do not reveal everything all at once.

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This article originally appeared on English Magazines published by Vibal Group, Inc.