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Fiction Lessons from Technical Writing

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Although this is an article from Julia Evans on technical writing, there are two bits of advice that resonated and can be applied to fiction writing:

1) In dealing with having inconsistent expectations of the reader's knowledge:

instead: pick 1 specific person and write for them!

You can pick a friend, a coworker, or just a past version of yourself. Writing for just 1 person might feel insufficiently general (“what about all the other people??“) but writing that’s easy to understand for 1 person (other than you!) has a good chance of being easy to understand for many other people as well.

Apply this to your fiction writing. Tell your story to that one individual reader, whoever it is. I've written stories for my wife, my children, and recently to a past version of myself.

In dealing with strained analogies:

instead: keep analogies to a single idea

Instead of using “big” analogies where I explain in depth exactly how an event processing system is like a river, I prefer to explain the analogy in one or two sentences to make a specific point and then leave the analogy behind.

I've been thinking about metaphors and images in fiction a lot lately and this resonates. I worry about over-complicating metaphors (especially when I think I need elaborate metaphor trees). Reminding myself to keep it simple is important.

(Also, Evans goes a little deeper on this one, discussing the use of implicit metaphors and limited analogies, which I think is worth the read.)

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Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.