Who writes fiction and can it be taught?

The answer to that question must be a qualified yes. Given the opportunity, every human being can learn to communicate. From stories passed from generation to generation in words to cave art, to writing, printing presses, and computers, men and women have always told stories. Those tales have changed from history, or magical explanations of the, at the time, inexplicable, to deliberately make-believe novels intended to entertain. It is to those novels that I refer when I ask, “who writes fiction and can it be taught”, and I don’t mean correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation – school – evening classes – proof-readers –

I told stories before I could hold a pencil, and a collection of dolls and teddy bears acted them, or did they? I had my favourites – the good guys who had families they cared about– and the ones I wished one of my aunts had never spotted pre-Sarah’s birthday. One doll is definitely reincarnated in a character an Amazon reviewer said made Cruella de Vil look like Mother Theresa.

I made plans – nowadays, they are called taglines and plots – and those dolls and teddies did exactly as they liked. Days out at the seaside –paper painted blue with a yellow strip for sand – didn’t end with my happy family piling into their car – sorry, doll’s pram. Oh no! One of the villains would have pushed a small bear into the sea, so he/she was now wet and upset. If I’d known about drowning back then, a funeral would have followed.

It still happens. Like most authors I know, my first few chapters rarely survive intact, or even at all, to publication. Take the Richard and Maria trilogy. I placed Richard carefully in County Durham, where I live, for “local appeal”. What does he do? Make it impossible for him to stay there, so he moves to London. Yes, I know and love London, but it meant mountains of research to see what might have changed since my last visit.

Maria, the “waif”, is no better, but why would she be? Adoption is one thing: a teenager heartlessly dumped on a stranger’s doorstep quite another. She doesn’t know who to trust, or if anybody will ever love her, so she feels a burden to the man landed with her.

As for the dog! I chose a Jack Russell terrier because readers were likely to recognise the breed, and he was conveniently small. Too late, I discovered Ben had all the characteristics of my current rescue dog and being terrified of being left alone anywhere but in my car was the least of them. She… SHE… is a massive Weimaraner, but she and Ben coexist in an imaginary body.

So, who writes the books? If a character is psychologically sound, he or she will behave accordingly, and the plot plan changes so much I’ve given up writing them.

Can creative writing be taught? Many Internet sites claim that it can and charge vast sums to the gullible who haven’t investigated almost free sources – writing groups. Further Education classes may or may not be free but are rarely expensive. Universities charge, but they provide a degree if you pass at a reasonable standard.

Personally, and you know this is my opinion or you wouldn’t be reading the article on my website, I don’t believe teachers can tell students how to write. After all, if their methods worked, they wouldn’t waste their time; they’d be too busy writing their next New York Times best-seller. Writers are born. Fame and fortune are down to publicity, and that can be taught. If you want to write, do it, and spend your money on learning how to tell the world.

One tip! Awards do help. My sales took off with a Readers’ Favorite Medal, and the 2019 contest closes on June 1st.

Author: authorsarahstuart

Sarah Stuart is an award-winning author whose books are based on her show business experience, her concern for animals, the challenges of her Christian faith, and her passions for history and travel. Sarah's hope is that readers will enjoy her novels as an escape from reality, but be left understanding that fame and fortune often comes at a high personal cost. Also, an increased perception of the threat to animals: those shot in the name of sport for trophy heads, endangered species, many poached for their fur and ivory, and tragically discarded pets.

6 thoughts on “Who writes fiction and can it be taught?”

    1. Your addiction to writing is probably my fault. I didn’t realise once I started it was impossible to down tools. Even on holiday, when we have a “no laptop” agreement, I read and make notes ready to post reviews.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Hi Sarah. We are all capable of writing fiction, to a greater or lesser degree. Rather than suggest that it can be ‘taught’ I would suggest that with guidance many people could produce a fictional tale. I consider cave paintings as art, illustration, and storytelling. In the spoken form at least, stories have been going on for as long as there have been two people to share conversation. Children at play, as you describe is an excellent metaphor for the individual creating a fictional world without a ‘real’ companion.
    Having attended a writing group, I believe it taught me to appreciate constructive feedback, but be wary of praise readily offered. I’ve never been taught creative writing, but with a ‘can do’ attitude, and imagination we are all capable of writing fiction. My learning curve has been based on subscribing to writing magazines, attending a group for a short while, joining online groups, entering competitions, and, of course, reading widely.
    I believe that punctuation, grammar and composition are the areas which cause many people to shy away from trying their hand, but there is plenty of help and advice available.
    To write creative fiction takes more than imagination. In my opinion, there are those of us born with a desire to write, and if such a desire is absent, it cannot be invented. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with everything you’ve said, Tom. You’ve simply qualified “writers are born” by expressing it as “writers are people born with a desire to write”.
      You have more suggestions for sources of free, or almost, help and support, and they are vital to any writer. How else would we, who live in the UK, get answers to “does this sentence sound right spoken by an American?”
      Constructive criticism is beyond price, and I felt honoured – honored actually – to read “Sarah’s suggestions have shown me how my novel can be improved”. That said, they were only ideas, and I was paid $1 for hours of reading and thought.
      The trigger for this article was a Facebook question about the correct use of single or double quote marks from a person paying hundreds of dollars for an online creative writing course. Obviously, if he asked me, he wasn’t getting an answer from his so-called tutor so, what was he learning and why did he feel the need?
      I’ve read some of his work and it’s good. At a guess, poor sales, and that is a whole different ballgame. I did suggest as much before pointing out that awards can help. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very interesting, Sarah: “I told stories before I could hold a pencil” – “writers are born” – and, “fame & fortune can be taught” — I like the progression of truth of this 🙂

    Stories were told by word of mouth when it was the only way they could be sorta-recorded for the future; sounds like you were on the story path early 🙂


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