Essential Writing Techniques (Beyond Story Structure)

By Glen C. Strathy

While most of this site is concerned with writing techniques that lurk below the surface of the reader's experience, such as dramatic structure, archetypes, and story theory, it's also important for aspiring authors to master the elements of good writing - the actual words on the page that readers see and the style in which they are written.

writing with style

The style and voice an author uses often count for as much or more than the actual story or the underlying structure. Poor writing can turn a reader off very quickly, whereas readers can often overlook a poorly designed plot if the book is written in an intriguing style.  This is most notably true in literary fiction, but really it applies to all genres.

The articles below will introduce you to some of the most common recommendations provided by writing instructors, and provide tips on various creative writing techniques.

As with every principle we present, keep in mind that these techniques should not be regarded as iron-clad rules. There are always times when they can and should be set aside. However, if you practice them, you will likely find they can improve your writing, as they have for countless others. By paying closer attention to words and sentences, you can improve your instinct for language and be able to use it more purposely.

Incidentally, one great way to master style is to read great books (preferably not too old), but read them with the intent on noticing how great writers write. Pay attention to how they convey characters, describe settings or action, and write effective dialogue. This will help you develop a critical eye to your own writing and improve your writing instincts.

Now For the Writing Techniques...

narrative mode thumb

Narrative Mode (1st person, 3rd person, etc.)

Choosing a narrative mode for your story determines the reader's perspective and the relationship between your reader, main character, and narrative voice. Here are the many options available...

second person

Writing Stories in Second Person

Writing in second person can be a challenge, and something few writers choose to do. Nonetheless, here are 6 situations where you may find it's worthwhile.

dialogue basics

The Basics of Writing Dialogue

Tips on how to write effective dialogue, including how to use dialogue tags and action beats.


The Secret to Descriptive Writing: Specificity

One of the most powerful secrets to descriptive writing, and in fact all writing, is to provide specific details rather than vague generalizations.

showing vs. telling

Showing Not Telling

An important technique to bring your writing to life is to practice "showing not telling." Here's what this technique can do for you and when to use it.

avoid passive verbs

The Passive Voice vs. The Active Voice

Writing in the active voice is usually more effective at engaging the reader. However, sometimes the passive voice can be useful too. Also, discover some other tips for choosing better verbs.

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