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On the problems of writing fiction

When it comes to my own writing, I would have to say that my favourite style – the type of writing I most enjoy doing, the one that seems to “fit” me best – is creative non-fiction. That said, I’ve always been a little (no, a LOT) envious of people who have the ability to write fiction, and have often wished a little wistfully that I had that particular gift myself.


I’ve tried for years to figure out why I have so much trouble writing fiction, but have never really come to a satisfying conclusion or figured out any strategies to help me get past my struggle.

I wrote the following pieces ages ago as part of one month’s 100 Words challenge, and share them with you now as an example of some of my thought processes on the subject.

Résumé: Letters and notes, e-mail messages, newspaper articles, poetry, blog posts and comments, business proposals, promotional material, journal entries, essays, and, when this exercise is complete, 100 words.

All non-fiction.

I seem to have a mental block when it comes to writing fiction, and in fact have written nothing that wasn’t truth (or based on truth) since creative writing assignments in high school. Ancient history.

Curious: Does this block stem from an innate inability to “lie” (though I greedily devour others’ “lies”)? Perhaps fear of failure? Relentless comparison of self with others? Ease of intimidation?

Hopefully this exercise will enlighten.

100 Words, 05/01/2008



I believe I just had an insight into why – in part, at least – I struggle with writing fiction.

Even though I recognize that tension and conflict draw in and hook the reader, I don’t know how to bring a character into the world and then allow bad things to happen to them.

I suspect that my desire for only good and beautiful and pleasant things for my characters would make my stories very dull.

So how does a writer let go… permit the characters to tell their story… without trying to control the process?

I must give this more thought.

100 Words, 05/19/2008



In addition to the thoughts I articulated in those two short pieces, a HUGE factor in why I haven’t been able to write fiction is a serious lack of any kind of plot or character inspiration. Kind of crucial, huh?! Quite honestly, the whole process of coming up with a story, peopling said story with compelling characters, and developing a complete and finished piece of fiction utterly mystifies me!

I know that I am a creative person in many ways, but often feel that I have a lack of imagination. And, though it isn’t a problem at all when I read a good book or watch a television program, when it comes to my own writing I seem to have an inability or reluctance to suspend disbelief.

Perhaps I should just be content to work with the style that suits me best and leave the storytelling and novel writing to the ones who do it best. But I love the idea of writing fiction – so much – and am really quite reluctant to let it go.

Yet I have no idea where I would even begin.

Are you more comfortable with writing fiction or non-fiction?
Please share!

NaBloPoMo February 2014

(Updated from original post in April, 2012.)

Laurel Storey, CZT – Certified Zentangle Teacher. Writer, reader, tangler, iPhoneographer, cat herder, learner of French and Italian, crocheter, needle felter, on-and-off politics junkie, 80s music trivia freak, ongoing work in progress.