How to Craft Fiction with Purpose
“It’s not so much a formula as it is a reminder when you’re doing this, don’t get too complicated. The whole purpose is just capturing the stories before they’re lost.” —Steve Vannoy
The concept for a three-book fiction series came about during FaceTime visits with our parents in West Virginia. We always kept in touch this way even as we traveled around the world, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, we talked more frequently.
Steve Vannoy, my husband and partner in “Authors Who Lead,” says of those conversations, “It always seemed like my dad would want to tell a story.” We felt like we could honor his stories and his storytelling by writing a series of fiction books memorializing his life and the place he grew up in.
If you haven’t already heard Episode 186 and Episode 193 of “Authors Who Lead,” you should go back and listen to the start of our fiction journey. On today’s episode of “Authors Who Lead,” Steve and I talk about how the series is going now that we are starting to write book three and about the new Fiction with Purpose group program we designed to take others through the journey of writing a fiction book.
Why Fiction with Purpose?
What is fiction with purpose? And why might you consider writing a fiction book yourself? Fiction with purpose is writing something that means a lot to you. Maybe you want to tell your story, but don’t feel comfortable sharing it in a memoir. Or it could be for your own creative transformation, or to leave a legacy and capture the fictionalized stories of your family.
Writing fiction with purpose can also be important to preserve times and places in the world that will be forgotten if we don’t capture their essence from actual people who have been there. Teaching history isn’t enough. There are few people who will read a book about history, especially of a place they don’t know about. They can just Google information about new places. But this kind of research doesn’t capture the stories and relationships of the era.
Another reason to write fiction with purpose is to create something bigger than yourself. One of the authors who will be joining our Fiction with Purpose group is a doctor who wants to write stories that help other doctors see their patients as people and not as their diseases or illness. Through his novels, he wants to inform, inspire, and encourage doctors to be more empathetic toward their patients.
We believe everyone has a story to tell, so we created the Fiction with Purpose book coaching group to help you write that novel that is inside you. It’s not about becoming a full-time fiction writer; it’s about writing it because you can and should.
How We Are Co-Authoring Three Books
When Steve and I came up with the idea to write the Cinder Bottom novels, we made an agreement to not plan it out. I would write the first draft, and Steve would edit. I’m known as the “book whisperer,” so the first draft is my strength, and Steve is amazing with words and phrasing, so editing is his superpower.
I’ve always been a “pantser,” an author who writes by the seat of their pants or without an outline. We went into the writing of these books without knowing the beginning or the end, so it allowed the story to unfold organically. This made the story interesting for me to write because I was curious each day about what the characters would do, and it made it interesting for Steve to creatively edit.
Just Tell the Story
I always wanted to be a writer, but for years I just didn’t know how to get the words out. I was a natural storyteller, but each time I would try to use structure or some template or formula, I would get lost. I tried everyone’s method, but I wasn’t producing anything I cared about.
Once I let go of needing to know everything that was going on in my stories and let go of everyone’s ideas for structure, I felt more creative and the stories started to flow. It’s similar to writing improv or screenwriting where I’m just trying to observe my characters and the actions they take. We think writing is hard because that’s what we’re trained to believe.
Tips for Better Storytelling
If you’re thinking about writing a novel, you need to stop thinking it’s a big thing to do. Instead, just figure out what your character wants and what or who is getting in the way of those things. That’s all a book really is. The complexity comes from the choices the characters make along the way. We don’t need to figure out every detail ahead of time in our stories, because life isn’t like that.
There are a few things along the way we can do to make our stories better. Even as we’re letting our stories unfold we can make sure that if we plant a seed of an idea, an object, a new character, it’s there for a purpose. You don’t want to write anything in your story that doesn’t show up again later, “meaning it has to have a meaning.”
Another thing to be careful of in your story is making sure the characters show up consistently in their own unique way. Be thoughtful about how each one behaves and how they grow and change.
Join Our Fiction with Purpose Group
We want to encourage you to come check out our new programs because we’re trying to help leaders like you who want to write a book feel more confident. If you feel called to tell a story or use fiction as a way to grow and change or amplify a message, join us. I believe everyone can write a book and that we are all creative. Fiction is creativity first. We look forward to hearing from you. We want to have some special leaders join us on this journey.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. I appreciate anybody who leaves a review. It really helps inspire us to keep contributing and giving content here. What was your biggest takeaway from this episode? In the comments, share your biggest challenge to starting your fiction book.
That’s all for this week. If you have a message inside you that needs to be written, know that you can write the book that’s been on your heart. Don’t delay—get out of your head, put words on the page today, and make a movement with your message!