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A fiction-writing mode is a manner of writing with its own set of conventions regarding how, when, and where it should be used.

Fiction is a form of narrative, one of the four rhetorical modes of discourse. Fiction-writing also has distinct forms of expression, or modes, each with its own purposes and conventions. Currently, there is no consensus within the writing community regarding the number and composition of fiction-writing modes and their uses.[1] Some writing modes suggested include action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, description, background, exposition and transition.[2][3][4]



Narration has multiple meanings; in its broadest context narration encompasses all written fiction. It is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse (the other three being exposition, argumentation, and description). In the context of rhetorical modes, the purpose of narration is to tell a story or to describe an event or series of events. Narrative may exist in a variety of forms including biography, anecdotes, short story and novels. In fiction-writing modes, narration is how the narrator communicates directly to the reader.


Description is the fiction-writing mode for transmitting a mental image of the particulars of a story. Together with dialogue, narration, exposition, and summarization, description is one of the most widely recognized of the fiction-writing modes. Description is more than the amassing of details, it is bringing a scene to life by carefully choosing and arranging words and phrases to produce the desired effect.[5]


Broadly defined, exposition is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. Within the context of fiction-writing modes, exposition is used to convey information. Exposition may be used to add drama to a story, but too much expostion at one time may slow the pace of the story.[6]


Summarization, or narrative summary, condenses events to convey, rather than to show, what happens within a story.[7] The "tell" in the axiom "Show, don't tell" is often in the form of summarization. Summarization may be used to:

  • connect parts of a story,
  • report details of less important events,
  • skip events that are irrelevant to the plot,
  • convey an emotional state over an extended period of time,[8] and
  • vary the rhythm and texture of the writing.[9]

The main advantage of summary is that it takes up less space than other fiction-writing modes.[10] Effective use of summarization requires a balance between showing and telling, action and summary, with rhythm, pace and tone playing a role.[11]


Introspection (also referred to as internal dialogue, interior monologue, or self-talk) is the fiction-writing mode used to convey the thoughts of a character, allowing the expression of normally unexpressed thoughts.[12] Introspection may also be used to

The importance and best presentation of introspection is debated among authors and writing coaches.[15][16]


Recollection is the fiction-writing mode whereby a character remembers a detail or event. It plays a vital role in conveying backstory by allowing writers to convey information from earlier in the story or from before the beginning of the story. Although recollection is not widely recognized as a distinct mode of fiction-writing, it is a common tool. Recollection could be considered a subset of introspection, but its role in developing backstory separates it from the other thoughts of a character.[17] Effective presentation of recollection has its own unique issues and challenges.[18] For example, timing a recollection to avoid implausible-seeming memories (such as when a character must make a key decision) can be difficult, and should be prompted by a recent plot event.[19]


Sensation is used to portray a character's perceptions. It can help draw the reader in by conveying the actual sensations of things comprising the story, breathing life into its physical world.[20][21] Since the reader has experienced only a portion of the sensations experienced by the character, the author aims to either provoke recall from the reader, or convey the experience,[22] drawing the reader in and maintaining interest in the story.[23] The importance of conveying sensation in fiction is widely accepted but its distinction as a mode of fiction-writing is debated.[24]


The fiction-writing mode of emotion conveys the feelings of the character, and is a vital component of creative writing.[25] Connecting the character to his own emotions allows the author to connect with the reader on an emotional level.[26][27] The importance of emotion in fiction is widely accepted, but emotion is not generally recognized as a distinct mode of writing in fiction.[28]


Action is the demonstration of events as they are happening in a story,[29][30] and may help readers feel as if they were participating in the plot.[31] Although action is widely used in fiction, the most-effective techniques for its presentation are a subject of ongoing discussion.[32]


Transitions in fiction are words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or punctuation that may be used to signal various changes in a story, including changes in time, location, point-of-view character, mood, tone, emotion, and pace.[33][34] The importance of transitions in fiction is widely accepted, but the effective presentation of transitions is subject to numerous variables and issues.[35]

See also


  1. ^ Klaassen, M. "Fiction-writing modes and how to use them". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  2. ^ Marshall, 1998, p. 143-65.
  3. ^ Morrell, 2006, p. 127.
  4. ^ Selgin, 2007, p. 38.
  5. ^ Polking, 1990, p. 106.
  6. ^ Kernen, 1999, p. 57.
  7. ^ Marshall, 1998, p. 144-6.
  8. ^ Marshall, 1998, p. 145.
  9. ^ Browne, King & Booth, 2004, p. 12.
  10. ^ Selgin, 2007, p. 31.
  11. ^ Card, 1999, p. 140-2.
  12. ^ Browne, King & Booth, 2004, p. 117.
  13. ^ Kress, 2003, p. 38.
  14. ^ Bickham, 1993, pp. 12-22, 50-8.
  15. ^ Klaassen, M. "Fiction writing: The importance of your character's thoughts". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  16. ^ Klaassen, M. "Fiction writing: How to write your character's thoughts". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  17. ^ Klaassen, M. "Recollection as a fiction-writing mode". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  18. ^ Klaassen, M. "Fiction-writing: The mechanics of conveying a character's recollection". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  19. ^ Card, 1999, p. 113.
  20. ^ Rozelle, 2005, p. 76.
  21. ^ Morrell, 2006, p. 172.
  22. ^ Rozelle, 2005, p. 86.
  23. ^ Morrell, 2006, p. 173.
  24. ^ Klaassen, M. "Achieving sense perception in fiction writing". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  25. ^ Reid, 1994, p. 105.
  26. ^ Kempton, 2004, p. 148.
  27. ^ Card, 1999, p. 74.
  28. ^ Klaassen, M. "Fiction writing: Emotion as a fiction-writing mode". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  29. ^ Marshall, 1998, p. 142.
  30. ^ Morrell, 2006, p. 127.
  31. ^ Rosenfeld, 2008, p. 173.
  32. ^ Klaassen, M. "Action as a fiction-writing mode". Retrieved 2009-02-05.  
  33. ^ Morrell, 2006, p. 281-2.
  34. ^ Polking, 1990, p. 495.
  35. ^ Klaassen, M. "Transition as a fiction-writing mode". Retrieved 2009-05-23.  




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