Part 1 of this series explained the meaning of fiction and the components that it is crafted from. This second part of the series delves into what makes fiction excellent and impactful and how to write such fiction.

What Is Effective Fiction?

Effective fiction means fiction that is excellent and serves its purpose/s. That is to say, it meets literary standards for good craftsmanship. It also entertains, which is the primary function of this form of creative writing. Furthermore, fiction can also educate and persuade.

A contemporary American writer famous for his legal thriller novels, John Grisham, has explained that his main goal is to write an interesting story, but if he can tie that to an important issue like homelessness or the death penalty, he does so. To make their writing interesting and hence entertaining, authors of fiction use literary devices and coinages to adorn their language. They also add humour and touching accounts that evoke emotional reactions from readers, some of which may be cathartic.

How does fiction educate? Fiction educates because of the abundance and accuracy of the facts it provides as the context for the imagined story. You see, writers of fiction usually do some research before composing their stories. If a story is about a lawyer or a medical doctor, they study the duties of such professionals, observe them at work physically or virtually, and pick up some of the jargon from their fields in order to write convincingly about these characters. Hence, the reader, who is unfamiliar with these professions is bound to learn some things about how the practitioners operate.

Authors of fiction do the same for places and periods they want to set their stories in. As a result, readers learn about distant places they have never been to and periods they were not privileged to witness like foreign countries and past centuries. I recall how I learnt so much about major European cities just by reading several Sidney Sheldon novels. I also learnt about social stratification and norms in 19th Century England and how these were related to inheritance and wealth when I read some of Jane Austen’s novels.

Similarly, fiction can influence our way of looking at issues. How does it do this? It’s by the passion with which the writers deal with some subjects. It can also come about through the sheer repetition of some themes. For example, vast reading of detective fiction like the Sherlock Holmes series by Arthur Conan Doyle left me with the impression that there is no perfect crime; that excellent detective work can uncover something the perpetrators overlooked which would ultimately unravel their scheme.

Let me further elaborate on the possible purposes of fiction mentioned so far: entertainment, education and persuasion. Entertainment is diversion from the pressures and stresses of life. The writer crafts his story to bring pleasure to the readers through his masterful handling if language. Also, since he controls the tale, he can arrange for outcomes that readers find satisfying even if they would be deemed miraculous in real life.

Education, on its part, is intellectual and moral training. We learn in the course of being entertained by fiction. We learn new words that enrich our vocabulary, new expressions and techniques that improve our writing and other communication skills. We also learn so much about cultures, countries, occupations, lifestyles, crime, you name it. In the process, we imbibe values and standards for behaviour which are implicit or explicit in the stories we read.

With respect to persuasion, we can be influenced in our attitudes and behaviour through the stories we read. For instance, we may be motivated to donate to or participate in causes through fictional stories we read about them.

All these are possible outcomes of reading well-written fiction. They are the signs of its effectiveness. A great English novelist who lived in the first half of the 20th century, George Orwell, once explained that when he wrote, his goal was not to produce a work of art but to expose some ills or shed light on some situations. No wonder his works remain relevant not only for their literary excellence but for their humour and socio-political critiques which serve as cautionary tales to date. Two examples in this regard are Animal Farm and 1984 in which he shows how power corrupts and the evils of totalitarianism.

Below are some features that a writer should incorporate in his story if he wants it to pass as effective fiction. It can be observed that these features are not only reflections of the writing prowess of the author but they are also related to the kind of meaning/content he conveys. The features are presented as guidelines below.

Guidelines for Writing Effective Fiction

Achievement of verisimilitude: A story that has the appearance of reality is more believable and more likely to evoke the required reactions from readers. Realism has also been suggested as a means of boosting the popularity of other art forms, like Nollywood movies. This, of course, does not preclude the creation of fables with mythical creatures and characters as in adventure stories and fantasy fiction.

As 20th century American journalist and author, Hunter S. Thompson, once said, “Fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy-tale artist, you have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you’re writing about before you alter it.” Similarly, famed English writer, Virginia Woolf, who also worked in the 20th century, held that, “The truer the facts the better the fiction.”

To make their works convincing therefore, besides weaving plausible tales, fiction writers often superimpose their imaginary storylines on real locations and historical events, as I observed in my book, Magazine Article Writing.

Graphic description: The people, events and places in a story should be described in such detail that enables readers to see them in their minds’ eye and live the tale. The writer shouldn’t say a house or a car. Is it a mud hut, a log cabin or a skyscraper? Is the car a coupe, a saloon or an SUV? A writer should tell the readers about colour, shape, size – whatever will help them form mental images of his writing.

Apart from helping the reader see the story unfold in his mind and thus possibly participate vicariously in it, description should reduce the pace created by fast action and dialogue so that readers are not left exhausted and breathless in the course of reading. However, it should be inserted at appropriate points in order to do this. Description should also be entertaining, relevant to the story the author is telling and enhance understanding of the plot.

But the writer should not feel compelled to describe everyone and everything in his story as this may create long passages of slow-moving prose which readers may consider boring, irritating and a distraction from the story they are reading. Contemporary American bestselling author and master of horror/fantasy fiction, Stephen King, corroborates the idea to not overdo description in his quote on characterisation presented as a graphic in Part 1 of this series.

Besides, as award-winning Irish writer, Anne Enright, remarks in an article in The Guardian, “Description is hard.” Do not labour at it so much that it seems pretentious and disconnected from the rest of your writing.

Narrative flow: Is the story readable? Is the sequence right, drawing the reader effortlessly from page to page?

But as I explained in Magazine Article Writing, the writer should moderate the pace of his story so that it is neither too fast nor too slow. If it’s too fast, the reader will be out of breath at some point like someone who just ran a sprint but if it’s too slow, the reader will be bored and might doze off.

Proper use of dialogue: Dialogue should be inserted occasionally to break the monotony of hard prose but it should be properly crafted to reflect the characters and suit the occasion. In famous 19th century American author, Mark Twain’s criticism of one novelist’s writing style, Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses, he made these points and more about dialogue in a story as shown in the passage below which has been slightly rephrased and compressed:

When the characters in a story converse, the talk shall be such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, a show of relevance, remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, be interesting to the reader, help out the tale, and stop when the people have said all they need to.*

Also, each new line of dialogue and its response should be presented as new paragraphs. See “Either SUV Or Burst.” And once the characters speaking are established, the writer can stop adding attribution which appears clumsy at the point since it’s redundant.

Inclusion of socially relevant message: Although fiction is primarily for entertainment, having an underlying message gives the writer focus and helps him to compose a coherent story. And when the story addresses an issue that is of current concern to people, it increases the attention it gets and its chances of remaining in people’s minds for long, possibly furthering the cause it is about. See “Deception.”


This segment of our series on fiction writing has laid out what the writer needs to craft fiction that is sound in literary terms and impactful.

The next segment will discuss how to review books of fiction.

I look forward to receiving your questions and comments. You are blessed!


*Original phrasing of Mark Twain’s quote cited in this post:
“When the personages of a tale deal in conversation, the talk shall sound like human talk, and be talk such as human beings would be likely to talk in the given circumstances, and have a discoverable meaning, also a discoverable purpose, and a show of relevancy, and remain in the neighborhood of the subject in hand, and be interesting to the reader, and help out the tale, and stop when the people cannot think of anything more to say.”


Enright, A. in Leonard, E. et al. (2010, Feb. 19). Ten Rules for Writing Fiction. The Guardian.

Mark Twain’s Rules for Good Writing. (2015).

Ohaja, E. U. (2008). According primacy to reality as a strategy for increasing the appeal of Nollywood movies. Kiabara: Journal of Humanities. 14(1), 1-11.

Ohaja, E. U. (2004). Magazine Article Writing. Lagos, Nigeria: John Letterman.

Twain, M. (1895). Fenimore Cooper’s Literary Offenses.

Wayne, T. (2013, June 6). Eight Rules for Writing Fiction. New Yorker.

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  • Igwe Nmesomachi

    Thank you very much ma.
    These guidelines should really help my script writing.

  • pincess

    What a great eye opener for me, thank you ma

    • This is truly a guide line for now I know what I should know instead. It is important to Know how good it is to read wider because without that one will not be able to adorn one’s languages . And even as that, one has to know the material one is writing about before one start. The graphics description, proper use of dialogue and narrative flow should all come into play.

  • Monday Favour Nnanke

    Thank you ma,😊😊

    More grease to your elbow

  • This was so impactful. Just what I needed to read at this moment. Thank you ma for this beautiful piece.

  • Obinna Chiamaka Precious

    Thanks for this piece ma🙏🙇… Indeed fiction isn’t just a work of art, It should still contain a bit of realism in it.
    But then ma , is it really necessary for the writer to make research as you said since It’s from the writer’s imagination?
    I need more clarification on it ma

    • Read that section again. The explanation there is more than enough. I even cited a writer who helped to clarify the need for research. It’s like in fine arts. You need to learn how to draw concrete objects before delving into impressionism.

      God bless you!

    • Monday Favour Nnanke

      Fiction is very interesting and much more mind-blowing compared to real-life stories. It has more spice.
      I learnt that a writer should make research before writing, the writer should have knowledge about the setting of the story(location, time/dispensation, etc.)
      Writers should also add a learning curve to their story.
      I always have difficulty with the sequence of my stories. Most times, I feel like I’m explaining too much and the rest of the time, I think I skipped too many details. How do I balance this?

  • Michael Decent

    Ma, when writing a fictional story, is it best to make it narrative in nature in such a way that every animal, person, place and object mentioned will be described?

  • Nwabuisi chinonso peace

    These guidelines were really helpful. I learnt a whole lot about effective fiction. I totally agree with the fact that fiction should have a certain amount of realism in it even if it is an imaginary story. I usually have a problem with narrative flow when writing but after reading these guidelines I truly learnt a lot about it. Thank you so much for this ma.❤❤

  • Adeeyo Stephen

    Thank you ma.
    I love reading fictional novels but I have never written any. I don’t know if writing is not my thing.

  • Thank you ma. The part that really got to me was the part on graphic description. I have read some books where the graphic description were just so irrelevant and tiring. I wouldn’t want to stop reading the book, but due to how long and tiring the descriptions are, i just usually skip them and some times it makes me miss some important information in those stories. I also have been guilty of under description and this is really an eye opener for me.
    Lastly, the aspect of realism is very important. I have a problem with reading a book, written by a Nigerian, who has never left the shores of the country, but writes a book, which its setting and plot is an American high school. I usually feel so detached from such books. I can’t properly visualize them or relate to them because the writer does not have the requisite amount of knowledge to write such type of books. Thank you so much for this, ma. Now I know that I also need research skills to write effective fiction.

  • Ezeanya Immaculate Amauche

    A lecturer once said mass media people are learned people because they study almost all fields of life for them to be able to report on them but now I just realized that fiction writers are even more than learned because they study the past, presence, periods, countries, in fact, almost everything because they write on anything and everything. And this exposes the readers to things they did not know before reading the fictional story. Thanks a lot, ma. This was helpful.

  • Nwako Chikodili Scholastica

    This part struck my mind is where it says that fictional stories are educating when abundant and accurate facts are provided as the context of the imagined story.
    I’m also learning from the flow of thoughts in a well structured and punctuated writing like this. Thanks so much, ma’am.

  • Agha Onyinye Judith

    I felt relieved when I saw the first guideline for effective fiction writing. Virginia Woolf’s statement, “The truer the fact, the better the fiction” made me a little nervous about my short story which starred a talking tortoise. I’m happy “achievement of versimilitude does not preclude the creation of fables with mythical creatures.”
    Then again. Finally! Someone said it. “Dialogue should be used occasionally to break the monotony of hard prose.” It’s hard to keep your focus when the narrator goes on and on without giving the characters a voice. I experienced this in George Orwell’s “Down and Out in Paris and London.” As a reader, I have learnt that if you want to attract your readers, learn to use the quotation marks. It attracts the eyes like honey attracts bees.
    Thank you so much, Aunty Edith, for this. I loved your references and allusions to legendary authors, particularly Jane Austen whom I am a great fan of.

  • Onah Celestine kenechukwu

    One of the things that have really crippled me and limited the number of crafts I produce as a writer is being a novice in a particular profession I want to write about.

    After reading the above, I have come to realize that as a writer, it is not enough to have a story to tell but to know the environment you wish to set the story and also, have a message you wish to convey.

    At this point, I really feel bad that I was not exposed to much fictional stories earlier in life. And even now, I have more interest in the stories that set in Africa and more like, in the colonial and post-colonial era. This has really limited how I relate events in our contemporary society.

    Knowledge nevers ends and I believe i can still catch up. But ma, how do I best make a research on what is no longer existing? I want to set my works in precolonial Nigerian era but I always find it difficult to get enough tools to write.

    • You can read history books and watch documentaries from that era. There’s too much information in textual and film form on the internet today. Just google what you’re interested in and choose sources to consult. Encyclopaedia alone will keep you busy for months if you make the time.

      However, you must avoid information overload. Pick what you need for your story and move on.

  • Thank you ma this post was really helpful,fiction is indeed an art. It has helped me understand the guidline in fiction writing,most importantly the narrative flow with consideration of the readers interest at heart.

  • Chukwu Chinwe Princess

    This is so nice ma, from the part where you wrote that effective fiction is excellent and serves it’s purpose, which is to educate, persuade, entertain and it should be well crafted with a sense of realism to where you wrote about the guidelines, shows that this is truly a masterpiece. This is also made me curious about John Grisham’s work, and I would like to read it for myself 😊

  • Nnamani Chidibere John

    It is clear that well-written fiction may accomplish more than just provide enjoyment. Since research and verisimilitude give a story depth and authenticity, I like the focus on their value. The recommendations you’ve made are useful advice for new authors, particularly in regard to narrative flow and dialogue. Your discussion of the ways in which fiction can affect readers’ viewpoints and actions serves as an important reminder of the importance of storytelling in our culture.

  • Thank you Ma for these guidelines on writing fiction.
    They are really good and helpful for writing stories.

  • Favour Madu

    Thank you ma. Truly ,graphic description is essential as it aids the reader to understand and connect with the story better.

    Again, a writer do not have to overwhelm the reader with too much detail.Striking the right balance can be tricky, but it’s important to remember that less is often more.A few well-chosen details can be better than lengthy description.

  • Ugwuoke Peace Amarachi

    Fiction was really confusing me before but this piece of note really cleared my eyes and I understand it more.
    Fiction is really interesting!
    Thank you ma

  • Kalu Victory

    Ma, you gave an excellent breakdown of the key elements for writing effective fiction. The balanced narrative flow, using dialogue thoughtfully, and how weaving in socially relevant messages is crucial for engaging and impactful stories. However, I do have a question ma, how can a writer strike the right balance between entertaining readers and conveying a socially relevant message without the story feeling forced or didactic?

    • The first thing is to realise that stories are meant to entertain first. Your message should be implicit. No pummeling of the reader and preaching hard or such stuff. If you want direct teaching, write an essay, a devotional or give a lecture.

      Read some of my short stories and see how I strike the balance.

  • Okoewa favour

    Thanks to this post, I have learned so much about writing effective fiction and also learnt that description helps in making one’s work beautiful.

  • Perpetual Oko

    I never knew that research would be conducted before writing fiction. We all know that fiction entertains and educates but I am shocked that fiction also persuades the readers. Thank you for showing me another side and impact of friction. God bless

  • Yes, fiction is based on imagination but the post made me understand that despite the fact that it’s an imaginary work, it still needs to be based on facts in order to draw the attention of the readers.

  • Chukwunta Philip Ozioma

    Though it is a fiction, it should still contain some amount of realism. Wow!

    Proper use of dialogue and the inclusion of socially relevant message cannot be overemphasised. A story that addresses current issues that is of concern to people in the society help to increase the attention the story gets.

    Thank you for this, ma.

  • Omeke Chidimma Happiness

    With this guidelines for writing an effective fiction, I am inspired and I hope to write someday with the focus of bringing pleasure to the readers and leaving an underlying message of impact

  • Blessing Edeoga

    Even as fiction been an imaginative piece, it still strives to get the attention of it’s readers. Fiction does not only persuade, it also educates and entertain it’s readers.
    However, Effective fiction has not only saved readers time, Since most people tend to get bored of a story with a bad story lining. Readers should be able to visualize or picture a writers story when reading, most times I tend to Time-travel during reading. Fiction has taken me to several places in the world even without me been there.
    Lastly, I would commend that this lesson is not just educative it is easily comprehensive and that’s the goal of any writer “to keep his readers in check” thank you ma for this wonderful piece, God bless you.

  • Anyanwu Geraldine Ngozi

    Thank you so much ma’am,this piece really provides a comprehensive insight into the essential elements of effective fiction writing. I really love the emphasizes on the importance of realism, detailed descriptions, narrative flow, well-crafted dialogue, and the inclusion of socially relevant messages in creating engaging and impactful stories. And indeed fiction has the power to entertain, educate, and persuade, making it a versatile and influential literary form. Aspiring writers like myself can benefit from these guidelines to enhance their storytelling skills and create fiction that resonates with readers.

  • Ewang Mfoniso Imoh

    Thank you ma I should read more of fictions and I should use this guidelines to better my writing.

  • Nwokoma Samuel

    I have learnt a lot from this. Painting a vivid picture of the setting is essential when writing a fictional work of art. I have never taken note of the fact that authors who write fiction should research about the setting they want to use as it is important for painting a vivid picture of it in the reader’s mind.

  • These instructions proved incredibly beneficial. I acquired extensive knowledge about crafting engaging fiction. I completely concur that even in imaginary tales, a touch of realism is crucial. I’ve often struggled with maintaining narrative flow, but these guidelines have provided me with a deeper understanding. I’m immensely grateful for this, ma.

  • Thomas Ebimoboere praise

    The information you gave about effective fiction writing is very helpful to writers.
    According to hunter s. Thompson they said “fiction is based on reality unless you’re a fairy tale artist”. My question is,why is it called fiction,if it’s based on reality,because fictions are stories that is based on imagination.

  • Success ogbonna

    Fictional books are books I enjoy reading alot. When writing fiction I got to understand that you try your best to make it beliveable. You can do that by using words to paint pictures.

  • Festus Eze

    This is has really opened my eye to writing a good fiction. Making researches on the subject matter and the setting is essential because it really educates the reader and paints a vivid picture in the mind of the reader/audience.

  • Obi Rejoice Mmesoma

    Fictional books I must say, guided me and helped built my interests in educating and entertaining stories. They layouts or guidelines for effective fictional stories are really splendid. Ma you are truly awesome, you have taught us well. I appreciate ma.

  • Okeke Chioma

    These instructions have been immensely valuable, and I’ve gained a wealth of knowledge on creating captivating fiction. I wholeheartedly agree that even in the realm of imaginary tales, a touch of realism is essential. I’ve often faced challenges in maintaining the narrative’s flow, but these guidelines have given me a deeper comprehension. I express my heartfelt gratitude for this, ma.


    This is so nice ma, from the part where you wrote that effective fiction is excellent and serves its purpose which is to educate, persuade, entertain and it should be well crafted with a sense of realism to where you wrote about the guidelines, shows that this is truly a masterpiece. This is also made me curious about John Grisham’s work, and I would like to read it for myself.

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