Nicole Hurley-Moore’s 5 essential elements in a successful rural fiction novel

By Nicole Hurley-Moore

The 5 essential elements in a successful rural fiction novel
So, I’ve mulled over the question what are the 5 essential elements you need for a successful rural fiction novel, and I’ve come up with these points. I’m not sure if everyone will agree but I think these are the points that will help you write a good story.

When writing any work of fiction you need your characters to be convincing and real. They have to have depth and not only be grounded in the story but also within themselves. The characters have their own hopes and fears that manifest into their daily lives. It’s through these emotions that we understand their motives and ultimately become invested in their journeys as they progress through the book. We see shared traits and can identify with the characters.

Many of us may not have personally faced the challenges the characters have but we have had some experience with love, loss, jealousy etc and it is through this that the reader, the character and writer connect.

Setting and Landscape as a character
In rural fiction I believe the setting and the landscape can be seen as an integral character of the novel. It’s more than just a backdrop or wallpaper. Whether you’ve got the vast outback in central Australia or undulating hills and bushland of the Victorian Central Highlands, the landscape defines and shapes not only the characters but the story. Capturing the landscape within the pages bring another dimension and energy to the story. I think it is the setting that will bring another aspect to make your story quintessentially Australian.

It sounds obvious, but if the plot isn’t interesting then no one is going to want to read it! The story has to grab, draw you in and make you want to keep turning the next page.

The connection between the characters, landscape and the writer
I’ve lived in several places but the majority of my life has been spent in a rural town. I grew up amongst orchards, sheep farms, wineries and the bush. I’ve used the landscape as inspiration and placed the characters within it. In my latest novel, Country Roads, the small town of White Gum Creek is fictional but aspects of it are based around the area where I live.

I wanted to try and convey the landscape of where I live through my main characters’ experiences, from the long paddocks of the sheep runs to the scent of eucalyptus in the bush.

Authentic dialogue
Dialogue has to sound authentic to the character. Most of us don’t go around slotting in delightful little phrases into our daily conversation such as ‘a roo short of a paddock’ or ‘beauty bonza bottler, mate’ on a daily basis and neither should our entire cast of characters. Okay, maybe there’s a time when saying someone ‘should take a long walk off a short pier’ is perfectly warranted. However generally speaking, conversation between the characters should be natural and not forced with overindulgent use of Australian idioms. On the other hand a ‘good afternoon, my friend – I hope you are well’ instead of a ‘G’day mate, how ya going’ doesn’t cut it either.

We’re all different and where some of us and our characters may include more Australian slang into our dialogue than others, we have to strive to portray the essence of Australia rather than the caricature of what rural is. The dialogue should flow as easily as our conversations in real life.

I think I’d like to add one more point, if that’s alright?  So here’s the 6th essential element – have faith in yourself and your ability to tell your story.

Country Roads by Nicole Hurley-Moore is published by Allen & Unwin, RRP $29.99, available now.


Twitter: @nhurleymoore

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