Thursday, May 3, 2018

D-I-K-A for Fiction Writers

On May 1, Barnes & Noble released their monthly plug for the best novels (Skilton, 2018). Six of them have compelling female protagonists taking on the world around them. One is a comedic mystery thriller set in 1664. Another is a bildungsroman set in London shortly after WWII. One is a dystopian-horror satire set in 2018 America, where the country is carved up by special interest groups. Finally, the list ends with a social novel tying the effects of slavery to the segregation and endemic violence of the 1950s. Such an array of subjects, though slanted toward women’s fiction, can leave an aspiring fiction writer wondering what sort of writing on which would be the best to focus. The D-I-K-A model is a useful tool for educating budding authors and for explaining to those interested as to how fiction authors came up with subjects.


Clampitt (2018) explains that data (D) is uncensored facts, figures, & details. It is important to keep in mind that a portion of the data will most likely contain errors. After the available data is filtered and focused on relevant data, it is transformed into Information (I). The stakeholders use that information with their knowledge (K), which includes the skill sets and doctrinal expertise to enable them to not only explain but also predict the outcomes of possible actions. The stakeholders use those predictions with communications to come to decisions and manage their behavior, which is called action (A). Throughout the entire process, feedback is continuous, and under some circumstances, the stakeholder will need to reset the process to stay on the desired path.

Fiction Writers and D-I-K-A

Data: Fiction writers live, read, and learn. They have the option of using not merely their own experiences and imaginations to create a story, but also every piece of data in every library in the world, the entirety of the internet, and any timeline that ever existed in the past or might exist in the future. There are no limits to fiction; however, that much data is obviously too much for a single book.
Information: Fiction writers have to limit the data available to them. Using focused research, they select specific data to populate the story elements for characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Paula McLain selected the data specific to Martha Gellhorn, Hemingway’s third wife, to tell her story of a journalist and a novelist set during the Spanish Civil War. She takes established historical events, couples them with what is know about the two lovers, and fills in the gaps with her imagination. Contrast that against Chuck Palahniuk’s dystopian satire of the end of the United States. Using the energy of modern political discourse, he imagines special interest groups setting up independent countries where those in charge persecute via the power of the state, that is the barrel of a gun, anyone who does not agree with their particular flavor of intolerance. While fiction has no limits, a single book must have a focus to succeed.
Knowledge: Authors create, muse, and organize potential books by synthesizing theme, a point of view (POV), style, and tone with the approved information. Kevin Powers, a retired army veteran, who has established himself as a respected writer of military stories, uses that skill with a backdrop of the Civil War and the effects of slavery on life a hundred years later. It takes some time to develop adequate skills in those areas, but without them, fiction authors will not succeed.
Action: Eventually the writer has to write. After making decisions about story structure the task that remains is to write, hopefully, the next best-selling novel.  
Feedback: At any step, a writer might discover they have strayed from a successful path. We do not have the untold stories of the ten authors selected by Barnes & Noble as the best 10 of 2018, but it is entirely possible they had to refocus and restart their paths. Since anything is possible with fiction, a viable focus of the potentially best novel of 2019 might be to tell that story for them. 


The D-K-I-A model is used throughout the business world, but this paper has explained that it works for fiction writers, too. The reason for that is writing fiction is a business. Unless the books stay forever under the writer’s bed, or hidden in the closet, or stored in perpetuity on a thumb drive hidden in a dusty drawer, good fiction stories are destined to be published.


Clampitt, P. G. (2017). Communicating for managerial effectiveness, 6thed. Thousand Oak, CA: Sage Publication, Inc.
Skilton, S. (May 1, 2018). May’s Best Novels New Fiction.  Barnes & Noble Reads.Retrieved from

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