7 Tips to Writing Factions in Fiction

Fairy Tail Guild

Many stories have a ‘faction’ part of their world.  It can be obvious with feuding guilds or opposing armies.  Other times, you can miss it because you’re only introduced to one of the groups and merely hear about the others.  You can even have factions turn up in a more modern setting in the form of cliques and other 21st century lingo.  So, what are some things to consider when creating factions?

  1. They don’t always have to be political or religious.  I know it’s tempting to go for that aspect of humanity, but it isn’t necessary.  In fact, one might say that avoiding such a touchy subject would get you more attention.  Other options are family, friends, school clubs, competing for jobs, or resource seeking.  You would be surprised how much more you can get out of avoiding the two most overused subjects.
  2. There has to be some kind of leadership for it to be a faction.  This can be a single leader or a council system, but we’re talking about an organization.  You don’t have to introduce these leaders if they aren’t going to be major factors of the story.  There simply has to be a sense that the group is structured.
  3. Your protagonist doesn’t have to be a member for them to be in the story.  Of course, this is needed if the plot revolves around joining the faction or rising up the ranks.  If they are only being used as a part of the world to give it more depth then that’s fine.  It can even be that your hero does jobs for them or that the villain gets his minions from their ranks.
  4. Try to be unique or fun with the faction name.  For that matter, they need a name because you can’t have people shouting ‘Those Guys!’ all the time.  It can be anything that fits the world.  You might need some explanation though.  For example, they can be called the ‘Ivory Panthers’ because they are a band of evil poachers that go specifically for ivory.  They’re opposed by the ‘Earth Hearts’ who are out to protect all of nature.
  5. While uniforms aren’t necessary, you do need a symbol or gesture that faction members use to identify each other.  The flash and obviousness of this requires a little thought.  You don’t want an Assassin Guild wearing large hats that are decorated with the skulls of their victims while in public.  Many factions may operate in secret, so kind that in mind.
  6. With warring factions, you need to give them a reason.  It can be as minor as competing for limit jobs or as major as revenge.  This is probably only really important if the hero’s story factors into them.  Factions that are background are able to survive without a lot of details.
  7. Never forget a base of operations.  I’ve read a few stories where the groups seem to be everywhere.  They have a clear leadership, but no central location for them to operate out of.  You can make it a yearly gathering too.  Just have something that locks in the idea that they are large organization.  Heck, you could probably get away with a newsletter that goes out every month and has the printer’s address on it.  As long as it helps build stability.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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22 Responses to 7 Tips to Writing Factions in Fiction

  1. Pingback: 7 Tips to Writing Factions in Fiction — Legends of Windemere | When Angels Fly

  2. L. Marie says:

    Great tips, Charles! It’s interesting how warring factions affect life for everyone, even those not involved, especially if their sparring causes the distribution of resources to be held up.

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  3. Liked this, Charles. Factions are difficult to write but these tips help.

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  4. Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    Great tips from Charles 👍😃

    Like

  5. jomz says:

    I agree that factions don’t need to be according to very sensitive real-world examples like religion or race. Fantasy fiction can have many factions that for someone outside of that world may seem silly.

    Then again, there are a lot of “factions” in our lives that we are a part of that we probably have not noticed. Teams competing for jobs was one that slipped through the cracks for me had you not pointed it out.

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  6. V.M.Sang says:

    Thanks for that, Charles. I’m currently writing a few back stories for my Wolves ov Vimar series. There are rival street gangs. This helps greatly in dealing with this.

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  7. ShiraDest says:

    Thank you for these point, especially the base of ops and name, which, in writing a story with informal factions lined up against either protag or antag within a small community, I hadn’t considered.
    Best, Shira

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your graphic of Fairy Tale is right on point. The guild hall is their central location. They’re sort of a training site (but for members only). They do employment by sending members on missions. They have a structure of powers with the main guild leader and then four or five high-powered mages, which is where you assume the next guild leader will come from. There are other guilds that rival against them.

    Of course, Hogwarts is another great example. The four Houses are still part of the same school.

    It’s fun to do themes with this, too. In my book The Seven Exalted Orders, there were seven orders of wizards that all had the same elemental power and jealously watched each other to make sure no one order became too powerful.

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  9. Pingback: 7 Tips to Writing Factions in Fiction — Legends of Windemere – Jomz Ojeda’s Blog

  10. Pingback: Author Inspiration and This Week’s Writing Links – Staci Troilo

  11. AliciaMireles says:

    Oh very good tips! I love world building tips and advice! Thank you for sharing! Are most of your posts related to world building in high fantasy? Or just writing based in general?

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