October 2022 – Jericho Writers
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Character Quirks: How To Craft Vivid Characters

Every person in real life has personality traits — something that makes them unique, interesting, and different to others. Yes, even you! So when you\'re creating memorable characters for your story it\'s really important to ensure that they have traits and characteristics that make them memorable. This doesn\'t mean every character in your books needs to have quirky traits, but — when it comes to character creation — it does give you the opportunity to have a lot of fun! In this article, I\'m going to discuss what character quirks are, how to write them successfully, and what to avoid. I will also be listing 80 quirks for you to consider in your next story. Let\'s start... What Are Character Quirks? Quirks are character traits that make the people in your story memorable, relatable and different to one another. A quirky character is one who some may consider unusual, eccentric, or a bit weird. A character\'s personality is fundamentally important when it comes to a story\'s plot, helping form a realistic and engaging narrative and strong dialogue, and providing a memorable cast. Quirky characters may have unusual physical attributes (different coloured eyes, for instance), unique personality traits (they skip instead of walk), or peculiar habits (they put lipstick on before they eat). Either way, a quirky character generally looks or behaves in a way that differentiates them from other characters. Imagine the Cheshire Cat without his smile, Jo March without her books and impulsivity, or Sherlock Holmes without his pipe and hat. Impossible! Character quirks not only help a character jump off the page but without them some of the world\'s best books would be a lot less interesting to read. How To Write Successful Character Quirks To create believable characters, you need to make them stand out from one another. Each character quirk needs to be unique, relevant and recognisable. Let\'s look at these points in more detail... Be Original Think of new quirks that you\'ve not seen in a story before. You may want to tweak more common traits to make them weird or you could try using people in real life as inspiration. For instance: If you are writing about a detective, it wouldn\'t be very original to have him hold a magnifying glass all the time... but what if, like Inspector Gadget, his entire coat was created to help him investigate better? If you are writing a romantic heroine, instead of making her loveable and worthy of her dream man from the onset, why not make her an interfering busybody fascinated by the love lives of others — like Austen\'s Emma? And if you are creating a teen hero, instead of making a strong, valiant and heavily armed boy — why not create a female character from a poor background whose only skill is shooting a bow and arrow, like Katniss from The Hunger Games? Having an original link or contrast between a character\'s purpose and their particular quirk, a unique trait that can be both their flaw and saviour, means you have an original character that can be easily described in one short sentence. After all, you know exactly who I\'m talking about if I say, \'he\'s a kind giant with big ears who collects dreams in jam jars.\' Make Sure The Character\'s Quirks Are Relevant Don\'t give a character cute quirks that don\'t mean anything. For example, in JoJo Moyes, Me Before You, the very chirpy protagonist, Lou Clark, wears wacky clothes (stripy tights, bright shoes, overly fluffy jumpers) while Will Traynor, the paraplegic she cares for, is very serious and dresses smartly at all times. None of this is by accident! The author has carefully chosen these differences as the irony is that Lou is full of life and energy but is stuck in a dead-end job and relationship, with no plans to do or go anywhere. Whereas Will (who was once very successful and adventurous) can\'t physically do all the things he once wanted to and has nowhere to be, but still looks the part of a successful businessman. So they are both dressed as the person they wish to be, with neither confronting the fact they are not that person anymore/yet. The realisation of what they both ultimately want to do with their lives is the main theme of the story — and the resolution at the end. Use Quirks To Show A Change In Character One of my favourite types of quirks in a character is seeing what they do under stress. In the Netflix series Money Heist, the police inspector, Raquel Murillo, has very long hair. Every time she has to deal with the hostage takers she ties her hair up. Every time the viewer sees her do that, we know she means business. By the end of the series, she has swapped allegiances and wears her hair down nearly all of the time. The \'let your hair down\' is often used literally in storytelling to show a woman going from being rigid and controlled, to relaxing and letting go. In the movie Something\'s Gotta Give, Diana Keaton\'s uptight character, Erica Barry, wears high turtle neck sweaters the entire time. By the end of the movie, once she finds the courage to be herself, she pulls at the neck of her sweater and rips it off, signifying her new vulnerability and freedom. Have Fun With Foils If you\'re going to have two main characters, use character quirks to highlight their differences. In Sapkowski\'s book and the Netflix TV adaptation, The Witcher, we see two visually and behaviourally different characters. The lead, Gerald of Rivia, is physically big and strong, he fights monsters for a living — he\'s also monosyllabic, emotionally closed and grunts a lot. In contrast, his unwanted companion, Jaskier, is a poet, minstrel and bard who never shuts up. The juxtaposition of both these visual and personality quirks makes for really interesting foil characters, helping to highlight each attribute the other lacks. It also makes for many an amusing scene. What To Avoid When Creating Character Quirks The problem with personality traits is that if overused, and done badly, what could be a fun and memorable way to distinguish one character from another can quickly become grating for the reader and stop them from wanting to turn the page. So what should you NOT do when developing your character\'s personality? Here are a few helpful tips. Steer Clear Of Clichés Some character quirks and certain words have been overdone to the point of being farcical (although, if writing satire or a genre where readers expect certain tropes, go to town with the cheese!). For instance, not every devilishly hot leading man needs to smirk or have a crooked smile. Neither does he have to be tall, dark or handsome. What if, like Cyrano de Bergerac, he has a big nose and is worried about his appearance? Avoid Stereotypes Racist, sexist, ableist, or any other type of stereotypical observations are not quirks. Mental health issues and disabilities are not quirks. For instance, it\'s insulting to make it a quirk that the intelligent female scientist also happens to have a big bust, or that the Asian kid is a maths wiz, or that the Italian woman moves her hands around a lot when she speaks. Think about why you are giving certain characters a unique trait, how it fits into the plot, and try to be original with it. Don\'t Overdo It! If all your characters are ever so quirky it will detract from the story. It\'s important to create unique characters, yes, but each one doesn\'t have to be weird and kooky. Sometimes having a fall guy, a straight and serious foil, can enhance the hero\'s quirkier traits. How To Plan Your Character Quirks Now you know what character quirks are, and how to avoid writing them badly, where do you start? 1. Think About What You\'re Trying To Say Every character in your story should look and act a certain way for a reason. So imagine your cast, (create a vision board on Pinterest if it helps with physical features), and ask yourself why they look and behave the way they do. Harry Potter\'s lightning scar signifies he has always had the power to beat Voldemort. Scrooge is miserly so by the end of the story he can learn the error of his ways. Willy Wonka\'s split personality — flamboyant and fun one minute, mean and cruel the next — is reflected in the way the factory is also beguiling but dangerous. Even his name sounds \'wonky\'! Ariel brushing her hair with a fork represents her ignorance about the land up above (and foreshadows the struggles she\'s about to have when she grows legs). Hannibal Lecter is sophisticated and very clever, which is disarming considering he\'s also a cannibalistic murderer (a gentle, caring, smart murderer is much scarier than a big, tough, thug). And, again, it\'s no coincidence his name sounds like \'cannibal\' and \'lecturer\'. 2. Make A List Of Your Characters\' Quirks Use the list below, or create your own list of distinctive quirks. List kooky characteristics first, then match them with your cast... or vice versa. Try to be original, amusing, or endearing. Don\'t match a quirk with a character for the sake of it, make sure it\'s relevant to who they are, what they are trying to achieve, or to the outcome of the story. 3. Make Your Characters Rounded Ensure their name, backstory, and how they interact with the rest of the characters matches their personality and quirks. Sometimes they can be contrasting, like the main character in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Her surname sounds like \'elephant\', making you think about \'the elephant in the room\' and \'elephants never forget\' — both of which are relevant to the twist at the end of the book (spoiler: she\'s not \'completely fine\'). 4. Remember Quirks Are A Reflection Of A Character\'s Disposition Think about their mental state, their personality, their backstory, and their constant state of mind. Let\'s look at the TV show, Friends, for example: Ross: Nervous and awkward = clears his throat a lot. Monica: Control issues brought upon by anxiety = an obsession with cleaning. Phoebe: Overcoming past trauma = has turned to music and a more holistic outlook on life. Chandler: Difficult childhood = masks his vulnerability with humour. Rachel: Vain and self-centred = obsessed with what she looks like (which leads to a successful job in fashion). Joe: Comes from a large and close-knit family = overly relaxed, with few inhibitions. So what other quirks can you give your characters? The list is endless, but here are 80 to start you off... 80 Ideas For Great Character Quirks I have compiled a list of quirks categorised into physical, behavioural and personality quirks. See how many more you can add to these! Physical Quirks Physical Appearance: A birthmark Wears braces Very tall or very short Tattoos or piercings Has long, sharp nails Keeps dying their hair a different colour Eyes are not the same colour Unusual hair colour Noticeable scar They have skin problems They wear a different wig in each chapter Bad breath or hygiene The Way They Move: Walking habits, ie limp Always sits on the floor Sleeps in a strange position Refuses to rush for anything or anyone Avoids eye contact Always chair leans Sits extremely straight Always leans against the wall Laughs behind their mouth Claps to accentuate each word Moves arms and hands a lot when talking Does little dances when happy Wiggles their hips when they walk How They Dress: Flashy style dresses Wears a lot of jewellery Always wears the friendship bracelet the other character made them Wears clothes that are too big/too small for them Wears glasses or unusual glasses Exclusively wears clothes from a specific era (such as the 1940s or the 1970s) Wears bright nail polish (even more interesting if they\'re a boy or non-binary) Wears socks that don\'t match Shoes are too big, or don\'t match, or have colourful laces What They Sound Like: The pitch of their voice is very high or low Raspy voice Monosyllabic Talks too much Sings when speaking They clear their throat before speaking Hums all the time Says \'err\' or other fillers a lot Loud talker/quiet talker Behavioural Quirks Characters Who Are On The Edge: They have some control freak tendencies Obsessive cleaning Always fiddling with their pocket knife Irrational fear of something Tying their hair up Sleeves always rolled up Always chewing their lip Cracking knuckles How They Treat Others: Takes in stray animals Extremely loyal People pleaser Unnecessarily rude Fusses over people Makes friends gifts Character Habits: Chews their nails Twirls their hair Uses the same word over and over Smokes Drinks a lot of a certain liquor Swears a lot (creative swear words are the most fun) Personality Quirks Strange Behaviour: They have an imaginary friend They\'re always tired Doesn\'t need to sleep Their best friend is an animal (or plant) Talks to themselves Talents And Skills: Plays a musical instrument Has an artistic talent Great with computers Photographic memory Speaks multiple languages Can build anything How They Are Around Food: Likes to make home-cooked meals for their friends Eats other people\'s food Takes huge bites of their food Only eats junk food They give away all their food to the poor Only eats organic food ... As you can see, the list is endless! See how many more quirks you can add. Frequently Asked Questions What Are Quirks In A Character? Quirks are unique and memorable personality traits that make a character stand out from others. They can be physical (how they look or dress), or behavioural (acting a certain way in any given situation). They are often used to reflect a character\'s disposition or constant emotional state, and their tics and habits. They\'re frequently used as a literary technique for foreshadowing or to reflect a change in the character at the resolution stage. What Are Some Common Character Quirks? Winking at those they find attractive Leaning against the wall Clearing their throat before talking Wearing wacky clothes Smirking Biting their nails Having an unusual hairstyle Playing a musical instrument Having a scar Talking too much or not enough Time To Get Writing! I hope you have had fun thinking up some original quirks for your characters and that you enjoy applying them to your next story. And remember, whatever you do, make sure your characters are ones that your future readers will never forget!

Anam Iqbal on Finding Your Perfect Agent

Finding a literary agent is a lot like falling in love - it can take time, but once it clicks, it clicks. On her third novel, YA Romance author Anam Iqbal met her perfect literary agent (Hannah Schofield of LBA) through a one-to-one session - and never looked back. We caught up with her about what it\'s like working with her perfect literary agent, and why you should never give up even when things feel tough. JW: Tell us a little about yourself. When did you start writing? I have always loved literature. Growing up, I devoured novels as a pastime instead of watching television with my siblings (how very Matilda of me, I know!). I spent a lot of time journaling, and writing book reviews and short stories, but it never occurred to me that I could actually write a novel. This is partly because I grew up reading books written by predominantly white authors where characters of my background didn’t really exist. The first time I came across South Asian characters in fiction was when I read the Harry Potter series and the Patil twins made an appearance. It was great to have that representation, but it still felt as though such characters would only ever be on the sidelines.   Whilst studying for my master’s degree at the University of Oxford in 2015 I would take regular trips to the local Waterstones, and I realised that the market was changing. I was seeing the names of diverse authors on bestseller lists in the UK - writers who were sharing fresh, authentic stories, and their work was being widely read. I realised that perhaps I could write a novel myself someday, from a perspective that wasn’t mainstream - and perhaps people would want to read it! It sparked a hope that never quite stopped niggling at me.  I was seeing the names of diverse authors on bestseller lists in the UK - writers who were sharing fresh, authentic stories, and their work was being widely read. I realised that perhaps I could write a novel myself someday... JW: What were some of your first projects? While I was still a student at Oxford, I began working on my first manuscript – a YA Fantasy novel that can be described as a loose re-telling of Aladdin. I finished writing and self-editing it in early 2018, and then began querying. I sent out a handful of emails and received no interest. In September 2018, I decided to attend the Festival of Writing in York held by Jericho Writers (The Writers’ Workshop at the time) because I’d heard you were able to pitch to agents directly there. It was an incredible experience, where I was able to learn a lot from the various workshops and engage with agents on a face-to-face basis for the first time. I received some full manuscript requests at this stage – but no offers of representation. It was quite disheartening but the whole process made me realise that I still have a lot to learn about the craft of writing and the publishing industry. Such feedback was my torch against the darkness of self-doubt, loneliness, and the fear of failure, which every writer experiences at some point or the other (trust me, every single one). I decided to purchase a manuscript assessment via Jericho Writers to learn the areas where I could improve my novel. Eleanor Hawken was the editor for my YA Fantasy novel, and she gave me wonderful and encouraging feedback, even stating that she wished she could read the second book in the series right away.  This was when I really started to believe in myself as a writer. It was my first time receiving feedback from a professional and it felt completely different from the encouragement one receives from friends or family.    Ultimately, I still didn’t receive any offer of representation with this novel. But such feedback was my torch against the darkness of self-doubt, loneliness, and the fear of failure, which every writer experiences at some point or the other (trust me, every single one). And perhaps without this encouragement I wouldn’t have continued to write, and thus I wouldn’t have written my next novel, which got me the offer of representation I’d always wanted. I wrote a diverse British Gossip Girl. A YA Contemporary Romance novel, set in the heart of London, that touches upon issues such as cyberbullying, class differences, patriarchy, and Islamophobia. JW: How did you end up securing representation with your agent?  During the lockdowns in 2020, I found myself with a lot of spare time on my hands and a burning feeling to pen the story I was constantly daydreaming about. Once I got into the flow of writing, all the rejections and doubts that had been haunting me from my previous work no longer mattered. Only the story did – the characters, their journey, the truths of their humanness. I wrote a diverse British Gossip Girl. A YA Contemporary Romance novel, set in the heart of London, that touches upon issues such as cyberbullying, class differences, patriarchy, and Islamophobia. And I could just sense that it was my best work yet, that I’d incorporated everything I’d learned about writing over the years and turned it into something truly publishable!   I’m a member of Jericho Writers and found out about the agent one-to-one sessions. I booked three sessions over the phone and received full manuscript requests from each agent! Hannah Schofield read my full manuscript within two days and offered representation. After meeting with her in person, I just knew she understood my vision as a writer and would be the perfect champion for my work. I signed on with her a week after our first meeting.   JW: Do you think that speaking to Hannah in the context of a one-to-one did more to put you at ease than if you had approached her directly looking for representation? I was definitely nervous about the sessions. However, after speaking to the first agent, I realised how kind and compassionate they are. They understand that writing your story is hard and that pitching is nerve-wracking! All the agents were certainly straightforward about what they liked and weren’t so keen on with regards to my work, but it was always in a warm and reassuring way. It was an incredible experience to receive direct feedback from agents, both the compliments on my work and the insightful criticisms (which really helped to improve my story). The excitement some agents showed to receive my full manuscript was incredibly uplifting. It made the process of querying more personal and enjoyable. And I believe it played a role in helping me leap out of the slushpile quicker! If I’d emailed these agents my query, I know it would’ve taken them much longer to get back to me, and there’s always a possibility they would’ve passed on the project! Having a direct conversation enables you to build an instant connection, and it’s beneficial for both the agent and author to get a sense of whether they would be able to work together.     It was an incredible experience to receive direct feedback from agents, both the compliments on my work and the insightful criticisms (which really helped to improve my story). The excitement some agents showed to receive my full manuscript was incredibly uplifting. It made the process of querying more personal and enjoyable. And I believe it played a role in helping me leap out of the slushpile quicker! JW: What has it been like working with your agent so far? Hannah Schofield is an absolute dream of an agent. I love her excitement, appreciate her sensitivity and criticism, and feel incredibly grateful to have someone like her in my corner. She’s great at what she does, and I feel safe with the thought of placing my work in her capable hands. I was nervous about the thought of having an agent pick apart my story and pinpoint all the areas they wanted me to cut out or change. However, I’ve found that editing is a collaborative process and, when you’ve got the right agent who understands the heart of the story, it’s quite enjoyable to work together with the same goal in mind. JW: How confident would you feel in approaching publishers if you didn’t have an agent? The truth is that the publishing industry is very competitive, and it’s incredibly hard to stand out. Securing an agent who really believes in your work is a massive help in getting your foot in the door, especially if you dream of being published with a Big Five publisher, as I do! I don’t think I’d feel comfortable going at it alone. Also, it’s important to consider that agents understand a lot about the industry that authors are simply not aware of; they are able to protect you as a writer and ensure your best interests are met. I’m glad I didn’t secure an agent with the first two novels I worked on, because I simply wasn’t ready then. JW: Do you have any advice for authors who are querying right now? Persevere! I’ve written three novels now – which took a lot of time, effort and, yes, blood, sweat and tears – and I secured an agent with my third manuscript. Nothing was a waste of time or effort! Not even a bit. Every moment I took out of a busy schedule to work on my stories, every daydream I’ve had about my characters, every single word I’ve written, and every rejection I’ve experienced has led me to this. It all improved my craft as a writer, and my ability to delve deeper into the psyche of my characters and create fleshed-out worlds and narratives. I never thought I’d say this, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way – I’m glad I didn’t secure an agent with the first two novels I worked on, because I simply wasn’t ready then. I think the secret to making your writing dreams come true is that you refuse to give up! Keep writing, keep querying, and keep dreaming. Persevere my friends, and, even if you face numerous obstacles or the path is long and tiring and unexpected, you will get there in the end. And it will all feel worth it.    About Anam Anam Iqbal was born in Paris and raised in London. She studied BSc Anthropology at UCL, which deepened her passion for writing about the nuances of human thought, experience, and culture. Whilst doing her master’s degree at the University of Oxford, she completed a thesis based on British South Asian culture and identity, and that provided the inspiration for her upcoming novel, which is a Young Adult Contemporary Romance. It can be described as a diverse British Gossip Girl. You can follow Anam on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.

Dystopian Story Ideas: Writing Inspiration

Writing dystopian fiction can be a lot of fun. When the world feels bleak and hopeless, what better way to channel your frustration and anger than into a story where the world has changed completely — unrecognisably and for the worse. But in order to create a dystopian world, first you need new and fresh ideas — which is where our writing prompts come in. In this article, I will be sharing what dystopian literature is, and then taking a look at some fun ideas based on various dystopian genre categories. So whether you are writing a dystopian novel, script, or short story, take a look at our 43 dystopian writing prompts and 17 ways to find inspiration, and see where these seeds of an idea take you! What Is Dystopian Literature? The Oxford dictionary describes the word \'dystopia\' as: \"An imagined state or society in which there is great suffering or injustice, typically one that is totalitarian or post-apocalyptic.\" In literary terms, dystopian fiction is simply stories set in a future where our world has been drastically changed in some way. Whichever dystopian genre you choose to write, whether fantastical or totally plausible, remember that the story must derive from a kernel of truth, and the main character needs to be suffering as a result of that change. Examples Of Dystopian Novels How is the future going to look in your next novel? There are many different ways to show a changed dystopian society. In some dystopian novels, the change is small... Perhaps it\'s an intimidating government regime, such as Orwell\'s novel, 1984, or climate change concerns, found in Atwood\'s Oryx And Crake. Whereas in other dystopian novels the story may be set against a post-apocalyptic backdrop where zombies roam the streets, such as in M J Carey\'s The Girl With All The Gifts, or science and technology have taken over from civilisation, as found in Huxley\'s Brave New World. The popular YA books series and movie franchise, The Hunger Games, explores the concept of young people saving our world and communities being split into factions, having to come together to overthrow a corrupt government. Alternatively, you may choose to explore the idea of the human population diminishing and what that would mean for human life, such as in Bethany Clift\'s Last One at the Party and Christina Sweeney-Baird\'s The End of Men. Regardless of how far-fetched or unbelievable your ideas are, you can still make a comment about the world we live in today through your dystopian stories. 43 Dystopian Writing Prompts The joy of writing dystopian stories is that the ideas and possibilities are endless. You can be didactic and political, or you can send your readers on a magical, crazy adventure. As long as your story is set in the future, in a world that is suffering or post-apocalyptic, you have yourself a dystopian novel. Ready for some ideas to kick-start your imagination? Here we go! How To Use Our Dystopian Writing Prompts Because dystopia is such a broad genre, and the story possibilities are endless, I have put together 43 writing prompts categorised into 8 sub-genres. Feel free to mix and match my ideas, add lots of your own details, or even take the line and put it into your story. However you choose to use these prompts, the important thing when writing dystopia is that you keep it fresh, exciting, and relevant to the market today. Speculative Fiction Speculative dystopian fiction adds a touch of magic and the impossible to a dystopian world. In the not-too-distant future, scientists have created a pill that allows humans to fly. The only problem is that they have sold it to the wrong people. Imagine a dystopian future where our dreams literally come true — including all our nightmares. The government decides to eradicate money and go back to a bartering system, but some people have MAGIC to barter with. The world has always been full of invisible people... but now everyone can see them. World War Every country changes after a war. What will happen in your dystopian version? The adult human race has been wiped out because of war, only children are left. Will they survive? A future where every country is at a nuclear standstill... which one will crack first? Two countries at war fighting over the rightful heir to their throne discover she is actually a powerful witch. Tim wants to avoid fighting in the Third World War, so creates a robot to take his place. Post-Apocalyptic World The world has ended... as we know it. What does it look like now? Life expectancy has gone up and people are living for twice as long. But it\'s backfired! 1,000 years into the future and the new world looks completely different. In fact, humans have now evolved into... (?) The world has ended and the only remaining humans are those who were cryogenically frozen. What are they about to wake up to? Sammy has spent her whole life in just one village. It\'s not until she realises she\'s the only one left on Earth that she decides to see the world! The only people who have survived the end of the world are the inhabitants of two small islands. Unfortunately, they hate one another. The whole of America has been destroyed except New York City. Those left are completely unaware the rest of the country no longer exists until one person manages to escape the city walls. The world has been divided into 4 regions - North, South, East and West - two are poor and two are rich. Every year every human on the planet has to enter the ultimate challenge to be allowed to stay alive! Monsters & Zombie Apocalypse It\'s finally happened - humans have become zombies and we have new monsters to fear. How will your story give a new twist to this fun genre? On the first anniversary of the war that nearly ended the world, a small town pays respect to its fallen heroes... but then they all return home. Undead. Science creates a GM meat substitute that eventually leads to people developing a hunger for human flesh. Jeff is the only man who has survived the end of the world after a huge nuclear explosion — he and all the cockroaches that have now mutated to 100 times their size. Thanks to a giant radiation leak every domesticated animal has become a feral predator. Ever seen how fast a cow can run when it\'s hungry? Zombies have taken over the world, except... they\'re actually nicer than humans. It\'s Halloween and the sweets are laced with a dangerous drug. The monsters in the street are no longer people dressed up. A pandemic sweeps through an island forcing people to flee before the indigenous animals turn into monsters... including all sea creatures. Natural Disasters We\'ve destroyed our planet and now it\'s fighting back. How does the world look now? Global warming causes all the ice caps to melt and humans are forced to literally sink or swim in order to survive! A meteor strike strikes the Sahara desert, uncovering a giant spaceship that has been hidden for hundreds of years. Climate change has made the entire planet too hot to live on; only the Arctic is a safe place to live. The battle to claim the only inhabitable land has commenced. Thanks to climate change and limited resources, humans have to choose between cannibalism or death. The sea level is rising and the only water left on Earth is seawater. Fires sweep through Europe, forcing everyone to flee to islands such as the UK and Ireland. The locals are torn between making room and protecting their own. Alternate Universe Maybe we don\'t know everything we thought we did about our planet and its place in the universe. Scientists discover our world is not the only habitable planet in the universe. Russia, China and America battle it out to see who will be the first to claim this new planet as their own. Sally discovers a portal where she is thrown into a world exactly like our own... except neither world war happened, the concept of money has been abolished, and Elvis never died. Thanks to a new drug, a detective learns to solve crimes by going back to the past and watching the crime scenes unfold. A woman in a coma is really happy in life until she wakes up and discovers the real world no longer exists, and she had imagined a whole life that never happened. Corrupt Government The world has changed and those in power are about to do something absolutely terrifying... or perhaps they already have. The government has been secretly adding subliminal messages to TikTok to brainwash kids into joining a secret army. Earth is about to be destroyed by a giant tsunami in five days... but the government is calling it Fake News. Can a team of kids convince the world to take cover before it\'s too late? A corrupt government has come into power and convinced everyone that weekends should be abolished as it will make them more money. One union rises up and creates a civil war. The new law states that a woman\'s place is in the home and that everyone with a womb must have two children before the age of 30 or they will face the death penalty. 10 years later, a group of women fight back. A dangerous UK government comes into power, forcing every person in the UK to return to the country in which their maternal grandfathers were born, and forcing British people who live abroad to return to the UK. Technology Humans are obsolete and science and technology have taken over. Now what? Humans are slowly being replaced by identical robots and no one will believe Tom as he warns the remaining humans about it. Artificial intelligence has taken over the art world - paintings, books and music have been created by machines for centuries - then one woman picks up a pen. A scientist has discovered he can control the human mind - and starts by experimenting on his family. Human body parts can now be harvested... one scientist decides to create the perfect human being. In a quest to save the rainforest, a scientist discovers a plant that can communicate with humans and learns something that will change the world. A man invents the perfect female robot whom he falls in love with... but the robot becomes sentient and tells him all the things that are wrong with him. 17 Ways To Find Inspiration Watch the news. Take the latest shocking headline, think of the worst-case scenario, and develop the story around that little seed of an idea. Look at old photographs of strange things. Combine two or more dystopian novels and set them against a new background. Create a modern-day version of an old classic. Read up on world leaders from the past and imagine what would have happened if history had been different. Create a fantastical version of things that have already happened. Learn about the environment and how we can help the planet. Ask friends what their worst fears are. Base your characters on dark real-life figures from the past. Read up on the lives of interesting historical figures. Learn about space and predictions for the future. Ask yourself \'what if...\' and see where it takes you. Look at the struggles minorities in our world have and think about what would happen if all of humanity suffered in that way. Make Pinterest boards. Read conspiracy theories. Talk to people who fight for the rights of others. Don\'t be afraid to push boundaries and ask difficult questions. Frequently Asked Questions What Are Examples Of Dystopian Stories? There are many incredible dystopian stories. Examples include 1984 by George Orwell, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Handmaid\'s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Last One at the Party by Bethany Clift, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. What Are 3 Common Themes In A Dystopian Story? Three of the most common themes in dystopian stories are the concept of control (exerted by the government, technology, religion etc), survival, and environmental destruction. Step Into A New World Of Ideas I hope you enjoyed these writing prompts and that they\'ve inspired you to create a new and terrifying future world for your next novel. And remember, whatever is happening in the world right now... it could always be worse!

Writing A Self-Help Book: All You Need To Know

Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Many people need no encouragement to learn and will continue to do so throughout their lives.  Events can create a demand for self-help books too. While the Covid pandemic brought much misery, books in the self-help genre gave readers a greater sense of agency. According to Nielson Book Research, there has been a rise of 20% in the sales of ‘self-improvement’ books as anxious readers have turned to popular psychology and self-help titles.  But self-help is not limited to psychological development. Books in this huge genre can also help readers fix their cars, bake cakes, or better understand their cats. The breadth is unlimited.  So, there’s a market for learning, and you have a hunger to tap into it with your own self-help book. I’ve written several great-selling works myself and have supported countless self-help authors as they developed their own. In this article, I’ll gather together a wealth of experience to give you everything you need to know about writing a fantastic self-help book, including:  Knowing what your book is about  Knowing your reader  Knowing your own – and the reader’s – expectations of the book  Finding your voice  Developing a structure  Knowing and fulfilling the self-help author’s role  What Is A Self-Help Book? In 1859, Samuel Smiles wrote what is often cited as the world’s first self-help book, called, unsurprisingly, Self Help. It promoted the importance of self-development. Its huge popularity encouraged countless writers from Mrs Beeton onwards to provide readers with the necessary instruction to solve problems or to self-improve. And that’s what any self-help book must succeed in doing. The outcome for your reader must be that they have changed for the better.  Examples Of Self-Help Books  You’ve probably seen the successful For Dummies books. A casual study of the long list of titles in the series demonstrates what people want to learn more about, from ‘LinkedIn Profile Optimisation’ to ‘Rugby Union Basics’. This proves that there is always someone out there who wants to learn something new. This is both good and bad news. Good, because there will probably be a market for your own specialist topic. Bad, because there will be competition. So, how to differentiate? Let’s take a look at some great examples of self-help books and understand what makes them remarkable.  The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F**k By Mark Manson  In his ground-breaking book, Manson achieves many things in his pursuit to help his readers lead more contented lives, but here are three big takeaways for upcoming self-help authors.  First, the title draws you in. It’s instantly engaging because it’s profane. It’s risen above the thousands of other wannabes by punching us in the face. Of course, it’s got to be good beyond the front cover, so…  Second, it’s a book that’s written in a truly authentic voice. As a prolific blogger, Manson has developed a way of communicating which is clear, authoritative and authentic. We trust him because, like any good salesperson, he persuades us. He maintains his profanity throughout, but with a purpose in mind: to shake us out of our stupor. And he needs to do this because…  Third, his subject matter – anxiety – is already a familiar topic. There are thousands of books on the subject. Manson succeeds by finding a new angle. By challenging conventional wisdom, he engages his readers and differentiates his book from the competition.  Mrs Beeton\'s Book Of Household Management By Isabella Beeton  First published in 1861, Beeton’s book was not the first to bring together many aspects of home economics, management and cookery. However, it succeeded by helping aspiring Victorian middle-class housewives to address two basic, human instincts: to feel confident that they could feed their families, and to successfully compete with the neighbours. Furthermore, it furnished them with the skills and knowledge to do so. How To Win Friends And Influence People By Dale Carnegie  Just like Mrs Beeton, Dale Carnegie addressed another essential need: to create an environment within which we are influential and liked. What’s interesting about this book is its clear focus on the outcome and the provision of instructions. It’s a genuine ‘How-to…’  The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons In Personal Change By Stephen R. Covey  There’s plenty to learn from this great self-help book.  First, Covey has, like Carnegie, promised an outcome: personal change. Second, the scope is helpfully contained: seven things can’t be hard to learn, and there’s the message that if we adopt these practices, we’ll achieve the promised outcome. Best of all, there’s the reference to a benchmark – highly effective people are already doing these things. It’s the ‘fear of missing out’ which plays on our aspirational and competitive streaks.  Screw It, Let’s Do It: Lessons In Life and Business By Richard Branson  Amongst Richard Branson’s many publications is this slim but characteristically engaging self-help volume in which the author shares his own unique practices and behaviours. The book is largely autobiographical. I’ll have something cautionary to say about this later, but it works here because Branson shares his wisdom.  Rejection Proof By Jia Jiang  This book promotes an innovative approach to dealing with rejection. Although his own story of self-discovery is crucial, Jiang encourages self-help by providing a methodology which is relevant to the challenges faced by his readers. So, while the book contains some autobiographical passages, they serve the main objective which is to assist the reader in dealing with rejection in their own lives.  Goal By Eliyahu M. Goldratt And Jeff Cox  This is a genre-busting book. It takes the topic of a project which has to be managed and, instead of offering a ‘how-to’ process, settles the subject matter into the body of a fictional novel. Not only do the authors find a unique angle into a familiar subject, but they also turn what could have been dry material into a page-turner. In doing so, the reader osmotically acquires knowledge rather than being obviously instructed.  Who Moved My Cheese? By Dr Spencer Johnson  This short story about two mice dealing with change has sold over 28 million copies. Why? There are several reasons, including the authority of the author, the fast pace and short length, and the playful nature of the story. However, one of its greatest strengths is the author’s use of a metaphor to explain something complex.  Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus By Dr John Gray  This classic book asks the reader to conjecture that men and women originate from different planets and approach their co-existence on Earth with wildly different attitudes to each other.  What sparkles is the originality of the proposition. Gray finds a way of articulating an age-old problem that affects both men and women: we have difficulty understanding each other. He goes on to provide a carefully considered explanation of the issues and, crucially, a language to facilitate dialogue towards happier relationships.  The book proves that a well-articulated problem is halfway towards an answer. Can you be clear about what challenge your own readers face, and how your book offers a solution?  Save The Cat By Blake Snyder  This remarkable book provides the aspiring screenwriter with an insider’s insight into what makes a great movie script. The author is an acknowledged expert which helps the reader to trust the content. But better still, there’s so much to do! This slim book succeeds by placing the reader at its heart. Snyder provides exercises which help them practice new ways of thinking and doing things. By the end of the book, each reader will think it’s been written just for them.  The Prophet By Kahlil Gibran  Written in 1923, The Prophet has become one of the world’s most translated and best-selling books. Through 26 poetry fables, a fictional prophet shares his thoughts on a range of spiritual and practical matters which affect the human condition. It’s not an instructional book, but the reader can develop and benefit from the book’s wisdom. And being poetic, it also has a lyrical quality which makes the process of reading (and re-reading) it so rewarding. So, your own self-help book need not be a classic ‘how-to’ as long as you’ve got sufficient wisdom and experience to impart, and can do so in style.  How To Write A Self-Help Book  Self-help books cover a huge range of topics and their authors tackle their subjects in a range of diverse and creative ways. Here are some key considerations when creating one of your own.  Identify A Clear Problem Or Opportunity That Your Book Must Address  Any successful self-help book is a solution to a problem or opportunity. Can you describe what obstacle your reader would like to overcome or an opportunity they would like to benefit from? Only when you are clear on the answer to this question can you begin to assure yourself that your book will provide the solution. In pitching to agents or publishers, this will be the topic that they focus on first. Even if you\'re self-publishing, it\'s important to know what kind of problems you want your book to target. When you know the answer, it will be easier to describe what your book’s really about.  Determine A Clear Objective For The Book  Once you\'ve got a book idea to use as a starting point, think about your goals for the book. Write them down and share them with some potential/beta readers. What outcome do you want your book to achieve? Develop a title, sub-title and 30-word elevator pitch. (If you\'re querying agents, this is also a good first step for your book proposal.) For example... Title: ‘Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus’. Sub-title: ‘A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships’. Elevator pitch: ‘Tells you all you need to know about members of the opposite sex and how to deal with them for positive, happy relationships’.  Compare Your Objective With The Reader’s Objective For The Book  What problems or opportunities do your readers face? What keeps them up at night? What can’t they do? What don’t they know? What outcome do they want from the book? What role will they expect or want to play in the book: an observer, a learner or an active participant?  Compare the reader’s expectations for the book with your own. Amend your own objective until it meets your readers\', or identify a different target audience for your book.  Know What You Are Able To Share With Your Readers  It’s been said that we should write about what we know. When considering the development of a self-help book, I would go one step further. You have the opportunity to share with your reader a combination of four important things: your knowledge, your skills, your experience and your personality.  The change in behaviour that your reader seeks won’t come from exposure to your knowledge or personality alone. They must practice new skills so that they build up their own experience. Your job is to help them do so. If all you include in your book is what you know, you’ll create a reference book. If all you write about is your personality, you’ll produce an autobiography.  So, by all means, share your knowledge and personality and include plenty of real-life examples, but give careful consideration to the inclusion of exercises and tasks which will develop the reader’s skills and experience and truly appeal to your target audience.  Decide How You Will Present The Material  What’s your angle? If you’re tackling a subject which is already popular, how will you approach it differently? What will make your book better or more appealing to a reader? This is a question which will really start to matter when you’ve finished the book and are switching into sales mode and thinking about the book cover. Knowing your angle will help you, and others, pitch your book.  What Is Your Role In The Book?   Which of the following roles will the reader most benefit from as their companion through their developmental journey? Raconteur? Authority? Exemplar? Entertainer? Educator? Researcher? Curator? Counsellor? Pick a few but not all. Give serious consideration to the character you will adopt in the book. Apart from helping your reader, it will aid you in finding a suitable authorial voice.  Practice And Settle On A Confident Authorial Voice  How will you address your reader? You may think it a trivial question, but your decision will have some significant consequences.   You could write in the first person. “I cooked my first sprout in 1967…” is fine if you’re a TV chef who readers want to emulate. It’s also great if you’re a celebrity who people want to know better. But this form of address can easily stray into the territory of autobiography where the book is about the author and less about the reader. We buy Branson’s books because we like him.  Did you see what I did in my last sentence? While using the pronoun ‘we’ creates a sense that your readers are in a classroom, it can also divide and exclude them. Not everyone likes Richard Branson but by assuming that they do, you’ve lost those readers who disagree with you. They may decide that your book isn’t for them anymore because you’ve misunderstood them and failed to accept that they are different.  So, as I’m doing here, you could settle on a second-person pronoun: you. This helps to create a closer, more personal relationship with the reader. It may also create a more explicit definition of your respective roles – teacher and student, for example.  Finally, you can play it safe with good old third person. That is, “Good old third person helps the author to play it safe.” Yes, it’s a bit robotic, but it’s an option which may suit the nature of your book and its intended readership.  Develop A Structure For The Material  To avoid staring at a blank screen for too long, plan the book’s structure. How many chapters will there be? What will the content of each chapter be? In what order will they be best arranged? What will your chapter titles be? This will help you to articulate what may be a complex subject area. It will also help the reader to see how their own journey of development is going to unfold.  Perhaps you can come up with a methodology which encapsulates the subject area of your book into an easy-to-remember structure. Is there a model which visualises and simplifies the complexity of the subject matter? Are there ‘7 steps’ or a process which the reader can be encouraged to follow?  Develop A Clear ‘Reader Journey’  Think about your target reader and what you want their reading experience to be like. Where does the reader’s personal journey begin? What will you ask them to do as they read the book? How will you guide them? How will they know that their journey has ended? Will it continue after they have finished reading? How will they embed new ways of thinking, speaking and doing things?  The reader of a self-help book should do more than merely read it – they must engage with it. They must invest something of themselves in the experience. Whether this means that your readers understand what you’ve written and compare it to their own experience (e.g. Branson), or that they undertake exercises to practice a new skill (e.g. Snyder), your readers will be demonstrating the change in behaviour that any good self-help book is there to encourage.  Remember, your book will only help a reader when they can see it is focused on their own journey towards a more fulfilling life, so it\'s important that your book appeals to them directly.   Understand Why You Are The Right Person To Write This Book  It’s easy to underestimate the responsibility that comes with writing a self-help book. You will be asking your reader to trust your instruction in a form of personal development which may carry some risk. For example, you may encourage them to try something which affects their mental health. Just as we would wish to assure ourselves of the qualifications of a doctor, plumber or pensions advisor, so too would we want to know that the author of a self-help book is worthy of our trust. It may be helpful – and it will certainly be necessary – to include your credentials.  If you aren’t qualified to tell others how to think, act or speak, it isn’t the end of the world. You may still have a book inside you such as a memoir about your own journey of self-discovery.  Tips For Writing Self-Help  The writing process is often challenging, so here are some tips to guide you through the process. Any repetition here is intended. Some things are worth saying twice.  It’s not (necessarily) about you  Some 60% of the self-help books that come my way for editing or consultation are largely autobiographical in nature. That is, they focus on the author’s own experience – the mistakes they made, the challenges they faced, and the solutions they implemented. Many infer a conclusion that the reader can succeed if they do as the author did.  Before turning personal experience into a self-help book, ask yourself, “Do I want my readers to learn how I succeeded, or how they can succeed for themselves?” Unless the book specifically addresses their needs, the reader may well ask, “How is this book relevant to my own journey of self-improvement?”  Engage the reader  Not everyone who reads a book expects to invest in the experience. A cheap novel may help a reader pass the time on a train. A self-help book requires the reader to participate. Although you may find it tiresome to develop exercises for your reader, it may well be necessary. At the very least, recognise that your reader expects you to engage and activate something inside of them that causes them to change.  Write authoritatively  You may be an acknowledged expert. Great! Draw on your experience to demonstrate your authority. But if you’re not, don’t pretend otherwise; the reader will know when you’re winging it.   Be honest with your reader. There’s telling and there’s teaching. They’re looking to you to help them learn new stuff. Whether your book’s about mental or emotional health, or re-building a 1968 MG Midget, your (hopefully practical) advice will have real-world consequences for your reader.  Don’t try to teach what you don’t fully understand yourself.   Be different  Between 1966 and 2021, there were 16,581 publications on the subject of mindfulness. How do you find a new way of entering the field? What hasn’t been tried yet? Can you create a metaphor for the subject or present it as fiction? Can you create a methodology which articulates something familiar in a more easily consumed way? Can you condense or expand the topic? Can you identify the outcomes that your readers really want to achieve by studying it? Can you teach the subject better than anyone else?  Prepare  It’s too easy to begin writing a self-help book without first giving thought to the big questions I have posed throughout this article. Don’t write any content until you’ve properly prepared. Settle on a clear objective that suits your own ambitions and those of your readers. Develop a structure. Familiarise yourself with the authorial voice you intend to use. Complement your own knowledge with research.  Frequently Asked Questions  Can Anyone Write A Self-Help Book?  There are only two essential qualifications to write a self-help book. First, you must have expertise in a subject matter about which others want to learn. Second, you must be able to write about it in a way that educates your reader. This requires clarity of expression and an engaging voice.  How Long Does It Take To Write A Self-Help Book?  It depends, but start with a plan.  List each step, including the development of the objectives and structure; a decision on your angle and authorial voice; the writing skills and time required; and the process of reviewing and editing each chapter. Don’t forget essential or possible research, and that it\'s crucial that you review and edit the entire book, which may require you to rewrite or restructure it. Against each step on your plan, place a realistic start and end date. Keep track and update the plan when things change (as they will!).  When, or if, you attract a publisher, it may take a further six months or so before you see it in print.  How Long Should A Self-Help Book Be?  The examples I’ve described above show how varied self-help books can be in look and feel. If your book achieves its objective in 50 pages, great. If it needs 200, so be it. What’s of greatest importance is that your book must satisfy the needs of its readers…  How Do I Know Whether My Self-Help Book Is Any Good?  Your readers will tell you! When you’ve edited your book to what you think is a reasonable standard, share it with others. Family and friends will all tell you it’s great, so take it to someone who’s likely to be more honest! Here at Jericho Writers, we provide plenty of fantastic services to help people just like you get into print.   Writing Self-Help Writing a self-help book is a bit like writing for children: it’s way harder than you think! However, with plenty of preparation, subject matter expertise and good communication skills, anyone can do it!  Good luck!

Character-Driven Vs Plot-Driven Stories: A Guide

Have you ever read a book that has kept you gripped throughout with its twisty or unique plot structure? Or perhaps you have been enthralled by a character-led story, that has fully engaged you in the minds and imaginations of others?  In this expert guide, we will explore the differences between character and plot-driven stories, learn how to decide which one to use, and we\'ll provide some tips to ensure you are using these methods in the best way possible.  Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will be able to recognise the difference between character and plot-led stories and be able to use these skills to make your writing even stronger.  What Is A Character-Driven Story?  In short, a character-driven story is one where the focus will be more on character development than on the plot. In these stories, you are more likely to feel fully engaged with the character and become more focused on their personal journey.  In a character-led story, the emphasis is on the character\'s emotions and the reasons why they make the choices and decisions that they do.   How then, does this differ from a plot-driven story?   What Is A Plot-Driven Story?  In plot-driven writing, the story will be more focused on action, with a developed and exciting plot. As a reader, you will be drawn into the action and the twists and turns of the changing circumstances that influence and motivate the characters.   So how do you choose between writing a character-driven story versus a plot-driven one? Plot Driven Vs Character Driven: Choosing Between Them The key difference between a plot-driven story and a character-driven one is that in a character-led narrative, the focus is more on the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist and the decisions that they make. Whereas, in plot-driven narratives, the action and occurrences that unfold will be the main point of focus. When writing character-driven stories, the plot is the mechanism used to develop character, and in plot-led stories, the character is used to view and comment on the plot.  Very often the type of genre that you are writing will help you decide whether your story would work better as a plot-driven, or character-driven piece. Many crime and thriller books tend to be plot-driven, as they are focused on the turn of events occurring around the character. Sci-fi and mystery books also tend to lean into the plot-driven space. In literary fiction, the emphasis is often on character-driven stories which develop interesting and compelling characters. However, it is important to remember that there are no rules to this and there are always exceptions.  Here are a few things that you might wish to consider when deciding whether your story should be plot-driven or character-driven.  What genre are you writing in?  What is your usual writing style – do you like to develop your characters in depth, or are you more drawn to the action and environment?  What are the overall messages and themes of the story? What would you like your reader to take away and learn? Something about the character’s growth? Or something about the events and actions that surround them?  What type of books do you most enjoy reading?   Plot-Driven Story Examples  Below are some examples of excellent plot-driven stories:  Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn  Gone Girl is a twisty, pacey thriller that relies on its dark and enticing plot to keep its readers on edge. Tension is built via external circumstances and the characters are very much influenced by the events around them.  The Lord Of The Rings – J R R Tolkien   The Lord of the Rings, like many fantasies, has wonderful world-building and a strong, engaging plot to keep readers engaged. Characters in this story are very much motivated and influenced by external driving forces and the imagined world they exist in.  1984 – George Orwell   1984 is another example of a book where extreme world events and external factors influence and drive the interesting characters of the story, leading them to make certain decisions and actions.   Tips For Writing A Plot-Driven Story   Focus on the external conflict. What are your characters striving for? What are they up against? What obstacles will they face?  Focus on the hooks. Where are the plot twists? How can your surprise your reader and keep them hooked?  Ensure the structure is tight and the plot points are marked out. In a plot-heavy story, you need to ensure that the story arc is carefully considered.  Character-Driven Story Examples  Here are some stories with character-driven plots: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman  This is a wonderful example of a book that truly focuses on a character’s development – exploring Eleanor\'s emotions and internal thoughts and using her moving backstory to drive the story forward.  Brick Lane – Monica Ali  Brick Lane is a wonderful character study, introducing a variety of vibrant and diverse individuals to the reader and exploring the complexity of real-life drama.  Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler  Anne Tyler is an expert at writing character-led and emotive pieces of work. In this example, we can experience her character\'s emotional journey through both reflection and insight.  Tips For Writing A Character-Driven Story   Focus on the internal conflict. What is your character battling with emotionally? What are their goals? Fears? Desires?   Create a backstory to ensure that you truly understand your character and can make them more compelling and engaging to the reader.  Consider your characters’ motivations. What are they looking to achieve in the story? Will their desires be fulfilled?  Develop a strong voice. In character-led stories, we need to be able to connect strongly with the protagonist. Consider how you can make their voice distinctive and believable. Frequently Asked Questions   What Is The Difference Between A Plot-Driven And A Character-Driven Story?   In a plot-driven story, the focus is on the action and activity surrounding the character, and a well-developed plot with external conflicts that challenge the main characters is crucial. In a character-driven story, the focus will be on the character\'s journey – their thoughts, feelings and emotions, and the inner conflict they are experiencing.   In short, when writing character-led stories – the plot is the device used to develop character, but in plot-led stories, the character is used to view and comment on the plot.  What Is The Relationship Between Plot And Character?  The plot is the device which moves the story forward, and the character embarks on their journey through these plot points – experiencing challenges (both external and internal) and obstacles along the way.  How Can You Tell If A Story Is Character Driven?   You can tell a story is character driven if it\'s mainly focused on the character’s internal conflict. You are more likely to experience character-driven writing in literary books and real-life accounts.  Writing Your Story In summary, it is important, as a writer, to explore the nuances of both character and plot-driven stories to work out which one is the best fit for you. There are no hard and fast rules here. It may be that a character-driven story suits your need to explore the character more fully and produce internal conflict. Alternatively, you might be writing a story that relies on lots of external conflict and finely tuned action points – in this instance, a plot-driven story will possibly suit you best.  It\'s important to note that many stories work with a combination of character and plot-driven sections, where there\'s character reflection and development leading into moments of more plot-focused work. It might be that a hybrid model suits you better, and many books successfully use this method.   The best thing to do, as a writer, is to experiment and play. Get those words on the page. Plan your next scenes. How do you want your reader to feel, what journey do you want to take them on?  Ultimately, have fun working out if your story is plot-led or character-led. As long as it\'s a good story, that’s all that matters. 

Oppositional Twins: Colm O’Shea’s Success in Academic and Indie Publishing

New York-based professor and writing tutor Colm O\'Shea has quite a diverse portfolio; from anthologised poetry to an academic monograph and a debut novel, both published at around the same time. After receiving an Opening Section Review from us, Colm had his first brush with indie publishing. His first novel, a speculative sci-fi titled Claiming de Wayke, was published by Crossroad Press in April 2022. We caught up with him about writing in different contexts and what querying looks like for the modern author. JW: Tell us a little about you and your history as a writer. What were your first major writing projects? I started writing for pleasure around age seven—short poems and stories composed on the fly in the schoolyard. Writing was an escape pod from whatever I was “supposed” to be doing, such as schoolwork. By my teens I wanted to take literature more seriously so I did a degree in English and Philosophy. Once you make your escape pod your permanent home, your relationship with it changes. Now writing is the thing you’re “supposed” to be doing, and if you’re like me you start looking for a way to escape that. I got good at composing college essays about other people’s writing as a way of avoiding writing my own fiction or poetry – and this led to a Ph.D. thesis on the work of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. In that strange book, there are two brothers, Shem and Shaun. Shem is a cartoon mess of a creative writer (full of self-loathing and doubt), and Shaun is a pompous, know-it-all professor. These contrasting personalities struck me as a possible solution to my need to use writing always an escape from what I’m supposed to be doing. Once you make your escape pod your permanent home, your relationship with it changes.  Now I split my time between being a professor—someone who teaches and writes critical analyses—and a fiction writer and poet. Creative writing is my escape from my teaching and research, and my teaching/research helps me avoid taking my fiction and poetry too seriously. I’m amused that my first two books have come at the same time, one being a sci-fi novel about a mess of a man who is full of self-doubt (with Wayke in the title) and the other being an academic monograph about Finnegans Wake. The two books complement each other: a set of oppositional twins. JW: Your first sci-fi novel, ‘Claiming De Wayke’, was published in June 2022. Can you tell us about your journey to publication? I wrote the novel about ten years ago. It’s set in the wake of a respiratory pandemic, and explores how some people are in a rush to return to business-as-normal while others wish to remain hiding in a virtual reality universe. I sent it out to a few agents and got the cold shoulder, and reluctantly I gave up. I told myself: Stop kidding yourself that you can write fiction. And maybe this happens to everyone, but in the years that followed I kept seeing films and books released that reminded me of things in my own book—it felt like a series of gut punches. Then the pandemic hit, and I saw various factions squabbling over how to handle it (as happens in my novel), so I thought the time had come to revisit the manuscript. I’d been lurking on the Jericho Writers’ site for a while, consuming their free content, and decided to invest in their Agent Submission Pack Review (my query game was abysmal). After that review, I got requests from agents for the full MS—this was a major shot in the arm! I decided to splurge on getting an Opening Section Review, and was paired with sci-fi writer Alma Alexander. She helped me pare down flabby sections and clarify some murky exposition. To my surprise, Alma said it was such a good debut that if I didn’t find a publisher then she would publish it herself. That vote of confidence from someone (not a family member, but an actual writer) freed me from a lot of stress and self-doubt. Their slushpile functions like Tinder: they’re sifting through endless submissions and swiping left on almost everything that doesn’t conform at a glance to a precise—but constantly changing—set of demands. I kept submitting to agents, but now they were saying things like “This is good writing, but no one wants to read about a pandemic now that we’re in one.” I thought about how much time I had spent querying agents, as opposed to working on my writing. I don’t know what it’s like to be an agent, and I’m sure they’re good people and know their job, but from my perspective it felt like you have to be the literary equivalent of photogenic to catch their attention. Their slushpile functions like Tinder: they’re sifting through endless submissions and swiping left on almost everything that doesn’t conform at a glance to a precise—but constantly changing—set of demands. It can feel like anything odd or misshapen, or not perfectly on trend, is ignored. And being told you’re “nearly attractive” is not comforting—it’s infuriating! I went sobbing to my editor Alma and she surprised me again by acting as a matchmaker, setting up a meeting with an indie publisher who offered me a contract. You hear about luck being a factor in success, but in my case that’s particularly true—I have a fairy godmother. Claiming de Wayke, Colm O\'Shea (Crossroad Press, 2022) JW: How have you found the experience of working with an indie publisher? My novel has only recently come out, and my experience is specific to one publisher, so results may vary. A major upside was the terms of my contract: I get 75% of profits. (I’ve seen traditional publishers offering 10% or less.) For a Luddite such as myself, a bonus was that I didn’t need to navigate the technical demands of getting the book formatted for Kindle or deal with printing. Also, I got to design the book cover—or to be more accurate, I was able to enlist James Guinnevan Seymour, a wonderful Irish illustrator whose work seemed to speak the language of my story, to create it with my specific input. This creative control might appeal to some writers whereas others could see it as a hassle. Finally - and this is the worst part of indie publishing from my perspective - I’m largely responsible for marketing. This is a major hole in my skillset. I’m hoping to learn more from sites like Jericho about how to market work that’s already published or about to be published in the future. JW: Do you have any advice for writers looking to finish their books or query agents?  If you studied literature in college, then you might be at a disadvantage! I’m only half-joking—when I studied English, the focus was very much on literary theories and finding thematic elements to analyse. For some young fiction writers, this might train them to craft things for a more academic audience who are interested in reading for concepts. I wish I’d found Jericho Writers sooner so I could have got my head around this a few decades ago. Seeking out agents and publishers has taught me that the market is crowded, highly competitive, and, as a consequence, focused on lean, engaging, high-concept fiction. It seems to me that contemporary fiction increasingly resembles screenplay, and many agents are looking for novels that would adapt well to the screen. There are obvious exceptions, but the sprawling interiority of the 19th-century novel, and the experimentalism of 20th-century modernism, has largely been supplanted by could-be-a-film-script prose. Lucid, tantalizing pitches reign supreme in this landscape. I was probably in denial about this, and Jericho Writers helped me face it head-on. A Tinder-like situation might not be ideal, but it doesn’t have to stop you—not if you can train yourself to think in terms of legible, intriguing pitches. I wish I’d found Jericho Writers sooner so I could have got my head around this a few decades ago. At a minimum, if your manuscript is nearly finished and you’re about to submit to agents, I’d suggest that you get someone skilled to have a careful look at your query letter. The world is full of agents itching to swipe right on you. About Colm Colm O’Shea teaches essay writing at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. His poetry has been anthologized in Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: An Oxford Anthology of New Writing (Blackwell). His first novel, Claiming De Wayke,is available from Crossroad Press, and his book on sacred/morbid geometry in Finnegans Wake, James Joyce’s Mandala, is from Routledge. Visit him at colmoshea.com

Types Of Stories: Plot Lines To Shape Your Book

We’ve had a Cinderella who’s tormented by her stepmother and step sisters to do household chores, until her life changes upon marrying the prince. We’ve also had a Cinderella who chooses her dream of being a fashion designer over marrying the prince. These are rather different, key plotlines to the same story of a damsel in distress.  Stories are essentially archetypes, or building blocks, upon which various plots can be structured. Pretty much whatever story we come up with, chances are, someone’s already written it.   Does that disappoint you? Don’t fret. It doesn’t mean your story is unoriginal, only that an archetype already exists for the narrative you’re taking your story through. That isn\'t surprising when you consider the fact that human beings have been telling stories since the beginning of time. When you think of a story you’d like to write, there are a few different ways it could go. Using a story type, consciously, is an excellent way to get started and stay true to and anchored in the authenticity of your plot.   In this article, we’ll not only help you understand what story types or plot lines are, but also guide you on how to use them consciously in your writing, and we’ll also look into the pros and cons of using them.   What Are The Main Story Types?  Many writers tout the brilliance of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker. The book is an essential guide for beginners looking to start somewhere and is an inspiration board for pros looking to feed their creative intellect. Even if you have never heard of this book, you will have come across these seven story types- the master plots- simply by reading various stories.   Here are the seven main story/plot types: Overcoming The Monster  Often, overcoming the monster isn’t literal. It could be a psychological overcoming of inner demons. It might not even be the main plot, but rather the subplot used to worsen a situation for the character(s). Whether the monster is literal or psychological, this plot type follows the arc of anticipation, frustration, and escape. The characters anticipate the arrival of the monster and they dream of defeating it, only to find out, to their utter frustration, that it’s nearly impossible to do. When they try harder, things only get nightmarishly bad, before something they do clicks and they’re able to defeat or escape the monster.    Rags To Riches  Nearly every famous and inspirational person that ever wrote an autobiography or memoir has used their rags-to-riches story as the narrative in their book. It’s one of the most relatable experiences – to be broke and then to gain success. Self-help gurus and life coaches frequently use this plotline to inspire and pump up the underdog.  The Quest  In the quest story type, the characters have a mission to complete – find an object/person or pursue an objective. And along the way, they’ll need to navigate obstacles, which is why adventure stories frequently fall under this category. These challenges may be nearly fatal, and the characters have to overcome them in order to accomplish their objective.  Voyage And Return  In a voyage and return story, the protagonist is literally sent to a foreign place from which they will return wiser and stronger. The unfamiliarity of the foreign place induces challenges for the protagonist to tackle. The idea here is to help the character grow into a more mature version of themselves, through varied life experiences in the new land. This type is featured in many stories. Rebirth  This one sounds almost religious, doesn’t it? Though it is, indeed, a prevalent concept in many religions across the world, a rebirth story arc can simply be about a transformation the protagonist undergoes. This is a narrative that focuses on the radical changes the character will have to make in order to have a good life and be happy. Even with a literal rendition of the rebirth storyline, the aim is still to get the character to change, grow and lead a better life this time around.   Comedy  Comedic plotlines are great tools for reflecting on the ways of society, no matter which century or decade, or which city or country we’re looking at. Comedy is usually induced through subversion, exaggeration, absurdity, and confusion.  Tragedy  Tragedy is like the antithesis of the ‘overcoming the monster’ plotline. The protagonists set themselves up for an epic failure. They fail to overcome the monster, so to speak. The main character decides that they must rise to a challenging situation, only for things to go wrong. The tragic story type is rife with emotional content and follows the arc of anticipation, frustration, and despair. Only, instead of an escape at the end, there’s pain and destruction.   Using Story Types: Pros And Cons  Story types are broad narrative categories that most stories can be pegged on. But they don\'t work for everyone. If you do use them, it\'s important to remember that you can veer away from them as much as you like. It\'s your story! Here are some of the pros and cons of using story types in your writing:  Pros  If you’re unsure what to write about, looking at story types for inspiration is a great start. They help you look at the big picture and the themes you could explore.   If you have your story type picked, then you have a general idea of the shape and the broadest arc of your story, which makes writing easier. If you\'ve lost momentum, and are eager to get writing again, story types can help you see if there’s a narrative you’ve not tried before.  If you\'ve finished your book and want to pitch it to an agent, you’ll need to know the broader storyline and major themes you’ve written about. So, knowing your story type(s) is essential.  Cons  If you’re a seasoned author, story types might be a little too basic.   Story types can feel restricting if you plan your plot in detail before you write. Some aspects may feel forced and inauthentic to your protagonist. (Remember, story types are guides, feel free to make adjustments!) Stories rarely ever contain just one narrative. Often, it’s a blend of many. Figuring out which one’s the master story type in your book can be confusing.  Examples Of Different Types Of Stories  Now that we’ve discussed what the seven types of stories can do for your writing, let’s explore a few examples.   The Pursuit Of Happyness  While Bram Stoker’s Dracula had the iconic vampire hunter Van Helsing slaying (the monster) Count Dracula, it might not always be so literal. It might not even be the main story type at play; it could be a subplot. The memoir The Pursuit Of Happyness is actually a single father’s rags-to-riches story, but throughout, the man tries to overcome his psychological ‘monster’ – fear of poverty and failure. His struggle to defeat his inner demons makes the story relatable and compelling.  King Richard  The 2021 film starring Will Smith, King Richard, does this rags-to-riches story of a classic underdog as humbly as possible. It’s all too easy for this type of story to get corny, but the movie’s plot avoids this by staying true to the storyline; it focuses on Venus Williams, instead of Serena Williams, and ends at the beginning (rather than the pinnacle) of the tennis player’s stellar career.   Eat, Pray, Love  The iconic memoir Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert has the subtitle ‘one woman’s search for everything’. This effectively captures the ‘quest’ story type the memoir is anchored to. The protagonist travels around the world to shake things up and catapult herself into a more conscious life. The clarity in her writing is a reflection of how she’s anchored her story to the ‘quest’ narrative, making it a classic example of that story type. The Midnight Library  Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library is arguably the most soulful rendition of the ‘rebirth’ story type. Metaphysically so. Forlorn and hopeless, Nora Seed attempts suicide. In her near-death state, her soul goes into a library of all the lives she could ever live and she ultimately chooses the one that’s right for her. This rebirth narrative is candidly human and introspective.  Dark Matter  The thriller Dark Matter by Blake Crouch follows the ‘journey and return’ story type. The protagonist is content with his life, albeit wistful about not being ‘successful enough’. He is catapulted into his worst nightmare when that wistful thinking lands him in a life where he’s a celebrated particle physicist, but his wife is not his wife and his son was never born! This ‘journey and return’ narrative has you going on a mind-bending tour of the infinite possibilities resulting from longing and the fear of missing out.  Night  Elie Wiesel’s Night is perhaps one of the most gut-wrenching memoirs ever to be written about the Holocaust. That it is based on the ‘tragedy’ story type is a given; after all, it’s a sombre memory of the narrator Eliezer. Though the protagonist manages to escape the concentration camp in the end, there isn’t any true relief. He emerges traumatised and grief-stricken. The tragedy really comes through in the memoir’s rhetorical question: how do you deal with the failure of humanity, when you are its victim?  The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy   If you haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, then you haven’t lived! The 20th-century author Douglas Adams paired science fiction with the ‘comedy’ story type to explore the idiocy and selfishness of the human condition. When a character, who is abducted by his inter-galactic travelling friend, realises billions of people on earth have died to make way for a galactic freeway, but faints when he realises that there’s no such thing as McDonald’s anymore, you know this book is going to be entertaining.   How To Use Story Types As Inspiration  Using different types of stories consciously in your writing is a great way to get some momentum. Here\'s how you can utilise the seven story types:  If you are struggling to structure your book at the conceptual stage, then, all you need to do is figure out which one is your overarching story type, which one is your subplot, and what major themes you’ll be exploring under them. Eg: In Eat, Pray, Love, ‘quest’ is the overarching story type, ‘journey and return’ is the subplot, and eating-praying-loving are the major themes. The structure of this book is truly off the charts!  Combine two story types in an unlikely genre. Eg: The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy clubs ‘comedy’ and ‘overcoming the monster in the science fiction genre. What an unlikely combination and delight!  Once you have figured out which story types are best for your book, try using different character\'s perspectives for inspiration: For ‘overcoming the monster’, play the faithful sidekick  For ‘rags to riches’, play the fairy godparent  For ‘the quest’, play the life coach  For ‘voyage and return’, play the travel assistant  For ‘comedy’, play the matchmaker  For ‘tragedy’, play the grief counsellor  For ‘rebirth’, play the initiating priest  Top Tips  If at the planning stage, the story types feel restrictive, that’s a good thing. This will keep you from overthinking and make things simpler. You can always add complexity later on! If you feel your story has more than one story type, then you’re probably right. All you need to do is figure out which one is the main story type and which one is the subplot.   Frequently Asked Questions  What Are The 7 Types Of Stories?  The 7 types of stories are ‘overcoming the monster’, ‘rags to riches’, ‘the quest’, ‘voyage/journey and return’, ‘rebirth’, ‘tragedy’, and ‘comedy’. What Are The Elements Of A Story?   In the broadest sense, a story is the bigger picture and the plot its finer details. A story generally consists of an overarching story type, a second story type as its subplot, two or three major themes, a clear voice, and character development. How Do You Write A Good Story?   A good story is more in the planning than the inspiration. Looking into the seven types of stories is a good way to shape your ideas. Then you can start writing, honing in on the key elements, and editing your story as you craft a book you can be proud of. Story Types Creative work of any kind can benefit from having a framework. Story types are vital for anchoring your plot. Whether or not you know the finer details of your plot yet, if you know the story types you’re going to use, you’re sure to have a strong foundation.

Memoir Writing Prompts To Spark Inspiration

What Is A Memoir?  A memoir is, quite literally, a memory – a record written from personal knowledge or experience. It’s a form that complies with that great piece of advice, “write about what you know!”  A memoir gives us the opportunity to explore major life events or a singular subject in as much detail as possible. Of course, by virtue of being shorter, a single memoir can stand on its own, or become part of a bigger collection such as an autobiography. Whether your memoir is about a time in your life that was brief yet significant, or depicts your entire life, having some memoir ideas to hand can be helpful for every memoir writer. Like any other piece of creative writing, a memoir needs to succeed in maintaining the reader’s engagement throughout. Knowing which memory to pick is often the most pressing challenge. These 50 prompts will get your creative juices flowing, whether you\'re writing about an important life lesson, the most influential person in your life, or are detailing your family history. 50 Memoir Writing Prompts  Prompts To Prepare You  1. Keep a journal. Capture events so that they’re there for you in 20 years’ time. What’s more, journal keeping is a discipline that maintains a writing practice.  2. Find inspiration in photographs. A picture can help us recall past events. Take a look at your phone. What were you doing 5 years ago today? Use the ‘search’ facility to find something obscure – a cherry, a ski, an ice cream. What memories do the images evoke?  3. Interview people. Friends and family, especially the elderly, are not only full of memories but also often keen to share them. Make a cup of tea and, with their permission, turn on a discrete voice or video recorder while you chat about the past.  4. Take inspiration from the space around you. What keepsakes do you have around you right now? Are they connected in any way? What story do they tell about you?  5. Identify the story. An event may be of great interest but what stories are there to tell? What happened before and after the event? What impact did it have on you and others?  6. Recall a moment of conflict. Disagreements make for drama, and dramatic tension keeps a reader engaged.  7. Write about a moment or period of emotional change. Think of a time when you moved between happiness and sadness. Engaging drama is about emotional transition…  8. Write about transformation. Can you recall a moment when your fundamental beliefs and opinions about something were changed? Perhaps you suddenly started – or stopped – believing in God?  9. Identify who you’re writing for. What questions would they have about the memories you’re describing?  Prompts To Inspire You  Things That Matter To Us All  10. Life and/or death. There’s little else of such significance. Have you had a near-death experience? What is your experience of witnessing birth or death?  11. What is your experience of good and ill health? Have you ever been diagnosed with a significant condition? In what way did it change you, physically, mentally and emotionally? How were those around you affected by it?  12. When did you first (or last!) fall in love? Who, or what, was it with?  13. Comedy or tragedy? Drama exists in both. Can you write about a funny situation? What caused it? What impression did it leave on you or others? If you can bring yourself to write about tragedy, how did it affect you? Was the process of writing about it cathartic? You 14. Imagine that you meet a younger version of yourself. What impression do you have of them and they of you? What lesson would you share with them? What might they tell you that you’ve lost sight of over the years?  15. Can you recall a moment when you overcame your fear of something? Perhaps you asked someone out for a drink, or spoke in front of an audience, or abseiled down a cliff…?  16. Were you ever betrayed? Or did you betray someone else? How did it feel? Did you regret it, or was it in some way the right thing to do? Did it have a lasting impact on your life?  17. What has been the most exciting moment of your life, your happiest memory? Why did it thrill you so much?   18. Who or what did you want to be when you were younger? How did that ambition drive you? Did you achieve your wishes? What do you feel now that you are older?  19. What books or films influenced you most when you were growing up? Why, and in what way?  20. Are you a subject matter expert in something? Do you collect stamps? Do you breed cats? Have you been into space? Have you been through the criminal justice system?  21. What do you wish you could have discovered or learned as you were growing up? Why would it have been important to you now?  22. Looking back at your childhood, what seems odd or unusual to you? In what ways did it contribute to who you are today? Think about your earliest memory. 23. Get someone else to describe you in three words. How does their view compare with your own impression of yourself? What do you keep private and what do you share? Why?  24. What makes you laugh and cry? What themes connect these things? What do they tell you about yourself?   25. At what moment in your life have you felt most loved, and most alone? When was that? Are they related in some way? How did those moments change you?  26. What cause or person would you die for? Does anything or anyone matter to you so much that you would die for it/them? Is death a price worth paying?  27. What keeps you awake at night? Why? Have you ever sought to overcome it? Can you share a recollection of when you first worried about it?  28. What are your insecurities? Do you worry about your looks, your confidence or money? Why? When did your insecurity first manifest itself? Have you ever tried to overcome it?   29. Write about a moment when you made a significant choice. Perhaps you proposed or were proposed to. In hindsight, was your response the right one? What choices would you like to face again, and why? 30. Your heroes. Have you ever met them? Did they live up to your expectations? How did you feel about them afterwards? In what way did their actions, behaviours and beliefs affect you?  31. When did reality not meet your expectations? Was university not what you wanted it to be? When was a blind date a bit of a letdown?  32. What are the best and worst pieces of advice you’ve ever received, or offered? Is advice a good thing?  33. Can you describe a moment when you didn’t do something which, with hindsight, you regret? Why does it still matter to you? How would your life have changed if you had done something differently?  34. Find the drama in an accident and bring it to life for your reader. What happened? Who was involved? What was the outcome? What changed as a result?  35. Which incident in your life hurt you more than any other? Why did it hurt so much? What effect has it had on the rest of your life?   36. Describe something memorable that you did for the very first time. What drove you to do it? How did you feel before, during and after doing it?  Relationships  37. The poet Philip Larkin famously wrote, “They **** you up, your mum and dad.” Write about family relationships; they’re full of drama.  38. How have your parents’ relationships with you and with one other affected your own personal relationships?   39. Write about your relationship with your siblings. What rivalries and friendships were there? If you were an only child, what are your reflections on being brought up alone?  40. Write about a friend. How did you meet them? What was the attraction? In what ways are they different from you?  41. Write about a stranger. How did you meet? Did you remain in touch? Why is it that you remember them?  42. Who from your own family’s history would you most like to meet? What would you ask them? What would you most like to tell or show them?  Day To Day  43. Which part of the world would you revisit? What makes you long to return? How does that place make you feel?  44. Write about moving in or out of somewhere you have lived. What surprised you? What went well, or not so well? What has been the legacy of that day?  45. What did you buy with your first-ever paycheque? Why? Do you still have it? What would you buy with an equivalent amount of money today?  Prompts To Improve Your Writing  46. Write about the sensual aspects of memory. What you saw is important, but what are the tastes, smells and sounds that you remember? Did you touch anything? Help your reader feel what you felt.  47. Show, don’t tell. You could write that someone was upset. Or you could describe how a tear gathered on the tip of their nose as they stared resolutely at the ground.  48. Don’t wait! Did you just create a memory? Capture it in a draft as soon as you can to encapsulate the present moment.  49. Just the facts…? The facts provide the structure around which the memoir hangs. But what engages a reader is the way in which the facts are presented and described. So, dig down to uncover or recall how you were changed by what happened.  50. Use metaphors and similes. Need to write about war? Perhaps you could pick out the tale of two neighbours on opposite sides of the conflict. Want to describe a complex emotion? Try comparing your own experience to something with which a reader may be familiar.  Frequently Asked Questions  Do Memoirs Have To Be 100% True?  If it’s a personal memory, artistic licence is acceptable – it’s your memoir. But if you’re writing about a shared memory – a football match, a funeral, a wedding – take care that any facts are verifiable. If the reader finds something to be untruthful, the authenticity of the entire piece may be undermined. But whether personal or private, great memoirs are enriched by the author’s own insights and reflections.  How Do I Begin A Memoir?  Wherever possible, try to find the most reliable and truthful source.  Like all good stories, a memoir should have a beginning, a middle and an end. A collection of memories – an autobiography – can benefit from some careful curation but, at its simplest, can follow events as they took place over time.  What Makes A Memoir Successful?  At least three things will engage your reader. First, the subject matter must be of interest. Find the common human themes in the story such as love, romance, revenge or conflict. Second, articulate how it felt to experience what was happening at the time. Emotions are a common language that allow people to connect. Third, write it as well as you possibly can. The better the standard of writing, the easier it will be for the reader to slip into your story.  Memoir Writing Capture your memories. Start today! Take photos, keep a diary, talk with your friends and family and – importantly – listen!  Try using one memoir writing prompt, or combine them to find the inspiration you need to get started. Polish your writing until it sparkles! 

What Is Narrative Writing? A Comprehensive Guide

Fundamentally, narrative writing connects events in our stories using character, conflict, plot, setting and theme to create a narrative writing arc.  Throughout this article, I will highlight different types of narrative writing. I will also explain the six key elements that make up narrative writing and why they are crucial.   I will also offer some tips on how to use narrative structure in your own writing effectively.   What Is Narrative Writing? Narrative writing is, quite literally, exactly what it says on the tin. Narrative writing is a structure of storytelling told in a narrative manner. Only, nothing is really that simple when it comes to the world of writing, is it?   There is so much more to learn about how the rules of narrative writing could help elevate your own work in progress.   It doesn’t matter if you are writing fiction, non-fiction, short stories, descriptive essays or full-length novels, narrative writing utilises the six key elements of writing to convey a story to a reader, often using the age-old technique of writing a ‘beginning, middle and end’ (linear) structure. But not always… narrative writing can also be non-linear!  I told you it wasn’t as simple as you may have first thought.   Think back to your school days. We were taught the basics of storytelling from a young age, and we were taught at first to write in a narrative format. We were being taught how ‘tell a story’.   Over the years we develop ways to make those stories more compelling, more complex, and sometimes more emotional, but at the heart of it, we were learning narrative structure.   Linear Narrative Writing Vs Non-Linear Narrative Writing  Before we talk about the key elements that all narrative writing relies on, it’s important to know the difference between linear and non-linear narrative writing. Overall, there are five different styles of narrative writing, but understanding the difference between linear and non-linear is crucial, as each of the others can be written in either of these sub-styles.   Linear Narrative What Is A Linear Narrative?  Linear narrative describes a structure of narrative writing that follows a traditional pattern. It\'s a narration that tells a story of events in the order in which they occur, in sequence.   Linear narrative is the most common form of writing and is the most basic of structures, following a story in a continuous fashion from beginning to end, describing events as they happen.  A writer will still use all six key elements of narrative writing to complete the structure, but they\'ll stick to a flow that unfolds in a chronological manner.   What Is The Benefit Of Writing In A Linear Narrative Style?  When writing in a linear style, character arcs and causation are easily identifiable on the page. As humans, we lead linear lives, so to see this replicated on the page can often create an instant sense of understanding with a reader.   What Is An Example Of A Linear Narrative In Fiction?  An obvious example of a linear narrative can be found in Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. The entire novel is written in a linear fashion. Although Crusoe often remarks about memories of the past, we are propelled through the novel in chronological order.  Non-Linear Narrative What Is A Non-Linear Narrative?  Non-linear narrative is the direct opposite of linear narrative. This structure of narrative writing presents a story with events unfolding out of order.   The events in the narrative/story are not told chronologically and will often make use of devices such as flashbacks to transport the reader back (or indeed forward) in time.  What Are The Benefits Of Writing In A Non-Linear Style?  Non-linear writing can be trickier to pull off and the writer must be careful not to use ‘flashbacks’ to info-dump on the reader. However, if successfully used, a non-linear structure allows a writer to tell a story, slowly releasing information from the past to highlight issues in the present, or even hint at possible issues in the future.   Non-linear writing can help to represent changes in your character\'s emotional state, or even highlight reasons why your character is acting a certain way. For example, if past traumas resurface, highlighting these will give your characters depth and help create a strong character arc.   Non-linear writing can also be used to create and build suspense. For example, Donna Tartt opens The Secret History by telling us about a murder, but then takes us back to events before the murder, making us wait for the story to unfold to find out what events lead up to the killing.  What Is An Example Of A Non-Linear Narrative In Fiction?  There are many examples I could use as fabulous examples of non-linear writing in contemporary novels, but one such novel that sticks out for me is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. In this novel, although the two magicians are battling a jealous rivalry, they move between different points in time to highlight the rivalry over the decades. A clever non-linear structure can move through weeks, months, years and sometimes even decades if done well.   Key Elements Of Narrative Writing Now that we understand the two main areas of narrative writing style, it is time to look into the elements of story writing that can be utilised to ensure you carry out this style of writing effectively.   Irrespective of whether you are writing a linear or non-linear narrative structure, six key elements are used to create this style of writing. These same six elements remain the same, in both fiction and non-fiction writing.   The six key narrative elements:   Character  Plot  Setting  Conflict  Theme  Narrative Arc  Using these six elements accurately will help create both linear and non-linear narratives.   It is important to know what each of these are and how they work together.   Let’s take one of our previous examples and break them down. We\'ll use the example of Donna Tartt\'s A Secret History. Character Characters are the people in the story that propel it forward using the plot.  One of the most important aspects of narrative fiction is character development.   In A Secret History – Richard Papen is the narrator and protagonist (main character).    In this novel, we see Richard as a young graduate student in California. Over the course of the novel, we follow his story and character development as he pursues his ambitions.   Although we are using an example of fiction here, character development through narrative writing in non-fiction is just as important. If you want your reader to follow your story, you have to create a reason for them to be invested. A strong sense of character does just that.   It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or non-fiction, the main point of narrative writing is to create an interesting story, and you can’t create a story without character.   By the end of your narrative writing piece, your character should have been on a journey, told in story form, with the development of this character being the driving force for the narrative.   Plot The plot is the thread of events that create the story you are telling.   Let’s go back to The Secret History. It is, at its heart, an inverted detective story narrated by Richard Papen, one of the six students involved in the murder of their friend Edmund ‘Bunny’ Corcoran.  Whether you are writing a space opera fiction novel, or a biography on King Henry IIIV, narrative writing is at its core a ‘story’. To have a functioning story, be it in a linear or non-linear form, your characters need to have a plot to follow.   Make sure you ask yourself ‘why is this story important?’ and ‘why am I using these characters to tell this story?’   Setting Setting is crucial in any written work. If you are writing historical non-fiction, making sure you describe the settings is crucial in narrative writing. After all, if all your readers want is ‘facts’, they can get them in an academic text. They are reading narrative non-fiction to feel more of a connection to the story.   Let’s go back to Donna Tartt and The Secret of History again. Set against the backdrop of a liberal arts college in New England in the 1980’s, the setting of this novel reveals just as much about the characters themselves as the plot of the novel.   Conflict Conflict is the problem at the heart of your work that needs to be resolved.   The conflict in The Secret History is clear, and centres around the death of ‘Bunny’.   The conflict in your narrative writing will help clarify your themes.   If you are hoping to create a sense of tension within your narrative writing, conflict is crucial. You can choose to create conflict between characters, or even use setting to show conflict between worlds, but making sure the conflict at the centre of your plot is strong will be what your narrative fiction lives or dies on.  Theme  Theme is arguably the most important of all narrative elements. You are telling a story, that much we know, but what is the moral of that story?   What do you as a writer want the reader to be asking?   In A Secret History, there are a few main themes working together. Tartt wants the reader to understand and examine the consequences of secrets, the superficiality of appearances, the dangers of isolation and reality versus illusion. Tartt uses character, plot and conflict to ensure these themes are strong on the page.   Themes are essential in all styles of writing. It doesn’t matter if you are writing in a linear or non-linear fashion, your themes will be vital to telling the story. Remember, you are telling a story, ask yourself, what lessons do you hope to share?   Narrative Arc Narrative arc is how we describe the story structure.   In almost all works of fiction, a narrative arc is a fundamental building block for what makes a good novel. To create a narrative arc, you need to consider who your character is, what it is they want in the story you are creating, what conflict they will encounter, how they will resolve that conflict and how those lessons will culminate in a satisfying ending. Essentially, you take all of the other elements of narrative writing to create an arc that leaves your reader satisfied.   Types Of Narrative Writing Although we have already discussed the difference between linear and non-linear narrative writing, there are three other main areas of narrative writing.   Historical narrative writing  Viewpoint narrative writing  Quest narrative writing  Historical Narrative Writing Historical narrative writing is how we describe the writing of historical events in a story-based format.  Historical narrative writing is most commonly found in biographical and autobiographical historical writings, but can also be seen as fiction such as historical romance, and historical fiction novels.  Historical narratives can often include ‘primary source material’ which will present first-hand accounts and knowledge, often in the form of diary entries, letters or personal memories in an autobiographical, biographical or memoir style.  Historical writing is used to help tell a story about a past event, which can be told through the eyes of a fictional character, or through the eyes of an important historical figure.   Historical narrative fiction is an interesting topic because despite many believing that historical events are factual, the way we view history can be clouded by our own perceptions, and opinions, and coloured by our own experiences.   One aspect that most historical narratives have in common is the use of the structure to show a chain reaction of events that happen over a long and extended period of time. Many historical narrative writings will skip large chunks of time between events and refer to time periods often.  Historical narrative fiction and historical non-fiction require a lot of research but can be some of the most interesting forms of writing. Only through the past can we learn about the future, so shaping these events on the page for readers can truly be rewarding.   Viewpoint Narrative Writing The main point of viewpoint narrative in writing, is to show and understand multiple view points of the same story. Each of the separate points of view will show each individual\'s own opinions and can be written in a linear or non-linear fashion.   This style of narrative is incredibly strong and is used often in fiction writing. With multiple POVs, we are able to experience the same issues and conflicts from multiple angles.  Limiting the point of view in a scene to one character can make a reader feel closer to the action, but you can choose how much information you are giving your reader by limiting or expanding the points of view in your work.   Similarly, if you are writing from one point of view only, you can create real empathy within your reader; a true and strong connection. But what if you want to create doubt within your reader, or include an unreliable character? Multiple viewpoints will allow you to explore more emotions in a much wider way.   Viewpoint narrative can be incredibly effective, withholding information, creating suspense and even creating desire within your reader can all be achieved just by playing with a viewpoint narrative.  Quest Narrative Writing Quest narrative writing is a structure that follows a protagonist as they work towards achieving a goal. In many cases, this narrative will showcase characters tackling multiple obstacles that are placed in their way as they continue towards the end of their journey.   More often than not, a quest narrative will see characters travel geographical distances while battling issues that threaten to throw them off course.   A very obvious example of a quest narrative would be that of Bilbo Baggins in the popular novel The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien. We read along as Bilbo travels, in a fairly linear fashion, with his companions to reclaim lost gold. The quest takes them across vast expanses of land and across territories, facing many conflicts and crises along the way before they are able to complete their journey.    In order for a quest narrative to be successful, the protagonist must have a place to go, a reason to go there, challenges they will face along the way and a realisation at the end of the story as to what the real reason for their quest was.   How To Craft A Strong Narrative A strong narrative writing piece, no matter which style you chose, needs to capture the imagination and attention of your reader. After that, you need to consider that if your readers are searching out and reading narrative work, they are asking to be told a story. Don’t forget that. Always refer back to the good ole days, sat round a campfire telling stories with friends. The stories you tell must be compelling and memorable and, most of all, they must be complete. You must have a beginning, a middle and an end– even if they don’t necessarily come in that order. A strong and well-written piece of narrative writing should profoundly impact your reader in some memorable way.   Before you set to work on your narrative writing piece, consider these points.  First, decide what the story is that you are telling. If you can’t nail that in a few sentences (at the very most) you won’t be able to convey that story to your reader.  Decide which structure is going to work best for your work. Linear vs non-linear.   Walk through the six elements of narrative fiction and make sure you are clear on each point.   Identify the audience you hope to reach and make sure you are using the tone, mood and setting to create a piece of work that will grab the attention of your chosen audience.  Determine the ‘arc’ of your narrative writing piece. Remember: Exposition (the reader\'s introduction to your story)  Rising action (when the conflict will arise and show itself)  Climax  Falling action  Resolution  Remember, to create a sense of satisfaction in your reader, a completed arc is important. Fiction, or non-fiction, narrative writing always has a story at its heart – so make sure you can resolve the story.  Narrative Writing Tips I was given some amazing narrative writing tips by a fabulous creative writing teacher when I was younger, and I have never forgotten them. They apply to all kinds of narrative writing, whether you\'re writing a novel, short story, or narrative essay. Today, I pass them on to you!  Be mindful of your themes, always. Make sure they are clear in your mind throughout the entire writing process and reinforce them often. You can use setting, tone, language and imagery to do this, but always have your themes at the forefront of your mind . Set the tone of your work at the beginning, and use keywords along the way to reinforce this. For example, narrative writing can be humorous but make sure that humour is peppered throughout. If your narrative work is dark and mournful, make sure you create areas of shade to let your reader breathe and take in the moments of darkness.  Play with language. Always. As humans, we constantly look for different ways to explain the world around us. Imagine you are narrating the story yourself, don’t use the same words over and over again, and explore language in the same way we do in life. It will ensure your work feels more authentic.   Always keep your eye on the prize. You know the ending before you even start the novel. You are narrating a full story, so keep the ending in mind as you write and create milestones along the way so your reader feels they are enjoying the journey with you.   Write often, even if it’s only a little. And read even more than that.   Talk to yourself– I am serious!  Talk to yourself. Embody one of your characters and spend a day narrating your life through their eyes. Hearing how you narrate your own life will help you find a flow in which to narrate the story in your head.   Read your work out loud. Often. Narrative writing is meant to be narrated. So, narrate it. If it doesn’t feel or sound right to you, re-think things a little. Imagine what it would sound like if it was read back to you around a campfire.   Frequently Asked Questions What Is The Main Purpose Of Narrative Writing? At its heart, the main purpose of narrative writing is to tell a story. It really is that simple. A beginning, a middle and an end – but not necessarily always in that order.   What Makes Good Narrative Writing? Narrative writing is most successful when writers utilise the 6 key elements of writing to tell a story that will affect the reader and leave a lasting impression. The very best works of narrative writing are deeply descriptive, include visual imagery, strong characters with believable arcs, and a plot and theme that evoke an emotional response in the reader.   What Are The Six Elements Of Narrative Fiction? The six key narrative elements are: Character  Plot  Setting  Conflict  Theme  Narrative Arc  If a writer uses all six key elements together in the correct manner, they can create both linear and non-linear narratives.  What Is The Difference Between Linear And Non-Linear Narrative Writing?  A linear narrative describes a structure of narrative writing that tells a story of events in the order in which they occur, in sequence. A non-linear narrative is the direct opposite of a linear narrative. This structure of narrative fiction presents a story with events unfolding out of order.  What Are The Five Main Types Of Narrative Writing?  Narrative writing can be broken down into five key main areas: Linear narrative writing  Non-linear narrative writing  Historical narrative writing  Viewpoint narrative writing  Quest narrative writing  Writing Narratives Narrative writing and narrative storytelling have been around for as long as time. It’s how we communicate as a species. It’s how we relate to the world outside and understand those living around us. To write narrative writing is to pass on the skills of our ancestors. That\'s why teaching narrative writing and sharing its various techniques is so important. If done properly, narrative writing will allow you to pass your own stories on to others, so they will live in history and be passed on. Narrative writing, in my opinion, is the purest form of storytelling we have at our disposal. Learning how to harness these skills will not only allow you to pass on your own stories, but those stories will, in turn, help the writers of future generations to follow in your footsteps.  

High Fantasy Vs Low Fantasy: All You Need To Know

Fantasy is a vast literary genre that can be sub-categorised into many different subgenres including urban fantasy, fantasy romance, paranormal fantasy, and even sci-fi. As a fantasy author, there is nothing I enjoy writing and reading about more than worlds full of magic and monsters. Yet with so many different fantasy subgenres to choose from, it\'s often difficult for writers to know where to start when planning their own fantasy books. For me, the easiest way to differentiate between fantasy genres, is by looking at where the book is set. This means deciding whether a story is high fantasy or low fantasy. In this article, I will be exploring the difference between the two. We will be looking at fantasy world-building and comparing high fantasy vs low fantasy. I will also be providing you with a list of books and shows from each category. And hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know exactly what kind of world you\'ll want to set your own fantasy story in. What\'s The Difference Between High And Low Fantasy? Any novel that includes a level of the unbelievable (be it magic or monsters) is described as fantasy. The difference between high fantasy stories and low fantasy is simply the setting. Whereby all fantasy fiction includes characters who are doing unbelievable things (from talking to goblins and flying, to fighting dragons and performing magic) - only high fantasy is set in a make-believe world. Low fantasy, on the other hand, takes place in a real-world setting - although that doesn\'t mean it has to be any less fantastical! Let\'s take a look at each in more detail, starting with high fantasy novels. High Fantasy The high fantasy genre is a fun one to read, albeit a more convoluted and complicated one to write. The defining aspect of high fantasy is that the (usually) epic story is set in an alternative fictional world. A secondary world full of magical elements. This epic fantasy genre is very much inspired by Greek mythology and Norse mythology; masters of allegorical tales involving scary beasts and valiant heroes. A lot of high fantasy novels are set in a time that is reminiscent of our own medieval world; ie people travel on horses, drink tankards of ale, and fight with swords. Although that doesn\'t mean your high fantasy novel has to remain historically accurate. The beauty of writing fantasy is that nothing is stopping you from adding a modern twist to your world. 10 Characteristics Of High Fantasy A high fantasy story always takes place in a fictional setting that is very different to our own world. Its defining characteristics include: A fantasy fictional world A map (this helps readers imagine the landscape) A high page count A challenge or quest Many characters (with unusual names) Mythical creatures including monsters and other races Plenty of magic Battles and adventure High stakes (ie good versus evil, defeating the monster, returning victorious) An engaging plots with lots of twists and turns 10 High Fantasy Books You Should Read High fantasy literature can be enjoyed by all ages and genders. There are some great examples of modern fantasy fiction out there, including high fantasy that is both diverse and original. When you think of a traditional fantasy story, many automatically think of Tolkein, Greek mythology and fairy tales. But there are some extraordinary modern high fantasy books out there that are better than many classics. High fantasy also dominates the Young Adult readership market as it gives writers the opportunity to explore themes that are a lot more relatable to young people today. Here are ten very different high fantasy stories to enjoy: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss The Discworld novels by Terry Pratchett A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb Truthwitch by Susan Dennard Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo A Curse So Dark And Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer 5 High Fantasy Examples On Screen Many high fantasy movies and shows have been adapted from novels. Because they are set in a fantasy world unlike our own, many of these stories also veer into science fiction, such as Star Wars and Dune. Below is a list of movies and television series that perfectly capture the wonder and intricate world-building of high fantasy, allowing viewers to witness the wonder of these worlds visually. Lord Of The Rings Tolkien\'s middle earth has long been seen as the ultimate example of a high fantasy imaginary world. Tolkien not only created an unforgettable fantastical world but also populated it with imaginary races, history and even languages. In Peter Jackson\'s movie adaptation that world is brought to life in an epic way. The Witcher Adapted first from Andrzej Sapkowski\'s novel, then made into a computer game, The Witcher also became a Netflix sensation. Set in a medieval-like world full of humans, monsters, and witches, it follows the adventures of Geralt of Rivia - a mutated monster-hunter for hire. Shadow And Bone Leigh Bardugos\' Shadow and Bone trilogy was merged with her Six of Crows duology and turned into a much-loved Netflix fantasy series. In this Russian-inspired world Grisha are able to do various types of magic and monsters lurk in the very real darkness. Game Of Thrones A Game of Thrones is the first novel in A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin. The popular high fantasy series was adapted by HBO and became one of the best-loved fantasy series on TV. Again, the author chose to create a world that looks a little like ours but is medieval in style... but with dragons and ice zombies! His Dark Materials His Dark Materials is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Philip Pullman adapted for the BBC and HBO. A coming-of-age story about two children wandering through a series of parallel universes, His Dark Materials is a great example of high fantasy literature for younger readers. Now we\'ve established what high fantasy looks like, let\'s take a look at the other type of fantasy genre - low fantasy fiction. Low Fantasy As opposed to high fantasy, low fantasy is set in our primary world. Sometimes low fantasy is referred to as intrusion fantasy because the magical and fantastical elements in the novel \'intrude\' into our real world. Fantasy genres such as urban fantasy, historical fantasy, time slip, dark fantasy, superhero, contemporary fantasy, magical realism, and paranormal fantasy all fall under the category of low fantasy. In these stories you have fantastical elements, such as monsters and characters with magical powers, living in the world as we know it (be it the world now or in the past). 10 Characteristics Of Low Fantasy Low fantasy stories can be a lot of fun to write as you can twist reality as we know it, adding magic to an otherwise normal world. You also don\'t have to go to the trouble of creating a brand new fantasy setting as you can base your magic and mayhem in the same world where we all currently live. The defining characteristics of low fantasy include: A modern life full of fantasy elements A magic system hidden in our own world Characters with supernatural elements living a modern life Normal human characters who may, or may not, be aware that magic and monsters exist in our world Unlike high fantasy stories, low fantasy doesn\'t need epic battles or big quests as the \'magic in our own world\' element is often intriguing enough for readers. 10 Low Fantasy Books You Should Read As a writer of low fantasy I really enjoy injecting magic into our real world, especially when readers say how those fantastical twists help them see very normal things in a more magical way. Low fantasy books can include mythical creatures (devils, angels, vampires and dragons), as well as time travel, superheroes, and even a distortion of history as we know it. Here are ten (very different) low fantasy novels you may enjoy: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake Vampires of Moscow by Caedis Knight Ninth House by Laigh Bardugo The Binding by Bridget Collins The Path Keeper by N J Simmonds No Gods, No Monsters by Cadwell Turnbull The Time Traveler\'s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger Midnight Riot by Ben Aaronovitch The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern 5 Low Fantasy Examples On Screen Low fantasy is a fun way of pushing fantastical boundaries and stretching reality in a way that makes people believe in the unbelievable. Popular examples of low fantasy on screen include: True Blood Set in the American Deep South, True Blood is an adaptation of The Southern Vampire Mysteries by bestselling author Charlaine Harris. It follows the paranormal adventures of a mind-reading barmaid who navigates a world where vampires have been accepted into everyday society. The Boys This dark comedy series (adapted from a comic book) takes a look at what would happen if people lived amongst us with supernatural powers - and how that power could so easily be corrupted. Harry Potter Everyone is familiar with the story of Harry Potter, a boy who discovers he\'s a wizard. It\'s an epic tale for children set in a magical boarding school, where good versus evil, including plenty of fun mythical beasts (both good and bad). Outlander A historical fantasy series of impossible love. Claire Beauchamp Randall, a married nurse from World War II, mysteriously goes back in time to 18th century Scotland where she falls in love with a Highland warrior. Raising Dion Another comic book adaptation, Raising Dion is about a widowed single mom who discovers that her son has superpowers. She must figure out how to raise him safely and responsibly in a world full of danger. Frequently Asked Questions What Is High Fantasy Vs Low Fantasy? High and low fantasy are the two main categories of fantasy. High fantasy refers to epic fantasy which is set in an alternate world. It typically includes lots of magical elements, fantastical creatures, and unusual technology. Whereas low fantasy is when magical creatures and elements intrude upon the regular world. What Are Common Fantasy Elements? Some of the main elements of fantasy are magical systems, world-building, a well-crafted cast of characters, a quest, and the endless battle of good vs evil. World\'s Apart Writing fantasy stories involves a lot of imagination, time, and research - but creating both original worlds, and magical worlds within our own, can bring a huge amount of pleasure to both writers and their readers. I hope you have had as much fun learning about high fantasy vs low fantasy as I have had writing this article, and that it has inspired and helped you decide where you will be setting your next fantasy novel. Good luck and have fun creating exciting and unforgettable worlds!
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