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Finding The Motivation To Write: Top Tips From Successful Authors

I\'ve been staring at a blank page for ten minutes now, which is ironic as I\'m a writer who gets paid to write and at this moment I\'m meant to be writing about how to get motivated. But that\'s OK, because losing writing motivation is something that happens to everyone. Why? Because creativity can\'t be switched on and off like a tap. So how do you find the motivation to write? In this article, I will be discussing the many ways to motivate yourself to write a book; from setting goals and having a writing routine, to tricking yourself and rewarding yourself. I will also discuss how to avoid distractions, find ideas, and what techniques have helped top writers reach success. Motivation To Write (And Why We Need It) Many people think the hardest part about writing a book is coming up with the idea. It\'s not. The hardest part about writing a book is having to sit down and write, then, upon seeing what you\'ve written, resist the urge to throw your laptop into the nearest body of water, reach for a giant bar of chocolate, and give up. So how do you find your motivation to keep going? Muses, Inspiration, And Ideas Let\'s start with the magic, that mysterious spark that gets us jumping out of bed at 3am eager to tell our story. Sometimes, we can\'t get motivated because we are bored. Bored with our story, our idea, or the monotony of sitting in front of a laptop all day trying to reach our word count. If that\'s the case, then it\'s time to find some inspiration. Getting motivated to write can often simply be a matter of finding something more interesting to write about. So here\'s my list of ways to get your creative juices flowing. Writing Prompts When I teach writing to teens I like to play a game where they have to pick three prompts from a lucky dip jar - a genre, a scenario, and a random object. Write as many of these as you want (or even better, ask a friend so it\'s a surprise) and pick one from each category. It\'s impossible not to feel inspired to write a fun short story when you pick a combo such as: Rom ComYou are stuck in a lift with someone acting peculiarRubber duck What would your story be about? Or, try our writing prompts for fantasy, horror, thrillers, romance, poetry, and Christmas stories. Find A Muse (Or A Squad) Writing motivation is often as elusive as finding inspiration, but having the right people around you can kick-start you into action. Whereas a muse (perhaps the object of your affection) may inspire you to write beautiful poetry or the deep lyrics to a new song - a muse who gets you motivated is just as helpful. In my case, I surround myself with lots of author friends. No one understands a writer like another writer, and they know why it\'s important to stay motivated. I have writer friends on Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, or friends I call. Not only are they a shoulder to cry on or a sounding board for moaning, but they are also the ones who will cheer me on and keep me going. Being part of a writer gang means they can also brainstorm your next work in progress with you, or help with plot holes (after all, it\'s always easier to come up with plot ideas for someone else\'s story). Join our free Jericho Writers Community to find like-minded writers! How To Persevere When You Feel Like Giving Up Some call it writer\'s block, others call it imposter\'s syndrome or simply running out of steam. Whatever has ground you to a halt, the first thing to do when you feel like giving up is ask yourself why you feel this way. Have you really run out of ideas? (If so, see the inspiration section above.) Are you really a crap writer (I doubt that), or have you simply lost faith in yourself? Losing confidence is part of every writer\'s writing journey, Stop Making Excuses If you go to a writer\'s house and every room is spotless, then you know they\'re avoiding writing their book. Us writers are exceptionally good at making excuses as to why we don\'t have the time to finish the next chapter. So next time you find yourself procrastinating... Get Out Of Your Own Way Yep. You may be lacking in motivation because you are standing in your own way. Ignore those miserable voices in your head and don\'t read any negative reviews of past work. Stay surrounded by positive people and remember why you write in the first place. Prove Them Wrong And if that doesn\'t work...there\'s always good old-fashioned spite! We all have that one person in our lives who told us we would never make a success of our writing. Perhaps it was a teacher, a parent, a friend, or a work colleague. So if you are still struggling to find the impetus to keep going with your writing then I strongly suggest you think about this person and imagine their face when you\'re sitting in Barnes & Noble, or Waterstones, ready to sign your book. Is there anything sweeter than looking someone in the eye and saying \'see? I told you I could do it?\' Be petty and reach your goals! The Importance Of Habit And Routine If you\'re serious about writing, you need to take it seriously. That means carving out time in your day to write, the same as you would any other job or commitment. Find A Writing Space Firstly, you need a comfortable place in which to write. You won\'t feel motivated if you\'re balancing your laptop on your lap while your flatmates talk over your head or your dog runs circles around you. It doesn\'t matter whether your writing space is a big fancy office or a corner of the kitchen table. Allocate a nice spot, somewhere where you can preferably be left alone that isn\'t surrounded by things that will distract you, and make it your own. Reduce Distractions You need to focus. That may mean seeking silence, getting out of the house, or putting on headphones and playing your favourite music. My biggest downfall is Twitter. So when I need to do nothing but write I turn off all WiFi, put my phone on airplane mode, and tell myself I can\'t get up until the work is done. One top tip that author Angie Thomas once shared (on Twitter, of course) is to unplug your laptop and write until it needs charging. Then as your computer charges, you get to as well! Set Aside Time To Write Your Book Professional writers, and authors who have found success, treat writing like a full time job -because for many it is! That means they get up every morning and they write every single day. If you\'re just starting out it\'s fine to write simply when you feel like writing, but if you have a deadline to meet it\'s important to set goals and stick to them. Set Goals Your goal doesn\'t have to be anything too unrealistic. Perhaps it\'s to write 300 words a day, or complete a chapter per week, or set a date to get an outline in place. The only way to reach the end of your book is to get that word count up - so bit by bit will still get you there. And the best part? Reward Yourself! Some writers like to buy themselves a fancy box of chocolates and they only get to choose one when they reach the end of each chapter. Or perhaps plan a fun day out to spend with those you love the week after your book deadline. Be Kind To Yourself But, on the flip-side, it\'s also important to take a break now and then... If you get up in the morning and can\'t face the day, I guarantee you will not produce good writing. So if you don\'t feel like writing - don\'t. Watch a movie, flick through Pinterest, or go for a walk. It may feel like a break but it may inspire you too. Do What the Professionals Do I took to Twitter to ask professional authors of every genre what motivates them to keep writing. They shared how they find the motivation to write: Emma Cooper, Up Lit Women\'s Fiction Author Of The Songs of Us I set work hours and treat it like an office job and open the document, even when I want to watch Netflix instead. I break the day up into manageable sections. Isabelle May, Foodie Rom Com Author Of The Cocktail Bar Cake in all its glorious forms! Nothing like a reward at the end of each chapter. It may sound basic, but going for a walk often clears your head. Emma Claire Wilson, Author Of Emotional Thrillers And Editor Of The Glass House If I am lacking motivation I ask myself \'does my brain need a break for a day?\' Forcing it can result in awful words which leads to frustration and even less motivation. For motivation I have a few writing exercises I go to, pick one out of my jar at random, and write something totally new to find my love of the spontaneous words again. Emma Jackson, Rom Com Author Of Summer in the City Having writing buddies to do sprints with, or make accountability goals with, really helps. Also I have a really geeky habit of breaking down my word counts into a spreadsheet and then doing 20-30 min sessions, updating it and seeing how it chips away at the big goal. Sophie Flynn, Thriller Author Of All My Lies I set a 20 min timer on my phone then switch everything else off during that time and write/edit - telling myself I can stop after 20 mins. By then I\'m usually in the right headspace and keep going. But it takes the pressure off! Non Pratt, YA Author Of Giant Days Honestly, for me, writing is only worth doing if I want to - but that’s because it’s no longer my actual job. When it was my job I reminded myself you can’t tell the bits I wrote under duress from those I wrote with joy and got on with it. You edit them anyway. M. K. Lobb, YA Fantasy Author Of Seven Faceless Saints I make a list of all the scenes I’m excited for and write toward them. If the book starts to drag, I know I need to re-plot to get the excitement back. Meera Shah, Thriller Author Of Her Short sharp bursts - it\'s all I have time for anyway. If it isn\'t working, take a break. And if it really isn\'t working, return to it another day! Erin Fulmer, Fantasy Author Of Cambion\'s Blood Routine helps. I write from 7-9 most nights. I use word sprints and sometimes a focus app to block browser access. I also have an elaborate spreadsheet that tracks progress relative to my self-imposed deadlines. Basically, anything to convince my mind that writing is an urgent task. Bethany Clift, Women\'s Fiction Author Of Last One At The Party I don\'t wait for inspiration, I just write. This is my job so I write every day - sometimes 400 words, sometimes 4,000, but I always do something. Also, I believe writing is a muscle - to keep it in shape you have to use it, develop it, feed it. So I do. Elizabeth J Hobbes, Fantasy Romance Author Of Daughter of the Sea I simply remind myself that if I don\'t get on with writing this book I will have to go back to working full time! Lia Louis, Rom Com Author Of The Key to My Heart Knowing exactly what bit I have to write helps me on the days I don’t want to! Throwing my phone in the bin* helps too. (*a nice safe drawer) A J West, Eerie Historical Author Of The Spirit Engineer What motivates me is a desire to escape this world to somewhere more wonderful in my own imagination. Kelly Andrew, YA Fantasy Author Of The Whispering Dark I let myself play around with the scenes I’m most excited to write and then that makes me eager to build to those moments organically in order to really tighten the beats. Leni Morgan, Self-Published Author Of How a Good Geek Survived The Zombie Apocalypse I find having several books on the go good motivation. When I get stuck/fed up with one, I move on to another. Plus rereading it to familiarise myself with the characters helps me unstick myself too. Lauren North, Thriller Author Of Safe at Home I set myself small targets like \'just write 250 words & then you can do what you like\'. By which point I\'m into the writing and ploughing ahead. I try to think about the buzz I felt at the idea. Frequently Asked Questions What Motivates A Writer To Write? For some it\'s to simply share their stories, for others it may be to hold their book one day or to prove to themselves they could do it. Find what motivates you, and use that energy to keep following your dreams. What Do You Do When You Lose Your Motivation To Write? Every writer loses writing motivation at some point. The best thing to do is not panic: Take a breakGet inspired by news stories, images, past life events, or talking to peopleDo some writing promptsGather other writers around you and brainstorm ideasStart a new project How Do You Get Over Writing Anxiety? Imposter syndrome is a part of the writing process every author encounters. Like most artists, writers are rarely happy with their work, but that doesn\'t mean it\'s not good. The easiest thing to do is: Avoid negative reviews (and people)Keep learning and bettering your craftAsk beta readers to guide youRemember the only part of the writing process you can control is writing the first draft of your novel. So focus on that and bettering it with each revision.Write your book anyway...you can always edit after! Let\'s Goooooo! I hope this article has got you out of your writing slump and raring to go. there\'s no right or wrong when it comes to writing goals and penning a novel; the only way you can fail is by giving up altogether! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer’s community. 

Book Translation Rights: Everything You Need To Know

Many authors dream of seeing their books in print and on shelves in leading bookstores across the country. However, your book’s circulation, and your dream, don’t need to be limited by national boundaries or language itself! Translation is a great way to reach wider markets in different countries and will help you to diversify your revenue stream for your novel. If you\'d like to publish in another language, read on to learn more about this little known process. In this article, I\'m going to walk you through the path to achieving translation and figuring out international rights. I\'ll define foreign rights, explain why foreign rights agents are important, and detail how foreign rights and translation work. To help give you expert advice, I\'ve chatted with foreign rights agents Thérèse Cohen and Lucy Barry who both have an intimate understanding of the world of translation. What Are Foreign Rights? The first step to understanding translation is to learn more about the rights that you own as an author. Foreign rights dictate where you can distribute your manuscript and which languages it can be translated and sold in. The main rights you\'ll have to concern yourself with are translation rights and territorial rights. Rights are sold in both languages and territories, so translation rights deal with the language your book can be published in and territorial rights are associated with the markets where your book is sold. Thérèse explains territorial rights using the example of publishing a book in France or the UK. The most straightforward deal might be selling French language rights in France, or English rights in the UK, but you might also have English readers in the US or readers reading in French in Belgium. To help ensure that your book might reach a wider audience around the world, you can sell your world rights to publishers. This means that your book can be distributed anywhere in the world with no restrictions. However, it might benefit you more to break up your rights into territories to increase your profit. For example, if you\'re working with an English publishing house in the UK, you can sell them UK publishing rights to distribute the book throughout the country. This then gives you the opportunity to approach publishers in the US to sell the North American rights, which will then allow then to re-publish your book and distribute it in the US and Canada. This is the reason you might see different covers and publishers for the same book in the US versus the UK. It’s always interesting to browse the internet to find different cover variants in other languages or countries! Alternatively, your publisher might insist on world English rights, which will then give them the ability to sell your book all across the English speaking world, such as in the UK, North America, and Australia. This leaves you with the ability to negotiate translation rights for international markets. Selling foreign rights is something that you negotiate with your agent and will be incorporated into your publishing contract. If you\'d like to achieve translation in a foreign language, you\'ll have to sell translation rights to foreign publishers. You can do this on your own, or with the help of your domestic publisher. These rights determine which languages a publisher might publish your book in and gives them the exclusive right to distribute it in that language. You\'ll have to negotiate territorial rights alongside this to ensure that your book can be sold in the appropriate markets. Foreign rights might seem tricky, but with an agent by your side, you\'ll have no problem understanding the complexities of translation publishing. Why Are Foreign Rights Agents Important? If getting your book published in English sounds hard, you might think that publication in another language is even harder! You’re right to assume that it’s challenging, but there are specific industry members who are here to make it easy – rights agents. Rights agents work with authors to find international publishers to translate, print, and market their books. These agents are looking to maximise sales across different countries and have an understanding of what types of books work well in other markets. These agents have in-depth knowledge of the international publishing landscape. They’re also looking out for your interests by working to negotiate the best possible advances and royalties. All agents have knowledge of rights, but foreign rights agents are more experienced in selling foreign rights. Most agencies will have rights agents working for them, so it\'s in your best interest to consider finding agent representation in order to achieve translation into other languages. What Do Foreign Rights Agents Do? Lucy Barry describes the role of a rights agent as someone who works to ensure that their clients\' international publishing experience is as smooth as possible. She explains that, \'Rights agents work to place their authors’ titles with international publishers all around the world. Normally, rights agents focus on selling into certain markets, where they have specialist knowledge and longstanding relationships with international publishers.\' Foreign rights agents try to keep in constant contact with editors around the world and meet with them regularly to understand the tastes and trends of different international markets. The agent will work to negotiate the best publishing deal for their authors as well as the advance and royalty rates across all formats. Once the deal is completed, foreign rights agents also handle international press requests, author visits for promotional tours, and translator queries. Considering all the work that rights agents do, it\'s highly worth working alongside them. These agents are experienced in achieving translation from the English language to a new language and even any foreign original language into English. They network with publishing houses and editors at international book fairs, which gives them a strong idea of the tastes of a foreign publisher and whether they\'d be interested in translating your book. Having someone on your side who knows how to sell foreign rights is a huge help. How Do I Find A Foreign Rights Agent? Most foreign rights agents are experienced with rights, so you’ll query agents as you would normally. However, it’s important to communicate early on with your agent that you’re interested in translation. This way, the agent will know that you’re interested in maintaining translation rights for a deal outside your country. UK agencies will often have rights departments that will help query international publishers for a potential translation rights sale. You can get started on your hunt for an agent using our AgentMatch database. This will allow you to search a massive list of all the agents in the US and UK by genre in order to find the best agent for your book. Keep an eye out for agents with international experience or those who are associated with established agencies. Which Rights Do I Keep? It’s highly advisable to get a foreign rights agent who can help assist you with this decision making! Agents will be able to give you advice on whether or not to sell your translation rights to a publisher. Sometimes the publisher can go on to sell translation rights to publishers in different countries, and having an experienced agent by your side to help negotiate royalties is always helpful. If you’re going at it alone, this is a conversation you should have with your publisher. If they give you the option to retain translation rights, you can query international publishers about taking your book on. However, it’s recommended to wait until your book achieves English publication first. If you don\'t have a foreign rights agent, Lucy recommends trying to hold on to translation rights so that you can exploit these separately from the original deal. When you do receive an offer from a publisher, it may be worth reaching out to an agent, who could advise you. She explains that \'without an agent, it is important to be realistic about the international potential of your book. Many publishers have in house rights teams who will have the international connections to sell your book around the world.\' How Do I Know If My Book Will Sell In Other Countries? It’s always tricky to predict a book’s success, and selling in a foreign market definitely complicates this even further. The good news is that rights agents are communicating with co-agents and foreign editors all the time. This gives them insight into what different markets are reading and whether an international publisher might want to take on your book. When asked about selling into different territories, Thérèse stated that \'Readers are much more uniform in what they read, especially in Europe, now than in the past, but there are still some big differences between what does and doesn’t sell in fiction and non-fiction, and we have to be mindful of that.\' Lucy helped to clarify how agents can get a better idea of what books work in other markets. She explains that \'in certain territories, rights agents will often work with a co-agent to place the book in a market. Co-agents are frequently relied upon in the Asian markets and often in Eastern European territories where they work on the ground and speak the local language, this enables us to find the very best publisher and agree the best deal for our clients all over the world.\' Since co-agents and editors speak the language of the country that they’re in, they’ll be able to evaluate your book’s sales potential in foreign markets and work with your agent on a sale. International book fairs allow the international publishing world to mingle and can often result in lifelong partnerships between agents, editors, and publishers from different countries. Certain books sell better in translation, but genre popularity differs from market to market. Children\'s picture books are famously popular in translation, so if you\'re a children\'s author this is a route that it might be beneficial to consider pursuing. Foreign Publishers And How They Work Foreign publishers will work alongside you to help select translators and market your book in their country. The process doesn\'t differ much from that of your domestic publisher aside from the fact that they are producing a new translation of your work. There will be some differences in the royalties you receive as well as your advance, but this differs from publisher to publisher. One of the biggest questions you might have as an author is how translators are selected. Lucy explains that \'Publishers normally have long standing relationships with reliable translators who have experience translating manuscripts in a specific genre or field. Certain authors may have a dedicated translator in each territory, and others may have been translated by many different translators. As an author, you can always discuss this with your rights agent or international publisher, who will be able to explain why they recommend a particular translator and send information on the books they have previously translated.\' It can be a little worrying to see your book move from its original language to one you might not understand, but it\'s worth noting that translators are contractually obligated to accurately translate your work. The publisher might also re-design your book to fit the tastes of foreign markets. This might include creating a new cover, changing your title, or updating illustrations. Sometimes titles might even differ across English speaking countries. For example, Leila Slimani\'s popular novel Lullaby was re-named as The Perfect Nanny to better suit American audiences. What If I\'m Already Published? If you\'re already traditionally published, you\'re off to a good start as you\'ve already set your roots down in the English language publishing scene. To move towards translation, Lucy Barry recommends closely reading your contract with the original publisher. If your book has been sold in a world all language deal, the publisher owns the translation rights and should be exploring ways to exploit these rights. If it’s a world English language deal, the publisher will have the right to publish around the world in English and may sell the rights to a UK or US publisher on your behalf, but translation rights will be controlled by you. It\'s worth having a conversation with your publisher about your contract and your options. Translation Rights When You\'re Self-Published Those who aren\'t with a traditional publisher might wonder if it\'s possible to publish a work in translation if you\'re self-published. The answer here is yes! However, as with traditional publication, you’ll want to find a foreign rights agent to represent you first. You can query agents internationally or work to find a co-agent that has partnered with a UK agency. Alternatively, you might be able to strike out on your own and query foreign publishers directly. Just be sure to defend your query with comparison titles and your self-published sales figures, and do some research on your genre\'s popularity in international markets. If you\'re looking to query a publisher on your own, you might want to consider finding your own translator to translate a sample of your book. However, this isn\'t always required since many publishers read in English. When querying a publisher directly, be sure to follow their guidelines for submission carefully, as if you were querying an agent. What Do I Do If I Want My Book To Be Translated Into English? Your first step to achieving English translation is to contact your publisher to determine who holds translation rights. From there, you can consider translating a sample of your book into English. As I mentioned above, translation into English isn’t always necessary, but it can help agents who only speak English get a taste of your book! From there you can query agents in your home country or in the US and UK. There are plenty of agents who specialise in translation, so it’s important to research thoroughly when querying. Once you\'ve found an agent, they\'ll begin work on finding you a publisher or a translator to sell your foreign rights to. Some publishers prefer that a book is translated in full before it is submitted and others prefer a sample. In some cases, your publisher might have their own translators that they prefer to use. If you aren\'t published, you may want to start by querying publishers and agents in your country. Alternatively, you can branch out and query agents in the US and UK after translating a sample of your manuscript. What Can A Translator Do? Increasingly, we\'re starting to see translators get involved with some of the tasks originally assigned to agents. If you\'re writing in a language other than English and can\'t find an agent to help you sell foreign rights, you might decide to turn to a translator. It\'s worth doing some research to identify UK or US translators who specialise in literary translation out of your native language. These literary translators often have a good understanding of the US and UK market for translation and might be able to work alongside you to help you find an agent or query publishers on your behalf. What Is The Market For Books Translated Out Of English? It\'s worth knowing that more books are translated out of English than into it, so it can be quite difficult to achieve translation in the US or UK. That being said, there are a number of publishers dedicated to publishing translated writing and sales of works in translation continue to grow. Some academic publishers are also working to create their own translated fiction lists. As the market for translation grows, so do your opportunities. In fact, a recent Man Booker study has found that sales for translated literary fiction have increased, with authors like Haruki Murakami, Elena Ferrante, and Karl Ove Knausgaard contributing to the rise in sales. If you\'re interested, below are some great US and UK publishers who have extensive translation lists to check out: Comma PressPushkin PressFitcarraldo EditionsGrantaTwo Lines PressOpen Letter PressGreywolf PressEuropa EditionsOneworld Publications If you\'re an English speaker and you\'re hoping to start reading more in translation, you might be interested in having a look at the Booker International Prize winners. This is a great way to get started on reading translation, as the prize seeks to highlight some of the best books written in languages other than English. Translation can help diversify your reading list and expose you to some excellent authors. Get Your Rights Right Many of the steps to achieving publication in another language are made much easier by having an agent. While finding a foreign rights agent can be challenging, it\'s certainly worth the effort. We recommend using our AgentMatch database to get started on your search. Seeing your book published in another language is extremely rewarding, and while the process might be long and time-consuming, selling foreign rights is a great way to increase your market reach and earn more from a single manuscript. Thérèse encourages writers \'to enjoy the bonus that is having a translation deal (getting a copy of your book in a different language will never get old!)\', but to not let it stress you out or put additional pressure on you. If your book sells, it sells, and that’s brilliant, but if it doesn’t, that’s fine too. Don’t try to change what you write or the way you write to suit a different market, if you’re doing well selling in your home market, that is what ultimately matters the most.\' Frequently Asked Questions Who Owns The Translation Of A Book? Translated works are incredibly valuable texts, but in terms of who owns a book\'s translation, it can vary. Sometimes, the translator holds the copyright for the translation and the original author holds the copyright for the original text. Other times, the translator does not own the copyright for their translation, and the publisher or original author does instead, though many people feel that translators should have more- or all- of the ownership of their translations. However, a translator can claim copyright ownership of the translated version of a book they have translated from a piece that is in the public domain. Do I Need Permission To Translate A Book? You cannot translate a book without the author\'s permission, as they are the copyright holder for the text. In order to translate a book, written permission from the author is often required, or, if the copyright is held by the publisher, you need to contact them instead. Are Book Translations Copyrighted? Book translations are copyrighted, but the copyright is not always held by the translators themselves. Translators have the same rights over their work as authors, which means they are entitled to both the copyright of their translations and proper acknowledgement of their work. However, translators are often asked to cede copyright by some of the bigger publishers, as translation is seen as costly and risky, so they don\'t always hold the copyright to their own translations. Do Book Translators Get Royalties? Translators are entitled to both copyright and royalties, though whether they maintain the copyright, and receive a fair proportion of the royalties depends on individual circumstances. Some of the big publishers don\'t provide translators with a fair amount of royalties, though translated works are generally produced by indie publishers who tend to have more equitable practice in terms of ensuring translators have both the copyright and sufficient royalties. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Zahirra Dayal’s Success: Making Writing Competitions Work For You

From the moment we heard the opening of Zahirra Dayal\'s \'Invincible Jacarandas\' at the 2021 Friday Night Live, we knew it was something special. Now, Zahirra\'s making waves. She\'s signed with Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton and made the shortlist in multiple writing competitions. We caught up with her to find out what her writing life was like before Friday Night Live, and beyond it. JW: Hi Zahirra! Firstly, please tell us a bit about your background as a writer, and your journey to writing your first book.   ZD: My love affair with words began when I was very young. I spent hours reading Enid Blyton books which I borrowed from the city library in Harare – the capital city of Zimbabwe where I was born. I was never far away from pen and paper and filled pages of diaries with my thoughts and observations. It was only natural that I went on to study English Literature at university in South Africa. I nurtured the secret hope of writing a novel one day. After I graduated and moved to London in 2000, I enrolled in a part-time creative writing course with the Open University - but from that point onwards life seriously got in the way of my writing ambitions.  Fast forward 19 years and I was finally able to steal a few hours on the two afternoons that I finished work early to write in a café in Wimbledon. Those moments were the beginnings of the very messy zero draft of my novel. The entry point to my novel was a story I wrote for the Open University course, inspired by my intrepid grandmother, who moved to a new continent like many other Passenger Indians at the turn of the 19th Century. The story of the main protagonists, sisters Zaynah and Amira, came to me as I developed the story.     Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  Then the lockdowns happened and while teaching online from home, I carved out more time and space to write. I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going. Most importantly, I loved the actual writing process.  I knew that I still had lots to learn so I applied for every opportunity advertised on Twitter. I did a free short writing course with Spread The Word, but the real game-changer was when I won the bursary for the Jericho Writers Self-Edit Course. Every week we focussed on a different aspect of writing and had a chance to give and receive feedback on our weekly tasks. The tutors – Debi Alper and Emma Darwin -  were fantastic and the other writers were so supportive and insightful.  I joined the writing community on Twitter and started writing short stories which I submitted to literary journals. Many of my stories were accepted for publication and this gave me the confidence to keep going At first, I was terrified of having my work critiqued as I didn’t believe that what I had could be shaped into a novel. Enter Debi Alper! Debi was the first to show me my novel\'s USP: the exploration of timeless themes in the specific setting of Zimbabwe just after independence. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. After the Self-Edit course, we formed a WhatsApp group to stay in touch with each other and the other writers persuaded me to enter the opening of my novel into the Jericho Writers Friday Night Live competition at the Summer Festival of Writing, which I knew nothing about at the time. I did - and I won! One of the agents from the competition requested the full manuscript afterwards. I was elated, floating on a blissful cloud of joy. But in the end, the agent turned it down - which brought me crashing down to reality again. Her belief in my writing has been the gold dust on my journey. It just takes that one person to show you to yourself. I continued to transform my zero draft into a first draft with my shiny new editing tools. Clearly, it had all happened too fast; I was still heady from my FNL win and there was still a lot of work that needed to be done on my manuscript. Part of the FNL prize was a manuscript assessment and I asked if Debi Alper could do mine. Debi was honest in her feedback and - unsurprisingly - told me that it wasn’t ready for submission yet. I worked on my manuscript for the next few months and then in March 2022 started querying the first 10 agents on my long list of hopefuls. Within days I received full manuscript requests. I held my breath because it felt surreal and I was all too familiar with the pangs of rejection from that first time. Two weeks and six full requests later, I had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: Writing can be quite isolating - how did you find a sense of community?   ZD: I have met so many writers through my networks on Twitter and that has made me feel so much less alone. It can feel like you are flailing in the dark sometimes as you type away in your little corner. After the Self-Edit course, The Murder Alibi Club was born and we commiserate the woes and celebrate the highs together. It’s a safe place where I know I will be understood. We also post resources that we come across and it’s just a lovely bunch of writerly people. I would never have got this far were it not for the creative people I’ve met along the way. There are so many people I could name here but they know who they are!  Two weeks and six full requests later, I had had one zoom call and one face-to-face lunch at a swanky café in London with two agents who both wanted me to sign with them.  JW: What kinds of resources did you find useful along the way? ZD: Last year was the first time I attended the Summer Festival of Writing and though it was online, I listened to most of the webinars and found them brilliant. They kept me motivated and I learnt so much from the industry experts and the guest authors. I loved that I was hearing from the authors whose books I was reading at the time.   JW: Do you have any advice for writers trying to get exposure before getting an agent? ZD: Apply to every writing competition you hear of! Each time I applied, I thought that nothing would come of it, but I have now been shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award, longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writing Award, and The Mslexia Novel Award. Even though I didn’t win, it has been great exposure for my novel and each time I received useful feedback on my manuscript. Being longlisted for the Deborah Rogers also meant that Matthew Turner at RCW agency gave me invaluable tips on pitching my novel and writing my query letter. Submitting short stories to journals is another great way of getting exposure and I created a writer’s website to showcase all my published short fiction and non-fiction (at www.zahirradayal.com.) JW: How did you choose your agent, and what has it been like working with them?   ZD: It was really hard to choose between the two agents that made offers. In some ways, having a choice, whilst being empowering, can also make things more difficult. Both agents loved the novel and were wonderful people who I felt I could work with. It was an agonising decision, but in the end I asked each of the agents to give me more details about the editorial work that needed to be done on my novel. I used this to inform my decision. I chose Katie Fulford, who was the first to read the full novel and get back to me. Katie also has a wealth of experience in publishing and is very familiar with the period I am writing about in Zimbabwe. She has been to Zimbabwe several times and we have the same vision for my novel Invincible Jacarandas.    JW: Finally, have you encountered any surprises in the process so far?  The biggest surprise for me has been how slow things can be and then at other times how fast. The mantra of the industry should be ‘hurry up and wait’. I was also surprised by how supportive the writing community really is. It amazes me that I have had so many conversations online with writers who I have never met face to face but feel like I know as we all experience the same highs and lows and really get it!  About Zahirra Zahirra is a Zimbabwean-born writer who lives in London. She is currently working on her debut novel set in post-independence Zimbabwe and is represented by Katie Fulford at Bell Lomax Moreton. She is the winner of the FNL 2021, shortlisted for the Owned Voices Novel Award and longlisted for the Deborah Rogers Writers Award and Mslexia Novel 2021.  Follow Zahirra on Twitter. Explore Zahirra\'s website.

How To Write Faster

Have you ever wondered how you could write faster? Perhaps you’ve spent ages rewriting the same sentence over and over again? Or maybe you are someone who struggles to begin a book or a project in the first place. You have an idea in your mind, rattling away inside of you, but you are reluctant to get it out on paper. Perhaps you don’t even know where to start? Or, like me, you’ve seen other writers churn out numerous articles, books and blog posts and wondered how they’ve managed to write them so quickly.  Don’t worry – we’ve all been there!  If that sounds like you, some fast writing exercises might help you put aside some of your worries and actually focus on getting the words on the page. I know I, and many other authors, benefit from writing fast first drafts that we can later refine, and it might well be that this process can work for you too.  Many famous books have been written at speed. On the Road by Jack Kerouac was allegedly written in an impressive three weeks and John Boyne has claimed that it took him roughly two and a half days to write the first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.  Of course, in these cases, we are talking about drafts – but if you can get a fast draft down, the rest of your writing can develop quickly too.  In this article, we will discuss why writing quickly is useful and go through some tips to help you start writing faster today.  Are you ready to see how fast writing might just give you the kickstart you were looking for?  If so, sit back read on, and get ready to pick up that pen. The race is on so let’s not delay!   Why Writing Quickly Matters  There is certainly a great deal of value in writing faster, even if it’s just your first draft. Many authors and writers will attempt to get their initial drafts down quickly while the ideas are still fresh in their minds and while they are fully excited by the project. A lot of excitement in a new project is usually stacked at the beginning, so you need to tap into those feelings for as long as you can, and fast writing will really help you to achieve that aim.   Writing quickly really is about just getting those words down on the page – they don’t have to be structurally or grammatically perfect yet! The editing and refinement can come much later. Quick writing means you can simply have fun allowing your ideas to spill from your mind onto the page - and it is a great way to allow your creative juices to flow freely without too much interruption.   Also, by getting your words down on the page fast, you will help your brain remain engaged with your writing for as long as possible, and you will be able to stay in a flow state for longer. You will find you are less likely to lose focus or allow your mind to wander onto the next enticing project - or begin to worry if the project you are writing is even working. The faster and more productive you are at getting your words on the page – the more likely you will be able to have a finished project at the end of it that you can refine.  Regardless of the form you’re writing in, when you are writing faster you will hopefully reduce the occurrence of writers\' block, as you will be fully focused on getting words on the page. It’s fair to say that the faster you are writing, the less likely you are to be distracted or to have the time to pause and worry about what to add next. The fun of this exercise comes in the freewriting itself and letting the words flow. Yes, you may lose some content later and may have to make changes – but that comes at the next stage. For now, you need to simply enjoy the act of writing in its purest form.  I think it’s fair to say that we can appreciate that writing fast can be beneficial and a great way of writing in a free, expressive and limitless way, but how can we do it? Is it really that easy to remove the shackles and anxieties that you might be holding on to and simply allow yourself to write quickly and freely? In the next section, we will explore some tips and methods that will help you to write a book faster.  How To Write A Book Faster  Writing a book faster is not as daunting as it might sound – but it does require some commitment, determination and self-belief. You need to tell yourself that you can do this and make writing a priority even if it’s just for a short time each day. Writing in fast, sharp bursts is often a good method for writers who might fall victim to procrastination or dithering. This way of fast writing worked well for me when I was writing my debut YA novel Seven Days. At the time, I was working full time and raising two young children. An idea for a teenage story developed in my head and wouldn’t leave me. I was determined and energised to get the story on paper as quickly as I could. I set myself short periods of time where I made myself write and this forced me to write fast. The result was a first draft that was written in three months (quick for me!). Since then, I have always tried to write quickly and efficiently, often with self-imposed short deadlines to keep me motivated. This method doesn’t work for everyone, but it certainly did for me, and I would recommend that you give it a try. What is there to lose?  So, how can you become a fast writer? It might not be a skill that comes naturally to you, in which case some of these tips and methods may help you become a much quicker and more efficient writer and allow you to get that draft written at speed.  Write Daily  Try to set yourself a target to write something every day, either by hand or on a computer (whichever you feel most comfortable with). This could be a word count target, or it could be just a set amount of time – but by making yourself write a little bit each day, you will find that your project will develop much more quickly.  Set A Timer  This can be another useful tip, especially for those of us that work well under pressure or to tight deadlines. Set yourself a time limit. It doesn’t have to be long – perhaps 15 or 30 minutes - and then make yourself write nonstop within that period. Don’t stop to check back or edit your work. Simply keep writing and let the words flow as the time counts down. This can be an effective way of speed writing. Again, this method can be used for both writing by hand and typing.   Many people specifically like to use the Pomodoro technique, wherein you set a timer for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, and repeat this process. After four 25 minute writing sessions, you then take a longer break of 15 minutes or so and repeat the process again.  Write At A Time When You Are Most Focused  This is quite a useful tip, as it\'s true that most writers have a time when they are most productive. I know writers that wake up very early in the morning and are most productive then. Others may find that they can write faster and better in the evenings. It might be that, due to other demands, you have a limited choice of when you can write – but if you can, try to pick a time when you are not too tired or overwhelmed by other projects. Your words are likely to flow better, and have greater clarity, if your mind is clear and your body is relaxed.   Eliminate Environmental Distractions  Again, this can be a tricky one, depending on your circumstances – but if you can, try to remove those external distractions. Ensure the dog is walked before starting, so they can’t badger you while you’re writing, tell family members that you are working and cannot be disturbed, and try to reduce the noise and distractions around you. I know that many writers value the use of noise cancellation headphones for such work as this helps to block out background noise.  However, once again, all writers are different, and some people (like me) actually write better in noisier environments. So, it is also about finding out what suits you best.  Create An Outline To Work From  Some writers work much better if they have a plan or an outline to follow, and know roughly what each scene will entail. So if you\'re someone who likes structure, having that initial outline will help you write the first draft much more quickly. If you are a writer who tends to like planning out your ideas (rather than a panster who will just slam down whatever comes into their head) – it might be an idea to shape out your idea first. Consider drafting out a plan first to give you something to work from and allow your words to flow much faster.  Stay Away From The Internet!  This is an important tip. If you want to write fast and efficiently, you need to remove the lull of the phone and the internet during the time you are writing. Keep your phone away from your desk while you’re getting those words down and resist the temptation to hop onto the internet for a break. Searching houses or checking Facebook is not going to get those words down any faster!  Set Rewards  This is one that I personally do myself. If I’ve met my word count for the day, I will give myself a little reward. It might be as small as a biscuit, or half an hour watching my favourite (naff) TV show, but it helps my writing brain to know that there’s a reward at the end and I do end up writing faster because of it. Set A Word Count  This could be another daily target that you set yourself to get those words down on the page quickly. A common target is 1,000 words a day. Many authors will either work towards a daily word count, or will set themselves a certain amount of time to write in. Again, it will depend on the individual, as people have different preferences.  Make Sure You’re Comfortable  Ensure that your desktop is set up correctly and that you have the appropriate chair and desk. You won’t get many words down if your back is crying in pain - and you will thank me for this tip later!  Be Excited/Motivated  Try not to see your writing time as a chore or as work. Enjoy it! If you’re having fun and are relaxed it will show in your writing. It makes a big difference if you’re writing about a topic, or in a genre, which you care about and enjoy.  Don’t Stop To Edit/Read Back  This is an important tip when it comes to writing fast. You shouldn’t stop to edit or read back through your work. Writing at speed is all about getting those words down on the page; you can worry about refinement and detail later.  Research Later  The same can be said for research. This can be quite a time-consuming part of writing and although it is necessary – it is not essential at the speed writing point. You can go back and add the relevant research points later, but first, focus on getting your bare-boned structure down.   If it helps, you can always add notes- colour coded, in brackets, underlined etc- in your draft reminding you to go back and check certain details or add in some specific information.  Remember – It’s Not Meant To Be Perfect!  This can be a hard tip for perfectionists, or for those writers that are used to editing as they go, but if you want to try writing more quickly, it’s important to note that your first draft will probably end up quite rough and imperfect. This is fine, though, as you can then have fun refining it at the editing stage.  Use Other Devices (Tablet, Notebook, Whatever Works)  You might consider using other devices to speed write. Some people write faster by hand. Others prefer to use a tablet, whilst others will prefer to write straight onto a computer/laptop. Find what works for you and stick with it.   You could also use speech-to-text dictation and speak your writing aloud into your laptop. This works particularly well if you express yourself more coherently verbally than you do when writing, or if you’re a faster speaker than you are a typist.  Have Snacks!  This is a tip I’m happy to endorse. Quick snacks or drinks will help you avoid the temptation of trips to the kitchen!  How To Write Quickly As writers we must always appreciate our own strengths and weaknesses and for some individuals, the fast-writing method may not appeal, or even work. It takes some people longer to write a book than others, and there\'s nothing wrong with that. However, for many – this could be a very productive and motivating way to get words onto a page and to progress your writing onto the next level.  Remember that the key thing here is not to produce a polished and perfect draft – instead, you are looking to produce a working draft that can be edited and refined later.   Writing quickly can be a useful tool to learn, and can be especially handy if you are trying to squeeze your writing into an already packed schedule. But it\'s not purely about learning how to speed write. The key is to be disciplined and self-motivated and write under the conditions which most inspire you. The results will speak for themselves. Perhaps you will be the next John Boyne and produce a draft within a few days, or perhaps, more realistically, you will have a workable document in a much faster time than you thought was otherwise possible. Either way, you have nothing to lose by giving it a go – so get rid of those distractions and set that timer! Let’s see where your speedy words take you!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

From the stage to the page: Liz Webb’s debut thriller

As a former stand-up comic, voiceover actor, producer - and now, debut author - Liz Webb is no stranger to agility in her career. Her debut novel, \'The Daughter\' (Allison & Busby, May 2022) has garnered reviews from names like Jo Brand and Sophie Hannah. Here\'s how Jericho Writers member Liz navigated her path to becoming a published author, and some things she found useful along the way. JW: How did you find moving between career paths, and eventually moving into writing? LW: I’m both a lily-livered navel-gazer, and a massive control freak greedy for applause.  My career has taken me from stand-up comic to radio producer to psychological crime novelist.  With each job, I’ve needed to fake it till I make it.  In stand-up, I had to fake confidence with audiences and promoters.  With producing, I had to fake confidence with commissioners, writers, technicians and managers.  But with writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself.  Each time I write, I have to tune out my internal whingeing and keep going, even when I’m sure I’m writing drivel.  Because I know that if I write ANYTHING AT ALL, it may actually be good, or it could be made good.  But if I wait for some mythical future where I’m a 3D confident person (what an outlandish concept), then I won’t go through the process that enables me to write something that I do eventually have confidence in. To tweak a quote from the brilliant Michael Rosen:  I can’t go over it, I can’t go under it, I have to go through it. With writing, I’ve had to fake the hardest kind of confidence: with myself. With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself.  I try to be disciplined and focussed (but often fail) and try to get better at wearing the many different hats one needs to wear to produce a book: idea-generator, plotter, writer, editor, diplomat, therapist, cheerleader, publicist, video presenter and social media promoter.  As I approach the publication of my first novel, my hat collection is expanding exponentially. JW: What kinds of resources helped you along the way? LW: In the summer of 2020, I had a very rough draft of my first novel: a Frankenstein-esque, stitched-together, suppurating thing.  It lacked a USP, a thorough plot, consistent characters, and any depth of theme.  I needed to redraft it multiple times, considering it from every angle.  With all the jobs I’ve done, I’ve used different versions of the same skills.  Stand-up was me telling my stories and controlling the room.  Producing was me telling other people’s stories and controlling a team of talent.  And now writing is me telling a made-up story and controlling myself. That summer, it was at the height of covid, and Jericho Writers ran an amazing online-only writing festival.  It was choc-o-block with videos, live ones and replays, covering everything I needed: plotting, voice, character, editing, pitching, etc.  I looked away from the enormous hill I had to climb and set myself specific tasks.  Each day, I would fasten on my blinkers, watch a video on a particular subject and deal with just that issue in my book.   As I got closer to a decent draft, I did four Jericho Writers one-to-one sessions with agents or book doctors, which resulted in requests for full manuscript reads, giving me confidence. That experience with my first book taught me to always focus on only the next specific task at hand.  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. I still use the excellent resources of Jericho Writers.  There are too many great tutors to recommend, but ones that leap to mind are: Cesca Major, Philippa East, Debi Alper and Rebecca Horsfall.  Whenever I’m in writing freefall, I’ll watch a video and use it to focus my writing.  Yesterday I watched the wonderful Emma Cooper talking about ‘How to hit story beats\', which helped me decide the vital mid-point of my second novel. JW: Do you feel like an author? LW: I feel like an author in the way the fake heiress Anna Delvey felt like an heiress.  I can convince others (and occasionally myself) that I’m an author.  But deep down, I feel like a fraud and I’m just waiting to be caught out.  I’m wracked with self-doubt and imposter syndrome.  But so what!  It’s like I’m following the practical steps of piloting a plane: taking-off, cruising, course-correcting and then landing.  I try not to think about how unbelievable it is that planes can fly, about all the components needing to work together, or about crashing.  If I did, I would never get that plane from A to B. The trick is to write anyway.  When I’m immersed in writing, I can tune out my endless boring negativity.  I’m only too aware that I’ve got massive black spots in my writing skills.  But whoop-di-doo, so does everyone.  I focus on what I am good at (eg. voice, quirkiness and plotting), keep learning the things I can improve on (eg. over-writing and grammar) and just ignore the stuff I’ll always be rubbish at (ooh that would be telling).  I try to remind myself that I’ve worked really hard and should occasionally pat myself on the back. I was at the post office yesterday, posting my novel to a friend. ‘What’s in the parcel and what’s it worth?’ the postmaster asked me. ‘It’s just a book, it’s only worth a few pounds,’ I mumbled. I so wish I’d said: ‘It’s MY book, I wrote it – and the enormous cost of doing so is unquantifiable!’ JW: What has it been like working with your publisher? LW: It’s been great to be published by Allison & Busby, a highly-respected independent publisher.  I will always remember my first meeting with them, being so warmly welcomed at their Soho offices which were filled from floor to ceiling with pristine novels – it was like stepping into a film, in which I played the role of ‘novelist’.  They’ve always been super-enthusiastic about my book and supported me with editing, copy-editing and proof reading. I was quite a novice at social media and got useful advice about using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and (much to my teenage son’s amusement) TikTok.  They hired a brilliant external publicist, who helped me get blog tours, interviews and articles.  They’ve managed all the book production and promotion side of things, but they’ve welcomed discussion about title, front-cover and publicity, thus employing their considerable knowledge and experience, while indulging my megalomania. The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities. JW: Has the experience of writing your second novel been different to that of the first? Have you felt any pressure? LW: I feel a gargantuan pressure to write an even better second book and to get an even bigger financial and PR deal.  The self-imposed pressure is good IF I use it constructively to learn more, work harder and open up new possibilities.  But the imagined pressure that I conjure up from friends, agents and publishers is ridiculous.  I have to constantly remind myself that nobody outside of me really cares two hoots about what I do. Writing a second book should theoretically be easier as I’ve gained skills from writing my first one.  But as the achievement escalator I’m on reaches the top of any writing aim, as soon as I’ve blinked, I find myself back at the bottom of a new escalator.  Writing feels like juggling water, never like a solid skill that I’ve mastered, but as long as I keep writing then I’m progressing. Sometimes I kid myself that writing my first novel was easier than writing my second, because I knew less about the enormity of the job and the possibilities of failure.  But that’s such tosh. It’s so easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles.  I once googled an ex-boyfriend I was remembering fondly and discovered that he was in prison!  That’s obviously the start of another novel – but the point is, wherever you are in the writing process, you are where you are and all you can do is keep on trying.   I will keep learning more, writing more and hopefully publishing more.   Because I want to cocoon myself in my private little world of writing.  And because I want massive world acclaim. About Liz Liz Webb originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University at age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand-up comic, voice-over artist, script editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.   Liz was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies. Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie.  Follow Liz on Twitter @lizwebbauthor Visit Liz\'s website here.

How To Edit A Book

If you Google the phrase “the best writing is rewriting” you’ll find no agreement about who said it first. Hemingway,  Robert Graves, and Truman Capote are just three of the famous candidates. But that doesn’t matter. What does count is the way this quote resonates. When it comes to the importance of book editing, there is near universal consensus. It’s an indispensable part of the writing process and it’s where much of the best work is done. This guide will help explain why editing is so important, how to edit effectively, and the ins and outs of editing a book for publishing  - whether that be with a traditional publisher or self-publishing.   Why Is Editing Important? Writing a book is one thing. Reading a book is something different. It’s manuscript editing that creates the bridge between those two processes. It’s in editing a book that you make sure you are actually saying what you want to say and saying it in the right way. It’s where you get to weigh your words, and make sure they all have the desired impact. It’s where you get to see and remove obstacles between those words and your readers. It’s where you get a chance to enable your book to become the best possible version of itself. It’s where you can turn a book from good to great.   Which all sounds wonderful. But let’s not pretend it’s always easy or straightforward. It’s also where you will make some of the most important and difficult decisions about your work. It is necessarily challenging, painstaking, time consuming and difficult.   Fortunately, there are things you can do to make this process easier and more effective. Let’s get to those now.  The Main Ways To Edit Your Book The first thing to know is that there is more than one way to edit a book. Here are some of the best methods: Editing With A Publisher Or Agent If you’re lucky enough to be picked up by an agent or traditional publisher, you will hopefully get input from a professional who will help get your book ready for the commercial market.  This is the gold standard, in many ways, when it comes to editing a book for publishing. It is a unique relationship because it’s between people who have a special stake in the work in question. However, it’s not the only way to produce results - and often quite a bit of editing goes into a book before it gets through to agents and publishers.   Beta Readers Sometimes a trusted friend or fellow writer can provide that second pair of eyes you need to help you see the things you are missing in your book - and also to give you that crucial insight into how it feels to read your book. It can be extremely helpful - although it can also get complicated and it’s important to find the mix of advice and support that works for you. (Try our guide for all the ins and outs of using beta readers, as well as some useful tips on how to approach the process.)   Editing With A Paid Industry Professional Many writers find it extremely helpful to hire an independent industry professional to give them a detailed and honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses in their work via organisations like ours (access our editorial services here). The advantages of getting this kind of insight into your work speak for themselves. It can be difficult to decide which editorial service to use, which is where our article about the different types of editing and how to choose between them comes in handy. This article also makes the crucial point that “the right time for editorial input is generally: as late as possible.” You’ll get the most out of an external editor after you have taken your book as far as you can yourself. It’s really important that before you bring someone else in, you make sure you know your book inside out and have taken it as far as you can. Make sure, in short, that you have done the crucial work of self-editing first.  The rest of this article will predominantly focus on this part of the process - but some tips will also apply to the other editing methods.  Self-Editing This - as the name suggests- is the part of the process that you can do for yourself. Let’s look at it in more detail now.  How To Edit Your Book The truth is that there’s no one way to edit your book. If I were to tell you that you can map out every part of the process and systematically tick off every aspect of editing a book by following a simple formula, I would be lying. In fact, the very best guide to how do edit your book is very often your book itself. Which is to say, you have to try to tailor the work you do according to the needs of your manuscript. You need to look carefully at what’s in front of you and take it from there. But there are still several important steps that you can and should follow to make sure you maximise the potential of your writing.   Take Time Away From Your Book The first thing to do is nothing. Set your book aside. Give yourself time away from the book so that you can come to it afresh and begin to be able to see the wood, as well as the trees. And perhaps even the path you will need to take through the forest… One of the key elements in editing a book is seeing it clearly. It’s hard to do that when you’re still in writing mode and still in the midst of all those thoughts that crowd around as you get down your first draft.  Format Your Manuscript This feels like a very basic step, but it’s important. When you present your book to agents and editors you want it to be as clear and clean looking as possible. And this is also a good part of that process of helping you to see your words anew. If you have them laid out regularly, in a new font, newly double-spaced and with page numbers your own read through of your work will be more productive - and you will hopefully see your words with different clarity.  Fix Your Spelling And Grammar Again, this is an important job for when it comes to presenting your book to other readers. You want them concentrating on what you want to say, rather than tripping over mistakes and falling into needless confusion. Reading through with an eye on spelling and grammar rather than all the other questions relating to how to edit a book will also again help you see and think about your work in a new way and spot things you might not otherwise have noticed.   Read Your Book I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people don’t carry out this part of the process. It is clearly a key part of how to edit your novel - but before we get too scornful of those who don’t carry it out, I actually understand why so many writers are reticent here. Much as hearing the sound of your own voice can be painful, reading your words on the page can be discomforting. Once you get to the end of a draft it’s also hard not to feel exhausted - and like you already know your book inside out. But you’ll be surprised at just how many surprises your work can contain. And how different a book can feel when you actually sit and read it from front to back. So do it. Try to put yourself in the position of an editor or first reader encountering your work for the first time and think about the things that will jump out at them. Resist the urge to dig in too deep at this stage. Save the big rewrites for later -  although do make marks and comments and keep a list of things that jump out at you.   Attend To The Big Things: Voice, Structure, And Character There are several, important basic questions you can ask yourself when you’re approaching the challenge of how to edit a novel. Of course, editing books is an art rather than a science so these won’t apply universally, but even if they don’t, it may be useful to think about why they don’t matter in your work and what that means about what you should be doing.   Think About Voice There are certain questions you can ask yourself when thinking about your use of voice. Do I know what I want to say, and am I saying it in the most precise, clear and evocative way? Am I using my narrative voice as fully as I can, and have I captured other people’s accurately? Have I got the right voice for the story I’m telling?   Think About Character There are lots of things to consider in terms of your characters and how you\'ve shaped and developed them in your book. Here are some questions you can ask yourself: Are my characters well drawn and convincing both to me and my readers? Do these characters have weight in the world? Can I recognise them as soon as they enter a scene? What about characters\' voices, either in dialogue or when looking at the world from their point of view? Do my characters all have unique voices?   Think About Structure There are lots of questions you can ask yourself when you\'re editing/examining the structure of your book, too. Is my structure working properly, with a good beginning, middle and end? Does it all flow and add up to something? Is it told in the clearest way possible? Does the chronology make sense and is it easy to follow?   Get Down To The Nitty Gritty: Sentences When you\'re editing at the sentence level there are even more things to consider and questions you can ask yourself. Are the words and images I’m using fresh and vibrant? Have I avoided cliché? Am I engaging my readers’ senses of smell, touch, taste, sound and vision in the right way? Am I tagging every verb with an adverb, and every noun with an adjective? (It may be that many are superfluous, and that with a bit more confidence you can cut them out and trust that your writing is evocative enough to get the point across without them.) Does every word, sentence, paragraph, every bit of dialogue serve a purpose?   Check Your Dialogue Are you using prose to break up the dialogue with things like facial expressions, body language, incidental details, internal monologue and physical and emotional responses? Is that working? Are you using lots of emotive dialogue tags, eg gasped, roared, moaned, grumbled etc? Most of the time, you’ll find that it’s best to stick with s/he said which is almost invisible. Read Another Article! Here’s a really useful alternative article on editing. It gets into the nitty gritty of line editing, increasing the force of your sentences, closing your chapter with resonance, and getting your rhythm right. It’s full of food for thought for when you’re really polishing and improving your work.   Print Out Your Book See how your work looks on paper. And then, that’s right, read it again. Editing a book is a slow, careful process. Sometimes it can be really helpful to have something tangible that you can feel and hold in your hands. And you can make it fun by experimenting with different highlighters and coloured pens, or physically cutting pages into sections and rearranging chapters or paragraphs. The Art Of Editing Before closing let me emphasise again that editing is more of an art than a science. The important things to do are to work with the manuscript you have and edit it according to its needs. Also always try to think of that reader you want to read your work. What do they know, want to know, need to know? What will amuse and entertain them? What will trip them up? What will keep them avidly reading until the end?   There are many different ways of answering those questions - and different ways of getting to the result you want. Self-editing will help you get a good bit of the way there - but do also keep an open mind about getting more help further down the line.   Finally, a bit more food for thought and a few articles that will also help you take your work further:  How to revise a first draft. How to make sense of proofreading marks. What is copyediting?  Developmental Editing: What It Is & Where To Get It. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Chapters In A Book: How To Structure Them

Chapter structure may not sound like the sexiest topic, but it has a significant effect on whether readers enjoy your story. As you strive to become a better writer, examining different aspects of your writing, perhaps you’ve wondered: How long should my chapters be? How do I structure my chapters and make them flow?  In this guide, we’ll talk about why chapters exist, and we’ll look at how you can enhance your reader’s experience by carefully considering the context, pacing, content, openings, and titles of your book’s chapters.  To start off, let’s look at a question whose answer might seem obvious: what is a chapter?  What Is A Chapter? The most simple answer is that a chapter is simply a marked division of a book.  The origin of chapters is unknown, but they appear to have developed around or before 400 AD, alongside the concept of a table of contents. In many early examples, the front of the book would contain a numbered summary of each chapter. The reader could then find the corresponding number in the body of the book.  In reference books, chapters are still used in much the same way. They form part of an overall indexing and organising system that makes the book more useful as a store of information.  However, in novels and narrative non-fiction, book chapters serve a different purpose.  The rest of this guide focuses on chapters in novels and narrative non-fiction. To begin with, let’s clarify the difference between chapters and scenes.  How Chapters Work In this section, we\'ll look at how chapters work, how they differ from scenes, what they\'re for, and how chapter lengths are assigned. Chapters Vs. Scenes Chapters and scenes are related, as they are both parts of a book, but they are not the same thing:  A scene is a part of your narrative, where characters experience certain events in a particular time and place. A chapter is a division of your book, marked by a number or title.  In some novels, chapters contain one scene each.  More often, each chapter of a book will contain several related scenes. In this case, the scenes are usually divided from one another by whitespace, by a typographic ornament, or using a transition phrase in the text itself—but not by a number or title.  What Are Chapters For? Unlike a reference book, you typically read a novel from front to back, often across multiple sittings. Chapters in novels support this experience in two ways:  Chapters mark appropriate “pause points”. These are moments where the reader can safely put down the book and forget those short-term details we normally hold in our heads as we read, like which characters are present, who just spoke, and so on. (A scene break can also function as a pause point within a chapter.) Chapter divisions make the story more clear by creating a space when there’s a change in focus, such as a change in viewpoint or location, a jump in time, or a new type of action.  These two purposes often overlap.  Chapter Length There are no hard rules about length when writing chapters. In addition to being functional, chapters in a novel are part of an author’s storytelling style and can be used in a variety of ways. But here are some guidelines to consider:  There’s no specific maximum length for a chapter. If a chapter is too long, you’ll probably notice that the pacing is slow, or that the chapter contains too many unrelated scenes. However, a long chapter can be appropriate for a climactic scene, or a passage that’s meant to feel arduous. There’s also no specific minimum length for a chapter. Too many chapter breaks can annoy the reader, or come across as precious or grandiose. If a short chapter has the same focus as the chapter before or after, consider merging them and using a scene break instead. However, a short chapter can be appropriate when the action is quick (especially when switching between multiple viewpoints), or when emphasising a specific moment that you don’t want to clutter with details. (For more detailed advice about chapter lengths, see our guide How Long Should a Chapter Be?)Remember that chapters are not scenes, so not every scene break requires a new chapter. When you keep chapter lengths consistent throughout most of your book, you establish a rhythm. You can then break this rhythm at a key moment to create an effect.  Now that we know how chapters work in general, let’s talk about how to structure them.   How To Structure A Chapter The structure is an important part of how chapters are used, and it can be helpful to plan out your chapters and determine which type of structure works for you.  When To Plan Your Chapters If you like to plan ahead, or if you like to write from prompts with word counts, you’ll do best by planning your chapters in advance. However, if you find that type of planning too constricting, it’s fine to ignore chapter divisions while you write your first draft. When that draft is complete, you can use your revisions to consider where to insert chapter divisions.  (Now, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t plan at all. See our guide How to Plan a Novel for advice on planning the broad strokes before you write that first draft.) Structuring A Chapter: A Method For Everyone Here’s a method anyone can use to structure a chapter. If you like to plan ahead, use these steps while plotting your book. If you prefer to write organically, then organise and revise, use these steps as part of your revisions.  Either way, this method will help you think about how to write a chapter by grouping and linking scenes, and cue you to whether there might be scenes missing that you should add, or superfluous ones you should (re)move.  Keeping in mind that every chapter is both a self-contained experience and also part of the complete story, consider these questions:  What is the reader’s mindset coming into this chapter? How intense was the previous chapter? Do we want to increase, decrease, or maintain that intensity? What changed or what did the reader learn in the previous chapter? Do you want to elaborate on that immediately (consequences, added details, reactions), or do you want to switch focus (give the reader time to ponder or let their curiosity simmer)? What was the emotional tone of the previous chapter? Do you want to maintain or contrast that?  What should the reader’s mindset be as they enter the next chapter? How will you set that up? Do you want the reader’s mind clear or preoccupied when the next chapter begins? What emotional state do you want them in? Will the next chapter have its best impact if the reader enters it excited, demoralised, apprehensive, …? What does the next chapter focus on? Can you prime the reader’s interest by planting questions that the next chapter will address? Can you make the next chapter feel fresh by avoiding unnecessary references to what it will focus on (“topic fatigue”)? What job does the current chapter need to do? What does the reader need to learn, and how are you delivering that information? Which events need to happen on-stage, which ones off-stage, and which are flexible? If you have a multiple-viewpoint novel, which viewpoints are available to relay this chapter’s events? What length is appropriate for this chapter?  As you answer these questions, you’ll get a good idea of which scenes should be included in a chapter and how they should be presented in terms of viewpoint, tone, and focus.  (Note—if you’re not clear on the overall plot of your novel, you’ll need to get that straight first before you worry about making chapters flow smoothly. See our guide How to Plot a Novel for advice and tools for plotting.) Two Kinds Of Bad Chapters Pay special attention to fixing two types of bad chapters: chapters where nothing happens, and chapters where things happen but nobody cares. If you have a chapter that’s not working, try these questions:  What is the most important thing that happens? Is the chapter built to support that event, or does it contain distractions and superfluous material? Does this chapter exist solely to let you include a scene that you love? Can the story exist without this chapter? If so, try deleting it. Does this chapter exist solely to move characters to new locations or otherwise “get them ready” for future chapters? If so, always delete it. You don’t need to announce location changes to the reader, you can have them happen off-stage and refer back to them with a single sentence. (“Mary touched down at LAX just as furious as when she took off. She’d decided to fly out the moment she learned of Frank’s act of embezzlement.”) Is this chapter an infodump? If so, try to delete the entire chapter by diffusing your exposition into earlier chapters. At worst, you’ll tighten it up considerably.Does this chapter handle its events in a memorable way? If you have a chapter that is focused and does what it needs to plot-wise, but it just isn’t that interesting, that can be a cue to think up a set-piece or a more original way of handling the action of this chapter.  Sometimes, deeply probing a bad chapter will help you to uncover deeper problems in your story structure. (In other words, maybe the chapter is bad because there’s no good way to tell it.) If a chapter feels bad during your early revisions, be a bloodhound and follow the trail until you’re satisfied.   How To Start A Chapter Starting a chapter can be daunting in much the same way as starting a book. Luckily, some of the same advice applies.  Below is a process you can use for any genre. As before, use it as a planning tool or a reviewing tool, depending on your writing style. Starting A Chapter- Reader’s Attention Method Think of a well-planned tourist attraction: its entrance is carefully planned to focus and guide people to ensure their experience is enjoyable. The start of your chapter can accomplish the same thing using these steps: (1) tell the reader where they are, (2) get their attention, (3) put their focus where you need it, (4) lead them on from there.  To tell the reader where they are, use a chapter title, dateline, or opening sentence to provide them with a mental starting point. You might tell them whose viewpoint they’re in, or where the scene is set, or something that’s just happened. This is the equivalent of the tourist attraction’s “Welcome to …” sign.  To get their attention, don’t think “volume turned to 11” so much as “shiny object”. One technique is to force the reader to activate their mind’s eye by giving them a partial image. Another is to engage their analytical mind by creating an open question. Either way, you’re demanding that their mental resources be focused on the story—if half their brain is still on their grocery list, this will help them forget about it.  Now put their focus where you need it. Do you want the reader to watch a particular character’s movements? Speculating about someone’s intentions? Thinking about a particular problem or mystery? Use the image or open question from the previous step to bring their attention where you need it. For example, if you want their attention on a particular character, your opening image might be of something that character is touching, or of an article of that character’s clothing.  Now you’re ready to lead the reader onward. Let the natural action of your chapter begin to unfold.  Starting A Chapter—Example Let’s create an example for a crime thriller novel. We’ll say our protagonist has been captured, and we want to set up a tense conversation between him and his captor, followed by an exciting escape sequence. We might try this:  Mojave desert, Monday, 2pm The pocket-watch was ornate; Civil War most likely. Jesse watched it swing from the brown suit jacket as the barrel chest paced back and forth in front of him, the voice droning on. Gold. Some sort of flowers or vines engraved on it. Diamond stud. Roman numbers on the face. Jesse looked up. His neck was burning. He hadn’t been able to loosen his wrists at all. McCallum was looking somewhere out on the horizon. Talking about loyalty and betrayal. Jesse was too dehydrated to focus on the details. Then McCallum stopped talking, and Jesse realised he could hear the pocket-watch keeping time—a dutiful witness to his final minutes.   Here’s how we developed our chapter opening:  We tell the reader where they are using a dateline, a common device in thrillers. The phrase “Monday, 2pm” tells us how much time has passed since the previous chapter. The fact that it’s daytime gives us the start of a mental image of the desert.  Now we get the reader’s attention with an initially vague description of the pocket-watch and its owner. Ornate, but how? And why is the owner above Jesse’s eye level?  Now we give the reader answers paired with more questions, focusing them on Jesse’s predicament. They realise that Jesse is tied up, kneeling, dehydrated, and apparently in mortal danger. The reader can see that the immediate concern of this chapter will be Jesse’s desire to escape this situation and that McCallum wants a final confrontation.  Now we’re ready to lead the reader onward to the action of the chapter: words will be exchanged, Jesse will attempt to escape, and the reader will anticipate the outcome.  This is just one way we could have started this chapter. Using the same method, we might instead have started with Jesse waking up in a dark, cramped space; hearing snatches of muffled dialogue; then realising he’s in a car trunk when it’s opened and blinding light streams in. The method is a checklist—your creativity fills in the blanks.  Now that you have a method for writing a chapter opening, let’s look at one final detail: chapter titles.  How To Write Chapter Titles The first thing to keep in mind about chapter titles is that, unlike a great book title, they’re optional! Plenty of books do without them, so don’t feel obligated to include any if you don’t think it enhances your story. If you do want to include chapter titles, think about what job they’ll be doing; this will point you toward which format to use.  Chapter Title Ideas If you want to tease or foreshadow the events of the chapter, you can use your title to describe coming events in an abstract or concrete way. For example:  Chapter 7: In Which Bertie McLannister is Shot, But Survives  Chapter 13: The Showdown at the Mill  Chapter 21: An End to Suffering  If you just want a distinct title so your reader can tell chapters apart, you can pull the title from a memorable piece of dialogue or description. For example:  Chapter 34: I couldn’t forget you if I tried  Chapter 6: The temple, its battered walls defiant  If your novel jumps among multiple viewpoints, you can incorporate the viewpoint character’s name into the title. (Alternately, you can put the viewpoint character’s name in a dateline. This can be a better option if you plan to change viewpoints within the chapter as well.) For example:  Chapter 16: Lucy  Chapter 16: Lucy’s Story  Chapter 12: Jack Carter: The Showdown at the Mill  If time, timing, or location are particularly important, your title can incorporate a date or time. (Again, this information can also be given in a dateline.) For example:  Chapter 3: Mojave Desert, Monday, 2pm  Chapter 3: A dutiful witness—Monday, 2pm  These chapter title examples show some of the most common formats. Other possibilities exist—you can use any format that complements the experience you’re trying to create.  However, be sure to stay consistent. You shouldn’t vary the format of your chapter titles unless you have a good reason, such as two viewpoint characters with different ways of thinking—perhaps one is always acutely aware of the time, the other attuned to their mood.  Crafting Chapters Using chapters with purpose will make your book (and your writing process) more satisfying.  In this guide, I’ve given you some tools for thinking about the context, purpose, structure, opening, and titles of your chapters. When you’re ready for the next step, one of the best sounding boards for your ideas is speaking with other authors.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is Intertextuality? A How-To Guide With Examples

Finding similarities between stories is a rather satisfying activity. Intertextuality just adds that extra layer of meaning and a dose of excitement when we can see similar patterns in two different stories.   But what exactly is intertextuality? You know how we are influenced by certain books we read or films and series we watch or songs we listen to? You know how that influence seeps into our writing, advertently or inadvertently? That’s intertextuality. This seemingly cunning literary trick requires understanding in a little more depth so that you can use it as a deliberate tool to your creative advantage.  Ever watched The Lion King and thought ‘Hmmm…Simba’s story is somewhat like Hamlet’s’? Both Hamlet’s and Simba’s fathers are killed by their brothers, Claudius and Scar, respectively. And both Hamlet and Simba seek revenge on their uncles and take back their kingdoms, after being visited by the ‘ghosts’ of their fathers reminding them of their duties.   If you missed that, I’ll take it you didn’t read or watch Hamlet, and you wouldn’t be the only one. You see, we can draw parallels and observe similarities only by comparison. If we’re not aware of the older story being recalled, we might not see the intertextuality at play. This applies to writing too. Even when it’s our own story, there’s a very good chance our writing has intertextual links to some other work we might have read or watched, even if we’re unaware of it.  In this article, we’ll define intertextuality, go through the different types and forms of intertextuality, look at some examples of intertextuality, and explore how intertextuality can be used in your writing.  What Is Intertextuality? Culturally, works of art, literature, and music all derive from one another, and this makes for a thriving web of creativity. These works we weave all share a few, if not many, common threads. When two or more bodies of work parallel one another or reflect themes and/or plotlines from one another, it’s called intertextuality. Often it can be inadvertent, but it can just as easily be a deliberate device. When done well, intertextuality becomes a great literary tool in the writer’s kit.  Types Of intertextuality  Latent intertextuality is when intertextuality is used inadvertently. When it is used consciously, it is referred to as deliberate intertextuality.   Latent Intertextuality  Most writings invariably have some element of intertextuality in them, as being influenced by some of the things we consume is inevitable. When I showed the prologue of my love story to my professor when I was on a creative writing course, he observed that it had a ‘Rudyard Kipling feel about it’. It was one of the best compliments I’d ever received.  In my story, I animated the sun as an onlooker and referred to it as ‘him’ to show the reader the sun’s glimpse into the life of my main character. This is a pretty common way to refer to the sun in all Indian languages; in fact, we gender a lot of inanimate objects in our native tongues and it seeps into our English too.   Rudyard Kipling’s works were heavily influenced by the times he lived in – British India – and his own works were a product of that era. So, he’d have been naturally influenced by the native land and language. So, what was common between my story and Kipling’s works was the native language influence that brought with it a “come, come see this land” kind of vibe, as well as the use of description. I wasn’t aware of this similarity until my professor saw it and mentioned it. Besides, like I mentioned before, latent intertextuality can be easily missed if you’re not aware of the text your own work parallels.  Deliberate Intertextuality  Choosing to use intertextuality as a deliberate literary device is a skill every writer would benefit from. One of my favourite novels of all time is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This work has perhaps some of the most exemplary usage of deliberate intertextuality. Throughout the book, there are various references to real events of the time this story is set in.   An obvious example of deliberate intertextuality is when Max, the Jewish man hiding in the Hubermanns’ basement paints over a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, to write his own story for the protagonist Liesel. This is not only the character’s attempt at rewriting the reality from his perspective, but also the author’s own attempt at having his voice heard by the reader, albeit through a character. This is a clever way for the writer to let his presence be felt by his reader, when the story allows it.   Different Forms Of Intertextuality  Many writers choose to explicitly base their contemporary works on a classic work and this is an obvious way to incorporate intertextuality. Writers can do this through translation, form, parody, allegory, retelling, fan fiction and prequels.   Translation And Form  No two languages are the same and they often come with cultural tints of their own. So, when we translate a work from one language to another, even with most of the story being the same, the two simply read different. Another way this can happen is through changing the form or genre of the original work. For instance, the 20th century Irish author James Joyce’s novel Ulysses makes use of both these kinds of intertextuality. It’s an English rendition of the ancient poet Homer’s Greek poem Odysseus.   Retellings  Retelling is a skill by which a good storyteller can spin a popular (but possibly outdated) story into a compelling tale of the current times. This tool is one of the ways in which Disney tries to stay relevant with the audience of today. Take, for instance, the movie Brave, whose protagonist is unlike any of the other Disney princesses – wild and messy; or Frozen, whose princess Elsa is the first to be coronated and to rule as queen, without having to marry a prince; or Maleficent, wherein princess Aurora’s curse is broken by ‘true love’s kiss’ from her adoptive mother rather than a prince. These fairytales take root from their tried-and-tested predecessors but spring forth with characters and plot-twists that are more suited to the modern times we live in.  Parodies When you take a plot, writer’s style or even an entire genre and exaggerate it for comical effect, it’s called a parody. The Shrek movies do exactly this with the entire genre of fairytales. They’ve turned the ‘happily ever after’ theme on its head. They are literally all about ‘ugly ever after’, with Fiona choosing to remain an ogress with Shrek, despite being given a second chance to be a ‘beautiful’ princess. Littered with several adult puns (“Although she (Snow White) lives with seven other men, she’s not easy”), exaggerations (Sleeping Beauty falling with a thud every other minute, even in an action sequence), and very literal use of deep songs (Live and let die at the Frog King’s funeral), these movies tickle the funny bones of adults and children alike.   Fan Fiction  Fan fiction is a genre more prevalent on the Internet than anywhere else. Works of fan fiction are directly related to rather popular texts, but they are written by a reader and not the original author of the popular text.   As ardent lovers of stories, I’d say we’re all familiar with the pain of a story coming to an end, especially if it’s a series of novels. Readers of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer felt this pain when the four-book series came to an end.   One of them took to writing a sequel to the series on the web – a raunchy piece depicting what the protagonists Bella Swan and Edward Cullen might be up to in their bedroom. The writer, under the penname ‘Snowqueens Icedragon’, then decided to change the protagonists’ names, rewrite the plot, and went on to self-publish it. What happened next was unprecedented – it went on to become a phenomenally bestselling trilogy of erotic fiction in its own right! We know this trilogy as the 50 Shades franchise, and its author as EL James.   Prequels  When a backstory to the main story is provided as a standalone, it’s called a prequel, just as a progressive instalment to the main story would be called a sequel. Similar to fan fiction, prequels have quite the flair to weave intertextuality seamlessly into a story.   One such elegantly handled prequel is the Disney movie Cruella, which serves as a precursor to the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians. In many ways, it attempts to humanise an evil villain who’s better known for her love of skinning puppies to make ‘fashionable’ coats.   Uses Of Intertextuality And Intertextuality Examples  Deliberate intertextuality serves a great many purposes for writers. Here are a few of them:  To Change The Form Of A Text  When in fifth grade, I had to study an abridged version of Ulysses by the 20th century Irish author James Joyce. What I didn’t know then was that my copy was a watered-down-meant-for-kids version of an epic novel, which was in itself a translation of the epic poem Odyssey by ancient Greek poet Homer.   Ulysses is a great example of deliberate intertextuality in literature, where translation and change in form create a whole new piece of work, despite being directly derived from another known text. Joyce has structured his novel similarly to the original poem. However, the duration of his storyline only runs for the course of a day following the hero Leopold Bloom’s realistic life in early 20th century Ireland, whereas the ancient poem narrates the hero Odysseus’ decade-long mythical journey back home from Troy to Ithaca.   To Redo Or Renew A Character  The very allegorical name and character – Cruella – renders itself beautifully to intertextuality. It calls into question how much notoriety classifies as ‘cruel’ because this puppy-skinning villain from 101 Dalmatians is surprisingly fond of dogs in the prequel and only plays the part of a supposed dalmatian-murderer, whilst still using her friends to get what she wants, all the while being mean to them. The backstory of Cruella really makes us wonder what pushed her to be the heartless being she is in 101 Dalmatians, and even gets us to sympathise with her throughout the movie.   To Keep A Story Alive   The similarities between Bella Swan of Twilight and Anastasia Steele of 50 Shades of Grey are uncanny. They’re both young, awkward, lip-biting brunettes, who’re sexually and romantically inexperienced. They both fall for handsome, young, rich men with dark secrets – Edward Cullen of Twilight is a vampire, and Christian Grey of 50 Shades is a sexual sadist. The women are ‘prey’, the experienced men their ‘predators’.   Yet, despite such heavily similar characters and themes, EL James\' 50 Shades manages to stand out as a whole new category from Twilight. While Twilight can be read as young adult and teenage fiction, 50 Shades has a solid place in the erotica hall of fame. Still, 50 Shades keeps the love story of Twilight alive in spirit.  To Rethink Endings  The movie Shrek, and the whole franchise, parodies the very concept of a fairytale. This example of deliberate intertextuality shows how an entire collection of stories, even canon, can be turned upside down to set a new precedent for what can be considered a ‘happy ending’. Shrek is an ogre, not a charming prince. He’s sent on an expedition to save Princess Fiona by Lord Farquaad, rather than Farquaad venturing on the quest himself. And even though marrying Shrek means she’d remain a ‘hideous’ ogress for the rest of her life, Fiona chooses this fate for love.  To Rewrite A Narrative   Retelling popular narratives is a great way to connect with newer audiences. You have no idea how happy watching the Disney movie Brave made me. The story is a subversion of several Disney fairytales. Merida, the protagonist, is nothing like other Disney princesses whom modern girls or women don’t have much in common with. She’s wild, outdoorsy, hates dressing up, and has no interest in princes.   This intertextuality example is one where the very narrative of a well-known genre – fairytale – changes dramatically. In fairytales, external situations lead the princesses to their dangerous fates. In Brave, Merida sets in motion a series of problems, all by herself, and (unlike other princesses waiting for their charming princes to rescue them) manages to fix them all by herself too. It’s a very empowering – and modern – notion that girls and women, and people in general, are the leaders of their own lives and that they can choose to rescue themselves.   How To Use Intertextuality In Your Writing  If your readers can recognise and understand intertextuality, then their reading experience becomes that much richer. It adds multiple layers of meaning, context, and depth, making it a culturally complex and enriching experience.  Here are some ways in which you can use intertextuality in your own writing:  If you’ve been struggling to get a new idea, why not try rewriting a really long novel, perhaps an epic, as flash fiction? Imagine a 100-word long Lord Of The Rings. How about converting a satirical essay into a limerick? Think Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal in an anapestic trimeter. If you have a particularly upright and moral character in your story, why not explore your character\'s darker side in a whole other book? This could work particularly well in the crime and thriller genre. But it could work just as well in a love story too if your protagonist has a prospective partner but that person has a flaw which wasn’t revealed initially.  Here’s how you could try your hand at fan fiction. We know how Death from The Book Thief collected not only souls but also stories. What if Death had also collected Heinrich Schliemann’s soul? He was the archeologist that introduced the swastika (then a Hindu symbol of hope and prosperity), to Germany. What if Death collected his story? How would he narrate it, connecting it to the events that occur in the timeline of The Book Thief? You could trace the de-evolution of the symbol from something interesting and hopeful into dark and terrorising. Let’s say you’re writing a romance. We all know how most romantic fiction follow the fall-in-love-fight-make-up-get-married routine. How would you change this? What does a happy ending look like for your lovers? How about a parody of errors? What if their march to the wedding is full of what’s normally considered nightmares? This could come in right after the climax, to serve as an anticlimax before the ending. It could actually punctuate the understanding your lovers have come to after the climax, right before you let them have their ‘happy’ ending. You could use this to show how ‘happy’ doesn’t necessarily mean that there\'s no pain or problems. Dark, brooding and stern men abound, in literature, whose hearts can only be opened up by bubbly girls or cheerful women. What if the man in your story is the bubbly, cheerful and emotive one, and the girl is the one who needs opening up? How would that go in your story? It’s certainly worth a try flipping this rather cliché of a character sketch of men.   Intertextuality: Top Tip   The key factors that decide what kind of deliberate intertextuality would suit your writing are how you’d like to connect with your reader and whether or not the reference to another work you make is relatable for your target reader. If your reader can’t understand, or even notice, your references, then intertextuality is a moot point, even if your own story is credible and complete in and of itself. This is especially the case in parodies.  The thing with intertextuality is that whether or not you’re aware of it, in all probability your writing already includes it. But if you can make it a deliberate tool in your craft, it can bring a whole new level of creativity to your writing and a complete other experience to your reader’s understanding.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Internal Monologue Examples And Tips 

How do we convey the innermost thoughts, feelings and motives of our fictional characters to bring a story to life? One of the most effective ways to do this is through the use of internal (or inner) monologue.  An internal monologue is a key and useful feature in many styles of writing. It’s a method employed to give readers a greater insight into the main characters in novels, non-fiction, script writing and poetry. This specific narrative technique shows us how a character is feeling - often in relation to other characters and events within a story - and gives us a deeper understanding of their personality and motivations.  As writers we are constantly seeking to polish this aspect of our skillset to communicate more effectively with our audience, and for our writing to make more of an impact.   In this article you will learn how to write internal monologues, learn the definition of inner monologue, and read some interior monologue examples. By the end of this guide you will have all the tools you need to polish your narration - whatever its format and genre.  What Is An Internal Monologue? In literal terms, internal monologue is the result of specific cerebral function which causes us to ‘hear’ ourselves speak in our head, without physically talking or making sounds. This phenomenon is often also referred to as internal dialogue or our inner voice. It’s basically a stream of verbal consciousness that no one but the person thinking it can experience.  In fiction, inner dialogue is often written in italics so that it’s obvious the words aren’t being spoken aloud; rather that they are the thoughts and feelings of the character.   The exception to this rule is indirect internal dialogue (internal narrative written in the past tense). A stream of consciousness can often be a longer piece of internal monologue and so it may not always be written in italics, but its function will be obvious from the lack of quotation marks, and, perhaps, the use of thought tags.   This way, as readers, we have the true experience of ‘listening in’ on a verbal flurry taking place in somebody else’s head, although this literary encounter will often require acute concentration since such an outpouring of words doesn’t always make immediate sense, or follow a linear pattern.   A stream of consciousness is most effective in character-driven literary or genre fiction with a single point of view. It wouldn’t be impossible in other types of fiction, but it would be a challenge not to have a lot of head-hopping!  A classic internal monologue example (in real life) may be the way we deliberate a purchase in a shop:   I really shouldn’t buy that hardback book with the gold foil sprayed edges since I already have the ebook on my Kindle… On the other hand, it would look incredible on my coffee table and wow all my guests.   This excerpt of interior monologue reveals my own tendency to dither, and that I am easily lured into spontaneous credit card action when I find myself in a Waterstones store!   Similarly, when we want to share the innermost thoughts and feelings of our protagonist (for example) to evoke empathy from our readers, we might decide to breadcrumb facets of their past in and amongst dialogue and action.   You may have a character who, so far in your book, is very professional and cut-throat at work. But then, if you show their inner dialogue when passing a cute puppy in the street, the reader may suddenly warm to them and understand their plight of having to be a certain way at work.  This targeted piece of interior monologue can have a striking effect, helping your audience to gloss over something they might not normally agree with in terms of said character’s present behaviour or characteristics – because they can see the inner workings of their mind.   Powerful indeed…  How To Use Internal Monologues In Your Writing  When it comes to putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, interior monologue is used in two main ways - either as a soliloquy or a stream of consciousness.   The former would come into play, quite literally, when penning a play, so that a character can share their innermost thoughts and emotions aloud with the audience. If you tried that in a novel it may come across as a major info dump and pull your reader away from the action.  Alternatively, the latter concerns itself mainly with books - predominantly of the fiction genre. Once again, typically when we are writing novel-based fiction, we will either present internal narrative in italics (for the most part) or as a chain of thought, which may or may not be structured.  Let us explore some of the best ways to integrate internal monologue into our fiction. Here are 6 reasons why you may wish to add inner monologue in your writing:  1. To Shine A Light On Your Character’s Thoughts  The sharp contrast between dialogue and the powerful inner thoughts of a character can be shown extremely effectively when peppered sporadically and thoughtfully throughout a story, hooking us into the drama and mindset, making characters more 3D and relatable.  In the recent BookTok sensation, The Spanish Love Deception, author Elena Armas takes us inside the head of her female protagonist, Catalina, a lot of the time. Catalina is full of self-doubt throughout the rom-com on her slow burn journey to love with her quarry, Aaron Blackford:   Somehow, somewhere between slipping into my velvety fawn heels and the graceful, airy burgundy gown I was wearing, my head had started spinning questions. Important ones. Will I be able to find Aaron in the crowd? And also: Will he be okay? Will he get to the venue and find his seat? And the star of the show: Maybe I won’t see him until after the ceremony. What if I can’t find him?The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas We can see this works well in romance, but what about other genres?  In a crime novel, you might choose to accentuate your main character’s thoughts by employing a similar internal monologue, where the protagonist analyses the array of suspects without giving away her thought processes to said suspects.  In fantasy, you may have a wicked queen plotting her revenge on the princess. By employing dramatic irony via inner monologue, you can add a new layer of suspense because the reader knows what the queen is planning but the victim doesn’t.   2. To Reveal A Character’s Unique Point Of View  This is particularly constructive when we want to show the way a main character relates to both the characters who are in their midst in a specific scene, and those who are referred to by others.   Through internal monologue we get a true sense of relationship and dynamics, and emotions are laid bare. There’s a rawness and depth to this type of inner dialogue and often it can trigger our own emotions, evoking empathy with the protagonist, allowing us to truly feel as if we are walking in their shoes. Additionally, it’s a good way to breadcrumb a character’s traits and beliefs - as long as there’s not too much ‘telling’.  Roy Straitley, the curious Latin teacher in Joanne Harris’s psychological thriller, Gentlemen and Players, displays an inner narrative interspersed with random Latin phrases to dazzling effect. Harris translates these interior dialogue tidbits into English beneath the italics, and they give weight to our perception of her loveable but pernickety MC:  I have no intention of going gently into retirement. And as for your written warning, pone ubi sol non lucet. I’ll score my Century, or die in the attempt. One for the Honours Board.Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris Perhaps we have a character whose thought process straddles two or more languages? Inserting snippets of internal narrative in another language - ensuring we have had that piece of inner monologue checked by a native speaker, of course! - can really bring the point of view of a character to life.   But less is definitely more.  3. To Display Internal Conflict  When applied with precision and sensitivity, an inner monologue can be used to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, pulling them into the page so that they will root for a character who, until now, they may not have been feeling a whole lot of empathy towards.   Kenna Rowan, the female protagonist in Colleen Hoover’s contemporary romance, Reminders of Him, has recently finished serving time for manslaughter. Five years after her incarceration, she’s on a mission to be reunited with her young daughter who’s being raised by the parents of the man whose death she caused by drink driving:  “Do you think they’ll ever give me a chance?”Ledger doesn’t answer. He doesn’t shake his head or nod. He just completely ignores the question and gets in his truck and backs out of the parking lot. Leaving me without an answer is still an answer. I think about this the entire way home. When do I cut my losses? When do I accept that maybe my life won’t intersect with Diem’s?Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover When we work poignant inner monologue statements into our character’s mind, we can convey so much internal turmoil with very few words. It’s a simple but clever technique.  4. To Heighten A Reader’s Senses  All five of the senses can be triggered through the use of internal dialogue.  James Joyce is infamous for his use of stream of consciousness. In his novel Sirens he uses a flurry of words to great effect. As a reader we can practically hear the unique sounds of each observation. The cadence is mesmerising.  Bloom looped, unlooped, noded, disnoded.Bloom. Flood of warm jimjam lickitup secretness flowed to flow in music out, in desire, dark to lick flow, invading. Tipping her tepping her tapping her topping her. Tup. Pores to dilate dilating. Tup. The joy the feel the warm the. Tup. To pour o’er sluices pouring grushes. Flood, gush, flow, joygush, tupthrop. Now! Language of love.Sirens by James Joyce This is a very unique way of writing, and perhaps not something you will see a lot of in commercial fiction, but the clever way Joyce evokes the feeling and sound of water in this description.   If we are writing a work of fiction from one singular point of view, we can certainly employ the above technique, however, it is perhaps easier to use - and more commonly to be found - in poetry or scriptwriting.  5. To Divulge Self-Perception And Mentality Internal monologues can be used to help us gain a better understanding of a character’s state of mind. Thanks to the insertion of an inner monologue we, as readers, can finally see why they act the way they do.   In Hazel Prior’s novel, Away with the Penguins, we are given many glimpses of both set-in-her-ways, grumpy Veronica and laidback-to-the-point-of-being-horizontal Patrick’s self-perception and frame of mind. As grandma and grandson, this is an interesting and essential juxtaposition used with full effect to highlight their very different characters and backgrounds, helping readers find empathy for them both.   If the author had only run with one character’s smattering of inner dialogue, throughout the book, our impressions as readers would be very different. In this instance (as can occasionally be the case) the inner thoughts of both characters aren’t always italicised. This approach, however, is more common when using indirect internal dialogue and referencing the past.  Veronica:  I don’t deign to answer. Instead I examine myself in the gilt-edged mirror over the mantelpiece. The Veronica McCreedy who looks back at me is as unsightly as ever, despite the generously applied lipstick and eyebrow pencil.Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior Patrick: Grief’s a weird animal… It’s like this bungee-jump of emotions. You get jolted all over the place. It gives you this sick feeling in your stomach, makes you jittery and wobbly, plays havoc with your sleep patterns. I’m beginning to wish I had a spliff at hand.Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior If you are writing a novel with two (or multiple) contrasting points of view, getting inside the minds of your main characters and sharing their inner monologues is an essential move if you want our readers to warm to your colourful cast.  6. To Reveal Connections And Comparisons With Others  Another example of the effective use of stream of consciousness in inner narrative is when it is presented in the form of lists. This is a modernist approach to fiction and has been pulled off admirably by Markus Zusak in the literary masterpiece, The Book Thief.  Death is an actual character and a narrator in Zusak’s novel, intermittently categorising the elements of a scene. Death’s inner monologue is made clear to the reader with the use of different fonts. This seemingly random catalogue of concepts gives us a sneak peek of what is to come in the pages that follow:  PART TWO  the shoulder shrug featuring: a girl made of darkness – the joy of cigarettes – a town walker – some dead letters – hitler’s birthday –100 percent pure german sweat – the gates of thievery –and a book of fire The Book Thief by Markus Zusak As writers, we might like to experiment with this technique in a screenplay or script, where it can be used as an effective tool to set the scene as an internal monologue in the narrator’s (or indeed a character’s) head.  Putting Inner Monologue Into Practice  Compelling writing is full of internal monologues. The trick is to use it sparingly (or not, depending on your genre) and appropriately for maximum effect. If your book is written in the first person, this is a lot easier as the entire book is coming directly from the main character’s mouth (and head). But beware of too much inner chit chat if your story has many points of view, or you may run the risk of sending your reader on a wild head-hopping ride.  The more you play with inner dialogue and the more you practice using it, the more natural it will feel to include it in your narration and prose, and create a clear sense of your character\'s voice. It’s a chicken and an egg skillset: the wider you read and the more genres and authors you devour, the more you will spot its use and sense how it can be applied to your own unique work, and the more you will use it yourself.  So write your story with internal dialogue, try without it, and play about with tenses and points of view until your characters come to life. Are the readers inside their head yet? If so, then you’ve done your job!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Parts Of A Book: Breaking It Down

You’ve written the book, all the words are on the page and you are finally happy with the end result. Now what?   How do you lay out a book for publication and what are the different parts of a book?  In this article, I will cover all the parts of a book (in order) you are expected to include, what their purpose is and how they should be laid out.   It doesn’t matter if you are self-publishing or being published traditionally, understanding the different parts of a book in order, how they function and why you need them is important. You may not have to take part in compiling each and every one, but even if you are being traditionally published (and it’s not be your job to compile all the different sections) understanding the contents of a book and all their functions is paramount to understanding the publishing journey as a whole.  What Are The Parts Of A Book? Even if you\'ve already polished your chapters to perfection, you still need to prepare various other parts of your book before publishing — namely, the front matter and the back matter.  Now, these terms are not going to be instantly recognisable to you unless you have worked in publishing, but don’t worry, there’s no need to feel intimidated. All books are broken down into three main categories, the front matter, the body and the back matter. These three sections can then be broken down further and I will attempt to make each of these sections as clear as possible. By the end of this article, you will know all the sections of a book in chronological order.  What Is The Front Matter Of A Book? In the simplest of terms, the front matter is a collection of pages at the very start of a book.   Although many readers tend to skip the pages that make up the front matter, this section contains the most important information about the author as well as the publisher.    For those who do read these pages, they are important – so it’s vital you get the details right, and that just as much importance is placed on these pages as any others.   If you are self-publishing, it is even more important to make sure these pages include the correct details. If you are being traditionally published, a few of these pages are taken care of for you, but it’s always important for the author themselves to understand how they work and check the details to ensure they are correct. After all, you’ve spent so much time getting the book right, why make a mistake at this stage?  Within the front matter of the book, you will find the following (in chronological order).   Now, remember we are not talking about the front covers or the back of the book here – these are all the parts INSIDE the book, and they almost always appear in the front matter: Frontispiece A frontispiece is a decorative illustration page that typically appears on the page facing the title page, on the left-hand side. In many books published in the 1800s, this page was often used to display an image of the author and a space for their signature but these days, many fiction writers (depending on genre) will use this area for a map of their ‘world’ or to illustrate an important moment or theme in the book. Or it’s left blank.  The Title Page The title page of a book will always appear in the front matter. This is the page that displays the full title of the book, as well as the author’s name, as they appear on the cover of the publication. This information determines how a book is cited in libraries and any additional references, so ensuring this information is correct is vital.   This is the place where most authors sign their books.  The title page may also include the name of the book publisher and date of publication.  The Copyright Page The copyright page is always found in the front matter and includes all the technical information about the copyright of the publication, as well as the edition and publication dates, legal notices, the ISBN and details of publisher and printer. This page is generally found on the reverse side of the title page in the front matter. The copyright page is sometimes referred to as the ‘colophon’.    The Dedication Page A dedication page can be added by authors who wish to dedicate their book to a person or persons of importance. It is typically found after the copyright page in the front matter. Although this is generally a one line or one sentence dedication, it is given its own page and focus towards the start of the book.  The Table Of Contents If an author chooses to include a table of contents (generally found in non-fiction), it will be found in the front matter of the book and should list all the major sections of the book that follow it, including chapters found within the body of the text and in the back matter.   The Introduction An introduction page is generally only found in non-fiction books. This is different to a preface found in fiction books. An introduction page (found in the front matter) explains the necessary information needed by the reader to understand the context of the book before they dive into the main body. In fiction, the preface is used in a more personal way – more of an introduction as to why the book has been written and the inspiration behind it. Often, it’s in the style of a ‘Dear reader’ letter and signed by the author at the bottom.  The Epigraph An epigraph is a quote or excerpt that often describes the subject matter of the book. This can be in the form of a poem, or an excerpt taken from another book or source, and will include a reference to the quote’s author. It is found in the front matter of the book and usually comes directly before the first chapter.   When including these it’s vital that you gain permission from the person you are quoting.  The Preface A preface is an introduction to the book, written by the author. It often details how and why the book came to life and will provide context for the edition in hand. If a book has many editions, the preface may include details about anything changed or added since the last publication.   The Forward A forward is an introduction to the book that is written by someone other than the author. This can be a friend, family member, scholar or peer.   The Prologue A prologue is a section found just before the body of the book, in the front matter. This section aims to set the stage for the book and often includes an intriguing hook that will be explained more fully with the body of the book. Generally, a prologue will tell an earlier story, but is connected to the main story.   A Note On Compiling The Front Matter Please remember that most of these sections are not compulsory (otherwise the poor reader would be sifting through many pages before they reached the story or book itself). In most cases the title page and copyright page will suffice. The rest are fun extras.  What Is The Body Of A Book? The body of the book does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s the main content of a book. For works of fiction, this is the story itself – the place where all the magic, mystery, love, death, and murder is explored. You may also find sub-sections such as chapters and parts.  For non-fiction, the body is where all your hard work and research is broken down into the chapters that you have already outlined in your contents page.   Sometimes there are also a few extras at the end of the main text:  The Epilogue The epilogue is a section found at the end of the body of the book (generally works of fiction) and is used to wrap up the story in a satisfying manner for the reader. If can be used to hint at something that may come in the next book or as a way to tie up the story with a neat little bow.   Postscript A postscript is a final and brief note that brings a book to an end. Unlike an epilogue, a postscript is very short, generally only one or two sentences. A postscript is generally used to tie up the loose ends of the story, but, unlike an epilogue, this can be unrelated to the main story in the body of the book.   Afterword This is generally found at the back of the body of the book (most commonly in non-fiction) and, in opposition to a foreword, will include any final notes the writer wishes to make.   In fiction this may be called ‘Notes from the author’ and can often be found in novels in which the author has tackled a difficult theme or wants to share how their own experiences influenced their story.  Conclusion A conclusion section is used in non-fiction and found at the end of the body of the work. It’s a section that sums up the main arguments of the book and includes a final thought or opinion.  What Is The Back Matter Of A Book? The back matter of a book, in opposition to the front matter, contains (surprise, surprise) all the information you will find at the back of the book.   In general, authors use this section to provide further context to their readers. It can include mentions of the authors social media accounts, other books published by the author, or even a note from the publisher themselves. These pages are often be referred to as the end matter.   Other sections you may find in the back matter can include:  Discussion Questions Many book club fiction novels include this list in the back matter. These pages will include thought-provoking questions about the book and its themes in the hopes of sparking debate and conversation about the novel.   Non-fiction and academic books also use these pages to pose questions about the topics or subjects covered.   Accolades And Acknowledgments Accolades or quotes from other authors can generally be found after the body of the book in the back matter. This is a chance for the author to include any positive quotes from other authors about the book, and the acknowledgments allow the author to thank all those who helped bring the book to life. Acknowledgements are generally found in the back matter, but accolades are sometimes included in the front matter, often on brightly coloured pages to draw the reader’s attention.  The acknowledgements section is a great place to look if you want to find out who that author’s agent or publisher is or want to see your own name in print after supporting a writer with their book!  Appendix An appendix (or appendices) is generally used by non-fiction writers to provide additional information for readers, including citations, references, research text or additional source information. An author will lean on the information in the appendix to offer more credibility to the arguments laid out in the book.   Glossary A glossary can be used by both fiction and non-fiction writers. This is a section in the back matter of the book where an author will explain any rare, specialised or unfamiliar words or terms.   Those writing in dialect, for example, may find this section helpful for their readers. Similarly, fantasy or historical fiction writers (among others) may use a glossary to help their readers understand specific terminology that may be new to them – or to translate any made-up words or phrases found in the book.   Bibliography Generally used by those writing non-fiction, a bibliography is a section where the author will cite any and all sources and resources used during the research for the book.  Index An index is not only beneficial for non-fiction writers, as a place to refer to sources, but they can also be useful for fiction books which have been re-published, as they may contain several reference points throughout. Any details of which will be expanded on in the index found in the back matter of the book.  Copyright/Colophon Although this section was traditionally located in the back matter of the book, it is more often found in the front matter these days. As stated before, the colophon is a very brief section that will generally include publisher and printer details as well as any copyright information and legal notes.  The Anatomy Of A Book  It’s not until you have finished writing your first book, that you realise just how much goes into the publishing side of writing.   Knowing what extra sections will appear/are needed in your book, and why they’re important, is imperative. Why? Because this is your book and publishing is your world now too. You should know how it works.   If you are self-publishing your book you need your work to stand alone as professional and complete. And if you are traditionally published, understanding why all of this is important allows you to proof and check these pages properly, ensuring you’re happy with every last word of your work. See here for tips on how to present your manuscript. If you\'re self-publishing, here\'s some advice on writing a good blurb. It also gives you the added advantage of knowing what you will be asked to provide, such as acknowledgements and a dedication. Nothing worse than having to rush a ‘thank you’ and forgetting someone!  So, now you know all the ins and outs of a book, it’s time to get that book planned and think about more than just the story. Come on, what are you waiting for. The magic won’t write itself…  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write An Immersive Setting

Being a writer is the most magical job you can have without actually being a witch.   As writers, we create worlds that have never existed. Skies that have only ever been pink in your imagination are now magically pink in the mind of someone you’ve never even met.   That, dear reader, is why setting is so important.   Without setting your characters can’t live and breathe on the page. Without setting your readers can’t engage in the world you’ve created for them. And that is why setting is one of the most important elements of storytelling.   In this article, I will teach you how to write the most enticing and appealing setting you have ever created. Because if you’ve created characters that will live in the hearts of your readers, then they deserve a world just as memorable in which to live themselves.   We will answer the question \'what is setting in literature?\', look at examples of authors who have perfected the art of grounding their readers into a story, and discover why setting is important in a story. Then, of course, we will look at how you can use all that knowledge to ensure you create the very best setting for your book.  Let us start by exploring what setting is.  What Is The Setting Of A Story? The setting of a story is where and when the story takes place. But in a lot of ways, it’s more complex than that.   Setting does not just include the immediate description of the room in which a chapter takes place. It encompasses so much more and can be broken down into three subcategories.   Three Main Settings In A Book The three main types of setting are temporal, environmental, and individual.  Temporal Setting: This describes the era in which the story takes place.   If you’re writing a historical fiction novel, for instance, it’s important the reader knows the setting is Victorian London – not contemporary London – from the very beginning.   Environmental Setting: This is where you explore the larger geographical area and surrounding locations.  Is your book set in India or France? Where the book is set geographically makes a big difference to everything – from who the characters are, the decisions they make, and the action that takes place.   Likewise, if they are in France, is it rural or a city? A story set in Paris is going to be very different to one to a story set in a rural mountain community in the Pyrenees.   Individual Setting: This is where you get down to the nitty-gritty, the specific location of the story and the details found there.   If the scene is set in someone’s house, what does it look like? What’s the décor like? The street? Can we tell who lives there by the contents?   In both fiction and non-fiction writing, creating a compelling setting is vital. It provides not only atmosphere and a backdrop for the story you are exploring, but it can also create a framework for you to explore themes in a much more visceral and engaging manner.   A book’s setting can also provide context about your characters’ social environment or pinpoint a time in history that provides extra context.  To explain this further, I’m going to use a few examples from different books and look at how the authors have used these three specific areas of setting to engage the reader.   Book Settings: Examples It’s impossible to explain the importance of a book’s setting without looking at writing examples and seeing how authors have brought a scene to life.   Temporal Setting: Examples As mentioned before, the temporal setting focuses the readers’ attention on the time in which the story is set.   It’s an important part of fiction, especially if you’re focusing on genres such as historical or saga. But even if you’re writing contemporary fiction, it’s always important to know when the book is set (for instance the world looked very different in April 2020 than, say, April 2019).   You need to place your reader where you need them to be, so they’re in the correct mindset required to empathise with the characters and the plot.   Below are two very different examples of the perfect use of temporal setting.  Sepulchre By Kate Mosse  Leonie returned her gaze to the Avenue de i’Opera. It stretched diagonally all the way down to the Palais du Louvre, a remnant of fragile monarchy when a nervous French king sought a safe and direct route to his evening’s entertainment. The lanterns twinkled in the dusk, and squares of warm light spilled out through the lighted windows of the cafes and bars. The gas jets spat and spluttered.Sepulchre by Kate Mosse The setting described here places us in a specific time and place. The author has used references to the surroundings that can only mean the characters inhabit a specific time in history. In this case, Paris in 1891.   As authors, it can be increasingly easy to use the ‘cheat’s’ way out, and simply add a date to the top of the page.   But by remembering the old ‘show don’t tell’ adage, and adding specific details to your passage, you can really place the reader at the heart of the story during a time you really need them to experience.   In contrast, take a look at how the next author tackles a sense of time and place in a more current day example.  Summerwater By Sarah Moss  The holiday park is asleep, curtains drawn, cars beaded with rain. The log cabins, she thinks again, are a stupid idea, borrowed from America or maybe Scandinavia but anyway somewhere it rains less than Scotland, when did you see wooden buildings anywhere in Britain? Turf, more like, up here, stone if you’ve got it, won’t rot. And they don’t look Nordic – not that she’s been but she’s seen the pictures – they look dated, an unappealing muddle of softening wooden walls and cheap plastic windows, the sort of garden shed you’ll have to take down sooner rather than later.Summerwater by Sarah Moss  This, in stark contrast to that of Mosse’s text, takes the reader to a rainy modern-day Britain. The description of materials, and use of language (even the stilted inner monologue) is much more contemporary.   We’ve looked at time and place, now let us discover environmental location.  Environmental Setting: Examples Environmental setting is one of the most commonly understood and easily achievable of the three most frequently used setting sub-categories.  By setting a book in a familiar location, the author can evoke a strong sense of place and can be relatively certain that the reader will feel a similar sense and understanding of the environment the character is experiencing.   A certain setting allows the author to develop characters further, because certain environmental factors will influence who they are and what they do. This helps readers recognise familiar surroundings and empathise with the characters.   Take, for example, the many romance books set in places like Cornwall.   When a reader picks up a book with Cornwall scenes on the cover, they instantly know to expect beach locations, cliffs, and seagulls soaring over the sea. They will be able to picture the location automatically, allowing the author to focus on the drama unfolding, rather than worrying about building an unfamiliar world from scratch.   But you don’t need to set a book in a real-life location to have the reader fully understand or appreciate the story.   You do, however, need to anchor them with something that feels familiar or understandable. Using physical factors such as a glittering sea, snowy mountain peaks, or a thick dark forest is enough to place the reader in that location without giving it a Google maps pin.   Amazing examples of how environmental setting can be used to reinforce themes and emotions can be found throughout literature, but J.R.R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is one of the finest.   And the contrast between Bilbo- the main character’s- home (The Shire) and the place he must reach (Mordor) is what drives this story of good and evil forward.  The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien  Tolkien described the Shire as a “small but beautiful, idyllic and fruitful land, beloved by its hobbit inhabitants.” With landscape including downland and woods like the English countryside, and far from the Sea (Hobbits are fearful of the Sea), it’s easy for the reader to imagine a land not dissimilar to their own, despite the characters being far from anything they recognise as human.   The Hobbit’s first paragraph is simply a description of where Bilbo is: In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.  Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbithole, and that means comfort. It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle. The door opened on to a tubeshaped hall like a tunnel: a very comfortable tunnel without smoke, with panelled walls, and floors tiled and carpeted, provided with polished chairs, and lots and lots of pegs for hats and coats - the hobbit was fond of visitors.The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien  This type of setting gives an author the perfect tools to express mood, theme and tone to a reader. The Shire (and the little houses in it) is created to show a sense of comfort, familiarity, home, stability. The setting mirrors its inhabitants.   Contrast this with the descriptions of Mordor: Mists curled and smoked from dark and noisome pools. The reek of them hung stifling in the still air. Far away, now almost due south, the mountain-walls of Mordor loomed, like a black bar of rugged clouds floating above a dangerous fog-bound sea.The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien  As soon as the author says “one does not simply walk into Mordor” the reader knows instantly, thanks to this visceral setting description, that the main character’s journey will be perilous. Leaving the comfort and greenery of home to face the darkness and fear of Mordor, will not be easy.   Ask yourself, if Tolkien had not described Mordor as such, would the reader have been as invested in Bilbo’s quest?   Individual Setting: Examples Individual settings are the specific places an author will chose to set their scenes. It’s the main location in which the reader will be immersed and where most of the action takes place.   These settings could range from a school common room, a house, or even a specific bench by a riverside.   Individual setting is where an author can have the most fun with detailed and sensory descriptions. Choosing a geographic location will build a framework, but the intricacies of each individual setting will paint each picture in all its glorious detail.   The splinters on the wood of the bench that pinch at her skin as she tries not to cry. The sound of the creaking floorboards as he creeps through the draughty abandoned house. The scent of the flowers as she runs hand in hand through the garden with her first love. The way the streetlights dance over the pavement as he stalks the streets looking for his next victim.  It’s these small details that add depth to your characters emotions as well as levity to the themes you are hoping to portray.   Take for example, the following quote:  The Mercies By Kirian Millwood Hargrave Beside the fire there’s a stack of white heather drying, cut and brought by her brother Erik from the low mountain on the mainland. Tomorrow, after, Mamma will give her three palmful for her pillow. She will wrench it apart, stuff it earth and all into the casing, the honey scent almost sickening after months of only the stale smell of sleep and unwashed hair.The Mercies by Kirian Millwood Hargrave This excerpt uses individual setting and description to evoke deeper understanding of the character and the life she lives. We know straight away this isn’t a businesswoman in modern day Manchester.   It doesn’t tell us where the house is geographically, but it describes enough about the immediate setting at hand for the reader to fully understand and appreciate the character’s struggles.   How To Write A Setting You now have all the components you need to be able to create a strong and effective sense of setting in your novel, but how do you take all those components and knit them together to create a natural backdrop for your story?   Just like everything in this creative world, this takes time and practise.   It also takes planning and plotting – and lots of creativity.   The best way to ensure you have effectively used setting in your novel is to sit down and ask yourself some fundamental questions.   How does the setting initially look?  What other senses does it evoke?  What does your character think of it?  How does it affect the character’s life?  How does it mirror their personality or predicament?  What aspects of the setting are important to mention, and which will take your reader away from the action?  All these concerns can be tackled by remembering two things:   Use all five senses No info dumps  Let’s explore these further…  Use All Five Senses We all live in the real world, and that means we experience it via the senses we have.  There are five senses, and most people use theirs to truly experience the world around them. As a writer you need to do the same.   Take a look at each of the different setting techniques and break them down by sense. Every single sense can help heighten an area of each setting structures.   Smell  Use sense of smell to boost your temporal setting, such as the smell of coal and smoke in the air in London during ‘The Great Smog’, putting your reader at the very heart of a specific time in history.   Hearing Use the sense of hearing to describe the sound of the owls in the trees and the rustling of the leaves and creaking branches as your character walks through the deep dark wood in the middle of the night, expanding the environmental setting.   Touch  Use your sense of touch to describe the smoothness of the rock in your protagonist’s hand as she rubs away at the precious gem her mum once gave her as a child, using individual setting to deepen the sense of emotion within your character.   Sight  Describe what the character can see as they step into the funfair. The bright lights, the merry go round, the gaudy colours, the crowds of people. This helps expand the environmental setting.  Taste  It’s always useful to use taste when describing a scene involving food, but what about enhancing the individual setting and describing something most people don’t normally put in their mouths?   Imagine the tang of the sea air on his lips as he arrives at his grandfather’s Cornish hut. The breeze tastes of salt, mossy rocks, and blood. A sentence like that is sure to heighten your reader’s curiosity!  Avoid Info Dumps And lastly, the biggest mistake any writer makes when it comes to getting their story’s setting right, is getting carried away and spending five pages describing the way the flowers grow around the entrance to a character’s cottage.  I know it’s fun, but please don’t do that (unless you have gone back in time two hundred years and your readers have magically grown a longer attention span).  Modern readers like action and momentum. We are used to television, to social media, to short, quick fixes. So, try not to dump all your description in one place as that will take your reader out of the story and action.   As you set your scene, remember we don’t need long winded paragraphs describing each and every aspect of the surroundings before we even hear the voice of our protagonist. Instead, we should be experiencing the surroundings naturally along with your characters.   If you want to make sure that everyone knows there are roses around the door, describe the smell as she looks for her keys. Maybe she picks one, or better yet the second character you introduce plucks a flower and hands it to her.   This technique ensures you are still painting a scene while also keeping the story moving forward.  Feel Your Way Through  As the famous saying goes, ‘my best piece of advice would be to never listen to advice’.   Why would I say that at the very end of an article full of advice? Simple, take everything you read with a pinch of salt and use your intuition as a writer. Listen to your gut.   You don’t have to use all five senses in every single paragraph. You don’t need to beat your reader over the head with a million descriptions to put them right in the middle of the action. Every page doesn’t need an entire paragraph full of setting descriptions.  Less is more.   Setting should feel so effortless that you have to specifically look for it.   It should emphasise the intricacies of your characters and themes without taking control of the book. It’s the highlight you add to a rich and considered plot. It’s the colour that makes your story pop. It should never be obvious.   Essentially, setting is your crowning glory. Make sure you treat it with respect. It should always be the silent shining star that guides your reader through the story - so subtle that you can’t quite place what it was that made that image in your mind so clear, but strong enough that it makes its mark.   Setting Matters If plot is what makes readers keep reading, and characters are what makes a book memorable, then setting is the cushion on which they both sit upon. Without the right setting your characters will fall and your action will wilt away.   Make sure your setting takes a simple story and coats it in the glaze that will make it shine, because it’s that polish which will make your book stand out from the rest of the books on the shelf.   Wherever that may be.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How Long Is A Short Story, Novella, Or Novelette?

Do you prefer writing and finishing something quickly or taking a bit longer? Some writers prefer the scope of a novel and dislike the constraints of the short story, while others feel the opposite way. In between the two forms are the novelette and novella. It can be difficult to define an acceptable length for a short story, novella or novelette, so you may not know which category your story belongs in. Is it too long or too short? Why does it matter?  In this article, we’ll go through the lengths of short stories, novellas, and novelettes; compare the three forms; and note examples of short stories, novellas, and novelettes.  Word Counts For Short Stories, Novellas And Novelettes Short story: over 1,000 words, usually less than 10,000. Novelette: 7,500 to 19,000 words. Novella: 10,000 to 40,000 words.  As you can see there’s an overlap between a short story and a novelette. Also, between a novelette and a novella. We’ll examine these later in the article. Shorter stories can hold just as much power as longer pieces, and they too have meaning and resonance. The content is the most important thing. Success does not depend on the number of words, though word count may be important in certain circumstances.   Why Is Word Count Important?  Word count is a huge part of how short stories, novellas, and novelettes are separated and defined. So why is it so important? 1. Cost One consideration in terms of word count is the cost to the publisher. The longer the story the more time required to read and edit it. If printed, the length of the story also affects the outlay required. For an anthology consisting of works by different writers, it makes sense for the publisher to choose shorter pieces for inclusion. In that way not only do they appeal to more readers, but they also have space to include more writers, and thus more people are invested in the anthology’s success. An example is an anthology published by Christopher Fielden called 81 Words. The challenge was to write a story in exactly 81 words. It consists of 1000 stories by 1000 authors, with profits going to the Arkbound Foundation. All for a good cause. 2. Marketing  Publishers may also have difficulty marketing shorter fiction. Although it seems short story collections and novellas are gaining in popularity, the novel always seems to take precedence in terms of easier marketing and categories.   Just as novels are labelled in different genres and sub-genres, not all short stories are the same. The nature of the writing could have a bearing on the length.  Literary stories tend to be longer and more introspective. Other genres, such as horror or crime, may, or may not, be shorter and more action-packed.  3. Reader Fatigue It’s said that these days, with technology and our collective struggle with delayed gratification, concentration has diminished. In this regard, shorter stories are very accessible. Some stories can be read in minutes, making them the perfect read for those on the move. If stories are too long, the reader may become bored. Stories need to be engaging right from the start. With a novel, there is more space for preamble, but the short story, novella or novelette needs to get to the point. Faster.  4. Adaptability Shorter stories, with their limited scale and number of characters, are easier to adapt for the screen and may appeal more to film directors, according to Screencraft. It makes sense. Fewer scenes and settings, fewer actors required. Think Alan Bennett\'s Talking Heads. So, length and purpose are interrelated and we need to look closer at the definitions and word counts for short stories, novellas and novelettes.  How Long Is A Short Story?  A short story can be described as a story that can be read in one sitting, unlike a novel that may take days.   A short story will have a limited number of characters. With a short story, there’s no room for a complex plot. The narrative needs to be concise. Setting the scene in vast detail is a luxury kept for the novel. Economy is everything.  Some stories take one incident and examine it in detail. Others have a discernible beginning, middle and end. Often in a short story, the ending will reflect the beginning in some way. The character may have changed, gained some insight into their situation, or become involved in the action. Or, the story may have a nebulous ending, leaving much to the reader\'s imagination.  Some short stories are under 1,000 words. Often these are described as flash fiction.   The most famous short story is attributed to Ernest Hemingway, a master at crafting tales. You’ll probably have heard of it. For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.Ernest Hemingway Why is that acceptable as a short story when it’s only six words long? There’s no character development, no description of the setting, no plot and yet there’s a story there – the story behind the words which the reader can imagine. Beauvais talks about the ‘readerly gap’ in reference to picture books. I’d argue that leaving the ‘readerly gap’ is essential in any writing. Short story writing at its best excels in this. What is omitted is left to the imagination of the reader.   Most short stories seem to be between 1,500 words and 7,500 words long so about 3- 30 pages long (a typical printed page is somewhere between 250 and 450 words) depending on font and print formatting. Also, pages of dialogue may have fewer words, which affects length too.  In some cases, the reader judges the length of a story by the number of pages to estimate how long it will take to read. Often websites will give a reading time linked to their stories. A five-minute read is about average.   In terms of pages, looking at collections of short stories, these also vary in length from three to thirty pages. If you look at some of the great classic storytellers, they had a varied word count in their short stories.  Examples Of Short Story Lengths And Word Counts: Virginia Woolf’s A Haunted House is just over 700 words. About two or three pages. One of These Days by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is shy of 1,000 words. About three pages. Why Don’t you Dance by Raymond Carver is just over 1,600 words and an estimated five pages. Hearts and Minds by Jack Petrubi is less than 2,000 words. Six pages. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe is a similar length at just over 2,000 words. A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas is over 3000 words. This is often produced with illustrations as a child’s book, but printed pages would be about nine or ten pages long. A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury is about 4,300 words long and around fifteen pages. Award winning story The Edge of the Shoal by Cynan Jones is about 6,000 words and around twenty-five pages. Ernest Hemingway’s The Snows of Kilimanjaro is 11,000 words long and about thirty pages. To All Their Dues by Wendy Erskine is almost 11,000 words long. This could fit into the category of a novelette and is included in her story collection.  This would seem to indicate that length is not that important, but is that true? There will be times when the length of your story will have importance. If you are entering a competition where a word count is stipulated, for example.  How Long Is A Novella?  A novella is sometimes described as a short novel. The word derives from the Italian, meaning new. It usually has one character and one plotline. It will typically not be divided into chapters although there may be sub-divisions. For example, the aforementioned To All Their Dues by Wendy Erskine is sub-divided into three parts with three protagonists. This makes it more akin to a novelette.  Novellas tend to follow a linear structure with the main action centred on the protagonist’s development. This could be an inner conflict that is resolved or simply explored, rather than a series of events. Due to brevity, there isn\'t the scope for several sub-plots or settings although some elements of the novel may have some complexity.   The word count ranges from 10,000 to 40,000 words. It may contain between 100-200 pages. The usual length is over 17,500 words which enables more depth of character and plot development. Novellas are often published as part of a short story collection as a novella is difficult to publish except perhaps in terms of an e-book due to financial considerations explained previously.  Examples Of Novella Lengths And Word Counts:  Many of these are quite famous and have been made into films.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is 6,750 words and 107 pages Animal Farm by George Orwell is 36,000 words and 144 pages The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes is 40,750 words and 163 pages Seize the Day by Saul Bellow is 36,000 words and 144 pages The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is 28,000 words and 112 pages The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy is 32,000 words and 128 pages Train Dreams by Denis Johnson is 29,000 words and 116 pages The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is 40,000 words and 160 pages Coraline by Neil Gaiman is 44,000 words and 176 pages  As with the short story examples, these vary in length. The Julian Barnes novella tips the scales at over 40,000. Also regarded as a novella is Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which is a hefty 52,000 words and 208 pages long.  How Long Is A Novelette?  If the novella is the younger sibling of the novel, then the novelette falls somewhere in between a short story and a novella.   With a word count of around 7,500-19,000 words, the novelette borders both the top end of a short story and the length usually acceptable for a novella. As with the short story and the novella, writers may be constricted in terms of the number of characters they can use and the amount of plot development they can include.   The plot will probably be linear and uncomplicated with few, or no, sub-plots. One or two characters will feature – not a cast of hundreds. It will have a defined focus and will be complete as a story. The novelette enables writers to give more flesh to the bones of their short story, though the writing still needs to be concise.  Examples Of Novelette Lengths And Word Counts:  The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafta is 11,500 words and 46 pages Death in Venice by Thomas Mann is 14,000 words and 56 pages The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson is 13,500 words and 54 pages The Spectacles by Edgar Allan Poe is 9,200 words and 35 pages The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery is 16,500 words and 65 pages   As you can see there are examples here that are widely regarded as novellas. Distinguishing between these forms can be difficult and confusing. This may mean you end up editing your story, to make it longer or shorter, depending on the market you’re trying to appeal to, and where you want to publish it.  Writing Shorter Stories It’s important as a writer to understand the different lengths and styles of these different types of writing.   It can be very difficult to distinguish between short stories, novellas and novelettes. As you can see from the examples, length is not everything. The essence of the narrative is what defines the form in many of these examples. The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett clearly defines what the story is about. At 96 pages long it falls somewhere between a novelette and a novella and yet a film was made based on the story. In a similar fashion, Daphne Du Maurier’s short story Don’t Look Now was also translated into film.   There are times when word count and length are of importance. The length may depend on the purpose of your work. If you’re writing for your own entertainment or building a short story collection you may have flexibility in the number of words. If your aim is publication, there could be restrictions or guidelines. For competitions, it is always best to adhere to the rules.   With any story, you need three ingredients: people, place, and purpose/plot. These parts make up the whole and examining them will help you to decide if your story is the right length, and whether it is a short story, or if it needs more scope by becoming a novella or novelette.  It all goes back to the basic question of ‘what sort of writer are you’? Some writers can’t conceive of writing anything under 2,000 words. Others write a perfect story in less than 200. Margaret Atwood and Roald Dahl excel in both forms. The latter is famous for his children’s books, but he was a master of the short story and wrote some very dark material.   The best way to decide is to read anthologies or collections of short stories which often contain novellas and novelettes. Contemporary writers such as Alice Munro, Neil Gamain, Helen Oyeyemi, Etgar Keret and Colin Barrett give a flavour of what is popular now. Some of the classics such as Guy du Maupassant and Ray Bradbury should also be included in your reading list.   So, how long is a short story, novella or novelette?   As long as it needs to be.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is Foreshadowing In Literature? A How-To Guide

By the pricking of my thumbs / Something wicked this way comes…  Macbeth by William Shakespeare Foreshadowing is a tricky craft technique to master (I put it right up there with subtext in terms of difficulty level, personally), but it’s an incredibly useful thing to have in your toolbox. In this article, we’ll define foreshadowing, go through some tips and techniques to help you figure out how to best weave foreshadowing into your story, and look at some foreshadowing examples.  What Is Foreshadowing?  A short definition: Foreshadowing is hinting at revelations to come in the text, typically subtly enough that it enhances the entire reading experience to create a more cohesive whole. Often, foreshadowing is set up at the beginning, or at least somewhere within the first act, to provide the most satisfaction when said event comes to pass later in the story. There are two types of foreshadowing which act as different ways to consider implementing this literary technique; direct and indirect foreshadowing. Direct Foreshadowing This approach is more explicit or overt. The story itself points to something to come. If a person is found murdered at the start of the book, we’re going to expect that the murder might be solved by the end, for example, which is more of a genre promise if it’s a crime novel. Yet there can be ways to foreshadow the way that the person died or tease out a connection to the protagonist. Another example is if the narrator or a character says something to the effect of “if only I knew then what I know now, I would never have become tangled in what was to come.” We know something happened, but not the details. Those details are drip fed through the story.   Indirect Foreshadowing This approach is more subtle or covert. The clues are woven in through subtext, without expressly warning the reader in the same way. Yet they will still have a cumulative effect so that when said event comes to pass, it feels inevitable. This can be built up with symbolism, imagery, less obvious dialogue choices, setting, colour palettes, and more.  Let’s look in more detail at how foreshadowing works and explore some of its other uses.    Why Is Foreshadowing Important?   Readers don’t like to feel cheated. If a revelation comes out of nowhere, it risks turning off the reader or jerking them out of the story. Especially if you’re planning to have a midpoint twist or one near the climax, you want to set things up with clues. The overall aim of foreshadowing is to build suspense, tension, and intrigue so the reader keeps turning those pages. It can also help build empathy for characters, or tug at certain emotions. It’s one of those techniques that can function on multiple levels, which makes it very handy.   How To Use Foreshadowing In Your Writing   Foreshadowing is a great technique, but implementing it can be tricky. Direct and indirect foreshadowing often require different approaches, so lets go through them. How To Use Direct Foreshadowing  Prologues Yes, there’s often the debate of the merits of prologue vs. no prologue, but if it’s serving a purpose, such as foreshadowing, it can work really well. Often this prologue might be told from a different timeline, or a different character’s point of view. It creates a juxtaposition because the reader subconsciously starts looking for links or thematic echoes. A well-known one is Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. We find out Kvothe, the titular Kingkiller, is working in a remote inn, and eventually he is convinced to start telling his story of how he came to be there. The opening line is even a foreshadow to the foreshadow: “A Silence of Three Parts.” We read on to find out what each part of the silence is. The prologue to N.K. Jemsin’s The Fifth Season ends with the narrator telling the reader that this time it truly is the end of the world. With this book, you read on to find out whether or not that’s true. The goal of the prologue is to create a sense of atmosphere, sneak in some worldbuilding, and set up future events.   A Good Old-Fashioned Prophecy, Nursery Rhyme, Or Soothsayer   In fantasy, prophecy does a tidy job of foreshadowing, for, by their very nature, prophecies must be indirect enough that no one, not even the characters, know exactly how things will play out. Robin Hobb uses an old children’s rhyme in Assassin’s Quest (the third book of the Farseer trilogy), which I’m re-reading just now. It has 7 stanzas about the Six, Five, Four, Three, and Two Wisemen that came to Jhaampe-town (the capital of the Mountain Kingdom in this secondary world). The last two stanzas end like this:   One Wiseman came to Jhaampe-town. He set aside both Queen and Crown Did his task and fell asleep Gave his bones to the stones to keep. No wise men go to Jhaampe-town, To climb the hill and never come down. ‘Tis wiser far and much more brave To stay at home and face the grave. Assassin’s Quest by Robin Hobb This ends up making perfect sense once you read the rest of the novel. On a re-read, it’s satisfying as you see everything being hinted at quite clearly in retrospect.   While obviously this approach is common in fantasy, sometimes it will be woven into other genres. A character might visit a tarot reader in a contemporary or historical novel, for example, or they might meet a strange person on the street who says something cryptic and then wanders off. Dream sequences often help hint at foreshadowing too (though they can be difficult to pull off and have consequently become somewhat of a cliché).   Take Advantage Of Characters Who Know More  These characters can then tease out information, or tell another character something more openly, but they must have a reason for not telling them everything all at once. Having a trickster character works quite well. For example, in the Marvel films Loki appears in, he often teases the other characters with whatever his dastardly plan is that time.   How To Use Indirect Foreshadowing   Thematic And Imagery Cohesion  Choose themes or images that fit the emotional/plot elements you’re wanting to foreshadow. House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland uses a lot of imagery of decay and rot to foreshadow a particular revelation about certain characters, which I will leave vague to avoid spoilers. The two twin sisters also have identical half-moon scars at the base of their throats, which you know from the beginning, but you don’t find out how they got them until the end. Scars make you think of old wounds, of trying to heal but not being able to erase what happened because it’s still written as a reminder on your skin.   Pathetic Fallacy Pathetic fallacy is giving inanimate things or animals an attribution or echo of human feelings and responses. This can work very well for setting and atmosphere. A storm under a sullen sky. A scene where two characters have fallen in love, but they are surrounded by dejected weeping willows, hinting at the heartbreak to come. Use a light touch, however—too much and it might risk the prose becoming overly maudlin or purple.   Colour And Pattern  You can use things like colours and patterns to gradually ramp up your clues. Think of them as little breadcrumbs, you as the author are Hansel and Gretel, and the readers are the birds. Humans are primed to recognise patterns, even subconsciously. The film Reservoir Dogs has objects that are the colour orange, in particular a balloon. This ends up conveying something important about another character later on. Colour palettes can be a great way to hint at things. Say you often have a character wearing red, and they are later the murder victim or the murderer. Again, it needs to be done subtly, but it can be effective. Don’t underestimate the power of the pattern.   Tips For Using Foreshadowing   Now you know how to use foreshadowing in your writing. But how do you execute it well? Don’t Worry About Foreshadowing Too Much In The First Draft   It can be incredibly hard to set up foreshadowing perfectly when you yourself are still figuring out the overall shape of the story. Sometimes I will make notes to myself like ‘[add foreshadowing here in the next draft]’ to remind myself when I return to that section. I do lots of drafts and tend to layer in more each time, like adding detail to a painting. I’m currently writing an epic fantasy with prophecies, and I left the actual prophecies as placeholders until the second draft, when I knew what I was actually setting up. Trying to write them before I knew the plot ended up resulting in vague poetry, but nothing more.   When Plotting Or Re-plotting, Don’t Neglect The Reader Journey  Consider when in your story the reader should learn a certain piece of information, and how you might point to that without giving away the game. Should the reader be empathetic here? Or are they working more like a detective? Or both? You might want to plot that out as much as you do your story. Again, this might be easier at the second or third draft stage. Get Some Fresh Eyes Once you’ve written a cohesive draft, send it to a trusted friend to read. You can ask them to keep an eye out for foreshadowing in particular or ask them to comment in the margins what they think might happen in the plot so you can see if they are picking up on your clues. If your foreshadowing ends up working more like a red herring (more on that later) then you might need to do more work in your next round of editing.  Networks   Are you tapping into any existing cultural ideas or networks? If you’re writing a dark fairy tale retelling, for example, are you alluding to some well-known images from the stories we would recognise? A spinning wheel. Straw turning to gold. A rose that doesn’t wilt. Briars around a castle. A glass coffin. A red apple. All of those will point to potential things to come. Or, thinking about usual societal assumptions, having a crow or raven cawing at the crossroads will likely point at a sense of doom or foreboding. It’s a useful shorthand to save you from being too direct.   Things That Seem Like Foreshadowing But Aren’t (Maybe)  Lastly, remember there are things that seem like foreshadowing but aren’t, technically. A flashforward, for example, is a non-linear technique, where you show something about the end upfront at the beginning. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng and Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid both set up, right at the beginning, that at the end of the story, a fire will take place. You read on to find out the details of how this fire was set, what led up to it, and what the impact of the fire was. Yet the fire thematically also represents a lot: the simmering tensions of a family or neighbourhood that is all dry tinder just begging to burn. The flashforward is a useful technique which still generates suspense, but you could argue it’s not exactly foreshadowing because it’s revealing things quite explicitly.   A flashback will often reveal useful exposition or clarify something else you might have foreshadowed previously. Its purpose is to illuminate, or to provide a point of contrast to the main storyline or be in conversation with it. This is not the same as foreshadowing as, again, flashbacks are very explicit.  A red herring, likewise, is not foreshadowing. It’s you trying to misdirect the reader, rather than hint at what is to come. You’re planting false clues to try and bring them to a different assumption and then surprise them with the truth.   Some people argue that Chekov’s Gun is not foreshadowing, but I would say it’s a type of direct foreshadowing. If you haven’t heard the term before, Anton Chekhov once said, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” It’s the idea that everything set up in your story must have a pay off. At this point, the notion of it is so well known to readers, that they pick up on the foreshadowing. The gun on the wall in act one is implicitly announcing its importance. The way the showdown happens might not be as we expect, though, so in that way it might point more to a misdirection, or simply be setting up the plot rather than pointing to an event much further in the narrative. So, I’d say you could use Chekhov\'s Gun as foreshadowing, but it depends on the execution and your purpose.  In Short . . .   Foreshadowing is a great craft technique to consider for your story. It can add emotional resonance, generate suspense, deepen themes, symbols, and imagery, and help tie everything together in a satisfying way. It’s a more advanced technique, and it can be difficult to get the balance right. If you’re too heavy on the foreshadowing, it risks killing that suspense, being cheesy, or annoying the reader. But in the right amounts, it will help the reader flip through the pages and race to the end to see if their suspicions are correct or set up that tricky twist that will shock the reader until they realise, in retrospect, it was alluded to all along. And then the reader closes the book, knowing exactly how something wicked that way came. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

In Medias Res: Definition, Tips, And Examples

Want to start your novel off with a bang? Use in medias res to create a dynamic opening that grabs your reader and sets the table for exciting scenes in later chapters.  In this guide, we’ll define in medias res, look at some example openings that employ it, and discuss how you can use in medias res in your own writing.  Let’s get right into it!  What Is In Medias Res? In medias res is a Latin phrase meaning “in the middle of things”. In the context of writing and literature, it refers to a story that begins partway through its plot, with the missing events filled in later through dialogue, flashbacks, or other techniques. The opposite term is ab ovo or ab initio, which mean “from the egg” or “from the beginning”. A story that begins at the natural beginning of its plot—shortly before the inciting incident—is beginning ab initio.  In other words, in medias res is a decision you make about the order of telling your story; specifically, whether to start at the beginning or to start elsewhere.  (Like all literary terms, there’s a certain grey area here. The roots of almost every story reach back further than the opening chapter, to encompass the backstories of the characters involved. But generally, starting in medias res means that the inciting incident happens before your opening scene.)  It’s important not to confuse in medias res with the idea of excitement or action. Remember that the term refers to where you start telling the story, not how. (For example, imagine a mystery novel that opens with two rank-and-file police officers acidly criticising a murder investigation that has gone off the rails two weeks in, where the murder itself is the inciting incident of the plot. This would be in medias res.)  To expand our understanding of in medias res, let’s look at a few examples.  Examples Of In Medias Res Each of these openings uses in medias res to achieve different goals and to begin at a different point in the plot.  The Tell-Tale Heart By Edgar Allan Poe (Note: This is quite a short story. If you’re not already familiar with it, consider reading it before you continue, so you can appreciate the full impact of the in medias res opening.)  The Tell-Tale Heart opens with a dialogue between an anonymous narrator and another unnamed character. The narrator begins by insisting that they are sane, then immediately reveals that they have committed a murder for no clear reason:  It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! Yes, it was this! One of his eyes resembled that of a vulture — a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually — I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe The narrator goes on to tell the story of how they murdered the old man, concealed his body, and ultimately gave themselves up to the police. In other words, the entire plot has occurred before the opening of the story.  By beginning in medias res, Poe structures the story for the maximum dramatic impact.  Opening with the conversation between the narrator and the unknown listener creates the opportunity for the narrator to emphatically state that they are sane. This, followed immediately by a confession to a meaningless murder, sets us on edge.  Next, because the murder is a past event witnessed only by the narrator, we are forced to receive the story directly from them, which exposes us to their disturbed thought processes. Finally, this structure allows the story to end with the confession. This is the true dramatic climax of the story, and the moment which throws into question the extent of the narrator’s sanity.  Had the story been told in linear form, Poe could still have forced us to receive it from the narrator, and could still have concluded with the dramatic climax of the confession. But would the impact of the story be the same if it hadn’t opened with the narrator’s insistent claim to sanity? It’s that opening paragraph that creates the feelings of revulsion and anticipation that give the rest of the story its impact.  Rosewater By Tade Thompson I’m at the Integrity Bank job for forty minutes before the anxieties kick in. It’s how I usually start my day. This time it’s because of a wedding and a final exam, though not my wedding and not my exam. In my seat by the window I can see, but not hear, the city. This high above Rosewater everything seems orderly. Blocks, roads, streets, traffic curving sluggishly around the dome. Rosewater by Tade Thompson Rosewater opens with the narrator, Kaaro, at what could initially be mistaken for a normal job. In the paragraphs that follow, we learn that Kaaro’s anxiety over somebody else’s wedding is due to his abilities as a telepath. (Kaaro is employed by the bank as a security measure against “wild” telepaths who try to steal the personal data of customers.)  As we read further, we learn that the biodome, an alien structure that emerged in the centre of the city years prior, is the source of the telepathic powers possessed by some residents. Kaaro is one of only a few people who have entered the biodome; this history is central to Kaaro’s character arc and to the book’s plot.  By beginning in medias res, long after the dome’s arrival, Thompson creates a sense of mystery around the biodome, its arrival years beforehand, and Kaaro’s relationship to it. Had the story been told in a linear fashion, the dome, which has been accepted as a fact of life by the city’s residents, would feel equally mundane to the reader. Inverting the order of events allows the eventual revelations about the dome to have a dramatic impact.  Killing Floor By Lee Child I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town. ...I saw the police cruisers pull into the gravel lot. They were moving fast and crunched to a stop. Light bars flashing and popping. Red and blue light in the raindrops on my window. Doors burst open, policemen jumped out. Two from each car, weapons ready. Two revolvers, two shotguns. This was heavy stuff. One revolver and one shotgun ran to the back. One of each rushed the door. Killing Floor by Lee Child Killing Floor opens with protagonist Jack Reacher being arrested at gunpoint in a small-town diner. Accepting the arrest with a strange calm, while also refusing to speak, Reacher is taken to the police station and interrogated. There, the reader learns that a murder has been committed and a suspect matching Reacher’s description was seen leaving the scene. The reader also learns (assuming that Reacher is a reliable narrator) that Reacher is definitely not the murderer.  By beginning in medias res, Lee Child accomplishes several things:  The arrest scene would be terrifying for a normal civilian, so Reacher’s calm reaction immediately establishes that he is trained in some way, without any explicit backstory whatsoever. The seriousness of the arrest immediately makes us curious about what has happened to upend this small town, and why Reacher is being treated as the prime suspect. Starting with the arrest allows Child to introduce his protagonist first. Given that the arrest is Reacher’s first contact with the events that have occurred, starting with any other scene would have meant introducing the victim, police, or other characters prior to Reacher.  Altogether, Child’s decision to begin in medias res is a strong one that serves both character and plot. It’s interesting to note that, despite the opening scene involving police, weapons, and an arrest, it still isn’t an action scene in the strict sense—no shots are fired, nobody fights, nobody chases anyone. This makes it an excellent example of the fact that increasing impact or excitement is not the same thing as simply adding physical peril. It’s the layering of the implications attached to the arrest that makes it compelling for the reader.  How To Use In Medias Res Now that you know what in medias res is, let\'s go through the many ways in which you can use it in your writing. When To Use In Medias Res When should you use in medias res in your stories?  Remember that in medias res means telling your story out of linear order—beginning anywhere other than the beginning. Here are some reasons you might want to do that:  To create a specific mood or mindset in the reader. (The Tell-Tale Heart does this by beginning with the narrator’s monologue about their sanity.) To begin with an exciting scene. (Many stories begin with the protagonist in peril, then reveal the events that led them there.) To create a sense of fate or anticipation for a future event. (For example, showing the reader how the protagonist will ultimately die, or showing the reader the outcome of some future event.) To create dramatic irony by giving the reader information from a future event, then returning to the chronological start with the protagonist or other characters unaware of what the reader knows. To create a sense of chaos or confusion by leaving out recent events that would otherwise be known to the reader. (Often used to strong effect in war and disaster stories, where the reader’s feelings are a substitute for the chaos or confusion the protagonist might feel in that moment.) To create a sense of mystery by withholding an explanation of an important event or situation. (Rosewater does this with Kaaro’s experience in the dome.) To remove an uninteresting section of the story’s timeline, by starting after that stretch, conveying prior events as a flashback, and omitting the period between. (Rosewater does this as well, with certain years of Kaaro’s life between his dome experience and the first chapter of the book.) To emphasise a particular character, theme, or question that you want foremost in the reader’s mind. (Killing Floor does this by centring Jack Reacher in its opening.)  By adjusting the order of re-telling, you can manipulate mood, information, focus, pacing, and other attributes of your story. However, in medias res isn’t a magic wand. You must use it purposefully if you want to achieve these effects.  Tips For Using In Medias Res How can you use in medias res purposefully?  First, make sure you’ve plotted your novel (or if you don’t plot, make sure you have most of a first draft written), so you have a good understanding of your story’s structure. (See how to chart your plot mountain or plot diagram, what is freytag’s pyramid, and write your novel with the snowflake method for additional help with plotting.)  Now take some time to think about whether you’re (A) solving a specific problem that would exist if you told the story in linear order, or (B) creating a specific effect by choosing to re-tell the story in a different order. If neither of those things apply, you don’t have a specific reason to use in medias res and will struggle to execute it effectively.  Finally, think about what other changes you might make to your story to support the effect you’re aiming for. What needs to be different about your other chapters to maximise the payoff from your in medias res opening? For example:  In The Tell-Tale Heart, Poe continues to build on the question of sanity that’s introduced in the opening paragraph, showing the reader additional examples of disturbed thinking by the narrator, continuing to build until the climax of the story. In Rosewater, Tade Thompson withholds the full knowledge of Kaaro’s dome experience until much later in the book, but tantalises the reader with hints and bits of information along the way, ensuring that curiosity about the dome never leaves the reader’s mind. In Killing Floor, Lee Child follows the arrest scene with an interrogation that amplifies the effects of the opening by further expanding our curiosity about the small town and showing us more of Jack Reacher’s calm intensity.  Resist the urge to flood the reader with exposition or backstory immediately after your opening scene, as if you’re trying to apologise or compensate for having dropped them into the middle of things. Commit to your decision to use in medias res and follow through purposefully in the chapters that follow, building on the effect you’ve created and delivering exposition and backstory gracefully. Alternate Techniques Sometimes, in medias res isn’t the right solution for the effect you want. Other related techniques you can try include:  Start with an action scene in a prologue—something which is exciting on its own, but will also have relevance to the later story. (For example, the action may set up a character to pursue revenge during the main story.) Omit certain information by having the protagonist unable to witness events because they’re unconscious, in the wrong location, distracted, blinded, or so on. You can then reveal that information later through dialogue with others who were present, recordings, forensic evidence, and other indirect techniques. Omit certain information by having a narrator who’s reluctant or unable to share it. Use a framing story to put the events of your main story in another person’s mouth, allowing them to re-tell it in their own style (but still in chronological order). Revise your existing opening to improve its pacing and excitement. If you believe you’re starting with the right scene, but it feels limp, try re-writing from a different viewpoint or with a different emphasis. Revise other parts of your plot to strengthen longer-term effects you’re trying to achieve. Remember, when concepting the opening of your novel, it never hurts to write several openings and compare their strengths, or to revise your opening multiple times. Using In Medias Res In this guide, we’ve seen a definition and examples of in medias res and talked about when and how to use it effectively. Hopefully, this has got you thinking about interesting ways to open your story. A great way to keep up that momentum is by bouncing your ideas off other authors.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

The Very Best Fantasy Tropes To Include In Your Writing

Fantasy tropes are some of the best literary tropes out there (except, perhaps, for romance). Whether you\'re writing a fantasy novel or screenplay, you may be tempted to include fantasy tropes in your work - but, likewise, you may also be nervous about using a plot device that\'s been used so many times it\'s no longer original. So how can you include fantasy tropes in your story, without boring your readers? In this article I\'m going to be talking about what a fantasy trope is, listing some of the best-loved common tropes (along with examples), and discussing the best way to incorporate fantasy tropes in your story. What Is A Trope? A trope is a scenario in any story (be it a book, movie or play) where characters react or interact in a way that is expected. Some may even go so far as to say that a genre book isn\'t a genre book without at least one or two well-loved tropes (at least!!). Genre plays a big part in which tropes are used in which stories. You can always mix up tropes (no one is stopping a rom-com writer from sending one character off on a quest and making another a fallen hero) but when it comes to expectations, certain genres have certain tropes. So, for instance, in horror, you may get an innocent person or object (child, doll, pet) that becomes possessed. And in romance, readers expect to see characters go from being enemies to lovers, or to have a happy ending. And in fantasy (which we will be focusing on in this article) readers expect to see characters go on a quest, discover they are the chosen one, or become the hero who uses a magic sword to fight a dark lord. So let\'s take a look at some of the most common tropes found in fantasy stories, listed in relation to popular categories found within the fantasy genre. Our Top Fantasy Tropes (And How To Make Them Unique) All common tropes in fantasy fiction share similar elements - in most cases, writers focus on worldbuilding (ie the magical world in which the story is set), characters (ie archetypes who possess certain attributes and qualities that people expect to find in their favourite fantasy fiction. ), or plot (ie some kind of great power struggle or attempt to save the world). In this list, I will highlight the most popular fantasy tropes, give an example, and then highlight how you can give these tried and tested tropes your very own stamp or twist. Let\'s start with tropes found in fantasy settings... Worldbuilding Tropes Medieval Europe It\'s incredibly common to see fantasy novels set in a time that closely resembles the King Arthur medieval period...although often mixed with fantasy elements. Imagine people living in villages with straw roofs and farmyard animals, except the local blacksmith makes magic swords! Or imagine a reluctant hero galloping off on his horse to fight the bad guys...who also happen to be trolls. Where to find it: When we imagine Medieval-style fantasy worlds we often think of George R. R. Martin\'s A Song of Ice and Fire series. But another fun example is The Witcher series on Netflix, inspired by the books written by Andrzej Sapkowski which were later adapted into a popular computer game. This is the perfect example of how one world and its story can be told in a number of ways! Magical Systems It\'s hard to find a fantasy world in fiction that doesn\'t have some kind of magic system. Whether that means that witches and wizards exist, there\'s just one character who can cast spells, or that the power can only be found in one mystical artefact, when considering worldbuilding and fantasy tropes it\'s important to think about the magic system of your made-up world. Who can do it? How does it work? And why? Where to find it: There are far too many magical systems in fantasy fiction to list here, so take a look at this article which highlights some of my favourite and original takes on magic! Fantastical Races And Creatures Surely you didn\'t think you could get this far without a Tolkien reference? Elves, Dwarves, Orcs, Trolls, and of course HOBBITS - Tolkien always went above and beyond to create entire communities of other-worldly creatures in his books. He even went so far as to invent a language for them! So if you\'re going to write a fantasy book that doesn\'t take place in this world, you can\'t avoid using this trope. In fact, why not check out our article on how to create your own fantasy creatures? Where to find it: To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo is a great twist in The Little Mermaid, full of undersea monsters like you\'ve never seen before. Character Tropes Damsel In Distress This is one of the most common fantasy tropes found in older stories, myths and legends. Although times have changed and we find fewer and fewer stories full of defenceless women needing a big strong man or rich prince to come to their rescue, having someone who needs rescuing is always a great inciting incident. Especially if the hero\'s journey takes them not just to the trapped person but also helps them discover plenty about themselves along the way! Where to find it: Every fairytale is a fantasy book, and most of the older ones (think Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty) are full of damsels in distress. The Secret Heir This is slightly different to The Chosen One trope (where, like Harry Potter, the protagonist discovers they\'re the key to beating the evil force). A secret heir won\'t necessarily have any magical power, but they will most probably be the one who is destined to be the next ruler. And often that means the one people want to kill! This is a fun one to twist up as you can do ridiculous things, like have the pet cat be the secret heir because the prince was once turned into an animal, or have the servant be a secret heir because they were the king\'s hidden love child! Where to find it: Here\'s a great collection of books where women are battling over the throne instead of the usual secret prince. Villain All fantasy books have to have a villain - even though it\'s not always a monster or a man who is pure evil. In some cases, the villain can be the landscape, the curse, or the inner demon they are struggling to fight. Where to find it: Where won\'t you find a nasty villain in the fantasy genre? From Darth Vader and the Joker, to Lord Voldermort and Narnia\'s White Witch, we sometimes enjoy reading about the villains more than the good guys/girls/people. Dark Lord A dark lord is a villain, but not all villains are dark lords! The wonderful thing about someone who turns to the dark side is discovering their origin story, their backstory, and how they went from being a regular person to the one that everyone fears. Where to find it: The Darkling in Bardugo\'s Shadow and Bone series is my favourite dark lord. He\'s mysterious, enticing, powerful, and as bad as you know he really is...you can\'t help wanting to know more about him. As he famously says - \"Fine. Make me your villain.\" Plot Tropes Training Sequences This is where the protagonist has to do something heroic, but they aren\'t ready yet. So you know what they need to do? They need to train! Training sequences are not only fun to watch, but they are a great plot device to move time forward and to show how the hero is progressing. Sometimes it\'s used as a midpoint marker, just before the real action starts. It\'s also a lovely way to introduce another character trope - the mentor. This may be another main character that only comes into play in Act 2. Where to find it: The Hunger Games trilogy has a number of training scenes, which also prove as a great way to show Katniss\' character, as well as that of her rivals and those in power. In the same vein, Mulan also uses this trope to highlight her struggle of hiding that she\'s a woman fighting amongst big, burly men. The Quest A quest is when the characters are sent on a journey and a bad thing (or twenty) will happen. that quest can be as simple as crossing a river, or as complicated as crossing an entire kingdom in order to drop a ring into a fiery mountain. Where to find it: In the movie Love and Monsters, an asteroid has released chemicals that make small creatures into huge monsters (ie killer centipedes) and the main character has to find his ex-girlfriend at the next camp without getting killed. Highly entertaining. Good Guys Fighting Evil Heroes need to win - there are no two ways about it. Especially in a fantasy novel. In real life, there\'s a grey area when it comes to politics and what is fair because life isn\'t really that black and white - but it is in fantasy! Your readers need to root for someone, and they need to know who that someone is, so make sure that even if your hero has flaws, ultimately, we know who\'s wrong and who\'s right. Where to find it: V E Schwab does this really well in her Shades of Magic series, with the main character, Kell, fighting both external evil forces and the dark magic inside of himself. Dead Parents/Loved Ones It\'s a lot harder for a young protagonist to go on a big adventure, fight monsters and bad guys, and take unnecessary risks, if their parents or guardians are there to stop them. So what forces a child to grow up? What motivates someone to do wild things? How do you add trauma and grief to someone\'s backstory that will justify the decisions they go on to make? Kill off the ones they love. Where to find it: Neil Gaiman handled this trope really well with his novel The Graveyard Book about a young orphan who is raised in a cemetery by supernatural creatures. The Walking Dead is also really good at dealing with grief and loss in fantasy. How To Effectively Use Fantasy Tropes In Your Writing As you have seen, when it comes to common fantasy tropes and the genre in general, there\'s no right or wrong (just good and evil). The joy of writing fantasy is that you can create any world you want, and any characters you want, and as long as you stick to some of these expected fantasy tropes you can make it work. So what makes a good fantasy novel? And how can you give your readers what they expect, while not being predictable or trite? The secret lies in taking the very best from the books and movies people love - the most common tropes that people don\'t want to let go of - and considering the needs of the modern reader. Harry Potter and The Hobbit have had their time in the limelight...it\'s time to create fantastical worlds that reflect how society keeps changing and inspires new readers. With this in mind, it\'s no wonder we\'ve seen a rise in fantasy written for women by women, feminist fantasy, MG and YA fantasy, books written by diverse authors incorporating cultures that we don\'t see as often (ie not just European folklore), as well as more LGBT fantasy, and characters that embrace physical or mental challenges (ie not as a flaw but simply as something lots of people live with). So how can you take these tropes and make them work for you? Write What You Know Yes, I know you have never lived in a land where unicorns shoot fire out of their mouths or dragons are the size of sparrows, but that doesn\'t mean you can\'t bring a little authenticity from this world to your own. Even if your book is set in space or ten thousand years from now, readers still want to connect to your characters and the situations they find themselves in. So if you introduce a trope like, say, an innocent hero having to fight evil, try and remember what it felt like when you stood up to a bully as a child, or when you had to have a difficult conversation with your boss. Use Them Sparingly Just because you love certain fantasy tropes, that doesn\'t necessarily mean you should add them to your story. Writing is hard work; don\'t make your job harder by adding tropes to your story that have no place being there. Think of your plot and characters first, then see what works. Readers can tell when storylines have been forced to accommodate a scene that doesn\'t really add anything. (Here are some fantasy prompts to get you started.) Be Brave If you write fantasy the chances are you read and watch (or even play) a lot of it too. That means you may well feel like certain rules are set in stone - Orcs are bad, damsels need rescuing, and all heroes rise to the challenge and defeat evil at the end. But what if you went against the grain? What if you were brave and did something so unexpected, so uncomfortable, that everyone would remember your book forever? For instance - what if the evil dark lord rescued the sleeping beauty? What if Orcs were the good guys? And what if the hero not only lost his power but didn\'t care about winning? That, in itself, would make for an interesting premise. Writing makes you vulnerable, whatever the genre, not even magical worlds and elf-eating giants are big enough to hide behind when it comes to writing something from the heart. So be brave and take a risk, shake things up a little, because the stories that scare you the most to write are the ones worth telling! Step Into A Whole New World I hope you\'ve enjoyed this article and it has helped you on your own writing journey; your very own quest for the perfect fantasy tropes. Remember to look at both the real world around you, and deep inside yourself, and bring all of that emotion and experience to your fantasy books. Add the tropes that matter, twist them up, make them your own, and most of all have fun. Because if you aren\'t feeling what your character is feeling, if you don\'t want to save the world from more trite and predictable fantasy books, and if you\'re not bravely fighting good and evil for world domination in the fantasy genre (ok, just finishing your book is a good start) then what are you waiting for? Get going! There\'s a whole world of fantasy out there for you to conquer... Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Second Person Point Of View: When And How To Use It

Writing from a second person point of view isn’t very common - but it can be very effective.   Tutors, editors and fellow writers might all tell you to avoid it, dismissing the technique as difficult to pull off. But if you look closer, you will find a recent shift in this attitude. Writers are embracing the technique that allows you to play with your narrative and to get deep into your character’s psyche.   So let’s unpick this tricky point of view and I’ll show you how you can best use it in your own writing. I will explain what the second person point of view is in writing, when you might use it, how to use the technique to its greatest advantage, and provide some second person point of view examples.  What Is Second Person Point Of View? As writers, when we are setting out a plan for the masterpiece we are about to write, we have a little internal discussion with ourselves that usually starts with the question: Is this story going to be better told in first or third person? Rarely do we even consider writing in the second person, and this is probably because we are told to never use it. But as a literary technique in the right hands, it can be very powerful indeed.  So, what exactly is a second person point of view in literature? There are many definitions, but broadly it is the use of the second person pronoun, you, to refer to the protagonist or another character. For example, let’s take the novel that broke down the perception that the second person narrative was a bad thing - Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney:  You have friends that actually care about you and speak the language of the inner self. You have avoided them of late. Your soul is as dishevelled as your apartment, and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney A second person narrative asks the reader to become the character, as in the McInerney example above, or become the character the narrator is addressing. It is instantly intimate. There is an urgency about the second person point of view. And for the reader, this can feel totally immersive.   So now we know what the second person point of view is, let’s think about when you should use it.  When To Use Second Person Point Of View Second person narratives work by talking directly to your reader. The wonderful Kathy Fish says that writing in the second person is ‘the literary equivalent of making good eye contact.’ I couldn’t agree more!  Writing in the second person acts as a deep dive into the character and forges a link between the narrator and the reader, breaking down that so-called fourth wall.   And the strength of this point of view is its versatility not just in fiction, but in non-fiction and self-help books, for example. As a form, it is well-used in short stories and flash fiction, too, where you can be much more experimental with your writing.  One excellent example of this is Girl by Jamaica Kincaid (read the full piece here). At only 650 words or so, it is a long list from (presumably) a mother to her daughter on how to be a girl. With lines such as this - “this is how you smile to someone you don’t like too much; this is how you smile to someone you don’t like at all; this is how you smile to someone you like completely” - the prescribed list of rules and how-to\'s becomes personal. She could be talking to me. She could be talking to you. As a reader, I feel affronted by her and her assumption that she can tell me what to do and how to be. And there lies, I believe, the point of the story. I don’t think I would have had the same emotional reaction to this piece if it had been written in the third or even first person. This is the eye contact that Kathy Fish is talking about.  Let’s consider the differences between the other points of view that are on offer to you as a writer:  First-person uses the I pronoun. The story is being told through the eyes of the narrator. This can be limiting, though, as we only see the world through the eyes of the character whose head we are in. Third person uses the he/she/they pronouns. The reader observes the story. This is generally much more distant for the reader, especially when using an omniscient narrator, but you can play with this form much more by considering the psychic distance with which you write. Second Person Point Of View Examples I’ll now take a look at some books written from the second person point of view, each of which uses the technique in a different way.  The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern Erin Morgenstern scatters her use of the second person throughout The Night Circus, which is mostly told in third person. The magical novel about two rival magicians flits back and forth through time and is told from the point of view of various different characters. But occasionally Morgenstern will place the reader themselves in her magical world with little vignettes such as this:  You are amongst them, of course. Your curiosity got the better of you, as curiosity is wont to do. You stand in the fading light, the scarf around your neck pulled up against the chilly evening breeze, waiting to see for yourself exactly what kind of circus only opens once the sun sets.The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern This is the first use of the second person narration in The Night Circus, and here she places you, the reader, at the door of this mystery circus that has suddenly appeared without warning. You want to know as much as the people that stand around you. The opening ends:  Some in the crowd smile knowingly, while others frown and look questioningly at their neighbors. A child near you tugs on her mother’s sleeve, begging to know what it says. ‘The Circus of Dreams,’ comes the reply. The girl smiles delightedly. Then the iron gates shudder and unlock, seemingly by their own volition. They swing outward, inviting the crowd inside. Now the circus is open. Now you may enter.The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern Do you feel the same as me? Do you want to walk through those magical gates and enter this magical world? Of course, you do! You have been invited.  Try looking for these small moments where you want to place the reader directly into the heart of the action. Morgenstern uses it sparingly. You can too.  The Push By Ashley Audrain Ashley Audrain uses the second person perspective really well in The Push. The novel is written as a long letter to the main character\'s ex-husband as she (Blythe), tries to pick apart the events of their life that led them to where they are now. The novel starts:   You slid your chair over and tapped my textbook with the end of your pencil and I stared at the page, hesitant to look up. ‘Hello?’ I had answered you like a phone call. This made you laugh. And so we sat there, giggling, two strangers in a school library, studying for the same elective subject. There must have been hundreds of students in the class - I had never seen you before. The curls in your hair fell over your eyes and you twirled them with your pencil. You had such a peculiar name.The Push by Ashley Audrain How intimate is this? Confessional, almost. Audrain puts you deep into Blythe’s memory, and what better way to understand a character? But in addition to depicting the deconstruction of their relationship, Blythe is calling on her ex-husband, Fox, to see their daughter the way she sees her. As a reader, we know Blythe isn’t addressing us, but by writing in the second person, she gives us the urgency that she herself feels. She is begging him and us. This is the urgency I mentioned above. We feel everything she feels deeply because she is talking directly to us through the use of ‘you’.   As a technique for a full novel, the second person POV can feel draining, but Audrain cleverly breaks it up with chapters about Blythe’s family history. These are written in third person and are a welcome relief from the deep perspective. If you have an unreliable narrator, like Blythe, consider letting the readers see inside their head like Audrain does.  You By Caroline Kepnes You by Caroline Kepnes is at the opposite end of the scale to The Night Circus. Kepnes uses the second person narrator for the entirety of the novel which takes you deep inside the mind of a stalker and murderer. The writer could have achieved this by using the closeness of the first person, but by writing this from a second person POV, Kepnes makes you feel like you are the object of his obsession. Let’s see how she achieves it:  You walk into the bookstore and keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn’t slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl, and your nails are bare and your V-neck sweater is beige, and it’s impossible to know if you are wearing a bra but I don’t think that you are.You by Caroline Kepnes Wow. This is a pretty immersive opening, don’t you think? Not only is the creepiness on another level, but you see straight into Joe’s mind as the narrator. He is making assumptions about the person he is watching; he is looking at parts of her body that he shouldn’t be looking at. He is looking at you. We instantly know that we are in the head of a dangerous person.   Kepnes gives you no respite from the head of Joe - she keeps you in his head all the way through. It’s a clever novel. She shows the narcissistic and psychopathic thoughts and behaviours of Joe, whilst trapping the reader in his claustrophobic world. And she shows you just how easy it might be for you to become a target. She even manages to secure sympathy for Joe, because to be so far in his head is to understand why he does what he does. And for you, the reader, that puts you in an uncomfortable place. I’m not sure this would have been achieved in any other point of view.  Committing a full novel to the second person perspective is a big deal. Here it works well because the character is so flawed. So, if you want to give your readers an uncomfortable ride, with the right character, this might be the way to go.  How To Write In Second Person Point Of View Writing in the second person definitely doesn’t work for everything, and you should think carefully before using it. But to help you figure out when and where it might work best for you, let’s look at ways you can explore it.  Key steps and tips:  Think about who your second person narration will be addressing. Is it the reader, and are you therefore are asking the reader to become your character? Or are you addressing a second character and thus you want to invite the reader into the psyche of the narrator? It’s a tricky concept to get your head around, so be very clear about this before you set out on this path.  Ask yourself what it is you want to achieve. Do you want to draw the reader into an uncomfortable place? Do you want the reader to be a part of the story? What will the second person voice achieve for your story, your characters and your readers\' experience?  Be sure that you have a character who is interesting enough that your readers want to be inside their head. Experiment - have a play around with your narrative. There may well be parts that become stronger and deeper in the second person.  Try writing some flash fiction and short stories to really perfect your second person voice. I believe this is the key to writing from this point of view. It takes practice. It takes real commitment and consistency in the same way that writing from the more conventional points of view does.   Second Person Point Of View As writers, we want to push boundaries. We want to set ourselves apart from everybody else. We want to create memorable and long-lasting characters that feel as real to us as the person you last shared a meal with. Using the second person point of view might be the way for you to achieve that. Be brave. Be bold. But always be sure that your story benefits from it.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Start A Story

How do you start a story? For many authors, writing the opening to any story brings on a special kind of anxiety. Like a first date, the pressure to make a good impression can be nerve-wracking – after all, it’s the first couple of chapters that have to hook a prospective agent, editor or reader.   But it doesn’t have to be that scary —with a simple process, you can generate multiple opening ideas and be confident you’ve written one that’s solid.  In this guide, you’ll learn the process of starting a story and discover some strategies for getting into the right mindset. We’ll also review 30+ opening ideas and a list of do’s and don’ts to help guide your writing.   Let’s get started!  To Start Your Story Well, Know Your Story Well Imagine you’re at a party and you’re asked to introduce two people. Normally, you’d do that by sharing something about each of them that might spark a conversation.  But what if you barely know them? At best, you could recite their names and hope they take it from there. Awkward!  Story openings are like this. They need to spark interest and open a doorway to what comes next. To write a good opening, consider your story:  What’s it about? Do you have a good sense of who your protagonist is, the key challenge they face, the events that will unfold, and the themes woven throughout?  What will your reader’s experience be? What will your reader be feeling during the beginning, middle, and end of your story? Which aspects of your story will they welcome, and which will challenge them? How will they look back on your story, and what will stick in their mind?  It’s likely that you’ve already answered these questions for other purposes, such as writing your blurb or plotting your novel. Let’s talk about a specific process you can use to turn those answers into an outline for your opening scene.  How To Begin A Story Here’s a process you can use to generate an outline for your opening scene. (We’ll run through an example below.)  Confidently and clearly answer the questions “what is my story about?” (protagonist, conflict, plot, themes) and “what will my reader experience?” (feelings, resistances, lasting impressions).  Pick one element of your story’s content or experience that you feel is compelling.  Ask yourself how you might open a doorway onto that element for your reader. Think about two things: getting them thinking about the right things (focus) and making them eager to experience what’s to come (desire).  With focus and desire in mind, build a great scene outline. Here’s an example of the process in action:  Let’s say our story is a heist novel. Our protagonist is a reformed thief whose lover died tragically during his last heist. Realising the danger of his lifestyle to the people around him, he got out of the game, and hasn’t let himself get close to anyone since. But now an old mob debt has caught up to him, and his only chance to pay it off is to come out of retirement for one last score. He takes on a new apprentice, and as they prepare, he finds himself falling in love with her. The reader’s experience will revolve around the thrill of the big heist, the May-September romance, and the protagonist’s memorable final decision.  For this opening, let’s choose the romance as our focal element.  For our doorway (focus + desire), we want to get the reader thinking about relationships, and rooting for the protagonist to find love and happiness.  We decide that our opening will show the protagonist eating alone at a restaurant he used to frequent with his old lover. We’ll have him reminisce about their relationship and contemplate the pain of his loneliness. We’ll also convey his desire to live a decent life and never hurt anyone again. However, we’ll soon discover that our protagonist hasn’t chosen this location out of nostalgia. A mobster who demanded a meeting here shows up, intentionally late, and delivers an ultimatum: come out of retirement to pay your debts or face the consequences.  Not a bad starting point, right? Once we’d chosen romance as our focal element, the ideas came easily, because we’d taken the time to outline our story’s content and experiences.  The key is to work from the perspective of opening doors. If we’d been worrying about forcefully “grabbing” the reader, or focusing on a catchy opening sentence, there would be no process leading us to the restaurant scene.  Writing Multiple Openings Using this process, you can create outlines for multiple opening scenes in two ways.  First, you can pick the same element and create a different opening. For example, instead of sitting in a restaurant, we could have had our protagonist walking in a park, watching a young couple in love. The meeting with the mobster could have taken place on a park bench. Most of the protagonist’s thoughts could be the same, and the differences are primarily aesthetic—day versus night, outdoors versus indoors, and so on.  Or, you can pick a different element. For example, let’s say we’d picked the thrill of the heist as our key element. In that case, perhaps we might open with the protagonist sitting in his poorly-kept bachelor apartment, watching a TV documentary about a new casino being built. He notices a subtle flaw in its security design and realises this is his chance for one last big score. His mind immediately begins working and the reader is pulled into his planning.  Or, finally, you could start the story right in the thick of the action (often referred to as in median res) or even include a prologue.  When you know what your story is about, and when you think in terms of opening doors, writing multiple openings becomes easy.   I suggest you try creating concepts for two or three openings before you commit to one of them—you may be surprised how many good ideas shake themselves free from the tree.   How To Begin A Story: 30+ Story Opening Ideas Here are thirty-odd ways you can open doors to different elements of your story.  If you want to open a doorway to appreciate… You might focus your opening on… Novelty and new ideas A complication the reader wasn’t expecting; Your original setting or a unique character; A strange situation the reader wouldn’t have seen before. Immersive experiences A vivid environment with rich sensory cues (but remember to put a character in that environment); A single, strikingly-described image (choose one that has significance to your story, or that you can revisit or invert later) Action An in medias res action sequence (make sure it has stakes, but make sure it doesn’t sprawl or overshadow later action sequences); A briefing (formal or informal) that describes a potentially explosive situation. A compelling protagonist (If first-person) The protagonist’s distinctive voice—let them experience or relive something they can narrate in a way that’s distinctly “them”; A situation that showcases the protagonist’s talents, principles, or quirks; A situation that forces the protagonist to make a decision; A situation that lets your protagonist expound on something or share their insights and opinions. (Note: Your opening scene is not a “first date”. Let your protagonist’s flaws show as well or they won’t seem compelling.) Curiosity or mystery Letting the reader notice a contradiction without explaining it immediately; Leaving something crucial unsaid: pick one of the five W’s that your reader is most likely to ask, then don’t answer it, but play around the edges of answering; An event which has consequences or a conclusion that you hold back for now; Raising a question and giving the reader only part of the answer. Emotion Making the reader identify with a character who’s going through an emotional event; A situation that arouses your reader’s sympathies; Implicit questions centred on the reader, such as “what would you do?” or “can you blame her?”; An idea or concept presented with intensity or burning emotion; Narration that uses emotion and relationship vocabulary (this isn’t a substitute for making the reader feel an emotion, but can help to signal the focus of the story’s viewpoint). Big Ideas A mundane event with deeper causes or meaning that is then questioned; A character posing an intellectual or philosophical question. Romance A flirtation; A fantasy; An intriguing new interest entering the protagonist’s sphere; A complication coming up in a relationship; A previous relationship crashing and burning (leaving the protagonist available). An epic or sweeping story Anything other than focusing tightly on a single character and their immediate concerns; A setting or image that implies a much broader setting (for example, a monument commemorating a war or unification); A prologue that broadens the scope of your story; Showing how a location has changed over time. Masterful writing A place (or time, or worldview) for which you can display a deep understanding or appreciation to the reader; Making the reader laugh; A scene that showcases excellent pacing, tone, and atmosphere; Artful (but not purple) use of words and phrasing.  If in doubt, constrain yourself with these two rules:  Introduce your protagonist first; Start your story immediately before or immediately after the inciting incident (in most cases it helps to show the characters before the inciting incident so you have a better character arc at the end and the reader can see how far they have come).  It’s often okay to break these two rules, but it’s rarely wrong to follow them!  Writing Strategies For Starting Your Story Writing a good opening is about more than just the outline—it’s also about putting yourself in a position to write well. Here are some strategies you can use:  Putting Yourself In The Right Mindset Remember to define your opening in terms of how it opens doorways to the content and experience of your story. Don’t write your opening first or last. If you write it first, you won’t be warmed up to your characters and story; if you write it last you’ll put too much pressure on yourself. Write a rough beginning, but be prepared to go back and tighten it once you know your story and characters better. Many authors struggle with too much scene-setting in their openings. To combat this, pretend your opening is actually your second chapter. Write an extra chapter that comes before your opening, then write your opening. When both are done, throw away the extra chapter and pass your opening to a beta-reader. Ask them if anything confuses them, and only make additions to correct any confusion. (Using this method will help you see that much of your scene-setting is “insurance”, and not really necessary.) Here’s another trick: outline your first chapter, but don’t write it. Instead, challenge yourself to modify your second chapter to make it work as your opening. This isn’t always possible (especially if the two chapters have separate viewpoints), but by trying, you become aware of which parts of your opening chapter are truly essential. When reviewing your opening, try reading your back-cover blurb first, just like most of your readers will do. Does your opening feel redundant in that context? Are you re-using language from the blurb in a way that saps it of impact?  Controlling Detail And Sprawl All of the writing advice that applies to your other scenes applies to your opening as well—show don’t tell, write with a distinctive voice, avoid clichés, and so on. However, pacing, focus, and controlling the level of detail are especially important in your opening.   Keep the following advice in mind:  Use exposition carefully—keep it diffused. Don’t allow yourself detours in your opening. Know what the scene is about and execute it in a compact fashion. Detours are for middle chapters! Trust your reader to make common-sense assumptions. Don’t overload your opening with too many responsibilities. Focus on introducing one key element of your book in an interesting way, and let your subsequent chapters build from there. Action—things happening—doesn’t automatically hook a reader or make your opening strong. What matters is meaning; action is just a tool for creating meaning. In your opening, include action that builds meaning; cut action that doesn’t. Voice is key. Ensure the reader gets a taste of the main character(s), the tone of the book and the genre within the first three chapters.  Revising Your Opening If you believe your opening is important, it should receive its proper share of revision. Here are some revising tips:  Like any scene, the most important first step is simply to write something. Don’t put it off! Even a terrible opening is something you can analyse, improve, and compare against alternatives.  It’s never wrong to test a new opening. Challenge yourself to write at least two different openings and ask yourself what works well about each of them. Spend some time polishing your opening sentence.At the same time, don’t hyper-focus on your opening sentence or opening page. An intriguing first line is great, but no reader will put your book down just because the first paragraph is simple. Although do aim to make your entire first chapter one of your strongest, including its closing sentence, and link to your second chapter.  How Not To Begin A Story Here are a few common mistakes authors make when they begin a story:  Writing in a different voice, or with a different sensibility, than the rest of your novel. Trying to please everyone. Never be afraid of turning off readers who wouldn’t enjoy the rest of your story anyway. People-pleasing leads to bland openings and shows the reader you aren’t committed to your story concept. Giving away too much detail too soon. Spending time setting the stage in ways that aren’t yet meaningful to your reader. (Imagine your characters and locations are friends whose careers you’re trying to help—let them shine by introducing them at the moment when they can be most compelling!)  (For some more don’ts, read our guide to 7 novel-opening mistakes that make literary agents groan.) Starting Your Story Well In this guide, we’ve discussed the concept of opening doors for your reader, a process for generating scene outlines, ideas for starting your story, writing strategies, and some don’ts to avoid.  So what are you waiting for? Now that you know how, it’s time to start that book of yours!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

20 Powerful Romance Tropes (And How To Make Them Original)

If you love reading romance novels then you can\'t avoid a romantic trope. It\'s that part in the book when the two work colleagues who hate one another suddenly find themselves trapped in a lift together (forced proximity!). Or when two strangers brush fingers picking up the same fallen item (sexual tension!). Or when the heroine faints and the strong, silent type catches her (alpha hero!). In other words, the scene that makes you squeal \'yesss, I knew it!\' In this article, we\'re going to look at what a trope is, romance novel sub-genres, and managing reader expectations. Plus we\'ll also take a closer look at twenty of the most popular tropes and think about how to keep them fresh. What Is A Trope? A story trope, whether found in literature or films, is a totally expected situation between two characters that moves the action forward. Tropes can be found in almost any genre (from fantasy to historical fiction) - but it\'s the romance genre that\'s famed for providing the most sought-after scenarios. Different Romance Genres If you\'re considering writing your own love story, one of the first things you must decide is what sub-genre to choose from. In any love story, readers expect the main storyline to have two (or more) people falling in love and living happily ever after by the end. Although, the time in which the book is set, the setting, and the characters themselves also determine the book\'s sub-genre. Let\'s look closely at each sub-genre and how they\'re defined: Historical: This is when a book is set during a period previous to the current-day (yes, even the 1990\'s count as historical. Sorry, I don\'t make the rules).The Duke and I (Julia Quinn) Fantasy: When the setting is set in a different world to ours (this includes sci-fi, dystopia, and paranormal romance).The Princess Bride (S. Morgenstern) Rom-com: A romantic comedy is when the characters must face a series of amusing events before they finally get together.The Flatshare (Beth O\'Leary) Christmas: This is a relatively new category, but festive books have become so popular with readers lately that they have become a genre of their own.One Day in December (Josie Silver) Erotic: This is a love story where the plot revolves around the sex and not the other way around. It can include BDSM, kink, LGBT characters, and many of its own sub-genres.Fifty Shades of Grey (E. L. James) Young Adult: Romance books written for teenagers, often depicting first love and all the drama that can happen when two young people fall in love.The Sun Is Also A Star (Nicola Yoon) Religious/Spiritual: This category often includes Christian fiction, or \'clean\' fiction (ie very little sexual tension and no on-page sex), but can also include characters spiritually finding themselves...as well as one another.Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) LGBTQ: Any romance novels depicting love between anyone who doesn\'t define themselves as straight. This can be combined with any of the above categories too, of course.Tipping the Velvet (Sarah Waters) Romance stories don\'t need to fit neatly into just one category, many fall into various sub-genres. For instance, Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) is a steamy, fantasy and historical romance. Whereas Red, White and Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston) is an LGBTQ rom-com YA novel, with the US president\'s son falling in love with a British prince. Why Do Tropes Matter To Romance Readers? It doesn\'t matter what particular trope features in a love story, the most popular romance tropes are the ones that bring a couple together and create tension and pace in the story. With each trope, a writer is pushing their characters together then ripping them apart again. This not only builds attraction and tension between the protagonists, but it heightens the stakes and keeps readers hooked. My one aim as a romance novelist (I\'ve written both paranormal romance and fantasy romance novels) is to keep my readers on the edge of their seats, wondering whether the main characters will get together - then making sure that by the end they do. That\'s all romance readers want; the pain and suffering of impossible love, followed by the sweet joy that love won after all. A happy ending gives us all hope. It makes us believe that we too can find love. It makes the world seem like a nicer place. This is what romance readers expect. Don\'t let them down! Top 20 Most Powerful Romance Tropes As Shakespeare once wrote, \'the course of true love never did run smooth.\' Which is why every romance writer ensures that their main character has to fight as hard as possible (be it an internal struggle or a literal battle with external forces) to be with their one true love. Soul mates who are destined to be together, suffer together - and the most entertaining way of ensuring that is to throw in a few tried and tested tropes to keep the pace and tension going. Here are my favourite twenty romance tropes, including examples from both books and movies: 1. The Cute Meet-Cute A meet-cute is when two lovers first meet. This needs to be memorable, and preferably it also needs to be cute. A classic example is one of them humiliating themselves in front of the other, or something happening that instantly turns them into enemies. Or you can be original and have a one night stand be the beginning of their love story, then make the couple work hard to turn instant attraction into true love. 2. Enemies to lovers There\'s a thin line between love and hate, which is why the Enemies to Lovers is one of the most popular tropes. Demonstrating bristling tension between your protagonists, and then showing readers how those initial feelings change over the course of the book, can create conflict, tension and a lot of romantic angst. For example, everyone loves a bad boy, but it\'s a lot more fun if the heroine falls for him after a long time of thinking that she hated him. Or perhaps, such as in a workplace romance, she\'s the mean boss and he\'s the nice guy who can\'t stand her. So many scenarios are available! 3. Forced Proximity Nothing gets my heart soaring as much as a scene in a book where the enemies to lovers couple book into a hotel and...THERE\'S ONLY ONE BED! Sarah J Mass does this beautifully in A Court of Mist and Fury. Or (I love this one) two people who have been refusing to acknowledge their feelings for one another have to quickly hide and find themselves locked IN A SMALL BROOM CUPBOARD! Excuse my basic tastes here, but this is the classic example of creating a physical and emotional connection between two characters who have allowed their heads to rule their hearts (and lower regions). But once they\'re touching, once their lips are inches apart, they can\'t fight it any longer. Swoon! 4. Destiny This may seem like a lazy trope but it\'s a classic. When two characters are thrown together by fate, who are they to argue? Star crossed lovers trying to live out their destiny? Yes, please! In my own book, The Path Keeper (N J Simmonds), Zac has been in love with Ella for over 2,000 years and hundreds of lifetimes. It\'s his fate to love her, yet in this lifetime she loves him back. The only problem is that he\'s an angel (don\'t you just hate it when that happens?). 5. Childhood sweethearts This romance trope is a favourite with YA books and less-steamy romance novels. No one forgets their first crush, or the potency and drama of first love, and it\'s this friends to lovers theme that makes the \'we are best friends, but now we\'re going to ruin everything for love\' storyline so compelling. Look at Elle in The Kissing Booth, she\'s about to ruin her friendship with her male friend, Lee, because she\'s fallen in love with his alpha brother, Noah (also her friend). What could possibly go wrong? 6. Forbidden Love From Romeo and Juliet, to Twilight, as soon as you tell someone (OK, a teenage girl in a lot of these cases) that she can\'t have someone - that certain someone becomes ten times more desirable. A forbidden love interest is key to this trope, and it\'s that one obstacle that will keep them apart and keep raising the stakes (excuse the vampire pun). And what happens when they finally do get together? Well, as Juliet and Bella will tell you, it\'s not pretty. 7. Impossible Love There\'s a fine line between impossible love and forbidden love. In forbidden love, the obstacles are normally societal or human (ie he\'s a prince and she\'s an ordinary person, or she\'s a Capulet and he\'s a Montague). But with impossible love, the obstacle can be something a lot more esoteric. In the aptly-named rom-com novel, Impossible (Sarah Lots), a couple fall in love over email - then discover they are in two different parallel universes! How on Earth are they ever going to find one another? 8. Second Chance Love Can someone find happiness a second time around? Whether their first blind date went badly and she\'s giving him a second chance, or (like in Nicholas Sparks\' The Notebook) they fell in love, separated for seven years, and then couldn\'t keep away from one another, second chances are the biggest \'will they, won\'t they\' risk. Another version of this is when a recently widowed or divorced character no longer trusts love...but they\'ve just met their perfect match. We believe in their love, but do they? 9. I Have A Secret Every story needs a surprise, and every character needs a secret. Whether they\'re hiding the news of a secret baby (like in Helen Fielding\'s Bridget Jones\' Baby where we don\'t know who the father really is) or whether they\'re pretending to be someone they\'re not (like Casanova who doesn\'t reveal his true identity until the end of the film) it\'s the suspense that draws readers - whether they\'re in on the secret or not! 10. The Bet This trope is where someone (usually an alpha hero) places a bet that he can get the unobtainable/prissy/ugly duckling girl. Then he falls for her - but not before she finds out, loses trust in him, and ironically breaks his heart in return. This trope was used widely in the 90s (think movies like Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You, and She\'s All That) but, thankfully, with the rise of feminism in storytelling, it\'s now often presented in a less misogynistic way. 11. Fake Relationship This is one of my favourite tropes, not because it\'s original but because I enjoy seeing what will happen to the couple to make them realise that they\'re not faking their love after all! Whether they\'re involved in a marriage of convenience/arranged marriage, or it\'s simply a fake relationship in high school (such as the one in To all the boys I loved before by Jenny Han), the fun part is watching them realise what we, the readers, spotted from the very beginning. 12. Love Triangle Love triangles are corny and a little tired, but if written originally they can still add a lot of tension to love stories. In Outlander, for instance, the heroine is torn between loving her husband in 1945 and her lover in 1743 (now there\'s a quandary). 13. Opposites Attract I do love a sunshine and grump couple. There\'s nothing more appealing than when two completely different people, who would normally have nothing in common, become foil characters because their opposite attributes are exactly what the other needs. This trope can be made even more entertaining if you choose a difficult setting, such as marooning them on a desert island or situating them in the middle of the jungle. I especially love the \'high flying woman and rough and ready guy\' combo in the movies Crocodile Dundee or Romancing The Stone (and the recent modern twist to these movies, The Lost City). 14. Amnesia/Mistaken Identity In the 1987 rom-com movie Overboard (and the less amusing, gender-swapped remake of 2018) a rich woman on a yacht is rude to her handyman (opposites attract) and she refuses to pay him. When she falls overboard and loses her memory, as revenge he convinces her she\'s the mother of his children and makes her pay him back in hard labour. But it all backfires when...surprise surprise...he falls madly in love with her. But what if she finds out what he did? Highly immoral, yes, but also highly entertaining. 15. Instalove This trope gets a lot of bad press, but personally, I want to see an instant something between soul mates in the book I\'m reading. I don\'t care if that initial reaction is curiosity, desire, lust, friendship - no matter what people say, when you meet someone you want to have a relationship with there is often a spark. A pull. An \'oh no, I\'m not going to be able to fight this\' longing. And that instalove, the one the couple keep trying to ignore, is what makes the belated love epiphany at the end so much sweeter! 16. Fish Out Of Water This one is a lot of fun and works well in romcoms and YA. It is also perfectly paired with Opposites Attract and Enemies to Lovers (for the single reason that if you aren\'t familiar with your surroundings, the chances are the people there will be very different to you). One example is the series Virgin River (Robyn Carr). She\'s a strong-headed medical professional from the big city, he\'s a homely bar owner from a small close-knit town. She\'s widowed (Second Chance trope) and he has a shady past. Can they make it work? Of course they can (eventually)! 17. Stuck Together This trope is the perfect mix of the Forced Proximity and Enemies to Lovers tropes - but with the added tension of the fact that they can\'t escape one another. In The Hating Game (Sally Thorne), work colleagues are forced to share an office and find themselves competing for the same job. They\'re rivals, they hate one another, neither of them will give up...but then love gets in the way. 18. Just Friends Friends to Lovers is one of the most popular tropes because, well, who hasn\'t once had a crush on a friend? In the 2011 movie, Friends With Benefits, two friends who get on really well decide that instead of bothering with a romantic relationship - and all the stress that brings - they will keep things purely physical. Surely they can be just friends...with benefits...and not fall in love, right? Wrong. 19. It Was Right In Front Of You All Along! There\'s nothing more romantic (albeit frustrating to watch) than a belated love epiphany, with the main character realising right at the last minute that the one they love was there all along. In the movie Yesterday, a struggling musician, Jack, one day discovers that everyone has forgotten who The Beatles are; which means he becomes famous by pretending to write some of the world\'s most popular songs. But while he\'s sucked into his newfound stardom he doesn\'t realise that Ellie, his best friend, is the true love of his life. 20. And The Biggest, Most Important One? Happily Ever After. If your story doesn\'t end with a happy ending, then it\'s not a romance. I\'m not saying you can\'t make us cry at the end (Me Before You, One Day, The Songs of Us), and I\'m not saying the couple has to get together, but at least leave us believing that true love really does exist. So whether you have your protagonists kissing in the rain, riding off into the sunset, or realising they love their best friend, just make sure you give your what they readers expect - lots of love! Trope Vs Trite As we\'ve seen, tropes can be predictable and formulaic. If we settle down to watch a romantic movie we want three things: A believable scenario (female heroine returning to her small town).Things bringing the couple together then ripping them apart (misunderstandings, love triangles, bad boys making bad decisions, unrequited love, a bride getting cold feet).And then it all being resolved by Act 3 and the two of them living happily ever after. It\'s OK to put all these things in your book, in fact, it\'s vital - readers love this - but it\'s how you introduce a romantic trope that matters. That\'s the part people will remember and how you set your book apart from all the other stories. So how can you achieve that? How To Make Romance Tropes Feel New How do you write a unique story, but include lots of well-loved romantic tropes? Here are three ways... Unexpected Outcome Surprise your readers. Instead of a girl not being able to choose between two boys, why not make the relationship polyamorous, feature bisexual characters, or involve a thrupple? Change The Setting Maybe you want to write the next Romeo and Juliet... but what if it\'s set in a dystopian world? With aliens? Mix Up The Genres In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins introduces a love triangle between Katniss, Peeta and Gale. The difference is that this book isn\'t a love story, it\'s a dystopian YA series with a David And Goliath trope. Yet it still works. And They All Lived Happily Ever After... I hope you found this article as entertaining to read as I found it to write! Adding romantic tropes to your novel can make all the difference, just make sure you keep it fresh and keep those readers guessing (and swooning). Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Different Types Of Writers – Which One Are You?

All writers have different writing styles - whether that means what they write, how they write, or the way they approach their writing. It\'s always fascinated me how the English language is made up of simply twenty-six letters arranged into more than 171,500 words, all of which we use to express thoughts, ideas and emotions. Every piece of literature, from ad copy to Shakespeare, is made up of that! But how you choose to combine those letters to express information to an audience is what matters, and is entirely unique. That\'s why no two books are the same, and no two writers are either. If you\'re asking yourself \'How many types of writers are there? And which am I?\' then you\'re at the right place! In this article, I will shed light on the different types of writing out there, as well as the different writing personalities you might come across. Hopefully, you will find one you identify with and can use the tips in this article to embrace your own unique style. Different Kinds Of Writers As a child, I remember telling my careers advisor ‘I want to be a writer’. All I knew at the time was that I wanted to use words. I wanted to tangle them up, mix them around and find new ways to express myself. Descriptive writing, scientific writing, creative writing - it didn\'t matter to me, I just had a lot to say! There are four main categories of writing styles: expository writing (explaining something), descriptive writing (whether fiction or non-fiction), persuasive writing (as in copywriters for advertising agencies or journalists for certain press) or storytelling. If, like me, you\'ve always known you want to write but have no idea what kind of writing jobs exist, then take a look at the list below where I will be discussing authors (both fiction and non-fiction), technical writing, what it means to be a blog writer (like I\'m doing right now), and lots of other avenues writers choose to take. Let\'s start with storytelling... Fiction Writers Creative writing isn\'t a vocation that always guarantees a full-time wage (at least, not to begin with), but it is very rewarding, plus it\'s a great way to build your writing skills. Being an author often involves conjuring up the five senses, lots of narrative writing and descriptive writing - it\'s describing something that isn\'t real. In short, creative minds love nothing more than inventing new worlds. Some authors write novels and short stories, while others prefer flash fiction and poetry - and most dream of one day becoming published.  If this is the kind of writing that makes your heart flutter, take a look at our many articles on how to get published, along with lots of examples of what it takes to become a fiction author. Non-Fiction Writers When it comes to non-fiction you can choose to be a technical writer (ie content creation, such as this article and blog post) or a non-fiction creative writer - but either way, what you\'re writing about is not made up. Non-fiction writing suits those who love research as it\'s based on facts (no made-up stories).Instead of starting with a ‘what if…’ question, most start with a ‘why…’ question. The goal is to teach and inform. For authors, this includes how-to books, self-help books, historical tomes, scientific or academic books, political biographies, and even memoirs. Instead of wanting to write books, other writers may prefer to submit articles to publications or run their own blogs, which may cover writing on current events, first-hand accounts or business writing. Either way, this type of writing (like fiction writing) often means planning and writing your work before knowing whether it will get published (or make you any money). So if it\'s writing as a full-time career you are after, then that leads us on to... Professional Writers All writers work, but by \'professional\' I mean a guaranteed, regular income that comes solely from your writing. If you want a job that pays you to put pen to paper, then you may choose to become an investigative journalist, copywriter or work in marketing. Although this does mean studying the professions, because none of these are jobs you can easily fall into. Freelance writers, on the other hand, are employed on an ad-hoc basis to create content such as this article. It\'s a fun way to find your feet as you get to try out various types of writing, reporting on various subjects, and in various writing styles. It\'s less about qualifications and more about building up a decent portfolio. Full-time employed copywriters are similar to the above but employed by a business or agency, writing everything from advertising and marketing copy to specialising in business or technical writing. Writing for business may not be as much fun as spending all day in your PJs conjuring up plots about dragons and mystical lands, but it does guarantee a regular wage (which is why many authors manage to do both types of writing side by side until their books take off). Other Types Of Expressive Writing Styles Fiction, non-fiction, and technical writing are not the only styles of writing you can explore. There are so many more. Each of them tend to follow their own structure, have their own rules and certainly have their own audience. If you haven\'t found a style that suits you yet, why not explore a few of the following creative ways to express yourself? PlaywrightSongwriterScreenplay writerComics/Manga/Graphic novelsRadio plays Even though each of these unique crafts takes skill, practise and perseverance, unlike being a professional writer there\'s nothing stopping you from taking an online course and having a go. Investigative journalists don\'t leave university and walk straight into a top job at The New York Times, but many creative writers have accidentally fallen into their area of expertise and made it work. There are no rules about picking just one type of writing style or job and sticking to it. Try them all and see where you end up. It\'s not just what you write about that\'s important. With so many different writing styles and approaches out there, it\'s also important to understand what kind of writer you are. So let\'s take a look... Finding Your Writing Style It’s important to point out that there\'s no right or wrong way to be a successful writer. With technical writing there are usually brand guidelines to stick to and an audience to consider. But in fiction, although there may be guidelines within each genre and sub-genre, the longer you work on your craft the more you understand that those rules are there to be challenged, bent, sometimes even broken. Finding a writing style to suit you means finding what works for you. Yet how are you able to know what works if you\'ve yet to put a single word down on paper? Or perhaps you have but it\'s not going as planned. Each writer is different in terms of how much time they have, how much energy, experience and even how their mind works. Here are some ways to approach writing and find a style that works for you! Trial And Error The only way to know if you have the time or the tenacity to be the type of writer you want to be is to have a go. It\'s that simple. Take a look at all the styles in this article and set yourself a task - offer to pen an article for your favourite blog, come up with a song, enter a short story competition. What do you have to lose? Try different areas of writing and see what feels natural to you. See where your voice feels most comfortable and what you enjoy the most. You don\'t even have to tell anyone, it can be your own private passion until you\'re ready to make it your own. Read. A Lot! And Widely The very best piece of advice I was given as an aspiring author was “read often”. Explore different styles of writing and see what sparks your interest and what engages you as a reader. This doesn\'t only apply to creative writing but also to non-fiction and journalism. Devour as much as you can, make notes, read books on becoming a writer, and keep learning. Work To Your Strengths/Embrace Your Voice Most of us will know instinctively what we enjoy writing. If you know, you know. And whatever style that is, it’s ok! You don’t need to change who you are to fit into a box that doesn’t feel right for you. If you write novels, and you don’t enjoy writing short stories, that’s ok. Maybe you know you have a great story inside you, but you simply don’t want to write a whole 90,000 word novel; in which case, try writing shorter novellas.  All writing is creative. It’s art. It will always find an audience no matter how niche. Don\'t get stuck on narrative style or a specific purpose, or what the publishing industry and your favourite authors are doing, just write and see what happens. Once you have decided which style of writing suits you, and you can hear your author voice, the next step is to truly understand, embrace and enjoy the type of scribe you are. What Kind Of Writer Are You? Just as there are many types of books and ways to express yourself, there are also many types of writers. How you approach your work influences what you write, how long it takes, and how hard you will find it. For now, I\'m going to focus on fiction. Below is a list of personalities I have come across in my time. You may well find yourself here – you might not. Many writers are a combination of more than one type of personality, and like a writer\'s work and their readers, other authors find that they\'ve approached each one of their books in a different way.  So what\'s your personality type? Here\'s an example (or eleven). Writing Personalities Planner/Intense Plotter You know exactly what you\'re doing. You know exactly what you\'re writing, how long it needs to be and what needs to be included in each chapter, because you\'ve spent weeks (or even months) plotting every scene. Your office is covered in sticky notes. If you get a block, you turn to that 10,000 word outline you created before you wrote a single page of the novel or the character profiles you drew up before you worked out your beats. You might still have wobbles, but you know how to get back on track. You work on one novel at a time and until it’s polished, then you take those sticky notes down and start all over again. Pantser The opposite of a planner, you fly by the seat of your pants and love it. You use the freedom of no rules and no structure to let the characters tell their story and delight in the surprises that arrive on the page when people in your head suddenly do something you didn’t see coming. You embrace the ‘dirty first draft’ and expect to wrangle the story out of the arms of those wild voices and turn their bizarre exploits into an understandable plot. You start with a rough idea and let your imagination do the rest. Structure and beats can wait, that all comes in the edit. Turtle Slow and steady wins the race, right? As a turtle writer, you often feel intimidated by those who seem to be able to sit at their desk and churn out chapter after chapter. You, however, take your time. Every word has its moment to shine. You might not write in great quantities, but quality counts. It can, and often does, mean your edits don’t take as long, because you polish as you go, but by the time the pantser has wrangled their characters into shape, the turtle will be right there with them at the finish line. Magpie You never ignore a voice when it speaks. Your notebooks are filled to the brim with ideas and half-written chapters, sometimes even a detailed synopsis. You have Pinterest boards for your settings and a mood board per scene. You could be deep in a first draft and a new idea will pop up, which you embrace, make a note of, then set aside to percolate. It may mean your first drafts take longer to complete, but at least you know once you are finished, you have a million books to choose from to work on next. Be careful though magpie, you can very easily turn into an eternal procrastinator. Speed Demon You write fast and furiously. As soon as you sit in your chair, you know you won\'t leave until all the words in your head are on the page. But it can be exhausting. You may feel depleted at the end of the day, but that’s fine, as you will take the down days in between writing days to find inspiration and fill that creative well again ready for your next writing sprint. You may need to learn to embrace the lulls as well as the sprints to make the most of this writing personality. NaNoWriMo-er You love nothing more than a deadline, and a cheerleading squad behind you gives you the push to get through the slow days. That\'s why NaNoWriMo is perfect for you. The constant accountability means you can’t procrastinate. You know that writing an entire novel in a month will mean a very dirty first draft, but you also know you will have something to edit at the end of the month and embrace that. One Hit Wonder You\'ve written a book that means the world to you. This book is destined to be your bestseller and you\'re not prepared to accept anything less than your very best work. You work, and rework that book because you know you will see perfection on the page when it\'s finally finished. You won\'t hear the constant chatter of ‘move on’ because you know your end goal and that is all that matters. But be careful, because no book is ever truly finished, and if you can write one good book you can create another… so don’t take too long! The Eternal Procrastinator You know you should sit your bum in the chair and write all the words. Every single self-help book you\'ve ever read says you “can’t edit an empty page”. No matter how many times you shout at yourself to sit down and write the damn book,the doom scrolling on Twitter is just too tempting. Doing short bursts of writing, often with an accountability buddy, may help you get out of the eternal cycle of procrastination. The eternal procrastinator has a tendency to slip into the Magpie category too – so be careful, because all that glitters isn\'t gold. The Happy Murderer You love nothing more than ‘killing your babies’, getting a real thrill out of over-writing your first draft and then taking the axe that is the red pen and cutting out thousands of words at a time. You know you may lose a character or a whole scene, but that’s the thrill. Seeing all the words on the page and then cutting them down to only those that are necessary gives you a buzz. You\'re the writer that prefers to edit. Life is tough, and so is writing, so you spare no feelings and are ruthless with your work. After all, if you want a perfect book, you have to be discerning with what you put on the page, right? Multitasker Why work on one book when you can work on two, or three? Life is too short to focus on one story at a time and you have many to tell. You’re only happy when you\'re editing one book, polishing another and plotting a new one, all at the same time as writing a first draft. You have no issue hopping between worlds to keep things fresh. but beware, you may exhaust yourself easily or become too distracted to finish any project in a timely manner. Secret Keeper/Dark Horse No one knows you are writing the next best-seller. You work away silently in the shadows hoping to emerge with a beautifully polished novel and surprise everyone with your \'overnight\' book deal. You don’t need or want the opinions of others. You know what you want to write and you don’t want to muddy your mind with other people\'s thoughts. Also, no one knowing about your secret project means there are no expectations, no time constraints, and no deadlines. You\'re entirely self-motivated. Just remember that the story you\'re writing for yourself will only ever live if you do eventually share it… so don\'t bottle it up once the time is right. All Writers Are Unique Did I convince you? Have you recognised yourself in any of these personality types? Or are you a mix of more than one? As writers we are creatives. As creatives, we buck the trends and rebel against the world to make sense of it using words. There\'s no true way to write a book. No one personality that suits being a writer and no rules that can’t be bent or broken. Instead, use this article as a framework to understand that there are a million ways you can approach writing and none of them are wrong. Writing should, at its core, always be enjoyable. If you\'re finding it a chore, try a different style (write short bursts of poetry or short stories to flex your writing muscles). Challenge yourself! Or, take a look at the different personality types and try a different method. If you\'re a pantser but you’re struggling to just go with the flow, try some planning techniques to break away from the norm - or do some freestyle writing to free your muse. Each book, each piece of writing, and each creator is unique. Embrace that and have fun getting to know the writer inside of you waiting to show the world what you can offer! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write In Third Person Limited Point Of View

One of the very first things we must ask ourselves as we sit down to write is, \'who is telling the story? Who is the reader listening to?\' You may have an ingenious plot and a cast of wonderful characters, but you must also be able to tell the story in a way that will resonate with your reader. This is why establishing point of view is so important. In this article you will learn how to write in third person limited point of view, what that means, and how to make it work for your story. Choosing What Tense To Write In The two most common points of view (or POV) are first person and third person. In the first person, the character is the narrator, they talk about themselves using ‘I’. In the third person, the narrator is separate to the character, talking about them using their name or third-person pronouns such as she/he/they.   But how do you choose between first and third person? There are advantages and disadvantages to both. With first person POV, you are right inside the character’s head and constantly listening to their thoughts and opinions which can be hugely effective. However, with third person you can put space between the character and the narrator; useful for adding flavour and depth, and for withholding some elements to increase suspense.   You can also choose to mix it up! If you are writing a novel, perhaps have one character in first person, and others in the third. This may also help you to create a more distinct ‘voice’ for them.  Now, let’s assume you have chosen to use the third person. This article will explore in greater depth how you can use the third person point of view, offering tips and tricks to be more effective, and some key examples to help illustrate.   So read on for help on how to use third person POV to really make your stories stand out.  What Is Third Person Limited Point Of View? Having decided on the third person POV, there is one more choice to make: how much does your narrator know? Are they an omniscient narrator, knowing all things about everyone? Or are they limited to only one character (or a handful if you are using multiple POVs – which we’ll talk more about in a moment)?  The third person limited point of view is where the narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single protagonist, referring to them by name or using a third person pronoun such as they/she/he. The narrator can only see inside the mind of the protagonist. They are sitting on their shoulder, watching as the action unfolds around them. By definition, the limited nature of this POV comes from the fact the narrator cannot tell what other characters are thinking or feeling.  How is third person limited different from writing in the first person? At first glance it may seem that the two are similar, you could just use ‘I’ instead of ‘he/she/they’. However, third person limited allows you to zoom in and out from the character, so you can choose to be right in their head at one moment (also known as close third person), and then further away from them at another, adjusting the lens for optimal impact. For more on this, read our article on narrative distance. Some third person limited examples from books include Stephen King’s Misery, Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Jane Austen’s Emma.  Choosing what tense to write your novel in is very important! Writing In Third Person Limited Point Of View Writing in third person point of view limited can offer a plethora of opportunities, allowing you ample flexibility to tell your story, while still creating characters who are vibrant and seem to leap off the page as the action unfolds through their perspective.  Five top tips for writing in third person limited POV are:  Choose your POV character carefully Consider multiple POVs (if appropriate) Be consistent Show the world as your character sees it Allow your POV characters to be fallible  1. Choose Your POV Character Carefully The third person limited narrator is most likely the protagonist, the primary person around whom the plot is centred. Can they see enough of the action to make the plot satisfying for the reader?  If not, consider using a second POV character. Can they carry the story? Will the reader enjoy being with them? They do not have to be ‘liked’ per se (and their flaws will add flavour) but they must be engaging. Do they have a sufficiently interesting perspective to ensure readers continue to turn the page?  In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig tells the story of Nora who, following a suicide attempt, is given the opportunity to experience some of the other lives she could have lived. Haig uses a limited point of view to show us these lives from Nora’s perspective, whilst being able to add narrative flavour through the third person style. The result draws you into the story and helps to suspend your disbelief at the semi-speculative nature of the plot in a more powerful way than if it was written in the first person. It also helps to create suspense as the novel progresses, because the third person POV avoids answering the question of the potential ending of such a book (where first person may have hinted at a conclusion).  2. Use Multiple POVs You can use the limited third person whilst utilising more than one point of view character. There are many successful novels that employ this mechanism, including the Games of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin wherein events unfold across a huge number of characters to great effect.  Multiple POVs can help provide the reader with information, filling in gaps with things that the protagonist doesn’t know, as there’s only so much that one character could feasibly experience. With just one POV character you may find yourself inventing increasingly ridiculous or clichéd ways of finding out key information; rather than have them spend their whole time eavesdropping, why not introduce a new POV character?   You can use multiple POVs to show contrasting experiences, including how the same events may be seen completely differently by two different individuals. Think about how you could play with showing the same scene through the lens of one character, and then replay it from another character’s perspective. Those contrasts can help to provide further information to the reader about the plot but might also provide the opportunity to deepen the character development based on the things they each observe and how they react.  In The Power, Naomi Alderman uses four major POV characters (Roxy, Tunde, Margot, and Allie) to tell the story from a much wider perspective than if she had used a smaller cast. The effect of this is significant; showing that, although different cultures may react differently to the development of ‘the power’, there are stark similarities with how that power is used and eventually corrupted. The novel would be significantly less powerful (excuse the pun) with only one or two POV characters.   For your own project, why not think about how you could broaden the story by adding another POV? I often use this as an exercise to work through a writer’s block; if I’m struggling, I flip the scene to look at it from another perspective. This often helps the words to flow again and has even thrown up some very interesting plot twists!  3. Be Consistent When writing in the third person limited, consistency is key. Watch out for times when you might be inadvertently breaking the rules, for example by ‘head-hopping’. This is where you accidently switch into the perspective of a different character; it can be extremely jarring to the reader, pulling them out of the world you have so carefully crafted.   In the example below, Gary is the current POV character:  Gary looked at Ella and grinned. ‘We could go for pizza?’ Not that he was hungry, but it wasn’t actually about eating, he just wanted to spend more time with her. But Ella was ravenous and to her it was all about the potential to eat. ‘I’d love to.’ Buoyed by the promise of a date, Gary sent a quick text to his mum to say he’d be late home.    Notice how the narrator tells the reader that Ella is ravenous? If Gary is the POV character, how would the narrator know this? The reader may now be sitting confused, wondering if perhaps Ella is the POV character for this scene, which will drag their focus away from the action you had intended.   One of the ways to avoid ‘head-hopping’ is to be very clear with the demarcation for any switch in POV. For example, you may choose to only shift at the end of a scene, or chapter. Then, during the editing process, make sure you scrutinise each sentence, asking yourself if that POV character could know that. In the example above, Gary wouldn’t know Ella was ravenous, but she could infer this through her body language, tone, or speech.   4. Show The World As Your Character Sees It The use of the third person limited POV is an absolute gift for character development. When a character walks into a room, what do they see? A book-ish character may be immediately drawn to the towering bookshelves, while a character who embraces order may recoil at the piles of laundry strewn across the space. As well as providing a description of the setting, these observations reveal subtle clues about the observers themselves.   Take Edward St Aubyn’s Mother’s Milk. The novel opens from the third person limited perspective of Robert. A bold choice perhaps, given that Robert is a newborn baby. St Aubyn gives the narrator an advanced adult vocabulary, but the observations (including the angles of sight etc.) are decidedly infantile.  Another author using third person limited to great effect is Stephen King in Misery. Told from the perspective of Paul Sheldon as he lies with two broken legs in the home of his ‘rescuer’, you soon realise she is not the kindly nurse Paul would have hoped for! Limiting the perspective to the things he can see and hear from his bed creates a wonderful tension and heightens the suspense of the novel.  When writing in the limited third person, try to put yourself on the shoulder of your character, stepping where they step, seeing what they see. Colour your writing with the things that only they would observe, and the things that would be meaningful to them.   5. Allow Your POV Characters To Be Fallible It may be tempting to make your POV character perfect. The kind of person who would remember every conversation, who would take the time to listen carefully or read all the small print. But that is not reality!  We all mishear things, or misconstrue the meaning of things, or jump to conclusions without having all the facts. We’re only human after all. Your characters are the same and trying to make them perfect will only make them seem false to the reader. You may find any misunderstandings are minor, merely adding further flavour to the scenes in the story. Alternatively, you may use them as a helpful plot devise. This is often used in romance novels to push the couple apart before they are reunited at the final moment or to provide a red herring in a thriller to keep the tension high.   You can also use third person to reveal negative traits about your protagonist that they may not reveal in a first person POV. After all, we don’t necessarily think of the things we do with an air of negativity, but the third person narrator can reveal those elements. This may be especially effective for villains in your story.  The fallibility of the POV character may also allow you to explore the use of an unreliable narrator (one who is not telling the reader the whole truth). Often unreliable narrators will be written in the first person, as it is often easier to obfuscate this way. However, it is possible to write a third person unreliable narrator; using their fallibility for effect may allow you to do so without destroying the reader’s trust in you by feeding them an obvious lie.   There are many examples of third person unreliable narrators. Jane Austen’s Emma is one such example, as the whole novel is told from Emma’s perspective, significantly influenced by her own biases. Other examples include The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson and Atonement by Ian McEwan. Try exploring fallibility in your own project. What happens if your character thinks they are meeting their friend an hour earlier than they are? Who might they meet as they wait? What might they witness? If you are working on a project with two POV characters, try writing a scene where one remembers an event from long ago. Then flip it around and write the memory from the other character’s POV. What are the key differences in how they remember the event? How have their own experiences in the intervening years coloured and twisted the memory?   Third Person Limited The limited third person point of view is a gift for writers. It allows you to showcase the world from your character’s perspective, whilst giving you the ability to pull away from them at times. The overall effect can be immersive and compelling to the reader, giving your writing that added magic.  Just remember as you sit down to write to always ask ‘who is telling this story?’. Let go of your own biases and pre-conceptions and write with your storyteller in mind: sit on their shoulder and see what they have to say for themselves!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Writing Tenses: Tips For Past, Present, And Future Tense 

Knowing which tense to write in can be one of the earliest stumbling blocks that a writer can face. Getting the tense right is key to ensuring that your text flows smoothly and that your reader can engage with your writing. Although it seems like such a simple decision, it can be so easy to get in a muddle with tenses and confuse both yourself and the reader. I guess it’s fair to say that tense in writing can make the most experienced writer tense! Therefore, its vital that we understand the benefits of each tense and try to use them to our best advantage.  In this guide we will dig deeper into the main tenses and explore past, present and even future tense to discover how these they can be used to the greatest effect. We will also explore the advantages and disadvantages of writing in each tense and consider some writing examples that demonstrate their use well.  Hopefully, by the end of this guide you will have a clearer idea about how to write in each tense and will have a better idea of which would work best for you.  So, sit back, untense yourself and read on!  First, let’s consider what the main tenses are.  What Are The Main Tenses?  In short, there are three main tenses.  Past tense Present tense Future tense  I will take each one in turn, beginning with the one most commonly used in writing; past tense.  Writing In Past Tense Past tense is the most traditional and familiar form of writing and is a form of tense that we can recognise in many of the books that we read. It is popular in many contemporary novels and traditionally has been seen a lot in the historical and fantasy genre. It harps back to the old and comforting ‘once upon a time’, that makes us want to settle down and listen to the story unfold in its ‘told’ form. In short, the narrator is looking back to the past, commenting on events that have already taken place. This can often help the writer and reader feel more in control as the events taking place are already resolved.  A great example of past tense is in Reservoir 13, by Jon McGregor, which opens with:  They gathered at the car park in the hour before dawn and waited to be told what to do. It was cold and there was little conversation. There were questions that weren’t being asked. The missing girl’s name was Rebecca Shaw.Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor As readers, we are that the narrator knows lots of information about past events that they will be feeding to us throughout the book. There is often a sense of familiarity and reassurance in knowing that the events have already happened, and the outcome has been decided, which is part of the reason why past tense is popular with readers.  If we were to change the above section to present tense it will read like this:  They gather at the car park in the hour before dawn and wait to be told what to do. It’s cold and there is little conversation. There are questions that aren’t being asked. The missing girl’s name is Rebecca Shaw. Immediately you can see that, in present tense, the dynamic of this piece has changed. It is now feels far more immediate and urgent. The reader has been dropped directly into the action at the moment it is occurring. The narrator is speaking in the ‘now’ and therefore has no knowledge of how the future will play out.   Another advantage of writing in past tense is that it’s much easier to play with the order in which things happen. In many ways you have more flexibility and freedom. Backstory, flashbacks and hindsight are much easier to manage.  The acclaimed author Stephen King is very keen on writing in past tense and this works well for him, as his stories often include the use of hindsight, memory and flashback. An example of this can be seen in his book, The Talisman written in collaboration with Peter Straub: He closed his eyes, squeezing his legs together. His mother looked uncertain, lost and confused and the men forced her into the car as easily as they would a weary collie dog. But this was not really happening, he knew: it was a memory – part of it must have been one of the Daydreams – and it happened not to his mother but to him.The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub This memory recollection doesn’t feel forced and doesn’t disrupt the flow of writing in any way, which shows that such a device works particularly well when used in conjunction with past tense writing. That’s not to say that when you are writing in present tense you cannot use these devices, it’s just that they can appear a little clumsier or forced if not used carefully.   Writing In Present Tense  Writing in present tense has always been a common form of writing in the YA and children’s fiction genres but is now becoming increasingly popular in thrillers and psychological books too. This is probably because writing in present tense feels much more immediate and places the reader right in the ‘now’. Emotions and drama can also be instantly intensified. In many ways, writing in the present tense can be likened to watching a film or TV programme, where the reader is watching the events unfold right in front of them. There is often a sense that anything can happen because the future is unknown, much as it is in reality.  A great example of present tense writing is used in the book White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock which opens with the lines:  Mum finds me in the larder. I crouch in the corner, flinching from the sudden light in the doorway. My mouth is full of blood and shards of porcelain.White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock This is an excellent example of the reader being immediately thrust into the action and straight into the characters’ thought processes. There is a sense of urgency and suspense that is created because the narrator and reader are on this journey towards an uncertain future together– which is a powerful tool to use.  Changing this example to past tense, we can see that there is a shift in energy:  Mum found me in the larder. I was crouched in the corner, flinching from the sudden light in the doorway. My mouth was full of blood and shards of porcelain. Although it is still an effective piece of writing, there is less urgency about it. Also, some of the intrigue has been removed as we can assume that the narrator has survived the experience, as they are now recounting it.  Writing in present tense can also feel quite personal and is a great opportunity to develop voice as you are experiencing the story in real time alongside the characters. A lovely example of this is in This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell, which feels conversational and natural.  There is a man. He’s standing on the back step rolling a cigarette. The day is typically unstable, the garden is lush and shining. The branches weighty with still-falling rain. There is a man, and the man is me.This Must be the Place by Maggie O’Farrell Here you can see O’Farrell is deep in thought and taking the reader on that journey with her – it feels intimate and immediate which is very powerful.   Writing In Future Tense  It’s rare to see future tense used in an entire book – as it places the narrator constantly in the future (for example – “I will be going to town, and I shall be buying some clothes and then I will be meeting my friends”) which would be limiting to the narrator and possibly repetitive and jarring to the reader.   However, writing in future tense can be effective in sections of writing or in shorter books. It is also useful for describing spontaneous actions or predictions, and authors often use it as a tool when their characters are trying to decide what decision or path to take next.   There aren’t many examples of future tense being used effectively continuously in novels, but in the Spanish editions of the novella Aura Carlos Fuentes uses future tense to good effect.  It is certainly quite a unique style of writing and can stand out from the rest, but this is a tense that needs to be treated delicately and with consideration if used at length.  Let’s now explore how the main tenses are used and how you can decide which one to choose for your writing.  Writing Tenses  Deciding which tense to write in can be one of the most challenging writing decisions, however there are some things that can help you make your choice. Consider the books that you enjoy reading yourself. Ask yourself if there is a tense that you particularly engage with, as often the tenses we best connect with are the ones we can write well. What type of book are you looking to write? Is it a thriller or a YA mystery? Do you want your character/narrator to ‘know’ the outcome of the story? Are you likely to play around with timelines or introduce devices such as flashbacks? All these points can help you decide which tense might suit you best.  Also, knowing the main pros and cons of each tense can help you decide:  Past Tense Pros A familiar and traditional form of writing. Readers will know what to expect. Non-linear timelines are easier to manage and control.Suspense is easier to convey as the narrator (usually) knows how events will play out.  Cons The reader knows that the narrator is alive and safe, and the story has already happened – this can take away some of the intrigue and pace.  It can be easier to slip into ‘telling’ the story (rather than \'showing\' it) and the writer must be mindful of this. There’s a risk that the voice can become passive, and readers will struggle to connect.  Present Tense  Pros Writing in present tense feels much more immediate and places the reader right in the ‘now’.  There is a sense of urgency and intrigue that is created because the future is unknown to both the narrator and the reader. You have an opportunity to showcase voice as the reader can see into the characters immediate thought process.  Cons It can be inflexible and possibly restrict your ability to manipulate time or play with chronological order. The future is blank and therefore the narrator is unable to build or manipulate suspense because they can’t know what is about to happen. It can be easy to fixate on smaller, mundane details and risk boring your reader.  Future Tense  Pros As this is such a rare form of writing in novels, your book is much more likely to get noticed.  Your writing can be more fluid and unique. Your narrator is rooted in the future which gives you greater scope to have fun and experiment.  Cons Readers may find it hard to connect with the writing and find the tense jarring.  As the events haven’t happened yet it may be much harder for the reader to connect with the characters.  It is very difficult to maintain for long periods.  Past, Present, And Future Tense  Using tenses well will develop your own writing and bring your work to life, but a lot of it comes from practice, trial and error and having a bit of fun. Some writers find that they like to combine tenses in their work to have the best impact, others will stick to one tense throughout and will find that far less muddling and easier to edit. The key is to find what works best for you and then run with it.  Five Tips For Using Tenses Well  Try using a combination of tenses in your work. Explore, have fun and play with a range to see what suits you.  Read! Remember the books that you connect best with and see if you are drawn to any particular tense. Often the tenses we personally connect with are the ones we write best.  Take time to rewrite paragraphs in different tenses to see which one works best for you.  Read passages out loud to yourself. Does the tense sound right? If not, change it.  Don’t limit yourself. If you’ve always written in past tense, try writing a new piece in present tense to see how it changes your writing. Enjoy experimenting!   Tense In Writing When it comes to writing tenses, the truth is there is no right or wrong answer. The most important thing is to take time to explore the different tenses and try not to be wary of trying each one out and experimenting a little. What suits one writer might not suit another, and what works well for one piece of writing, might not deliver for another.  Consider the type of narrative you are using and how you want the action to unfold. Perhaps you can use a combination of past and present narratives to best deliver the story and showcase your characters.  Personally, I love writing in present tense because I prefer being in the immediate moment. I also feel that by writing in the present tense I have more insight, and can reach into my characters current thoughts. However, this is a personal preference, and I can also see and appreciate the benefits that other tenses bring.  The most important thing to remember is that each of the tenses bring something to the table (or page!) and when used correctly can have an outstanding effect on your work.   So, my advice is - pick up your pen and stop being tense about tenses!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

10 Story Hook Tips For Grabbing Attention

Think about your favourite book for a moment. How does the story begin?  I would venture to guess that the storyline sunk its claws in from the very start. Maybe it was a heart pounding action scene. Or perhaps, a moral dilemma. Or did the main character’s first lines suck you right in?   Whatever occurred to pique your interest in those opening pages, it’s known as a hook, and it’s an essential component used in all forms of storytelling. From fiction writing (novels, flash fiction, short stories), to non-fiction writing (narrative essays, academic research papers, memoirs), and other forms of writing (poetry, advertising) hooks are crucial. In this article, I will describe what a hook is, and provide some top tips for writing them well, with examples. So, if you’re a writer who is interested in learning how to create a hook that will grab your reader’s attention and never let go, read on!  What Is A Hook? So what is a hook exactly?   Just as the name implies, it’s a literary technique used to capture (‘hook’) the reader’s attention in the opening of a story. In fact, as mentioned above, hooks are necessary for all types of writing, and they are designed to gain the readers’ interest so that they want to read on.  There are a number of ways an author can create a good hook, and different techniques work for different kinds of writing.  Ready to learn more? Let’s dive in.   How To Write A Hook Coming up with a truly compelling hook takes some thought and effort, but it isn’t rocket science. Think about what makes your story interesting. Is it the characters? A mystery? An unusual setting? Once you’ve settled upon the answer to this question, begin crafting your hook around that.   Story hooks work by reeling in the reader and making them want to learn more. Therefore, a good hook will create some sort of question (or better yet, multiple questions) in the reader’s mind. They will simply have to keep turning pages to find out what happens next.  With that in mind, here are 10 tips for writing a great story hook:  1. Startle The Reader With Your First Line By using a startling or intriguing first line, you can take the reader by surprise and get them excited to delve into the story. For example, in my young adult novel, Not Our Summer (2021), I opened with this:  Where does someone even get a bright green casket like that? Not Our Summer by Casie Bazay This sentence serves a dual purpose: it gives readers an immediate clue about the setting, and it also shows that the character is just as shocked as the reader probably is upon seeing this oddly coloured casket.   To write your own startling first line, consider a character confession, a surprising observation, or maybe pose a not-so-ordinary question. Have fun with it and see what kind of attention-grabbing first line you can come up with.  2. Start With Action This is probably the most common way to get a reader engaged with a story right away. Of course, there are varying degrees of action and not all involve high-speed chases or explosions. However, by dropping readers into the middle of a tense scene, you are likely going to pique their interest.   Here is a great example from Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury:  It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the atters and charcoal ruins of history. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury A fireman instigating a fire rather than putting it out? Now that, my friends, is interesting.  There are a number of ways to devise your own action-centred hook, and it certainly doesn’t have to be a fire. Your protagonist might be escaping from someone or something. Or getting into an argument. Or witnessing a crime. If needed, you can use a flashback or non-linear story structure to employ this type of hook, but the possibilities are endless.  3. Form An Emotional Connection If you can’t drop your reader into an action scene, consider hooking them with an emotional one instead. Showing a character’s intense emotional response will help the reader connect with them on a sympathetic level, and this type of connection will lead readers to be interested in what happens to that character for the rest of the story.   Take this opening scene from Monster (1999) by Walter Dean Myers for instance:   The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help. That way even if you sniffle a little they won’t hear you. If anybody knows that you are crying, they’ll start talking about it and soon it’ll be your turn to get beat up when the lights go out. Monster by Walter Dean Myers This passage causes the reader to immediately sympathise with the protagonist. We are no doubt concerned for this person’s wellbeing and we want to know more about the situation we’ve presented with.  By utilising emotions such as embarrassment, sympathy, fear, anticipation, surprise, or excitement, you can help readers instantly connect with your characters and become more invested in their story.   4. Begin At A Life-Changing Moment Another great technique is starting with a life-changing moment for your protagonist. This is usually a moment that thrusts the character into the story’s conflict, aka the inciting incident. But once readers experience this life-altering moment with the character(s), they will likely have no choice but to keep reading.   Here is a perfect example from Metamorphosis (1915) by Franz Kafka:   As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka A gigantic insect? I don’t know about you, but I simply need to know what’s going on here!   Think about your novel’s inciting incident and consider using it right in the beginning of your story to get the reader interested in the literal or metaphorical journey your character is about to take.   5. Create Intrigue About The Characters Every good book needs interesting characters, and you can intrigue your reader right away by alluding to a character’s lies, secrets, or scandals. On the other hand, maybe there is something unique or special about your main character—like the protagonist in the middle grade novel, Wonder (2012) by R.J. Palacio:  I know I’m not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an Xbox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary, I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don’t make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don’t get stared at wherever they go. Wonder by R.J. Palacio This opening paragraph leads us to sympathise with the main character, August, but we also want to know why it is that other kids run away screaming when they see him. The author creates intrigue right away with this opening.   There are many ways to similarly create intrigue about your own characters. Capitalise on what sets them apart from others and the things which would make a reader want to get to know them more.   6. Start At A Moment Of Confusion  Confusion leads to questions, and in a novel, questions are often a good thing. If the protagonist is experiencing a moment of confusion in the opening scene, reader questions will abound.   In the young adult novel, That Weekend (2021) by Kara Thomas, the story starts with the main character awaking in the woods, alone, injured, and confused. As a reader, you are dying to know what happened and also why it is that she can’t remember anything.   Of course, not every character is going to wake up with amnesia, but you can start your story by placing them in a scene where they are unsure of what’s going on around them. This will no doubt serve to pique reader curiosity.   7. Draw In The Reader With A Strong Voice  Technically speaking, voice is the stylistic mix of vocabulary, tone, point of view, and syntax that makes words flow in a particular manner. Plainly speaking, it’s what gives third-person POV novels their character and first-person protagonists a distinct personality. The best thing about writing with a strong voice is that it, alone, has the ability to pull the reader into the story.   For example, Maverick’s opening scene in Concrete Rose (2021) by Angie Thomas:  When it comes to the streets, there’s rules.They ain’t written down, and you won’t find them in a book. It’s natural stuff you know the moment your momma let you out the house. Kinda like how you know how to breathe without somebody telling you. Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas Right away, we get a feel for who Maverick is as a character; we also want to know more about what he’s alluding to in these first few lines.   If you’re a newer writer, play around with voice until you find one that works well for your character and/or the story you’re telling. Then, strive to amplify that voice in your novel’s opening to create an intriguing and effective hook.   8. Introduce Something Ominous  Alluding to something mysterious or foreboding right off the bat is another method of hooking the reader. Between Shades of Gray (2011) by Ruta Sepetys follows the Stalinist repressions of the mid-20th century as well as the life of Lina as she is deported from her native Lithuania to a labour camp in Siberia. It opens with this line:  They took me in my nightgown.Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys This simple statement plays into our sense of fear. We also have questions: who took her? Why was she taken? And what did they do with her?  If your story has ominous undertones, consider starting it in a similar manner. Give readers a piece of information that spooks them, yet also lures them into the story.   9. Stay Away From Description Also important in hook-writing is knowing what to leave out. It’s best not to start out by describing mundane actions such as waking up, eating breakfast, or getting dressed—unless those situations reveal something surprising or intriguing about the character. Also remember that you don’t have many pages in which to hook your reader. While descriptions can be lovely, they aren’t always interesting. Instead, it’s best to stick with in-the-moment action, dialogue, and narration, especially in those initial pages.   10. Once You Have Your Reader’s Attention, Hold Onto It  A great hook will get your reader’s attention, but your job as the author is to hold onto it. Too many unanswered questions can lead to frustration, while answering every question right away gives readers no reason to read on. It’s a careful balance, this attention-holding technique, but the best way to handle it is by answering some of the questions created by your hook while introducing new questions to keep the reader in suspense.   Going back to That Weekend by Kara Thomas: in the book the character has awakened, confused in the woods, but when a stranger and her dog find her, the protagonist learns where she is. She also remembers that it’s prom weekend and that she had gone to her friend’s cabin for the weekend—however this friend as well as the friend’s boyfriend are nowhere to be found. With this, the author establishes an even bigger mystery that both the character and reader want to solve.  Writing Hooks When it comes right down to it, hooks are all about engaging the reader from the get-go. We want readers to be invested in our stories and eagerly turning pages, right? Fortunately, there are a number of ways in which to do this. Play around with your story hook and change it if needed; just make sure that, in the end, you go with one that works well with the story you want to tell.  By keeping the above tips in mind and using the examples as references, you should be well on your way to creating a strong and effective hook for your own story.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s commun

How To Write A Spine-Chilling Horror Story

You\'re probably here because you want to know how to write a horror story and improve your own writing. In which case, you\'re in the right place! Horror stories have been deeply embedded in every one of our cultures since time began, from myths and legends of the past to the computer games and movies of today. So how do you learn how to write a horror story that will last the test of time? I was going to open this article with a quote by the modern master of horror, Stephen King. But after five minutes of cursory web searches, I realised that every other ‘how to write a scary story’ article starts in exactly the same way, so let’s not do that. Instead, let’s look to horror writer, Kurt Vonnegut, who not only gave us Slaughterhouse-Five but also his fair share of juicy writing tips, like this one: Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them. Kurt Vonnegut And that, right out of the gate, sets the tone for this article, where I aim to provide some practical tips and considerations for any reader looking to flex their spooky muscles and sink their teeth into a spot of horror genre writing.  What Is Horror Writing? Horror writing is fiction that falls within the scope of the horror genre, whether literary (novels, novellas, anthologies, short story collections, zines, fiction magazines, graphic novel and comic books, flash fiction and drabbles); film and television; audio (horror anthology podcasts, audio dramas, radio plays); theatre; subreddits; or creepypastas (horror-related legends shared across the internet). Luckily, for those looking to write horror stories, there are many different outlets in which horror writers can get their words seen, heard or read these days. Writing horror can be loosely defined (although I take issue and care with such prescribed descriptions) as \"writing that inspires fear, horror, unquiet, terror, repulsion.\" Basically, anything that scares, startles or unsettles the reader. \'But any kind of book can creep you out!\' I hear you say. Exactly, which is why applying such loosey-goosey descriptors to such a wide and varied landscape can be problematic. So let\'s try and hone it down a little. To me, horror covers a massive range of topics, emotions, themes, styles and approaches - not everything can be given the same ‘gothic horror’ or ‘Lovecraftian’ labels. Horror writing can, by default of the genre, be an intensely personal, cathartic and individual genre to write in. And, like most genres, it can be quite nuanced. So how many different book categories fall under the term \'horror\'? Some of the most common horror genre descriptors include: Gothic horrorSplatterpunkSlasherComedy horrorParanormalFolk horror (my particular jam)Dark fantasyBody horror (another personal favourite)Erotic horrorScience fiction horror (sign me up for all the spooky aliens please) I could go on...The problem (and beauty) of this genre is that horror is a multi-faceted diamond, with ample room for genre-blending. This is important for me as a horror writer because, as you can probably tell, I’m not a huge fan of being pinned with one strict badge. I like the idea of fluidity and blurred definitions in fiction. But that needn\'t be a negative thing! It means that the horror genre can be the perfect place for those who want to flex their stylistic muscles. As a writer, this makes writing horror stories extra exciting, because within each idea there are endless possibilities!  But producing great horror writing (and instilling fear in the hearts of readers) is easier said than done. To really understand how to write an effective horror story let us first look at the history of the genre. The History Of Horror Writing As a genre, horror fiction often gets maligned as speculative, lumping it into an umbrella category that also covers fantasy and science fiction amongst other \'sub\' genres (a definition I also struggle with, hence the single quotes). If we take a closer look at the history of our favourite fear factor genre, and consider the many accomplished horror authors, the idea of horror writing being a ‘sub’ category is totally preposterous. No one would argue that Mary Shelly, Angela Carter, Bram Stoker, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Robert Louis Stephenson were lesser writers in any way! Whether you enjoy reading or writing gothic horror, gory horror novels, or psychological fear-inducing books...the idea of scaring readers is nothing new (or scaring viewers too, if slasher films and horror movies are your kinds of thing). There\'s some debate as to where, when, and by whom the horror genre was founded. The general consensus places responsibility at the feet of Horace Walpole for his 1764 novel Castle of Otranto, although Mary Shelley is often credited with writing the world’s first commercial science fiction novel (Frankenstein), which is also often described as gothic horror.   The likes of Walpole and Shelley may have brought the horror genre to the masses in the form of the printed word, but where did they get their inspiration from? Well, myths and legends aren\'t exactly low on vivid descriptions when it comes to gross-out horror tales of severed heads tumbling, evil spirits and scary monsters attacking. It seems that, from the very moment human beings learned how to fear, we learned how to tell stories that scare us too. Tapping into the emotions of a reader is the number one way to get their attention and keep them turning the page. And what emotion is more visceral, alarming, and ever-present in a human than fear? So how do we exploit our common fears and turn them into horror fiction? How To Write A Horror Story Many writers, at some point or other, have been inspired to write a great horror story. After all, nothing is scarier than our own imaginations. Yet few get around to penning that horror novel. Why? Because good horror stories aren\'t easy to write, and even if your horror novel is great you may still question it (even Stephen King threw Carrie in the bin!). In short, writing a great horror story is no different to writing any type of fiction. I\'m not here to discuss the general structure of a novel (although we have plenty of blogs that talk about that) - I\'m here to show you how to take your scary story and make it exceptionally terrifying. Again, there is a lot of content out there about the craft of writing horror stories, much of it built around the idea that, as a writer, you need to include a certain number of elements or follow a series of steps or adhere to a formula in order to write a decent horror story. Yes, it\'s important to consider tone, character motivation, and backstory - yet really unique horror stories get deep into the heart of what it means to be a vulnerable, emotional, human being. So whilst I don’t disagree with the notion that yes, keeping an eye on structure and commonly used ‘ingredients’ might give a writer some focus as they work, I struggle with prescriptive techniques and feel that shoe-horning elements into a story for the sake of making it ‘horror’ can dilute the end product quite considerably. So let\'s take a look at what to include in your story for unforgettable horror fiction. What Makes A Good Horror Story? Our 7 Top Tips For me, it’s about finding a balance between what is technically a good story in terms of plot, structure, attention to detail, narrative, characters, descriptive prose etc, and then writing something raw and real, from the gut. And that, for me, is the starting point for most of my stories. I write emotionally, reactively, and often begin by asking myself this: What scares me most? So before you start writing your bestselling horror novel, let\'s take a look at my top seven tips for captivating a reader\'s imagination... 1. Tap Into Common Fears Fear is our oldest and strongest emotion - it kept our ancestors alive, after all. And it\'s what readers enjoy feeling when they search for a good horror story. So, before you get too bogged down in the technicalities of writing, think about this: what scares you? Really, truly, scares you? Is it walking alone at night in the dark? Is it the idea of abandonment? Commitment and relationships? Spiders? The quiet of your house late at night? Storms? Cats? Other people? It can be mundane or profound, but fear is incredibly personal to each individual and that is the biggest strength a writer can flex: a unique perspective on something that may affect many of us (fear of growing old, for example), or be specific to a very small group of people (the fear of dying by choking to death on a fridge magnet shaped like Ronald McDonald). The point is, nobody else is going to feel exactly the way you do about this specific fear and that should always, in my opinion, be the starting point. For example, I once wrote a story about man-eating cows. Why? Because when I used to go hiking in the English countryside, cows scared the heck out of me. Their substantial size aside, they stare, and you can interpret that in two ways, as a writer: curiosity, or, (hear me out), hunger. Once the idea of hungry cows staring at you as you walk through their domain took hold, the rest of the story followed naturally. Two hikers. A beautiful sunny day. Gorgeous meadow, flowers and butterflies all around. Hidden beneath the grass: bones. Because the cows in that field don’t eat grass. From a simple, knee-jerk reaction, a story blossomed. So I keep a list, of my own fears and things that others have talked to me about, and I use it as a starting point. Many other stories, novels and movies are built in the same way.  2. Horror Story Inspiration Is Everywhere The beauty of horror (and most fiction, to be honest) is that you can take any mundane, everyday object or experience and turn it into something terrifying - and I\'m not just talking about a creepy doll or spooky settings! The juxtaposition of making something that isn\'t scary, into something murderous, is one of the most terrifying things a writer can do. Clowns are meant to make you laugh, but tell Stephen King that (It). Children are innocent and harmless, but tell David Seltzer that (Omen). Or how about birds? Birds can\'t hurt you...right? Tell Daphne Du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock that (The Birds). One of the best examples of this I can remember is this short story about a carton of eggs by Garon Cockrell. I won’t ruin it for you, but the premise is fantastic: What would happen if one day, the eggs in your carton started to talk to you? Your breakfast will never be the same again! Or why not take a look at our horror prompts to kick-start your imagination? 3. Point Of View Matters With horror in particular, point of view (pov) is important. Who is talking to the reader and how? The main character, an omniscient narrator, or a side character? This may surprise you, but horror doesn\'t have to always be \'jump out of your seat\' or \'can\'t sleep at night\' scary. I\'m a big fan of grief horror, quiet horror, and all sorts of horrible stories that don’t actually have, at their heart, a desire to frighten. However, if that is your goal - to inspire terror in the reader - then thinking about the pov from which the story is written matters. Anyone who has frequented subreddits (a huge home for many horror shorts) like r/nosleep, will know that their stories are written exclusively in the first person. Writing in first person pov immediately lends a more intimate, conversational perspective, with the added effect of blurring the lines between fiction and reality. When reading a story where you can only see things from the protagonist\'s point of view, you empathise with them more - which makes for a much more interesting read when the leading character is a gruesome murderer! Writing in the third person, on the other hand, allows the writer to show more than one point of view at once and distances the reader from the story a little. And second point of view? Well, that\'s a fun one. That\'s the narrator talking directly to the reader or another character. Absolutely perfect for a predatory psychological thriller or horror story (ie You by Caroline Kepnes). 4. Give Wicked Characters Motivation It\'s not good enough to have bad characters in your book, and have bad things happen, simply to build suspense. Of course, that\'s needed to create tension and keep your reader gripped - but you also need context and - most importantly - motivation. Very few people are born evil, and very few dolls get possessed for no reason. If your character doesn\'t have a good enough reason to want to eat all the people in the village, if the zombies in the woods suddenly appeared for no reason, and if your villain has no origin story, then no one is going to believe the horrors they are reading and (most importantly) they won\'t care if the victims live or die. This leads us beautifully to... 5. Tragedy And Trauma There\'s no trigger like a trauma trigger. And that can often be the tipping point for any main character\'s change from \'nice guy\' to \'omg, he\'s coming!!\' In the short sci-fi horror story, The Fly, by George Langelaan, François\' sister-in-law Hélène tells him that she has just killed his brother. We then discover the macabre tale of his mad scientist brother turning into a horrific creature when animals got trapped in his transmitter machine and turned him into a horrifying human hybrid. You can\'t get more traumatic than that, and not just for the protagonist but for the victim, his wife who had to kill him, and the readers! Chuck Wendig has a wonderful horror-reading site Terrible Minds to help you with your writing. Wendig says horror is better when a tragedy takes its truest ethereal form - \"The drama comes from character mistakes and from poor decision-making.\" So true. Had the scientist been less eager to prove himself right, or been more careful, none of that would have happened. But then nothing exciting happens in books where everyone makes the right decision! 6. Make The Stakes Obvious This one is an obvious one too, but how much does the main character have to lose? In every great horror story, you need a main character who sets out to achieve something and keeps coming close to failing (even if that \'something\' is simply surviving). In HBO\'s hit series, and popular comic, The Walking Dead, not only is the main character Rick trying to not get bitten by a zombie, but he\'s also looking for his wife and kid. Then as the series progresses, he builds relationships with people who die, his family isn\'t safe, and his community is under threat not just by the living dead but other survivors. And so the more he tries to be human, and connect with those he loves, the more he has to lose and the higher the stakes are. After all, you won\'t find a horror story where the main character doesn\'t care if they live or die (unless that\'s one of your plot twists)! 7. Remember: Writing Horror Is Fun! And lastly - have fun! This may sound strange, when you\'re writing tens of thousands of words about people being terrifying, hunted, dismembered, eaten alive or simply haunted by a supernatural entity. But any writer of horror needs to remember that their readers are reading horror fiction because they ENJOY IT. So you must have fun writing it too. Where To Find Today\'s Best Horror Writers Before you write a horror story, you must first devour as many horror stories as you can - which means watching, reading, listening and enjoying as much of the genre as possible. I mentioned above that horror writing covers a wide variety of materials, showcasing some of the best horror story creators. Here are a few of the most popular, well-known examples: Books As well as reading work by popular horror writers, such as Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe and I. Stine - check out all creepy stories from various genres. Female writers and books written for a younger audience rarely get as much press in this category, yet often give some really unique twists to well-known horror story classics and offer a fresh perspective on the genre. Best YA horror Great female horror authors What to look out for this year Paranormal novels The goriest out there! Graphic Novels Writing horror doesn\'t just mean books or a short story - many TV series, movies, and even novel adaptations first began as comics, graphic novels, and manga. These are always a great place to start: Manga Comics Graphic novels Movies And Television From cinema, to Netflix, Prime and Apple+, it\'s never been easier to discover your latest favourite horror screenwriter or director. And don\'t forget to check out creepy series and classic films too! Some of the most popular at the moment include: Recent horror movies Recent horror TV shows Audio Dramas, Horror Anthology Podcasts If you can\'t get to sleep at night, perhaps listening to a horror story won\'t help - but, nevertheless, here are some of my favourites! NoSleep podcast Shadows at the Door Creepy White Vault Old Gods of Appalachia Knifepoint This is just a small collection. There are so many high quality audio fiction pods out there that it could take you years to listen to them all!  Creepypastas Type ‘nosleep’ into Reddit, and voila! A massive, massive repository of epistolary horror known as ‘creepypastas’ at your fingertips. Prepare to spend hours of your life reading these fictional ‘first hand’ accounts of spooky, weird, and downright unexplainable goings-on. You can even contribute your own stories, which is a good way to practise the craft- just be wary of several things: The strict rules for posting, and the fact that Reddit’s terms and conditions do not offer the writer much in the way of copyright protection and rights. It is not unusual for YouTube narrators, for example, to use these subreddits for content to narrate on their own, monetised channels- all well and good if you are credited and compensated, but many YouTubers don’t do that, so be aware of the pitfalls before you do place your content there. That being said, the horror community on Reddit is extremely lively and many creators like S.H.Cooper and C.K.Walker (to name a few) have gone on to great things.  Writing Horror And that brings us to the end of this \'how to write a horror story\' article. I hope you have learned lots of interesting ways to really tap into your readers\' fears, and I hope you enjoy all the creepy research I\'ve suggested. But most of all, I hope you have as much fun creating your terrifying worlds as I do, because without the gift of feeling fear none of us would be here today enjoying these great stories. After all, there\'s nothing better than enjoying a big fright while safely tucked up in your bed (just make sure you never look beneath it!). Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Name Characters: Top Tips And Methods

Why do we find naming characters so hard? Sometimes, names will come to you immediately and that character could never be called anything else. But so often, we agonise over finding the perfect name. This guide will show you how to come up with names for characters, explain why naming characters is important, and provide examples of effective character names.  Why Is Naming Characters Important? What’s in a name?Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare Juliet (of Romeo and Juliet fame) would have you believe a name is meaningless. That is her hope. Except for her, the name is the insurmountable wall that stands between her and her one true love. So a name, evidently, has much meaning.   And naming characters is important. A name should embody your character. It should tell us so much about who they are. It is an element of your story that could propel it to stardom. Unforgettable characters should have unforgettable names.   A name should tell your readers so much - place, time, personality - even if the story you are telling is quiet, contemporary and real-world. It should also speak to the genre you are writing and ground your readers in the fictional world you have created. I will break down some of the key elements you should consider when naming characters.  Great Character Names: The Key Components From uniqueness to contextual accuracy, here are some things to consider when coming up with character names. The World We Live In When we think about novels that are showing us our own world, we want characters that we feel we know or could walk past on the street.   For novels such as One Day by David Nicholls, we must relate to the characters in order to be willing to follow them through twenty years of their lives. We all know Emma (or a version of her). Maybe not so much Dexter - but that makes sense because he is from a different ‘class’. He moves in different circles. His name is as important as hers. It shows the divide between them, but as the reader, all you care about is them managing to cross that divide.  Contemporary novels, be it literary, thriller, or romance, all have one thing in common. We know these names and we could know these characters. Sally Rooney did it with Normal People. Marianne and Connell, such beautiful Irish names of characters that could live up your street. Kiley Reid with Such a Fun Age had Emira and Alix. The novel deals with themes of race and privilege, and Alix’s name is a stroke of genius. The character changed a letter in her name to go from Alex (far too normal) to Alix (much edgier). This is a character who cares so much about her image and how she is seen that she changes her name. It\'s a genius character name, as I said. And Blythe, her husband Fox, and daughter Violet in The Push by Ashley Audrain are about as middle-class as you can get. This tells the reader so much before they have even turned the first page.  Don’t be scared to use everyday names. If that is the world, then that is the right name.  Catchy And Unique Do you want your characters to jump off the page? Naming characters in a quirky way will definitely help you get there.  Let\'s take the wonderful Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Would you have cared quite so much if Sarah Smith had been completely fine? Apologies to all Sarah Smiths of the world - it is a great, strong name and I descend from a Smith myself - but it doesn’t tickle the ears or play on the tongue quite so nicely as Eleanor Oliphant. Before even opening that first page, you conjure an image of Eleanor. She stands out. You want to know everything about her.   Charles Dickens was the king of this technique, especially with creative last names. You will never forget great character names such as Martin Chuzzlewit, Uriah Heep and Ebenezer Scrooge.  The same goes for nicknames. So many characters will only ever be known by their nicknames. Scout and Jem from To Kill a Mockingbird, Boo Radley from the same novel, Rooster Cogburn from True Grit, Piggy from Lord of the Flies. All are completely memorable characters and their nicknames help us remember them.  And let’s not forget Pippi Longstocking! Children’s literature is full of amazing, stand-out names. So, if you want your characters to stand out from the rest, go for a name that is catchy or even completely made up.  Of The Time Historical fiction calls for names that fit the period. It would be no use throwing a character named Jaiden into an 1870s Victorian cosy mystery. And some great character names have come from historical fiction.   The wonderful Fingersmith by Sarah Waters has Sue Trinder (a petty thief), Maud Lilly (a gentlewoman), and Gentleman. Anyone called Gentleman is likely to be anything but.  The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton has names of both time and place. Set in 1686 in Amsterdam, Nella Oortman marries Johannes Brandt. Both names are very much of the time.  I think this is one genre where research is key. You won’t get away with using names from the wrong period. Readers are savvy, they will pick up on it. Get it right and you’ll gain credibility.   Of The Place Place is a strange one. Of course, if your novel is set somewhere very specific such as the cold climates of Scandinavia or amid the colours and heat of Nigeria, then great character names will fit with these places. But place is also closely linked with time, so you should think about both hand in hand. And this is where you can use cultural inspirations, too.  In my current WIP, I have a character named Tara. The novel is set in Appalachia in South Carolina, just across the border from Georgia, incidentally where Gone With the Wind was set. Tara was named after the plantation in the novel and movie and she is so proud of this, she has posters from the movie hanging from her bedroom wall. But her sister, Grace, states that she is “sure Mama has never even watched the movie, let alone read the book.” Tara’s name is of the place, yet it also reveals so much about the family. They are happy to use cultural references without knowing anything about them, so appearances clearly matter to them.  There is a brilliant book called A Different Drummer by William Melvin Kelley. It is set amid the Civil Rights Movement in America. The character that the story centres around is Tucker Caliban - is that not a character you know will achieve something in his life? He is a black farmer that kills his cattle, burns down his farm and sets in motion a mass exodus of all the black people from the town who reject their life of servitude and head for freedom. The other character names are perfect too - The African, Mister Leland, Dymphna Willson, Bethrah, Dewey Willson III. The state is fictional but everything about these names tells us it’s the Deep South.  For me, this is one of the most important elements of naming characters. Show me where I am without telling me where I am. Anything that doesn’t belong will stick out to your readers.  Weird Names For Weird Characters Naming characters in gothic, weird or uncanny fiction can be a lot of fun. Writers need to show readers that this world is not quite the same as ours, so you can have fun coming up with great character names that fit your odd world where unlikely things happen.  One of my favourite books of all time is Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The narrator is eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood. Merricat is an affectionate nickname. But Merricat is anything but lovely. She is malignant. The name of her sister is also clever - Constance is the faithful, dependable and unchanging sister, even knowing what she knows about Merricat. I, for one, have never forgotten the name Merricat. It is as creepy as the character herself.  The same goes for Lucy McKnight Hardy’s Water Shall Refuse Them. Her main characters are called Nif and Mally. I don’t know anybody called Nif or Mally. They are totally unique and otherworldly, just like their macabre story is otherworldly.  Dystopian fiction fits this category, too. Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins\'s The Hunger Games, for example, is a unique name for a unique world. Or in the opposite way, Winston Smith from George Orwell’s 1984. This is where the name Smith works so well. He is the ‘everyman’, yet he is living in a world filled with nuclear war, propaganda and the ‘thought police’. Quite unbelievable, yet totally (and scarily) real.  Here is where you can use your imagination - and the same goes for other genres, too - so get creative!  Roots That Go Deep If you want to stamp your novel in place and time with families that have been there for generations, the key is to come up with good last names for characters. Think about Downton Abbey, for example. The Crawley family are front and centre. They have a heritage that makes viewers care deeply about their future and the changes that occur. Jeffrey Archer achieved the same with his Clifton Chronicles. The surname has roots, giving the characters roots and an automatic history.  Or look at Titanic. Rose and Jack. DeWitt-Bukater and Dawson. Instantly, we know that Rose is from a wealthy family, she is a society girl. Jack is a poor person. They even laugh that he will need her to write her name down. The divide is clear just from their names. And there is an expectation that Rose will marry up. It is the way of things in her world. Jack challenges what has been the norm in her family and her society for generations.  This is where good last names for characters can really help you show the backstory of your characters.  How To Name A Character So, now you know just how important character names are. But how do you come up with an effective character name? Here are our tips. Research Read widely in your genre. See how other writers name their characters. Read articles and non-fiction about the time period and place your novel is set. Look at Census records for when your novel is set. Seek out the root meanings of names.  Read Baby Name Books You can Google baby names and search by year for the most popular. Or keep a stash of baby name books to hand for when you don’t want to spend forever choosing a great character name.  Online Name Generators Online name generators are a great resource, and there are tons of them available on the internet. Here are a couple to get you going:  Behind the name.Name generator. Draw From Real Life You could combine names of people that you have come across throughout your life. Did you have a sentimental teddy or toy as a child? That could make a great character name. Pay homage to famous figures without using their full name.  Teachers or other personalities from your school days always have an emotional draw (good or bad) for people. Who stands out for you? Who do you remember well?  What To Avoid When Naming Characters I wouldn’t recommend using names of people you know personally, especially family. This might come back to bite you. Using full names of famous people can be risky because your readers will always conjure an image of them in their mind. Borrowing names from other books - try to be original.  Creating Character Names While you should think carefully about your character names, don’t spend too long agonising over them. Think about what you want a character’s name to say about them, whether it be personality, image, where they live, the roots they have, or the period in which they live. If the story allows it, be wild. If the story calls for it, be ordinary. But also know that, although a name isn’t just a name, as shown above, it also is just a name. If you want more advice on writing character names, check out our Jericho Writers YouTube video on the same topic.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

25 Different Types Of Poems

There are a truly endless number of poetic types, especially if you consider the forms created across languages and those people create for themselves. While this can seem overwhelming, it means that there truly is a form of poetry that suits everyone and every style. So, whether you’re looking for more poems to read, or want to find a new form to write in and experiment with, this guide of the 25 main types of poetry (complete with examples of each type of poetry) will provide you with a spark of inspiration.  What Are The Different Types Of Poems?  For those who like structure and enjoy the challenge of a rigid poetic form, there are forms such as the sestina, the villanelle, and the pantoum. For those who favour fluidity, there’s free verse, lyrical poetry, and occasional poetry. If one form intimidates you, simply try another! Or break the rules of its form and experiment. Here are some of the most well-known types of poetry.  1. Ode  Odes are one of the most well-known forms of poetry. They tend to serve as a tribute to a subject. This subject can be a person or an inanimate object, and the voice in the poem praises the subject in a ceremonial manner. Odes are short lyric poems, which convey intense emotions, and tend to follow traditional verse structure. They are generally formal in tone. Romantic poet John Keats wrote several odes, including Ode To a Nightingale.  2. Elegy Similarly to odes, elegies are tributes to certain subjects, though in this case that subject is largely a person. These poems reflect on death and loss, and traditionally include a theme of mourning. Sometimes they also include a sense of hope, through themes like redemption and consolation. Elegies are generally written in quatrains and in iambic pentameter, with an ABAB rhyme scheme. These are loose guidelines, and many poets adjust them. There is a strong tradition of poets using the elegy in order to honour and pay respects to their departed literary compatriots, such as in W.H. Auden’s poem In Memory of W.B. Yeats. 3. Villanelle Villanelles (yes, this really is a type of poem, not just the name of one of the main characters in the TV show Killing Eve) are a little stricter and more complicated in form. They tend to have a fluid, almost lyrical feel to them, as they use lots of repeating lines. Villanelles consist of nineteen lines, in the form of five tercets and a closing quatrain, and they have a very specific rhyme scheme. The tercets follow the rhyme scheme ABA, while the quatrain’s rhyme scheme is ABAA. The first line repeats in lines 6, 12, and 18 of the poem, while the third line repeats in lines 9, 15, and 19. These repeated lines need to be signifcant and well-crafted as they occur so frequently. Villanelles often describe obsessions and intense subject matters. Well regarded examples include Sylvia Plath’s Mad Girl\'s Love Song and Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night.  4. Sonnet Sonnets are among the most popular forms of poetry. They are fourteen lines long, and typically centre around the topic of love. The rhyme scheme varies depending on the type of sonnet used. Shakespearen sonnets have three quatrains and an ending couplet. The quatrain has an ABCB rhyme scheme, the couplet has a DD rhyme scheme, and they are written in iambic pentameter. Petrarchan sonnets have one octave and one sestet. The octave uses the rhyme scheme ABBA ABBA, while the sestet most commonly uses the rhyme scheme CDE CDE, but also sometimes uses CDC CDC. Sonnet Number 43 by Elizabeth Barrett Browning is a particularly well-written sonnet.  5. Free Verse Free verse is a type of poem that appeals to those who find strict forms intimidating. There are no rules, the poem can establish any rhythm, and rhyme is entirely optional. This is a great form to try if you’re new to writing poetry, or want the freedom to explore all kinds of structures and ideas. Free verse is often used in contemporary poetry, such as in Ada Limón’s How to Triumph Like a Girl.  6. Sestina The sestina is a complex French verse form which usually features unrhymed lines of poetry. It has six sestets, and an ending tercet. The ending words of each line from the first stanza are repeated in a different order as ending words in each of the subsequent five stanzas. The closing tercet contains all six of these ending words, two per line, and they are placed in the middle and at the end of these three lines. The sestina is one of the most complicated types of poetry, but its intricacies create beautiful poetry. See here for a guide on writing sestinas. It often helps to look at examples of complicated poetic forms, so you can see how they’re structured. A Miracle for Breakfast by Elizabeth Bishop is a great example of a sestina.  7. Acrostic Acrostic poems are fun, and very well-known. You may have written an acrostic or two during your time at school. Acrostics vertically spell out a name, word, or phrase, with each letter that begins each new line of a poem. Lewis Carroll’s Acrostic spells out the names of three children he knew, and to whom he gave the poem as a gift.  8. Ekphrastic The term ekphrastic poetry refers to any poem that uses a visual image or work of art as inspiration. Ekphrastic poetry is not about form, rigidity, or structure, but the connection between poetry and art. It’s often created by poets writing down details about an art form and how it makes them feel, or imagining when and how the art form was created. Self-Portrait with Sylvia Plath’s Braid by Diane Seuss is a contemporary example of an ekphrastic poem.  9. Haiku Haikus are very popular types of poetry. The haiku originated in Japan, and it is a short and fun form. These poems often refer to nature, though this is optional, and the form comes from the use of syllables. Haikus are three lines long, with the first line comprising 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the final line 5 syllables. The fact that this form is so short and simple means that haikus are very accessible and pleasant to write. That being said, it can be difficult to express something meaningful within such limited parameters. Suicide\'s Note by Langston Hughes is an exceptionally well-executed haiku (note that it’s a newer form of haiku).  10. Ballad A ballad is a form of narrative verse, and its focus on storytelling can be musical or poetic. They typically follow the pattern of rhymed quatrains, which use a rhyme scheme of ABAB or ABCB. Though this is often how they are structured, this is not always the case, as the form is loose and can be altered. An example of a ballad is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  11. Lyric Poetry The term lyric poetry houses a broad category of poetry that centres around feelings and emotions. These poems are often short and expressive and tend to have a songlike quality to them. They can use rhyming verse, or free form. Lyric poetry differs from epic and narrative poetry as the focus is on a feeling rather than a story. Emily Dickinson’s The Heart Asks Pleasure First and her Because I could not stop for Death are both strong examples of lyric poetry.  12. Erasure/Blackout Poetry  Erasure (or blackout) poetry is a form of found poetry, wherein you take an existing text and cross out or black out large portions of it. The idea is to create something new from what remains of the initial text, creating a dialogue between the new text and the existing one. This form is great for experimentation as you can use books, magazines, newspapers, anything you can think of. A great example is Doris Cross’ Dictionary Columns.  13. Epics Epic poetry refers to very long poems which tell a story. They contain detailed adventures and extraordinary feats performed by characters (they can be real or fictional) whom are often from a distant past. The term ‘epic’ was derived from the accomplishments, adventures, and bravado of these poems. Homer\'s The Iliad and Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen are famous epics which are often studied at length by students and scholars alike.  14. Narrative Poetry Narrative poems are similar to epics as they too tell a story, but they are not as long nor as focused on adventures and heroism. They focus on plot over emotion, and tell fully developed stories from beginning to end. Narrative poems are typically told by one narrator or speaker, and they often have some kind of formal rhyme scheme. An example of narrative poetry is The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.  15. Limericks Limericks are short, comedic poems, which can be crude and are largely trivial in nature. They often include pithy tales and brief descriptions. Limericks are five line poems of a single stanza with an AABBA rhyme scheme. The first, second, and fifth lines tend to have 7-10 syllables, while the third and fourth lines tend to have 5-7 syllables. Edward Lear wrote many limericks, such as There Was a Young Lady. Limericks are often prevalent in nursery rhymes such as Hickory Dickory Dock.  16. Occasional Poetry The term occasional poetry refers to poems written to describe or comment on a particular event. They are often written for a public reading, and their topics range from sad, serious matters like war, to more joyous ones like birthdays and presidential inaugurations. Praise Song for the Day by Elizabeth Alexander is an example of occasional poetry.  17. Pantoum Pantoums are a more complicated type of poetry. They are poems of any length and are composed of quatrains. Within these quatrains, the second and fourth lines of each stanza are used as the first and third lines of the following stanza. The last line of a pantoum is often the same as the first. An example of a pantoum is Charles Baudelaire’s Harmonie du Soir.  18. Blank Verse Blank verse is poetry written with a precise meter, often iambic pentameter, but it doesn’t rhyme. That’s all there is to it! So it’s another interesting form to experiment with, and help you decide which kind of structures you prefer (long or short, rhyming or not, with or without meter etc). Paradise Lost by John Milton is an example of blank verse.  19. Prose Poetry Prose poetry, as the name suggests, combines elements of the poetic form with those of the prose form. It tends to look like a standard paragraph of prose with standard punctuation and a lack of line breaks, but utilises poetic elements such as meter, alliteration, repetition, rhyme, and rhythm. As some of these devices/elements feature in other forms of writing too, there have to be a combination of them featured in the writing in order for it to be determined as a prose poem. If you’re looking for an example of a prose poem, Bath by Amy Lowell is a great one.  20. Concrete Poetry Concrete poetry is designed to create a particular shape or form on the page which echoes the poem’s message. This form of poetry uses layout and spacing to emphasise certain themes, and they sometimes take the shape of their subjects. For instance, a poem about the moon may have a decidedly crescent shape. Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree by George Starbuck is a wonderful concrete poem (and is a sonnet too; poems often belong in several poetic groups).  21. Epitaph Epitaphs are like elegies, but considerably shorter. They often appear on gravestones and can also include an element of humour. There are no strict rules regarding rhyme scheme and the like, so they are another poetry form suited to those who feel restricted by stricter forms. Epitaph by Edna St. Vincent Millay is a lovely example.  22. Palindrome Poetry This type of poetry combines poetic form with palindromes, so the words reflect back upon themselves, hence why they are also referred to as mirror poems. These poems start with an initial set of lines and then hinge on a line that usually repeats directly in the middle of the poem before they work through the rest of the lines in reverse order. This form is another complicated form which seems less daunting once you read an example of it. Try Doppelgänger by James A. Lindon.   23. Diminishing Verse Diminishing verse is a poetry form with unknown origins. Its main rule is to remove the first letter of the end word in the previous line and then repeat it. For instance, if the first line ends with the word blink, the second line would end with link, and the third would end with ink. There are no other strict rules, though diminishing verse poems tend to be written in tercets. This is a newer form, so there are very few well known examples of it, though you can find some written by various people on the internet.  24. List Poems As the name suggests, list poems are made up of lists of things or items. They don’t follow any strict rules, though the last line is often funny and/or impactful and sums up the entire poem. Sick by Shel Silverstein is one great example.  25. Echo Verse Echo verse refers to poems which repeat the end syllable of each line. This ending syllable can be repeated at the end of the same line, or it can be placed on its own line directly underneath it. Other than this repetition, this type of poetry doesn’t follow any rules. An example of echo verse is Jonathan Swift’s A Gentle Echo on Woman.  Different Types Of Poems And Poets  There are numerous different types of poetry, to match every poet or every mood. Hopefully this guide has given you some inspiration, or helped you discover a new form. There are endless poetic styles and forms for you to explore, but if all else fails simply make up your own!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Writing In First Person Point Of View: Our Top Tips  

Writing in first person point of view has become more popular in recent years, and is, along with third person point of view, one of the most common ways of narrating a story. In my part-time day job, I lecture on the Creative Writing MA at Edinburgh Napier University, and in the past, I’ve taught a 13-week module on Writing First Person. I also love to write in the first person myself: four out of eleven of my novels are written in first person pov. First person narratives offer a lot of extra options that many authors don’t fully consider. So let me give you some tips and suggestions to embracing the power of “me, myself, and I.”   What Is First Person Point Of View?  Let’s start with the obvious, basic definition: first person point of view means writing from the internal perspective of a character and using “I” pronouns throughout. Hello, I am writing this in the first person, right now. In first person, your main character (or someone observing a key player in the story) is also your narrator writing down events, usually after the fact.   With a third person narrative, the camera is metaphorically outside of the character. We’re either riding on their shoulder (close or limited third) or looking at them from an outside angle (objective or omniscient third). With first person, we’re looking out directly from their eyes (something you don’t see often in cinema because we like to see the actor’s faces). One of the effects of this is that it feels confessional in a way that third person doesn’t. You’re getting invited into their innermost thoughts and feelings. It can sometimes feel almost voyeuristic. It can also make it easier to empathise and connect with a character because we are stepping inside their skin (mmm, creepy).   Yet there are plenty of other benefits you can have in first person that are harder to re-create in third.   The Benefits Of Writing In First Person  Writing in first person provides you with a point of view that allows plenty of room for exploration. Here are some of the benefits of using a first person pov. The Gap Between The Events Of The Story And The Recording Of Them  By having the main character be your narrator, first and foremost, you have the chance to obliquely tell two stories at once: the events of the story, and the act of writing them down. The gap between those allows for some interesting opportunities to drop some foreshadowing. For instance, if the character says, “If I’d known then what I know now, I would never have taken the case when that dame strode into my office.” You can imagine them swigging some whisky and maybe tilting their fedora. With that admission, we know that something happened that the character regrets. This generates suspense and makes us want to keep reading. If you do that too often, it’s annoying and risks jerking the reader out of the story, so you have to know when it’s best to tease it out.   This gap can also affect your narration’s tone: has it been one day since the events of the story took place, or twenty years? Emotions might be stronger if it has just happened, as opposed to the character confessing to a long-held secret meaning their emotions might be more distant as a coping mechanism.  Now, that gap collapses if you’re writing in first person present tense. That can add immediacy, but it can also turn off some readers because we have to believe that we’re somehow reading the character’s mind as events happen. It’s common enough that we’re used to it and many readers just go with it (see: many psychological thrillers, and it’s relatively common in young adult fiction, too) but it doesn’t allow for the telling of two stories, which is sometimes a shame.   Multiple Methods Of Narration  The way the narration is delivered can also offer interesting opportunities. Many devices are in first person: text messages, social media posts, witness statements, diaries, letters, and so on. You can weave those together and have interesting juxtapositions in attitudes to events. If we want to use the more academic phrases, it’s “heteroglossia” (many tongues) or “polyphony” (many tones). It can also sometimes help establish worldbuilding or important context easily without having to set up or explain things to the reader. This is great if you have word count constraints in a short story, for example.   Strong Sense Of Voice  Next, you can really get the flavour of that character’s particular way of speaking if they are writing it down themselves. See Todd in The Knife of Never Letting Go from the first sentence:    The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don\'t got nothing much to say. About anything.The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness In the narration, Todd also explains he hasn’t had much education and he misspells things occasionally and speaks in a vaguely Southern American dialect (despite this being in the future on an alien planet). Yet we know exactly who he is and what he’s about. His voice is clear from the start.  Unreliable Narrators  Another big benefit to writing in first person is unreliability. Plenty of psychological thrillers rely on the unreliable narrator: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is an obvious one (and popular enough that I don’t have to worry about spoilers as much), and a masterclass of setting up a lying character in the first half and pulling out the rug from under us in the second. Even characters who think they are telling the truth might not be, based on what’s happening around them or within the story. Interesting, flawed characters are also very good at lying to themselves, which lends a lot of opportunity for narrative drive or conflict or emotional angst.   How To Write In First Person  When writing in first person, you have to think carefully about who your character is and what their voice is like. A character from my secondary world fantasies would have to speak fairly differently to a character in my near-future thrillers set on Earth. Here are some of the questions I ask myself as I develop my character and my first person narration:   1. How Would My Character Speak?   What sort of words or vocabulary would they have? What about class markers? Where did they grow up? What slang would they know? Are they short and sharp in their responses, or do they love a long, fluid, verbose sentence? What is their default mode? Sarcastic, pompous, timid? What happens when they are stressed or pushed beyond their comfort levels?  2. The Gap  How long after events is this character writing down the story and under what circumstances? Has anything in particular prompted them to write it? Are they going to use a specific device? I cite Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb constantly, as she sets up FitzChivalry Farseer’s reasons for telling the story right from the beginning. We know he’s somewhere isolated, writing down his memoirs instead of writing a history of the Six Duchies, the fantasy land where he was raised. So, the story itself starts out when he’s six, but it’s from the viewpoint of an adult looking back and is retrospective in its tone.   3. Considering Theme And Structure  Are there any thematic or structural advantages to writing in first person versus third? In the Micah Grey trilogy, which starts with Pantomime, I chose first person narration because the character is genderfluid and begins the book presenting female but then runs away and joins the circus as a male. But their internal understanding of their gender didn’t change. Keeping it in first helped erase me as the author/narrator imposing a gender at the sentence level. It was easier for you to just read Micah as Micah.   What was interesting was that in reviews, people wrote about Micah using different pronouns (she, he, they, etc). I found it interesting that they were bringing their own assumptions and viewpoints to that character, even though they were all reading the same text. Murderbot by Martha Wells does this too, though her protagonist is a sexless robot.   4. Presenting Multiple First Person Narrators  If you have more than one first-person narrator, think about how you are going to present them. In my book False Hearts, which is about formerly conjoined twins in a near-future San Francisco, one twin, Taema, writes in first person present tense, to give her thriller plot a sense of urgency. But Tila, the other twin who is in prison accused of murder, is meant to be writing down her last will and testament but instead decides to tell the story of her and Taema’s childhood, so those flashbacks are in first person past tense. Because they were identical twins who were quite literally conjoined for the first sixteen years of their lives, they had a similar vocabulary, though a different attitude to events. Changing tenses was also a way to help differentiate their registers.   Further Tips For Writing In First Person   Don’t overuse filters. We’re already in the main character’s head. Overusing filters like “I saw,” “I felt,” “I noticed,” “I heard” can create a distancing effect and hold us at arm’s length. A lot of the time they can simply be snipped out unless you want to actually draw attention to the action for another purpose. You also don’t need to add “I thought,” after direct thoughts either, in my opinion (though your mileage may vary). I tend to just set them in italics in present tense and let the reader infer that’s what’s happening.   Know that your protagonist can’t know everything. It can be hard to let the reader know all the information if the main character isn’t privy to it. Beware of having your main character conveniently eavesdrop on important conversations too often, which can sometimes be a bit of a cheat.  Find a good balance of interiority versus external description. Describe what that particular character would notice or mark out as different and unusual. Likewise, consider when a character would describe a memory in detail and when they might do a quick summary to get us to the next important scene that’s worth expanding.   Distinguish between first person pov characters. If you have more than one first person point of view character, make sure it’s easy for the reader to tell them apart within a paragraph, even if there are no names stated. I also personally don’t like doing more than two first person narrative strands, though this is again a personal choice. Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik manages to balance five first person point of views, which is the only time I’ve seen that many in one book.   Writing In First Person Writing in first person offers a lot of interesting narrative and crafting opportunities. If you have always been a third person writer, perhaps try branching out to see what it offers you. Or if you always write in first person, I hope this helped you consider things in a different way. This is obviously only a small portion of the things you can explore, but it details the main concepts and is a good place to start. Happy writing! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Using Exposition The Right Way

You’ve probably come across the word exposition in reviews and in writing advice. You might have seen it referred to in negative terms, and maybe you’re nervous about getting it wrong, especially if you’re writing a book for the first time. What is exposition, and how can you use it effectively to make your story flow well and have depth? This guide will help you understand exposition and how to use it. Let’s begin.  What Is Exposition? First let’s clear something up: we’re talking about “exposition”, not “the exposition”.  What’s the difference?  The Exposition In some models of dramatic structure, the exposition of a story is the opening scene. It introduces us to the protagonist and explains some of the circumstances of their life, so that when the “inciting incident” happens, we understand why it matters. Not all stories include the exposition, but many do.  (We won’t be discussing dramatic structure in this article, but if you want to learn more, you could read our article about Freytag’s Pyramid.) Exposition Exposition, sometimes called narrative exposition, is something different. It’s a writing technique used to convey certain information to the reader. Think of it as:  Text that gives your reader information which comes from outside of the current viewpoint.  For example, say your viewpoint character needs to learn about an event that was part of another character’s childhood. They can’t experience that event directly, because it happened long ago, to another person. So how can they (and the reader) become aware of it? This is where we use exposition.  Here’s an example of exposition from Operation Syndrome by Frank Herbert:  \"On the bayside walk, Eric and Colleen matched steps. \'You never did tell me what a musikron is.\'Her laughter caused a passing couple to turn and stare. \'Okay. But I still don’t understand. We’ve been on TV for a month.\'He thought, She thinks I’m a fuddy; probably am! He said, \'I don’t subscribe to the entertainment circuits. I’m just on the science and news networks.\'She shrugged. \'Well, the musikron is something like a recording and playback machine; only the operator mixes in any new sounds he wants. He wears a little metal bowl on his head and just thinks about the sounds—the musikron plays them.” She stole a quick glance at him, looked ahead. “Everyone says it’s a fake; it really isn’t.\'\" In the example above, there are several pieces of exposition woven together. We learn how a musikron works, we learn that people doubt it’s real, and we also learn some small facts from Eric and Colleen’s past experiences. The musikron isn’t in our viewpoint, neither are its doubters; the information about them is coming to us through exposition instead of us experiencing it first-hand.  Exposition often takes the form of dialogue, as it does in this example. But it can also be conveyed through narration, through written material in the character’s surroundings, and in many other possible forms. The common idea is that it brings information from outside the current viewpoint into the reader’s awareness.  Sometimes, you’ll hear people talk about exposition as if it’s always a bad thing, but this isn’t true. Excessive or unwarranted exposition (known as an “info dump”) feels unnatural and boring. But exposition itself is just a tool, and every story makes use of it in some way. The key is to use it well.  Examples Of Exposition To understand exposition better, let’s take a look at a few examples of exposition from specific genres. Pay attention to how each of these examples brings important information from outside the reader’s viewpoint into their awareness.  Exposition In Police Procedurals A police procedural is a type of mystery or crime story that’s focused on a police force, typically with a lead investigator as the viewpoint character. The story follows the steps they take to solve a mystery, prevent a crime, or apprehend a criminal.  If you read or watch police procedurals, you’ve probably come across the following sorts of scenes plenty of times:  A lab tech intercepts the protagonist in the hallway to give them the results of a blood test. They speak only briefly before one of them has to move on to other pressing matters. The protagonist is called out to a crime scene, where another officer shows them some broken pieces of coloured glass they found outside. The protagonist immediately makes a connection that hadn’t occurred to anyone else. A car mechanic calls the police because of some strange damage they notice on a car that was brought in. The protagonist arrives and the mechanic, who has plenty of years under their belt, explains that the damage could only have been caused by tampering.  Did you spot the common purpose of these scenes? They all offload boring tasks to other characters, leaving the protagonist to experience the interesting parts first-hand.  As readers, we don’t want to watch the protagonist using a centrifuge, poking around in a pile of leaves, or changing somebody’s oil. We only care about the test result, the bits of glass, and the tampering. But from a standpoint of believability, those mundane tasks have to be completed by someone so the information can be uncovered.  In these examples, exposition has allowed us to separate the boring work from the interesting outcome.  Exposition In Immersive Sci-Fi These stories involve plenty of world-building, and part of the enjoyment for readers is being immersed in a believable, coherent world that’s different from our own.  See if you recognise either of these scenes:  Our protagonist needs to locate an arms dealer in a space port. They go to the market area, where they’re immersed in a sea of bright signs, food smells, snips of conversations and arguments, strange alien bodies, and loud-voiced merchants with exotic wares on display. The protagonist fumbles their inquiries, angering the locals, and is about to be attacked when a helpful character pulls them aside. The good Samaritan explains the local custom they’ve violated and points the protagonist in the right direction. Our protagonist has been brought to a meeting of the ruling council of the galactic empire. While scavenging in deep space, they received a strange transmission that they’ve been asked to share with the council. As they enter, the council is engaged in a lively debate about clashes with a rival empire, how those might be affected by the disintegration of the trader’s guild, and whether a new warp drive invented by a reclusive genius can give them an edge.  What’s the common thread this time? We want to give our reader an immersive experience of the history, politics, culture, and technology of this world, but our protagonist is just one person, and can’t experience everything first-hand. In these examples, exposition allows the market and the council chamber to become conduits to the wider universe, exposing our protagonist to a variety of experiences in a single place and time.  Exposition In Disaster And Survival Stories These stories centre around a protagonist who’s thrown into a physically threatening situation and has to figure out how to get through it alive. Whether it’s making a difficult sacrifice, overcoming a deep fear, or learning to trust another character, the reader’s enjoyment comes from watching the protagonist grow in a way that allows them to survive.  See if you recognise any of these scenes:  The protagonist is riding in a helicopter to a remote island. The pilot explains that the island has no radio communications, and the waters aren’t safe for boats to approach, so the helicopter travels to and from the mainland once each week. A tour bus is hijacked by masked men and taken to a location outside the city. The protagonist overhears one of the masked men on their phone, demanding a ransom and explaining that one hostage will be shot every hour until the ransom is delivered, starting one hour from now. The zombie apocalypse is here, and society is falling apart. The protagonist rescues a man who tells a harrowing story of watching his wife become a zombie after she tried to protect him and was bitten.  Here the exposition is doing the job of explaining the rules of the game. “There’s no way off the island”, or “you have one hour until a hostage is shot”, or “if you’re bitten by a zombie, you’ll become one”.  If we want the protagonist’s struggles and setbacks to feel dramatic, the reader needs to know these rules. Which choices are available to the protagonist? What’s dangerous and what isn’t? What are the chances something will work?  These rules are created by the author, but they need to be explained from inside the story. Exposition lets us do this.  How To Use Exposition In Your Writing The examples above have shown us three different uses for exposition: offloading boring tasks, creating a conduit to a broader world, and explaining the rules of the game.  How can you use exposition effectively in your stories? How do you get across crucial information without boring or annoying the reader?  Writing good exposition is mostly about the decisions you make ahead of time. If your exposition is being delivered by the wrong character or at the wrong time, you can’t fix that by tweaking the wording. If you spend time setting up your exposition, it’s much easier to make it feel natural.  Try using this step-by-step formula as a guide:  Determine the facts that are crucial to your story. Make a list of important information you need to convey to the reader, along with when they need to know it. (This could be a mental list or an actual document—whatever works for you.) Avoid including information in your story just for the sake of including it; think actively about what you include.  Understand the limitations of your story’s viewpoint. If you have a first-person viewpoint, you can only narrate what the character knows and sees, but you can imbue the text with their feelings and opinions. If you have an omniscient narrator, they can see everything, but a character’s feelings will often be conveyed more indirectly. Diffuse as much as you can. Diffusing your exposition means breaking it down into smaller chunks by spreading it over time or pushing some of it out into the environment. The more you can do this, the less intrusive the exposition feels (ie no ‘info dumps’), and the easier the next step tends to be.  Pick a good framing. For information you need to deliver directly, figure out a framing that makes sense. Who can deliver this information? When would it make sense for them to do it? Use your framing to help you write a great scene to deliver the exposition. Prime the reader. Set your reader up ahead of time by creating anticipation, curiosity, or anxiety about the information you’re going to deliver. How can you make the reader want to hear about this subject?  Many writers don’t think about exposition this consciously. They just write, and if the exposition feels awkward, they try to smooth it out. But given how often readers and reviewers mention bad exposition, it might not hurt to approach it systematically.  You don’t have to use this framework before writing. If you prefer to write “in the flow”, start by getting your first draft onto the page, then use this framework to guide your revisions.  Top Tips For Exposition Writing Now that we’ve looked at the step-by-step formula, what are some specific tips and tricks you can use when writing exposition?  Determining The Key Facts Try starting from a blank slate. Pretend you aren’t going to use any exposition at all. What problems would this cause? Which information would be missing? Go through your story and, for each scene, ask yourself “What should the reader know (or not know) by the time this scene happens for it to feel as dramatic as possible?” Look at your world-building and ask yourself, “Which ideas or experiences would the reader be sad to miss out on? Which ones will stick with them long after reading?” If your plot hinges on any sort of specialist of technical knowledge, take some time to understand what the average person knows and doesn’t know on that subject. For example, if you’re writing a historical novel, what does the average person know about that time period? What misunderstandings or misinformation are common?  Diffusing Try using architecture to convey history and past events. Which buildings were built strongly, opulently, or shoddily? Which have been cared for and which have fallen into disrepair? Plaques and dedications can also convey information from the past. Try using media to convey the present: news broadcasts, posters, advertising, music, TV and videos can all convey current events in your story, as well as a social, cultural, or political context. Try using reactions and body language to convey existing relationships. Two people who know each other will react in some way, positively or negatively, overtly or in subtle ways, when they see one another. Parsing these reactions, instead of being told directly about an existing relationship, can be a more enjoyable way for the reader to learn this part of a character’s backstory. If a character absolutely needs to read a long passage of text, try having them read it over several sittings. This also allows you to quote short excerpts each time, omitting boring parts that might have come in between. If a character needs to learn about a complicated sequence of events, try having them learn about one step at a time. This gives the reader time in between to absorb the meaning of each step. Remember the mantra “show, don’t tell”—if you can have the protagonist gain the information through an experience instead of a dialogue, that’s preferable. Picking A Good Framing An argument provides a great excuse to bring up facts that two characters already know, since the point of an argument isn’t to relay new information, but to clash over interpretations or values. This is also a great opportunity to convey a character’s personality. A confession offers an emotional framework for talking about past events. (Confessions can segue into a flashback if desired.)An expert speaking to a non-expert can deliver technical or specialist information. The common setup is for the non-expert to seek out and interrogate the expert. Try subverting this somehow—perhaps the expert initiates the conversation, or perhaps they’re brought together in a different way. A planning meeting can help review a complicated situation for the reader’s benefit. Set it up so that the meeting has an objective—a decision to be made or a problem to solved—and the people present have different motivations and values. You can offload boring tasks to an assistant, ally, or bystander and have them report only the essentials to your viewpoint character. When you only have a single fact to deliver, you can either find a framing that is naturally brief (a rushed conversation, a post-it note left on a desk), or you can embed it within another interaction. If the information is key to the story, consider delivering it through a memorable set piece. When the assailant tells his captive he has six hours to live, does he write it on an 8.5”x11” piece of lined paper, or embed an audio recording in a remotely-triggered jack-in-the-box? If you’re stuck finding a framing, start by asking yourself, who has the information? How might they deliver it directly or indirectly, voluntarily or involuntarily?  Priming The Reader Make the protagonist suffer (a little or a lot) for not having the information. Maybe our detective needs to link a suspect to a crime before he can get a warrant, and in the meantime a second crime has been committed. Or maybe a character commits a faux pas because they don’t know local etiquette. Have a character engage in some unexplained behaviours. Perhaps they display an emotion that doesn’t fit the situation, or they’re seen talking to someone you wouldn’t expect  them to know. This can raise the reader’s interest about their motivations or backstory. Have someone give a half-answer and withhold the rest. Perhaps our lab tech calls and cryptically says, “turns out that bullet we analysed wasn’t really a bullet… I’ll need to explain this one in person”. Make the reader wonder how something incredible was accomplished, by having the protagonist experience it first-hand before anybody explains it to them. Once you’ve made the reader want the information, it’s often good to make them wait for it a little. Give them enough time to enjoy forming their own theories.  Writing Exposition We hope this guide has helped you understand what exposition is and how to use it in your story. Writing exposition well can be tough; but getting it right can make all the difference between a story full of info gaps and info dumps…and a well-rounded, exciting story that keeps your readers gripped!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Introducing Characters To Your Story

The heart of storytelling is in the characters. You’ve done the work thinking them up and giving them interesting and compelling inner lives. The next thing to do is to get these characters from your head, into the heads of your readers. In fiction, as in real life, first impressions are important, so the way you introduce characters can make a difference in making sure your reader carries on past chapter one. In this article, I\'ll go through how to introduce characters in a story, provide examples of strong character introductions, and give you my best tips for introducing characters effectively. Character Introduction Examples And Tips The purpose of a character introduction is to get the reader interested in the character and invested enough that they will want to carry on reading. If you can introduce a character in a vivid and memorable way, they will appear in the reader’s mind fully formed and ready to go. So, how exactly do you achieve that?  Give Your Characters One Or Two Memorable Features What is the first thing you want people to notice about the character? Is it the way they’re wearing a kaftan and wellington boots? Is it the shrewdness of their expression? Whatever it is, describe it and let your readers build up their own picture of the character from there. It can be tempting to describe your character’s physical appearance in detail. Resist the urge!   All you have to do is provide the reader with some touch points and they will fill in the gaps (often with details that you wouldn’t even have thought about). If there is something unusual about the character’s physical appearance - or something that will become important later, do mention that.  Below is one of my favourite character descriptions. We can picture the whole of Grandma, just from that description. It’s also worth noting that the choice of words is completely in keeping with the sort of thing a boy George’s age would say. \"George couldn’t help disliking Grandma. She was a selfish grumpy old woman. She had pale brown teeth and a small puckered up mouth like a dog’s bottom.\"George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl  Describe Your Characters By The Clothes They Wear Clothes can tell you a lot about a person. At the very least, they can give you an impression of the type of person they are. Look at the description below. By the end of the paragraph, we have a clear mental image of the type of person Shoba is, even if we have no description of her actual features.  \"\'It’s good of them to warn us,\' Shoba conceded after reading the notice aloud, more for her own benefit than Shukumar’s. She let the strap of her satchel, plump with files, slip from her shoulders and left it in the hallway as she walked into the kitchen. She wore a navy blue poplin raincoat over gray sweatpants and white sneakers, looking, at thirty three, like the type of woman she’d once claimed she would never resemble.\"The Interpreter of Maladies by Jumpa Lahiri  Introduce Your Characters By Their Voice And Demeanour If you’re writing in first person or in ‘deep third’ (where you’re deep into the thoughts of your third person narrator) it can be hard to describe the character. People don’t often go around thinking about the colour of their eyes or the bounce of their curls. However, you can tell the reader what kind of person they are by the way they describe their surroundings. Show rather than tell.   A happy person and a sad person would look at the same scene and focus on different things. An acerbic character would describe things differently to a mild and gentle one.  You’re trying to give the reader an idea of the character rather than a picture perfect description. So introducing characters in a story by highlighting their characteristics can be really effective. In the extract below, although we have no idea what’s going on (and neither does Tom, really), we get a good idea of Tom’s state of mind. Also, that he’s done something that might lead to his arrest. It takes a while for the reader to understand what\'s going on with Tom Ripley, but even on the first page, we get the idea that there’s something dangerous and a little reckless about him.  \"Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Tom walked faster. There was no doubt the man was after him. Tom had noticed him five minutes ago, eyeing him carefully from a table, as if he weren’t quite sure, but almost. He had looked sure enough for Tom to down his drink in a hurry, pay and get out. At the corner, Tom leaned forward and trotted across fifth avenue. There was Roaul’s. Should he take a chance and go in for another drink? Tempt fate and all that? Or should he beat it over to Park Avenue and try losing him in a few dark doorways? He went into Raoul\'s.\"The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith  Introduce Characters Through Action This is my favourite way to describe people - by the things they do. This is very common in film scripts. Probably the best example of this is Darth Vader in Star Wars: A New Hope. He walks in, and surveys the dead with an attitude of annoyance. He then goes on to choke someone. By the time he speaks, we already know that he’s the villain and that he’s very powerful.  Introduce Characters Through Dialogue If your character has a distinctive voice, you can give the reader an idea of who they are just by having them speak. In the example below, the narrator (and the reader) gets an image of Holly Golightly before he even sees her. Notice also, how Capote introduces movement into the scene by the sound of her voice changing as she comes up the stairs.  \"The voice that came back, welling up from the bottom of the stairs, was silly-young and self-amused. \'Oh, darling, I am sorry. I lost the goddamn key.\'\"Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  And then a few sentences later:   \"‘Oh, don’t be angry,  you dear little man: I won’t do it again. And if you promise not to be angry…’ - her voice was coming nearer, she was climbing the stairs - ‘I might let you take those pictures we mentioned.’\" Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote  Introduce Them Through Another Character You can use other character’s impressions to introduce your character. Make their reputation precede them. For example, before we meet Sherlock Holmes for the first time, we hear Stamford describe him and his habits to Dr Watson.  \"Young Stamford looked rather strangely at me over his wine glass. \'You don’t know Sherlock Holmes yet,\' he said. \'Perhaps you would not care for him as a constant companion.\'‘Why, what is there against him?’ ‘Oh, I didn’t say there was anything against him. He is a little queer in his ideas - an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know, he is a decent fellow enough.\'\"A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle  Stamford goes on to describe various aspects of Sherlock Holmes, so that when we finally meet the man, we feel we already know him.   Introducing First Person Characters Introducing characters written in first person deserves a separate section because it’s hard to describe them without falling into the ‘I looked in the mirror’ cliche. Here are a few methods you could use, apart from the ones described above.   Let them introduce themselves directly to the reader. This may seem a little old fashioned now but it is effective. Have the narrator introduce themselves to another character. The risk of \'info dumping’ is high with this one. Try and make sure that you have them say just enough to convey the information that is essential. Introduce the character alongside another, and describe them by contrasting them. This is a good way to bring their physical descriptions in. For example: ‘unlike my diminutive and dainty sister, I was tall and had wide shoulders. No one had ever called me dainty’; that sort of thing.  Introducing Characters: General Tips As a general rule, the more detail you give about a character, the more important the reader expects them to be. Your main character needs a name, an age and some description (however vague). From there on, the amount of detail you give should be proportional to the character’s importance to the story. If you’re introducing a character who is going to reappear later, you can give them a name. For someone who appears once and has no real effect on the story - like a cashier who serves the character - just call them ‘the cashier’ and move on. There’s no need to linger and give details.   Introduce your protagonist early. This not only gets the story going right from the start, but it also tells your reader who they’re supposed to be rooting for. Other major characters can come in later, but your main character should show up in chapter one. If you’re writing romance, you need both the hero and heroine to show up within the first two chapters of the story.  When you’re in the earliest parts of the story, your reader is still new to the world, so make things easy for them. Make it clear who is speaking, either by having people call them by name or by using a simple ‘John said’.   Giving a little bit of backstory for your character is fine, but avoid trying to tell them everything right at the start. This is known as ‘info dumping’. You will know a lot about your characters. Think of all that knowledge as an iceberg.  You only need to tell the reader the bits that are relevant and visible. If you can hint at the stuff that’s submerged, then that’s great. If it’s hard to do that, then exercise restraint. You can always trickle the information in later on the story, adding layers to your character. The introduction is only the first glimpse of your character. The reader has a whole book in which to get to know them better; and if you’ve introduced your characters in a compelling way, the reader will stay the course.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is Literary Fiction?

One of the trickiest parts of being a writer, at least at first, is trying to decide where in the world of publishing you ‘fit’. Trying to figure out what genre you’re writing can be one of the most difficult parts of solidifying your pitch to agents.  In this article, I will be explaining what literary fiction is, how it’s different to commercial and genre fiction, and why it’s important that as writers we know the difference.   What Is Literary Fiction? One of the questions that crops up time and time again is ‘What is the difference between commercial fiction, genre fiction, and literary fiction?’  Before writing this article, I asked a few people that very question. I didn’t ask writers, because we have answers for everything, I asked readers. Could they tell the difference?  Other than knowing that many literary fiction books find their way into the Booker Prize list, and some readers saying, ‘well literary fiction books are those high brow ones that get featured in the Sunday Times’ it’s clear most people haven’t a clue what it takes for a book to go from genre fiction to being classed as ‘literary.’ The truth is, genres in fiction can be tricky to define, and literary fiction tends to be one of the most difficult for readers and new writers to wrap their heads around.   So let’s delve deeper...    Literary Fiction: Definition Let’s start with the basics, how do you define literary fiction?   Although for most people, literary fiction may be described as ‘those classic books they make you study at college and university’ - while that may be true in some aspects, literary fiction is so much more than long painful prose, convoluted metaphors, slow narrative and a slathering of symbolism.   If you are looking for a clear-cut definition, the closest you will get is ‘literary fiction is a category of novels that put emphasis on style, character and theme over plot.’ Whereas commercial fiction is generally ‘the easy-to-read stuff that sells’ (think of the kind of books you see in a supermarket or airport); and genre fiction is heavy on style (think romance, sci-fi, horror etc); literary fiction tends to focus on bigger themes, a more serious prose style, and deeper characterisation.  But is that all there is to it?  What Are The Characteristics Of Literary Fiction? With an ever-changing publishing industry, the definition of literary fiction can change year on year.   Overall, if your work falls within the bullet points below, you may find your book fits somewhere within the literary fiction genre. Does this sound like your novel?  Character-driven Exploration of deeper themes Exploration of social, political or emotional situations Potential ambiguous ending / not necessarily a ‘Happy Ever After’ No strict adherence to a structured plot formula No strict adherence to standard formatting or prose style (ie no speech marks) Rooted in reality  However, to really understand what literary fiction is we must get a better understanding of what it is not.   Literary Fiction Vs Genre Fiction Genre fiction by definition is popular or commercial fiction rooted in a specific genre. The reason it’s important to define the difference between literary and genre fiction is that literary fiction can also be seen as genre fiction. Each literary book can be classed into a genre, but how the book is written is what defines it as literary rather than commercial. To understand fully, we need to break down a few of these characteristics into more detail.  Character Driven Literary fiction puts an emphasis on character, style, and theme, whereas genre and commercial fiction will almost always prioritise plot. That seems simple enough, right? Ok. So we have a broad understanding, now to get to the nitty-gritty of the detail. Expected Tropes Vs Character Development Through Social Exploration Commercial fiction tends to work with accepted and expected tropes, whereas literary fiction digs deep and often asks uncomfortable questions surrounding moral, social or even political situations, and how those, in turn, create or affect complex and intricate characters. Those characters then become how we see the world in a different way, through their eyes, exploring themes determined by the author. The characters are the catalyst and mechanism with which we explore complex situations.    Character development is key to any great work of fiction, but as genre fiction relies on being heavily plot-driven and more of a focus is heaped on moving the story forward, it leaves little room to delve deep into the character’s mindset. With literary fiction, much more emphasis is put on the character’s motivation…even if not a lot actually happens. Morally Questionable Characters  Essentially what we are exploring here is the difference between likeable protagonists and morally grey characters.  In commercial or genre fiction, the protagonist is almost always someone you can relate to, love, and cheer on throughout the book. Even if they are a little flawed, you ultimately want them to get their happy ever after.   In literary fiction, you are much more likely to come across characters that challenge your preconceptions. Morally grey characters allow you to get absorbed in their inner thoughts and motivations. Take, for instance, Normal People by Sally Rooney. As a contemporary example of literary fiction, in this novel Rooney focuses less on the twists and turns that the plot could have taken her in, and instead digs into the relationships within the novel, exploring motivation and flaws as central themes.   Loving the main characters in this novel is not what Rooney needs from you. She wants you to question them, be angry and frustrated with them in the same way we would be in real life.   With young protagonists Marianne and Connell at its heart, you would expect this novel to sit on the shelves next to other YA novels. But the themes, tone and style of it mean that this complex novel about two young teenagers embarking on an emotional relationship is much more than a simple coming of age novel. Rooney expertly picks apart the fundamentals of relationships, examines darker themes such as depression, and does so in a style that is certainly not suited to the average 14-year-old reader. This is a book about being a teenager, but it is very much for the teenagers inside of us adults. While exploring themes such as sexuality and identity is often a main staple of the YA genre, exploring it in the way Rooney does with such complexity requires a deeper understanding of the human mind. She has taken a traditionally YA theme (coming of age) and delved deeper, written grittier, and explored the darkness of those themes to create a strong representation of literary fiction.   Focus On Style And Theme Style and theme are prominent characteristics of literary fiction. It’s widely accepted that literary fiction tends to inspire longer, flowery, and complicated prose, such as in the works of James Joyce. Others may determine literary fiction as heavily themed, for example, in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.   Both examples are, of course, correct. Both fall under the literary fiction genre, but many paint literary fiction with the tag ‘highbrow’ or ‘complicated to follow’. Flowery prose is not the dominating definition for modern literary fiction. Instead, its defining feature tends to be the impact the story and its characters have on the reader and the ability it has to translate a complicated or sensitive subject to a reader. After all, in this genre, themes are explored in depth.  The conversation surrounding themes often creates controversy when trying to define a book in this genre. Take, for instance, the example of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Widely regarded as a dystopian novel, many questioned why The Hunger Games was not considered literary, after all, the trilogy really focused on themes such as social inequality. However, younger protagonists gave the story a coming of age theme, which complicated matters, as did the incredibly well-drawn dystopian world. Therefore, it was categorised as genre fiction – namely YA dystopian.  Tone And Internal Conflict Tone is the next aspect of literary fiction that sets it apart. Most literary fiction novels tend to be much more introspective in the way they deliver tone, and it is almost always realistic. For that reason, internal conflict drives the plot. Again, it’s the characters driving the plot rather than the plot revealing the character.   Take Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Her debut is a great example of a novel that puts tone and character ahead of plot. Essentially, the novel is about Kya, the ‘Marsh Girl’ from a small town in North Carolina. The whole story revolves around the mystery that surrounds her and how she raised herself when her family abandoned her at a young age. The plot itself is basic, but the themes are anything but. Owens explores the impact of trauma, isolation and the lasting damage of abandonment, but she does this using the most beautifully written characters and by exploring setting in a way that truly draws the reader in. Her observations of loneliness have found a home with readers who relate, and the tone with which she writes creates a space for the novel to breathe and be explored with space and understanding.  Take this quote for example: “The marsh did not confine them but defined them and, like any sacred ground, kept their secrets deep.”Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens Simple words, short sentence structure but packed with emotion. This is literary fiction; simplicity and complexity can be just as powerful as long flowery prose.  The Happy Ever After…  As mentioned already, literary fiction tends to be more realistic, so it would follow that a happy ever after is not always the outcome in the same way that we tend to expect in genre fiction. Authors of literary fiction want you to have more questions at the end of the book than answers. They want you to think long and hard about the themes explored.   So, nine times out of ten you will not find the story wrapped up neatly with a bow, instead, you may find yourself left hanging and therefore contemplating these characters for weeks to come.   Take, for example, Life Of Pi by Yann Martel. Mr Okamoto and Mr Chiba ask Pi to tell them what happened to him and ask for as much detail as possible. Pi does exactly that, but when he is not believed he begrudgingly tells a shorter version. The reader is forced to decide what version they themselves believe. Martel is forcing us to consider the difference between knowledge and belief. To really evaluate the difference between, and the importance of, both faith and doubt, facts and fiction, and what we believe vs what we expect to hear. It’s not tied up with a pretty little bow at the end, instead, we are forced to decide for ourselves which version we want to believe. The Exceptions To The ‘Rules’  Of course, not all literary fiction follows the rules. We are writers after all, and we like nothing more than finding barriers and tearing them down. Not all literary fiction has to follow a flawed, sad and introspective character. Not every person on the page has long rambling inner monologues that question every aspect of life. Literary fiction can be fantastical, magical, even incredibly romantic, just like real life. It just needs to explore aspects of human nature and the world around us in a way that makes us question, think deeper, and look harder at those around us.   My favourite example of a recently published literary fiction novel that absolutely hits the nail on the head in this regard is Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. There is very little about the book itself that is ‘realistic’ in the traditional sense, but Clarke uses the setting to deeply explore themes that hit right at the centre of our human consciousness.   Readers Of Literary Fiction Expect To Be Surprised  Authors of this genre embrace the fact that readers of literary fiction like to be challenged. They know the readers aren’t looking to pick up an ‘easy read’, so the authors of this genre push those boundaries. It allows them to take themes that would be explored at the surface level in more traditional commercial fiction and really dig deep. Also, because literary fiction is generally a slower pace, the expectation for authors to hit the ground running is eliminated. They can take their time, paint the detail, explore the flaws and cracks along the way, in a way that commercial fiction can’t. Readers of literary fiction are ‘slow burner’ readers, and authors of this genre embrace that fully.   Examples Of Literary Fiction Now we know what literary fiction is, and the difference between literary and genre fiction, here are some examples of more literary fiction (from both the past and present-day).   To Kill A Mockingbird By Harper Lee The plot of this groundbreaking novel is really quite simple. Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson, a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. It’s a very simple plot that allows Harper Lee to explore some of the deepest themes in literary fiction. Racial prejudice, loss of innocence, the fight between good and evil, justice vs the law, and even the lack of trust in institutions. This incredibly deep and affecting novel explores these themes, not through the drive of the plot, but through the depth of character. The Kite Runner By Khaled Hosseini In this novel, Amir, a Sunni Muslim, struggles to find his place in a complicated new world following traumatic childhood events. Some of the main themes explored are betrayal, violence and rape, politics, violent regimes, and religion.  The Colour Purple By Alice Walker In The Colour Purple, Celie, an African American teenager, born and raised in Georgia, narrates her life through painfully honest letters to God as she navigates a difficult and often abusive life in the early 1900s. The main themes explored here are race, religion, gender roles, violence and suffering, and self-discovery. Atonement By Ian McEwan Atonement is about young lovers Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner, who are torn apart by a lie told by Cecilia’s younger sister. The novel explores the fallout for all involved. The main themes explored are guilt, perspective (and how each person’s individual views can shape their own reality), class, and loss of innocence.  White Teeth By Zadie Smith In White Teeth, Archie Jones is attempting to take his own life, but a chance interruption causes him to change his mind. The main themes are racism, female independence, and the importance of family ties and identity. The Great Gatsby By Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby is narrated by Nick Carraway, and from his perspective, we follow events as Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire pursues the love of his youth, Daisy Buchanan. The main themes explored here are love, power, class, and the great ‘American Dream’.   Writing Literary Fiction Would you have classed these examples as literary fiction? Are there any books you have read recently that you feel fit snugly into the literary fiction bracket? Or, more controversially, are there any that you have recently read that you think should be described as literary fiction and weren’t?  Although often thought of as ‘serious’ fiction, and often discussed as the ‘snobby side of publishing’, literary fiction is a genre much like any other. It follows its own rules, has its own readership and knows how to satisfy the needs of those readers.   I hope this article has helped you define your own work. Perhaps it has even encouraged you to adjust your plot and themes or go deeper with your characters – all of which will help you create a clearer distinction between genres. Because without knowing what you are writing, it’s a lot harder to know who you are writing it for and communicate that with any future agent or readers. So choose wisely and enjoy!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Danielle Owen-Jones on Author Branding and Working with an Agent

Author Danielle Owen-Jones has written for Jericho Writers on a range of topics, from literary devices to anti-heroes. Now, we\'re proud to see her first novel \'Stone Broke Heiress\' published by Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette. We chatted to her about working with her literary agent and how to build your author brand. My debut novel, \'Stone Broke Heiress\', is a romantic comedy set in Liverpool. My agent, Clare Coombes of The Liverpool Literary Agency, came up with the brilliant idea to set the book in Toxteth. The location is an interesting hook for the story because Clare and I believe it’s the first rom com set in the Toxteth area of the city. Clare was one of the literary agents who requested my full manuscript when I was querying. After she read the book and offered representation, one of her suggestions was to change the setting from London to Liverpool. The minute Clare suggested it, I was sold on the idea. Looking back, I’m not sure why I set the book in London – a place I adore, but somewhere I don’t know well. Liverpool, however, I know very well. I grew up in a seaside town half an hour away, and my family are proud scousers. While discussing the location change, Clare and I agreed this would give the book an interesting angle for publishers and would be its USP in the busy and competitive rom com market. It turned out that the new Toxteth location transformed the book; the different setting affected every aspect of the story. Most importantly, the more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger. I hoped I was painting a picture of the location through the pages. It was important to me to capture the spirit of Liverpool and fly the flag for it – to represent the city in the right way. The more I wrote about the city I loved and knew so well, the more the ideas flowed, and the story grew stronger. After enthusiastically editing the new setting of the book and revising the draft to include Clare’s other brilliant ideas, we went out on submission to publishers. I sympathise with every writer going through the submission process. It’s nerve-wracking enough when you’re querying literary agents. Then, after you’ve signed with an agent, it feels like you do it all over again. (Though your book being pitched to publishers is probably even more stressful – if that’s possible!) It’s torture waiting to hear if you’re going to get a book deal. I was refreshing my emails every thirty seconds, but I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way! Luckily, one did – Emily Gowers at Bookouture. I was blown away by her enthusiasm for the book. She completely ‘got’ it – both the story and me as an author. What more could you want from an editor? Clare and I talked through the options, but we were both immediately impressed by Bookouture’s pitch, together with Emily’s passion and vision. So, I excitedly signed a two-book deal! It was one of the most surreal and incredible days of my life – and for a while, it felt like I was dreaming. Even now, I’m still not entirely sure it’s sunk in. I knew I could trust Clare and her passion for the book. All I could do was hope that a commissioning editor would feel the same way! Since signing my publishing contract, my writing life has been a whirlwind. Like many authors, I juggle my day job with writing my books. However, I’m fortunate that my work is flexible, as I work for myself. It’s meant plenty of early mornings, late nights, and weekends spent writing or editing. But it doesn’t really feel like work because, as cheesy as it sounds, this is all a dream come true for me. A plus point of my job as a freelance PR consultant and content writer is applying the skills I use with my clients to myself when building my author brand through marketing. The best tip I can give to authors when doing this is to show the person behind the books. Nobody likes a hard sell or a constant, repetitive message of ‘buy my books!’ So, let your audience in and show them who you are as a person and a writer. What inspires you? What’s your writing process? Which books do you adore? What do you love doing at the weekend? In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy. A significant part of the entire writing and publishing process is the people you meet along the way. I feel so lucky to have met an amazing and talented group of writers throughout my experience as a debut author. I’ve made friends for life, and it makes the whole process so much easier when you have the genuine support of people who understand what you’re going through on the rollercoaster ride that is publishing. In terms of social media, it can sometimes feel overwhelming trying to juggle everything. So rather than trying to be active on all the various platforms, instead focus on those you genuinely enjoy. Another aspect where that important support from the writing community (and of course, friends and family), plays a major role is when dealing with rejections. They are hard. Incredibly hard. However, something I’ve learnt along the way is that rejection is unavoidable as an author. You have to take the highs (signing with an agent, a publishing deal, glowing reviews) with the lows (rejections from agents, publishers and even readers). Rejection is part of being an author because writing and storytelling are naturally subjective. However, a rejection typically isn’t personal. For example, when querying literary agents, there are so many elements involved in a ‘thanks but no thanks’ (e.g. an agent’s existing list of clients, genre preferences, future publishing trends, their relationships with editors in your book’s genre etc.) It’s human nature that rejection can be hard to stomach, but I’ve found that the more you experience it and get used to it, the easier it is to handle. You learn how to pick yourself up and try again. I remember feeling devastated at my first few literary agent and publisher rejections. But if it’s your dream to be an author, you can’t give up; you have to keep going. From Clare Coombes, Danielle\'s literary agent (The Liverpool Literary Agency): “From the first read, I knew this book was special. There was a lot of interest but I\'m so happy we\'ve found the perfect home for it at Bookouture. Danielle has such an amazing writing style and comic timing. Readers are going to love Arabella\'s journey of self-discovery (and the world of soup, which is such a hilarious and unique framing for this whole story).   For our first women\'s fiction signing and book deal in this genre to be set in Liverpool (and the first romcom we know of based in the Toxteth part of the city), is just incredible and we\'re so proud of Danielle.\"  About Danielle Owen-Jones Danielle Owen-Jones is the debut author of the romantic comedy \'Stone Broke Heiress\'. Danielle started her career as a senior journalist and features writer before launching a PR business, and later signing a two-book deal with Bookouture, an imprint of Hachette UK. \'Stone Broke Heiress\' is now available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. Find out more about Danielle on her website and follow her on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Facebook.

How To Write Realistic Fight Scenes

While most of my books usually end up having fight scenes, action-heavy set pieces are often a challenge for me. When reading books with extended fight scenes or battles, sometimes it can be easy for the reader to lose interest and start skimming. But even if you love reading action scenes, when it comes to actually putting them down on the page for your story, it’s easy to feel intimidated, especially if you yourself have never gotten into a good old-fashioned brawl or swung a broadsword over your head. In this article I will be sharing advice on how to write fight scenes - even if you’re a lover, not a fighter - along with some fight scene writing examples. Fight Scene Writing “A Conversation with Fists (or whatever weapon)”Wesley Chu SFF author Wesley Chu is a former MMA fighter who writes action-heavy books like The Lives of Tao and the upcoming War Arts Saga. He says writing a fight scene is like having a conversation, but with added fists. What is being communicated? What is being revealed? What happens when words fail your characters and only violence will do?   I won’t be the first or last person to point out that writing a fight scene is not that different to a sex scene, which many authors also struggle to write well. If either are gratuitous, they can be a turn off to readers. But if they are well written, they can be immensely satisfying. A good fight scene or a good sex scene reveals something about the characters or moves the plot forward. The main focus should be on that, rather than on what bit goes where.   Re-framing the similarities between sex scenes and fight scenes may help you. You can think about things like attacking versus retreating, or the balance and shift of power. While of course in many of your fight scenes, the parties involved might not want to sleep together, there should be some sort of unresolved tension and the fight scene is the flashpoint that is sparking that into direct conflict. If this has been building up for a while, it will feel just as inevitable as when two characters finally kiss.  Examples Of Fight Scenes – Choose Your Weapon  Obviously, fight scenes can take many forms. I’ll give a few examples and offer suggestions on how to approach fight scenes ranging from using only words to grand, epic battles.   Verbal Sparring: Fighting with Words  This is when the conversation stops just short of using fists, but you can tell they’d probably really like to use them. Jade City by Fonda Lee has lots of excellent verbal sparring. Another good example is Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir; the titular Gideon has oodles of attitude and is very talented at irritating other people on a regular basis. Kaz in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows is another character who often uses his words with devastating effects. A mark of a good fight scene with words is the volley back and forth in the dialogue, the increasing emotion, and landing the blow that hits the other person right in the weak spot and hurts as much or more than using a fist. (It\'s worth noting that these books have plenty of physical fight scenes as well.) You may see an obvious parallel with flirting, where the volley is designed to get the other person hot and bothered in a different way.   Close And Personal: Hand-To-Hand Combat  With these, you can consider if your characters will be using fists, open hands, wrestling, or throwing the other person up against the wall. It could be martial arts or a messy brawl outside a bar. One of my favourite fight scenes in my book Seven Devils is one my co-writer Elizabeth May took the lead on: Eris, one of the main characters, needs to convince a mercenary to join their extremely dangerous mission. Nyx wants absolutely nothing to do with it. So Eris convinces her in the language they both understand: violence. Nyx dodged another hit and lunged. She got a good hold on Eris and shoved her against the wall, dragging her up until her feet dangled six inches off the ground. “Enough games,” Nyx growled. “Yield.” Eris shook her head. She was breathing hard, but goddamn it, she didn’t even look like she was in pain. Who the seven devils was she? “Yield!” Eris’s eyes narrowed and she smiled.  What— She threw her head back, then slammed her forehead into Nyx’s nose. Cartilage cracked and blood wet Nyx’s lips.  After the adrenaline rush of the fight passes, Nyx is calm enough to have a conversation, and Eris is able to use her words to finish convincing the mercenary that the mission is worth taking. But the fight revealed Nyx’s attitude towards violence, duty, and honour, plus had the added benefit of building some intrigue around Eris and why she’s so good at what she does. In many hand-to-hand fights, the characters are close enough to kiss, even if that is nowhere near their goal. There’s a physicality that can work really well for moving the story along and stress-testing your characters. It’s visceral.   Fighting With Weapons  Choosing a specific type of weapon can offer lots of opportunities for fight scenes. In One for All by Lillie Lainoff, which has just been released, there is a fair amount of sword fighting as it’s a YA gender-swapped retelling of The Three Musketeers with a disabled main character:   I lunged. Steel met steel. He barely recovered from his surprise, blocking my sword at the very last second. Returned my attack with a thrust so quick I had to jump out of the way. His blade whizzed across the space where my stomach was less than a second ago.  Our blades met again and again.  My opponent slashed at my uncovered arm. A rent in the fabric. The sting of blood rushing against skin. I didn’t look at the wound; my concentration had already cost me once. Instead I took a difficult parry, channeling all my strength into the action. He tried to recover, but it was too late. It was just like what Papa told me. Yes, I was dizzy; yes, his body swayed before me like the rocking of a ship; yes, my legs felt as if they’d collapse at any moment. But I knew the rhythm of this bout. It was in my bones, in the throb of my wounded arm, in the beat of my heart.  The rhythm in this scene excerpt works particularly well. It’s telling us what’s happening in the fight, but also how the main character Tania interprets this and how she is feeling. There is a mixture of short and longer sentences to punctuate the scene.   Another fantasy book with fight scenes I enjoyed was The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. Another approach can be found in the fight scenes of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. These fights are usually short and brutal, and almost clinical as Reacher is focused more on taking out the opponent than his feelings around it. This is in line with who he is as a character.   Balancing Larger Casts: The Big Battles   A big battle scene is another challenge. A well-known example is, of course, Helm’s Deep in Lord of the Rings. Often, the way to approach these scenes is to have a glimpse of that big epic scope but then zoom in on smaller fights and moments to bring in that personal character element and create an awareness of what’s at stake. This was the approach we took at the end of Seven Mercies, the sequel to Seven Devils, which follows seven points of view at different stages of a big battle against the Tholosian empire. One character was fighting the battle up in the sky, to show the large number of ships, but the others were down on the surface fighting antagonists that challenged and confronted their individual arcs.   Tips For Writing Fight Scenes Rhythm And Pacing  I touched on rhythm in an example above, but quite often, you’ll most likely want short, sharp sentences in high action scenes. In certain instances, though, a longer, almost breathless sentence might also work well. Think about what best fits how your character would describe or notice this fight. Short sentences will often keep the pacing moving at a steady clip. Too much interiority in terms of the character’s thoughts and emotions will also slow down the pacing, so sprinkling them throughout will help balance both action and the internal reaction. A very effective fight scene might only be one or two pages, maybe even a few paragraphs, but will give your narrative propulsion to the next part of your plot.   Sharing The Right Details   This follows right on from pacing. Even if it’s non-stop frenetic action, if you are overwhelming the reader with too many set directions and going into too much granular detail about the fight, they won’t know what is important enough to take in. The result is that, often, they tune out and start skimming.   The way to fix this is to filter those five sensory details through that particular character. What would they notice about this fight, and why? What about their background or worldview will feed into this scene? Are they a professional fighter, or is this their first confrontation with violence? What flashes of imagery will really stick in the reader’s mind? Let us feel their muscles shaking, their lungs burning, the sweat running down their temples.   Research I often research tips and tricks for fighting with the specific weapon I’ve chosen. For example, in my latest work in progress, I currently have a fight between someone using a trident and a glaive. It was easy to go on Youtube and see people sparring with these weapons. I took some notes on how their bodies moved, when they seemed to struggle, the sounds they made and expressions on their faces, and thought about how that would translate to my characters.   Choreography I also do a very loose choreograph of the fight scene, even if I know I will not necessarily give the reader a detailed blow by blow, it’s helpful for me to know how big of a space I need, how long the fight might be, and crucially, where the exchanges of power are going to happen. When will it seem like one person is going to win, and when will it switch? What sort of injuries will result? I have been known to act it out in my living room a few times, too. This stops there from accidentally being two left hands or an extra arm cropping up in the scene.   Still Stuck? Try Mixing Things Up  If a fight scene really isn’t clicking, try changing the setting or location. Change the weapon. Change the time of day or the weather. Change the point of view. Make the person who wins lose instead, or vice versa. Make the person worse at fighting, or change it so that they’ve been injured and thus can’t use one of their hands.  Don’t Forget: Fighting As Flirting   Lastly, there’s always the option to combine a fight scene and a sex scene if it fits your story. Who doesn’t love that moment when one character has the point of a knife against the throat of the enemy you’re pretty sure is going to become a lover? Or teaching someone to fight as an excuse to fluster them?  I hope these examples and tips have given you the confidence to tackle your fight scenes in your fiction, whether you’re a lover, a fighter, or both.   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write A Romance Novel

Romance novel sales are booming. In these dark and uncertain times, readers are turning to books for reasurrance and solace. When it comes to comfort reading, you can always rely on romance to deliver.  So how do you write a romance novel? Is there a formula? Is it easy? Read on to find out.  What Is Romance Fiction? Romance fiction is a term refering to novels which have a central love story and an emotionally satisfying and uplifting ending. Someone meets someone else, after a few ups and downs, they get together.   As a genre, romance contains a huge variety, but the expectation of what’s in the book changes slightly by market. In the US, the novel is focused tightly on the romantic storyline, with other aspects of the characters’ lives (work, family, friends etc) playing a much smaller role. If you’re in the UK, a romance novel could be anything with a strong romantic thread. UK-style romantic novels tend to embrace family drama or friendships or life changes alongside the development of the love story. In the US, such books are called ‘women’s fiction’ or ‘chicklit’.   Writing Romance Novels  The term ‘romance’ covers anything from light hearted and angst-free to deeply emotional, but the one thing they all have in common is the happy ending. Genre labels promise the reader a certain type of experience - a crime novel will end with the baddie being caught, a horror novel will be scary and the monster will be defeated (at least for now) … and the promise of romance is that everything will be okay in the end. This can take the form of an HEA (Happy Ever After) or an HFN (Happy For Now).   You can write love stories that end in tragedy - these can often be intensely romantic - but these are tragedies, rather than romances. Romantic stories that end without the main characters getting together could be classed as women’s fiction. A romance novel must have a happy ending. Seriously, this point is non-negotiable.   The majority of romance that you see is about cis, straight, white people, but your book doesn’t have to be. There are readers who love, indeed crave, books with different types (and combinations) of protagonists. Write the book you want to write - there is a readership for it out there, you just have to find where they hang out. In this article I talk about a heroine and hero out of convenience, but please substitute any combination of genders (and/or feature gender non-conforming people ) as you prefer.   Romance Writing Examples Romance is a genre that is known for being a ‘comfort read’. A lot of this comfort factor comes from the knowledge that there will be a happy ending. Sometimes, this gives rise to the suggestion that they are ‘predictable’ and constraining to write. This is not the case. Yes, we know that everything will be okay by the end, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put your characters through the wringer before they get there (mwahahaha).  As I mentioned before, romance is a wide genre. When it comes to backgrounds, settings and story types, you can have just about anything. This means that there are a great many subgenres of romance. Below is a small selection:   Contemporary Romance These romances are set in the present (or recent past). The setting can be just about anywhere. I’ve written books set in offices, microbiology labs and even one set in a hospice.  Some contemporary romance examples are People We Meet On Vacation by Emily Henry and Love And Other Words by Christina Lauren. Historical Romance Historical romances are set in the past. Technically, anything set more than five decades ago is classed as historical, but most people consider it to be pre-1960. The regency period is particularly popular. Of late, there’s been a boom of romances set during World War 2 as well. The Duke And I By Julia Quinn and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon are popular examples of historical romance. Saga Romance This is a specific type of historical romance. The heroines are usually working class women who overcome great adversity. The stories can span a whole lifetime, or even several generations and the secondary plots can carry as much weight as the romance plot. Examples are The Rockwood Chronicles by Dilly Court, and the Dilly’s Story books by Rosie Goodwin.  Paranormal Romance These romances feature vampires, ghosts, shapeshifters, dragons and other paranormal characters who fall in love with humans or with each other. The All Souls series by Deborah Harkness, or the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning are popular examples of this subgenre.  Sci-Fi Romance This subgenre features romances set in a science fiction world, with sci-fi settings and sub plots. Think Cinder by Marissa Meyer or The Host by Stephenie Meyer.  Urban Fantasy Romance This involves characters who live in an alternate world that is very like our own, but with magical or fantastical elements in it. The setting is often a city, but, despite the name, it doesn’t have to be. Examples include House Of Earth And Blood by Sarah J. Maas or Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews.  Western Romance These are romances set in the wild west, and often have their own subgenres too (such as western cowboy romance and western Christian romance). The Texan’s Wager by Jodi Thomas and High Country Bride by Linda Lael Miller are examples of this subgenre.  Young Adult Romance This subgenre of romance features teenaged protagonists. YA books usually have no sex scenes, but can have just about any type of subplot. Think To All The Boys I\'ve Loved Before by Jenny Han and The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon. Interracial/Multicultural Romance These are novels where at least one of the protagonists is a person of colour. Note that you can have interracial romances where there is no white main character when the characters are from two different non-white races. Examples from this subgenre are Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert and If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane.  Romantic Suspense This is where romance and crime meet. The main story is a romance, but the crime/suspense storyline carries almost equal weight. Verity by Colleen Hoover and The Witness by Nora Roberts are examples from this subgenre.  Erotic Romance These are romances with a lot of sex scenes. The sex scenes are integral to the plot. Think The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang or Follow Me Darkly by Helen Hardt.  Inspirational Romance these books are often chaste and have no profanity in them. The characters often find redemption through their faith (most commonly Christianity). Two examples are Against The Tide by Elizabeth Camden and Undeniably Yours by Becky Wade.  ‘Clean And Wholesome’ Romance These are also chaste books with no profanity, but differ from inspirational romance because these isn’t a faith element. Think Sanibel Dreams by Hope Holloway and The Seat Filler by Sariah Wilson.  Mills And Boon Romances Mills and Boon, which is probably the most famous romance publisher in the world, is in a special category of its own. Harlequin/Mills and Boon novels are sometimes called ‘category romances’ and there are different imprints which have different requirements. Medical romances are set in and around the medical profession, historical romance has (you guessed it) a historical setting, contemporary romances have modern, glamorous settings etc. They have a particular style about them that you can only capture if you read a lot of them (do your homework!). If you are wanting to write for Harlequin or Mills and Boon, check out their latest guidelines and send your submission to the most relevant imprint. How To Write A Romance Novel Step By Step Let’s take a moment to talk about tropes. All genres have tropes - characters, settings or situations that crop up frequently in that genre. With romance, readers often adore these tropes. If you spend any time on romance Twitter (#romancelandia, if you want to check it out), you’ll see people asking for book recommendations that feature their favourite tropes. Again, writing a trope doesn’t have to mean making things predictable. Take a trope and see how you can do something unexpected. Don’t forget that you can mix and match tropes. ‘Friends to lovers’ could pair easily with ‘fake relationship’, for example. (These are two of my favourite tropes to read).   No discussion of romance would be complete without discussing sex. Once again, there’s room for all heat levels. If you like writing sex scenes, then write them. If you’d rather not, then don’t. The choice is up to you. Every heat level has readers who love it. I write ‘closed door’ or ‘fade to black’ romance - the characters do sleep together, but it’s not on the page. My reading preference tends to lean towards ‘fade to black’ too.    So, where do you start?   Read Romances  I’m going to assume that if you’re going to write a romance novel,  you’ve read widely in the genre. If not, please go and read some. If you try to write a romance novel (or indeed, a novel of any genre) without reading the genre, it will be obvious to the reader that you haven’t done your homework. Please do your homework. This will also help you find your niche, which is often a small way in which you subvert the conventions of the genre in order to engage and intrigue your reader. If you\'re wondering how to start a romance novel and need an initial spark of inspiration, try using one of our romance writing prompts. Create Your Characters  As with all novels, start with character. Ask yourself some questions:  Who is your protagonist? Most romance novels centre the heroine. She needs to be relatable - the reader has to care about them. Having a protagonist who\'s nice or funny helps with this.  What is their external goal? It could be anything from ‘I want that promotion’ to ‘my aunt died and mysteriously left me this teashop and I need to make a go of it’. Of course, ‘I want to find love’ is also a perfectly valid goal when it comes to romance.   What is their internal conflict? All good stories are about change. What does your protagonist need (even if they don’t realise it yet)? It could be a limiting belief like ‘I’m not good at art’ or ‘I can’t trust people’. Work out where they are now and where they need to be at the end of the book.  Now do the same for your hero (or other heroine). They should both change and be changed by each other. Ideally, their external goals should conflict. Which leads on nicely to the next section…  Create Your Conflict  What is keeping your main characters apart? Romance novels need conflict. The bigger the conflict, the higher the tension and the more satisfying it feels when they finally get together.  What is the inciting incident? This could be the first time the would-be lovers meet. This plot point sets the tone for the romantic trope - for example, it’ll tell you whether they will be ‘enemies to lovers’ or ‘friends to lovers’ or even a ‘marriage in trouble that’s revived’. It also gives the characters a reason to keep running into each other. In romcoms, this scene is usually called the ‘meet cute’.  What is the crisis point? The ‘black moment’ or ‘all is lost moment’, if you like. At this point it should feel like the thing that is keeping them apart is insurmountable. All is lost. But wait! The protagonist has changed. By embracing that change, she is able to think of a way over the problem, so that she can be with her loved one. It used to be fashionable for the hero to swoop in and rescue the heroine. Nowadays, heroines tend to rescue themselves, perhaps with a little help.  Develop Your Secondary Characters  Secondary characters in romance are often key to the story. Chief among them is the best friend. They give us a foil whereby the readers can see other sides to the heroine. They also give the heroine someone to talk to, so that you don’t have to write reams of internal monologue. If you’re looking for series potential, the best friend is right there - just waiting to be the heroine of the next book.  Other secondary characters, like family or the wider circle of friends, help bring the heroine’s social circle alive and show her as a fully rounded person. Family - whether biological family or ‘found’ family plays a huge part in making up the background world of the main characters in romance.  Explore Your Settings  Setting often plays a key part, too. Small town romances allow you to have a whole village where the characters can interact. Even if your book is set in a city, you’ll probably have an office or a café where they meet. Romance books are often written as series, which can be linked by having them all take place in the same ‘world’.   Start Writing  Once you’ve worked out all those things, you should have a decent outline for your romance. Now write it, as you would any other novel. Use your external goal to create situations where the characters are in conflict with each other. I usually come up with three potential obstacles to the external goal and three potential ways that the heroine’s internal flaw or false belief is challenged and how each changes her. This will give you at least three key scenes that can lead up to the crisis point.   Romances can be written from the point of view of the heroine, the hero, or both. And the choice of first person or third person narrative depends entirely on your preference.  Romance That Resonates  Once you’ve figured out your protagonists, created a conflict, and explored your setting, don’t forget about the main themes and overall message behind your romance. The main driver for romance books is emotion. All the other elements of your book should tie together to work towards crafting a story which resonates.   Romance often deals with realistic situations and issues that affect people (mostly women) in the home - things like illness, bereavement or the sudden loss of a career. Good romance writers are masters at pulling the heartstrings. This is probably most important at the end of the book. You’re aiming to leave the reader with a sense of warm and fuzzy contentment. Hopefully, they can take that feeling with them when they resurface from your book into real life. Even better, they’ll want to recapture that feeling by reading your next romance.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write The Perfect Villain

Literary villains are characters that readers love to hate. In fact, in many cases, well-written villains are so compelling that they can even overshadow the hero or heroine of the story, with personality types that are much more memorable than the detective or superhero that hunts them down and eventually brings them to justice.   Have a think about the following well-known villains: Darth Vader, Voldemort, Hannibal Lecter and Count Dracula.   What is it that makes all these characters stand out?   What is that makes readers almost root for their victory?  Well in this article I’m going to discuss the key character traits of a villain, explore a handful of literary villains that have gone down in history and finally, give you some tips to bring your villain to life on the page.  What Makes A Good Villain?  The most important thing to note is that villains should not be created any differently to the other protagonists in your novel. They may have done the unthinkable. Their crimes may be highly unrelatable. But they are still multi-faceted, complex people with vulnerabilities, motivations and needs, no different to anyone else.   A reader’s enjoyment of a novel very much depends on whether they can relate to, sympathise with and even root for all the characters in the novel. This is easy to do when a character is immediately likeable, courageous or an underdog (because everybody loves an underdog!), but even a villain needs to be relatable in some way, and sometimes even likeable – whether the reader will want to admit it or not!   The key to writing a good villain is backstory, vulnerability and motivation. There is nothing worse than reading about a villain carrying out a series of heinous crimes with no explanation as to why they acted that way. Every villain will have suffered at some point in their past. Every villain will have been a victim. This is essential backstory to garnering sympathy from the reader and ultimately enhancing your story.   Another key to writing a good villain is character. Your villain is not just the crimes they commit. They will need their own set of idiosyncrasies and personality traits, completely independent of their crimes.   Let’s explore some of the characteristics of believable villains.   Characteristics Of Believable Villains  Here are five key characteristics of believable villains that you can use as a checklist while creating your own.   Backstory. As we’ve explored briefly above, every villain needs a backstory that provides an explanation for their villainous behaviour. Think about the backstory of the most well-known villains. Darth Vader. Count Dracula. Most of them started out as relatively good people. But it was something in their past, some sort of suffering that led them down a dark path.   Complexity of character. A villain who is nothing but their crimes, is not a villain your reader will care about. In creating your villain think about who they are as a person. Their likes and dislikes. Their wide range of emotions. Their body language. Their motivations. Some villains may be sarcastic and self-deprecating, with a limited sense of empathy, whereas others may possess a notable sense of humour (though a deeply twisted one).   The capacity for evil. This may not be the case for all villains. Some may carry out horrific actions because they have no choice. Others may experience regret or guilt. But some villains are created as pure evil, with the willingness to do bad things and feel nothing. Think of Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones, who is effectively a serial killer who showed no remorse for his actions.   Justification. As mentioned above, some villains are not pure evil. They may carry out evil but only do so from a perspective of personal righteousness. These villains are otherwise known as the anti-hero of their story, a sympathetic villain who garners immediate sympathy from the reader as their story is told wholly from their own point of view.  Special skill that sets them apart. This is another key trait that your villain may or may not possess. There are a few examples that immediately come to mind. Jason Bateman’s character in Ozark with his defining feature as a mathematical genius and Hannibal Lecter, who as well being a cannibal, is also a brilliant psychologist, which is largely what makes him so compelling.   There are other common characteristics that you can play with to make your villain an authentic, relatable, three-dimensional person, such as:   Sarcastic and droll.  Self-deprecating.  Charming (both in looks and personality).  Intelligent and accomplished.  Persuasive.  Narcissistic.  Psychopathic.   Best Literary Villains  Now let’s explore three well-known literary villains and find out exactly what it is that makes them memorable.   The Grand High Witch In The Witches By Roald Dahl  Described in the novel as “the most evil woman in creation”, she is on a mission to torture and murder as many children as she can. But what makes her stand out isn’t so much her crimes but the way she is depicted as not only terrifying, but charming, glamorous and highly intelligent.   Tom Ripley In The Talented Mr Ripley By Patricia Highsmith  Tom is a highly relatable character than you cannot help but root for. Okay, less so when he murders his beloved and assumes his identity, but you can feel the pain of his broken heart when he is pushed away by the man he so admires and loves.   Humbert Humbert In Lolita By Vladimir Nabokov  This psychopathic paedophile is a very well-crafted character. Despite kidnapping a young girl whose mother he murdered, and driving her around while coaxing her into sexual acts, you cannot help but become charmed by him and his persuasiveness. With the fancy prose and his enigmatic speeches, you almost forget that he is a villain in its most horrific form.   How To Write A Villain Now that we’ve delved into the characteristics of villains and explored some well-known examples, here are some top tips to help you go about developing your own.   Spend some time crafting a complete and foolproof backstory for your villain. Think about where they were brought up, any influences or role models they might have had, and what happened to them to lead them down this dark path.   Create the elements of their personality from scratch, completely independent from their crimes. Who are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What about their mannerisms, quirks and body language? How might a stranger view them if they saw them walking down the street?   Find an area of sympathy, or something that makes them relatable. Why might a reader warm to or root for them, in spite of their crimes?   Put yourself in their position. If you had experienced their childhood, their past, if you had their vulnerabilities, their values and their character, would it make you capable of their crimes? Have you created a believable villain?  And finally, unless you are writing a romcom or satire, ensure that you steer away from inadvertently creating a comical villain. There is a different between a witty, humorous villain and one whose actions and mannerisms are akin to a pantomime ‘baddie’. Avoid cliches in their dialogue and be careful when describing their actions and expressions.   Writing Believable Villains As we’ve discovered, the best villains are those that the readers can connect with, because they understand why a character has gone down the path they have and where they might go next. If a character has no vulnerabilities or motivations, your story will fall flat because the only conflict is external and therefore can be solved by anyone. You want your reader to finish the book and feel disappointed when the villain is brought to justice!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Incorporate Motifs In Your Writing

Have you ever read a novel that evokes very specific imagery, or even a colour scheme, the whole way through?   Not quite sure what I mean?   Well, here’s an example.   Have you ever read Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere? Even if you haven’t you can probably guess that one of the principal motifs in this novel is fire. Throughout the narrative Ng cleverly uses this imagery in many different ways, from showing the power and strength of physical fire and its ability to cleanse and purify, to the sparks flying between two people, and the smothering of a character’s creative fire inside of her.   In this article, I’m going to answer the question \'what are motifs?\', explore how a motif can be developed throughout a story, teach you how to write a motif, and provide some more examples of motifs in well-known novels.  What Are Motifs?   A motif is a literary device that occurs as a recurring element in a novel and often has symbolic significance. The key aspect of a motif is repetition, which helps illuminate dominant themes and ideas in a story. Sometimes it can be a recurring image, as we explored above with the use of fire in Little Fires Everywhere. But other times, it can be a repeated word, phrase or topic, and can even be a recurring situation, sound, smell, temperature, or colour scheme.   Think of literary motifs as little breadcrumbs or clues that an author will leave for their reader in order to reinforce or deepen a certain theme or perspective in their novel. They are often used to set the tone, change the atmosphere or conjure a particular mood. Think of how a darkening sky or a flock of noisy birds can suddenly instil apprehension, or how a soft, glowing candle or a sunset can build warmth and romance.   It’s important to note, however, that the use of motifs depends on the type of novel. Some novels are enhanced by one or more motifs, whilst in others, motifs serve no purpose at all.   Let\'s look at why that is... Motifs, Symbols and Themes - Key Differences  Motifs, symbols and themes are often grouped together and sometimes used interchangeably, but to get the most out of them in your work, you should see them as overlapping but standalone literary devices.   Let’s refresh ourselves by looking at their distinct definitions.   Themes are the main ideas in a story. They are the backdrop or foundation on which the series of events and plot points of a narrative are then laid. Themes are abstract and conceptual.   Symbols are objects that represent something else. A white dove might represent innocence or peace and a snake might represent poison or fertility. They can appear in just a single point in a story.   Motifs are often symbols, but can also be repeated phrases and words, smells and colours. They are tangible and concrete and must be repeated throughout a story to bring the theme to life.   Now let’s look how each literary device might overlap and work together in a story.   A symbol in a story can be a wilting flower or shrivelled up leaves that symbolise death. If these images are repeated several times through the story, they will become a recurring literary motif, which is used to point to the theme of the story: grief and loss.   Examples Of Motifs In Literature  As we’ve explored above, you can find motifs throughout literature, in many of your favourite novels. Let’s look at this in more depth.   The Picture Of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde  Wilde uses a number of motifs in this novel but the most standout motif is the colour white which is used to chart Dorian’s trajectory from a figure of innocence to a figure of degradation. In the beginning, it is used to portray his innocence in boyhood, with his \"white purity\" being the key reason Lord Henry is enthralled by him. But later, when we learn that Dorian has sacrificed his innocence, there is a quote from the Book of Isaiah: \"though your sins be as scarlet, yet I will make them white as snow\" which outlines his longing to return to innocence.   Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro  The motif in Ishiguro’s bestselling novel is undoubtedly copies, which begins with the students themselves who are essentially clones of people in the outside world. This is how Kathy finds out that their world is but a copied one, as she sees students copy the gestures and mannerisms of the people they watch on television.   There is also a rebellion against this motif of copying throughout the novel, for example, with Kathy observing Tommy’s drawings to be intricate and original creations.   Romeo And Juliet – William Shakespeare  Shakespeare uses light and dark throughout the play. For example, the lovers are described as \"stars\" that light the dark sky. Romeo often refers to Juliet as a powerful light source and Juliet, too, says that Romeo lights her. Who can forget the famous balcony scene when Romeo says, \"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.\" But ultimately the dichotomy of light and dark is there to convey Romeo and Juliet’s doomed future. No matter how much light exists between them, the dark cannot exist alongside it, so one will ultimately prevail.   How To Use Motifs In Your Writing  Now, onto the crucial information that I know you’ve been waiting patiently for – how you can use motifs in your own writing!  Well, the first thing to note is that motifs aren’t for every story. If it isn’t obvious then don’t beat yourself up trying to find something that works. There is nothing worse than an ineffective motif! Yes, they may enhance a story and evoke different moods, but there are many other ways of doing so – from setting the tone and focusing on your sub-plot to working on your rising action and using descriptive adjectives.   The second crucial thing to note is that motifs may already appear in your story without you even realising it – your brain works in marvellous ways! Have a read of your work and see if you can spot them. They may be included with a light touch to begin with, but you can always deepen their connection to the underlying theme of your novel in subsequent drafts.   But if you do feel like giving it go, here are some tips to help you get started.   As we’ve discussed above, motifs are a way of pinpointing the central theme or themes of your novel so that must always be your starting point. Spend some time thinking (preferably on a nice long dog walk) about the underlying message or purpose of your novel.   Once you’ve spent some time reflecting, write down any themes that come to mind. Bullet point form is best so they can be reeled off in short, clear phrases.   Then, once you’ve written down the key themes of your novel, brainstorm any imagery, words, memories or events that come to mind for each. These will serve as the breadcrumbs of your motifs, which you can hone with every new draft.   Finally, take some time to review what you’ve noted down and focus on a handful of motifs that best represent the underlying themes of your novel. Remember that you need to make sure that they’re not out of place in your narrative or amongst the characters you have developed. For example, using sunshine as a motif in a novel that is based in the Arctic Circle in the depths of winter is probably not the best fit.   Writing Motifs Now that we\'ve answered the question \'what are motifs?\', and provided some great examples for you to use, you\'ll be able to effectively explore the use of motifs in your writing. Motifs are effective literary devices that can be used to set the mood of your novel and ultimately draw attention to its underlying themes. They are, however, by no means essential and should only be used if they can be integrated naturally within the narrative without distorting the plot or characterisation.    Take your time when adding motifs to your novel. Play around with different imagery and colours. Or if you’re feeling brave, get in the writing zone, and see what creativity flows out of your subconscious!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Are You Writing Clichés Without Realising?

How many times have you read a book and thought: ‘Now, where have I read this before?’ That is one of the first indications that you’ve entered into cliché territory. The word ‘cliché’ can be pretty vague with people often wondering what exactly it could mean. What are clichés in writing and why are they considered so harmful? This article will not only explore what they are, but also how to avoid using them in your writing.   In layman’s terms, clichés are phrases and expressions that have been so grossly overused with time that they’ve become largely meaningless. How many times have you read ‘in a nutshell’ and thought: not this again! That’s exactly what a cliché does. It tends to annoy the reader to the point that they simply overlook or ignore the clichés in the writing, or worse, put down the book altogether.   Examples Of Clichés In Writing  There are many examples of clichés, such as ‘one bird in hand is better than the two in the bush’, ‘a chip off the old block’, or ‘laughter is the best medicine’. They might have been in vogue many years ago, but due to overuse, they’ve become tedious. However, clichés can also be found in descriptions and overall themes.   The Delicate Heroine And The Strong-Jawed Hero  These descriptions are found in so many books that they’ve effectively become clichés. The ‘delicate as a daisy’ heroine who falls in love with the dark, handsome and athletic hero. While this may have once been very popular, and still has a lot of fans, most readers want to steer clear of this storyline. They’re more interested in three dimensional characters. Even when using this specific storyline, you can easily turn this cliché into an original concept and explore why the heroine is delicate and good-natured. What happened in her life that made her like that? How do the trials and tribulations of life awaken a darker side to her character? Now, we have something the reader would be more interested in reading. Similarly, the dark and handsome man could have a back story which allows us to envision him as a three-dimensional character.   Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn is an excellent example of a story that defies all sort of clichés. It is a bold and original idea which is why it took off so well upon publication. Readers simply couldn’t get enough of Amy and Nick Dunne precisely because they were so unexpected.   Using Dreams Or The Weather To Start A Book Starting off a book with a dream may sound like a brilliant idea, but it is not the most inventive. It has been used many times in the past to the point that readers quite simply skim through this to get to the actual content. Similarly, using the weather as a prop is also an example of a cliché. If the weather is somehow pushing the plot forward, then that is acceptable, but using it just for the sake of it is unoriginal and meaningless. Similarly, if the dream sequence is doing something to help the story along, then it makes sense, but including it just to increase the word count would not be a wise idea.   Using Well-Worn Plot Lines That Readers Have Become Well Versed To  How much do you look forward to reading about a love triangle? Not much, right? It is such an overused trope that most readers simply sigh when they encounter two people who’ve fallen in love with the same person. In the past, this storyline has worked really well, but precisely because of that, it has become a bit of a cliché now. People want to read something different, something that takes them out of their comfort zone. If you add the demands of technology and social media with people not having enough time, it is more important than ever for stories to be fresh and fast-paced. If there’s a twist to the old love triangle, then that may be worth exploring, but it is quite obvious that we’ve outgrown the traditional love triangle.  How To Avoid Clichés In Writing It may not be possible to completely avoid all the types of cliché in your writing, but you can definitely weed out most of them if you try. First of all, it is very important to edit and proofread your work. That in itself helps in highlighting any clichés that you may have used. The key is to put some time between writing and editing. Once you’re done writing your book or story, put it in a drawer and forget about it for a few weeks or a month. Afterwards, when you look at it with a fresh set of eyes, the clichés will jump right at you. It will be much easier to catch them.   While editing your work, pay close attention to sentences or passages that bore you or sound rehearsed. Chances are that those are clichés. For example, if you have used the weather to initiate conversation between two characters, try making the weather an important factor in the plot, or maybe change the thread of the conversation entirely. Changing the overall tone of the sentence or completely rephrasing it can also help in eliminating clichés.   Another way to avoid clichés is to think outside the box. Even if you’re writing a stereotypical plot that veers into cliché territory like a love triangle, adding original ideas can help make it stand out. The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer might feature a traditional love triangle, but the reason it became such a huge hit is that Meyer added the vampire and werewolf element to help the plot stand out. In addition to that, there were other more complex plot strings that helped the series rise above the competition.   Why Should We Avoid Clichés?  The reason for avoiding is simple: readers don’t want to read them. Not only do they make the writing seem clunky and boring, but they can also transform a perfectly fresh idea into a stale mess. Often our brains simply skim this kind of writing as it sounds repetitive or rehashed.  Also, clichés are not good for a writer’s reputation. Using too many of these phrases and descriptions can cause you to be accused of being lazy or sloppy. Even if the novel is exploring a fresh idea that hasn’t been attempted in the past, the use of clichés can ruin its overall effect which is the last thing a writer could want.   Another reason to avoid clichés is that they can make the writing look shallow especially where it shouldn’t. Imagine for a moment that you’re writing a very tense scene between the two protagonists in your novel which will serve as a climax of sorts, and at the opportune moment, one of the characters ends up saying, ‘what goes around comes around.’  Not only would this deflate the entire scene, but it might actually make the reader abandon the book altogether because of course they’d expect something deeper from the character considering it’s the climax.   Are Clichés Necessarily A Bad Thing? I think the general consensus will remain that clichés in writing should be avoided. They make the writing seem dull, sloppy and uninspiring. They squeeze the life out of an interesting plot. However, in some cases, it may not be a bad thing to include a cliché or two especially when it looks like readers might be looking for something familiar.   Think of it like when editors ask writers to use fewer adjectives and adverbs, or to use them when it is absolutely necessary. The same could apply for clichés. Sometimes, it could be imperative to use a familiar phrase, or indeed, to repeat something for greater impact. Readers might enjoy the familiarity and that could help them immerse themselves in the book more.   Avoiding Clichés Looking at the above points, it is pretty obvious that clichés can dampen or completely ruin the impact of good writing. They include phrases, similes, metaphors or descriptions that have lost their meaning over time and are just easily overlooked and ignored by readers. Using too many clichés in writing can make writers look lazy and unoriginal.   It is important to avoid clichés by thoroughly editing and proofreading any work you produce and being more aware of what you are writing. Obviously, nobody plans on writing clichés… they have a knack for finding their way into a piece of writing. The key is to keep an eye out. The more clichés that are eliminated, the better and less clunky the writing will be.   While in some cases it may be pertinent to include a cliché or two for familiarity or effect, for the most part, clichés should be avoided to make your writing stand out. Readers today are looking for fresh, authentic voices with plots that shock and enthral them in equal measure. There is no room for clichés anymore.    Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write A Blurb

While browsing the table displays in a bookshop, what is the first thing that catches our eye? The front cover, yes, but it’s the back cover or inside flap (in a hardback) that convinces us to actually buy the book. That short description of the book is what we call a blurb.  A blurb may seem like a simple thing to write… I mean, how hard can it be to produce 150-200 words that describe your book effectively? The truth is that getting a blurb right is no walk in the park. It can make or break a book and hence it has to be very carefully crafted.   In this article, we will explore how to write a blurb that not only perfectly describes your book, but also has the potential to maximise your sales.   What Is A Blurb?  As mentioned earlier, the blurb is what appears on the inside flap of a hardback book and the back cover of a paperback – and in most cases, it’s also used to promote the book on online bookstores and in the press.   A blurb is very different from a synopsis. A synopsis is a (rather boring) one-to-two-page summary of your book that includes the entire plot including twists and the ending. A synopsis is usually sent to an agent or editor so they can quickly grasp what your entire book is about. A blurb, on the other hand, keeps all the secrets hidden and is created in order to convince people to spend their money on your book! The primary function of a blurb is to entice readers, giving them enough information about your characters, the story conflict and stakes to want to read the book (but without giving away the climax).   Blurbs, Genre And You  Every genre has its own kind of blurb. While blurbs for thrillers and crime novels start off with a bang (not a literal one!), the ones for literary fiction can sometimes take a languid pace. For non-fiction, the focus is not on the characters but the overall concept behind the book.   All self-published authors must get their blurbs right, as a good blurb sells books. Traditionally published authors may receive help from their agent or editor, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn how to write a blurb and get to grips with what a great blurb looks like. Later in the article, we will examine some examples of a good blurb.   What Does A Blurb Contain?  A blurb needs to sell the book, and that means that often it contains more than just a condensed summary of the story. If you\'re wondering how to write a book blurb, look no further. Here are six things a blurb should (and often does) contain:  1. The Author’s Popularity  If you’re a well-known author, that’s what the blurb should start with. There are countless times when we’ve bought books just because they’re from a USA Today or Sunday Times bestselling author. Also, if you’re the recipient of an award, that should also go straight in the blurb, if it isn’t already on the cover.   Fortunately (or unfortunately) the prestige surrounding these labels counts. I remember discovering Donna Tartt for the first time through her Pulitzer winning novel The Goldfinch. I knew nothing about her, but I bought her book because of the award. I then picked up The Secret History which turned me into a die-hard Tartt fan.   You don’t need to put your entire biography in the blurb, although some publishers in the United States tend to do that, but it is useful to give readers a little flavour of what you’ve achieved in the past as it often helps them decide whether to invest in your book or not.   Remember, hardbacks are not cheap - so a blurb needs to do double (or triple) duty if possible. 2. The Story Description Once the author’s major achievements have been listed, it’s important to get straight to the point with what’s inside the book. Often, publishers like to give a little taste of the overall content of the book with phrases like ‘The Crime Novel Everyone is Talking About’ or ‘A Story You Won’t Forget In A Hurry’. These are meant to tempt the reader to read further and discover what the book is about. With such catchy headlines, it’s quite probable that the reader will want to read on.   3. A Great First Line (Or Two) Hooking the reader with the first line is the best way to get them to want to buy your book. In the blurb of Laini Taylor’s first book of her YA fantasy trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, we get a first line that intrigues, then a second line that sends shivers down your spine: Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war. Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious \"errands\", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out. When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself? However, what really stands out in a blurb is the main character…who (or what) is Akiva? Why is he haunted? Why is Karou’s hair blue and why doesn’t she know who she is? The only way you will find out is to read the book. A blurb that works!  Let’s take a look at blurbs and their characters in more detail… 4. The Main Character  It’s important to remember that the protagonist is often the main aspect of your story that will draw readers to your book. A blurb should do a good job of introducing the main character, but in a way that leaves room for intrigue. The trick is never to give the game away, because the blurb is meant to entice the reader to buy your book. If you tell a potential reader all there is to know about the main character and plot, then there won’t be any incentive to buy the book.   Here’s a look at the blurb for Gone Girl, a book that has defined a generation:  Who are you? What have we done to each other?  These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy\'s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn\'t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren\'t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone.  So what really did happen to Nick\'s beautiful wife?  As you can see, the focus of this blurb is on Nick Dunne, the main character. We instantly need to know whether Nick is guilty or innocent, and we can tell straight away this is going to be a book full of twists and turns.   The blurb for Gone Girl does everything it’s required to do. It has a hook at the start that propels the reader to read on. And as they do, they’re introduced to the main character who’s in a major conflict…which is the next topic of this discussion. 5. The Conflict People read books for the drama (even gentler books need something to happen in them). They want to see the protagonist go through impossible situations and root for them. Books offer a necessary distraction, especially now the world has become such an impossible place, and for a book to properly entertain us there needs to be conflict.   Therefore, the blurb needs to reflect that conflict too.   As soon as we introduce the main character in the blurb, it’s important to throw them into a dilemma or conflict. For example, looking at the above blurb, it’s obvious that Nick is dealing with the disappearance of his wife which forms the major conflict in the story. Why did Amy disappear? What could have possibly happened? That is the stuff of drama.   Let’s look at another blurb, this one is from The Kindness of Psychopaths by Alan Gorevan:  How far would you go for those you love? When Valentina López Vázquez vanishes from her home one morning, it’s obvious that she was taken by force. What happened to her next is not so obvious. The disappearance forces two men on a gruelling search for the truth: Barry Wall, Valentina’s frantic husband, and Joe Byrne, the nihilistic detective in charge of the investigation. They are locked on a devastating course that will take them to places darker than they ever dreamt – places without limits… Don’t miss this page-turning thriller. Perfect for fans of Shari Lapena, Peter Swanson, Jennifer Hillier, and Linwood Barclay.  As you can see, this blurb starts off with an intriguing hook and then dives straight into the main characters and the overall conflict, which is the disappearance of Valentina Lopez Vazquez. Creating intrigue around the primary conflict is what will get people to buy your book. While there may be plenty of internal conflicts going on in the main character’s head, they are not suitable to include in a blurb. Since the blurb is brief and to the point, the physical aspects of the conflict are what should make an appearance.   If you look at the above blurb, it also introduces us to another useful device that ought to be used in a blurb: WHY should readers buy the book?  6. Why Should Readers Buy The Book? That is a question readers will be asking themselves when they’re reading your blurb. They will be looking for a sense of familiarity, something that connects the book to one they’ve read and enjoyed in the past.   In the blurb of The Kindness of Psychopaths, it mentions that fans of Shari Lapena and Peter Swanson will love the book. That’s the connection readers will be looking for… a reason for them to buy the book.   Much like when supplying comparative titles when pitching your books to agent and editors, those same titles can be used in your blurb. So, if you feel your book is similar in theme to the books of a famous author or similar to a popular TV series or movie, mention that in your blurb. It may be a short line, but it’s an important one.   What Makes A Good Blurb?  Looking at the above points, here is a brief checklist of what makes a good blurb and what doesn’t:  A Good Blurb  A brief note on the author’s popularity An intriguing opening line that hooks the reader’s attention Introduction to the main character Introduction to the primary conflict and stakes The reason why a reader should buy the book  A Bad Blurb  Focuses on the internal conflicts of the main character Introduces unnecessary characters Summarises the entire plot (intrigue sells) Gives away the climax Fails to establish the stakes  Fails to identify the author or compare them to other similar authors   The blurb is one of the most important things you will write for your book, especially if you are a self-published author. Since you only have 150-200 words before you lose your reader’s attention, you have to make every word count. Even more than the cover, it’s the blurb that will make the reader consider whether or not they want to buy the book.  So get your sales hat on, think commercially, and hook your readers with a fantastic blurb they won’t be able to ignore. Make them ask ‘what happens next, then?’ and ensure that the only way they can find out is by buying and reading your wonderful book!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Tone In Writing; The How, Why, And When

The use of the right type of tone in writing can be transformational for a reader.  It can mean the difference between them connecting with a novel and wanting to read until the very last page or giving up and starting something else, which is undoubtedly every author’s worst nightmare!  To avoid the latter, try to write with the end-user in mind – your readers. Think about the different tones in writing and what type of tone is suitable for your novel. Think about how you want a reader to feel when they are turning the pages of your novel.   In this guide, I’m going to explain the meaning of tone in literary terms and its importance, give you examples of how tone has been used successfully in literature and provide some pointers to help you develop the type of tone that is right for your novel.   What Is Tone In Writing?  First, let’s consider tone during in-person communication, and how we use verbal, audial and visual cues to convey how we feel about what we are saying. Our words are only part of our communication. We can change our facial expressions and pitch, and we can use hand gestures and body language to give the people we are speaking to more information about our attitude towards our conversation.   Well, if you think about it, how we use tone in writing is not really that different to how we use tone in speech. Yes, we may not have the same tools at our disposal but there are other ways that an author can achieve similar goals of implying an attitude/mood and evoking an emotion.   Tone in fiction novels is essentially the attitude which the author/narrator (or POV character) has towards story events and other characters. A writer has the power to manipulate the tone of the novel by choosing what a narrator/character focuses on throughout a specific scene, detailing the character’s changing reactions/responses and the choice of words used in dialogue, and including their internal thoughts and actions. The ways in which a character acts towards the reader when a first-person POV is used also sets the tone.  Tone can be set in a combination of ways: word choice (diction), sentence construction, imagery, word order and what viewpoint the character focuses on (i.e. their attitude towards the issues in the story, the events, and the other characters in the story). It is often confused with an author’s voice but is in fact very different. The voice is an author’s unique voice that ideally shouldn’t change from novel to novel, whereas the tone will be different depending on your story and your main characters.   The are many different types of tones – way too many to list them all!   But here are some common types of tone that you are likely to see in fiction and non-fiction:   Formal. Informal. Friendly.  Humorous.  Optimistic.  Assertive.  Concerned. Encouraging.  Surprised.  Co-operative.   Now let’s move to exploring types of tone in more detail.   Types Of Tone In Writing  As mentioned above, tone in writing is used by the author to convey both a character’s attitude/mood and evoke a feeling in the reader.   There are many ways that this can be achieved.   Let’s explore some of the more common different types of tone below!   Light-hearted or cheerful. Using a light-hearted or cheerful tone immediately puts the reader at ease that they are sailing calmer waters in your novel and that there are unlikely to be any unexpected obstacles or challenges on the horizon.   Hopeful. A hopeful tone of voice can be used in different ways, depending on what genre you are writing in. For example, in a romantic comedy, it can be used to show an un-lucky in love protagonist being charmed by a dashing stranger. Whereas in a crime or thriller novel, it can used in a dark point of a protagonist’s journey to show that their bad fortune might finally be changing.   Uneasy or fearful. Using an uneasy or fearful tone of voice is the literary equivalent of the doom music in a horror movie. It will show the reader that they are creeping towards a potentially devastating or terrifying moment in the protagonist’s journey.   Nostalgic. Conveying a nostalgic tone can be used to evoke in the reader warm fuzzy memories of their childhood. It can often involve home and family but also a longing for long-gone moments.   There are many, many other descriptions of tone that you can play with, depending on what genre you are writing in and what is happening in your story.   While the type of tone used can vary with every character and scene, the overall tone of your story must remain consistent to keep from confusing your reader and hindering your message. A reader has certain expectations from a novel, depending on its genre, the synopsis and how it is marketed. Therefore, writers must try not to deviate from this consistent message in the tone of their novels. For example, a novel about tragedy should rarely break into a light-hearted or cheerful tone, whereas a romantic comedy should stay clear of fearful or serious tones.   Vocabulary is key in setting tone, so you need to ensure that you select the right words for a specific scene or setting in your novel, or even the overall theme. For example, a scene about falling in love would convey an entirely different emotion if written using words like ‘dark shadow of death’ and ‘veins popping out of his neck’!  Examples Of Tone In Literature  Pick up any book on your bookshelf. Turn to any page. And start reading. Straight way, you should be able to pick up on the overall tone of the novel and in that specific scene.   Here are some examples in well-known literature that demonstrate some of the common types of tone.   Open Water By Caleb Azumah Nelson ‘’The barbershop was strangely quiet. Only the dull buzz of clippers shearing soft scalps. That was before the barber caught you watching her reflection in the mirror as he cut her hair, and saw something in her eyes too. He paused and turned towards you, his dreads like thick beautiful roots dancing with excitement as he spoke.’’  It is clear that Nelson has chosen his vocabularly with purpose - ‘’dancing’’, ‘’shearing soft scalps’’, ‘thick beautiful roots’’ to convey the underlying romantic tone of his novel.   A Little Life By Hanya Yanagihara   ‘’But as much as he fears sex, he also wants to be touched, he wants to feel someone else’s hands on him, although the thought of that too terrifies him. Sometimes he looks at his arms and is filled with a self-hatred so fiery that he can barely breathe…’’  Even in such a short extract of a 700-page novel, we as the reader can gauge the tragic, pessimistic and fearful tone that Yanagihara has conveyed through her beautiful prose.   The Stranding By Kate Sawyer  ‘’They have a hut. A place to sleep. It is waterproof and windproof but the elements are still around them: they can hear the sea from their bed, see the light of the moon and the sun shining through the tarpaulin, little though it is through the constant cloud. It is not warm unless they are under their piles of blankets, but is somewhere they can rest after the toil of the day’’  In this short extract of Sawyer’s captivating novel, you can immediately get a feel of the narrator’s worried and anxious tone, and the strong current of hope within it.   How To Develop Your Writing Tone  Now, let’s look at the key ways that you can set the tone of your novel.   1. Keep Your Tone Consistent Throughout   Think of the tone of your novel as the soul of a person. Yes, you can dress your body differently, depending on your mood and preference, just like you can layer tones for different characters and scenes. But the underlying tone of your novel must never change, from beginning to end.   Read through your manuscript and look for places where the tone fades or shifts. Focus your attention there.  2. Write With Your Reader/Target Audience In Mind Most readers are loyal to genres and want to know that they are in safe hands every time they pick up a book. For example, a reader seeking escapism from dire world conflict will be fully thrown by a romantic comedy novel if it suddenly creeps into suspense and fear.   3. Play With Detail And Description  Think about the characters and plot of your novel, and weave in appropriate detail and descriptions to set the tone. For instance, a depressed or lonely character may notice cracks forming on wall and mouldy tiles, whereas a love-struck, hopeful character will see vibrant wallpaper and intricate covings.   Make every word you use earn its place in your novel. Choose wisely and don’t be afraid to cut words if they are not serving their purpose.   Hone Your Use Of Tone I hope you’ve found this article useful and that you can see how significant tone is in determining how a reader will perceive your novel.   Now all that’s left for you to do is switch on your laptop, open up your Word document and let your creative juices flow!   Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How Character Flaws Impact Your Story

If you want people to like your character, then they need to be a little unlikeable.   I know, I know, that sounds like a contradiction. But a lot of people think that creating a character means making the perfect person for readers to fall in love with. Except nobody falls in love with perfect. A person who has no flaws, no rough edges or bad habits, isn’t only unrealistic but, let’s face it, they’re boring.   And if there’s one thing you don’t want your readers to be, then it’s bored.  Readers are unlikely to eagerly follow the journey of someone who already has everything all sorted, because the point of a story is that they want to be there when your character figures things out. A reader will want to watch your character grow and change with their mistakes.  So how do you create someone who is flawed, but likeable? A character who has a lot of bad traits, and yet has readers caring about what happens to them?  This guide is here to help! We’re going to delve in to why a lack of character flaws will flaw your story, how to turn two-dimensional characters into well-rounded people that readers will root for, and what the difference is between flawed and villainous.  Why It’s Important To Add Depth To Your Characters   Characters are the core component of any story. People are interested by a plot, but they stick around for the characters.  Stories essentially have two sides: the conflict of the plot and the internal conflict of the character(s). And both are equally important. In fact, scratch that, the character side is probably more important. \'But my book is an action story about deadly space aliens,\' I hear you say. Okay, but . . . who are these deadly space aliens? Or the people they’re at war with? What do they want and why? What is stopping them from achieving it? Enter: character flaws!  Character flaws are the thing that prevents the plot from being resolved instantly, hindering a person’s ability to defeat their bad guy (or whatever the central conflict is) outside of the forces they can’t control. If you have a character who knows what to do in any given situation and always makes the right decision, your story is going to be over pretty quickly. You want to keep the reader guessing.   A flaw is a way to add depth, not only to your characters but to your plot. These flaws create external and internal conflicts, sending characters down different pathways and affecting their relationships with each other (and themselves). Really, plot and flawed characters work hand in hand.  When I start a book, I always start with the people I want in it. Sure, I have a rough idea of the storyline I want, or the world I’m thinking of creating, but the first thing I ask myself is: who would live in this world? What would happen to them in it? And, most importantly, why do they do the things they do? Their flaws, their past and present conflicts, help build this profile and impact how they’re going to journey through the worlds we create.  A character simply cannot be stagnant; they must go through a journey. I don’t mean a physical one, but an emotional one. Your characters have to end up somewhere different to where they started so readers feel a sense of accomplishment. Overcoming their flaws is the way to do this.  What Constitues A Character Flaw? So what is a character flaw?  Simply put, a character flaw is some kind of fault. A fear, a weakness, maybe even a bias. It’s a thing that affects the character and how they interact with the world around them.  A lot of the times flaws can be simple habits or quirks, sometimes they can even be physical (like scars). They can also be based on morals (or lack of!), and rigid personality traits that end up inhibiting them as they progress through the story and serve as hurdles on their way to happiness.  We’re going to look at examples of the three main kinds of character flaw a little further down, but a great way to think of what constitutes a flaw is to examine real life personalities. Think about the people you’ve interreacted with — whether it’s friends, family, or even a mortal enemy or two! — and what quirks and traits make them who they are.   Are they rigidly stubborn? Do they have a nervous tic? What was the first thing you noticed that set them aside from everyone else? The best way to create a realistic character with flaws that shape who they are, is to become something of a Frankenstein and take pieces from a bunch of people to create someone new!  And, as we’ve discussed above, at least one of these flaws should impact the plot, fuelling a conflict within the character and between them and others. Perhaps your character’s flaw might be that they have a desire for vengeance that overrides everything else, including allowing them to be truly open with close friends.   Whatever it is, you should make sure your reader knows why a flaw exists, so they can build sympathy with your character and understand their actions and what leads them to behave the way they do. This way they will be a lot more forgiving of any mistakes your character makes.  Though remember, characters don’t have to be likeable to be relatable. Or relatable to be likeable. A lot of us love a good villain, even if we can’t relate to their murderous tendencies (at least . . . I hope not!). Your readers can love to hate someone because at least they understand them and they feel authentic (in a sense. None of us can know what an authentic alien is if you’re writing sci-fi, but writers are nothing if not good at imagining!).   And if your character is a villain, don’t be afraid to lean into that. We just need to know why. They can’t want to take over the world just because they feel like it. They need purpose, logic, and a fatal flaw (more on that below!) to have driven them to that point. Remember, nobody is the villain of their own story. So why is your character the villain of someone else’s?   When crafting a character I always ask myself two questions: what is the flaw they see in themselves? And what is the flaw that other people see in them? These are two very different things, both of which impact who a character has become and where they will go next.  Character Flaws: Examples Now broadly speaking, there are three different types of character flaw. These are: minor flaws, major flaws and tragic flaws.  Minor Character Flaws A minor flaw is usually pretty insignificant. It helps differentiate your character somewhat from other people within your story, but doesn’t tend to impact the actual plot.   Good examples of minor character flaws are:   Habits like knuckle-cracking or biting their nails Forgetfulness or lateness  Shallowness or vanity   They can also be quirks of a character, like overusing a specific phrase. And sometimes a minor flaw can be physical (maybe your character has an old scar from childhood, or a limp).  Major Character Flaws Now a major flaw is different, because that’s what is going to cause a problem for your character at some point in the story. A lot of the time major flaws are moral failings, and they’re going to be the obstacle in your character’s growth. This is the thing they must overcome in some way to achieve their goals. It’ll also likely to be the source of tension between them and the other characters in the story.  Good examples of major character flaws are:  Addictions Phobias A fear of being vulnerable or letting their guard down   Major flaws are internal conflicts within your character that cause ripple effects as the story goes onward. Unlike minor flaws, which tend to stick with your character and be an essential part of who they are, major flaws are hurdles for your character to overcome in order to better themselves. For side-characters they are also the cause of shifting allegiances.  Tragic Character Flaws And lastly we have the tragic flaw/fatal flaw. This is the thing that will lead to the demise of your character if not resolved. Think of it like their Achilles heel. Tragic flaws are the most important parts of a character’s story and the very thing they need in order for their arc to be completed. And if you’re writing a tragic hero, this is going to be the crux of their story.  Good examples of tragic/fatal character flaws are:  A need for vengeance that causes them to disregard anything else, even their own safety or the safety of those they love Misplaced loyalty to someone unredeemable Self-sacrificing nobility that makes them risk their lives unnecessarily  Pride/ego so great that it leads to grave mistakes in judgement    Tragic flaws are pivotal to the climax of a story. In villains, these flaws will lead to their eventual demise. In heroes (and anti-heroes!), it can do the same; leading to their deaths when they fail to overcome them, or when they overcome them too late to save themselves but are able to save another character instead (thereby giving them redemption). Tragic flaws don’t necessarily always have to be fatal, but they will always lead to some kind of serious downfall and great misfortune.   Writing Flawed Characters The best characters are those the readers can connect with, because they understand why a character has gone down the path they have and where they might go next. If a character has no flaws and is all-too-perfect, your story will fall flat because the only conflict is external and therefore can be solved by anyone. You want your readers to know why your character is the right person for this story to centre around and what makes them so interesting. Character flaws keep a story going, ensure continuing momentum, and set your character’s journey apart from anyone else’s!   And if you’re ever feeling stuck, remember that Jericho Writers is here to help with a range of writing courses and mentoring, as well as editorial services for all types of work! As the world’s leading online writers club, we work with top agents, editors and authors to give you everything you need to smash your writing goals. Join Jericho Writers now to get access to weekly online events, masterclasses and so much more.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is A Rhetorical Device? (And How To Use Them)

Rhetorical device. It’s not really a phrase that rolls off the tongue, is it?   That said, it’s an important linguistic tool that\'s used by pretty much everyone, from business people to politicians – and of course authors. You may not have heard of rhetorical devices by name but whether you’ve realised it or not, you’ve probably come across at least some of these devices before, and maybe even used them yourself!   In this guide, I’m going to be delving into the ins and outs of a rhetorical device, including what a rhetorical device is (in common use and in literature), the different types of rhetorical devices, and the purpose of a rhetorical device in a novel.   What Are Rhetorical Devices?  A rhetorical device (otherwise known as a stylistic device, a persuasive device or more simply, rhetoric) is a technique or type of language that is used by a speaker or an author for the purpose of evoking a particular reaction from the listener or reader or persuading them to think in a certain way.   As mentioned above, rhetoric can be used by pretty much anyone in day-to-day communication. For example, any time you try to inform, persuade or debate with someone, you’ll be engaging in rhetoric. Or if you’ve ever found yourself being moved emotionally by someone’s speech or changed your mind about a certain topic, you’ve experienced the power of rhetoric in practice. Rhetorical devices in speech can be used in many different ways: your tone of voice, emphasis on certain words, sentence structure and repetition, or even asking questions for emphasis rather than for the answer.   In literature, you will have seen rhetoric devices used abundantly in the form of similes, alliteration and metaphors which are woven beautifully into prose. But rhetoric can be written into dialogue as well, although this is somewhat trickier as you will need to find a way of integrating it naturally so as not to disturb the authenticity of speech.   Now, let’s move on to consider the different types of rhetorical devices.   Types Of Rhetorical Devices  Rhetorical devices are sometimes confused with literary devices. And no wonder because there is plenty of overlap between the two, and they both seek to serve the same ultimate purpose: to elevate one’s writing from good to magnificent. And what writer wouldn’t want that as their goal?   There is, however, one significant difference between the two. While literary devices express ideas artistically, rhetoric devices are confined to the following four specific ways.   Logos. A rhetorical device that falls within this category will seek to convince and persuade via logic, and will usually make use of statistics, facts or statements in support of their position.   Ethos. Ethical rhetorical devices will try and convince the reader/listener that they are a credible source, and that their words should be trusted because they have the experience and judgment necessary to make that decision/statement.   Pathos. This type of rhetorical device is grounded in emotion. For example, this could involve the writer/speaker invoking sympathy or pity, angering their audience or inspiring them to change their perspective.   Kairos. The final type of rhetoric device is quite a difficult concept to grasp, but the English translation of ‘opportune moment’ might be able to shed some light. Essentially, Kairos asks you to consider the context and atmosphere of the argument you are making to ensure that you are delivering it at the right time. As Aristotle famously said, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody\'s power and is not easy.”  List Of Common Rhetorical Devices  Now that we’ve considered the four types of rhetorical device, let’s look at some common rhetorical devices so we can understand how they can be used in practice.   Be prepared for some complicated and hard-to-pronounce words!   Alliteration. Let’s start with one that you will be familiar with. This is a sonic device, involving the repetition of the initial sound of each word (e.g. Maya melted marzipan in the microwave).   Anacoluthon. A mouthful of a word, which involves the unexpected shift or change in the syntax or structure of a sentence. This can be used to grab the reader’s attention and shift it in another direction.   Apophasis. This device creates irony. The narrator will attempt to deny something while still saying that exact thing. For example, a phrase that begins with “it goes without saying’’ and is followed by the exact thing that the narrator says they are not going to say is an apophasis.   Litotes. This is an ironic understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary. “He’s no fool” is a great example of a litotes in action.   Meiosis. Now a word that is less commonplace. It is a type of euphemism that is used intentionally to undermine the size or importance of its subject and is the opposite of hyperbole or exaggeration. An example of this is if someone who was badly injured (with a broken leg or deep wound etc) proclaimed “it’s just a scratch”.  Oxymoron. A word that might take you back to English class at school, this is a device that is used where two things are placed in direct comparison to one another, even though they are complete opposites. This is a powerful figure of speech that can emphasise a specific point in your writing. A classic example is “the silence was deafening”. Hands up if you’ve used that one!   Syllepsis. The use of a word in the same grammatical relation to two adjacent words in the same context with one literal and the other metaphorical in sense. “He blew his nose and then he blew my mind.”  Zeugma. This is the use of a word to modify or govern two or more words, usually in such a manner that it applies to each in a different sense or makes sense with only one. For example, “she opened the door to him and to her soul”.  Examples Of Rhetorical Devices  Can you think of any examples where rhetorical devices have been used in literature?   Here are a few that come to my mind.   Logos- Othello By William Shakespeare “On, beware, my lord, of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock The meat it feeds on… Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger,  But, oh, what damned minutes tell he o’er Who dotes, yet doubts – suspects, yet soundly loves… She did deceive her father, marrying you… She loved them most… I humbly beseech you of your pardon For too much loving you…’’  In this excerpt, Lago convinces Othello with logic and reasoning to make him doubtful of the secret relationship between Desdemona and Cassio.  Pathos- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings By Maya Angelou  “If growing up is painful for the South Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.’’  Angelou’s memoir focuses on the emotional events of her life from early childhood through to adolescence. She uses pathos throughout to appeal to the reader’s emotions and to evoke sympathy for her experiences, especially of trauma, abuse and racism.   Ethos- East of Eden By John Steinbeck “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual.’’  In this extract, the author is trying to create a sense of familiarity with the audience, who he hopes will agree with his opinions on freedom. By suggesting similarities of opinion, Steinbeck builds credibility as a narrator.  Kairos- Animal Farm By George Orwell “Comrades, you have heard already about the strange dream that I had last night. But I will come to the dream later. I have something else to say first. I do not think, comrades, that I shall be with you for many months longer, and before I die, I feel it my duty to pass on to you such wisdom as I have acquired. I have had a long life, I have had much time for thought as I lay alone in my stall, and I think I may say that I understand the nature of life on this earth as well as any animal now living. It is about this that I wish to speak to you.’’  This is Old Major\'s speech where he addresses the animals, calling them his comrades, saying that he has a dream and that the moment has arrived that he should relate this dream to them. The timing of his speech is important as he stresses that he may not live long, so now is the right time to pass on his wisdom. This is the best use of Kairos in a practical way.  How To Use Rhetorical Devices In Your Writing  So now that we’ve seen how famous authors have used rhetorical devices in their writing, how can we mere mortals do the same?   I’m going to share my top three tips for doing so.   1. Adding Emphasis Rhetorical devices can be used to create emphasis in your story. There are a number of different ways you can do this, from analogies, such as similes and metaphors, to repeating words or phrases within a sentence while adding more detail (amplification) and repeating an idea using different words (commoratio). An example of the latter is, “She was done. Finished. Dead.’’  2. Creating Rhythm   We can strengthen a character’s voice by paying attention to the rhythm of our writing. Rhythmic prose can be more lyrical, smooth, or driving depending on how we decide to use rhetorical devices. We can repeat a word or phrase at the beginning of two or more phrases (anaphora), or at the end of the phrase (epistrophe). For example, “She would die. He would die. They’d all die.”  3. Adding Humour We can use rhetorical devices to add touches of humour to our prose, even if we’re not writing a romantic comedy. Use pleonasm (using more words than necessary), tmesis (splitting a word and adding a word in the middle), antonomasia (using a description as a proper name) or zeugma (using an out-of-sync phrase for the last item of a list). For example, “before meeting up with her boss, she grabbed her diary, her laptop and her big-girl panties”.  Next Steps So, there we have it, your crash course in rhetorical devices!  I hope that this article answers any questions you may have on rhetorical devices and has inspired you to play with them to strengthen your writing. If it’s good enough for the greats, then it’s good enough for the rest of us!   If you’re looking for more advice and guidance on your novel and how to break it into this highly opaque industry, then I’d encourage you to have a look at Jericho Writer’s leading online writers club.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Does Your Book Need An Epilogue?

Epilogues and prologues are the bookends of novels, often a flashback at the beginning (prologue) and glance into the future or a quick summary at the end (epilogue). Though they\'re used in films and TV shows too, in this article we’ll be focusing on the role of epilogues in books. We\'ll be discussing what they are, how to write them, what to include, and whether they are even needed in your story. In order to discuss the last few pages of your story, we must start at the beginning... What Is The Epilogue Of A Book?  ‘Epilogue’ comes from the Greek epilogos, which means “conclusion word.”  Along with prologues, chapters, sections, and POV headings, epilogues are a useful way for the reader to place themselves in the right context. These structural novel features make the plot clear for the reader, which is especially helpful if a book goes back and forth in time. An epilogue is always at the end of a novel - a separate, yet essential, part of a novel’s main plot. It almost always features a time jump (sometimes a few days later, sometimes decades later), shows the reader where the characters end up, and may resolve any unanswered questions. If the book is part of a series, the epilogue often links to the sequel and may foreshadow things to come.  Epilogues sometimes intentionally leave the reader feeling on edge, as they may hint that the conflict of the book hasn’t truly been dealt with, and in crime fiction/thrillers this may mean that the murderer has escaped, and the protagonist is no longer safe. In classic literature (think Shakespeare and Grecian works) epilogues tie together the main lessons of the story with a clear and cohesive moral, and often feature a marriage or the birth of a child. Whether they help the book end neatly and provide closure, or make you want to read the next one, epilogues influence the reader’s perception of the book and what they take away from it.  One important thing to note is that an epilogue is not the same as an afterword. The two are often confused because they both appear after the main body of the book. An epilogue acts as the final chapter and is part of the larger story. Whereas the afterword details the inspiration for a book, how it came to be, and promotes the writer and their other works. It isn’t part of the story itself. Afterwords are used in fiction, but they’re more common in non-fiction, especially in newly revised editions published a while after their initial release.  Pros And Cons Of Epilogues  Like prologues (found at the beginning of a book), epilogues evoke much discussion regarding their usefulness and purpose. So, what’s great about them? And what are their limitations? Here\'s a handy pro/con list to help you find out more: Pros One of the main ways in which epilogues are great, is that they provide writers with an opportunity to highlight a character\'s growth and development. Readers become invested in well-written characters and are eager to know of their fates. Epilogues are a nice way to reassure readers that characters are safe or provide greater insight into an ambiguous ending. This doesn\'t necessarily mean that an epilogue should show your character\'s happily-ever-after, but if your book has a particularly tense finale, a calmer epilogue provides the reader with a cathartic release. Epilogues may also resolve a character’s personal story arc by showing that they are as content several years down the line as they were at the novel’s initial closing.  As aforementioned, epilogues can also hint at future events which will appear in a sequel, which is a nice way to tie a series together. Especially if an epilogue is included in book one, as this hints to the reader that there will be more to follow, and that this won’t be the last they see of the characters they’ve become attached to. Epilogues may simply hint at this next instalment, or they could feature a major plot twist or cliffhanger, leaving the reader desperate to know what happens next. But plot twists must be applied with care, utilising the concealed clues placed throughout the main book, or the reader will feel baited and tricked.  Additionally, a good epilogue will give readers one final thing to contemplate. Maybe it acknowledges one of the key themes but from a different perspective due to a shift in point of view or time, suggesting that the lessons the characters learned weren’t as clear cut as they initially thought. It’s important to be consistent with the tone and pacing of the book, so as not to pull so far away from it that it seems like the start of an entirely new book. Think of the epilogue as a nice bonus included in the novel. But it still needs to do something slightly different from the main body of the book, otherwise it’s not adding anything of value to the story. Ultimately, you want the reader to feel satisfied after reading the epilogue, not confused, so be careful not to overcomplicate it.  If you\'re still struggling to think of a good epilogue, think of what Marvel do at the end of the credits of every one of their movies. It may only be for a minute or two, but they love to show us all tantalising clips of what\'s to come in future movies and it serves as a great hook! Cons Like everything, epilogues in books have their upsides and downsides. One such downside, is that sometimes epilogues underestimate the reader’s intellect. Some people think that the use of an epilogue suggests that a writer doesn’t trust their readership or the strength of their narrative, and thus, are using the epilogue to lay things out explicitly. If an epilogue over-emphasises the key themes of a novel, this can feel patronising. Readers are more than capable of inference, so if you’re writing an epilogue, it’s important to hint and not explicate your book on the reader’s behalf.  Sometimes epilogues include a plot twist which is implemented to hint at a sequel. When used in this way, epilogues can sometimes be disingenuous to the main body of your story, or overwhelm the reader with too much new information. You want to intrigue and excite your reader without making the epilogue intrusive and unnatural, as it could overshadow the main part of the book. Any plot twists used should make sense and be plausible given the context of the rest of the narrative.  The greatest limitation of epilogues is simply that not all books need an epilogue. Often, the enticing open ending of a book is most powerful when left as it is, or the story ends on a high note which needs no additions. The last chapter or section of a book should be strong and compelling enough to tie the story together and bring things to a natural conclusion without any further elaboration or embellishment. That being said, epilogues can be great if they are done well and complete the story by adding something meaningful to it.  Examples Of Epilogues  Epilogues can vary greatly in terms of tone, content, and what they aim to achieve. So it can be helpful to look at a few epilogue examples to see how they work. As epilogues are somewhat divisive, these examples have mixed reactions among their readership, so evaluate them yourself and see what you think.  The Handmaid’s Tale By Margaret Atwood   This epilogue is told from the perspective of an historian, and set 200 years after the main story. The historian finds June’s collection of tapes detailing her experience as ’Offred’, and discusses them at a conference with his colleagues. The epilogue is set after the main narrative and from a different point of view, which means that the emphasis of the key themes resonates without being too explicit and overbearing as they are applied in a different context. It invites the reader to contemplate how these themes fit into their own lives and dwell on the repercussions of the novel’s events. June’s disappearance and the details of her live after the main story’s conclusion are left open ended, allowing the reader to imagine different endings for her.  Neapolitan Novels: The Story Of The Lost Child By Elena Ferrante In the epilogue of The Story Of The Lost Child Elena receives the dolls that belonged to herself and her childhood friend Lila that they thought they had lost as children. This is a bittersweet ending, as their friendship became more complicated over time. This epilogue ties in the themes of friendship and love which are key to the book. It is also cyclical, as the two girls play with the same dolls at the beginning of the first novel in the series. It’s a hopeful addition to the book, and prompts the reader to contemplate their own childhood, friendships, and once treasured items.  Jane Eyre By Charlotte Bronte   The epilogue of Jane Eyre is well known and is frequently discussed by scholars. Some consider it too saccharine and discordant in relation to Jane’s experiences and values in the main parts of the novel, while others view it as a woman’s reclamation of her own joy and desires. After Rochester’s house has burned down, he is left blind and disfigured. When he and Jane reunite, Jane feels that, due to the death of his estranged wife, they can now marry without her putting her morals into question, and so they wed. Jane is now financially independent due to the money she inherited, and it is now Rochester who depends on her. She now has the stability and peace she has always wanted, and the power balance between them is more even (and perhaps tilted slightly in her favour). This epilogue highlights Jane’s growth as a character and shows the reader that she is content. And it also echoes the book’s themes of morality and independence (or the lack of it).  The Hunger Games: Mockingjay By Suzanne Collins In the concluding book of The Hunger Games series lies a much-debated epilogue. Time has passed, and Katniss and Peeta are still together and have children. This reassures the reader that the characters they care about are well and happy, while also emphasising the themes of power and privilege. The trauma from what the pair endured lingers, and the reader is subtly invited to reflect upon history and the long-lasting effects of horrific events.  Bel Canto By Ann Patchett   Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto has an epilogue which raises more questions than answers, which is a common occurrence among epilogues. The marriage between Roxane and Gen is unexpected, and many feel that it is an odd way to conclude the story. Their exact reasons for marrying are somewhat unclear, and this ambiguous ending prompts the reader to question all that came before and ponder upon each of the character’s intentions. It serves as a reminder that nothing is ever truly clear cut.  How To Write An Epilogue  Now you know what an epilogue is, it’s time to learn how to write one.  What Is The Purpose Of An Epilogue? When you\'re trying to decide whether to write an epilogue, this is the first question you should ask yourself. If there’s nothing interesting an epilogue would add to your writing, you don’t need one. Consider the purpose of your epilogue. It may be that you have a sequel which you want to link to, that there’s a way you can elaborate on the book’s main themes, or that you want to reassure your reader of your protagonist’s wellbeing in the future. An epilogue should benefit the reader in some way. Don’t be tempted to add an epilogue if you don’t have anything more to say, as it will dilute your overall message. If you think an epilogue would be the right fit for your book, then read on.  Tips For Writing An Epilogue  Here are our best tips for writing an epilogue which perfectly complements your book:  Set it in the future. Whether it’s a few weeks later or several decades later, it’s best to set your epilogue in the future so that the reader can get an idea of the aftermath of the concluding events of the novel. This passing of time means that you can return to your story without things being stagnant and find slightly different areas of interest to explore. Reveal information which was previously withheld from the reader. Perhaps one of the characters was involved in one of the climatic events of the novel but the reader didn’t know about it. Present a wider picture of the situation to deepen your reader’s understanding of the book. Create a new narrative for an upcoming sequel (if applicable). If your book is one of many, you may want to include some new information which both adds intricacy to this book, and seamlessly leads it into the next one. This will both help you set up the sequel and leave the reader full of intrigue. Highlight your protagonist’s progress/development. Readers become attached to the main characters of a book and like to know more about their fates. As time will have passed from the book’s ending to the epilogue, this is an opportunity to give your readers some closure and indicate that the protagonist was able to overcome their strife and is somewhat content. This is especially useful if you ended the main body of the book shortly after a big fight scene or moment of tension, as it provides the reader with a cathartic release. Provide a point of view which isn’t featured in the main narrative. If there’s a side character who you enjoyed writing about, it may be that you write the epilogue from their point of view. This adds a different perspective, and can give the reader some insight into events which the protagonist wasn’t directly involved in. Implicitly reference the themes of the main novel. This one can be a little difficult to get right. Make sure that the references to themes are subtle, and included in a new way, so that the reader is still engaged and doesn’t feel as though they are being told things which they can easily be implied.  Writing Epilogues Deciding whether to include an epilogue in your book can be difficult. Epilogues are particularly useful if you’re writing a series, as they form a kind of liminal space between books. If your book is a standalone, and you’re uncertain, then it’s probably best to strengthen the ending of your novel and go without an epilogue. Hopefully, this article will help you make the best choice for you and your book. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.

How To Write A Fairy Tale

Once Upon A Time…   We all recognise a fairy tale when we see one, characterised by wondrous settings, fantastical creatures and morals or life lessons. With traditional roots, fairy tales have become embedded in our culture and are often the first thing a child will read, listen to or consume. It seems that, plot-wise, almost anything goes in a magical fairy tale book – so how do we define the genre?   In this article we\'ll be exploring what a fairy tale is, modern retellings, and how to write your own fairy tale that will stand the test of time.Let\'s dive in. Once upon a time... What Is A Fairy Tale?  Circulated by the quintessential Tales of Olden Times by Charles Perrault (1697) and most recognisably Grimm Brothers’ Children’s and Household Tales (1812–57), most traditional and famous fairy tales (such as Snow White, Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin) were told and re-told through oral tradition, belonging to the mystical realm of folklore and folk tales. Because of this, most fairy tales don’t ‘belong’ to anyone and have been re-told and adapted countless times (think Disney). Fairy tales also don’t have to be written down to be legitimate and continue to be told all over the world, including The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus and The Bogeyman. Typically aimed at and written for children, fairy tales continue to enchant all over the world and soundtrack and capture the never-ending possibility and magic of childhood.   When writing a fairy tale and transporting readers to fairy tale settings, there are no specific ‘rules’ to adhere to plot-wise, however, there are certain conventions and features of a fairy tale that make them so iconic and notoriously recognisable.   These are:   A short narrative.  The ‘once upon a time’ opening coupled with the ‘… and they lived happily ever after’ ending. Character tropes, in which there are usually categorised ‘the good’, ‘the bad’ and ‘the evil’. Fairy tales also often include but are not limited to the following characters: royalty; princesses and princes (usually the protagonists); villains; supernatural relatives (e.g. a fairy godmother); supernatural ‘helpers’ such as Puss In Boots; archetypes such as ‘The Evil Stepmother’ or guardian; talking animals; fantastical creatures such as dragons; magical or talking household items (think Beauty and the Beast); and transformative objects (e.g the pumpkin that turns into a horse-and-cart in Cinderella).  Mystical and fantastical lands and settings such as castles, a gingerbread house, the woods, and The Land of Far-Far Away.  The importance and significance of the numbers three and seven – think The Seven Dwarves, The Three Bears, Three Genie Wishes and the Three Blind Mice. In between the tumultuous beginning and the happy ending, the protagonist usually overcomes difficulty (good triumphs evil) and this contains the moral of the story (although it’s important to note that these aren’t the focal point of the story, unlike Fables); this could be rags-to-riches (like in Cinderella), a quest to overcome a wicked spell (as in Sleeping Beauty) or overcoming central conflict.   Modern Retellings Though they are such an integral part of our literary history and culture, fairy tales are often criticised for upholding out-dated, sexist patriarchal values, such as the idea that a beautiful princess may only have her happily ever after when she is ‘saved’ by her dashing, masculine prince.   In recent years, many authors have taken to retelling these fairy tales in a contemporary or feminist way, subverting the traditional norms and stereotypes. Fairy tale retellings are perhaps the most common format of fairy tales that are currently released.   Famous examples include Duckling by Kamila Shamsie, a take on The Ugly Duckling where the unique duckling finds the right to celebrate being different and Nikita Gill’s Fierce Fairy Tales: & Other Stories to Stir You Soul, where Sleeping Beauty wakes up on her own accord and Tinkerbell quits anger management. Taking this further, there are even gender-bent retellings, such as Sleeping Handsome and the Princess Engineer by Kay Woodward.   How To Write Your Fairy Tale Story  Many of us grew up reading, watching, and playing games about fairy tales. But reading them is different to writing them. Here are some key things to include.  Choose Your Fairy Tale Moral The moral of your fairy tale is one of the most important parts. Your characters and settings, plot and conflict, all draw from your chosen moral. A moral is built upon from the very start of a fairy tale. As an example, the moral of Peter Pan is that we all have to grow up sometime, and though it can be difficult, there are wonderful things about it too. Think about a message which is important to you, and that you would like to share in your fairy tale. Remember, that your audience is predominantly children, so it needs to be clear and understandable.  Create Your Characters If you have a good understanding of what you want your characters to be like (particularly the hero/protagonist and the villain/antagonist) much of your fairy tale story will take shape from there.   Hero/Heroine Your hero/heroine must be relatable and they are often someone readers feel sympathy for. Fairy tale protagonists are often kind, hard-working, and underappreciated. Though these are important characteristics, you may want your hero/heroine to stand out a little more. Maybe they’re incredibly compassionate, and they show that by fiercely standing up for those who are wronged. Regardless, you need to make sure that your main character is so compelling that the reader is rooting for them throughout your fairy tale.  Villain Though villains are the characters we dislike in fairy tales, they can be very fun to write! They prevent the hero/heroine from achieving their goals, and often test the protagonist’s abilities. Villains tend to be unpredictable, giving you the opportunity to surprise your reader, which is crucial if you want to engage them, as the structure of fairy tales is quite formulaic.   Consider Your Conflict All fairy tales (and stories/creative writing in general) need to have some degree of conflict in order to keep the reader’s interest. Fairy tales are often rife with external conflict, which is particularly evident whenever the protagonist and antagonist are in a room together. You can also include inner conflict too. Perhaps your hero/heroine made a mistake in the past, and dwelling on it is preventing them from progressing or overcoming external obstacles. Or maybe they’re grieving the loss of a loved one and wondering whether they’d agree with the decisions they’re making in their life. Your conflict should be set up so that, once it has been inevitably overcome, your previously chosen moral is made blatantly clear.   Hone In On Your Happy Ending No fairy tale is complete without a happy ending. In order to reach it, you need to decide how you want to resolve your conflict. Consider the outcomes you want for your characters. Is your villain vanquished, or are they now redeemable? Does your hero/heroine create a new life somewhere else, or do they now rule the palace and lead the people of the city? Jot down your ideas and remember that you can always change your mind later. When it comes to a fairy tale ending, there is no such thing as too much exaggeration; it’s a crucial part of their charm. So, bathe your protagonist in joy and splendour, and watch as your villain is punished for their cruelty.  Decide On Your Settings Settings in fairy tales are often used to hint at the protagonist’s mood, foreshadow things to come, or indicate the character of the inhabitants of a building. Often, bright cottages and sunny days suggest that the hero/heroine is happy and the people who live in the cottage are good. While villains tend to live in caves or deep in the forests, and it often rains after the protagonist has failed a conquest. You may want to establish the town/village your hero/heroine lives in, what their house (or mansion, or palace, or treehouse) looks like, and where your villain lives. This gives you a good place to start, and you can then build the rest of your settings around them. It’s also important to decide when you want to set your fairy tale (modern day, the 19th century, the future) as this will influence everything from your character’s speech, to how they’re clothed, and the kind of moral that will suit the story.  Sprinkle In Some Magic The magic element of fairy tales is what makes them so whimsical and appealing to the active imaginations of children. This is your opportunity to use your imagination as much as you want. Consider the things you fantasised about as a child (maybe you wanted a talking cat) or things you would find useful (like a doorway which acts as a portal to wherever you want to go). Have fun with it, and experiment with different fairy tale ideas. It’s often magic which gives the hero/heroine the last push they need that helps them save the day! So the inclusion of magic is as playful as it is important to the storyline.  Fairy Tale Prompts/Retellings  So, you know what a fairy tale is, and how to write one. But where do you start? Worry no more, because we have a list of prompts that will give you the inspiration you need to get writing.  You’re a young member of a prestigious royal family that was cursed by a young wizard-in-training. The wizard intended to curse you so that everyone you touch is severely burned, but they made an error, and now you can heal people instead. You find yourself with a special power, and an even angrier enemy. So what do you do now? What happens when all the plants come alive at night, including the ones indoors? Her favourite animal is a unicorn, so when she stumbles upon one on a fine sunny morning, she’s sure she’s still dreaming. Until her mum asks why there’s a huge gap in the rose bush and hoof prints in the back garden. It’s Christmas. You’re made of gingerbread. How do you avoid getting eaten at the most terrifying time of the year?There’s always been a beautiful arched door tucked in the back corner of the kitchen. It’s old and hasn’t opened for decades. Then one night, Noah goes to get a glass of water and finds it wide open.  Imagine you are your favourite fairy tale character. How would you change the story to make things better? You’re a fairy who strays a little too far from home. You’re mistaken for a butterfly and placed in an exhibit. How will you escape? They all assumed that the person in the prophesy who was destined to save the town from the evil wizard’s curse was a boy. She proved them wrong.  Snow White eats the apple. A red toffee apple. The evil queen gasps as she realises what she just had for lunch.  She gets lost in the forest, and the deeper into it she goes, the more the animals talk to her. When she returns the next day, the same thing happens. But her pet cats and the animals in the garden don’t say anything at all. Ten-year-old Harper always talks about the robin which follows her home and keeps her safe. Once, it led the way when she got lost. No one believes her. But it turns out, the robin is her older sister Rosalie.  He could swim before he could walk. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s part merman.  Her horse-riding lessons are going well. Until she realises that she’s flying, and her horse is watching from the ground below.  He delivered a box of brand-new shoes to the palace, but accidentally dropped one on the front steps. Now the prince claims he will marry whoever the shoe fits. Should he admit his mistake? Peter Pan is the boy who never grew up. But something strange is happening in Neverland. He wakes up one morning… with a beard! Is he finally growing up?  Find Your Own Happily Ever After  Whether wanting to find out more about fairy tales, learn how to write one, or you\'ve been searching for help to get started, I hope in this article you\'ve found the guidance you\'re looking for. Just remember that fairy tales are supposed to be fun! For writers and readers alike. So use your boundless imagination, take storytelling risks, and connect with your childhood self and you\'ll live happily ever after! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Write A Poem

Have you always wanted to write a poem, but don\'t know where to start? Trying something new is often daunting. But the wonderful thing about poetry is that it\'s all about you - your feelings, your ideas, the way you see the world. And there are no rules! But there are plenty of things you may wish to learn first to give you a deeper understanding of the most beautiful form of written expression. In this article I will be explaining what poetry is, the key elements of a poem, how to find inspiration, and how to edit your poetry. What Is Poetry?  When you think about poetry, your mind may go back to English lessons at school, and memorising and interpreting poems by the likes of Shakespeare, Coleridge, and Emily Dickinson. While those poets are rightfully revered, there is so much more to poetry than just the classics. There truly is a poem for everyone. And it’s wonderful to see that, with the rise of intersectional feminism, poets by women of colour such as Amanda Gorman and Rupi Kaur (as well as their predecessors Maya Angelou, bell hooks, Toni Morrison) are being recognised for their talent and hard work. Poetry is varied not just in terms of who writes it, but also in terms of form. For those who prefer to process things auditorily rather than visually, there’s spoken word poetry (try Button Poetry if you’re interested). For children, there are nursery rhymes and acrostics. And many modern poets post their poems on social media so that you can enjoy their wonderful words while you’re scrolling.  The definition of poetry has expanded greatly in recent years, but essentially, it is distilled language that intends to resonate with the reader. The effect poetry produces varies greatly and is largely determined by the poet’s intent. Whether you want to make your reader cry, laugh, or want to go on a hike, the limit of the form’s length means that every word counts. And every line should be working towards that goal of making the reader feel.   The Key Elements Of A Poem  There are multiple components to a poem, and each of them has its own value. Individual poets often have a signature style, which tends to be based around the poetic element which they focus on and excel at. Before you start writing a poem, you need to know more about how they are shaped.  Voice  The voice of a poem is arguably one of the most important parts. It carries much of the tone and emotion which helps the reader connect to the poem. The speaker in poetry is often somewhat vague, which enables the reader to empathise with them more. A popular, compelling way in which voice is utilised is through the poetic I (frequently using the word I to frame the speaker’s feelings and experiences). It also affects the timbre of the poem when it is read aloud as the voice of a poem carries certain emotions, which determine how we vocalise.  Form  The form of a poem often indicates much of its structure and rhyme scheme. As it determines the shape of a poem, it is another vital component. Form includes the type of poem (villanelle, haiku, free verse), its overall length, line breaks, the number of stanzas, and the length of the stanzas. Some poets like to start off with a very strict idea of the form they would like their poem to take, some just start writing and see what happens, while others will add elements of form when they edit.  Rhythm  Rhythm is one of the ways in which poetry stands out from other writing forms. While, of course, almost all writing has some element of rhythm, in poetry it is the centre from which the voice, form, content etc stem, and it influences how they are expressed. It’s also linked to structure, as long poems with long lines tend to be more fluid than short poems with short stanzas and lines which often have an urgency to them. Rhythm involves pace and can be altered by things like syllable count and alliteration. Enjambment can be used skilfully to disrupt the rhythm and bring the reader’s attention to a specific line. Caesura and line breaks work similarly, and these sections can be further developed when paired with an interesting rhyme scheme.  Rhyme  Contrary to popular belief, poems do not have to rhyme. Whether a poem utilises full rhyme, half-rhyme, or no rhyme at all, rhyme usually influences how the poem is perceived and helps create its overall message. The rhyme scheme can be very regular throughout the entire poem (e.g. four stanzas with a common ABCB rhyming pattern), or entirely inconsistent, with a rhyming couplet placed at the end to act as the poem’s memorable thesis statement. Assonance and consonance can also be used to create more subtle rhymes, as can homophones because they don\'t visually appear to rhyme. Iambic pentameter (favoured by Shakespeare) is a frequently used rhyme scheme, which is linked to form, as it’s often used in sonnets. It also relies on meter to create strong sounds and emphasis.  Meter  Meter refers to the pattern of stressed syllables and the number of syllables in a line, stanza, or poem. It’s more frequent, and notable, in traditional poetry, and highlights a poem’s rhyme, rhythm, and structure. Often, if you’re writing a poem and find that a section sounds off, it’s because you’ve been using meter in a regular pattern- intentionally or not-and then diverged from that pattern.  Literary Devices  Poetry is often rife with literary devices. Many poems are focused on clear images, and literary devices are often used to describe them. Motifs and symbolism are some of the broader ones used, and lyrical language, irony, metaphors, and similes are used to describe specific details. Choosing a literary device that interests you and trying to write an example of one can be a great way to start a poem or revitalise one you’ve already begun.  How To Start Writing Poetry  One of the unique things about writing poetry is that there is no set starting point. Want to start with the last stanza? Fab! Want to shape your poem around an interesting title? Great! Want to have a freewriting session that produces a long meandering poem? Go for it! You can always edit later. Ultimately, when it comes to writing a poem, you can start wherever you want to. For some, this can be freeing. If it leaves you more daunted than excited, then one way to start is by using one of our poetry prompts.   It’s also important to consider why you want to write poetry. If you want to take 5 minutes to write a poem because it’s a quick, accessible form of creative expression, then experiment with a few methods and just enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about finishing poems either (many writers never feel as though their work is finished; you could edit your writing in perpetuity). If you want to write a poem to the best of your ability, then you’ll approach things differently and spend more time on it. Not only can you start a poem wherever you like, but you can also decide how long you want it to be, what style you want to emulate (lyrical, free verse, stream of consciousness, prose poetry), and how it’s structured. Poetry can be very personal, so if it reassures you, know that your poetry can be written just for you. No one else has to read it. Poetry can be a great outlet, and a poem’s value is about so much more than how many people have read it.   Reading poetry out loud (to yourself or to others) is incredibly helpful, too. Rhythm is a key element of poetry, and it can be better emphasised and understood when we hear it compared to when we read it. Processing your work in a different way can give you ideas about what to write in a new stanza or help you to edit a section of an existing part of it.  Start With Structure  When it comes to writing a poem, a good place to start is with the structure. Decide whether you want to write a poem with a strict form (a villanelle that has a predetermined rhyme scheme and length) or whether you want to start with a free writing session that ends up as a poem written in free verse. It really helps to know what kind of writer you are. Do you find restrictions helpful, because they focus your ideas and give you clear boundaries? Or do you find them confining, and feel that more freedom enables you to think more creatively? Regardless of your answer, knowing the extent to which form and structure can help you provides you with a rough idea of what your poem will look like, which means you can then start to focus in a little more on the specifics. You could even start with a great title which you came up with (finding a strong title is often very difficult, so if this is the case, congrats!) and build the poem from there.  Start With Your Content  In poetry, as with all kinds of writing, the main content and message are key. Therefore, starting with the content of your poem can be helpful. Often, if you’re eager to write a poem it’s because you have a topic in mind. Maybe you want to write an ode to a loved one, process and express your feelings, or write about a current topic/event. If you already have a topic in mind, just start writing! You can always edit it later, and at least you’ve got something to work from. If you have no idea what you want to write about, fear not! You could do a short timed free write, and just see what comes up. If any lines or phrases stand out to you, use them as a starting point. Alternatively, you could use one of our poetry prompts to help you get started.  Seek Inspiration  If you’ve written poetry before, and find yourself feeling stagnant, or if you want to try something new, then seeking external inspiration is great. Read interviews from poets you admire or read lots of poems you like. Your inspiration doesn’t even need to come from the world of poetry. You could hear an interesting line from the song playing on the radio or watch an exchange between characters on a TV show which intrigues you. Be open to receiving ideas, wherever they might come from. You could even write a poem with a friend, and exchange alternate lines back and forth.  Edit!  The hardest part of writing a poem, as with many things, is getting started. Once you’ve chosen your form, decided what your poem will be about, or chosen a prompt, just start writing until you reach a natural endpoint. Or until your hand starts to cramp, and your eyes get tired. Which is a natural endpoint too. Then, once you’ve rested, it’s time to edit. People often think of editing as checking spelling, punctuation, and grammar. While those things are all important too, with poetry you can really have fun with the editing process. Move the first stanza so that it becomes the final stanza. How does that change the pacing, the message, the mood? If it doesn’t work, move it back. You could adjust the rhyme scheme by adding or subtracting words. You could even try erasure poetry, where you cross/black out words, lines, or whole stanzas, creating a new, sparser poem from what’s leftover. Regardless of the outcome, keep focusing on the joy you get out of writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect; no one has to read it if you don’t want them to, and it doesn’t have to be Pulitzer Prize level writing for you to consider yourself a poet. Keep moving things around and changing things until you are happy with how your poem ends up. Though, as Paul Valéry said, “a poem is never finished; it’s always an accident that puts a stop to it- i.e., gives it to the public.”  Writing Poetry  When it comes to writing a poem, you can do it however you want to. The most important thing is that you enjoy it and find it interesting. There are so many distinctive styles and forms of poetry, and numerous ways in which it can be shared (spoken word performances, audio recordings, and in classic print). So there truly is something for everyone. But if you’re struggling with where to start, or want a refresher on the key components of poetry, I hope this article is helpful. And remember, you don’t have to write using a quill and scroll to be deemed a poet. Though it may be more fun than using a laptop.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community.   

How Long Does It Take To Write A Book?

Whether you\'re writing a book for the first time or this is your tenth attempt, at some point on your writing journey you will ask yourself - \'How long does it take to write a novel?\' And the answer is...as long as it takes. Although this is generally the answer to how long anything creative takes to achieve, if we stop right here this would be a very short and unhelpful article. So let\'s keep going. As an author of six published novels and counting, and having been traditionally published, self-published, written with co-writers and solo, over the last ten years I\'ve learned the hard way how long it takes to write a full length novel, a short story, and a novella. In this article I will be explaining what it takes to write a novel, the process of going from idea to bookstore, how you can better your chances of writing faster (without lowering the quality or getting too overwhelmed), and - to make us all feel better - we\'ll take a look at famous books and their authors and see how long they took to pen their masterpieces. So, let us start at the beginning... How Long Does It Take To Write A Novel? Some of the world\'s bestselling books have taken a mere number of weeks to come into existence, others have taken decades. On average, if you\'re already an experienced author with a few titles under your belt, you can write a good-enough-to-send-to-your-editor draft within 6-18 months. But there are many factors at play as to how long a book takes to write, and you won\'t know what your own speed is until you reach The End of your first novel. Also, please don\'t think that when someone says it took them a month to write their book that it means it took just four weeks to go from idea to publication. What that normally means is that it took them four weeks to get all the words down on paper, because many books start as as a little seed of an idea that grows and grows years before the first word is written. And then, after you\'re done with your very first rough draft that took a month to jot down, you still have a long way to go until your book is of a good enough quality to query an agent with, or send to your editor...let alone publish! So, talking of publishing, let\'s take a look at the entire process before I explain to you how you can write your novel in record time. How Long Does It Take To Publish A Book? In this section I\'ll be talking about the traditional publishing route. When you self-publish a novel, the process can be a lot quicker. When my co-writer and I sat down to write our self-published Caedis Knight book, Witches of Barcelona, we didn\'t start writing it properly until Christmastime and it was available to buy by late March. Now, I\'m not recommending you do that yourself if it\'s your first rodeo ride...but we are experienced authors, this was a 70k word genre novel, and our quick-release business model meant we had four books a year to produce. So writing and publishing a decent book in three months IS possible because when you self-publish it\'s totally up to you how long you take. But traditional publishing takes a lot longer! If you are starting from scratch, with no book deal or agent, then you may take up to a year or more to write your first book. You then need to ensure you\'ve run it past beta readers, maybe an editorial service, and then you start querying agents. If you\'re lucky enough to land an agent, they will then have some revisions they\'ll want you to do. This can take weeks or months (depending on how many edits and how fast you are). Once the agent is happy with the book, it then goes on submission. That means the agent sends your completed manuscript to various editors at various publishers to consider - hopefully leading to a book deal. That too can take anything from a month to a year. Or, as in some cases, you may not even get picked up. This is why it\'s wise to always be working on your next novel. If you do get a publishing deal (hurray!) then it can take weeks to sign the paperwork, and then a publishing date is set. This can be anything between 12 months to 2 years from signing your contract. In that time you will work with your new editor on various rounds of edits, they will design a cover, and you will be expected to assist them on their marketing plan. And, hopefully, you will have started working on the next book to speed things up. All in all, going from having an initial book idea for your first novel to standing in a bookstore holding your book in your hands, the entire process can take years! Let\'s do the maths... Writing a book - up to 12 monthsQuerying agents - 3-12 monthsGoing on sub - 3-12 monthsPost deal edits leading to release date - 12-24 monthsThat means, if you\'re just starting out on your writing journey, with dreams of being traditionally published by a top publisher (ie one that can only be approached via an agent), you are looking at anywhere between 2.5-5 years from idea to book store.So, along with needing knowledge, persistence, resilience and lots of time to write a book...you also need a lot of patience! Now let\'s go back to writing that book and see why some books take longer than others. Why Each Book Takes A Different Amount Of Time As you will see at the bottom of the article, some famous novels took a matter of weeks to accomplish while others took over ten years. Why? If your average book is 80-100k words, why do some take longer to write than others? With my own books, I\'m always shocked how fast some take to write and how others remain simmering away on the back-burner for years. There\'s no exact reason for this, but always having a few projects on the go at once certainly helps keep the frustration at bay and gives your muse some space to breathe. Here are 4 other reasons why books are written at different speeds: How Much Time Can You Spare? Let\'s start with the most obvious reason why a book may take more or less time to write. It\'s all very well when a successful writer says anyone can write a novel in a month. That\'s not true. If you know what you want to write, and you can spare 2-3 hours of uninterrupted time every single day for four weeks, then maybe you will get a decent first draft down on paper. But not everyone has that luxury! If you are planning to write your first book and you also have a full-time job, care for kids and family members, have dependants (including needy pets), have physical or mental health limitations, or you don\'t have the support network to help you carve out time for yourself...then, no...you can\'t comfortably write a book in a month without potentially making yourself ill. That\'s not to say \'I don\'t have the time\' is a valid excuse to not write a book. A lot of people do have the time, they just don\'t want to sacrifice other things to make time. But for those who can only spare a few hours a week to write, then it will take longer. And that\'s fine. My debut novel took three years to write as I was working every day and juggling two sleepless toddlers with very little time to sleep (let alone write). Ten years later, the first draft of my latest book took just four weeks to write because those kids are now self-sufficient, I work part-time, plus I know what I\'m doing. So don\'t beat yourself up. Work at your own pace. Are You A Pantser Or A Plotter? How you approach the foundations of your novel makes a big difference to speed. If this is your first book, it will probably take longer to write than your next novel as you are learning as you go. Most new writers are pantsers...that\'s to say they\'re making up the story as they go along (flying by the seat of their pants, as it were). What\'s wrong with that? Nothing. But, for a story to be good, it needs structure. If you plot your novel before writing it, knowing exactly (OK, more or less) what happens at what stage, you are more likely to be able to get your butt in a chair and churn out each chapter in the right order. Pantsers, on the other hand, discover the plot of their book as they go along, which can result in lots of deletions as well as chopping and changing sections. This also applies to research and data gathering. Doing as much as you can before sitting down to write your first word can help speed up the writing time. Although all that planning and plotting still counts as writing your book! What Genre Are You Writing? Writing a fantasy series is hard. Writing a romance novel is hard. Writing for children is hard (yes, even picture books). Writing any kind of book well is neither easy nor quick - but some do take longer than others. Writing a high fantasy novel of 140k words, for instance, where you have to create an entire world with magical lore, a different language, as well as invent customs and brand new monsters, can take a lot longer to research and plan than, say, a middle grade contemporary book of 55k words. Likewise, historical fiction can also involve a lot more research than, say, a rom com you are setting in your home town. And non-fiction, like a memoir or biography, can take longer to put together in terms of data gathering than a non-fiction book on how to communicate with your cat. Maybe. So, once again, go easy on yourself. I\'ve been nearly three years gathering information and working on snippets of my 17th century historical fantasy novel - whereas my contemporary thriller took no time at all to write. Neither is better or worse in quality, it\'s simply easier to write about what I already know. How Fast Can You Type? This may sound like an obvious reason for taking a long time to write a book, but not being a fast typer can really slow you down. As can writing it all in a notepad first, or (and I know some people enjoy this) using a typewriter or your phone to write on. Ultimately, your novel needs to end up as a Word document when sent to agents/publishers. So if you want to speed things up, get used to sitting in front of a laptop all day and get your head around how they work. So now you know how long it takes to publish a book and why you may take a while to write one, let\'s take a look at how many words your average book is and work out how long it will probably take you to write yours. How Many Words Are In A Novel? How long does a book have to be? Well, there\'s no precise law, but to be considered by an agent and edit you do need to know what your word count should be. And to discover how many words the average book has we need to look at what type of book it is. Here\'s a simple guide of word count by genre. Remember, no matter how wonderful your book is it may still be turned down by agents simply because it\'s 200,000 words long. Don\'t be that person. Do your research and ensure your word count fits your genre: Adult Fiction Literary and Commercial Fiction: 80,000-110,000 Romance (inc rom com and historical): 80,000-100,000 Category Romance (ie paranormal romance, cowboy romance etc): 40,000-75,000 Mystery, Suspense and Thriller: 70,000-110,000 Sci-Fi and Fantasy: 90,000-125,000 Historical: 80,000-120,000 Children\'s Books Contemporary Young Adult: 65,000-80,000 words Fantasy Young Adult: 75,000-90,000 words Middle Grade: 20,000-50,000 words Chapter Books: 4,000-10,000 words Early Reader: 200-3,500 words Picture Books: 400-700 words Nonfiction Nonfiction: 50,000-80,000 words Self-help and How-to books: 40,000-50,000 Memoirs: 80,000-100,000 Yes, you will always find exceptions to these rules - but to be on the safe safe, stick to the correct word count! How Much Can You Write Per Day? The average writer, typing at a decent speed, can write1,000 words every hour or two (including the odd bit of research or proofreading). Can you spare an hour or two a day to write? If you can, then with just 1,000 words a day you could reach the end of your first draft in a couple of months. Here\'s some more maths to consider... 30,000 – 50,000 words: 1000 words/day = 30 – 50 days50,000 – 80,000 words: 1000 words/day = 50 – 80 days80,000 – 100,000 words: 1000 words/day = 80 – 100 days Tips On Writing A Book Quickly (And Well) With my latest book, I went from initial idea to going on submission with the agent of my dreams in just six months. I know! Totally beyond my wildest dreams! How? Because a) it was my twelfth book and I\'ve learned a lot of things along the way and b) I was meticulous with my approach. The timeline for my feminist thriller book looked like this:Aug 2021: I had a great idea that I knew was commercial and uniqueSept-Oct 2021: I plotted the entire book using the Save The Cat beat method, used lots of post it notes, and mapped out what was to happen chapter by chapter.Nov 2021: I took part in NaNoWriMo and wrote one chapter per day (1.5-3k words) from 6am-8.30am every morning before work. In one month I had 30 chapters and a rough 72k word first draft.Dec 2021: I edited the book and sent it off to my beta readers to read over Christmas.Jan 2021: Early January, after getting feedback, I edited it again and it was complete at 85k words. I was ready to start querying!Then, by a fortunate twist of fate, my dream agent saw my author friend\'s tweet singing my book\'s praises, asked to read it, and within three days offered me representation. This time around (I\'d failed to get an agent with two previous books over the course of two years) my querying process was very fast and unusual. Yours may take months. Yet, if you have the time and tenacity, my writing process can easily work for you too. Here\'s How You Can Go From An Idea To Querying In Six Months: 1. Get your life in order and make space To avoid unnecessary stress and pressure, before starting your novel it\'s always best to carve out some time in your life. Be it getting up an hour earlier each morning, forfeiting nights out with friends, or letting your family know that Sunday mornings are writing mornings - whatever it takes, have strong boundaries and take it seriously. If you don\'t, you will cause tension in your relationships and be too hard on yourself. Writing needs to become part of your routine. 2. Find an accountability partner It doesn\'t matter how you do this, but being accountable helps. When I started my latest book I told my closest author friends and I started a thread on Twitter. I\'m sure no one actually cared how many words I did that day, but imagining people waiting for me to update them each day helped keep me motivated. 3. Set deadline dates Next, tell yourself how many words you will write each day/week and what stage of your book you will reach on what date. You may give yourself six weeks to research, or a month per chapter, whatever is realistic. Then stick to it. 4. Research, plan and plot in advance How long does it take to write a chapter by chapter outline for a novel? That\'s up to you, but personally I love to have a plan before I start writing. So if it helps you, write out a character profile for all the protagonists and antagonists, get your rising action in place and all your beats plotted, decide the word count and chapter number in advance so you can roughly work out what happens when, and even create a Pinterest board for visual inspiration. Whatever gives you the confidence to get started. 5. Stick to your daily word count And now write! Some people like to go back and edit each chapter as they go along before moving on to the next, some authors write out of sequence, others plough through the first draft without looking back and don\'t revise until they reach the end. However you do it, get your ass in that seat and get your word count down on the days you said you would. Even fifty words a day adds up to a book eventually (4.3 years to be precise). 6. Celebrate each goal This part is important! Whether you give yourself a tick on your list, a sticker on your bullet journal, or allow yourself to watch the next episode of your favourite Netflix series after each writing session - whatever it takes, keep giving yourself a pat on the back. Some authors even like to put a dollar/pound in a jar after they\'ve written each chapter, and then go on a book-buying spree to celebrate their first draft, while others spend it on a night out. Ultimately, you\'ve written a whole book in the time you gave yourself so CELEBRATE! You\'ve done something very few ever manage to do! How Long Does A Bestseller Take To Write? And finally, in case you need more reassurance as to whether you are writing too fast or too slow, take a look at these famous authors and how long their books took to write. Just goes to show that a fast book isn\'t necessarily a bad book! (Although, to be fair, some of them were hand-writing their book by candlelight and others created entire languages, so we\'ll let them off). John Boyne, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: 3 days Stephenie Meyer, Twilight: 3 months Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights: 9 months Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice: 10 months F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby: 2.5 years Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl: 3 years J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: 16 years! Writing A Book Takes As Long As It Takes! I hope you have found this article inspiring and helpful (and not too daunting). The fact you want to write a novel is a fantastic thing in itself, so be realistic, get a plan together, and start writing. The only way you can fail as a writer is not to try at all. You\'ve got this! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

The Power Of The Subplot

Have you ever read a book and thought, ‘’Wow, that was such an interesting backstory’’ or ‘’I love how that explained why the protagonist did x?’  Well, the shrewd amongst you may recognise this interweaving of information and expansion of a backstory as the subplot of a novel.   Let’s dig deeper and delve into what a subplot means, the different types of sub-plot and how you can write a compelling sub-plot (or two) within your own narrative. What Is A Subplot?  A subplot is otherwise known as a minor story or a secondary plot which often runs parallel to the main plot. It can be about your main character(s) or about another character whose narrative interacts or impacts their narrative. If, like me, you like to personify writing concepts, think of your subplot as your main plots’ loyal and supportive (but less glamorous) companion. It’s there in the background, being relied upon to move the narrative forward and help the main plot reach its full potential.   The story subplot is a highly underrated writing device. In fact, many new writers concentrate so hard on perfecting their main plot that their sub-plots are often neglected, which can make their whole story fall flat. Therefore, it’s important to recognise from the outset (i.e., when plotting your novel), that the possibilities of a well-crafted sub-plot are endless. Not only do they make the story more interesting and complex through the weaving in of multiple themes, but they can also allow you to develop characters further, cement a character’s motivation, create a plausible and rich backstory and/or increase tension and suspense within the story by creating obstacles and hurdles for your main character to overcome.   In short, a subplot is a story within a story.   Types Of Subplots  As mentioned previously, a subplot can be used in many ways with many different objectives. In a compelling, tightly woven novel, you may not even recognise the sub-plot as it will be expertly integrated into the main plot. And often, a sub-plot may have more than one purpose.   Let’s explore some of the different ways to use a subplot.   Mirror Subplot  A mirror subplot occurs when a secondary conflict mirrors the main conflict but doesn’t match it. Your main character will usually learn a valuable lesson from a mirror subplot, which will help them resolve their own issue. For example, in a rom-com, a mirror subplot could be the main character’s best friend also falling in love at the same time, but her love interest turns out to be a two-timing so-and-so. This may help your main character lookout for all the signs of infidelity in her own potential conquest. Romantic/Declaration Of Love Subplot    This is by far the most popular type of subplot across all different genres because it shows a more sensitive, relatable side to the main character and will inevitably help the reader empathise with or understand the character’s actions better. The important thing to note is that it doesn’t have to be a romantic interest, instead, it could be the relationship between a character and their family member, or the blossoming of a new friendship. For example, in a crime or thriller book, this subplot could be a serial killer’s relationship with their mother (in the past or present), which may help a detective anticipate their next move.  Parallel Subplot  Parallel subplots are often referred to as B-plots, C-plots and so on. In fact, some writers argue that whilst they are related to subplots, they are in fact not subplots at all as they function independently of the main plot. Parallel plots often involve interactions between secondary or tertiary characters, but they still relate to the underlying theme of the novel. For example, if your novel is about a woman’s journey of grieving the loss of her partner - a parallel plot could be about another person going through a similar loss, who at some point in the narrative guides your protagonist to find joy and hope in life again.   If you are creating a parallel plot, it’s important to ensure that it doesn’t stray too far from the main plot as there is a risk of it no longer supporting/enhancing the main story.   Conflict Subplot  Conflict subplots seek to do what they say on the tin – add conflict and tension in your novel. They’re also a brilliant vehicle for in-depth characterisation as they allow you to show how a character overcomes certain conflicts. Be cautious about how, and where, in the story conflict subplots interact with the main plot because they have the potential to slow the main plot down.   Expository Subplot  Expository subplots are a great way of adding in backstories – such as a character’s past or childhood, which explains the main plot. Do be careful with this one though. Don’t throw in everything about your character (i.e., what he or she ate for breakfast in 1975 or the name of their childhood best friend’s dog), only the information that your reader needs to know and what is significant in driving the main plot forward.   Complicating Subplot  Subplots that complicate the situation for your protagonist are great ‘in action’ plot points to keep the reader turning the pages. For example, say your protagonist has arranged to meet their love interest at Grand Central Station when the clock strikes midnight, a complicating subplot could be their demanding job that causes them to work late, adding tension and higher stakes regarding reaching the station on time.   Foil Subplot  A foil character in a novel is used by writers to contrast or reflect another character – often your protagonist – by highlighting their traits, appearance, personality or morals. In literature, a foil can take the form of an antagonist, but that isn’t always the case. The uniting theme is that the foil character and their journey shine a spotlight on your main character and their journey.   Foil subplots work in similar ways by literally foiling the plans of your main character. So, for example, your novel could show two different characters tackle the same problem in completely different ways, which at its core helps the reader identify the key personality traits of your protagonist and their narrative.   Bookend Subplot  A bookended subplot essentially frames the main narrative – it’s introduced at the outset and then pretty much left alone until near the end when it’s resolved as part of the main plot.   A real, ‘oh yeah’ satisfying moment!  Narrative Subplot  This subplot design will often take the form of an otherwise throwaway incident or scene that then spirals out of control. Either the character is involved in the scene, or the impact of the scene is so significant that it becomes its own subplot, which then infiltrates the main plot.   Subplot Examples In Literature  Let’s move on to look at some examples of subplots in literature.   Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn  The main plot of the story is the relationship between Amy and Nick after Amy goes missing. But in true testament to Flynn’s skill as a writer, there are multiple sub-plots tightly woven into the fabric of this novel, many of which you may not even recognise. For example, the relationship between Amy and her high-school boyfriend, Desi, which acts as both a complicating and a conflict subplot.   Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie   This award-winning novel tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States to attend university. The underlying themes of the novel are identity, race and belonging but there’s a romantic subplot seamlessly woven into the story regarding her relationship with Obinze, highlighting the importance of love and belonging. The Woman In The Window – A J Finn The main plot of the story begins when Dr Anna Fox witnesses a murder from her bedroom window. But a large part of the novel delves into Anna’s backstory as to how she came to be agoraphobic and what happened to her husband and daughter, which works well as an expository subplot.   How To Write Subplots Now we’ve discussed what a subplot is and the different types, here are my five top tips for weaving a subplot into your narrative.   Ensure that your subplot(s) plays second fiddle to the main plot (and continues to do so throughout the novel).  Remember that your subplot is there to compliment and enhance the main plot, not to overpower it. If, while writing, you find your subplot taking over, maybe have a think about reworking the narrative and making your subplot your main plot.    Experiment with your subplot to make your narrative more interesting.  For example, if your main plot is in third person present POV, consider writing the subplot in first person past POV.    Don’t leave a subplot hanging.  There’s nothing that infuriates a reader more than a subplot that’s not wrapped up and not tied to the main plot by the end of your novel. To avoid this happening, make sure you give your subplots a narrative arc (i.e. a beginning, a middle and an end).   Use subplots to avoid a flat middle.  If you find that your main plot starts to drag by the middle of your novel, consider using a subplot to add drama, suspense and action.    Don’t leave your subplot until the last minute.  Subplots that are written as a second thought or in a mad rush are easy to spot. Consider how you can maintain that depth and authenticity of character throughout the narrative arc. What Subplot Suits Your Story Best?  I hope by now that you see the value of subplots in driving a story forward and are brimming with inspiration as to how you might add some exciting subplots to your novel. Before choosing what type of subplot your book needs, consider the topic, the genre, and (of course) the plot itself.  Often, working on your characters first and getting as deep with them as you can, can lead to all sorts of subplot ideas regarding their motivation, their past or any secrets they may be hiding.  And my final piece of advice – don’t get carried away.   Take a step back and take a look at your story structure first, considering where your subplot can seamlessly be woven in without jeopardising your main plot. You may want to do this by writing out Post It notes with each chapter and plot point written on it and moving things about, writing your story arc on a whiteboard, or using a plot-building function on Scrivener or other similar writing programs.  And if you get stuck, simply pick up your favourite book and see how the author has woven their stories together. After all, reading is one of the most invaluable ways of learning how to write well – so if your favourite author can make it look easy, then you can do the same too!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Use Dialogue Tags

Every writer aims to create pieces of sparkling, seamless dialogue, that captivates the reader, moves the story forward and rings with authenticity.  In this article, I will be illustrating how dialogue tags can be varied in writing to avoid repetition, improve the flow and pace of the story and shine a new light on characters.  I will also suggest techniques to improve conversation writing and show how easy it is to find better words for ‘said.’ What Is A Dialogue Tag?  Dialogue tags are phrases that are used to break up, precede or follow written dialogue to convey which character is speaking, making it easier for the reader to follow the conversation. The most common dialogue tag is the word ‘said.’  The use of dialogue tags makes it clear who is talking and what is being said and they also convey how a character is feeling. However, the constant use of the simple “he said/she said” dialogue tag can very soon become monotonous and bland.  So how can authors use alternative dialogue tags, so that repetitive dialogue can be avoided? And what alternative words are there to ‘said\'?  To Adverb Or Not To Adverb?  There’s a lot of debate in the publishing and writing world on whether adverb speech tags, such as “he said quietly” or “she moaned gently”, should be used by writers. There’s a general school of thought that drawing attention to dialogue tags by using adverbs is defeating the purpose of what they should be there for.  For example, instead of writing:   “ ‘My goodness,’ Sally said with horror.” Most writers would prefer to show, not tell. Instead, they may write: “Sally’s eyes widened, and her hand flew to her mouth. ‘My goodness,’ she cried.” We then know that the way she says ‘my goodness’ is very clearly with horror because of the actions she’s making. Less Is More With Dialogue Tags Speech tags should not be the main focus of writing, but simply a mechanical part of linking a story together by way of dialogue between characters.  Having said that, using well-thought-out dialogue tags to compliment characters, story and pace, can improve the overall rhythm of a story and give it that extra polish.  So where do dialogue tags play their part in dialogue? Well, they feature at the start of a piece of dialogue, in the middle of dialogue and at the end of the dialogue.  Here is an example for each:  Dialogue Tags At The Start Of Dialogue   A much more interesting way to use dialogue tags is at the start of a piece of dialogue. Instead of \"Rose said, \'I’m tired,\'\" it could be:   “Rose sighed. ‘I’m tired.’”    This takes away the need to use the word ‘said’ and shows how the character is feeling without having to use an adverb. Dialogue Tags In The Middle Of Dialogue  Dialogue tags can also be inserted in the middle or at the end of a piece of dialogue too.   For example, in the middle of a sentence a dialogue tag could be, \"\'Look at the weather,\' said Clive’s mother. \'Awful!\'\"  “Said Clive’s mother” is an effective dialogue tag placed in the middle of a sentence. It is sandwiched between what Clive’s mother is saying and adds variety to the dialogue. However, this can be improved upon, by changing the word “said” to “groaned”, to convey her annoyance and disappointment at the weather.  Dialogue Tags At The End Of Dialogue  A dialogue tag incorporated at the end of a sentence is another option: “I’m really tired,” he said. “He said” is the dialogue tag at the end of this sentence. Alternatively, the writer could add a little more flavour, by changing the dialogue tag to read, “\'I’m really tired,\' he whispered\", which conveys much more clearly how tired this particular character actually feels and is a much more emotive speech tag.  Using the tried and tested dialogue tag of “said” too often can become annoying and take over. There should be a fine balance between using dialogue tags and not. Sometimes they are not required at all if the conversation is conveyed in the correct way.  It helps to study the writing of brilliant authors and note how they use a mix of tags in different places to vary the rhythm of the writing.  Action Instead Of Dialogue Tags  To avoid over usage of dialogue tags, the author can implement action prior to a certain character speaking, so that the reader knows who is talking and recognises the tone in which they are speaking.  An example of this is:  “John slammed his hand down on the table. ‘Shut up!’”  Immediately, the reader recognises the frustration and anger in John and knows he is the character who has just ordered someone to shut up. The word “said” has not been used here as a speech tag, but the action of John slamming down his hand illustrates how angry he is and that it is he who is speaking.  Furthermore, by describing the voice in which an individual character is speaking (growled, snapped etc) the author can clarify who is saying what and how they are delivering the words, without having to resort to overuse of dialogue tags.  The clever and intuitive use of speech tags can also provide valuable and teasing clues for the reader, as to what this character who is speaking is really like under the veneer of bluster or smarminess.  This is where the show, don’t tell adage comes into play again. By fleshing out characters and their traits, a writer can make a character or characters express themselves through their actions, rather than the author having to literally spell it all out for the reader.  Discover more about writing dialogue in this Jericho Writers article, and this one on points of view.  Dialogue Tag Alternatives To ‘Said’  As mentioned before, the dialogue tag “said” to show a character is talking, is not the only dialogue tag option available to writers.  There are many other words for \'said\' that authors can use in their work, which are better words than ‘said’ and which convey the tone, emotion and even physicality of a character. But do use them sparingly. In most cases ‘said’ or nothing at all reads a lot smoother.  Here are a few alternatives to ‘said’:  Inquired  Moaned  Sighed  Replied  Whispered  Grumbled  Screamed  Muttered  Asked  Enquired  Mumbled  Growled  Snapped  Hissed  Cried  Shouted  Hollered  These are just some of the very many dialogue tag options out there, which are far more expressive than the word ‘said.’  Of course, authors are not at liberty (nor should they feel pressurised) into constantly using the likes of “moaned”’ and “sighed”, as this too would become annoying to write and to read, but for the sake of variety, it’s good to mix things up a little when writing conversation.  Recognising A Character Via Their Speech Patterns  Sometimes you don’t even need to say who is speaking in your dialogue because the way they speak is evident enough.  An author may have a character who has a predilection for swearing or who has an annoying habit of throwing Latin phrases into their sentences. For a character like this, their way of speaking is so unique the reader will know it’s them speaking without the need for as many speech tags.  Adding Rhythm And Action Beats  Speech tags also provide a natural pause to the conversation – which is reflective of the natural, melodic speech patterns we use in real life that a writer should want to create in their work.  It’s also important to consider what a character is doing during dialogue. Using more descriptive dialogue tags, such as yelled, hollered, bawled etc, allows a peek into their motivation, nature and traits. This is where action beats come in (what a character is doing as they speak).   Here’s an example of an action beat:  “The man strode up to the bar and banged down his pint glass. ‘It’s empty. Fill it.’”  The striding up to the bar and the banging down of the pint glass are what the character is doing as he speaks. The striding and the banging indicate his fiery mood, as well as the short, rude delivery of demanding to have his glass refilled.  Such description can certainly play a part in strengthening a piece of dialogue or scene and is a lot more effective than writing “It’s empty. Fill it,” he said. Or even “It’s empty. Fill it,” he said, angrily. This is why most authors prefer action beats over adverbs.  My Top Tip For Writing Authentic Dialogue  The key to using successful dialogue tags is to endeavour to create a natural-sounding conversation between characters, which could be overheard anywhere, in any pub, home or street. There should be a lyrical fluency to it, with speech tags used to enhance the scenes, and not inhibit them. Therefore it’s important to experiment with a variety of speech tags so that the writing flows and doesn’t become two dimensional or stilted.  The best way to ensure your dialogue sounds natural is to read it aloud and listen out for any awkward or clumsy dialogue tags. Sometimes it even helps to act out what you are saying so you know where to add actions or certain expressions. So Many Different Ways To Say ‘Said’  By channelling characters, their mannerisms and the way they deliver their words, and by using a variety of dialogue tags, you will be able to not only convey who is speaking but how, why and when. It cannot be underestimated that the benefits of using effective, imaginative and alternative dialogue tags in the right context, can bring drama, colour and clarification to dialogue writing.  And, if you’re not sure what to write, remember there’s nothing wrong with a nice and simple ‘said’.   As the very successful author, Diana Gabaldon, famously said: “Don’t go overboard in avoiding the word ‘said.’ Basically, ‘said’ is the default for dialogue, and a good thing, too; it’s an invisible word that doesn’t draw attention to itself.”  And that’s all that has to be said (explained, outlined, expressed, noted) about writing dialogue tags. I hope this article has helped make your dialogue more interesting, authentic and natural, and that you are now a lot more confident about how, when and what your characters are saying!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Describe Sounds In Your Writing

Creating an atmosphere and effective world building are both paramount when engaging your readers. And being able to describe the effect of sounds is important when writing a book.  From bands such as Pink Floyd and Thin Lizzy, to artists and writers like William Wordsworth, Eminem and James Joyce, the use of sound writing to trigger emotion has been used ever since creatives began putting pen to paper.  In this article, I will demonstrate how we can channel the effect of sounds in writing, and how it can be used to chime (sorry for the pun!) with the reader\'s imagination.  Sounds In Writing Writing is about showing, not telling, so being able to use all five senses in a piece of writing is a surefire way to draw your readers into the story. And that includes sound.    There are an infinite amount of words at our disposal to describe sounds in our work, whether it’s the sound something makes or the way someone says something. Everything from \'mumbled\', \'spat\' and \'whispered\' to demonstrate how a person is speaking, to \'shattered\', \'splintered\' and \'cracked\' to add a visual to a sound, helps to add emotion, character and/or tension to dialogue and prose.  Good writers strive to create a picture in their reader’s mind so that the reader is able to see, hear, feel and imagine the same sounds the character is hearing - including tone, volume and intent. Through the use of effective sound writing techniques, readers should feel like they themselves have dropped that China cup onto a wooden floor, or that they’re in the same quiet room when the branch of a tree crashes through the window and sends glass flying in all directions.  So how can a writer describe sounds in an effective way?  Different Types Of Sounds  The different types of sounds that can be incorporated into writing range from pleasing and melodic sounds, to mellow, brassy, banging or a jarringly insistent cacophony of noise.  Writers can use these types of words and descriptions to create different moods (calm, suspense, tension, fear, overwhelm), pulling the reader into the story and heightening the atmosphere.  Five of the most effective methods of using words and language to improve and enhance your sounds in writing are Onomatopoeia, Alliteration, Metaphors/Similes, Hyperbole and Assonance.  So what do these five methods mean and how can they be used effectively to describe sounds in writing?  Onomatopoeia Onomatopoeia is the use of a word to imitate natural sounds. These words sound like the sound they are describing. Using onomatopoeia in your writing is a very effective way to add drama and punch to your sentence, and is used especially frequently when writing for children.  For example:  “I trod on the leaves and they crunched and crackled under my feet.”  By using “crunched” and “crackled”, we are pulling our reader into the sensation of the dry and brittle leaves making such noises under the character’s feet. We are giving the reader the opportunity to recall how it feels to walk on dry leaves.  “The wind howled and rattled at the window pane.”  Again, the use of the words “howled” and “rattled”, personifies the wind, adding a more menacing touch to the sound of the wind outside. There is also an animalistic element to the word “howled” which, used in this context, helps the reader hear the loud, imposing noise of the wind as though it were a wild animal in pain. Again, this heightens tension and atmosphere and makes the reader feel as though they are standing in the shoes of the character.   “The bird let out a screech, before flapping away.”  The words “screech” and “flapping” in this sentence, capture the ear-piercing sound of the bird before it flaps its wings and takes flight. Again, like in the previous sentence, the use of the word “screech” carries frightening, almost monstrous overtones, as we imagine the shrill sound of the bird before flying away. The word “flapping” (instead of simply “flying”) conjures up the sound of the bird’s wings beating together.  Alliteration Alliteration is, put simply, when words start with the same letter and/or sound. An example of this would be “leaping lizards”, “fabulous flamingo” and  “wonderful whale watching.”  Alliteration is about the repitition of sound. It creates a rythym and gives your writing an almost musical element. Poets very often use alliteration in their work, to enhance the sing-song sound as the work is read aloud.   It is also a fun way of writing for children, especially with picture books that are often read out loud.  The book Primrose, by Alex T Smith, uses alliteration really well. In this picture book we meet Primrose, a “princess who lives in a pretty pink palace and has a pretty pink tiara, two prancing pink ponies and a plump little pug named Percy.”  Metaphors, Similes And Hyperbole When describing sounds, sometimes it helps to compare them to something else using a simile or metaphor. Or, you may want to make an exaggerated comparison, using hyperbole to really drive home the tone of the scene.  For instance, instead of simply saying, “She dropped the book on the floor with a bang”, you could say, “She dropped the book on the floor with a thundering bang loud enough to wake her dead mother next door.”  It\'s dramatic, but if this is the first sentence of your novel your readers would instantly want to know what was happening. That loud sound would make them sit up! Assonance Assonance is the repetition of the same or similar rhyming vowel sounds within a group of words.  Here are three examples of assonance:  “He was too cool for the new school as a rule.”  It is the “oo” sound incorporated into this sentence,which matters, not the concoction of different letters. It makes the description soft and rhythmical.  “He creeps and sleeps, like an old man in a deep trance.”  In this example, it is the “ee” sound being used, that gives the sentence a certain resonance and elongates its delivery. It carries an almost easy, sleepy quality when said aloud, which fits in with the description of the old man being slow and sleepy.  “His spitting lips and jutting hips”.  It is the repeated use of the “i” in this description, which gives the idea of the man an almost whispering and soft sound. It is as if the spitting can be heard and the idea of “jutting” hips, is carried along by the extending sound of the “ju.”    Assonance can give a piece of writing musicality, and emphasises particular words or vowel sounds that resonate with the ideas and themes in a piece of work or book.  It is a sound writing technique which is constantly used by song writers, to enscapulate beauty, mood and atmosphere in their music. It also tends to feature heavily in poetry, where rhythm and sound are key.  An Example Of Different Sounds In Writing And how about a paragraph mixing them all up? You don’t want to do this too often, no one likes purple prose, but it can add drama and tension if used sparingly:  So instead of saying, “His feet thud along the pavement as he ran past her” you could say, “He ran past her - a man with a plan. With each step he took the pavement shook as if it were a herd of buffalo running past, so loud the birds in the trees cried out in protest, the frantic flurry of their feathered wings beating a rhythm in time with his.”  OK, this isn’t a great piece of writing, but you get the idea! Why Is Sound Important In Writing?  The most important thing to ask yourself when considering sound in your writing is - what are you trying to achive? What mood or atmosphere are you hoping to create? What do you want your readers to hear and feel?   Selecting the right sound word for writing, can make the difference between making a scene jar or joyful to read.   For example, describing the sound of a wolf as having a “haunting howl,” is using alliteration to create an effective image and conjure up a sound which is both atmospheric and memorable.  Describing a wolf’s cry as a “loud cackle” doesn’t make sense and fails to capture the real essence of what a wolf’s howl actually sounds like. This description, unlike the previous one, is neither chilling nor recognisable to anyone who has happened to hear an actual wolf howl. Using such a description in this way, would make the reader pause and possibly lose interest in the scene – unless your intention is to make the reader stop, re-read the sentence, and wonder whether the wolf is perhaps an evil witch in disguise! This is because a “loud cackle” is an effective piece of sound writing to describe the sound a witch would make. The word “cackle” has a raspy, edgy element to it. It’s similar to “crackle” and “shackle” – all words that are sharp, menacing and quite negative (don’t underestimate the power of the subconcious when using words that sound like others).  Used effectively, sound writing and descriptions can paint pictures, trigger empathy and help the reader to get inside the mind of the book’s characters. By using effective sound writing in books, short stories or poetry, the writer is creating an immersive world for their readers.  How Can Writers Add To Their Sound List?  As writers it’s very easy to find ourselves using the same words to describe the same sounds. So how can we add texture to our work, and describe sounds in our stories in new and exciting ways?  1. Take a stroll through different areas of your neighbourhood and note the cacophony of sounds that can be heard.   Other than birds in the park, what else can you hear? Perhaps you can hear the distant sound of children playing, the scurry of small creatures in the undergrowth, the chattering of people, the squeaky wheel of a pushchair, the leaves rustling in the trees.  What are you reminded of? How would you decribe each sound effectively or originally? Are the cries of the children in the playground shrill and piercing? Or are they distant and happy?   What if you’re in a more urban area? What do you hear?   The sound of car horns blaring, people shouting, the hiss of a teenager spraying a wall with graffitti, the clip clop of heels as a business woman marches by shouting into her phone. But these are all negative city sounds. If you want your reader to associate the same setting with something positive, perhaps you would describe the city having its own beat that the character is walking to, neighbours hanging over their balconies calling out greetings to one another, people laughing into their phones as they waltz by, the soft hum of traffic and the mix of music from different stores.  2. Pay attention to the way authors implement their own sound writing.   How are they able to capture the ringing tone of a bell so succinctly? What writing sound methods do they use? Perhaps they use similes and metaphors to compare the sound to other things (‘the bell chimed one singular time like Big Ben on the first hour of the day’). Or onomatepeia (‘the bell ding-donged once’). Or even alliteration (‘the brass bell binged and bonged’).   How does their description impact on what a character might have heard? Why might an author have opted for that particular method of sound writing? Who is their audience and what genre are they writing?  3. Let your imagination run wild.  Listen out for how you can improve your sound writing. Play around with different techniques, mix them up, break the rules, surprise your readers – but never ever forget to immerse them fully into the story.  Get Writing! Have fun with writing sounds in your work. And remember, by absorbing and paying attention to everyday sounds around you, you will not only benefit your writing but also your readers’ enjoyment, bringing an extra, sharper dimsension to the work. And that’s something every writer wants to hear!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Make Money As A Ghostwriter

Unveiling The Mystery Of Ghostwriting Do you love writing?  But does the thought of seeing your name out there in public make you feel nauseous?  Well, what if I told you that there was a way that you could write and earn the same as an author or freelance writer, but remain completely anonymous?   I bet I’ve got your attention now.   In the following guide, I will be demystifying the ghostwriting profession. Not only will we discuss the basics - what ghostwriting is and how it works, but I will also share with you my top tips for becoming a ghostwriter, should you decide that this is the path you want to take.   What Is A Ghostwriter?  Have you ever seen a memoir or biography in a bookshop written by a celebrity or public figure and thought to yourself, ‘wow, I never realised they could write’ or ‘I wonder if they actually wrote this?’   Well, chances are they may well not have written it at all. Their book was probably written by a ghostwriter.  So, as the name might suggest, a ghostwriter is essentially a writer who creates content that has been commissioned by someone else (usually the publicly named author). The writer’s name or byline will never be attached to their work (i.e. they won’t get any authorship credit – at all), and the person who commissions the work will own the copyright - which means that they can amend and republish the work in whatever manner they like without consulting the ghostwriter.   But ghostwriters aren’t just commissioned by celebrities and public figures. Ghostwriting is everywhere – from book publishing and blogs, to speechwriting and news articles.  ‘Why would someone hire a professional ghostwriter?’ I hear you ask. ‘Why not just write it themselves?’  Well, as we’ve discussed above, a publisher may wish to publish a celebrity’s memoir because they know that it’s guaranteed to sell, however, they may not have confidence in the celebrity’s writing ability. There are other reasons too, such as the person whose name will appear on the cover not having the time to write it, or simply not wanting to.   This works in the corporate world too. For example, a person may have an award-winning blog or website but may not have the time to write all their own material. They would rather spend their time marketing or networking than actually writing.    This is when it might be more efficient and cost-effective to hire a ghostwriter to take away the pressure of creating regular content.   Now that we’ve discussed what a ghostwriter is, let’s move on to talk about the benefits/drawbacks of becoming one, and I’ll also share a little about how it works in practice.   How Does Ghostwriting Work?  A ghostwriting commission is likely to be very similar to a freelance writing commission, except of course that the commission is confidential. This means you will probably have to sign a Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreement on or before your acceptance of the offer.   When you have signed on the dotted line, you will be given a brief that sets out the scope of the commission and any key deadlines. It’s essential you ensure the brief is clear and that you will be able to work within it and adhere to the timescales required.   Then, depending on whether the commission is for an article or blog piece, or a much lengthier memoir or biography, you will have a series of meetings and/or phone calls to discuss the project. Conversations may touch upon topics such as the themes and overarching narratives of the content, as well as the timeline of events in the story and the authenticity of voice and style.   The duration of this initial phase can depend on the type of commission. For example, if you are writing a memoir or biography, this ‘’fact-finding’’ process could take several weeks or even months, whereas the research element of an article may only require a few days. You may want to ask if you can record any conversations to remind you of any key details at a later stage in the process.   Then, after you’ve completed this more collaborative phase, this is where the hard work truly begins as you will have to actually produce the content that you have been commissioned to write!   As with most writing projects, this part can be extremely solitary. You must be prepared to be very self-motivated and disciplined to work hard on a project that may not interest you (and that you will not be able to take the credit for).   Here are some of the key benefits of being a ghostwriter:   Financial reward. Well-established ghostwriters tend to get paid very well. Fees differs from writer to writer, but most ghostwriters are paid up to 15% more than the average freelance writer. And once you are established in the profession, there is rarely a shortage of work.   Diversifying network. Ghostwriting will inevitably expose you to a diverse range of people within the industry, from bloggers, authors and influencers to celebrities and public figures. It is a great way to build your contacts and grow your network.   Objective distance from work. Many authors will often write about subject matter which has personally impacted them, or someone close to them, in some way or form. Being a writer isn’t for everyone as it can be mentally and emotionally exhausted baring one’s soul to the world. So, ghostwriting instead (writing someone else’s story) can take the emotion out of the equation.   But there are also some drawbacks of being a ghostwriter, such as:    Lack of credit. It’s hard to really know how you’ll feel about this until you have completed your first commission. Some ghostwriters do struggle with working really hard on a piece of work and not being able to shout about it from the rooftops! You have to think hard about what motivates you beforehand. Ghostwriting is not for everyone and that’s okay. If you are concerned this might be you, maybe consider writing a novel under a pen name, which will preserve your anonymity, among other benefits.   Ethics. As a ghostwriter you will have to rely heavily on the brief and your project sponsor. There is a risk that you will be forced to run in a direction that you aren’t wholly comfortable with, or worse, follow a brief with little planning or direction. If you are starting out, you may not feel comfortable pushing back or asking for more input.   Inability to develop own portfolio. Many writers feel that they don’t want to be limited by ghostwriting projects, which limit their own creative freedom and time to develop their own personal portfolio. But arguably, the skills, experience and contacts you can develop while ghostwriting could help you further your own portfolio.   How To Become A Ghostwriter- Tips  Starting out as a ghostwriter is very similar to starting out as a freelance writer, in that you will have to find a way of getting your name out there and establishing a client base for yourself in an already very crowded industry.   To help you get started, we’ve set out some easy to follow tips on how to start ghostwriting below.   Establish Yourself As A Freelance writer  Many ghostwriters start out as freelance writers or editors for a reason, as it helps to show current and prospective clients that you have a portfolio of proven experience. If you don’t have this experience, consider offering to guest blog for well-known blogs and websites. Be prepared, however, to offer your services at a reduced rate or even for free to pick up some clients for your portfolio, but this should hopefully pay off in the long run. Alternatively, you could play the long game and consider starting your own blog or website to demonstrate your skills and versatility as a writer.   Don’t Be Afraid Of Marketing Your Services  All freelance writers and ghostwriters should have a website (or a section of your existing website) offering their services and rates. Not only does this show that you are a serious professional who means business, but you can use it to highlight your freelance writing experience and your portfolio of projects/clients.   Make the most of all the other free marketing opportunities available to you, such as using social media to network and interact with potential clients and other people in the community. Another more ‘out of the box’ way of marketing your services is to guest blog about ghostwriting, which will effectively ensure that your name is publicly associated with the ghostwriting profession (it will also help with SEO and Google algorithms).   Learn The Ins And Outs Of SEO  Navigating the SEO minefield is essential. Not only so that potential clients can find you but also to maximise the traction of any content you are commissioned to create.   If you aren’t familiar with SEO, then consider taking a short online course or doing some further research to learn the basics.   Learn How To Diversify Your Voice  Most writers and authors will develop their own voice over time, which forms part of their brand/author identity so loyal readers know exactly what they are getting when they pick up a book or article written by them. But with ghostwriting you are not writing as you. And that is an entirely different skill set to develop.    You will need to be able to identify and embody the client’s tone and style within your writing in order to completely match their voice. This is much harder than it sounds!   In addition to this, if you are ghostwriting books you may need to learn to write across different genres, particularly when you are starting out.   Leverage Your Network  Word of mouth is one of the most underrated ways of gaining a new commission. But people aren’t mind-readers! So don’t be afraid to approach your existing network to spread the word that you are ‘open for business’.   Examples Of Ghostwritten Books  You may (or may not be) surprised to learn that the following books are publicly acknowledged to have been ghostwritten.   Trump: The Art Of The Deal   This was the book that helped make Donald J. Trump a household name. It reached number one on The New York Times Best Seller list and stayed there for 13 weeks. Whilst Trump has given conflicting accounts on the question of authorship, his publisher stated that Trump played no role in the writing of the book and that it was ghostwritten by journalist and popular ghostwriter Tony Schwartz who cited it as his ‘greatest regret in life, without question.’  Richard Brandon: Losing My Virginity  This is a memoir of one of the most celebrated and successful businessmen of this century and is a must-read for aspiring entrepreneurs. It was ghostwritten by Edward Whitley, most likely to sensitively draw out a softer more empathetic side to a billionaire.   Andre Agassi: Open, An Autobiography  If you have read this book there will be no doubt in your mind that it has been ghostwritten, and not just by any ghostwriter but Pulitzer Prize winning writer, JR Moehringer. The stunning prose and skilful imagery would never have been captured by a former tennis champion.   Sweet Valley High (The Final Books In The Series) Francine Pascal didn’t have much to do with the final Sweet Valley books, which were penned by a handful of ghostwriters. This is quite common with huge hit series books, which for a number of reasons such as time and enthusiasm may eventually be written by ghostwriters (including a few young men in their twenties!).   Jason Bourne  This extremely well-known series was published over a period spanning 40 years starting from 1980. The original author, Robert Ludlum passed away in 2001 but over 11 bestselling books were published 16 years after he died written by ghostwriter, Eric Van Lustbader.   Is Ghostwriting For You?  I hope this article has unveiled all you need to know about being a ghostwriter.  Ghostwriting isn’t for everyone, so be certain of your motivations before you start. But for those who love to write and collaborate, while remaining in the shadows, it’s the perfect path to publication.  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

Beta Readers: Everything You Need to Know

You\'ve finished your book, you\'ve edited it as much as you can, you\'re more or less happy with it - but is it any good? Have you achieved what you set out to do? You need to know the answers to these questions before you invest any more time and effort on a book that may not be hitting the right way. You haven\'t reached the final draft of any book until others have read it too. Which is where beta readers come in. What Is A Beta Reader? A beta reader is someone who\'s prepared to read your entire manuscript at a point where you feel it\'s ready to be read, and whose opinion you trust. Whether you know them personally or not, ideally you will have chosen someone who is the same demographic as your intended readership who you know should enjoy your book (you wouldn\'t ask your 89 year old religious grandfather to beta read your paranormal erotica, for instance). You also need to be able to trust them to give constructive feedback on a number of questions you will ask them prior to reading. So, if beta readers exist - does that mean alpha readers do too? The answer is yes - but they\'re slightly different. Whereas beta readers come in to play once the book is complete and you need someone just like your readers to look at the entire book with fresh eyes, an alpha reader is generally someone who is there at the beginning of your book\'s journey, helping you shape the story from the onset. For some writers this may be their agent, for others a close friend they like to bounce ideas off, or even a fellow author who always helps with plotting, language and pacing. Alpha readers are important - not just to help you get your book off the ground but for motivation and resilience too - but it\'s beta readers who will direct the next stage of your writing journey. They are the one who will help perfect your latest draft into hopefully the last draft. It is your beta readers who stand between you and an agent, editor or your readers. Why Are Beta Readers Important? You may be thinking \'my book is done now, why would I risk a load of criticism at this stage after spending so much time on it?\' The answer is that if you don\'t get feedback on the initial draft of your novel, you run a higher risk of agents, editors, and eventually readers having the same problems with it too. A beta reader is not there to tell you your writing is bad - they are there to answer specific questions so that you can be happy in the knowledge your book has achieved what was intended. How Many Beta Readers Do I Need? And How Much Do I Have To Change? The answer to both of these questions is the same - it\'s totally up to you. I would suggest you ask at least three to five beta readers to read your work at one time, perhaps a mix of friends, family and other writers. And remember, you are simply garnering opinions...it doesn\'t mean you have to act on every one of their comments. With my last novel I sent it out to five beta readers and most of them said the same thing about the same parts (which means they were totally right, it needed changing). Other times their opinions were contradictory, meaning they were approaching the book from different angles. At this point I asked myself what was subjective and what was something I was comfortable changing. Where Do I Find A Beta Reader? If you are a new writer, the idea of anyone reading your work may be terrifying - let alone someone who then has to give you feedback. The easiest way to find fellow-minded readers is to join an author community. At Jericho Writers we offer free membership to our writers community, with thousands of people at different stages of their writing journey coming together looking for help, support and even to swap books and get feedback. Likewise you can join one of the many writing groups on Facebook, follow the #WritingCommunity hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, or join a local writing group. Then simply take a deep breath, be brave, and befriend other writers. I strongly recommend you look for others who write the same genre as you, and are also at the same stage of their journey as you. If this is your first book and you have no agent or deal in place, it\'s highly unlikely that a published author with three bestsellers under their belt will have the time to read your book for fun. They will probably already have a team of their own beta readers, critique partners, and an agent to guide them. Likewise, you should be seeking out writer friends to grow with so you can share the same trials and tribulations together as you progress on your writing journey. You can also ask friends, family members, or even your social media followers if they\'d like an early glance of your book in exchange for feedback. You\' be surprised how honoured people feel when asked and how eager they will be to be part of your process! Do I Have To Pay Them? No. Because a beta reader is normally a friend, a fellow writer, or already a big fan of your work they should be happy to help. Although they may ask you to repay the favour by reading their book too, and /or thanking them in the acknowledgements. Is A Beta Reader The Same As A Sensitivity Reader? No, although you may want to hire one at the same time as having it beta read. A sensitivity (or \'authenticity\') reader is paid and they are vital when covering topics, themes, and/or characters that you don\'t have personal experience of. Hiring a sensitivity reader is no different to paying a lawyer to double check your legal crime thriller, or a police officer checking for any inconsistencies in your detective novel. For instance, if you\'re a straight, white, man and you want to feature, say, a gay Indian girl with disabilities in your novel - it\'s a really good idea to pay a disabled queer Indian person to read your book and check that you haven\'t misrepresented an entire community. Like beta readers, a sensitivity reader is not there to silence you or censor your writing, they are there to strengthen the contents of your book. As authors we are all free to write about whatever we want, but if you want to cover themes that involve aspects of life you haven\'t had direct experience in, it always helps to work with those who have, in order to add a level of authenticity, accuracy and (most importantly) respect to your work. Unlike beta readers, sensitivity readers are paid and often someone you don\'t know. That way they can offer feedback that is unbiased and fair. How Do I Work With My Beta Readers? A beta reader is not: An editor A proofreader A sensitivity reader All of those jobs are performed by a paid professional who is there specifically to look at structure, spelling, or a certain theme that they represent. A beta reader is simply a friend, book-lover or fellow writer, who will read your book and give you their opinion of it based on a set of questions you have prepared for them. They will understand that this is not the very first draft...but likewise, it\'s not the final one either. It\'s a few drafts before the final one, where you still have the chance to move things about and hone characters and plot points. Because this person is someone you have recruited, like with anything it\'s important to be respectful with them and clear about your needs. If they are a trusted friend or fellow author, they may have asked for a favour in return (ie \'please beta read my wip too\' or \'mention me in the acknowledgements\') and all you have to do is honour that agreement. But if you have put together a group of beta readers made up of people you don\'t know well, you may wish to create a Facebook group, and clearly state the guidelines. Within those guidelines will be what you need from them, a deadline for feedback, and what they can expect in return. Likewise, you may want to offer them an agreement or NDA to sign, to ensure your story is not shared outside the group. NDA templates can be found online. Although, legally, a simple agreement you have drawn up may not carry much weight - it will at least show that you trust them and both parties are clear re: expectations. What Questions Should I Ask Them? Are the first three chapters engaging?If they aren\'t, then you\'re in trouble. It doesn\'t matter if you are trying to grab the attention of an agent, an editor, or someone on Amazon who wants to read the first few pages to get a taste of the novel before buying. If you can\'t hook your reader in the first three chapters then they won\'t keep reading. So ask your beta readers whether they were intrigued from the start. Plot and themesThis is an obvious question - but do they like what the book is about? Is it interesting? Is there anything they would cut that slowed down the story? Or is there more they need you to elaborate on? Are the characters rounded? Are they likeable or scary or whatever it is you are trying to achieve. Are their backstories clear? Are they all needed? Sometimes you can combine two characters into one to have them supporting the MC in the same way. Not all characters have to be \'nice\' or likeable BUT they do have to be interesting enough that people want to keep reading. Is the book consistent?If you are working on a series and your beta readers enjoyed the other books, ask them about continuity. Have you forgotten some world lore? Or do your characters act or sound different this time? And even if your book is a contemporary stand alone, you still need to make sure your world makes sense. You don\'t have a nurse living in an apartment and halfway through she\'s a doctor living in a large house! Worldbuilding If you are writing fantasy, it\'s really important that your readers understand your magic system and how your fantasy world works. The same goes if you are writing history - is this world believable and accurate? Again, this is important if part of a series as you need to ensure there\'s consistency. PacingIf it\'s a thriller, were they on the edge of their seat? If it\'s a romance, was their heart beating in the right place? Did the story sag in any places? Or was it too rushed or light in other places? Pacing is really important when it comes to engaging a reader and keeping them turning the pages. LanguageDo they like the way the book is written? It\'s OK at this stage to ask them for any errors they find (ie if the wrong ocean is referenced or a date is wrong) but I wouldn\'t worry about proofreading as you still have a long way to go until you present a final ms and a lot of the words may be cut anyway. What they loved and didn\'t enjoyAnd finally, it\'s a hard question to ask, but knowing what parts of the book they enjoyed and what they didn\'t enjoy will give you a clear indication of what your final readers will think. Opinions are subjective, which is why it\'s ideal to have three or four beta readers, and then if they all agree you know it\'s something you shouldn\'t ignore! How I Use Beta Readers I write both fantasy and thriller novels, and I absolutely love working with my beta readers. When I was a debut author I put together my own team of readers. I created a blog that explained I was looking for a dedicated team of readers, and I sent it to those who I thought would suit the trilogy best. I literally approached each reader, one by one, from Facebook writing groups and Twitter, ensuring they represented a diverse mix of readers. Those who accepted signed a confidentiality agreement and were added to a Facebook group. I capped it at 25 members and after around three weeks my beta reader gang was formed! The group lasted a few years, and they were instrumental in helping me develop my fantasy series. I would ask them questions and opinions, I\'d run competitions to name a character or to be picked to read an early draft, and in exchange they not only got to be part of my journey but were mentioned in the acknowledgements and all received a free book once it was published. Having a squad like this (especially when writing YA or fantasy) is really helpful once you are published too, as these readers have supported you from the very beginning and will continue to support you. My team went on to shout about the book online, creating a lot of organic buzz that\'s hard to build naturally. Now, five years after being published, I have retained some of my beta readers plus have added lots of fellow published authors and a few friends and family members who want a sneaky peak. I have five key critique partners, all successful authors in their own rights, and we bounce idea off one another as well as alpha/beta read one another\'s work. I find it helpful to have a mix of professionals and book-loving friends on my beta reading list as that way I receive feedback in general (ie \'I couldn\'t put it down\' and \'I got bored in this chapter\') as well as more structured professional feedback (ie \'the pacing was off in chapters 5-7\' and \'the motivation isn\'t strong enough for the MC in the third act\'). Plus having critique partners who are also authors means I get to show off that I have read some of the best author\'s books years before they make it to the shops! Being part of that book\'s journey is a real honour! Find The Beta Mix That Works for You I hope this article answers all your beta reader questions and has inspired you to put your own group together. Remember to be brave and offer to swap books with a writer who\'s at the same stage of writing as you...you may be surprised and find they\'ve been just as eager to read your work as you are to work with them! If you don\'t reach out, you\'ll never know. And most importantly, if you don\'t get all those new eyes on your new book, you may well miss the opportunity to change something fundamental that could be standing between you and your perfect agent, editor, or five star review. My books and my career would not have progressed as far as they have without my beta readers, and I truly hope you find your perfect gang too. Good luck! Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How Much Money Do Authors Really Make?

Would you ever approach a stranger and ask “how much money do you make?” Probably not.   Yet, as an author of feel-good romance, I have been asked this question by both strangers and those I know quite a few times.  “You must be rolling in it!” they say. “Did you receive a big advance?” and “how much royalties do you get paid?”   Having pondered what gives some individuals the idea they can glibly interrogate authors about their income from their writing, I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be the perceived fallacy that all writers are generously paid for their articles and books, and that we enjoy an indulgent lifestyle.  If only that were true!  So, how much do book authors really make? How much can they make? And how can we, as writers, maximise our earning potential?  In this article I will be answering that question as well as providing suggestions on how to improve your earnings. I have included a list of rough earning potential in both dollars and pounds – but please remember all these totals can vary greatly.  What Salaries Do Authors Make?  The sad truth is that authors don’t make a regular salary, so it’s really a matter of ‘close your eyes and take a stab.’  The answer to ‘how much money does an author make?’ depends on many factors, such as whether the author is self-published or traditionally published, the number of projects currently in their pipeline, how many novels the author in question has previously published, and what the details of these publishing deals might be.   Because the publishing world has evolved to such an extent over the years, many more avenues are now open to writers – making it harder to provide a ballpark figure for author earnings. According to the site uk.indeed.com, the average author salary in the UK stands at $33,078 per annum as of 9th February 2022. Although this may be a generous overestimation if they calculate that by including all the millions authors like J K Rowling make and dividing it by the number of published books out there.   In reality, most writers don’t make the minimum wage from their books and work full- or part-time to supplement their book earnings!  Writing is not like other professions, where there are salary scales and overtime payments. It all comes down to which path to publication you decide to take, how much time you have to write, how you sell your work, and how many books you can produce in a year. That’s just to make money from your first book – because staying a published writer takes even more work!  Ballpark Figures Self-published authors can earn up to 70% royalties from their books, while most traditionally published authors make 5-18% royalties which they only receive after ‘earning out’. That means the books sales have “paid back” their advances and the publishers then start giving them a cut of book sales. From a major publisher, such as one of the “Big Five,” an advance can start from $5,000 for a first-time, unknown author and can go into five figures. This may be more if the author is well-known, happens to have a more established literary reputation, it’s a multi-book deal, or the author has an impressive back catalogue.   Sometimes a debut (or less-established) author can hit upon a very topical idea and write a book that has publishers bidding against one another. Debut Middle Grade author, Anabelle Steadman, recently won a seven-figure book deal with Simon & Schuster (including Sony film rights) for her bloodthirsty unicorn series. So, although very rare, you can get lucky!  Smaller, independent publishers, tend to offer lower advances to their writers – sometimes in the region of $3,000-$10,000. Although some compensate for this by paying their writers a higher royalty revenue, which kicks in sooner as it takes a lot less time to recoup the advance.  Plus don’t forget that advances are taxed, and 15% goes to your agent who negotiated the deal in the first place.  Bearing all this in mind, some may argue that the answer to making lots of money writing books is to self-publish. Yes, you will certainly receive more money per book – but it’s not that simple either.  Author and Jericho Writers founder, Harry Bingham, wrote about this in his recent article for Jericho Writers. Unlike traditional publishing, when you self-publish you have to cover all costs of design, editing, typesetting, distribution, marketing and advertising yourself. You can expect to pay anything between $800-$2,000 to have your book professionally edited and proofread, as well as anything from $100-$600 for a decent cover design.  You may not have agent fees to worry about, but you will also need to be your own publicist – and with self-publishing becoming more popular by the day, that means understanding online advertising and getting your book to market.   Basically, there’s no easy way to make money from your books.   Let’s look at traditional publishing first, and the different ways you can earn money.  Making Money From Traditional Publishing Vs Self-Publishing  What To Expect From Big 5 Traditional Publishers  The biggest publishers, also referred to as ‘The Big 5’, are Penguin/Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Macmillan. And within those publishers there are many imprints.  If they purchase your manuscript, the sale is generally executed by a literary agent who will keep 15% of all earnings from that book deal (sometimes the deal includes more than one book).   These publishers often (not always) pay bigger advances than independent publishers.   If they decide your book will be one of their lead titles, then they will use their enviable distribution network to make your book available for sale as widely as possible, which means you can expect to see your book in a dizzying array of retailers, ranging from bookshops and online retailers to supermarkets (depending on what ‘path to market’ they think best suits your readership).   They also work closely with the press and, depending on the marketing budget allocated to the title, will support the release with a carefully executed PR campaign.   Being signed with the Big 5 means you are also more likely to receive a five-figure plus advance and your book will almost certainly appear in print, as well as sometimes audio, e-book and even hardback. If you’re lucky enough that your sales ‘earn out’, you will also receive royalties.  Most authors dream of such a deal, which is why they may spend many years (and many scrapped books) trying to be signed by a great agent, as without an agent you will never be signed with a big-name publisher.  What To Expect From Independent Traditional Publishers  Independent traditional publishers work in exactly the same way as the Big 5 – but with slightly less budget, and slightly less reach. But the good news is that they often accept submissions without an agent and are more likely to take on less-commercial books as they are smaller companies with more subjective decision-making.  Although they often pay smaller advances, as mentioned previously they often provide larger royalties and they may choose to pay big bucks as an advance for a book that they wish to make their lead title, when the Big 5 may have paid less and made it one of their lesser titles.  So bigger is not always better. Once again, each book and each author makes a completely different amount of money, but it’s worth understanding how the business works and realistically what’s at stake.  Whether the publisher is large or not, they can both take a book quite far – to audio, abroad, and even to the big screen. Different Ways To Make Money With A Traditionally Published Book  It can be very confusing for a new author to understand how a book makes its writer money. Every book deal is different, and every author earns a different amount. This is in no way a reflection of the quality of the book; it hinges on how well the editors and sales and marketing teams at the publishers think the book will do.  Remember – publishing is a business, and your books are products. If you produce something that is destined to sell well, then you will be compensated as such. The only problem is that books can be mercurial things and what works once doesn’t always work again!  So how do authors get paid? Author Advances  An advance paid by a publisher is intended to cover an author’s expenses while they write the book the publisher has bought. It should be a rough estimate of what the book might earn, paid up front, to give the author support and reassurance. The amount of an advance can vary from a couple of thousand pounds to a seven-figure sum and it is usually paid by the traditional publishers. However, some publishers opt not to pay an advance to writers and instead pay higher royalties. Royalties A publisher pays authors book royalties in exchange for the rights to publish their work in book form. Royalty rates are made up of percentages of book sales and they are entirely negotiable, though some publishers do have standard royalty rates that they try to adhere to for the majority of their book deals. Average retail royalties tend to fall in the 10% - 15% range on hardcover sales, and 5% - 7.5% on trade paperback sales. These are paid quarterly by some publishers, yearly by others.  Foreign Rights Authors who retain translation rights, may submit their book to a foreign rights agent (sometimes their agent works with foreign publishers and reps), or their publisher may commission a foreign rights agent to represent the publisher’s catalogue, or collection of titles.   A foreign rights agent represents translation rights on a worldwide basis or for select languages. Then, the foreign rights agent plays matchmaker, matching books with foreign publishers who have published or are looking to publish similar works.  You get paid by a foreign publisher for every language or territory you sell your book to – this can be anything from $1,500 per book, per territory, to six figures (not as common).   Literary agents receive a slightly higher commission for foreign subsidiary rates and translations, generally 20% commission compared to the usual 15% a literary agent receives.  TV Rights   One of the first steps a TV/film producer makes when developing a project for the screen in which they are interested in, is to obtain story rights. The usual legal vehicle for this is an option contract. The producer options exclusive rights for a specified time to develop your creative work and determine if there is any interest in adapting the work into a film before committing to purchasing the work. The option puts money in the writer’s pocket in exchange for putting the book rights on hold during the negotiated time period. Sometimes that time runs out and the options are sold again, so the writer is receiving money for nothing while the producers try and get the project off the ground. Again, options vary in amount and contractual length, but $15,000 for three years is not uncommon.  This can be handled by the publishers or the agents direct. Most literary agents have experience of such contracts and would be more than happy to handle this on your behalf!   The literary agent commission on film rights and audio book rights is typically somewhere between 15%-20%.  And now for self-publishing. A completely different kettle of fish…but one that more and more traditionally published authors are diving into. Self-Publishing Publishing your own book means you never sell the rights to the book. It’s yours. There is no advance (ie money up front) in self-publishing – it’s completely down to you as the author to make whatever investment you can afford to get your book out there.  Most indie sales take the form of e-books, often taking advantage of print-on-demand services provided by suppliers such as Amazon. But that means limiting your distribution to online sales. For those with dreams of seeing your work sold in physical bookshop and adorning the shelves, this is much harder to do with self-publishing. You can personally go from bookstore to bookstore, many independent bookshops love to support local indie writers, but you’re unlikely to see huge sales of your hardback in Waterstones and B&N if you self-publish.  You are also less likely to see your book in the national press (again, local publications do support local writers, but you have to do all the PR yourself).  But, because you can decide on the price point of your book and have the possibility of publishing as many as you can write a year (whereas traditional publishers generally publish one book per author per year), plus you get a larger cut per sale, you have the possibility of making a lot of money. After a year, some self-published authors are making a living wage from their books. Some are even making millions!   Here is a list of more Jericho Writer resources about self-publishing and how much you can expect to make: Traditional Publishing Vs Self PublishingShould self-published authors turn to traditional publishing?Why A Best-selling Author Chose To Self-PublishHow Much Does it Cost to Self-Publish a Book?How to Control Your Self-Publishing CostsHow Much Does it Cost to Publish a Book? And remember, unlike traditional publishing which is very subjective and often down to getting the right agent, the right editor, and publishing at the right time, with self-publishing you get out what you put in.   So the question you should really be asking yourself when considering self-publishing is not ‘How much money will I make?’ but ‘How hard am I prepared to work to make enough money?’  Getting published is an amazing experience. However, for the sake of your future writing career, getting published is not the same as staying published!  Securing one good book deal does not mean you can give up your day job. You should therefore try to remain productive and add to your back catalogue of books and articles, in order to establish a steady income.   Luckily, most authors make their money not from their books, but from being a writer. Here’s how…  Tips For Authors To Make More Money  Here are a few tips which you might like to consider for increasing your cashflow as a writer.  Enter writing competitions. Many offer generous cash prizes and it is a good way of potentially boosting your writing coffers. It is also a very enjoyable diversion from your usual writing routine. Come up with pitches for freelance articles and approach newspapers and magazines. It’s a competitive market, but editors are always on the lookout for new ideas. If you can suggest an original and eye-catching pitch, there is money to be made. You might also find if the editor published you once, they will publish you again.  The figures below from the National Union of Journalists website, gives a rough estimate of what you could expect to earn writing articles in the UK (fees vary country to country). For example, once you are an established feature writer, writing a 1,000-word tabloid feature can earn you approx. £800.  Page lead, tabloids - sky\'s the limit, rarely less than  1250.00 Tip-off leading to exclusive or large spread, upward of  1000.00 Splashy features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  800.00 Normal features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  500.00 Page lead, for \"qualities\", per 1000, from  500.00 News, for \"qualities\", per 1000 words, from  430.00 Tip-off for news, \"qualities\" - much more for big stories  200.00 Commissioned online blog post - e.g. \"Comment is Free\" from  110.00 Tip-off for diary - minimum  50.00  RATES: Writing, reporting and researching National newspapers category: Newspaper supplements  Splashy features for \"qualities\", per 1000, from    1000.00  Per 1000 words, generic   600.00  Being a writer, means you have publishing experience. That means you can also get paid to:  Attend paid literary events and give talks (approx.. $200-1,000 per event, depending on how sought-after you are) Lecture on creative writing, either privately or to uni students (approx. $250-$500 per day) Write blog articles like this one (approx. $100-$200 per blog) Become a freelance editor (approx. $750 to $2,000 per book) Be a proof-reader, beta reader, blogger or sensitivity reader (bloggers and beta readers don’t often get paid, but you do get to read some great books).  Be a writing mentor (you may charge an hourly rate of $80-120) Become a ghostwriter (this can vary, and some writers get paid in royalties only, but others can get $5,000-$10,000 up front per book)  Explore Different Writing Opportunities I hope this article has given you some indication as to how much money you can make being an author. Sadly, unlike being a plumber or solicitor, the career trajectory of an author is never a straight line and no amount of qualifications can guarantee you more success or money.  But, the one way you can help yourself as an author, is to keep learning and keep writing. The more books you write, the better you will get and the more ‘products’ you have to sell. And with determination and dedication, writing books can not only lead to great things but can also help get you other paid work opportunities.   You just have to be creative – and luckily that’s exactly what we are!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

What Is The Rising Action Of A Story?

Do you want to know the secret to masterful, climatic storytelling that keeps readers turning the pages until the very last sentence?   In this guide, I’m going to show you that a carefully structured and robust plot is really all you need to make the most of your narrative arc.   What Is Rising Action?  The rising action is the second of six essential plot elements, which comes right after the opening of a story, otherwise known as the exposition. It is usually made up of a series of events that lay down breadcrumbs, ask questions, and set roadblocks and conflicts that must be overcome. It also creates tension and suspense, which leads right up to the third essential element, the dramatic climax. For example, in a suspense or crime novel, the rising action could be the protagonist going on a journey to solve a mystery or crime. But in a romance novel, the rising action could be the characters’ journey to falling in love.   Some writers believe that the success of a story hinges on the effectiveness of the climax, but I vehemently disagree. Without a strong rising action (essentially, the fuel that powers your narrative, keeps it moving and prevents it from stalling) the climax will inevitably fall short or seem unbelievable.   In fact, I would go as far as saying that the rising action is your story.   Let’s delve further into the components of the rising action and how it fits into a traditional story structure.   How Rising Action Ties Into Your Story Structure  The rising action is one of six, essential plot ingredients that make up the basic story structure.  Let’s remind ourselves what they are.   Exposition. This is the beginning of the story (the opening chapters). It sets the scene and introduces the main character(s) and their dilemma. You will also get a feel of the underlying themes of the story here. For example, in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games you are introduced to Panem, a North American country consisting of the wealthy Capitol and 13 districts in varying states of poverty. You also find out that every year, children from these districts are selected via a lottery to participate in a televised death match called The Hunger Games.   Inciting Incident. An inciting incident is an event that launches the main premise of the story. It typically occurs within the first one-third of a book. For example, in The Hunger Games, the inciting incident is the main character, Katniss Everdeen, volunteering as tribute and taking her younger sister Prim’s place.   Rising Action. As mentioned above, the rising action is the ‘meat’ of the story. It’s where most of the action occurs. To continue with our example, the rising action in The Hunger Games kicks off immediately after Katniss Everdeen volunteers as tribute. The reader is taken on Katniss’ journey in the games, the challenges she faces, the alliances she makes and her inner and external conflicts that she must overcome to survive.   Dilemma/Crisis. The dilemma/crisis is often confused with the climax of the story, particularly as they come hand in hand (or one after the other). Essentially, the dilemma is the do-or-die moment of the story. A final, life-changing decision for the protagonist. The Hunger Games presents Katniss Everdeen with a continuous moral dilemma, which is tested to the max when her competitor Peeta announces a \"fake\" story of his burgeoning love for her. But as the two grow closer, this moral dilemma is weighted with emotion as Katniss learns that the rules are changed so that there can only be one winner. Will she sacrifice herself to let Peeta live, or will she kill the person she cares for to be able to return home to her sister?  Climax. This is when the building tension reaches a breaking point, and the conflict is resolved once and for all. For example, in The Hunger Games, this is where Katniss and Peeta threaten suicide rather than fight one another to the bitter end.   Denouement. This is otherwise known as the resolution, and pretty much does what it says on the tin. It ties up loose ends, answers unanswered questions and shows the main character in their new normal, inevitably changed by the events of the story.   Freytag\'s Pyramid Another way of plotting your story is by following Freytag\'s Pyramid, which is the brainchild of nineteenth century playwright and novelist, Gustav Freytag who realised that all his favourite playwrights (including non-other than Shakespeare himself) followed the same distinct, five act arc, which could be plotted into a pyramid structure.   This structure is by no means perfect and is in some ways at odds with how modern-day writers plan their stories. But if you are a visual person, it’s a great starting point on which to build and develop your story because it enables you to see, at a glance, the value of rising action in driving your protagonist towards the top of the pyramid (aka the climax). Its structure differs slightly from the one I described above, but it touches on the same points. Examples Of Rising Action Now that we have grasped what the rising action is and how it fits into a narrative, let’s take a look at some well-known novels to see the different ways rising action has been used.  Example One: External And Internal Conflicts   Conflict is one of the most crucial ingredients of rising action. It is what will make your story unputdownable.   No matter what genre your story sits in – be it crime, romance, science fiction, literary or fantasy  – I guarantee you that your protagonist(s) will encounter some kind of conflict. Because let’s face it, no one wants to read eighty to one hundred thousand words about a main character leading a dull, monotonous life. Heading to the office. Doing their housework. Dropping the kids off at school. Readers want to witness the main character going through real-life trials and tribulations that they can relate to. Getting stood up on a date. Witnessing a murder. Facing the death of a loved one.   And this thirst can only be quenched by internal and/or external conflict.   No Honour by Awais Khan is a stunning novel about sixteen-year-old Abida who falls pregnant and is forced to leave her rural Pakistani village for the dangerous streets of Lahore. And Jamil, her father, who risks his own life to find her.    From this brief synopsis, we can immediately identify the inciting incident as Abida’s pregnancy and escape from the village. The key rising actions – being Abida and Jamil’s intertwining external and internal conflicts- stem directly from this event and drive the dual narratives forward. Abida faces the external conflicts of an abusive husband and keeping her newborn baby safe, while internally being plagued by her youthful innocence. Jamil is weighed down by guilt and fear for his daughter, while navigating the inevitable obstacles of finding her in a city with over eleven million people.   Now, consider your own story and write down what external and internal conflicts your protagonists might face on their journey.   Example Two: Roadblocks  Roadblocks are concrete crises or obstacles that prevent the protagonist(s) from reaching their goal. Obvious examples can be found in the crime/thriller genre with main characters being injured or kidnapped. But you can find roadblocks in other genres too.   For example, in Beth O’Leary’s uplit debut The Flatshare the protagonists, Tiffy Moore and Leon Tworney, save on rent by sharing the same bed in the same flat but never meet due to their working shifts and routines.   As they learn how to communicate via notes left for one another, they soon realise they are falling for one another. The more they try to meet, the more obstacles stand in their way, until the reader is on the edge of their seat hoping the unlucky couple will get their happily ever after.  Now look at your own novel. What roadblocks might your characters face as they strive towards their end goal/purpose?   Example Three: Tension And Suspense  I can think of no better author to demonstrate the use of rising action to create tension and suspense than Agatha Christie, and her world best-selling mystery novel, And Then There Were None.  And Then They Were None follows ten strangers who are lured to a remote British island under false pretences. The inciting incident of the novel occurs at the outset as the guests realise that their host is not there to greet them. Then when they sit down to dinner, a mysterious recording is played to the guests on a gramophone accusing each of them of murder. This dramatic incident triggers a series of rising actions, as one by one each guest is killed, and the remaining guests must find the murderer before death catches up with them too. Rising actions are utilised to perfection in this novel to create an intense, claustrophobic environment with a \'ticking time bomb\' narrative.   But remember, you don’t have to keep killing people off to create tension and intrigue. For example, rising actions can be the revelation of secrets and lies on a family holiday or children trying to sabotage their recently widowed mother’s new relationship.   Can you think of other ways you might use rising action events to keep suspense and tension alive?   To create a strong rising action for your story arc, think carefully about where your main character is now (both physically and psychologically) and where you want them to end up. Reflect on who they are as people (their inner conflicts), the actions they are likely to take, and any challenges (external conflicts) they are likely to face along the way.   Some Final Thoughts On Rising Action I hope I’ve managed to convince you that there is no magic involved in compelling and climatic storytelling, but rather that it is all lies in a well-developed plot.   Once you have the concept for a story, instead of diving right in, take a step back and flesh out how the events might play out, bearing in mind that you need a lot of plot points to keep your reader engaged for the full length of a novel.   Think of your rising actions as the building blocks of the story, a chance for you to develop and refine your plot, flesh out your characters and really get under their skin to establish their strengths and weaknesses. Raise the stakes with dramatic turning points. Add subplots to throw the reader off the scent. And create tension and intrigue that propels your narrative towards the climax.   Remember, this is your story and these are your characters. This is your chance to push them to their limits.   And most importantly, have fun with it. Because when an author enjoys putting their characters through hell, the readers will enjoy cheering them on and watching them win!  Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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