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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: Our Top Tips

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?- A Complete Guide

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 That Makes Readers Swoon

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 That Intrigues Your Readers

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: A Step By Step Guide

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. 

C.A. Lupton: The Ultimate Novel Writing Course and Beyond

Author C.A. Lupton joined us as a student on the Ultimate Novel Writing Course in 2019. Fast-forward to 2022, and her debut novel has just been published by The Book Guild, through a hybrid publishing model. Here\'s how she went from first draft to published book. Having spent many years in academia, I was no stranger to writing for a living: publish, or be damned, was the nature of the game. When I subsequently joined the civil service, I had to learn a very different kind of writing (even down to the font of choice: goodbye the ‘gravitas’ of Times Roman; hello unfussy Arial). Writing was now driven by the need to communicate clearly, concisely (and back-coveringly) with even the dimmest Secretary of State. Finally freed from the linguistic constraints of either setting, I was confident that writing a work of pure fiction would be relatively easy.  Starting out, I was very clear what kind of book I wanted to write, being a long-standing admirer of speculative fiction; and I knew what I wanted to write about: the clear and present dangers of human genetic modification. As a social scientist, I found the task of building a near-future world enjoyably easy, but it soon became obvious how little I knew about other key aspects of the writing craft such as characterisation, dialogue, plotting and, perhaps especially, ‘voice’. I realised I had to forget much of what I thought I knew and get back to the drawing board.   Finding what works To this end, I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. I received an in-depth, professional assessment of the first draft of the novel, identifying the main areas of weakness and setting out specific ways in which these could be addressed. Encouragingly for a novice author, areas of relative strength were also noted and, for the first time I got a sense that the book might just work. Drawing heavily on the accompanying course materials, and with the sustained encouragement of my tutor, I completed a further, much improved, version of the text.  I signed up for the Jericho Writers’ Ultimate Novel Writing Course (UNWC) in 2019 and this proved to be one of the best decisions of my writing career. Over the following year, I submitted the revised manuscript to innumerable agents, experiencing one or two ‘near misses’, but mostly getting the standard ‘much to admire, but not right for me’ kind of reply. Feedback from the one-to-one agent sessions at the Jericho Writers’ Festival of Writing proved rather more helpful, and I had one promising ‘close encounter’ that in the end came to nothing when it became clear the agent wanted a very different book from the one I wanted to write.  By the start of 2021 I was becoming increasingly despondent; emotionally buffeted by the endless rejections and frustrated by the time the whole process was taking. Determined on a trilogy, I simply couldn’t afford to waste another year on unrequited advances to agents. Self-publishing was the obvious solution, but the more I listened to the excellent Jericho Writers sessions on the topic, the more I realised I did not have the skills, or inclination, to pursue that route effectively. A third way was needed!  The third route So, I began to search for publishers willing to accept direct submissions - a process not assisted by the fact that several of the most promising-looking indies had ceased, or greatly reduced, their operation due to the pandemic. It quickly became clear that there were (are) many sharks operating in the profitable ‘author services’ arena, who will tell you they love your baby and, for a considerable sum, will help you take it to market. I felt I was at risk of sailing too close to vanity publishing waters; a place where a defenceless baby would almost certainly sink without trace (or regard). What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on.   With the help of the ‘Self-Publishing Services Directory’, produced by the Alliance of Independent Authors (AIA), I identified a small number of publishers who were judged to offer services that were fair, ethical and of good value, and eventually decided on the UK-based Troubadour. This long-established company had an ‘excellent partner’ rating from the AIA and offered three publishing routes: ‘traditional’ and ‘hybrid’ (both, to differing degrees, selective) as well as a ‘self-publish’ option (under Matador). My submission was reviewed by two people and I was offered a ‘partnership’ arrangement on what I considered relatively good terms for an un-agented, novice author.   What I needed was a publisher who accepted agent-less authors but was selective about what it took on. In short, the deal was that I would pay a proportion of the production cost (comparable to what a self-pubber could end up spending on cover design, line/copy edits, marketing, etc) but receive a much higher royalty rate than would obtain on a fully traditional publishing pathway. Should the initial print run sell out, the publisher would bear the full cost of a reprint but would not demand the first refusal on the next book. Most importantly for someone without a social media presence - and absolutely no desire to establish one - I would benefit from the sales, marketing and PR expertise of a large and experienced industry player. Floating or sinking The book went to market on time, actively and, as far as I can tell, effectively, supported by a marketing manager, a production manager, an eBook sales manager and a customer support manager! Would I have written a better book if I had secured an agent? Very probably - although much would depend on the skills of the agent and my relative (un)importance in their scheme of things - and the book would definitely have a greater market impact if it was published (and selected for promotion) by one of the ‘big five’ or genre-specialist indies. But my hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut.  My hybrid route has given me a chance to get my foot in a door that was otherwise proving stubbornly shut. It may be that my literary baby still sinks without trace, and it may be that the hybrid option will not work for many. But for me the alternatives were unthinkable: to spend precious time in a (likely) fruitless fish for agents or to delay the start of the second book in order to develop the skills and strategies of a successful self-publisher. So big thanks to Troubadour, and big thanks also to the fabulous folks at Jericho Writers without whose support and encouragement - and smorgasbord of excellent learning materials - Red Dirt Girl would almost certainly never have seen the light of day.  About C.A. Lupton C.A. Lupton spent all her working life in the health sciences, initially in a university research unit and later as a research commissioner for the UK Department of Health. She has now retired from paid work and lives by the sea with her family. Buy \'Red Dirt Girl\' here. 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. 

50 Christmas Story Ideas, Tips & Prompts

Are you trying to write a festive novel but have run out of ideas? Or perhaps you need some snowy inspiration for your Christmas short story. In this article we will be sharing lots of fun Christmas writing prompts to kick-start your winter writing – plus we’ve also asked top Christmas book authors for their inspiring tips.  Why Write Christmas Novels?  Christmas is a magical time of year. And for many of us who experience it during the darkest, coldest months, it can be the only fun and joyous occasion of the entire season. That\'s why Christmas novels are so popular. There’s nothing cosier, on a bleak winter’s day, than huddling under a blanket with a mug of hot cocoa and a book full of festive cheer, plus all the nostalgia and decadence that goes with it.  That’s not to say all Christmas books have to be romances or women’s fiction. The great thing about writing with Christmas in mind is that it can be applied to any genre – from festive chillers and thrillers, to horror stories and gruesome tales that take place during the most magical time of the year.  Read on to discover some great Christmas writing prompts, plus top tips from leading authors of festive books. Although bear in mind that these are adult writing prompts – so may not be suitable if you’re looking for December writing prompts for your classroom or children!   20 Christmas Story Starters And Festive Prompts  The great thing about writing a Christmas short story, novel or novella is that no one expects anything too serious in winter. So let your imagination run wild! As long as you include plenty of festive fun, nostalgic traditions, and a sprinkle of magic then you’re on to a winter winner.  Here are our twenty Christmas story ideas and prompts, split into four different Christmas genres….  Christmas Rom-Com A teacher is putting on a school nativity play. She don’t get on with the new teaching assistant and things start to go terribly wrong…until they realise love is blooming among the mistletoe.  She hates Christmas day at her parents as all they ever talk about is how she is single and childless. Except this year they’ve invited the neighbours – along with their three very different (and very attractive) sons!  Her boyfriend dumped her on Christmas Eve, so she jets off to an exotic hot country to forget all about the festive season. But the local waiter refuses to let her remain sad and grumpy.  Ever since his cat, Snowy, was run over on Christmas Day Tom has hated Christmas. This year he decides to stay home alone…until a cat appears on his doorstep. A cat belonging to his crazy new neighbour.  Single mother, Carol, has to attend ten different Christmas school events for her three children and she’s at the end of her tether. Then she realises the same handsome man is at all of them too. Coincidence? Or fate?  Christmas Romance She’s gone on a trip to Lapland to get away for the winter as the man she has always loved is getting married over Christmas. But when she’s snowed in at a secluded log cabin only the rugged local Finnish guy can help her.  She’s so frustrated with her annoying parents on Christmas Day that she goes on a long country walk, steps into a secluded old chapel, and finds herself face to face with a very handsome man. The only problem is she’s gone back 100 years in history.  Christmas day 1998 was perfect because Danny, the boy next door, shared his first kiss with her. Guess who just moved in next door to her new house?  Ivy has built a snowman. Not only has he come to life…but she’s fallen in love with him. Will their love last longer than the winter?  She’s new to the village and is struggling to make friends. She’s thinking of going back home for Christmas, until the community pull together to convince her to stay…all orchestrated by one very special someone.  Christmas Thriller  A mother and father wake up one Christmas morning wondering why it’s so quiet. Where are the kids? They go into their room and the beds are empty, the stockings untouched. The window is open and the cookies have been eaten. Next to the carrot is a note.  They thought renting a little cottage in the secluded countryside would be romantic for Christmas. Until they discovered a body.  Nancy is overjoyed to be invited to the lavish New Year’s Eve party that the McPartlans throw every year. Except this year it’s different. This year, every hour on the hour, a new guest is discovered dead.  Sally wants to stay home alone for Christmas. But someone has trapped her in her house, and now she can’t get out even if she tries.  Christmas shopping on the high street is crazy. Holly is convinced she’s seen a store Santa bundling a woman into the back of a car. But no one believes her…until the woman turns up dead.  Christmas Horror  Father Christmas is real, but he’s not entering your house to leave gifts. It’s something a lot more sinister.  Santa’s elves are real and they are living inside the walls of your house.  When Harry kissed Anabelle under the mistletoe he didn’t expect her to grow fangs.  Christmas day in a secluded log cabin is ever so romantic…unless you discover someone is trying to kill you.  No one can hear you scream when it’s midnight, you’re in the middle of nowhere and the world is muffled with snow.  For added fun, why not mix and match some of these ideas or change their genres. Let’s see what wondrous seasonal ideas you can come up with!  10 Top Tips For Writing Seasonal Stories By Successful Christmas Authors 1. Seek Out Other Christmas Book Writers Writing At The Same Time As You  A Christmas Club, if you wish! it\'s a great way of batting over and back in terms of keeping you in the flow and reminding you of those little things that might not be exactly obvious when writing out of season. Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas  2. Recreate The Sensory Atmosphere Of Christmas  You may want to light some scented candles that smell like Christmas trees, enjoy freshly baked mince pies, make the room dark and put up fairy lights etc. Even watching a Christmas movie or seeking out snowy landscapes (or other seasonal landscape depending on where you are in the world) on Youtube can help too. Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy  3. Plan Well Ahead! I start my Christmas novellas as early as February!Victoria Connelly, author of Christmas with the Book Lovers 4. Follow Your Favourite Christmas Book Author On Social Media  Reach out and tell them about what you\'re writing, they may be able to give you more tips! It’s always good to expand your circle of writers in the same genre as you!Faith Hogan, author of On The First Day Of Christmas  5. Research Christmas Traditions From All Around The World  Our Christmas novella is set in Lapland, and because our books are paranormal romance we created some fun monsters inspired by Finnish folklore, and added plenty of local Christmas customs too. Think outside of your own experiences and talk to people who have other wonderful and (sometimes creepy) customs.Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland 6. Make Notes Throughout The Winter If you have a long lead time, make notes about your mood and emotions throughout the winter (or look back at old journals). Rereading them will help if you then have to write out of season.Beth Kempton, author of Calm Christmas and a Happy New Year: A Little Book of Festive Joy  7. Give Them What They Came For People who buy Christmas novels expect to see certain things. So give it to them! Make sure to describe the beautiful tree, the hot chocolate, the ice skating, the kiss under the mistletoe. Don\'t try and be clever by adding a twist to what they\'re expecting...it may fall flat.Caedis Knight, author of Goblins of Lapland 8. Listen To Lots Of Christmas music I wrote my last Christmas book during a heatwave, at the height of the pandemic. I listened to a lot of Christmas music to get me in the right frame of mind. Rachel Wells, author of Alfie The Christmas Cat 9. Make a List (And Check It Twice) Make a sheet with five columns for each sensory aspect of Christmas and jot down everything you can think of that\'s Christmassy - from what you smell, see and hear, to what you expect to see at Christmas. This also helps with setting and plot. Rosie Blake, author of How To Stuff Up Christmas 10. You can Never Be TOO Christmassy! Add all the festive cheer fun and heartwarming cheer you possibly can. there\'s no such thing as too much when it comes to this time of year! Emma Jackson, author of A Mistletoe Miracle and One Kiss Before Christmas Ten Top Tips From Author Isabella May  We asked Isabella May, author of deliciously adorable Christmas rom-com, Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar, to share what it takes to write festive foodie fiction.   Here are her 10 tips on writing an unforgettable Christmas story:  1. More Is More This is Christmas we are talking about so there\'s no such thing as too many decorations appearing in your story. 2. Read And Watch Christmas Books And Movies Don\'t try to emulate what others have done but look at the many festive tropes that are out there and try to bring your own fresh angle.  3. Immerse Yourself In The Tastes And Smells Of Christmas It may seem a little extravagant but eating that Christmas pud that\'s been lying in wait since FOREVER in the kitchen cupboard and/or buying yourself a fragrant pine-scented Yankee candle, will turbo boost your festive thoughts and lead to some great plot ideas. 4. Think Snow Globe Community Spirit! The most successful Christmas books have all the characters united in festive fizz... eventually. \'Tis the season of goodwill, after all. 5. It\'s Back To The Senses Again Dust off the Wham/Cliff Richard/Mariah Carey and play all the Yuletide jingles. You\'ll cringe at first but honestly, this is another tried and tested way to get in the spirit and up your daily word count.  6. Think Of Christmas Past No, not in a Scrooge way... but reminiscing on the highlights of your own Christmas holidays from childhood can shape and inspire so many scenes in your book. 7. Fact Check It\'s easy to get carried away with the celebratory side of Christmas when we are knee-deep in a glowy, hygge, and twinkly-light festooned story, so we need to be certain that the Italian festive foodie delights we\'ve just added to our MC\'s dialogue really are typically served in December (and spelt correctly). 8. Research Your Destination Well Nobody is saying you can\'t set your story in Iceland (complete with those tantalising views of the Northern Lights) but if you haven\'t been to the location of your Christmas book\'s setting, you\'d better do some serious armchair travelling (and talking with locals who are native to the area, if possible) to give your readers the most authentic portrayal of the place. 9. Keep It Light The best Christmas stories are fluffy, frivolous and entertaining. There are always exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking, bookworms turn to festive fiction for escapism/to get themselves in the Christmas spirit when their own may be flagging. Always remember, Christmas can be a hard time of year for many people. Avoid sensitive and/or trigger warning subjects. Readers want to be uplifted and entertained. Your goal as a writer is to give them that warm fuzzy feeling from tip to toe; a hot chocolate hug in a book. 10. Once You Start Writing Christmas Books, Know That It\'s Almost Impossible To Stop!  Readers have a VORACIOUS appetite for Christmas books and this genre is growing by the season. It\'s fine to dabble but your fans will expect an annual festive work of fiction from you (if you first went down with the joy of a Bailey\'s on ice), so it\'s best to have a word with your inner Grinch before you commit to typing your very first Christmassy word...  Christmas Title Ideas  And finally, no Christmas book is complete without the perfect title. But how do you choose one that demonstrates it’s a Christmas book in your genre, yet isn’t a title that’s been used a million times already?   Here are our top ten title tips!  1. Look At Other Festive Books In Your Genre Check for consistencies and see how many words they use. Thrillers tend to be 2-5 short words and really self-explanatory (ie The Christmas Killer, Alex Pine), whereas Christmas romance and romcoms can have longer, prettier, and more intricate titles (ie One More Christmas At The Castle, Trisha Ashley).  2. Describe The Story Unless you are writing literary fiction, it helps to have a title that makes it very clear what the book is about. So if your book is about Christmas on a desert island, then call your book something like ‘A Desert Island Christmas.’  3. Use Lyrics From A Christmas Song Or Hymn  ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a popular book title for romance novels, as is ‘Silent Night’ for thrillers and horror books. So get original and have fun seeing what matches the theme of your book. For instance, you may write a book about two best friends and call it ‘Holly And Ivy’ or a rom-com set in the 50s called ‘Rocking Around The Christmas Tree.’  4. Don’t Be Scared Of Puns  Christmas is the cheesiest time of the year, so don’t hold back from getting corny if need be. You may name your rom-com novel about reindeer farmers in Finland, ‘Looks Like Rain, Dear,’ or your Christmas horror ‘Santa Claws Bites Back’. These are all silly suggestions, I know, but you get the idea. A much classier example is Isabella May’s Christmas novel ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Bar.’  5. Make It Clear That It’s Part Of A Series If you’re writing a series of books, your cover designer will no doubt ensure that they all look the same but different – so do make sure the titles match too. Nancy Revell has done that with her Shipyard Girls books (Shipyard Girls Under The Mistletoe, Christmas with The Shipyard Girls and A Christmas Wish For The Shipyard Girls).  6. Use The Word ‘Christmas’ In The Title This may sound simple, perhaps too simple, but it works. If you’re writing a modern Cinderella retelling, calling it ‘A Cinderella Christmas’ means people who are looking for a Christmas book that’s like Cinderella, and type those words into Google or Amazon, will find your book more easily! 7. Keep It Simple  People looking for a festive read are rarely interested in anything too complicated or highbrow. Depending on the genre, choose a title that reflects the mood of the book – but keep it simple. Instead of calling it ‘The Haunted Mind and Festive Regrets of Peter Cumberbatch’ you could simply call it ‘Ghosts of Christmas Past’.  8. Use Words Associated With Christmas If your book is more literary or a thriller, and you don’t want readers to think they’ll be getting a cutesy festive read, then use words associated with Christmas that are a little more serious: Snow, Winter, Snowflake, Midnight, Night, Cold etc. 9. State Where The Book Takes Place  If you’re writing cosy Christmas romance or women’s fiction, ‘Christmas at (insert location)’ Works really well. It may seem formulaic but there’s a reason why these books sell well. ‘Christmas at…the cosy café…the olde bookshop…Mannering Manor…Penny Lane’ – you get the picture.   10. Have Fun With The Title Sometimes people don’t even know they want to read a Christmas book until they see the title. So choose something that will make them feel nostalgic, make them smile, or make them yearn for the comfort and excitement of Christmas. Get Cracking! We hope you found our Christmas prompts and ideas article interested. Once you’ve played around with some fun festive ideas, made a note of our top author tips, and seen what kind of titles will get the attention of agents, editors and readers, you should be ready to get started on your Christmas cracker of a novel.   There’s snow time like the (Christmas) present. Get writing and have fun!  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. 

69 Romance Writing Prompts

Romance novels continue to be one of the top selling book genres, with lots of different sub-genres to explore. So, if you’re looking for heartfelt inspiration, some super swoony ideas or even saucy erotica prompts, then look no further.  We’ve compiled 69 romance prompts to kick-start your imagination and help you get your readers’ heart a-fluttering.  Dark Romance Writing Prompts  Not all romance has to be light and fluffy. Romance, like anything in life, is many shades of grey (ahem). So take a look at these thrilling and mysteriously sultry ideas if you want to add a little suspense to your romance.  Your ex has wronged you for the very last time. It’s time for revenge. It’s time to get in contact with the mysterious and sexy ex you have stayed away from for so long...   I was hired to kill you – I didn’t realise you were the person I used to have a crush on.  They were paid to kidnap the evil sister, not this one! But now it’s too late, and if they can’t find the correct sister, they risk killing an innocent woman and their chance for happiness and redemption.  The plan was to kill everyone in the bank and steal the money. He didn’t know that his long-lost love worked there. The only option was to take her with the money... but will love conquer greed?  They realise they’ve been stalking each other for a long time and both know a lot more about the other than they bargained for.  Seeing as we’re both trying to murder the same person, should we team up?   At school they were friends, but their mob families are enemies. When love takes over, can they escape their toxic families and start a safe life for themselves and their child?  Fantasy Romance Writing Prompts   Fancy a bit of magic with your romance? In fantastical worlds full of monsters and mayhem, can love still win?  The world is ending and only two rival tribes remain to save it. Can two young people from opposing tribes come together to save the world, and each other?  Being a witch is hard enough without falling in love with a witch from a rival coven...  Three apprentice wizards get caught up in a love triangle when they are abandoned by their mentor and left to fend – and learn – for themselves.  A werewolf falls in love with a vampire – but they must keep it a secret or risk death from both parties.  The ghost in your house has fallen in love with you and starts leaving romantic notes on the mirror.  They are the last two fertile people on earth. Problem is, they hate each other.  Romance Prompts From The Classics  Some of the most famous love stories of our time were written years ago. So why not take inspiration from these classics and turn them into modern day treasures full of contemporary challenges!  Romeo and Juliet both lived, but what happened next?  What if it wasn’t Mr Rochester that Jane Eyre fell for, but, instead, his first wife in the attic?  Imagine that Elizabeth Bennett didn’t put up with Mr Darcy’s unpredictable moods, and in fact fell for a delightful servant in the building?  Pretty Woman, only feminist and on OnlyFans.   After learning about Stockholm Syndrome, Beauty and the Beast decide to give couples therapy a try.  Snow White must marry the prince, but she’s much happier hanging out with her seven wonderful friends. But what she doesn’t realise is that Grumpy is only grumpy because the prince has called off their secret love affair.  Contemporary Romance Prompts Love isn’t just reserved for the olden days or for princesses from fairytales, there’s a lot of romantic inspiration you can find in your everyday life. Especially when you throw online dating into the mix! Here are a few contemporary writing prompts to get you started...  You text the wrong person in a hurry and the person who replies is an old flame...  You bump into someone who you matched with years ago on a dating app/site but never got talking to. He recognises you and you hit it off, except he’s now engaged.  You go on a double date with a friend – what are you supposed to do when you like their date too?   When you start talking about your romantic history with the new love of your life, you realise that you share an ex...  You meet at the vaccine center after one of you passes out. The awkward part is he’s the nurse and he passed out!  On your third date, you decide to follow each other on Twitter. When they get up your profile, you see they already have you blocked. Then they remember why.  In order to get over his ex, he tries to get under someone else. He meets an older man on Grindr who invites him over for dinner but seems to want nothing else. Is our young protagonist about to learn that love doesn’t always need to be about sex?  You meet your date but they look nothing like their profile picture, which was taken before the accident. Can you look further than the surface and see what really lies underneath?  They start leaving notes for each other on the pinboard of their local coffee shop. But they have no idea they’ve already met before.  She sells a sofa on a local Facebook group, and he replies. Then she remembers she left money in one of the cushions. Should she contact him?  Your mum set you up with the snotty kid who used to live next door. Except he’s hot now and you’re...not what he was expecting.  General Romance Prompts  Romance is romance is romance, there’s no need to put a label on it. Here are some general romance writing ideas to inspire you.   What starts as a ‘fake’ Visa wedding, starts a complicated but intense relationship.  You didn’t realise that when you arranged to meet, they would also bring their boyfriend.  You’ve been making eyes at them across the office for months but never spoken. Only now, on a team-building day, are you forced to speak and he’s nothing like what you expected...  They’ve been friends for years, but a disaster in their friendship group brings them closer than they ever imagined.  She hires him to help her build a website selling the products she started making after her husband’s tragic and early death. But she never meant to fall for him.  After a head-injury, you’re forced to re-live every one of your previous relationships while in a coma. But who will be there when you wake up?  Our children are best friends. I thought your kid was a bad influence on mine and now I think you’re becoming a bad influence on me...   They meet at a gallery, both looking at a painting that unlocks secret from their mysterious pasts. You’re a tattoo artist and they visit your parlor twice – once to get their partner’s name tattooed on them, and then a month later to have it covered up. You ask if they want to talk about it.   No one can tell the difference between you and your twin – but he can.  The new girl across the corridor looks really familiar, but why won’t she look you in the eye?  I’m locked out of my flat and I really don’t want to wait in the snow until my flat mate comes home – can I come in? I promise I’ll be really quiet, you’ll barely know I’m here.   You’re my child’s favourite teacher and I don’t want to ruin it, but we have so much in common and you’re really attractive.  They’re co-stars on a comedy special. Both trying to out-do each other to win a writing contract. But when they get together over drinks and realise that two heads are better than one, can love beat ambition?  You’ve moved to the Scottish Highlands to renovate your late great-aunt\'s cottage. The only local tradesman is the last person you want to see, but after an unexpected snowstorm hits, you’re both stuck there for the night and the past is unearthed. Can you put it aside and move on, together?  You’ve both gone to a silent retreat to heal from past events. Although you’re not allowed to speak, the chemistry is palpable. But will it be the same once you can speak to each other?  In Transit Romance Prompts Nothing says romance like being stuck in a car, plane and train together. Take a look at these ‘love in transit’ prompts and meet cutes, and get your romance novel going full speed!   You fall asleep on a plane and your head falls on the shoulder of an attractive stranger next to you. When you wake up you’ve missed your stop and they offer to get you home.  The tube lurches and you grab for the nearest pole to hold on to, and so does someone else...  You lock eyes in the queue for a train ticket and are delighted when their allocated seat is in front of yours.  The person next to you on the train is reading your favourite book. Do you strike up a conversation? Or pretend to be the author?  A cyclist knocks the coffee out of your hand and offers to buy you another one. You get talking...and realise he’s the guy you nearly ran over last week. Will he notice?  You’re getting on a plane for the first time since a traumatic incident. It’s a long flight and the last thing that’s on your mind is sleep. You start to talk to an insomniac flight attendant. The plane hits trouble and has to make an emergency landing. the last thing you expect is to be saving someone’s life...  You – both single parents – ride your children’s micro-scooters back from the drop-off and accidentally scoot face first into each other. You have always hated one another. But now, with two broken noses and stuck in A&E, you have no choice but to talk.  They pulled up to the hard shoulder to help you . Neither of you knew that a lorry would crash into both your vehicles and leave you with no choice but to spend a night in a road-side hotel together. But (you guessed it) there’s only one bed!  Sci-Fi Romance Prompts In space no one can hear you scream. Even screams of pleasure! From robots to planetary travel, when it comes to romance there’s no frontier that can’t be crossed. Here are our sci-fi romance prompts to take your readers on an out of this world adventure.   You’re the only two surviving people on a spaceship heading for Venus.  They are the artificially created clone of your deceased ex-colleague and secret love.  You have finally met the perfect person for you... the only issue is that you have to work for a corrupt government in order to be with them. Will you do it?  When you inherited the moonstone necklace, your dying grandfather told you to find the owner of the other half. Connecting the necklaces is the only way to save the world, but when you find each other, and fall in love, you realise that it’s not as simple as you thought it was.  You didn’t read the small print on a medical trial and discover it\'s a year-long residency where you had to give up all technology and move to an off-the-grid island outside of Alaska. With one other person. Who you really really hate...or do you?  There are limited seats on the spaceship to Planet B. You decide to seduce the captain to guarantee your safety, but things are complicated when you fall for the co-pilot instead...   Things haven’t been the same since the crash. All the young people have been drafted to fight, you are the only one left under sixty. Can you make it to the next planet to find someone special? Is love worth dying for?   Only the very rich can afford electricity and the internet these days. When people are not allowed to speak in person to anyone outside their immediate family, how do they fall in love?  YA Romance Prompts  There’s nothing more special than first love, and there’s nothing more painful either. Everyone remembers their first kiss...and more. Here are our young adult writing prompts to help you write your teen romance novel.  You are in rival BMX troops/cheerleading groups/chess teams, but when push comes to shove and the national competition looms, will you sacrifice your potential chance for happiness for a year-long residency in LA?  Your friends have been trying to set you up for years, but the night they finally get you in the same room, disaster strikes and you need to work together to save your friends. And, more importantly, save the rest of the world.  The class ‘bad guy’ and ‘bad girl’ are both sent to a residential weekend for badly behaved children as a new incentive to change disruptive behaviour. When it turns out that the course is run by con men and criminals, they need to work together to escape.  Your parents are leaders of a cult. You hate it there. When a new family joins, you and their oldest child form a bond that is unbreakable and decide to leave the cult and start a life for yourselves. But it doesn’t come without sacrifices...  He has psychotic episodes. You work as a trainee mental health nurse. What if his diagnosis is wrong, and he’s trying to tell you something from his dark past that might also be the key to free him?  You haven’t spoken a word since the incident two years ago. When they join your class, and you discover they can’t hear anything, you strike an unlikely friendship. But can it ever be romantic?  You’ve been ignored for so long at school that you’ve turned invisible. When the new kid in class says hi, you think you must be imagining things...   Relish Writing Romance And there you have it, 69 writing prompts for you old romantics.   Now, you may have noticed that we didn’t include any erotica scenarios and that’s for a good reason...because ANY of these can be turned into an erotica novel. They meet on a train (but what do they get up to?), they’re new neighbours (but he wants more than to borrow a cup of sugar). Neither did we include an LGBT section – because any one of our romance ideas can be applied to any couple!  So have fun adapting each prompt to a different romantic sub-genre, or better yet combine two or three together to build your plot and spark your imagination.  We hope you LOVED picking through our romance prompt, and we can’t wait to see what beautiful stories you create! 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 First Publication to Second – What I’ve Learned, by Sarah Linley

We last heard from Sarah Linley when she told us all about her journey to publication for her debut, The Trip. Now, her second novel is about to be published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of Harper Collins). We caught up with Sarah two years later to find out how things have been since the publication of her debut, and what she\'s learned. JW: We last spoke to you ahead of the publication of your first novel, ‘The Beach’ (subsequently retitled ‘The Trip’). Now, two years on, your second novel publishes next month. In what ways did the process for the second book feel different?   SL: I think I had more confidence going into the process of writing and publishing my second book. I knew more about the craft – structure, plot, characters, theme – and I had more experience of the editorial process, so I knew what my flaws were (weak characterisation and overuse of the word ‘just’ being two of them!).   The Wedding Murders is classic crime meets psychological thriller. Libby is a plus-one at a celebrity wedding in a grand manor house in the Yorkshire Dales. She’s the guest of her boyfriend Matthew, who used to be in a pop band in the 90s. It’s the first time the old friends have got together since they split up and Libby soon realises that they have secrets to hide…  Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I really enjoyed writing The Wedding Murders and the research was a lot of fun. This time around, I found it less daunting to approach experts and ask them questions, and I had a much better understanding of story structure which helped because this novel is set over a tight timeline.   That said, the second book produced some curveballs. Not least having to rewrite the first chapter about twenty times because I couldn’t find a good way to start the story, which hadn’t been an issue with The Trip. Writing my debut, I didn’t understand the importance of book bloggers and I had never heard of NetGalley. Engaging with readers has been one of the best things about being published, and that was a surprise, as I was quite scared of that aspect before I was published.   I also thought I would be less nervous as publication day for book two approaches. I’m not!  JW: You navigated your first book deal alone but had an agent for the second. How did the two experiences compare, and would you recommend finding an agent before approaching publishers?  SL: Having someone on my side, championing my work, made me feel much less alone in the process. I am represented by Camilla Shestopal and she is absolutely lovely. One of the reasons I enjoy working with her is that she really cares about my writing. She speaks about my characters as if they’re real people, and I thought only I would feel that way about them!   Camilla did a lot of editorial work with me before we submitted the book which meant it was in much better shape and that made the structural edits easier.   Negotiating a book deal on my own wasn’t my first choice. I couldn’t get an agent interested in my debut, despite around 30 submissions, so I decided to go it alone because I really believed in the book.  Digital-first publishers are happy to work with unrepresented authors and I found the process quite straightforward. I read two great books by Harry Bingham and Rhoda Baxter and my friend is also a lawyer which helped. Once you have a book deal, you can join the Society of Authors and they will look over contracts for you.   Having an agent is great but not essential. They are inundated with submissions so it can be quite difficult to stand out among their huge slushpiles.   If you feel that having an agent would be helpful, I recommend trying this route first, and giving it a real chance (i.e. 20-30 submissions, not a handful), but don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing.   JW: What kinds of resources have you found useful throughout your writing journey? SL: Jericho Writers is a great resource for writers. You can learn everything about the writing and editing process, approaching agents, self-publishing and marketing your work - but one of the best things is meeting other writers that are on this journey with you.   Don’t be afraid to represent yourself. Arm yourself with knowledge about the industry, ask a lot of questions, and have confidence in your writing. I have been involved with Jericho Writers since I was shortlisted for the Friday Night Live competition in 2014. The Festival of Writing in York was always such a great social event as well as a chance to learn, so I was apprehensive when it moved online due to lockdown. However, I have found the digital festival even better in some ways. Being able to watch the videos on replay meant I could pace myself a bit more and attend more sessions. I do miss the social aspect though.   I completed Debi Alper & Emma Darwin’s Self-Editing Your Novel course last year. After the course, the students set up a writing group over WhatsApp, and we are now in almost daily contact posting articles and questions, helping each other through problems, and cheering each other on. We meet weekly on Zoom to do virtual write-ins which are brilliant for staying motivated!  JW: What have you learned since publishing your first book, and what do you feel you still have left to learn?  SL: I’ve learned so much about the industry and the editorial process through publishing my debut. Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process.  There is so much still to discover about writing and publishing, and I think I will be learning for the rest of my life!   A useful piece of advice I got in the early days was to reinvest everything you earn from your first book into developing your craft. There are some great courses out there and you might want to pay for editorial help or mentoring as you write your second book. Everything helps!   Writing a novel can be lonely but once you are working with a publisher, you become part of a team. You have to let go of your darlings and appreciate that putting your book into the world is a collaborative process. I read a lot of books about the craft of writing and I am always learning from other writers. I love attending writing festivals and have found the move to digital has meant this has become much more accessible. This year, for the first time, I attended Bloody Scotland (virtually!). One of the highlights was an interview with Stephen King – it was amazing to be able to hear such a legend talking about his writing (and get a glimpse of his study!). I’ve also been lucky enough to attend online events with Margaret Atwood, Philip Pullman, Tracy Chevalier, Marian Keyes, Dorothy Koomson, and other writing heroes, which wouldn’t have been possible before lockdown.   JW: What’s your best piece of advice for writers who are querying right now?   SL: Never give up on your dreams! Rejection is part of the territory of being a writer but it’s not personal. If someone doesn’t love your work, then they’re not the right person to represent you. Try to be patient and wait for ‘the one’. It may take a while to get published, and you may need to write a few books before you do, but it’s worth it in the end!   About Sarah Sarah Linley lives in Yorkshire and works as a Communications Manager for a housing charity.  Her debut novel, The Trip, was published by One More Chapter (the digital imprint of HarperCollins) in February 2020.   Her second novel, The Wedding Murders, will be published by the same publisher in February 2022.  When she is not writing, she enjoys reading and walking in the Dales.   Visit Sarah\'s website. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @linleysarah1 View The Trip on Amazon. View The Wedding Murders on Amazon.

80 Story Prompts From Top Thriller Writers

80 Thriller Prompts To Get Hearts Racing  Thrillers are commercially one of the most competitive genres to write in. Walk into any bookstore or visit any online shop and you’ll see bestseller tables covered with thrillers. So how do you make your thriller stand out from the crowd? How can you ensure your story idea is unique and engaging and able to stand up against the greats?  We’ve reached out to some of the best thriller authors around for their story ideas, as well as adding some writing prompts of our own. Whether you’re writing a psychological thriller, a thriller suspense, murder mystery, crime drama, historical or contemporary, we have something for everyone. Why Use Thriller Prompts?  The key to all successful thrillers is creating a sense of suspense. Your reader wants to be kept on the edge of their seat while they fly through the pages of your novel because they simply can’t put it down.   Thrillers don’t tend to have many (if any!) comedic events, instead you must maintain a level of suspense, excitement, and interest throughout. Your aim is to pull your reader in, and keep them there, with your suspenseful and plot-driven narrative.  Although ‘thriller’ is the over-arching term, there are a number of sub-genres you might choose to explore.   Psychological thriller Crime thriller Mystery thriller Spy thriller Action thriller Political thriller Legal thriller Historical thriller Sci-fi thrillers  Why Are Thriller Writing Prompts Helpful?  Thriller writers find the interesting in the ordinary, everyday things. But sometimes the pressure in making the ordinary into the extraordinary is overwhelming. That’s where our thriller writing prompts come in – here to help break you out of the self-imposed pressure to find the right twist and simply encourage you to start writing.  So welcome to our 80 writing thriller prompts!  These won’t necessarily be the basis of your next novel, but what they will do is inspire you and help you break through the writers’ block and think outside the box. They may even remind you of something, maybe a character will resonate with you, or perhaps all they’ll do is encourage you to write your own prompt.  Thriller Prompts Psychological Thriller Prompts If your thriller focuses on the psychology of its characters as well as a pacy and plot-driven narrative, then it’s likely you’ll find these psychological thriller writing prompts helpful. If you’d like to see some comparable titles then try Gone Girl (Gillian Flynn), Misery (Stephen King), and The Girl on the Train (Paula Hawkins). On the third Friday of every month, you switch off your phone and disappear for 24 hours. No one knows where you go, until now……  When clearing out your late husband’s things, you discover a list of names titled ‘conquests\'. The first name shocks you to the core.  When your daughter doesn’t come home on Friday night, the last person you want help from comes to your aid.  Two women catch the same 7:20am train every day, never talking. Until one day when one desperately needs the other...  You barely knew your neighbour. So why did they have your name on a note in their pocket the night they died?  Your daughter says a man has hurt her. You know she’s lying because that man is dead - except no one but you knows that.   It’s 10pm on Monday night. You haven’t left the house in 271 days. If you don’t leave before midnight tonight, you never will.   An email lands in your inbox with instructions for how to save a life. But the email was never meant for you.   You\'re walking through the city centre when a woman hands you a package then flees. What\'s inside turns your stomach.  You\'re a happily married father of two. So why has no one seen your wife for 36 days?  Crime Thriller Prompts A crime thriller tends to focus more on the premise that a future crime hangs in the balance, while your characters work to prevent it. Think: Both of You (Adele Parks) and The Thursday Murder Club (Richard Osman).  A man gets off the Eurostar in Paris. His luggage seems oddly heavy. Opening his suitcase in the taxi, he finds a severed limb. Whose is it?  The old ghosts club: A detective, a judge, and a hitman can’t go to heaven – they haven’t learned enough on earth. But figuring out crimes and making people pay? That’s easy for them. Not just easy, it’s a pleasure. And maybe they’ll learn something on the way …  Eight years ago, a young woman disappears from a Welsh valley. A sexual crime is suspected, but no body is ever recovered. Today, a different woman is found, dead, in a nearby village. There are no marks of violence. The first incident suggests a crime without a corpse, the second one suggests a corpse without a crime. What’s going on? (This is the actual premise of Harry Bingham’s The Dead House, by the way, but you’re welcome to use it.)  The IT guy keeps himself to himself. But he used to work for the Pentagon. His coding skills are exceptional. He’s a highly skilled diver and a judo black belt. And what exactly does he get up to at the weekends?  Cally had truly loved him. It had taken her years to get over his death in a train wreck. Her marriage to Noah now always seemed like a bit of a second best. But why does she have a letter from him today? And how the hell could he be quoting yesterday’s newspaper headline?  The British Crown Jewels are the best defended precious objects in the world. No one in the world could steal them. No one except …  Moriarty’s Story: Sherlock Holmes always gets all the publicity, right? But Moriarty’s story is darker, older and more interesting. It all began one foggy London night in 1889 …  A man wakes up in Texas / Wolverhampton / at the end of your street. It is a starlit night. He has what looks like a bullet-wound in his thigh. A scrap of paper in his hand, with an address on it. No name. The man remembers nothing except for one word  - “run.”  Wall Street’s most famous hedge fund manager, Ponzi Scheme owner and all-round bad guy is finally in court facing a 150-year sentence. But one juror isn’t who he claims to be. For the juror, this isn’t business, it’s personal.  The first paragraph of your story: “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?” I stare at the court and the judge. “You must know by now that I am an expert liar. It’s my superpower. I’ll raise my hand if you want me to, and say whatever nonsense you have on this paper, but truth? No. I’ll lie and lie and make you believe me anyway. So help me God.”  The last paragraph of your story: “Reader, I murdered him.”  Detective Inspector Ryan Jackson is diligent, successful, hard-working, boozy, and sometimes a little too prone to use his fists. What worries him, though, is these memory blackouts he tells no one about. Ten of fifteen minutes, to start with. Then an hour or two. Once a whole weekend. And why are his fists sometimes red and blooded? And why did his shotgun smell of powder?  She’s the perfect wife, with the perfect home, and the perfect husband. There’s nothing wrong with them, nothing. Her husband isn’t too controlling. And that’s definitely not arsenic in the cleaning cupboard.  “A murder club?” I asked. “Do you mean solving it?” It was Davina who answered. 16 years old. Pretty, pouty, preppy: all the Ps. “Don’t be boring, darling,” she said. “Solving it, committing it. We go both ways you know.” She kissed the tip of her finger and ran it down my face, over my lips to my heart.  A detective in recovery from Cotard’s Syndrome – a real life condition in which sufferers believe themselves to be dead. (That’s Harry’s detective character, by the way, but you’re welcome to take the idea and use it however you want.)  Mystery Thriller Prompts Mystery thrillers tend to work in the opposite direction to a crime thriller: revealing a crime, and then working backwards so its characters can solve it. You could try You (Caroline Kepnes), Sharp Objects (Gillian Flynn), or The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Stuart Turton) for inspiration.  No-one believes you, but you are certain the daily newspaper crossword is spelling out a warning… or a threat.  You check into a secluded hotel where you’ll sleep in a luxury stilted hut on the private beach. The first morning that you wake up, someone has written ‘DO NOT TRUST THEM’ in pebbles.  From the comfort of your bed, you check your video doorbell to see if a disputed delivery was left yesterday and who took it. Instead, you see a stranger letting themselves into your house. You do not see them leave.  Someone is sending you diary extracts, a new one every day…  You go to collect your teenager from school, but they aren’t there. When you ask in the office, they are confused – they’d agreed you could take your child out of school for a holiday, they show you the form with your signature on it and look at you strangely. But you didn’t sign that form and you had no plans to take them anywhere…  You move into a new house and start to dig in the garden. You find bones and they look human. But there’s a reason you can’t call the police…  Your father died when you were still a baby, but you’ve just been sent an obituary for him, dated last week.     You wake in the night and can’t find your partner. There is no trace of them in the house and no-one knows where they are. When you report them missing to the police, they say there is no record of them existing. So who is the person you’ve been living with for five years?   When you turned 10, your parents died in mysterious circumstances. On your 20th birthday, your best friend was murdered. It’s your 30th next week…   Best friends are both accused of murder. Each insists the other one is innocent. Who is to blame?   Spy And Action Thriller Prompts Spy and action thrillers tend to focus on secret agents and espionage. Packed full of action-adventure, suspense, and spy stories – think race against time to uncover an unseemly plot or overthrow a coup! Try Jason Bourne’s The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum, or Clear and Present Danger by Tom Clancy for some background reading in this sub-genre. You’re a special agent, chasing an international art thief across Europe. Finally, you find something in Prague that leaves you wondering: is the art theft a cover for something even more heinous? And are you the right person for the job?  You’re a probationary special agent. The lowest of the low on the career ladder. You’re charged with research and filing. When you find something that could finally bring in an international arms dealer, no one believes you. It’s up to you find the proof needed to bring him in.  8.07 am on the tube was always an experience. Commuters crammed into carriages. Hot air emphasising the distinctive sweaty, stale smell of the Circle Line. While a tinny voice proclaimed “Euston Square” over the tannoy. A pair of eyes found her through the crowd. They trailed her as she hopped off the carriage, narrowly avoiding the gap between platform and tube. They followed her as she ran up the escalator; clearly late, again. And surveyed the path she took as she made her way through the commuters, her red hair glinting in the sun. A different route this morning. It could only mean one thing.  It was a short walk back to the house after Lou’s surprise birthday drinks, but it took an age. Blisters threatened to render Kat’s toes useless for days to follow. Toes throbbing and head dizzy from the vodka lime and sodas, Kat reached for the door. Before the tip of the key could graze the lock, the door swung open. Stepping over the threshold, a neon yellow post-it note caught Kat’s attention. Sitting on the hall table, beside a lidded sharpie, a note lay expectantly.  You’re the victim of a crime, but you don’t report it. Why? Are you guiltier of something worse? What are you hiding? Who are you hiding from?  James is a creature of habit. Everyday the same routine. Until one day he starts running…in the wrong direction.  Political Thriller Prompts Your political thriller should be set against a political backdrop – perhaps a power struggle or political intrigue with suspense and high stakes throughout. Try reading The Sum of All Fears (Tom Clancy), or House of Cards (Michael Dobbs) for some ideas.  There in the tree line a gloved hand waited; a finger poised and ready to take the photo they’ve come for. Crunched-up leaves and broken branches litters the ground beneath their feet. Biding their time. Waiting. Patience has always been his gift.  You’re a journalist and receive a tip that could change everything in the election next week. But first, you need to validate it.  An assertive knock on the inner door announced the visit she’d been dreading.  COBRA’s been taken hostage.  Legal Thriller Prompts Similar to the crime thriller, a legal thriller focuses on the procedures and investigation, whether that’s the police procedural or the court case. Think The Partner (John Grisham), The Devil’s Advocate (Steve Cavanagh) or You Don’t Know Me (Imran Mahmood).  “Decisive” was not a word you’d use to describe DC White. Changeable; dim; easily manipulated. But “Decisive”? Not at all. Or at least that’s what they banked on.  After finishing work late one night, you find a brown paper packet neatly tied with red string on your passenger seat. Alongside a note: “He’s innocent.”  The cell door clangs shut behind you. Looking down at your hands you see dried mud, dirt, and something that looks a lot like blood.  You arrange to meet your client in your office. When they don’t arrive, you go out to find them.  12 years, 17 days, 6 hours and 32 minutes. That’s how long she had been locked away for. Away from her family. Away from her child. Away from the world as she knew it. But, 12 years, 17 days, 6 hours and 32 minutes is also how long she’s had to plan her revenge. And in 12 minutes she’ll finally be free to do it.  There’s something not quite right about Mr Hallow.   They’re hiding something. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know. Your 30 years on the force is telling you there’s something they’re not saying.   Historical Thriller Prompts The historical thriller is just that, a thriller set in the past. Make sure to research how to write historical fiction novels too, so you can get the balance between embedding the story within the historical period and keeping the narrative pacy and suspense filled. Titles for background reading could include The Alienist (Caleb Carr), The Doll Factory (Elizabeth Macneal) and Liar (Lesley Pearse).  The rain came early that year. Forcing Fowler and his farmhands to sprint back to the field to bring the rest of the harvest in. It was now or never. Stealing out from behind his hiding place beside the carriage, he headed towards the house. Tucking himself into a dark corner of the entry room, he waited.  The truth behind Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: who was the real Frankenstein and how was he injured so unrecognisably?  The year is 1536. A time when everyone was at risk of losing their head, even the queen. Clay did what he had to do to survive, even if that meant he was the executioner.  Her masque hung listlessly on a seat in the corner of her bed chamber. The blue damask gown she had ordered specifically for the masquerade that night lay ruined at her feet. Tinged with the brownish-red hues of now dry blood. What had she done? What was she going to do now?  Somewhere in the French Quarter a saxophone serenaded the inky night sky. The streets thrummed with music and laughter, while colours rebounded off the buildings and along the streets. New Orleans in 1932 was something to behold. But here, in this tiny side street taunted by the distant celebrations, a private investigator was finally closing in.  The funny thing about not attending your wife’s execution is that you didn’t actually witness her death. In Henry’s case, his wife is back and she’s ready for revenge.   Life in Victorian London is hard, but especially so when your fiancé has been accused of murder and you have to fight to find the true killer.   Science Fiction Thriller Prompts A science fiction thriller tends to place the action in an alternative reality – whether that’s a dystopian society or a different planet all together – the action and intrigue of the thriller will be heavily laced with Sci-Fi themes but will remain within the confines of existing science to create a believable risk scenario. Think 11/22/63 (Stephen King) or 1984 (George Orwell).  Fairgrounds are normally bright and colourful, alive. But today, today it feels different. Cold. Empty. Dark.  You’re on a carousel. High up above the crowds you spot something in the distance. Unsure what you see, it takes a while for your eyes to adjust, but when they do, you realise things will never the be same again.  You run a Detective Agency with a twist: specialising in paranormal crimes and activity.  Liam is tired of being called a conspiracy theorist, but nothing will stop him from proving that the president is not from this earth. His proof? He isn’t either.  Some might want to use a time machine to see the future, but I know where I’m going. Back to 7th February 2004 to find out who really killed Suzy.  In a post-apocalyptic world, all that stands between building a new future and certain death, is you.  In a dystopian world technology has become the currency that life depends on, that is until something threatens the very core of that technology. No kissing is allowed in this world, let alone sex. Babies are made by machines and love is against the law. But one couple have fallen for one another and she\'s pregnant. Will they escape before it\'s too late? Ten Bonus Prompts 68. Two non-identical twins are separated at birth. One of them is murdered and the other twin\'s DNA is found all over the dead body.  69. Sarah Daniel\'s credit card is rejected at a coffee shop. She calls her bank who tell her she isn\'t Sarah Daniels. Sarah Daniels is dead.  70. A stranger hands Michelle a phone before jumping off a building to her death. The phone contains a voice message from the stranger accusing Michelle of her death.  71. Tania\'s best friend Mariah disappeared fifteen years ago. Her body was never found. A young woman moves in next door who looks exactly like Mariah did, back then. But then she vanishes too.  72. Rachelle wakes up to her sleep talking husband confessing to a murder. 73. A man lies on his death bed in hospital. He whispers into the nurse\'s ear. \'I know what you did and your son will pay.\'\' Her son doesn\'t return home from school that afternoon.  74. You come across a news story about a missing person. A woman in her forties, with mid-length black hair, brown eyes, 5\'5. It\'s you. Your face, your description, only... a different name. The story is dated with tomorrow\'s date. But you\'re safe. Aren\'t you? 75. You\'ve been getting away with minor crimes (fraud, theft, a little arson) for a while now. And you\'re ready for something more challenging. But what will it be? Maybe you could do something about your rude neighbour... 76. Your cat saunters in, carrying what you imagine is yet another mouse in her mouth. Only it\'s not a mouse. It\'s a finger.77. A woman returns home after a work trip away. She opens the front door and there is a strange family sitting in her kitchen, at her table. They claim to be her family, but they\'re not the family she remembers at all. 78. A woman tweets \'\'Live or die\'\'. The votes are 65% in favour of death. The next day she is found murdered in her home. 79. A recent widow takes a sole cruise around the Atlantic. One by one passengers start to go missing. Scraps of paper found in their rooms spell out the name of her dead husband. 80. A woman wakes up in a stranger\'s bed with no memory of what happened last night. Then she sees the dead man lying next to her and his blood on her hands.  Follow The Footsteps Of Top Thriller Writers A huge thank you to our guest contributors for sharing some of their psychological and crime thriller story ideas and prompts. Find out more about them and their latest projects here:  Harry Bingham Harry is not only the founder of Jericho Writers, but he\'s also the bestselling author of a dozen thriller novels and multiple works of non-fiction. Published all over the world, his work has been adapted for TV, he\'s been on prize short- and long-lists, and had worldwide critical acclaim. Click here to discover his books. Holly Seddon Holly\'s first thriller novel, TRY NOT TO BREATHE, was published in 2016 and went on to be a bestseller in the UK, Ireland, Germany and Australia. A USA Today bestseller, it was also an audiobook, paperback and e-book bestseller in various countries. Her second novel, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, was published in July 2017 in the UK, USA and in many other countries. In May 2018, it hit number one in the audiobook charts. LOVE WILL TEAR US APART was published in June 2018 and THE WOMAN ON THE BRIDGE is out March 2022. She\'s also one half of the Honest Authors, co-hosting a fortnightly podcast on the realities of life as a published author. Click here to pre-order her new book! Sophie Flynn Sophie is a Cotswolds based psychological thriller author with an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes. Her debut novel ALL MY LIES was published by Simon & Schuster in April, 2021. Alongside writing, Sophie is also the Head of Marketing at Jericho Writers.  Meera Shah Meera Shah is a psychological suspense writer based in London, UK. Her debut novel will be published by Hodder Studio, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, in Spring ’23. To follow her journey to publication you can visit her author website or Twitter page. More Thriller Writing Tips I hope these thriller writing prompts helped you fight off your writers’ block and sparked a source of inspiration for you.   If you want to learn a little more about thriller writing, check out our favourite Jericho Writers thriller articles below.   How Crime Writers can Research Police ProcedureTips for Writing Crime Fiction and ThrillersHow to Get an Agent for Your Thriller 7 Top Tips for Writing Gripping ThrillersHow to Plot a Novel (Using our Easy Plot Template Technique) – Jericho Writers How to Create a Great Inciting Incident – Jericho Writers  And remember, even the very best thriller writers started out staring at a blank white blank page. So don’t worry if you haven’t hit upon the perfect idea yet; start out by looking through the story ideas we’ve listed here, or better yet, start listing your own prompts from inspiration you find in everyday life.   You never know, a tiny spark of an idea may inspire you to write something you weren’t expecting and you will be joining the greats at the bestselling thriller table at your favourite bookstore!  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. 

100 Poetry Prompts

100 Phenomenal Poetry Prompts To Inspire Your Writing Poetry is an expressive and compelling form of writing, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Between form, structure, and content, there are lots of factors to consider when you’re deciding how to write a poem. These poetry prompts will help you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and give you that all-important start.  These prompts are separated into 6 categories containing 15 prompts each, with one miscellaneous section at the end: Poetic form prompts  Imagination focused prompts  Nature/the outside prompts  Media and objects as inspiration prompts  Sentimental/reflective prompts  Structure prompts  Miscellaneous prompts  Sometimes coming up with a clear, exciting idea can be the hardest part of writing poetry. But luckily we’ve done it for you! So let’s get started with our poetry prompts.  Poetic Form Prompts  When it comes to writing poetry, deciding on the form you want to use is a great place to start. Whether you’re deciding between writing in free verse or using a regular rhyme pattern; wondering which era of poetry you want to reflect; or what type of poem (acrostic, sestina etc) you want to write; knowing the overall shape of your poem will help you get started. So here are some poetry prompts in the realm of poetic form.  Write an acrostic poem using your name or that of a loved one. Write an ode to someone or something you love. Start with your favourite thing about them. Write a sonnet or rewrite one of Shakespeare\'s or Petrarca’s. (Sonnets are 14 lines long and are traditionally written in iambic pentameter. But feel free to bend the rules a little; it’s your poem!) Write a poem in the style of, or in honour of, your favourite poet. Flick through a poetry book. Find a line which resonates you. Use that as your starting point and carry on from there. Write a poem that is also a letter. To your past or future self; to a friend; to an emotion; to a loved one who passed away. Write a poem in a \'stream of consciousness\' style. Write in the style of a poetic era which interests you (romantic poetry, metaphysical poetry, Renaissance poetry). Write a sestina (an unrhyming poem consisting of 6 stanzas of 6 lines and a final 3 line stanza). To help you get started, write about the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning. What’s your favourite/lucky number? Write a poem consisting of that many lines. Write a poem listing and connecting mundane objects around you. Consider how you interact with them, and how they interact with each other. Write a poem without taking your pen off of the paper. Your starting point is your favourite vegetable. Write a haiku (5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second line, 5 syllables in the last line). For your starting point, use any word which interests you that begins with the same letter as your surname. Write a poem using the poetic ‘I’. Write about your day so far (feel free to exaggerate and embellish). Write a poem personifying whichever emotion you’re predominantly feeling right now.  Imagination Focused Prompts  Poetry is very focused on images, which means you can truly let your imagination run wild when writing it. Be descriptive, have fun, and don’t be afraid to lean into the bizarre. These creative poetry writing prompts will help you craft unique, engaging poems.  Pick a colour. Use the 5 senses to explore and inhabit it. Keep a notebook by your bed. When you wake up in the morning write down everything you can remember about your dreams. Then write a poem based on your notes. Write a poem about a mirror. What was your favourite fairy tale/fable as a child? Write a poem from the perspective of a secondary character (like Little Red Riding Hood’s Mum) or the antagonist (like the wolf). Think of a cliché which irritates you. Write a better version of it (think ‘show, don’t tell’), and build your poem from there. Think about your favourite scent. Write a poem depicting the things and activities it reminds you of (fresh laundry, apple picking, the ocean, blossom on the trees). Write about the aftermath. Of an argument, a panic attack, crying, a break-up, a dizzy spell, the best news of your life. If you were an animal what would you be? Write from an animal’s perspective. There are flowers on a doorstep. Write a poem about them from the perspective of the sender or the recipient (or both). Are they a celebratory gift (for a birthday, promotion, engagement etc)? An apology? A thank you present? Explore. Think of something bizarre or ridiculous you once saw or heard about (the dream you had about a 20-foot-tall flamingo playing the violin, or your niece’s conversation about the elves who helped her with her homework) and use that as the opening to a poem. Write a poem which takes place in a time of transition. On the bus home, in the moment between being awake and falling asleep, the day before starting a new job... If you were to create your own Coat of Arms, what would it look like? Consider what animal, what kind of plant/flower, what colours etc you would include. Write a poem describing the details and what they represent. Write a poem about a secret. Think about a big decision you made. Write a poem exploring what may have happened if you’d chosen differently. Write a poem about a terrible birthday.  Nature/The Outside Prompts  Classical poetry is what most people think of when it comes to poetry. Lush forests, budding flowers, babbling brooks. Some may think it cliché, but it’s a classic for a reason. And a good reminder to writers to get some fresh air every once in a while. Use this as a nudge to take a break, go for a walk, and who knows; maybe a half-finished poem will come back with you. Try these nature and outdoors focused writing prompts for poetry.  Write about the month you’re in now. What comes to mind when you think about it/this season? Draw from memories, the five senses, seasonal activities.  Which element (earth, air) is aligned with your star sign? Write a poem exploring it. Look out the window or go for a walk and admire the nature around you. What draws your attention? Write about it in as much detail as possible. Write a poem that starts with a tree. Think about what season you want it to be and thus what it looks like (are there leaves/blossom/bare branches)? Think about where you are in relation to it (sat underneath it, looking at it from a passing car, walking up a hill towards it). See where the poem takes you. Write about an open window. What kind of building is it in? What’s on either side of it? How high up is it? What does it represent. People watch as you gaze out of the window, or look at the people across from you as you walk down the street. Make up a life/story for them in your head. Craft a poem around it. Write about a bonfire or a fireplace. Are you someone who loves the smell of them, and how it lingers on your clothes afterwards? Or someone who hates that the smoke gets in your eyes and you have to get really close to them if you want to escape the surrounding cold? Write about water. The ocean, drinking a glass of water, washing yourself or the dishes, the rain.  Where’s your favourite place to be? It could anything from the corner of your bedroom, to a small cafe in town, to an African island. Write a poem about it. Write a poem about the weather. We always want what we don’t have. Write about the season (autumn, spring etc) you wish you were experiencing now. Write a poem about being snowed in or having a power outage. Explore the intimacy of being in close quarters with others or trapped alone. When you’re out and about, pay attention to the words around you. Write a poem based on the tail end of a conversation you overheard, the slogan on someone’s t-shirt, or the curious sign in the shop window. Think of any old buildings near where you live or grew up. Contemplate who might have occupied them 50/100/200 years ago. Write about them.Write a poem from the perspective of someone sullen and sitting alone on a park bench. Media And Objects As Inspiration Prompts  When trying to figure out how to write poetry that is compelling and meaningful, there are many available options. In a technological world, using media as inspiration is one of the simplest solutions. Let your interests converge and use the images/messages/themes from your favourite forms of media to help you write your next poem.  Write a poem based on the first news article which comes up on your TV/phone/the internet. Find a picture of you as a child. Write from the perspective of your child self. Look back at the picture from time to time as you write. Fill in a crossword puzzle or other word game. Write a poem using as many of the words from it as possible. Write a poem about your favourite book. Think about an item of clothing or an accessory (the t-shirt that’s worn and well loved, the dress you wore every week when you were in your 30s, the necklace that’s been in your family for generations) that means a lot to you. Write about it. Think about all the places you went and emotions you felt when you wore it. Conversely, personify the object and write a poem about what it experienced with you on those occasions. Write a poem about or from the perspective of one of your favourite (or least favourite!) characters from a book/TV show/movie. Listen to a song which you enjoy/resonates with you deeply. Dance, close your eyes; do whatever comes naturally. Once it’s finished, sit down and write whatever comes to mind. Think about a key lyric, how it makes you feel, or what your experience was like the first time you heard it. Pick a photo you love, your favourite piece of art, or search for interesting images online (volcanoes, Victorian furniture, classical paintings). Write a poem responding to the image. Watch the trailer for an upcoming film you’re eager to see. Write a poem based on an interesting moment, or in response to it. Think about a memorable concert, play, or fair you attended as a child. Write as though you’re experiencing it now. Pick a quote that resonates with you/which you admire. It could be an old adage, something your parents told you, or from a famous writer. Ponder over it for a while, and then write about or in response to it. What’s the oldest object you own? When did you get it? What does it mean to you? Write about it in detail. Write a poem set in a school. You can recall your own school experience to help you, entirely make it up, or use a scene from a TV show or film as inspiration. If you keep a journal, write a poem based on one of your journal entries. Pick an older one (such as the entry you wrote exactly a year ago today) so that you’re a little distanced from what you were experiencing then. Reflect. Contemplate. Use the power of hindsight. Spend five minutes or so on a social media or gaming app. Jot down any words or images which interest you or evoke some kind of response in you. Use them to help shape your poem.  Sentimental/Reflective Prompts  Poetry writing can be very reflective and personal. When you’re in need of inspiration, sometimes the best place to start is your own experience. Whether you favour poetry that is sentimental and melancholy, or nostalgic and exuberant, these prompts for poetry will help you out.  Write something that you aren’t ready to say out loud yet.  Write about the age you are now; the stereotypes of your demographic, how comfortable you are with your current age, the joys and sorrows it has bought you. Think of a really happy day/experience you had in your childhood. Maybe it was when you made a new friend, or read a great book, or went on a trip to the fair. Write a poem describing your unadulterated joy. Write about the experience of losing something dear to you. Write about someone who taught you/helped you grow but who wasn’t your teacher, parent, or caregiver. Think about a memorable birthday you once had. Write a poem about the first one which comes to mind. Write a poem about a nightmare or a ‘there’s a monster under the bed’ type fear which you had as a child. Write a poem to/about someone, addressing the things you regret not telling them. What was your favourite toy/game as child? Write about the devotion you had to it. Are there any parallels between it and your favourite hobbies/passions now? Write about a small random thing which brings you joy (your favourite cup of tea, your cat running towards the door to meet you when you come home, the smell of a cinnamon scented candle). Write about a haircut/hairstyle or sense of style you once had that differs from how you present yourself today. Who was that version of you? In which ways are you different now? Write a poem about a theme or topic which is important to you (animal rights, mental health, education) without explicitly naming it. What does home mean to you? Write a poem ruminating on it as a concept and a physical space. Write a poem about a cultural moment which resonated with you (old or current). Write about a time when you were overlooked. How did you react? Would you respond differently now?  Structure Prompts  The structure of a poem is as important as the words which it contains. And it can be just as meaningful. Starting with the outline of what you want your poem to be like gives you some restrictions so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the myriad of things a poem can be about, while also giving you the freedom to explore your ideas. Here are some creative writing poetry prompts associated with structure.  Open any book. Write a poem based on the first word which draws your attention. Pick a number between 5 and 100. Write a poem containing that exact number of words. Make a copy of one of your favourite poems and adjust it to make it your own. Rearrange stanzas/lines, cut out words, change the layout, remove every 5th word and see what happens. Using a random name generator- or just flick through a dictionary/thesaurus/book- come up with 5 random words and craft a poem around them. Write a poem without using the letter e. Write a poem with each line representing a year of your life (you can do it in calendar years e.g. 1989, 1990, 1991 etc, or in ages e.g. aged 29, 30, 31) and the key memories/emotions/experiences from that time. If you speak a second language, try writing a poem in that language instead. Write using a different medium. If you usually type your poems on a computer, use pen and paper instead. Or try writing on a whiteboard, in coloured market on a huge piece of paper, using scrabble tiles, in chalk on your garden path, or on a typewriter. Write a poem with nouns which start with the letter of your first name. Find a poem which you have written but aren\'t satisfied with. Read through it, and try and figure out what you don’t like about it. Then, either pick out a line you like and use that as a starting point, or rewrite the poem focusing on its key themes/thesis. Write a poem using commas as the only form of punctuation. Write with a friend! Agree on an approximate poem length (for instance, 16 lines). Choose someone to start by sending the first line to the other person. They then send the second line back in response. Continue until your poem is complete. Write a poem without any full stops. Pick up a pen and a paper and free write. About your day, your state of mind, anything. Set a timer for 5-15 minutes and keep writing the entire time. Don’t correct your spelling or cross things out. Just. Keep. Writing. After your time is up, go back through and circle/highlight/underline words or phrases which you like. Use one or two of them and begin crafting a poem. Write a poem structured as a poetic transcript of a story a loved one/relative is telling. Use spacing and punctuation to indicate pauses, and include fillers.  Miscellaneous Prompts  There are so many different types of poetry that it can be hard to define as a writing form. And hard to write prompts for, apparently! So here are some extra prompts which refused to be defined by any one category, perfect for the poet whose imagination cannot be contained.  Write about silence. Is it eerie, peaceful, anxiety provoking? Explore.  When was the last time you danced? Where were you? Were you alone/who were you with? How did you feel? Write about it. Write a poem about any traditions you have, and whether or not you’re attached to them. Think of an act of injustice/news story which upsets you. Write about its intricacies and why it angers/saddens you. Listen. What’s the most prominent sound you hear? Write about it. Write about a part of the body. Any one! Explore all the things about it which you take for granted and the ways in which it brings you joy (arms for hugging, legs for dancing, eyes for watching the sunset etc). Write a poem exploring the etymology of your name and your relationship to it. Do you have any physical injuries? Write a poem about how you got them and, if relevant, how they affect you now. Write a poem about a coincidence that you experienced. Write a poem about the gestures/facially expressions you frequently use and what they communicate. How do the people around you use gestures?  Using Poetry Prompts  We hope these poetry prompts give you some great inspiration for new avenues to explore with your writing. Many of these prompts can be used again and again if adapted slightly. You can use them as the basis for a brief freewriting session, to help edit or focus poems you’ve already written, or to help you develop your skills in an area of poetry you’ve been working on (maybe you’re trying to become an expert in all things sonnets). Feel free to adjust these poetry prompts in any way which suits you; we find that a shift in perspective often helps. 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. 

150 of the Best Horror Prompts, Settings and Characters

150 Heinous Horror Prompts and Ideas to Make your Readers Tremble Whether you\'re looking to scare, horrify, or make your readers jump, we are here with all the inspiration you need! We\'ve created a horrific list of 50 horror writing prompts to give your writing that hair-raising, back-of-the-neck eerie touch. Why Use Horror Prompts? Horror books (as well as movies and TV shows) exist because human fear exists. And all readers love to feel something with each genre! Classic horror fiction books aim to frighten, and over time authors have found a myriad of ways to do that. Common themes include ghosts, ghouls, monsters, vampires, werewolves, demons, zombies, murderers, serial killers, paranormal forces, witchcraft, apocalypses, psychological fear, and gore. So if you\'re feeling uninspired, you think all the good ideas have already been taken (they haven\'t), or you simply want to kick-start your imagination - take a look at our horror prompts list. We have included 50 specific examples of horror story ideas organised under sub-genres. We hope some of them send a tingle down your spine and inspire you to write your own creepy novel! 50 Horror Story Prompts Word of warning: in keeping with the nature of the genre, most of these prompts contain violent or upsetting themes. Comedic Horror Prompts You survive the apocalypse purely due to a series of happy accidents. It turns out, an alien race orchestrated the doomsday events on Earth to see if humans were ready to ascend. As lone survivor, you\'re selected to be the sole representative of humanity in the new world order. Unpopular new arrivals in a town that treasures natural beauty, Michaela takes pity on her plastic surgeon father and goes to bed one night wishing that all of her classmates’ worst fears of their physical insecurities would come true.You work at a Zombie Rehabilitation Centre in LA. It was your dream job until you realise you\'re stuck teaching \'Bite Inhibition\' classes.Flattered to be one of the few freshmen listed on the most popular sorority\'s website \"Fresh Meat\", you turn up to a party in your honour at the Kappa Kappa house. At the end of the night, you discover a secret book containing a step-by-step plan of \'How to eat the class of 2022\'. Former beauty pageant queen transforms into a hungry werewolf on the most important full moon of the year, on the prowl for the ‘next pretty young thing’. This year\'s pageant hopefuls are armed to the teethed and willing to fight for the crown. You\'re a vain, ancient witch adapting to the 21st century by getting a job at the Apple Store so that you can enchant teenagers\' smartphones and sap their youth through their devices. Demonic Possession Horror Prompts Stacey’s perfect family life begins to unravel one day when a malicious spirit moves in and inflicts itself upon its host, jumping around between her, her husband, and her two daughters.  You terrify your family when you wake up floating two metres above your bed. An exorcist tells them he\'s cured you, but the demon doesn\'t actually leave your body. It\'s learned to come out only when you are alone.Taking part in a prison experiment for extra credit, 11 university students are unable to explain the violence that overcame them, and the brutal death of the 12th student, citing demons over any psychological element.You\'re trying to put your house on the market. You\'ve lived there all your life, and you\'re the last surviving member of your family. Every estate agent you bring in to the house dies in a tragic accident days later. Gore Horror Prompts Uni student Jamie was looking for some extra cash when he signed away two weeks of his summer vacation to take part in a simple clinical trial. But when he realises patients are having their organs harvested against their will, his experience turns into a brutal, bloody nightmare.  Someone in your neighbourhood has been committing grisly acts of violence on people at night. You set up a camera to investigate and catch an exact replica of yourself in the act. A well-intentioned break-in turns nasty for a group of friends who become trapped in a ‘chalet of death’ as the stunning vacation home turns into a gruesome automated killing machine at night. You take a summer job at an amusement park. When covering for a coworker on the rollercoaster booth one night, body parts start flying off the ride. You stop the train and find that all the passengers are long-dead corpses. Monster Horror Prompts Night-time brings terror for caring but agoraphobic cat lady as her six beloved pets transform into flesh-hungry demons as soon as it’s dark out. You’ve seen The Quiet Place and Birdbox, but what if the monstrous entity who invaded Earth destroyed humanity through touch? Each ‘spore’ is as big as a city, growing bigger each time it absorbs a victim. A pack of survivors must spread out if they want to make it through an ever-narrowing world in order to find, and destroy, the epicentre.Susie is a wedding photographer whose camera starts to reveal monsters unseen to the eye that prey on the love of newlyweds. When Susie’s clients start to disappear from their honeymoons, she is the only person who knows what\'s really happening to them.  You\'re a teacher chaperoning swimming lessons at your school. You inspected the pool yourself, but when the kids get in you see an enormous, invisible creature come to life. The first drowning is ruled as accidental, and to your horror, the lessons continue. Paranormal Horror Prompts College student Josh is tapped as a pledge for an ultra-secret society via coded messages, which are unbeknownst to him left by the ghosts of past members who each met gruesome ends. The final test forces him into an abandoned storage facility where he must carry out increasingly punishing tasks on other pledges.A close relative who died before you were born is standing in the upstairs window of the house across the street. You have no doubt it\'s them. When you work up the courage to break in to the neighbour\'s house and confront them, you turn to see the person you came to find now visible in the window of your own house.The local sheriff’s night turns hellish when the man he locked up uses his telekinesis to lethally booby trap the station. A mother of three does all she can to protect her family from imminent doom when she begins having visions of their collective deaths.You\'re out walking the dog one afternoon when you find yourself caught in a physical endless loop in the woods. You feel yourself losing time but you can\'t find a way out. Post-Apocalyptic Horror Prompts Humanity took to the sea to survive the rising sea levels caused by climate change, but now their ocean rigs are massively overcrowded, resource-poor, and steeped in disease. A deadly class struggle breaks out on one of the stations. A wayward AI has slowly infected all computers and devices, subtly turning humans against each other. Now living in a culture of suspicion and distrust running on the currency of violence, nomadic young Kit refuses to kill to survive. You\'ve grown up as the next generation of the most wealthy and successful humans who survived the end of the world. Your world unravels when you realise that those raising you have in fact been the robot overlords who destroyed humanity. They copied the skins of those they found locked in an emergency bunker and started to artificially grow humans as pets and slaves.Trapped inside a small cabin by her phobia of the rain, one of the last surviving human women on earth tries to survive the night when a horde of those infected with the plague (that wiped out most of the human race) track her down hungry for blood. Psychological Horror Prompts After a tragic accident on his 21st birthday, Peter gets back in touch with his estranged father via email. He flies 6000 miles to stay with him, but when he arrives he\'s pulled into a deadly catfishing game carried out by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.You wake up in your childhood bed, look down at yourself, and find that you\'re 12 again. You can\'t see yourself in the mirror, or in photos, but everyone else can see you. You\'re convinced you\'re going to disappear altogether. Suspecting his wife of infidelity, Ben hires a private investigator to catch her in the act. When she disappears without her lover, Ben begins to suspect the man he hired had something to do with it. You work the graveyard shift at a 24 hour on-campus library. While snooping around you come across a handwritten book that was started three decades ago. It contains a record of all the accidents and atrocities that have happened at the school since then. A week later, a girl falls off the roof and dies. During your next shift, you see a beloved professor writing in the book. You start to doubt everything when the death is ruled an accident. Religious/Folk Beliefs Horror Prompts Summer is excited to be spending her semester abroad, until she witnesses some locals performing a horrifying ritual on her fellow traveller.Your parents reveal a horrid secret to you on your 18th birthday. Your idyllic lifestyle in a small, isolated community will come to an end if you don\'t start participating in the cult\'s obscene rituals. If you refuse, you\'ll be sacrificed against your will for the cause. Born into a futuristic fringe community that abhors physical contact, a young woman’s attempts to break free are met with the harshest repercussions.   Slasher Horror Prompts Callie is delighted to be driving to college in her graduation gift – a brand new electric Mercedes – when an EMP attack leaves her stranded by the side of the road. There’s nothing but forest around for miles, until a lumberjack with a dark past pulls up beside her.  Ten years after you said goodbye to your imaginary friend, you see their face on the evening news next to the headline \'The Redfield Ripper\'s Recent Attacks\'.An insane chef renting a cabin in the woods sharpens up their knife skills on whoever is unlucky enough to disturb them. Vampire Horror Prompts Cal is a postman resigned to a boring new route in a rural valley when he comes across three beautiful sisters living alone in a big house. He finds himself there almost every day hauling curious packages. A bout of bad weather knocks a tree down on the only road in, and a few days later, Cal is greeted with a terrifying scenario at the front door.  For months, your dog keeps waking you up at the same time every night. He barks at the window. When you look out onto the street, you see the same stranger watching you. The stranger can\'t be recorded, and nobody believes you when you tell them. One night, thinking yourself delirious, you invite him in. Told from the POV of the youngest sibling of an ancient coven of vampires, Clara and her family are ‘monsters’ living their lives in fear of a powerful new hunter who has trapped them in a small town and is threatening to pick them off one by one. Witchcraft Horror Prompts Down on her luck librarian Eliza idolises famous American movie star Marsha Green. When she comes across an ancient tome under some rotten floorboards and begins to meddle with unknown forces, she sets events in motion which alter Marsha’s life forever.You win the lottery. But every time you spend some of the money, no matter what you use it for, bad things happen. You go back to where you found the lucky ticket, pinned to a tree, and it\'s now covered in unfamiliar symbols. A revolutionary new computer game downloads itself onto the laptops of a group of 11-year-olds. After playing all night, they return to school to find their in-game actions inflicted on their classmates. Suspecting their strict teacher to be behind it, the kids must figure out how to undo her spell and reverse the damage they have done. You\'re an overbearing mother who wishes she could give her daughter the perfect life. You do more harm than good with your cosmetic spells and emotional enchantments, nearly destroying the life of your sixteen year old, who eventually exacts her revenge in equal measure. Working late one night, an exec finds himself unable to leave his bewitched office chair as a scorned investor instructs him to perform humiliating acts in front of his webcam as penance. Zombie Horror Prompts A teenage girl goes to an illicit gathering in the woods one night and meets a boy. Their encounter ends badly. She wakes up to find teeth and nail marks, and realises she is a little less alive than she was the day before.  You dreamt of the zombie pandemic as a child. You dedicated your life to preparing an antidote, waiting for the outbreak so you could develop a cure. You are shunned from the scientific community for your \'fringe beliefs\'. At the first signs of sickness in your loved ones, you kidnap them and take them to an underground research facility where you push yourself to your limits and make dire choices in anticipation of saving the human race. Years after her best friend is murdered, detective Alana’s latest case leads her to a mansion overrun by a horde of zombies led by a hauntingly familiar face.You\'ve never questioned your landlord\'s odd behaviour, desperate as you were for cheap rent. But when the fuse blows and no one is around to fix it, you uncover a nasty truth in the basement\'s freezer. It\'s overflowing with brains! You\'re a doctor volunteering in the latest wave of deadly outbreaks across Europe. When you\'re morally unable to kill patient zero in the early stages of a new unknown strain, you must live with unleashing the zombie virus across the world\'s population. 50 Places to Find Inspiration for your Horror Story The setting of a horror story is everything - but not all scary novels have to take place in a scary place (in fact, sometimes the most mundane of places can be given a horrifying twist by adding a bit of the unknown). When looking for inspiration, it really helps to physically go to a place, or research old relics, to help kick-start your imagination. Take a look at our 50 places that may inspire your next creepy tale. In fact, see if you can think of a horror book or movie set in some of these places (we certainly can!). An empty schoolA graveyardLook at old paintingsGo through old photo albumsAn empty houseThe basementThe atticA toy store after closing timeVisit an old libraryA museumAn old lady\'s house that hasn\'t changed in decadesA scrapyardThe dessertThe ocean (the deeper, the scarier)A secluded islandThe forrest on a misty dayA snowy tundraA corn field A zooA shopping mallAn abandoned...well...anythingA hospitalPrisonA locked roomA hotelA log cabinA swelteringly hot daySuburbia...but differentA run-down urban streetA room full of puppetsBackstage of the theatreEmpty corridors leading nowhereA morgueA rubbish dumpAn empty road in the rainThe top of a mountainAncient ruinsThe inside of a churchA fairground after closing hoursA circusA caveBeneath the streets of a big cityA metro station/the tubeAn airportThe kitchens of a hotel or restaurantA factoryAn old stone quarryOvergrown railway lineA bookshopA boat 50 Horror Story Characters to Inspire you Sometimes, the most simplest of storylines with the most mundane of setting, can be utterly horrifying of you add one very complicated character. Of course you can use monsters and fantastical characters you have created, but often the best effect is mixing an everyday character with a setting where they belong; for instance a clown hiding inside a car at an empty scrapyard, or a little old lady, bony and bent double, in the middle of the jungle. And remember - these characters can be the good gifs, the bad guys, or maybe a mix of both! ClownLittle old ladyTroubled teenagerA person with no eyesPolice officerNurseWoman with dramatically applied make-upLumberjackWriterGangsterSex worker or pimpSomeone with blades for fingersBaby in a cribToddler that doesn\'t speakGirl in bedclothes with hair that covers her faceA character that belongs in another timeScarecrowAnimal that can talkPerson with wings for armsA very normal looking mother. A bit too normal.RobotSomeone who is meant to be deadThiefZoo keeperChefLibrarianTeacherA goody-two-shoes childCowboyAirline pilotCaptain of a shipFirefighterScientist (everyone loves a mad scientist)A single dadA mother with more kids than she can handleFarmerWaitressSewage workerLion tamerBuilder working on an new houseArcheologistSecurity guardTraffic warden/meter maidArtistSomeone with wheels for feetJudgePrison wardenDoor to door salespersonShy secretaryNun or priest Writing Horror Doesn\'t Have To Be Hard We hope our list of writing prompts for horror, along with settings and characters, has sparked your imagination! If not, here\'s how to take our horror ideas to the next level: Found a horror story prompt you like but unsure of where to take it next? Let\'s take #8 from the top list, for example, and add a few interesting characters from our list and choose a setting or two. Then start to build an information bank on your protagonist from there. At this point focus on the character, not the plot - because often one thing can lead to another. The Prompt: You\'re a troubled teen who terrifies your family when you wake up floating two metres above your bed. You just moved into an old house in a quiet, creepy suburban street. An exorcist tells your family he has cured you, but the demon doesn\'t actually leave your body, and learns to come out only when you are alone. You\'re still a teenager, living at home. Your name is Jackson, but you go by Jax. You\'re a second generation immigrant and you speak Greek at home with your family. Your father named you after his favourite American baseball player. You have dark hair, dark eyes, and when you would steal your grandmother\'s baklavas off the kitchen counter she would say she could see the devil in your face. You spend the weekends riding the coastal roads on motorbikes with your friends, doing your best to stay out the way of your spoiled little sister and your overworked father. You\'re closest to your YaYa but too afraid to tell her where you spend most of your time. Moving house unsettled you and took away everything you ever loved. Or, why not map out a rough plot first? The inciting incident for this prompt could be: You\'ve snuck back into your room after a long night out with your friends. You left the window open. Four hours after you collapsed onto your bed in your clothes, you wake with a start to find yourself hovering inexplicably in the air. Your body is locked into position. You spend a panicked hour trying to wriggle free of its grip, but you can feel another presence inside your own body, forcing you down. You\'re going to be late for your new school, your sister is turning the doorknob and your father is yelling for you. Your feet frame the pure terror in the three faces at the door as your eyes strain to see them. Your grandmother recovers the quickest, stuffing her komboskini into your frozen fist and running out of the room to phone her priest. Whether you start your horror story with just a vibe, a small seed of an idea, a great setting, character, or a full plot - it doesn\'t matter. A great story can start anywhere, you just have to make sure that (like any scary monster) you keep feeding it and watch it grow bigger and more horrifying every day! 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. 

140 Fun Fantasy Prompts

Creative Writing Prompts And Ideas To Inspire Your Fantasy Writing Writing fantasy stories can be a lot of fun, but where do you find inspiration when it feels like everything has already been done before? N J Simmonds (RONA shortlisted fantasy author and Jericho Writer’s Head of Community & Editorial Commissions) shares her 140 fantasy book ideas and writing prompts to help get your creativity going and transport you to another world. These story prompts are divided into 7 different fantasy categories, with 20 suggestions for each:  Historical Fantasy prompts  MG Fantasy prompts  YA Fantasy prompts  Fairy-tale retelling inspiration  Paranormal Fantasy ideas  Magical Realism prompts  High Fantasy ideas   And don’t forget, these are all just starting points, so feel free to add to these ideas or twist them up. Better yet why not pick two or three creative writing ideas and mix them together? See what crazy story you can come up with by combining some of the most dissimilar concepts and creating a plot from them.  Are you ready? Hold on tight, it’s time to see where my fantastical writing prompts are about to take you and your writing...  1. Historical Fantasy Prompts Re-writing history can be fun (especially if you mix it up with a little magic and monsters!). So whether your book is a time-slip novel, your character is thrown back in time, or you’re imagining history completely differently just for the hell of it – remember to have fun and don’t hold back. Did you know Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was not only a successful book, but it was also made into a very entertaining film? There are no limits as to where you can take your ideas. Here are 20 to start you off. Henry The Eighth only pretended to kill and divorce his wives. The reality is that they weren’t human - and now they’re out for revenge.  Jane Eyre (but vampires). We all know Egyptians didn’t build pyramids. But what if aliens did? And what if Hieroglyphics were their warning to us about what was to come?  She’s a rich Victorian lady looking for a suitor – when she’s not prowling the streets at night looking for monsters.  Amy has found the perfect man; the only problem is he’s just arrived from the year 1782.  During a visit to a three-hundred-year-old stately home, Sam finds himself transported back in time and is mistaken for the master of the house.  A distant relative of a Reiki healer was burned at the stake for being a witch. The two woman are linked by one very special family heirloom that is about to change everything.  Emily and Hooper’s son keeps talking about his past lives. So many lives, all linked by one woman...his mother. Can his parents unravel the stories and stop the cycle?  She can’t die and for two hundred years she’s been looking for the one other person the same as her. And then she finds him.  The Great Gatsby (but zombies).  Jack the Ripper was a werewolf. Only one woman knows how to make him human again, as long as he doesn’t find her first!  Pick a famous battle in history, any battle, then add magic.  Macbeth, except the entire story is from the point of view of the three witches.  She’s just about to say I Do to the love of her life when a storm destroys the church. When she rises from the rubble her husband is no longer there, just one very handsome Roman soldier.  A history scholar believes the Nazis were using dark magic. When he comes across Winston Churchill’s diaries, he has all the proof he needs. Except dark magic never dies.  The only reason Sir Francis Drake was able to circumnavigate the globe and bring back so much stolen treasure was because of the dragons. But nobody knows that...until now.  He’s an Elizabethan ghost, she’s a modern-day Tinder and coffee addict. It will never work. Will it?  She told her husband she didn’t want to build their new home over an old graveyard. Now every room belongs to a different time.  In 1867 someone nearly caught the Loch Ness Monster and went on to shape history. This is his story.   Machu Pichu was built by magic. This is how it came to ruins.  2. MG Fantasy Prompts Every child loves a magical story. Take a look at these fantasy prompts for children’s books and see if any of our ideas inspire your next Middle Grade novel. Writing fantasy kidlit didn’t do J K Rowling any harm, that’s for sure!  Henry is scared to look under the bed, because he knows that’s where the monsters live. Then one day he looks and finds a portal to another world.  Before he died, her Grandfather gives her a magical red stone. ‘Get this to Mannering,’ he says. ‘He will teach you how to use your powers.’ Those were his last words. What now?  No one believes Kimmy when she says that the new teacher is an alien - that is until Miss eats the class hamster!  Kate has never felt part of her family. Then one night she grows wings, and she realises exactly what she is.  Tommy’s not looking forward to spending the weekend at his creepy Aunt’s house, but then his Mum takes the wrong turn in the woods and they arrive at a very magical place!  Garden gnomes are not real – so why does Sally have a terrible issue keeping hers under control?  What if a boy had tentacles instead of fingers?  Every time Kayleigh wishes for cakes and candy, her wishes come true. Until the day everything and everyone she touches turns to sweets.  The story of the monster in a child’s closet – from the point of view of the monster. Fairies have stolen Clara’s baby sister!  Tilly lives in a world full of darkness...then one day, a boy arrives. A boy made of sunshine!  Saee can step inside every painting she draws. Then one day she gets trapped!  Everyone in Noah’s family has a magical power...except for him.  Rosie loves her garden, but she had no idea of the magical creatures that lived there.  Imagine a world with no parents...just robots!  Strange objects keep appearing in Jeremy’s room. Then one day he discovers who’s been leaving them.  Zara’s cat can talk, and she has something very important to tell her.  It’s Christmas, but Santa has been replaced by three children in a trenchcoat. And they aren’t very nice children!  Santa, the Easter Bunny and a Halloween ghost have all decided to swap jobs this year. This is not going to end well!   When Sofia eats broccoli, something very magical happens... 3. YA Fantasy Prompts Being a teenager is hard work, so is it any wonder so many of them choose to lose themselves in fantastical books? From books such asTo Kill a Kingdom and The Six of Crows, to Ready Player One and The Hunger Games - killer mermaids, fantastical worlds, and games that will kill you are all great fun when it comes to capturing the imagination of young adults.  School is already tough as it is, but this school is even more of a challenge. Because in this school everyone but Toby is supernatural.  Two sisters move into an old house. One of the rooms won’t open. When they finally get inside, they’re transported to a different world.  Tom is really good at chemistry and Dan will do anything for a dare. But when Tom dares Dan to drink the new potion he’s made, the last thing they expect to happen is THAT!  Rashid has always been told to stay out of the basement, but one night he disobeys his parents. The room is empty except for one strange key in the middle of the floor – a key that is glowing.   Every 20 years all the teens of the kingdom are entered into a competition to become the next ruler. All they have to do is win a fight against a dragon...and not die.  Tia’s dreams always come true. Literally. One night she starts dreaming about a very special boy. Now she just has to wait for him to enter her life.  He can talk to animals, and she’s accidentally turned into one. The problem is, they both hate one another.  They used to be the best of friends, until they discover who they were in a past life and what they did!  Clare has a magical gift – she can bake emotions into cakes. Tomorrow is the school bake sale and things are about to get interesting.  She’s a pirate, he’s a prince, and they both want the gold!  People laugh at new girl Kit because she’s hairy, but what they don’t realise is that every full moon she turns into a werewolf. People better start behaving!  Giant spiders live in the trees, scaly dragons live in the ocean, and sharks can fly. In this world nowhere is safe...but it’s this world Tariq has to cross to save his sister.  Two warring families but only one kingdom. And to make things worse, both heirs to the throne have run away together.  Romeo and Juliet – but in space.  Teens hackers get more than they bargained for when they accidentally bring computer characters to life.  Her best friend was murdered. Her best friend is now a ghost. Revenge has never been more fun!  She made a big mistake and wishes to go back in time. On her birthday she does - but she didn’t expect to go THAT far back.  When best friends swap bodies for a week, all hell breaks loose. Tim is in a coma. His family think he can’t hear them, but he can do more than that...he can float about and see what everyone is up to at all times. When he discovers a huge secret, he has to try and wake up before it’s too late!  When Harry was seven, he kept a newt as a pet. Then it grew, and grew, and now (15 years later) he has a giant monster in his dad’s shed. Except the shed door is open…which means the monster has gone.   4. Fairy-Tale Retelling Inspiration You can’t go wrong with a classic fairy-tale, but you CAN make them more current and fun. Fairy-tale retellings are huge in the book world (especially in self-publishing and YA) – so play around with old ideas and make them as outrageous as you want.   Snow White stumbles upon a house where seven other people live. What they don’t know is that the girl they just took in is a serial killer.  The three bears are not happy. It’s time for them to visit Goldilocks house.   Rapunzel is stuck in the tower, but when she lets down her long hair for the prince she pulls him up to her instead. They’re both trapped. Now what?  Sleeping Beauty isn’t asleep, she’s dead. The prince just bought a blood-thirsty zombie back to life.  Cinderella doesn’t care about the ball, or the prince; she wants her father’s house back and she wants revenge!  Tinkerbell loves Peter, Peter loves Wendy, but Wendy loves Tinkerbell. Someone\'s heart is going to get broken.  When Aladdin rubs the lamp it’s not a genie that comes out, it’s the last person he ever wanted to see!  Puss doesn’t like boots...he likes stilettos.  Ariel swaps her fin for legs. The only problem is that now the woman whose legs she has, has got her fin, and she needs Ariel’s help!  She kissed the frog but instead of the frog turning into a prince, it turned into a princess.  Everyone has heard of Snow White and Little Red Riding Hood – but what about the Pink and Green Sisters?  Wendy kills Peter Pan and takes over Neverland.  Goldilocks and Snow White are professionals when it comes to breaking into people’s homes. But this time they’ve met their match!  Little Red Riding Hood, but from the point of view of the wolf...because it was her family who slaughtered everyone he ever cared about!  Hansel and Gretel...except the children are evil and the old lady has no idea what’s coming. Beauty and the Beat. When a provincial girl from a small town stays in a mansion with a grumpy famous DJ, she soon learns that she has lots to teach him about compassion, community, and love.   Jackie and the Bean Stalk. When Jackie climbs a giant plant in her garden she’s taken to another world. But this time she’s the giant!  The Emperor’s New Clothes. Except it’s British politics.  The Princess and the Peanut. The heir to the thrown has a peanut allergy. Who hid them in her bed and who killed her?  She’s kissed so many frogs she’s not only given up looking for her prince, but she now has a skin infection. Luckily, her sexy doctor has the perfect cure.  5. Paranormal Fantasy Paranormal fantasy generally involves monsters, ghosts, spooky happenings and, often, plenty of blood (think Twilight and The Picture of Dorian Grey), but that doesn’t mean it has to be scary or full of forbidden love and angst, it can also be humorous, fun and a little bit saucy. Check out these paranormal prompts and take your monsters to the next level.   Don is hesitant about moving to an old creepy house that’s meant to be full of Victorian ghosts. So imagine his surprise when he discovers his new house IS haunted, but by a family who died only 20 years ago. A family with a secret.  She used to be a vampire until she was bitten by a werewolf. Now she’s completely out of control.  She killed her boyfriend...and now his ghost is going to kill her right back.  This tooth fairy needs your teeth (and doesn’t care if they’re still attached).  Banshees protect themselves by screaming, but this one has lost her voice. What will she do now the bad guys are nearing?  They’ve fallen in love but are unable to touch one another because they’re both ghosts. But what if they were to jump in the body of two people who are alive?   Zombies can’t run very fast – but robot zombies can!  She doesn’t know she’s a witch until she accidentally puts everyone she cares about in mortal danger. Now she just needs to find the right spell to turn back time.  He knows his boss isn’t human. Will he save the world...or join him?  Her baby was playing in the park, then she crawled into a fairy ring and disappeared.  Every day Rowan and Stan take a walk in the woods, until one day Stan walks away and returns with a different personality.  She was recording something for work and left the voice recorder app running. When she plays it back, she’s shocked by what she hears.  The children’s boarding school has a high fence. It’s not to protect the children from strangers, though, it’s to protect the public from them!  His job is to collect nightmares and destroy them – but this time he’s decided to sell them to the highest bidder. Who is about to have their life ruined forever?  She’s dead. No one can see her. Then one day a very special boy does.  When Harriet’s Grandmother died she was gifted a ring, a ring that gives her the power to know when someone is lying. That’s when she discovers her entire life has been a lie – including her family, her friends, and her boyfriend!  He hears voices. They tell him to do things. He says no. Then one day they start to control his body too.  She’s a nurse working the night shift. But where have all the patients gone?  He’s a security guard at an old shopping centre after hours. What the hell did he just see on the security camera?   Cate loves how her boyfriend leaves her messages in the mist of the mirror. The only problem is he’s been dead for a year.  6. Magical Realism/Adult Fantasy Ideas Fantasy doesn’t have to take place in another world or be full of scary monsters. Sometimes everyday life can be sprinkled with magic. From Chocolat to The Ten Thousand Doors of January, strange goings on set against the backdrop of very normal places can be a lot of fun to write (and read).  It’s always hard coming to terms with new powers, but Katie has a particularly difficult time when she discovers hers at her 60th surprise birthday party.  Clara wakes up one morning to find she has laid a large, pale blue egg overnight. The egg is warm and somehow eager, or expectant. She decides to keep it warm ...  The village was pretty and dated far back to Medieval times. The little village green had always had the same two stupid attractions: A wishing well and a large stone with a sword protruding. One moonlit night, Tom realises he can easily remove the sword.  Alice used to have an imaginary friend as a child. And now he’s back.  Words have power, but Rayanne had no idea just how much power her writing had over others.  He first saw her when he was 18 and fell madly in love. Then he saw the same woman when he was 22, and now again at 30. Who is she, and why does she never age?  “There’s one thing you need to know,” her mother always used to say. “If you try really hard, you can get people to do whatever you want them to. You will know when your magic comes in.” And she was right.  As a child, as soon as the wind changed direction, they had to move on to the next place. She used to think her parents were restless travellers – then she discovered the real reason.  These boots were made for walking...and now he can’t stop.  They say bad pennies always keep coming back. But there’s something strange about this one.  Her garden is full of flowers. Very special flowers. With each one she hands out, she’s changing the life of that lucky recipient.  Every window in the house opens up to a different view. She loves being a dressmaker, just be careful what emotions she’s stitching into the clothes she’s making you.  Ever since she was a little girl she loved to dance. Yet she had no idea she was the only one who could hear the music.  One for sorrow, two for joy...every Magpie is her toy.  ‘Sleep is for the lazy,’ her father used to say. ‘Real dreams live in the meadows during the witching hour.’  She’s woken up in a strange bed, in a strange house, with no memory of the night before. All she remembers is what the fortune teller told her.  Her husband has been having an affair. Luckily she has the ability to see into the future, and it’s not panning out as she imagined it would.   She hears in colour, and she sees in taste. Life is very different for Molly Jones.  The story of a magical painting has been passed down her family for centuries. Then one day she finds a painting hidden in the walls of their family property.  7. High Fantasy And Epic Fantasy Writing Prompts High fantasy book ideas can be a lot trickier than your average fantasy inspiration because they involve in-depth world building and creating entire races of people out of your imagination. But you don’t have to stick to whatever worlds George R R Martin, Sarah J Mass, or J R R Tolkien created. Be inventive and have fun with it. After all, Terry Pratchett never held back from adding magic, humour and political justice to his Discworld books!  Elves, Orcs and Wizards are meant to hate one another. But not these three. They have to keep their polyamorous love affair hidden from the rest of the kingdom.  Unicorns aren’t horses, they’re giraffes. Have you ever tried flying on a giraffe?  A spaceship crashes into an uninhabitable planet. Except it’s not empty and uninhabitable...everyone is hiding from something awful.  A Wizard put a spell on the land. Everything and everyone will die in one month if the chosen one doesn’t bring back a leaf from the Tree of Plenty. What a shame five people believe they’re the chosen one.  The Village of Imps is the lowliest of the land, until they discover they are the only ones who can keep the Trolls away.  Three families. Two worlds. One throne.  It’s a race against time to cross the ocean and rescue the princess from the island. But the sea is full of dangers...most of which have more than eight legs.  In this world, the young are wise and the old are stupid. The only problem is the old are faster and stronger.  Two worlds connected by one mirror. If the mirror cracks, all hell will break loose.  Pirates and angels don’t normally mix. But then again, this isn’t a normal voyage.  A magical crown, a key, and three sisters that will stop at nothing.  In a world of evil Elves and kind Trolls, only the Dwarfs know how to bring peace to their land. At the grand feast of Dawn Day the King of Sentary declares his daughter is to wed a prince. The only problem is his daughter has just been turned into a crow.  One spaceship, two planets, and three choices. What a shame he made the wrong one.  Star Wars – but at sea.  She loved reading her book about a magical land...until one day she fell into its pages and couldn’t get out.  When her brother goes missing, she must cross the four Etheral Kingdoms with just a talking Ferret by her side.  Life is hard for Sal because he lives in a land of giants, monsters and deadly creatures - and he’s just a slug.  In a land of superheroes, the one who has no powers is the special one.  She rides a dragon, he rides a unicorn, and they’re both racing to be the first to reach the crest of Mount Orndorf and find the golden chalice. The only thing they must not do is fall in love.  Fantasy Inspiration Is Everywhere I hope you enjoyed dipping into these fantasy writing prompts and seeing what ideas they sparked in your fantasy writing. Why not take a look at our article on how to write fantasy characters for more ideas?  Other ways you can find fantasy inspiration include:  Looking at old paintings and photos. Walking in nature. Looking at nature’s real beasts.  Studying myths and legends. Watching fantasy and sci-fi films and giving those stories your own unique twist.  And remember, there’s no such thing as an original idea. Some of these concepts may have already been written, one way or another; but with a setting tweak, different characters, new motivations, and your own unique voice you can create a fantastical story that is brand new and will be enjoyed by your readers.  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. 

Karen Menuhin On Self-Publishing Her Way To A Top Amazon Spot

When Karen Menuhin ventured into self-publishing with her debut, Murder at Melrose Court, she didn\'t know what to expect. She\'s since published seven books in The Heathcliff Lennox series as eBooks, paperback and audio, and made it to #1 on Amazon in the USA. In this interview, we\'ll hear about where she began and the realities of having a career as a self-published author. I started writing in 2018. My husband had just completed his autobiography, but his publisher had gone bust part-way through the process and we didn’t know where to turn. I\'d read about self-publishing in the newspapers, so volunteered to find out how to do it. Once I figured out the basics, I realised the opportunities it offered. The daunting barriers of the traditional publishing world had been removed, and I\'d always loved books and stories - so I thought \'why not give writing a try?\' I was 60 years old with nothing to lose... so I set about writing a book. I had tremendous fun developing the story and characters; Murder at Melrose Court wasn\'t meant to be particularly funny, but I think there\'s quite a lot of humour in it simply because I enjoyed writing it so much. The daunting barriers of the traditional publishing world had been removed. I joined Jericho Writers early in the process, so it hadn\'t taken me long to realise I knew next to nothing about the nitty-gritty of self-publishing or writing a novel. I read everything I could find on the site, watched the \'how to\' videos, and listened to lectures. Once I\'d completed the book and uploaded it to Amazon, with the correct files and cover and all the details you have to add (categories, keywords, ISBNs and the rest), I had to think about how to bring the book to the attention of readers. Taking the plunge into self-pub Someone in the Jericho Writers community had posted that they\'d given away their debut novel free for two days. This seemed like a good idea to me, and it didn\'t cost a bean, so that\'s what I did. On December 3rd, 2018 I pressed \'go\' or whatever it was, and the book went live. 1,100 ebooks were given away in 2 days. I was dismayed that so many books had been snapped up - I thought there would be nobody left prepared to pay for it. I was wrong. \'Murder at Melrose Court\' has since sold hundreds of thousands of copies, for which I\'m eternally grateful. 1,100 ebooks were given away in 2 days... I thought there would be nobody left prepared to pay for it. I was wrong. It was by no means an effortless ride, though. A few months after \'Melrose\' was published I noticed sales falling away quite dramatically. I realised that I\'d have to learn about marketing. I turned again to Jericho Writers and attended a one-day seminar in London run by Harry Bingham and David Gaughran, along with the wonderful Rachel Abbott (a true heroine of the self-publishing world). I took copious notes about Facebook adverts and Amazon ads and heard about Bookbub, then went home to digest the information. Marketing is a costly and time-consuming process, it\'s probably the biggest burden of the self-publisher, and it\'s essential to get it right. I can\'t say I\'ve ever really got to grips with it. My eldest son, Jonathan, took an interest in it and now runs it for me. Without that support, my writing time would be slowed to about half of what it is now. That doesn\'t mean I\'m absolved from the day-to-day business of self-publishing - there are still 101 other jobs to do. Admin, correspondence, liaising and directing proofreading, editing, graphics, formatting, social media and promotions and a great deal more than I want to think about. It\'s added a new dimension to our lives and a few extra pressures. My dear husband, Krov, was a documentary filmmaker. He understands the sacrifices and helps in every way he can. He carries out a lot of research for me, reads every chapter, discusses plots, and is encyclopaedic on weapons due to his military background. It\'s added a new dimension to our lives and a few extra pressures. I\'ve just published my 7th book in the Heathcliff Lennox series and have started on number 8. I thought I\'d be retiring in my 60s, but I\'m working harder than ever. It has its rewards though. I bought Krov a beautiful used Maserati Quattroporte for his 80th birthday, we drive around Europe discussing means of murder with our dog and cat in the back. Life is to be lived. Audio - a crucial format The audible version of Murder at Melrose Court was number 1 in the USA in July 2021. The narrator, Sam Dewhurst-Phillips, is superb. He acts all the different parts and brings the books to life, so the quality of his work is essential to the success of the audiobooks. I hadn\'t initially been convinced by audiobooks, but the market has grown exponentially and is now over a third of my sales. Having your book narrated is not a difficult process. It\'s all explained on ACX (the audible arm of Amazon) and is easy to follow. The reality of self-publishing If asked what the crucial factor to successful self-publishing is, I\'d say it was writing good books. There\'s no other criteria than that, although dogged determination probably helps too. There are definitely pros and cons to self-publishing. The downside is the responsibility – everything rests on you. The upside is the control; I\'m not answerable to anyone, and I get to keep all my own income (after extensive costs, of course). I think the best aspect of writing is sharing the stories with readers. My books are murder mysteries so they\'re effectively puzzles and I challenge the reader to solve them – it\'s a sort of game between us. They write to me, telling me if they worked it out, or not and if they enjoyed the stories - usually, they do. It\'s very satisfying and inclusive, and I really enjoy being a part of it. If you’d like some help with your writing, try our copy-editing service. About Karen Karen Menuhin is the number 1 bestselling author of The Heathcliff Lennox series. Having grown up in the military, she has lived an itinerant life and is often on the move. She has two sons and lives with her dog, her cat, and her husband, Krov, who is ex-US Special Forces and a documentary filmmaker. Visit Karen\'s website Find her on Facebook Buy her books on Amazon UK Or on Amazon US.

How To Come Up With A Great Book Title

It’s no secret that coming up with a great book title can make or break a book. But how can you choose the best book title for your work?   This guide will not only show you how to write a book title, but it will also advise you on how to come up with your own title ideas for your next project in any genre.   Why Are Book Titles Important? Have you ever bought a book purely because of its title? I know I have. And plenty of other readers have, too.   Books such as A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson have become instant bestsellers thanks to their clever, intriguing titles. In the case of this example, the title not only tells a reader what genre it is (crime), but also sets up a series of questions that the reader will want to read on to answer. How can a ‘good’ girl be involved in a murder?   Word of mouth equates for a huge proportion of books that have achieved a runaway success. If a title is memorable, it’s more likely to stick in the forefront of a reader’s mind when they’re speaking to friends. To use our previous example, A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, uses alliteration to great effect, and uses many of the same words in subsequent titles in the series to create a clear and memorable link.   On the other hand, a bad title can be forgettable. Take Stranger from Within for example – have you heard of that? Chances are you haven’t as this title was later changed to Lord of the Flies (William Golding), which is far more intriguing and memorable.  So – what is it that makes a book title great?  What Makes A Good Book Title? Authors with an established track record can afford to take risks with their book titles. But for new and emerging authors, it’s worth sticking to these tried-and-tested rules:   * Be Unique  That’s not to say that you can’t call your book a name shared by something else, but it will help your title be easier to find by readers if it’s unique.   * Be Memorable   As readers, we can come across hundreds of books every day. Be clever with your use of words to create a title that will stick in a reader’s mind.   * Spark Interest  You can do this by generating a question for the reader, or by clearly signposting what the book is about from the title. For example, The Man who Died Twice by Richard Osman.   * Grab Attention In a bookshop or online, this is mainly the job of the cover. But what about when the book is being spoken about in a conversation, or on the radio? Choose a book title with impact, for example, Tall Bones by Anna Bailey.   These rules sound simple, but they can be difficult to get right. There are lots of other factors that might turn a reader off, even if your title conforms to all these rules.   How Long Should Your Title Be? One of the things that concern a writer when choosing the title of their book is its length.   How Does It Look On The Cover?  Titles must be long enough to be clear, unique and intriguing, but short enough to be memorable (and fit on the cover nicely). Most popular book titles are four words long, but a surprising 10% of the Amazon top 100 at the time of writing include titles over eighteen words.   Of course, this will vary according to genre (subject-led non-fiction can stand a longer, more specific title), and also Amazon metadata (including subtitles with keywords can help a book become more searchable). But as a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to be keeping your title in that magic space between too short, and too long.   Language & Clarity  You should also pay close attention to the use of language in your title. With such a small space to pack an impact, every word you choose has to be pulling its weight.   To help, try to avoid jargon and technical terms in your title that might be hard for the average reader to remember. You should aim to provoke an emotional response and provide clarity, whilst trying to avoid making your reader angry or hurt with the use of derogatory language.    Relevance  It’s also useful to keep the title themed around your book, so that readers can easily associate it with your story long after reading. In the same way, using common genre structures found in the genre you’re writing can help with this.   For example, thriller titles tend to be short, using emotive language: The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides.  Romantic comedies can stand to be a little longer and can often include a name, such as Lucy in the Sky by Paige Toon.   So how can you use these tips to come up with your own book title?  How To Come Up With Book Title Ideas Before sitting down to come up with your own title, I recommend making a note of the advice above, so you can keep it in mind. In particular, it’s important that your ideas maintain clarity, relevance, and stay within your genre.   To help with this, the first step to creating a book title is to look at books similar to yours. Make a note of:   The number of words in the title. Emotive words (what emotions do they conjure?)  Any questions they pose (do they make you want to read on to answer them?)  Anything else interesting about the title, such as the use of character names.   This step is important, as you’ll want to ensure your title communicates what your reader is to expect from your book, as well as being unique.   Get brainstorming!  I like brainstorming on paper or on a whiteboard, but you can do it anywhere, at any time. For each of the following headings, spend fifteen to twenty minutes thinking of possible titles relating to your specific book:   Who the book is aboutThis can be a name, or a description of the character in some way. For example, The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.  What the book is aboutThink carefully about the themes and motifs you’ve used in your book. Looking at your synopsis can be a useful reminder here. For example, Normal People by Sally Rooney.  Where the story takes placeThis can be interior settings, as well as exterior. Where in this world or the next is the book set? If there’s a journey, can this be used? For example, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn.  When the story takes placeThink dates, as well as seasons, days and time. You can also use important past or future events as a title. For example, A Week in December, Sebastian Faulks.   Research  When you have some keywords, try mixing them around to create something unique and interesting. Alliteration can be your friend here, as we saw in A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. You can also employ one of the following devices with your keywords to make it unique:   Find a synonymIs there another, lesser-used word that packs a bigger punch?  Subvert expectationsTwist the meaning of your phrase to assign a new meaning to it, for example, Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng.   Tell a mini-storyFind the hook of your story and tell it in a small space, such as The House with Chicken Legs, by Sophie Anderson.  Focus on your USP (Unique Selling Point)Is there something about your story that sets it apart from the rest? Perhaps it’s that it’s a true story, or perhaps something as simple as a character name. If it’s good, use it in your title! For example, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.   Try other titles on for sizeIs there a title you particularly like? Try mixing that with some of the words you’ve come up with – sometimes this can help you stumble across your own unique version, which contains all the elements of a title you love.  Look at what’s trendingIt’s no coincidence that, like with any product, there are trends with book titles. You may have noticed in certain genres, that once a book has had great success, other similar titles start to pop up. How many thrillers can you name with the word ‘Girl’ in the title? How many fantasy YA books do you know with the word ‘wicked’ in the title, or using the standard ‘A _ of _ and _’ combination?  Pick out phrases  Another trick is to read through your book, specifically looking for phrases that might make a good title. Some of my favourite book titles are ones that are almost small poems in themselves, such as On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. Reading your manuscript on an e-reader can sometimes help you spot these.   If you’re still finding it difficult, then try an automatic word or title generator. Then, it’s just the simple matter of choosing the right title for you…  How To Choose A Book Title The best book title for your book will be one that conforms to all the rules we’ve outlined here, including that it’s clear, memorable, relevant, and unique. It will also be the one you feel most excited about and are most likely to remember yourself.   Try one or two on for size in conversation. Does it roll off the tongue? What was the reaction?  You may also find that other people can be useful – ask friends who have read the book for their thoughts and include other people in your process. In particular, agents and editors often bring their own thoughts to a title before publication, so be prepared to change it for the market if you’re planning on traditional publishing.   For those who are self-publishing, using social media or reader focus groups can be a great way of testing a title before going forward with it. You may even find that the most popular title is the one you’d least expect.   Whatever title you come up with, your primary goal is to make readers want to read your book and remember it long after they’ve finished reading. Spend time studying book titles, mind-mapping ideas relevant to your themes and then choose the title that you feel most excited by.   For more information on other important book metadata, including book covers, choosing your author name, and that all-important pitch, take a look at our vast library of free articles on our blog. More than ready to get the ball rolling with agents, but just need a little push? Or perhaps you’ve had a few rejections but aren’t sure why? Our Agent Submission Pack Review gives you detailed professional advice on how to perfect your submission and increase your chances of securing an agent. 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 Create Imaginary Creatures For Your Fantasy Novel

Your character is sprinting down a dark tunnel, footsteps crashing against the hard stone and echoing all around. The tunnel opens wide, a ledge rapidly approaches – this is the lair! Your character slides to a stop and sees… what? Something awe-inspiring? Something terrifying? Perhaps both?  All readers, and indeed writers, love nothing more than seeing fresh and exciting fantasy beasts and mythical beings in their books. The presence of unique, creative monsters and imaginary races emboldens any fantasy, sci-fi, gothic or horror story. Their presence brings a book’s setting to life, inspiring questions of how they came to be, and how the inhabitants of that world interact with them - or not.   Imaginary literary creatures also massively inform a story’s plot and even enhance character, whilst being wonderful vehicles for symbolism and allegory.  So, as a writer, how do you get your monster right?   What Are Fantasy Creatures? Fantasy creatures are nothing new. Monsters made from our imagination have been around as long as the humans who created them.  When it comes to inspiration, the greatest place to start is in the past and studying the legends that have inspired many an iconic story and influenced human civilisations. Every country in the world has its own myths and legends, and in turn, its own fantastical beasts.  Take the Twelve Labours of Heracles from Ancient Greece. They are rife with legendary beasts based on very real creatures from our world, such as the Nemean Lion. What makes the Nemean Lion mythical is the small but important detail that its golden fur is impenetrable, so it could not be killed by conventional means. This elevates the labour of the hero by heightening the stakes and presenting a unique challenge for them to overcome.  Another of the monsters, the Hydra, has inspired many terrifying literary monsters. A highly venomous snake-like beast with many heads, it seems imposing enough upon first glance, but when we realise that its heads grow back after being cut off – then it becomes a true terror (anyone spot the similarities between the Hydra and Hagrid’s three-headed dog, Fluffy, in the Harry Potter series?).  Moving away from Greece, we find all sorts of mythical creatures in the infamous Chinese tale Journey to the West. Not only are there dragons, demon kings and ogres, but also a jade rabbit spirit, great white turtle and, above all, the protagonist is the cheeky, troublemaking Monkey King, Sun Wukong.  Norse mythology has frost giants, a giant wolf, undead Draugar, dwarves, elves and even the Mare – a monster that would give people bad dreams by sitting on them in their sleep (I wonder which Norseman’s sleep paralysis conjured that up!).   In Norse myth especially, the design of the creatures was directly used to inform their society and beliefs. Back then townsfolk would wear metal rings around their arms depicting Jormungandr, the great snake that represented the circle of life by biting its own tail. They would swear oaths to their gods, believing they would be protected. In those times, the creatures they created weren’t myths, but real monsters and deities that delivered cautionary tales.  There are mythical creatures in every culture – and all of them are exceptional in their own way. They are often reminiscent of terrifying or intriguing creatures in our real-world or derived from their mythical precursors. And almost all of these fantastical creatures have wound their way into unforgettable fantasy settings, both in our much-loved classics and modern storytelling.  But do these monsters make a difference? In short, yes.  Benefits Of Using Unique Fantasy Creatures In Your Novel As we excitedly plunge into the vibrant ocean of fantasy creatures, we should take a step back and try to understand what they bring to our stories.  Often a character’s interaction with a fantasy creature will form part of the plot. If we take the earlier example of the Hydra and Nemean Lion, Heracles daubs his arrows in the Hydra’s venomous blood and wears the impenetrable hide of the lion as a cloak. As you can imagine, both concepts have been used in numerous fantasy stories since.  A great deal of exploration of the human soul can be done with monster stories too. In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we get an insight into love, abandonment and discrimination through the lens of a horrifying creature. The monster, as it’s known in the tale, receives its own chapters demonstrating how it thinks and feels. Shelley’s work was a remarkable forerunner for stories using fantasy creatures as a lens of symbolism and theme, such as Octavia E. Butler’s Fledgling.  The existence of a unique fantasy creature, in turn, makes your story unique too. This extends to mythical races such as elves and orcs. Take Lord of the Rings as an example. Would Tolkien’s famous world have had half the cultural impact were it only filled with squabbling human races?  Even in a more grounded fantasy setting, such as George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire (the series that conjured A Game of Thrones) - if we were to remove Targaryen Dragons and White Walkers, would it be the same?  So many mythical creatures have become iconic to the point where their world-building has become canon. Vampires, werewolves, dragons, krakens, and probably a dozen more you’re cursing me for not mentioning.  The truth of the matter is that what makes a fantasy tale stand above the crowd is the strength of its creatures, and how they are used. An unforgettable fantasy world is built of many bricks, but it is the consistency and uniqueness of its creatures that glues those bricks together.  So how do we bring originality to our own creatures?   How To Create Unique Fantasy Creatures As all writers know, creating something truly unique is a near-impossible task. But don’t be disheartened, as it doesn’t take much to mould something that already exists into something new and gruesome.   Let’s take a look at six ways of doing that:  1. Combine More Than One Magical Element  Let us take the story of the Nemean Lion mentioned earlier. The story uses a very real creature (a lion) but adds the small tweak of its golden fur being impenetrable.   We can do the same thing. What if we take a boar, but say its tusks can conjure lightning? If we want whimsy, what if a character has to catch a quite ordinary-looking mouse, but this mouse weighs as much as an elephant?  In a similar vein, many mythical creatures are mashups of two real creatures. The Chimera was depicted as a fire-breathing lion, with the head of a goat protruding from its back, and a venomous snake as its tail. What if we gave the horn of a rhino to a horse? What if we gave sharks wings? You get the picture… 2. Make Them Human  The term ‘uncanny valley’ (the relationship between the human-like appearance of a robotic object and the emotional response it evokes) is a wonderful tool to use when trying to understand what makes something scary. Taking something into that uncanny valley – that halfway point between familiar and unnatural – plays on some of the deepest shared human fears.  When a werewolf is turned by a full moon, we can’t help but remember who they were as a human. Vampires are so tantalising but unnerving because they can present themselves as humans, but they kill in such a gruesome way. Creatures like Pennywise from Stephen King’s IT tap into that uncanny valley all the time. As would a human who crawls like a spider, or a woman who glides instead of walks, or a child with buttons for eyes (thank you, Neil Gaiman). 3. Give Your Monsters Motivation  Or better yet, an origin story.  Fantasy creatures and monsters are often the villains of a novel, so why not give them depth and complexity? It could be argued supervillains like The Joker, from Batman, or Thanos, from The Avengers, are monsters in their own rights.   Both have penetrated the modern zeitgeist thanks to their detailed backstory and purposeful (or anarchic) motivations. It’s often not enough to make your scary creature bad, if you give them a good enough reason it heightens the stakes and creates discomfort in your readers as they start to question their own morals (perhaps even the monster within themselves).  4. Give Them A Home Where does your monster live? In its own world? In ours? Or maybe both? Ask yourself what’s scarier, or a bigger challenge, for your characters.  Trans-dimensional monsters are cropping up more and more often in books, TV and film, providing great inspiration for writers. In the Netflix show, Stranger Things, the Demogorgon monster moves between a rural 80s US town and a mouldy mirrored world known as the ‘Upside Down’.  Having contrasting locations (much like foil characters) not only brings style to the story, but also provides parameters and boundaries for your creature. How the creature interacts with our own world will influence the plot, how it behaves, and ultimately how the hero will defeat it.  5. Ask Yourself If The Creature Is Even Needed (Or If You’re Just Having Fun) Is your creature simply another barrier in your hero’s quest? Are they an integral part of that world? Are they crucial to the plot? Perhaps they’re only there to deliver a message to your reader (or even character).  Whatever their purpose, how and why you have created this fantastical being will change the attributes you give it and how/where it’s featured in your story. We all love a great monster, but a monster for a monster’s sake doesn’t make for a great story. In fact, it may do the opposite, and detract your reader so much from the main plot they stop caring about your hero altogether. 6. Use Nature To Inspire You As the old adage goes, ‘fact can be scarier than fiction’. You don’t have to look far in the world of animals, plants and unusual habitats, to find inspiration. Mermaids have strong ties to manatees, vampires were inspired by bats, and even something as simple as Jaws, a shark that looks like a shark and acts like a shark but is just really big and really mean, was enough to make an entire generation scared of the water.   Fascinating creatures exist all over our natural world, especially in the depths of the ocean or in uninhabitable rainforests. So get searching and add some of nature’s wonders to your own monsters.  Our Monster Checklist Once you have come up with your fantastical concept, take a look at our checklist to ensure your creature is consistent within your world and story.  Here are some things to consider:  What are its strengths and weaknesses? Vital in any potential confrontation with a creature, we must know what makes it a threat, what makes it special and what might bring it low. Your hero has to overcome it after all.  What does it look like? Consider how many limbs it has, its facial structure, if it has skin or fur, its colouring and textures. A big one for me is eyes – missing eyes can be uncanny, beady eyes feels insectoid, large eyes feels cute (perhaps as a trap). How large is the creature?  A seemingly inane question, but an important one. If the world is filled with enormous titans, what is their food source? If there isn’t one, are they going extinct? Or, if a creature is tiny, how does it overcome larger foe? Does it exist in a swarm? How intelligent is the creature? In some stories dragons are devastating monsters that never speak a word and sleep on their treasure horde. In others, they talk and even participate in society. Has your creature learned to avoid mortal society? Or have they learned to infiltrate it…or rule it? How old is the creature? This works both for individual creatures and for a species. If a creature lives for millennia, how has it changed? What has it lived through? If a species has existed for only a few centuries, why? Did they have precursors they evolved from? Are they hunted? Particularly for dangerous creatures, are the societies around them large and advanced enough to undertake hunts to cull them? If yes, why has this particular creature survived?  How does it interact with other creatures in the story? Is it adversarial to your protagonist but buddies with everyone else? Does it forge a bond with your protagonist only? Maybe it’s not a scary monster but a kind and helpful one? Name? With some fantastical creatures the name can come first, but it’s always important to consider why it has the name it does. Did it claim its own name, or did others give it the name? Does it have different names in different cultures? Fantasy Generators If you want a jumping-off point for creating a fantasy creature, don’t be afraid to use an online fantasy creatures generator.  A few good ones include:  For generating names, story concepts, plot obstacles – it has a little bit of everything! A direct fantast creatures generator. For generating ideas and briefs for creatures. For help with fantasy creatures names’.  But do remember, when using these generators, you don’t have to stick to the ideas they give you!  Often the best way to use a fantasy creatures generator is to cherry-pick what you like and drop what you don’t. If you’re generating a name and like the suffix but not the main body of the word, keep the suffix and either come up with the rest yourself, or combine it with a body you like elsewhere in the generated list. Likewise with creature skills, weaknesses, looks and so on.  Conclusion Fantasy creatures have become truly iconic over the years. Having such a rich depth of reference points at our fingertips (from classic books and modern movies, to disturbing works of art and the internet) only makes our jobs as authors more fun.   Never has so much inspiration for such creatures been so accessible, across all cultures. And never before has such strong support existed for adventurous authors wanting to carve their own take on old monsters, as well as feature their own culture and legends into their own work.   So, when creating your fantastical monsters, remember that the sky is the limit. And for some truly horrifying creatures… there’s no limit at all as to how far you can go to make sure we never forget them. 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 Typeset Your Novel

You’ve completed your manuscript and perhaps published it already as an e-book. Now it’s time to create your print edition, and you’ve got a few nagging questions: Can a writer typeset their own novel? What is the definition of typesetting? And how do you typeset a book, anyway?  In this article, we’ll explain the basics of DIY typesetting, give you some tips to achieve a professional look, and advise you when DIY is (and isn’t) a good idea.   Let’s get to it!  What Is Typesetting? Typesetting a book is the process of transforming a manuscript—an abstract stream of words with no physical form—into a layout, a digital file with a specific dimensions and page count that will be exactly reproduced by a print or print-on-demand service.  Typesetting isn’t about converting file formats or adding aesthetic elements, though both of those things do happen. It’s primarily about readability—making careful design choices to ensure that your readers can enjoy your novel without eye strain, fatigue, distraction, or errors.  Typesetting at a professional level takes years of experience, but thanks to technology (and this article), you can achieve “good enough” typesetting for your novel with a little care and thoughtfulness.  The Difference Between Typesetting And Typography You may have also heard the term “typography”. This refers to the broader craft and study of type – something graphic designers are much more interested in than self-published writers.   Typography includes not only the aesthetics involved with setting type, but also the design of the font itself, pairing fonts of different families, the arrangement of the font on the page and how they interact with other design elements including images, margins and white space.  As much as typography is fascinating and fun – for the purpose of typesetting your novel, all you need to focus on is getting your book looking as professional as possible!  How Does Typesetting Work? The days of arranging metal sorts in a frame for printing are long past. In the digital era, professional typesetting is done using specialized software like Adobe InDesign (or any of several less-known, less-expensive alternatives).  Word processing software (such as Microsoft Word) has made basic typesetting available to everyone but lacks important professional-level features. Because of this, typesetting a complex layout in Word, such as a textbook or recipe book, would be asking for a serious headache—hire a professional for those books.  However, when it comes to novels, which are composed almost entirely of body paragraphs, the DIY option is viable.  How To Prepare Your Manuscript For Typesetting You need a clean manuscript if you want to typeset your novel successfully. Use this checklist to get ready:  If you have change tracking on, accept all changes and turn off change tracking now. (If you want to preserve those tracked changes, save a separate copy of your manuscript.) Resolve and delete all comments. Delete excess whitespace—search your manuscript for tab characters (often represented as t in search-and-replace), double newlines (nn), and three or more spaces. If any matches are found, replace them with the appropriate layout option, such as page breaks, tables, or paragraph styles. Make sure all of your front matter and back matter is present and complete.  Save your clean manuscript before moving on. If you’re typesetting in the same program you wrote in, create a second copy to be the typeset version.  DIY Typesetting 101 You can use a word processor, specialised writing software, or professional layout software to typeset your novel. Regardless of which one you choose; the rules below apply just the same.  If your software comes with templates, feel free to try them—they might save you time. But make sure you review the results carefully. Many templates, especially those bundled with word processors, omit or violate some of the best practices of typesetting.  Ground Rules: Consistency And Simplicity You want your reader focused on the story. To avoid distracting them, you want a layout that is consistent (does things the same way each time) and simple (doesn’t vary more than necessary).  To help you be consistent, use the paragraph styles feature of your software. This feature lets you define a certain look and rules for a paragraph: which font it should use, how much space should come before and after, whether it should allow hyphens, and so on. Every element in your book should be formatted by applying a paragraph style—never by hand.  As for simplicity, remember that the purpose of a change in appearance is to signal a change in meaning. Don’t vary the appearance of text any more than is necessary to accomplish this goal. One good rule of thumb is that you need only two fonts to typeset a novel: one for the body text, and one for the chapter headings. Everything else can be accomplished through italics, white space, and font size.  How To Typeset Your Page Make sure you know your trim size (page dimensions) and set them correctly in your software.  Set your page margins before you begin and keep them consistent on every page. Make your bottom margin the same as the top, or a little larger. Make your inside margins larger than your outside margins—the binding process will “eat up” some of the page. If you’d like your body text to appear centred left-to-right, your inside margin may need to be as much as 0.5” larger than the outside margin.  Novels are not reference books, so page numbering should not be prominent. Use an unobtrusive font like a light sans-serif or a smaller size of the body font. Two styles are common: centred at the bottom of each page or aligned to the outside at the top of each page.  Running heads are optional and should be placed at the top of the page and centred. (Typically, the left page will show the book title and the right page the author’s name.)  Be sure to leave sufficient space between your running heads, page numbers, and the body text. The reader should never accidentally find themselves reading the running head. How To Typeset Paragraphs Once your page layout is set, your next priority is getting your paragraph style right. Take a look at your favourite novels and note how they have been laid out. Here are a number of best practices you should use:  Use a serif font, not a sans-serif or novelty font. Avoid any font labelled “display”. (These are designed for use at large sizes and will not read clearly as body text.) Use a font size of 10-12 points. Confirm that your lines are 45-90 characters wide. You can test this by typing the alphabet repeatedly until you fill up a line—anything between two and three alphabets per line is okay. If your line length is too long, increase the font size, or if you’re already at 12-point, increase your left and right margins. If your line length is too short, take the opposite steps. Paragraphs should be justified, not left-aligned. Don’t turn off hyphenation. The first sentence of each paragraph should be indented by the width of a few letters. Make the indent large enough that your eye naturally jumps to the start of each new paragraph, and not much larger than that. However, don’t indent the first paragraph in a chapter, the first paragraph after a scene break, and the first paragraph after any “block” element (such as a quoted letter or poem). To deal with these exceptions, you can set up a separate paragraph style. (Or, if your software supports it, use a conditional rule.) Don’t add any extra space before or after paragraphs. Every line on the page should be the same distance apart. Leading (called “line spacing” in word processors) is essential to readability. The common default of “single spacing”, which is often 115%, is too tight. “Double spacing” is much too loose. Set a value of around 130% but be aware that some word processors don’t display these values correctly. As a point of reference, you can compare your layout against a hardcover novel, which will usually have comfortable leading.  This might seem like a lot of typesetting rules just for a humble paragraph. But when you consider that 99% of your reader’s time is spent reading paragraphs, it’s easy to see why getting them right is important.  How To Typeset Scene Changes Here there are two options: insert a blank line (and remember to not indent the following paragraph) or insert a small symbol or decorative design.  How To Typeset Chapter Headings Chapter headings should stand out from body paragraphs. There are many ways to achieve this, all of which are equally valid.  The most elaborate chapter headings will begin a new page, take up as much as half the height, include some graphic design elements, and set the chapter number and/or title in a large font that may be ornate or stylised.  The most minimal chapter headings consist of nothing more than some vertical separation from the previous paragraph, with the heading itself in a bold or larger font.  If your book includes scene breaks, chapter headings should be more prominent than scene breaks.  How To Typeset Front Matter (Prelims) Here your job is easy: copy another book. Front matter varies from book to book, so look through a few and pick one that contains the same elements as yours.  Copyright pages typically use a small font; dedications are centered on their own page, about a third of the way down; half-titles are usually understated and always less elaborate than the title page.  Your title page is special and deserves some extra attention. Again, you’ll do well to look at other books. One common approach is to use the same lettering as your front cover, but with any background scene removed. However, other books use an entirely different design for the title page.  How To Typeset Back Matter Your goal here is simply to let the reader know the main story is over. Some simple options to try: eliminate running heads and/or page numbers in the back matter, use a smaller body font size, or use a different body font. As with the front matter, you can look at other books for inspiration.  Advanced Wrangling Following the typesetting rules above will give you a “semi-professional” result. If you want to take things a step further (you masochist!), you’ll need to do some advanced wrangling.  This work can get finnicky very quickly, so save a copy of your layout before you proceed.  Starting at the front of your book, go page-by-page, finding and resolving any of the following problems:  Word stacks: the same word appearing multiple times directly above/below itself. Widows and orphans: the first or last line of a paragraph appearing on a page by itself. Hyphens at the end of a page or the last line of a paragraph. Short words alone on the last line of a paragraph. Rivers: spaces between words that appear roughly above one another on several consecutive lines, forming a meandering white space. Scene breaks that appear as the very first or last thing on a page.  These are smaller distractions, but still noticeable to your reader. All of them are related to where words fall within a paragraph or on a page, and all of them are solved by adjusting the position of words, using tricks such as:  Making a small edit (you’re the author, so you’re allowed) Joining or splitting paragraphs Adjusting the font width of a paragraph, but never more than a couple of percentage points Adjusting the line spacing of a spread (two facing pages)—again, never more than a few percentage points  If you choose to dive into advanced wrangling, always do this step last, and always work strictly front-to-back, because any change to your layout will disturb some or all of the pages that follow it.  Don’t force yourself to address every problem if it’s beyond your skill level, available time, or patience. Every correction is an improvement, so if you attempt this step at all, give yourself a pat on your back for your dedication to your readers. And if you want some help with your mansucript, try our copy-editing service. Conclusion We hope this guide has helped you gain a better understanding of how to typeset your novel. After all, it would be a shame to write a fantastic story and make it hard to read. So take your time, follow each step by step suggestion, and remember Jericho Writers is with you every word of the way! 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. 

Rosalind Tate On The Self-Publishing Revolution

Rosalind Tate, author of The Shorten Chronicles, is no stranger to the complicated world of self-publishing. She believes the seismic changes in publishing amount to a revolution — one that can only help independently published authors. In this interview, Rosalind tells us why she turned to the world of self-pub for more control and agency. She offers some practical insight into picking up the many skills required - the road can be daunting, but well worth the rewards. JW: What made you decide to self-publish your book?  RT: At the Jericho Writers Festival of Writing in September 2018, I stumbled into a self-publishing workshop and assumed it was about vanity publishing: an author paying a publisher to publish their book. But I quickly realised this wasn’t about vanity. This was a revolution!  I’m not usually a fan of revolutions — they tend to be bloody, and don’t end well — but this one has freed authors to publish what they want, when they want, and enabled many independent authors (“indies”) to make a full-time living.  I learned facts in that workshop that made my jaw drop. I can’t remember the figures from 2018, so here are the most recent:  A traditionally published author receives around 10% of royalties on print books. That’s what’s left after the agent and publisher have taken their cut.  Indie authors publishing an eBook on Amazon (indies earn most of their income from eBooks) receive 60- 70%.  But, like all stats, it’s not quite that simple, and money wasn’t as important a factor as control. Control of my brand, of my intellectual property, of my business. And my business is to help as many readers as possible fall in love with the Shorten Chronicles!  I quickly realised this wasn’t about vanity. This was a revolution! However, there are downsides to going indie.  To persuade Amazon’s bots to beaver away and market your book, and to have any visibility (and sales), you need to pay to advertise. You might not recoup your business set-up costs until you publish your second or third book.  An indie author has to want to learn all aspects of this business. It took me 18 months to learn the basics, and though the curve levelled out after that, I’m still learning. Fortunately, before you publish, you can easily research every step through Jericho Writers and other reputable sites.  So, who are the authors who might prefer to take the traditionally published route?  Authors who aren’t aware that publishing has changed beyond recognition in the last decade (and it’s unlikely a prospective agent and/or publisher will enlighten them).  Literary fiction authors. This type of novel can be hard to sell on Amazon and other online platforms – eBook readers prefer easier genres: steamy or sweet romance, science fiction, crime etc.  Authors who can’t/don’t wish to spend time learning non-writing skills.  Someone who isn’t interested in writing as a career. I have a friend who wrote an exposé on her ex-employer. She had no desire to ever write another book, so it was simpler and less time-consuming to pay a reputable small publisher.  Money wasn’t as important a factor as control. Control of my brand, of my intellectual property, of my business. JW: Self-publishing involves a huge range of skills – how did you set about learning them?  RT: Jericho Writers was a crucial resource. Here, I found my forever editor, binge-watched marketing videos, and took the self-editing course, which I can’t recommend highly enough.  In 2020, I completed Mark Dawson’s comprehensive 101 course, and I also followed wise indies like David Gaughran, Joanna Penn and Dave Chesson, watched their free videos online and subscribed to their free newsletters.  I am not a technical person, but luckily there are sites out there that make what used to be challenging tasks easy. For example:  Formatting eBooks and print books (https://vellum.pub)  Keeping a record of daily earnings and expenses (https://readerlinks.com)  Emailing hundreds or thousands of readers (https://www.mailerlite.com)  Putting a professional blurb onto your book page (https://kindlepreneur.com/amazon-book-description-generator ) and a host of other useful tips (https://kindlepreneur.com)  JW: What’s your favourite thing about self-publishing? RT: Other indie authors! They’re a really supportive community. For example, a highly successful author helped me improve my first blurb. Just because she could.  But my most favourite thing is direct contact with my readers. Just after I published, a reader emailed to thank me, saying how my novel had made her forget the pandemic during her time off (she’s a doctor). I was speechless.  JW: What has it been like committing to writing a series as a self-published author? Is the experience different to what you might expect with a traditional publishing deal?  RT: I don’t have to produce each book to a rigid external deadline, but my boss is a crazy workaholic (that’s me, of course) and she wants to publish a book a year, each better than the last... But seriously, if I miss a self-imposed deadline, that’s okay. Of course, I can’t not finish the series and I do feel that pressure. I’ve promised my readers!  When you publish, be kind to yourself. JW: Do you have any advice for writers considering the self-publishing route? RT: If you’re itching to publish and see what happens... DON’T, until you’ve completed the three crucial tasks below.  A competent novel with minimum typos. If you’re on a budget, wait until you can afford to pay a professional editor. You want your book to be as good as it can be. Confession: I had an embarrassing number of structural edits for my first novel, and two copyedits for the first one and the second.  Mailing list. Once you’ve finished your book (yay!), write a short story or novella, preferably adding to and in the same world/characters as your novel. You’re going to give that much shorter story away to entice readers onto your mailing list.  But why?  Because your mailing list is yours, not controlled by Amazon or Facebook or any third party. The discerning readers who’ve entrusted you with their email are key to your whole writing career. You can check out how I encourage readers to sign up with my free story on my website. Cover. Research what kind of story your book is: sweet romance, police procedural, space opera etc. Look at the top twenty books in your lowest sub-genre on Amazon. For example:  Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Teen & Young Adult eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction & Fantasy eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Fantasy eBooks » Teen & Young Adult Historical Fantasy eBooks  Your cover should ‘fit in’ with books of the same sub-genre. Then, if you can, pay a professional to design the cover.  When you publish, be kind to yourself. It takes time to garner reviews, build up a mailing list, write more novels, and earn enough to give up the day job.  And on the way, enjoy the journey to publication.  If you\'d like some help with your writing, try our copy-editing service. Good luck!  About Rosalind Rosalind Tate lives in Gloucestershire, England, and holidays on the Cornish coast. She served in the British military, then worked as a journalist and a lawyer. She has grown up children, a tolerant husband and two utterly gorgeous dogs. Visit Rosalind\'s website. Buy \'The Shorten Chronicles\' on Amazon.com on Amazon.co.uk

What Are Descriptive Adjectives?

I’m sure many of you remember learning about adjectives at school. But can you remember what they are, as well as why we use them and when? And what is a descriptive adjective? Why is it important that we, as writers, use them? In the following guide, we’ll tell you exactly what descriptive adjectives are, the different types of descriptive adjectives, and how to use them effectively in your work. We’ll even provide you with a descriptive adjectives list to give you plenty of ideas for making your writing stronger. What is a Descriptive Adjective? A descriptive adjective is one that modifies a noun by describing it. Let’s look at a couple of examples: The house was huge.Peter loved chewy sweets. The descriptive adjectives in these two sentences are huge and chewy. From the word huge, we now have an idea in our minds about the size of the house. We also know the type of sweets Peter likes from the word chewy.  Perhaps it’s all coming back to you now, and you’re remembering that adjectives are describing words. There are many different types of adjectives, but descriptive adjectives form the most comprehensive group. Here are a few examples of non-descriptive adjectives: Demonstrative adjectives Where did you find this book? How much is that ring? These photos are clear. Distributive adjectives Either tool will work. Neither tool was successful. Every shop is open. Quantitative adjectives The sun was shining throughout the whole day. We need more resources.   I’ve eaten enough chips.   Possessive adjective Those are your dogs. I want to eat my dinner. I like our car. Interrogative adjectives Whose socks are those? What magazine are you buying? Which chair is broken? These examples differ to descriptive adjectives because no information is given about the noun that’s being modified. Taking the last example, we don’t know what colour the chair is, what material it’s made out of, if it’s a dining chair or one used for another purpose.    Types of Descriptive Adjectives Various references highlight that there are thirteen different types of adjectives. Examples of some of them have been detailed above, but here’s the entire list: Attributive adjectivesComparative adjectivesCompound adjectivesDemonstrative adjectivesDescriptive adjectivesDistributive adjectivesInterrogative adjectivesLimiting adjectivesParticipial adjectivesPredicate adjectivesPossessive adjectivesProper adjectivesSuperlative adjectives In this article we’re going to focus on descriptive adjectives, and how they provide additional information about the associated noun by describing its characteristics or by altering it. This is especially useful in writing when we’re trying to create a picture in the reader’s mind. For example, if you’re writing a ghost story that takes place in a house, and you want the reader to feel goosebumps, you might describe the house as eerie: Sarah looked up at the eerie house. Or if you want to describe another type of house to create a contrasting feeling, you can use a different descriptive adjective. For example: Sarah saw the beautiful house. Both descriptive adjectives portray very different houses. Perhaps your story has a scene that takes place by the sea. See how these two descriptive adjectives once more bring contrasting images of the same noun to mind, just by using different descriptive adjectives: Peter walked into the freezing sea.Peter walked into the balmy sea. As you can see, descriptive adjectives can help to bring your writing to life. Descriptive adjectives can be placed into sub-categories, as follows. Comparative Descriptive Adjectives This type of descriptive adjective is used to compare one noun with another. They have comparative versions. For example: Calm and calmerBig and biggerStrong and strongerDim and dimmerTall and tallerPretty and prettierThin and thinnerQuicker and quickerSoft and softerHappy and happierSilly and sillier Some comparative descriptive adjectives use two syllables, generally the words ‘more’ or ‘less’, to form the comparative term. For example: More beautiful (or less beautiful)Less interesting (or more interesting)Less tired (or more tired)More clever (or less clever) Here are some examples of how to use comparative descriptive adjectives in a sentence: The new car is bigger than the old oneThe latest model is more expensive than similar modelsMy new towels are softer than my other towels.This swimming pool is deeper than other swimming poolsHis phone was cheaper than his previous one.Some athletes can run faster than other athletes.This book is lighter than that bookHer new television is heavier than her last oneThe old curtains were thicker than the new onesTheir holiday was less expensive than similar holidaysThe table over there is stronger than this tableThe new boy is more difficult than the other boys Superlative Descriptive Adjectives Superlative descriptive adjectives are similar to comparative descriptive adjectives, but they relate to the highest/lowest level of comparison. For example: ColdestQuietestShiniestLongestCurliestBrightest Let’s look at how these can be used in a sentence: The new car is the biggest I’ve ever owned.The latest model is the most expensive ever built.His cauliflower was the smallest in the produce show.This holiday is the cheapest I’ve ever had.She was the least famous person in the room.That tree is the tallest in the world.The horse was the slowest in the race.Her shopping bill was the least expensive one she’d ever had.The cake was the creamiest one in the shop.She was the oldest teacher in the school.He was the cleverest chess player in the club.She was the youngest entrant in the competition.It was the most wonderful experience he’d ever had.The test was the easiest one he’d ever taken.The coffee they sold was the strongest in the city.  Positive Descriptive Adjectives Positive descriptive adjectives describe a person, place, thing, idea, orexperience in a good, positive way. This type of adjective isn’t used for comparison. Here are a few examples of positive descriptive adjectives: AmazingAmbitiousAmusingBecomingBlissfulBoldCarefreeCaringCharismaticDazzledDeluxeDynamicEnchantingEnergeticExcitedFabulousFearlessFunGlowingGracefulGenerousHappyHeavenlyHelpfulIllustriousInspirationalInspiredJollyJovialJubilantKeenKindKnowinglyLavishLoyalLuckyMagicalMemorableMiracleNeatNiceNoticeableOriginalOutgoingOutstandingPerfectPolitePositiveQuaintQuick-wittedQuietRadiantReliableRichSafeSereneSuperTastyThankfulTrustingUltimateUniqueUpliftedValiantValuableVibrantWarmWiseWorthyXenial (hospitable)Xenodochial (friendly)YoungYouthfulYummyZanyZestfulZing Let’s put a few of these into practice: The boy was happy.Her test score was perfect.His room is neat.The town is quaint.Their pudding tastes heavenly.The holiday was magical.The nurse was kind.The coat is zany.The old man’s book was valuable.Her steak was tasty.The woman’s face is glowing. Examples of Descriptive Adjectives We’re now going to give you a list of descriptive adjectives to use in your writing: AdorableAdventurousAgreeableAliveAloofAmusedAngryAnnoyingAnxiousArrogantAshamedAttractiveAuspiciousAwfulBadBeautifulBeigeBlackBlueBlushingBoredBraveBrightBrownBumpyBusyCalmCarefulCautiousCharmingCheerfulCleanClearComicalCongenialCordialCrazyCrookedDecayedDeliciousDeterminedDilapidatedDistraughtDimDizzyDrabDreadfulDrollDullElatedElderlyEmaciatedEmbarrassedEnormousEnthusiasticEnviousExultantFancyFantasticFilthyFlatFreshFriendlyFuzzyGhastlyGiganticGlamorousGleamingGreasyGreenGloriousGorgeousGrubbyGrumpyHandsomeHelplessHighHollowHomelyHorrificHotIcyIdealImmenseIrateIrritableItchyJealousJitteryJocularJuicyJumboJumpyKindKnottyKnowledgeableLargeLazyLethalLittleLivelyLonelyLowLudicrousMagnificentMammothMassiveMiniatureMinisculeMinuteMistyModernMoodyMuddyMysteriousNarrowNastyNaughtyNervousNonsensicalNutritiousObedientObliviousObnoxiousOctagonalOddOpulentOrangeOutrageousPetitePlainPleasantPoisedPompousPreciousProudPungentPurpleQuickQuietQuizzicalRainyRectangularRedRelievedRepulsiveRipeRobustRottenRoughRoundSaltySarcasticSelfishShakySharpShortSilkySillySkinnySlimySlipperySmallSmarmySmilingSmoothSmugSparklingStaleSteepStickyStrangeStunningTanTartTeakTenderTenseTerribleThickThoughtfulThoughtlessTriangularThrilledTightUglyUnbelievableUpsetUnimaginableUnsightlyUnusualUptightVastVexedVictoriousVitalVivaciousVividWackyWealthyWearyWetWhoppingWittyWonderfulWobblyWoodenWorriedWretchedXenialYellowYoungYummyZanyZippy Compound Descriptive Adjectives Compound descriptive adjectives are where two words are used toform the description. The following are some examples of compound terms: All-inclusiveBaby-facedBad-temperedBrightly-litBroken-heartedBullet-proofCold-bloodedCross-countryDeeply-rootedDensely-populatedEnglish-speakingFast-pacedFour-sidedFull-lengthGreen-eyedHeavy-handedHigh-heeledHigh-spiritedIce-coldKind-heartedLife-givingLong-lastingLong-windedMiddle-agedMouth-wateringNarrow-mindedNever-endingNext-doorOld-fashionedOpen-mindedPart-timeRed-bloodedSelf-centredShort-hairedShort-temperedSure-footedTen-minuteThick-skinnedThought-provokingTight-fistedWell-behavedWell-educatedWell-knownWorld-famousYellow-stripedYoung-hearted Descriptive Adjective Rules and Best Practices We’ve given you lots of different examples of descriptive adjectives, but there are some rules to follow regarding their use. When you’re writing a sentence, it’s important that descriptive adjectives are used in the correct adjective order. Descriptive adjectives come after limiting adjectives (which define the noun rather than describing it. ‘Articles’ are examples of these - ‘a’, ‘an’ and ‘the’). For example, we would write Sally ate a delicious cake. If we wrote Sally ate delicious a cake, it wouldn’t make sense. Here are some more examples: She wrote three long books (good)She wrote long three books (not good) Keith ordered some new furniture (good)Keith ordered new some furniture (not good) The cat jumped up a tall tree (good)The cat jumped up tall a tree (not good) From these examples, we can see how important correct adjective order is. If it isn’t written correctly, it’s confusing. It becomes even more difficult to understand when more than one descriptive adjective is used to describe the noun. Let’s look at a few examples: The English angry little man was hungry (not good)The little English angry man was hungry (still not good)The angry little Englishman was hungry (better) Steven was eating a sugary huge cream cake (not good)Steven was eating a cream huge sugary cake (still not good)Steven was eating a huge sugary cream cake (better) She was reading the non-fiction old, battered book (not good)She was reading the battered non-fiction old book (still not good)She was reading the old, battered non-fiction book (better).   Descriptive adjectives enhance our writing, but it’s very easy to overuse them. So think carefully about which descriptive adjectives to use to be the most effective. Using lots of descriptive adjectives to describe one noun isn’t always better. For example: The boy has a brilliant bright wide infectious smile. If you use too many descriptive adjectives, the word being described can become lost. Two descriptive adjectives in this instance would be enough: The boy has a wide infectious smile. In some cases, using one strong descriptive adjective can paint a picture in the reader’s mind more vividly than using two or three. We’ll look at a couple of examples: The girl opened her mouth and out came a loud high-pitched scream.   We can imagine what the scream would sound like, but using just one, more powerful descriptive adjective can make us almost hear it for ourselves: The girl opened her mouth and out came a piercing scream. Example two: The miserable cross teacher moaned at us. From this description, we know the teacher isn’t very happy. But we can swap one word for the two descriptive adjectives to create a more vivid image of the teacher and how they are feeling: The grouchy teacher moaned at us. Descriptive Adjectives in Literature Descriptive adjectives play a big part in our writing, but it’s important to understand them and their use – and understand how they can bring your work to life. Here are some examples of quotes by famous writers, who – by simply adding a few adjectives – fill our minds with vivid imagery!“...his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking”― George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones “Kylpaitryc\'s eyes streamed tears as he coughed explosively on harsh, sinus-raping smoke.”― David Weber, At the Sign of Triumph“Even in its first faint traces, love could alter a landscape. It wrote unimagined stories and made the most beautiful, forbidding places.” —Anna-Marie McLemore, Wild Beauty “My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin that I sometimes used to wonder whether it was possible she washed herself with a nutmeg-grater instead of soap. She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her figure behind two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles.”—Charles Dickens, Great Expectations Conclusion We hope you have found this article useful, and now, whenever you’re looking for descriptive words to bring your writing to life, you have the perfect reference guide to turn to. Hopefully our descriptive adjectives examples will have inspired you and ignited your creative juices! 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. 

Symbology in Fiction

What does ‘symbology in fiction’ mean? And how can you utilize literary symbols in your work and strengthen your storytelling?  If you’re ever lucky enough to travel to Bergen in Norway, (which, by the way, I would highly recommend) you’ll likely find yourself amongst brightly-coloured buildings packed tightly together as if bracing themselves against the wind and rain (the weather can get fairly atrocious). This is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bryggen Hanseatic Wharf (Tyskebryggen).   The buildings are restaurants, studios, workshops, and boutique shops, but once they were merchant houses, many of which still have distinct symbols on them. Why symbols, you might ask? Because these buildings date back as far as the 14th century, to a time when many people couldn’t read, and the symbols made it easier to find which house or place of trade they were looking for.   Symbols have been used, one way or another, since the beginning of time - and that still remains when it comes to writing.  In this blog post I’ll further explore the use of symbols and symbolism in literature, as well as looking at how their uses benefit both readers and writers.  Symbology vs Symbolism The use of symbols in the example above is a fairly obvious one, for an equally obvious reason. But even today, supermarket chains, for example, have distinct branding or logos. These are used to distinguish themselves from competitors and are often in bright colours, sometimes even with a little picture.   My three-year-old pointed out to me the other day that the four yellow dashes above the bright green letter ‘A’ in ASDA look like the sun rising above a field. I must have seen that logo a hundred, maybe even a thousand times, and never noticed. Now I do. Is he right? Maybe. Does it matter? Not at all. What matters is that it’s a symbol we recognise and can distinguish from others.   More recently, the rainbow, a symbol of hope and promise, has become synonymous with the UK’s NHS and the nation’s support of all the hard work that is being done by healthcare workers during the pandemic. It’s also synonymous with the LBTQ+ community. Everybody knows that rainbows are positive and happy symbols.  A red rose symbolises love and romance; a four-leaf clover is supposed to bring us good luck; green means go, and red means stop. These are all examples of symbols that have become ingrained in our everyday existence.   But what does all of that have to do with writing? And what is the difference between symbology and symbolism?   To put it simply, here\'s our definitions of symbology and literary symbolism:  Symbology is the study and use of symbols, whereas symbolism is the representation of a concept through symbols. Let’s look at birds as an example. Doves, usually white in colour, are used to represent peace or love; artists make use of owls to symbolise wisdom, and ravens – with their black plumage, croaking call, and diet of carrion – are often associated with death, loss, ill omens and lost souls.   Types of Symbolism There are many different types of symbolism that we writers use in our work. Let’s look at a few of the most common ones. Simile As brave as a lion, as strong as an ox, as big as an elephant; these are all examples of similes, which is a figure of speech involving the comparison of one thing with another thing of a different kind, used to make a description more emphatic or vivid. A lion is renowned for being brave and courageous, so making this direct comparison is a way in which to show meaning through a well-known symbol. Metaphor Whereas a simile compares two separate things, a metaphor is a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denotes one kind of object or idea and is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them. For example, in Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Romeo says: “What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet, the sun!”  \'Romeo and Juliet’ by Shakespeare Juliet is not literally the sun and Romeo knows that Juliet is not literally the sun, but this demonstrates he compares her to the sun, thinks her what the sun symbolises: beauty, strength, awe, a life-giving force. Allegory The word allegory has a long history. The first evidence of its use in the English language is in the late 14th century and comes from the Latin word allegoria, which in turn is the latinisation of the Greek word ἀλληγορία (allegoría), meaning veiled language or figurative. That word comes from both ἄλλος (allos), meaning another, different and ἀγορεύω (agoreuo), which is to harangue, to speak in the assembly, which originates from ἀγορά (agora): assembly.   A modern definition is: a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one.   George Orwell’s Animal Farm, where each animal is a representation of a different political faction, is an example of an allegory. Another is The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (which symbolises the moral and spiritual journey of an individual through innumerable temptations of sins towards the ultimate attainment of glory and truth), or Aesop’s Fables (such as the tale of The Tortoise and the Hare, where the tortoise wins because he’s slow and steady). Archetype In its most basic definition, an archetype is a typical example of a person or thing. In literature, there are four main archetype options, each with many examples. I’ve listed a few below, but there are many more.   Character archetypes: The hero – the main character who often has a task/journey to complete. The Outcast – someone living on the outskirts of society, sometimes, but not always, for something that isn’t his/her fault.  Star-Crossed Lovers – lovers who are destined not to be together.   Situational archetypes: The Battle of Good and Evil – a battle in which good triumphs over evil.  The Hero’s Journey – the journey, physical or emotional, that the main character must complete.  Rags to Riches or vice versa – a character rises from a lower position in society to a better one, or vice versa.   Setting archetypes: The Garden – symbolises love and fertility. The River – water symbolises life and a river can show life’s journey or boundaries. The Small Town – a place where everyone knows everyone and generally depicts intolerance.   Symbolic Archetypes: Hourglass – the passing of time.  Heart – love. Square – stability.  Hyperbole Exaggeration can be used to reflect how someone feels. These are not statements or claims that are meant literally, but instead used to symbolise meaning. An examples of this could be ‘I’ve told that story a thousand times’ or ‘There’s enough food to feed an army’. The speaker hasn’t literally told the story a thousand times, but maybe feels she has. In the second example, whether it be a good thing or not, there’s a lot of food to be eaten.   There are many more types of symbolism in literature, such as allegory, archetype, personification and irony. Symbolism in Fiction Many writers make use of symbolism in their fiction to paint a brighter picture, or add depth or tension.   In The Scarlet Letter by Daniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne, a young woman in 17th Century Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, is punished for giving birth to a daughter as a result of adultery. She is made to stand on a scaffold for three hours, subjected to public humiliation, and made to wear the letter A for the rest of her life.  “They averred that the symbol was not mere scarlet cloth tinged in an earthly dyepot, but was red-hot with infernal fire, and could be seen glowing all alight whenever Hester Prynne walked abroad in the nighttime. And we must needs say it seared Hester’s bosom so deeply, that perhaps there was more truth in the rumor than our modern incredulity may be inclined to admit.” The Scarlet Letter by Daniel Hawthorne The letter ‘A’ initially means adultery and penance, but as the novel progresses it takes on different meanings for different people. For some, ultimately, after Hester spends a lot of time as a visitor in homes of pain and sorrow, the ‘A’ means Angel. Grief is the Thing with Feathers, by Max Porter, makes strong use of symbolism     “BOYS There’s a feather on my pillow.  Pillows are made of feathers, go to sleep. It’s a big, black feather. Come and sleep in my bed.  There’s a feather on your pillow too.  Let’s leave the feathers where they are and sleep on the floor.”Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter Many cultures believe feathers are a symbol of a connection to the spirit world. The black feathers that appear on the boys’ pillows signal the arrival of something ominous, in this case grief at the loss of their mother. The Crow, who leaves the feathers, is in fact a character within the story, helping both the boys and their dad through those initial dark days. Feathers are also said to represent strength and growth, and as they learn to manage their grief, the Crow moves on.   Nature plays a strong role in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, signifying a sense of freedom. “‘Is this a hint to me, Lizzy,’ said her father, ‘to send for the horses?’ ‘No, indeed. I do not wish to avoid the walk. The distance is nothing, when one has a motive; only three miles.’” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen The outdoors also plays a role in the relationship between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy as it is predominantly in these settings that they are able to move their relationship forward. Outdoor settings become a symbol of openness and understanding.   Other examples are the green light in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925) symbolising the protagonist’s quest for Daisy and the American Dream; the conch in The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is a symbol of power; and the lake in Housekeeping, by Marilynn Robinson, is synonymous with loss and it is not until the main character, Ruth, crosses the lake on a bridge that she is able to start putting the depth of her loss behind her.   Why Use Symbolism? So, why do authors use symbolism in literature?   Whether it be a conscious or unconscious decision, the main impact of using symbolism in literature is to strengthen its meaning and make a bigger impact on the reader. For example, in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, using symbolism adds emotional resonance to the story. The mockingbird, which “don’t do one thing but . . . sing their hearts out for us”, as Miss Maudie explains to Scout, symbolises the innocent characters in the narrative and to kill them, like to kill the bird, would be a sin.    Another way in which symbolism works is providing a visual aid for the reader. In Captain Jesus, by Collette Snowdon, three brothers find a dead magpie in the garden. They hang it on the washing line and when it blows in the gentle breeze.  “‘[i]t’s like we brought it back to life,’ Gabe says.”   The conversation continues with John-Joe saying, “‘we’re not miracle workers, we can’t do a proper resurrection.” The scene, along with the dialogue, alerts the reader to the impending death knowing that no matter how harder they may wish it, they will not be able to bring the deceased back to life.    Using symbolism can help an author portray a complex concept. In the Booker-longlisted novel, An Island, Karen Jennings’ main character, seventy-year-old Samuel, lives in self-imposed exile on a tiny island off the coast of an unknown African country. The only people he sees are those who bring his supplies once a fortnight. One day a stranger washes up on the shore; a symbol of hope, redemption and reparation for Samuel. Looking Out for Symbolism in the Everyday Many readers, I’m sure, don’t pay much attention to the symbols or symbolism in literature. Not consciously, that is (more so if studying a text for school or discussing it in a book club). However, so much is ingrained in our everyday life, in our society and common beliefs, it’s hard not to take them in at all. And there will always be people looking for the hidden meanings between the words on the pages – whether you intended them to be there or not!  As writers, inserting symbols and considering symbolism in our writing is definitely something to pay close attention to. Like Hansel and Gretel dropping breadcrumbs to find their way home, making use of this literary device is providing images and objects, words and concepts, to help deepen our readers’ experience of our writing.   And once those words are printed on the page, carefully chosen words creating a million vibrant images for your readers, unlike in Grimm’s fairytales nothing can come along and gobble them up! 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. 

Sensory Language Examples In Fiction

Adding sensory language to your writing is a lot easier than you may think, and it makes a huge difference to your work – be it a novel, poetry, or essays. But where do you start?  Think back to a recent personal experience that you remember well. As you bring it to mind, notice the sensory details you recall: the things you see and hear; maybe the physical feelings, for some people even tastes and smells.   Most of us are able to recreate our previous experiences in our mind’s eye and it’s these sensory memories that help us bring the event back to life. In just the same way, when we use sensory words in our fiction it helps our readers experience the world we’ve created by evoking their own senses.  In this guide I will explain what sensory language is, how to use it effectively in your storytelling, and provide some useful sensory language examples to get you started. What is Sensory Language? Sensory language in literature refers to words and descriptions that relate to the five senses. A writer uses these descriptors to help the reader: See what is happening in their mind’s eyeImagine the way speech is delivered and the background soundsUnderstand the physical sensations of texture, touch and movementEvoke tastes and smells In short, sensory language helps our readers experience scenes, events, descriptions or settings in a richer way – to live through the senses. A story with sensory language evokes feelings in our readers and takes them on an emotional journey.  Sensory language is commonly used in creative writing - short fiction, poetry, plays and novels - to invoke mental images and engage readers. However, descriptors of the five senses are also commonly found in a range of texts:  Advertising and marketing copy – ‘Mouth-watering freshly baked cakes’ (rather than just ‘Cakes’)Newspaper/magazine articles and headlines – ‘Shock new probe as PM rips up plans’ (Rather than ‘Investigation as plans change’)Emails and business writing – ‘Hope you’re not rushed off your feet’ (vs ‘Hope you’re not too busy’) ‘How to’ guides and course descriptions – ‘Wrestle those writing demons to the ground’ (vs ‘Be a more confident writer’)Blog posts titles – ‘Play to win and crush the opposition!’ (vs ‘Tips on how to be successful’)  Examples of Sensory Words To help develop a sensory vocabulary think about the different ways in which you experience the senses. Let’s take each sense in turn and look at contrasts to develop a list of sensory adjectives. Here are examples to get you started:  Visual – words relating to how we see things. They relate to things like colour, shape, size, angle, and appearance. How will you use them to paint a vivid picture?Brightness: Light/bright/shiny/sparkly or dark/dim/dull/tarnishedSize: Large/enormous/immense/gigantic or tiny/small/miniature/littleColour density: Vivid/day-glo/fluorescent or pale/washed-out/sepia  Auditory – words relating to sounds and how we hear them. You can use these to make your writing shout loudly or whisper a quiet hint.Volume: Loud/deafening/booming or quiet/whispering/rustlingPitch: Shrill/high-pitched/falsetto/piercing or deep/low-pitched/baritone/bassRhythm: Repetitive/metronome/regular or varying/intermittent/erratic Tactile – Words relating to how we experience touch or the feel of things through our skin. You might choose to soothe with a light touch or poke and cajole to action.Texture: Downy/soft/feathery or abrasive/coarse/roughPressure: Light/gentle/delicate or heavy/harsh/denseTemperature: Burning/scalding/itching or freezing/icy/soothing Gustatory – words relating to taste. You might like writing which is crisp and lean or spiced up with crunchy descriptions.Sweet vs sour: sugary/saccharine/sickly or tart/unsweetenedFlavoursome vs bland: meaty/umami/spicy/herby vs mild/bland/tastelessTexture: lean/crisp/crusty or oily/greasy/buttery Olfactory – words relating to how we experience smells. How about kicking up a stink or perfuming your text with sweet delicate imagery?Scent: Floral/aromatic/fragrant or odourless/neutral/unscentedStrength: Stinky/pungent/over-powering or insipid/weak/airyFreshness: Musty/stale/decayed or paint-fresh/clean/hygienic There are two other types of sensory words we can use:  Kinaesthetic – words relating to how we move and our internal sensations. Maybe you’re edging into this or leaping in with both feet.Still/balanced/steady or fidgeting/precarious/wobblyCrawling/sliding/shuffling or jumping/running/rushingFluttering/buzzing/churning or grounded/centred/soothing or stabbing/aching/sharp/tingling Emotional – words relating to our mood and the way we feel. Hopefully you feel curious and energised to have a go, even if a little uncertain!Confident/brave/assured or ill at ease/dubious/indecisiveDepressed/low/down or happy/upbeat/jolly or edgy/anxious/restlessMellow/chilled/calm or agitated/energised/hyper The choice of sensory words impacts the reader’s perspective. Consider the contrast in the following three examples:  ‘The young woman is both intelligent and kind.’  This is a clear straightforward description but is lacking any colour as it doesn’t engage our senses.  ‘The woman is around twenty; her tongue cutting, her brain sharp, her heart hard.’  Here we have more of a sense of the woman; the choice of words paint her in a negative light.  ‘She\'s an old soul with young eyes, a vintage heart, and a beautiful mind.’Nicole Lyons This quote from author and poet, Nicole Lyons, is a more poetic description. This time we have a positive impression of the woman.  How to Use Sensory Words in Your Writing Let’s take a simple scene and consider how we can enliven it with sensory language examples. Imagine a woman is about to enter a restaurant to meet a friend.   She’s outside the restaurant looking in through a glass panel in the door. What does she see? Tell us what type of establishment is it? What does the restaurant look like? How is it decorated? What fabrics, furnishing, wallpaper, colours? How many tables, diners and staff?  She steps forward into the room. Take us there so we experience what she hears. Is it noisy or quiet? Can she hear snatches of conversations, if so, what is said and how? What background noises can she hear?  She spots her friend across the room. What does she feel? What sensation does she feel inside and where does she feel it? What is her emotional reaction? How does she move as she walks across the room?   The two friends hug. Does she smell anything? Is her friend wearing perfume? What does the room smell of and does she like it or not? Can she smell the food served to other diners?  Seated at the table they eat their food. What does she taste? What are the flavours? What texture does the food have?   If we strip out all the sensory language, we have something akin to stage directions:   ‘A woman is about to enter a restaurant to meet her friend. She’s outside the restaurant looking in through a glass panel in the door. She steps forward into the room. She spots her friend across the room. The two friends hug. Seated at the table they eat their food.’    This would be described as ‘under written’: there is nothing to help us imagine the scene in our mind’s eye, all we have are a series of actions.  However, if we include every minute detail in our sensory language the passage becomes clogged. It becomes too busy and we long for something to happen. This is referred to as ‘overwritten’. The key is to help the reader to use sensory language to notice and experience what the character(s) would see, hear, feel etc.  This will depend on what you are trying to convey in the scene.   If the woman is anxious about the meeting she may focus on different things to if she is excited about seeing her friend again. For example, she may notice what people are wearing and feel underdressed or overdressed, which would heighten her anxiety; you may want to describe how she loathes the type of food on the menu, how the smells make her feel sick, and the churning in her stomach when she can’t see her friend in the crowded room.   However, if she is excited, her focus may only be on her friend. She may ignore the other people and the restaurant setting as she rushes across the room to join them.   Play around with the same scene by using different sensory examples to convey the character’s state of mind in each writing example, then note how it changes the story each time.  Examples of Sensory Writing A great way to learn about sensory imagery is to examine sensory language examples from literature. These first two are from Victorian literature.  ‘I heard the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and the wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees cold as a stone, and then my courage sank.’ Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847) Bronte’s use of sound (beating continuously, howling), and temperature (cold as a stone) help us to feel the character’s dark emotional mood.   ‘Facing the window, in the chair of dignity, sat a man about forty years of age; of heavy frame, large features and a commanding voice; his general build being rather coarse and compact… When he indulged in an occasional loud laugh at some remark among the guests his mouth parted so far back as to show the rays of the chandelier a full score or more of the two-and-thirty sound white teeth that he obviously still could boast of.’The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (1902)  Hardy’s description paints a vivid picture of the man and his character. His confidence and presence are clearly conveyed (heavy, large, commanding, loud) so we can both hear and see him in our mind’s eye.  Here are three modern examples of sensory writing which include simile and metaphor:  ‘…a helicopter bladed the sky in the hills outside Hebron. He had never seen a machine quite like it before. The soldiers, when they leapt out, looked to him like green insects, crouching and running up the hillside, fabulous with fear. His mother ran down from their home in the hillside caved, grabbed his sleeve, shooed him home along the rocky path.’ Apeirogon by Colum McCann (2020) McCann conveys the awe of the child as he watches the way the soldiers move up the hillside (like green insects, crouching and running, fabulous with fear). Then his mother’s urgency conveyed by the way she runs down, grabs and shoos him. We are there, feeling the tension of the mother and soldiers and the wonder of the child watching. ‘I lift the corners of the first sheet; dust and the smell of camphor the papers have absorbed over the years swirl up and taunt my nose.’ The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng (2012) Eng uses the word ‘taunt’ in an unusual way to highlight the unpleasantness of the dust and camphor smells.  ‘…in my dreams I see Dharsi’s beautiful face and some other unknown one next to it. A frog, not transforming into a prince but shape-shifting into something frightening. The metallic taste of these dreams tinges my mornings like a flavor stirred into my coffee.’ What Lies Between Us by Nayomi Munaweera Munaweera gives her dreams a ‘metallic taste’ that lasts into the next day, the person lying next to Dharsi is seen as a shape-shifting frog. Her descriptions apply both sensory language and metaphor to rich effect.  Make Sense of Your Writing Look out for examples of good sensory language as you’re reading and consider where the author has focused the reader’s attention and how they’ve enriched their descriptions.    What impact does this have on your engagement with the text? What helps draw you into the passage and when is the sensory description too much ‘clutter’?   Notice the different styles in books you enjoy versus those you set aside. So settle down comfortably, wrap up warm, keep your eyes and ears open as you sniff out those examples and get a taste for what rings your bell, lights your fire, and gets your metaphorical taste buds tingling!  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 Fictional Flashback?

Flashbacks can be extremely effective tools when it comes to telling your story.  You may have read advice to avoid them if possible - yet good flashbacks can reveal backstory, and they can surprise and delight readers, while giving authors the freedom to tell story events out of chronological order. So why are some people lukewarm about them?   It’s all about technique. As with so many elements of writing, flashbacks can work brilliantly if used well, but can ruin your story when used incorrectly.   If you’re considering whether your book will benefit from one or many flashbacks, this guide will help you understand their uses and teach you how to use flashbacks effectively in your writing.  Purpose Of A Flashback Authors don’t always want to show the reader the scenes in the order they happened. There can be many reasons we want to play with time:  We don’t want to bombard a reader with detailed information too early – we want the reader to get hooked by the characters or situation first. We are holding back a key plot point for a twist, or the ‘shock factor’. We want to draw comparison between the past and the present – to show irony, or character growth.  There may be character backstory that only becomes relevant partway through the story – if shared too early, the reader won’t understand the relevance.  We generally use flashbacks in literature, not to dwell on what happened in the past, but to provide insight into a character and their decision-making in the present.   For instance, a flashback helps a reader learn it’s because a character was bullied in high school that they are oversensitive to a throwaway comment now. Or that a character is reluctant to believe what her father is saying in the present, because we see from the past he has a history of lying to her.   Flashbacks are a way of illustrating this link between past and present, but the best flashbacks do more than this. They work on multiple levels, enhancing knowledge of plot and character.  Flashback Examples In Fiction Many novels flip between past and present timelines, such as The House at Riverton by Kate Morton or The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell in contemporary literature, or The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad in classic fiction.  See how Conrad uses this line of dialogue to trigger a reminiscence in Heart of Darkness:   “We looked on, waiting patiently—there was nothing else to do till the end of the flood; but it was only after a long silence, when he said, in a hesitating voice, “I suppose you fellows remember I did once turn fresh-water sailor for a bit,” that we knew we were fated, before the ebb began to run, to hear about one of Marlow’s inconclusive experiences.”   In My Sister, The Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite we see flashback being used in a seamless way:   “According to family lore, the first time I laid eyes on Ayoola I thought she was a doll.”   The description that follows, of Ayoola as an innocent baby, adds a layer of irony to Ayoola’s willingness to murder in the present.  How To Write A Flashback In Fiction The key to managing a flashback technically well is to ensure the reader always knows ‘where’ and ‘when’ they are in a story, by giving the reader timing prompts, to clearly differentiate past and present.  There are several ways you can do this, and they can be used alone, or in conjunction with each other:  1. Using Headers There are many novels which tell stories over two timelines, often in alternating chapters headed something like ‘Then’ and ‘Now’, to orientate the reader. These ‘Then’ chapters operate as a series of flashbacks. Novels which flashback to more than one timeline can use different headers like ‘2008’ or ‘Earlier That Day’.  This is the most straightforward way of writing flashbacks – it’s neat and tidy, and the headings make it clear for the reader where they are.  This can be used in conjunction with: 2. Changing Tense Many novels use the technique of changing tenses – with ‘Now’ sections told in the present tense and ‘Then’ sections told in past tense.   In Mhairi McFarlane’s Don’t you Forget About Me, one chapter’s ‘Now’ section ends with:   “It’s also the first time I’d been near a funeral since my dad’s, twelve years ago.”   There is then a line space before:   “When I was fifteen or so, my mum pinned the order of service for her cousin Janet, a physiotherapist in Swansea, to the corkboard in the kitchen.”   In the final line of the previous section “it’s” is in the present tense. There’s a line space, then “pinned” is past tense.   This is a simple technique for stories told in the present tense – but changing tenses can also be used for stories told in the past tense. Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny uses ‘had\'s – past present tense – to show the story is moving into flashback:  “Jane’s memory of the night of the accident was patchy. She remembered Luke driving her to the hospital in Petoskey to see her mother in the ER. The sight of her mother sitting on a gurney with her left arm in a sling, her large leonine face looking so slack and old, had caused Jane to burst into tears. Her mother had turned to her and held out her good hand. “Don’t cry, dearheart,’ she said. “I’m okay.””  One tip many writers who write in past tense use for flashbacks is to place a past present tense description – he had jumped, he had eaten – in the first and last lines of a flashback, to indicate the section starting and finishing. They then write the rest of the section in plain past tense, the same as the rest of the novel. This technique is invisible to a general reader – but it works!  3. Framing Techniques Your character could see a photograph or hear specific line of dialogue to prompt reminiscing, and then the reader is taken to a flashback scene. A timely doorbell or someone entering the room can break the spell and trigger your narrator back to the present.   In the example from Mhairi McFarlane’s, Don’t Forget About Me, McFarlane ends this flashback section with “I return to these memories reluctantly. Then I push them away again. It’s like forcing too many things into a cupboard and using the door to keep them jammed in.”   This is a framing technique, showing the character has ended their reminiscence. Why Have I Read Advice Saying Authors Shouldn’t Use Flashbacks? There is a lot of writing advice out there, and you can find people arguing for and against pretty much anything! And flashbacks, in particular, get a bad rap.   As with most elements of writing, there is no absolute right or wrong – just personal preferences, and ways of doing things effectively, or ineffectively.   The main reason some people dissuade new authors from using flashbacks is that a flashback is always backstory. If not earned and relevant, it can slow story pace – so we need to use caution. We want our readers to be desperate to turn the page to find out what happens next – yet we are delaying their gratification by moving out of the present to a completely different scene. No reader likes to be pushed away from the action. This is why it’s so important to ensure your flashback is done well and has earned its place in the text.   Questions To Ask Yourself When Deciding Whether To Use A Flashback Is your flashback relevant and directly related to the main plot? Does the reader need to see this scene? Can the scene be cut without the story losing coherence?  Could you share this information easily another way – in a line of dialogue, for example?  Is this the right place for a flashback? Are your readers invested in your story enough at this point to be willing to take a change of pace? Have you earned the reader’s interest enough to start playing around with chronology? Is your flashback clear to follow? Is your reader able to clearly intuit where they are in the timeline of the story? Do you have too many flashbacks? Are you risking irritating the reader by repeatedly interrupting them, and not giving them enough forward momentum in the present? Is the flashback scene exciting in its own right? Does it contain internal or external conflict, as well as providing backstory?  Does your scene work on multiple levels? Does it advance character and plot and read well?   After All That, Are Flashbacks For You? They may be, and they may not. A lot of it comes down to the story you are trying to tell, and your preferences.   Some authors write for their whole careers without using a single flashback but, for those of us who want to bend story time for narrative purposes, they are a crucial tool. Flashbacks are powerful story elements, and sparingly and effectively used, they can really benefit your writing.   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 To Include Backstory In Your Novel

Backstory is a brilliant tool when creating well-rounded characters. Read any writing guide and it will tell you the importance of creating three-dimensional characters, because readers want to know what makes a character tick.   The problem is, in our excitement to share our character’s backstory, we are often tempted to spill all of this out in our first chapter. It’s a common mistake, but too much backstory, too soon, will slow down your pace and draw the reader away from your plot. It’s like presenting your reader with a mouth-watering cake, but before you give them the fork, you explain the entire baking process when all they want to do is get stuck in.   So let’s take a closer look at the meaning of backstory and how by doing it right, your reader will be able to have their cake and eat it too. What Is A Backstory? In a nutshell, the backstory is everything that has happened to your character before the novel begins. This can be revealed by:  Exposition – simply telling the reader about the past Flashbacks – where the reader is thrown back in time into the mind of the protagonist when the event occurred Reflection – where the character ‘thinks’ about the past while doing something else  Dialogue – when a conversation explains past events  Sometimes, your protagonist doesn’t always know all of their backstory beforehand; some of the best novels reveal parts of a character’s backstory to the character, not just the reader.  Backstory impacts everything in your novel; who your character is, where they come from, why they react the way they do and ultimately your plot. Think about your own backstory, and the events that shape the person you are. All of your own backstory will impact the decisions you make, your view of the world and your reactions to certain events.  Knowing your characters as well as you know yourself, and transferring this quality, is what makes a good story. Give your characters authenticity and make their decisions realistic. The reader doesn’t need to know everything about them though, just as your friends and family don’t need to know everything about you.  Steven King said: ‘The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.’  How To Create A Character Backstory Now we understand what a backstory is, let’s look at how to create a good backstory. There are many examples through literature that do this well, from The Great Gatsby to A Christmas Carol.   Something to also consider is how for actors, knowledge of backstory is imperative in order to represent the characters they are playing better, which is why it’s just as important for you as a writer to know your character’s motivation. After all, aren’t we all acting out our character in our heads?   A good example is the hugely successful Star Wars.  In Star Wars we have Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill portrays the character at the beginning as humble and bored with his life. He does this by portraying his impatience and by revealing his ambitious nature (just like his father, but he doesn’t know that yet!). It’s also a great way of seeing how effective it is to keep some backstory hidden from the characters as well as the viewers.   George Lucas would have known from inception that Luke was fathered by Anakin Skywalker who we then discover is the big baddie, Darth Vader. Imagine if this had all been blurted out in the first few scenes … there would have been a lot less excited kids in the cinema, that’s for sure!    With Luke’s discovery of this and his journey to becoming a Jedi, we see his character evolving as we discover more of his backstory. This is a really good way of seeing how effective a slow backstory reveal can be. In fact, a whole other series of films was built on Anakin’s backstory and the events that led up to the original film.   So, how can you create a compelling backstory for your characters?  Tips To Write Compelling Character Backstories The best way to write a compelling backstory is to really dig deep into your character’s experiences and, most importantly, make them interesting (take a look at our guide on creating character bios). Nobody wants to read a lot of backstory about a protagonist hanging out the washing on a day it rained, unless fetching it in meant they were late for picking up their child who was then abducted!  There are many ways to write compelling backstories, but here are a few ideas to help you:  Create a timeline for your character focusing on important life events. Sketch out small snapshots of their life around the time of these events – such as a diary. Writing a diary page can really help you step into your character’s shoes. Fill it with small details of your character’s likes and dislikes, friends, their favourite foods, books, films, songs, sayings, pieces of nostalgia around the time of the events. Your character’s likes and dislikes may change throughout their life. They may have loved a certain song around the time of a happy or sad event but now can’t stand it. This could trigger a reveal for this part of your backstory if it was heard on the radio at a key point in your story. Identify formative events which are relevant to your work. A near-death experience or an embarrassing moment, which dented your character’s confidence, could then be the crux that holds your character back later in life. Use real-life experiences. If you lost your parents in a busy shopping centre at Christmas when you were a small child, use this! It may have put you off large crowds or busy shopping centres. Maybe you forgot your lines in a school play once and it’s left you terrified of public speaking as an adult. There are so many experiences in our lives that impact our actions. So take some time to examine what it is that makes you, you. A reader will often feel a greater connection when a writer has used genuine experiences, because the chances are you will use something that others have experienced themselves.  Do all of this with the knowledge that you will not need all of it in your novel. Much like a marinade, all these ingredients won’t go in the dish…you are just adding nuance and enhancing the flavour!  How To Include Backstory In Your Novel   The most important element to consider when including backstory is deciding when and where to reveal your information. Ask yourself what the backstory achieves, if it is necessary and why it needs to be revealed at that stage in your novel. Use backstory to your advantage, to reveal snippets to gain empathy from a reader, to explain a reaction to a situation, or to add a reveal or twist to your plot. Know When To Reveal Your Backstory Going back to drawing good writing from personal experiences, let’s say you almost drowned as a child and your friend invites you to an all-expenses-paid cruise. The idea horrifies you, your fear of water is something you never talk about, but in the circumstances, you may decide to reveal this past experience to explain your reaction to the invitation.   It’s exactly the same when revealing backstory for your characters. Let’s say you are at a cocktail party; the atmosphere is lively, and a funny anecdote is being told by a peer. Would you suddenly jump in with this long and detailed story of how you almost drowned as a child? Of course, you wouldn’t, it would feel inappropriate.   Revealing backstory in a novel should be the same as in life, it should be prompted by real-time events, songs, smells, or something that evokes that memory.  Don’t Overload The Reader With Backstory Early On One of the most common mistakes I find, when reading first drafts, is opening chapters overloaded with backstory. We are living during a time where there is an abundance of published books hitting the shelves and with the surge in digital versions at low prices, it’s more important than ever to grab your reader’s attention from the first few pages.   It’s fine to add a small amount of backstory within these chapters, but keep them short. If you overload the reader with unnecessary information about a character they don’t yet know and love, your pace will fall flat very early on, and you may lose your reader before you’ve shown them the real beauty of your novel.   Focus on the best places to reveal your backstory in small digestible pieces to avoid your reader becoming overwhelmed with information.  Action Verses Backstory Once you’ve written your first draft, go through your chapters and highlight the ‘action’ happening in real-time in yellow, then the ‘backstory’ – whether it is reflection or a flashback – in green. If you can see a large amount in green, you will be able to see just how much you are pulling your reader away from the contemporary plot and pace of your story.   Go through this section carefully, be hard on yourself and ask if it is all needed, especially if this is early on in your novel. One rule of thumb is to remember this saying: ‘If in doubt, leave it out.’   Show Don’t Tell When you have identified essential backstory, try not to ‘tell’ it all to the reader. Although there are times where exposition works, it must be written incredibly well to keep the reader engaged.   Show don\'t tell is one of those phrases that we use a lot in writing, and this is one of those instances that it really applies. Show and tell is all about balance, both are needed, but when backstory is involved, the more you show rather than tell, the better, because it keeps the reader in the ‘now’. You can do this either through dialogue, or by your character’s actions, or both!   For example, you could show the reader a character wearing an expensive suit, stepping up to a podium in front of a hundred people, beginning their speech with an unwavering smile: ‘When I was five, I wore hand-me-downs and had a stutter…’ Yes, I’m ‘telling’ in the literal sense, but here, I’ve shown my character’s backstory. You now know a) that my character is confident and doing well financially (or so it would seem!) b) they have overcome adversity and c) they used to have a stutter and were poor; all of this information is passed on quickly through an active scene. If I told this backstory, the ‘action’ would be paused, my reader would be pulled away, while leaving my ‘present’ character inanimately hovering at the edge of the stage.   Is Your Backstory Actually Plot? If you’re reading this and have realised that you have a huge amount of interesting and relevant backstory to add to your novel, without which your story wouldn’t work, consider if this is actually a good plotline in its own right. If it is, set these scenes in the past and punctuate them throughout your story. That way, you can still reveal backstory in active scenes, rather than as flashbacks or reflection. As long as it really is relevant and interesting, it should continue to push your plot forward rather than dragging the pace behind. Wrap Up So there we have it. I hope by reading this, you can see how important writing a compelling backstory is, and how revealing your important and exciting information at the right time will help make your novel as exciting as you know it can be. Congratulations on finishing your book! Keen to improve the first draft and polish your manuscript, but not sure where to start? Get help from an experienced professional editor with our Manuscript Assessment Service. Members get 10% off! 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. 

Metaphors Dos And Don’ts

Everyone has heard of metaphors, it’s something most people are taught at school, but are they still relevant to your writing? Yes.  Undoubtedly, metaphors enhance your writing, whether you’re penning a novel, short story, poem, or an English assignment. But to use them effectively, it’s important to fully understand what metaphors are in terms of definition, how to not confuse them with similes, and understanding all the different ways they can strengthen your work with examples. In this article I will guide you through everything you need to know about metaphors, so you too can feel confident using this literary device to enrich your writing.  What Is A Metaphor? A metaphor is a comparison between one thing and something else with similar qualities, providing the reader with a visual image that can be stronger in meaning than further description.  For instance, I could write a description of someone with long hair by simply saying they have long hair. Or I could use a metaphor and say, ‘Her hair was a flowing golden river’. This second option invokes the image of long, blonde flowing hair tumbling over her shoulders the way water runs over rocks in a river. The reader is more likely to remember the character and perhaps imagine them as someone they know.  Metaphors also reduce the need to include paragraphs of description or explanation. ‘The World is a stage,’ will have varying meanings for people. Generally, it creates the idea of performing as an actor in your own life. This says a lot (metaphorically speaking) in just a few words.   When you’re trying to hook the reader and make them see the story the way you do, metaphors can draw the reader in while keeping the story flowing. Too much description detracts from the story and loses readers’ attention. You don’t want to take your reader out of the action.  By using metaphors, you can capture an image, feeling, or experience in just a few words. When a reader already has pre-existing knowledge of the comparison, they will be able to fill in the blanks to get a fuller picture.  When used sparingly, metaphors give readers something to think about. Once the words are on the page, we have no further control in how the reader will interpret the metaphor’s meaning, so something which is universally understood has more impact.  Difference Between A Simile And A Metaphor  Metaphors and similes both use comparisons to provide a clearer image for readers, in a more creative way than a straightforward description. Analogies can also be used to do this.   Analogy vs Metaphor: An analogy is still a comparison, but uses a combination of simile and metaphor, and contains more information. One example would be, ‘Her hair whipped backwards and forwards in the wind like an out-of-control river’. It gives a fuller picture of the scene.  So, what\'s the difference between a simile and a metaphor? A simile uses the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare, so would be less direct than a metaphor, but shorter than an analogy. An example of this would be ‘Her hair was like a turbulent river’. A metaphor would shorten this with, ‘Her hair was a turbulent river’. If you ever need to stick to a strict word count, while saying the same thing, the shorter metaphor is one way to help reduce the word count, without losing any of the story.  Although all similes are metaphors, not all metaphors are similes.   If you find yourself asking ‘how are similes and metaphors different?’ Here’s a simple answer:  An indirect comparison is used in a simile, while both make it clear the person or object is being compared to something else.  A metaphor – uses ‘is’ to compare.  A simile – uses ‘as’ or ‘like’.  Another example of a metaphor is, ‘Their home was their prison’. A simile would be ‘Their home was like their prison’. If you’re wondering how an analogy would be used to say the same thing, here is an example. ‘After being trapped in their house for weeks, the rain continued to fall and their home became their prison.’   It gives more information, but also uses more words. And, like with any good analogy, a writer may take their comparison further and add more metaphors to emphasize the point - ‘But there was no visiting hours, no one had come to call for days. They wondered when they would ever be able to escape their confines.’   Very dramatic, and perhaps a bit overkill, but you get the point.  What Is A Mixed Metaphor? If you’ve used metaphors before, or researched it for your writing, you may have heard of a mixed metaphor. The simplest explanation is two metaphors used together, which you wouldn’t normally associate with each other. Generally, they don’t work in serious writing. However, if used in the right context, they can work well together despite the contrast.  If you want to be creative and write some of these yourself, remember they are often humorous so use sparingly. They work less well in serious fiction or poetry.   Here are some mixed metaphor examples.  Homework was a breeze, but the new teacher was a thorn in my side. I’m talking to a brick wall here. Do you have a heart of stone? He was a mighty lion, but now he’s a lame duck. That’s music to my ears, let’s blow off some steam to celebrate.  While these are unlikely to be suitable for literary fiction, they could suit a character who constantly talks in mixed metaphors (if that’s part of their personality and it fits with the story).   What Is An Implied Metaphor? There are several types of metaphors, and implied metaphors take the idea of comparison a little further, by comparing people or things in a subtle way. Unlike other metaphors, these imply a comparison without specifically mentioning one of the things being compared. These rely on using a well-known trait, so the reader guesses what is being implied.  To help you understand, here are some examples: With his tail between his legs, he ran away. (Comparing a man to a scared dog without mentioning the dog, but the description is enough to inform the reader of the implied comparison.) She slithered around my boyfriend all night. (A jealous girlfriend using a well-known trait of a snake, to describe her potential love-rival.) The news crew circled the scene. (Comparing the news crew to a pack of vultures who typically circle their prey before swooping in.)  By using these animals as comparisons, readers will automatically associate the animals’ characteristics in relation to the subject (i.e. the girl is hunting the other woman’s boyfriend like a snake, she’s deadly, she may be poisonous to their relationship, she’s silent, dangerous, and unlikeable).  Once you understand what implied metaphors are, they are easy to use, and you can add them to your writing in a way the average reader will barely notice. In fact, now you’re aware of implied metaphors, you may notice their usage if you look out for them in the next book you read.  How To Use Metaphors By using metaphors, you can vary your descriptions and the visual images you’re trying to create. Some of the best metaphors can be those which people don’t notice, if they’re immersed in your written words.  But why are metaphors used?   Metaphors are used when the writer wants to bring their work to life in a fresh and creative way. Many readers say when they read a great book, they can see the characters and the actions playing out in their mind. This can be achieved by using metaphors here and there.  Metaphors aren’t just used in writing novels and short stories, though. A lot of poets make use of metaphor to express a thought or feeling on a deeper level. If done right, poems can have two meanings.  An example of this is one of my own poems, Winter Trees. This is about aging and missing the advantages of youth, while overlooking the things which weren’t so great about being young.  This is expressed in the following lines:  ‘Decorated in baubles and winter soldiers.  I used to be pretty too, think the winter trees.’  The first line above shows how the speaker views the younger people around her, and the second line shows how she misses that beauty in herself. The full poem is an implied metaphor, but on the surface can be interpreted as a poem about trees.  If you’re looking for a guide on how to create a metaphor, check out this more well-known example of metaphors as poetry in ‘Metaphors’ by Sylvia Plath. Metaphors: Do Switch between different kinds of metaphors in your writing. (This will vary your writing style and keep your writing from becoming repetitive.) Use sparingly. (Nobody wants to read pages of metaphors.) Go with the second or third metaphor you think of. (The first one is likely to be overused.) Use a comparison in your metaphors which readers will understand. (You want your readers to have an immediate understanding of what you’re trying to say.) Use a metaphor which fits with your writing. (Something which doesn’t fit will jolt the reader out of the fictional world you’ve created.) To get used to metaphors, spend time comparing objects in your home, or people you know, to other things. (This will help you see common and not so common comparisons.) Look for metaphors in poetry and stories you read. (This will show you how common they are, and judge what works or doesn’t work, so you can apply them to your own writing or avoid the same mistakes.)  Metaphors: Don’t Don’t clutter the page with them. (They will lose their impact. Less is more when it comes to metaphor usage.)Don’t use them if you know they will weaken the description rather than add to it. (They should blend seamlessly into your writing. Use whatever works best for each description.) Avoid mixed metaphors if writing something serious. (These can make your writing seem humorous or silly, and if you’re writing an emotional scene, this can make light of an otherwise serious issue.) Don’t use cliches or overused metaphors. (Again, unless the aim is to be funny or silly, it can ruin the mood you’re trying to create.) If a metaphor will detract from the story, don’t use it. (Everything about your writing should add something to the story.) Don’t be afraid to experiment. (Even if you never use them, if you’re new to metaphors, the best way to improve is to practice.)  Time To Practise Some Metaphors I hope you have found this guide helpful when it comes to the effective use of metaphors. There are lots of different types to choose from in your writing, and each one has its uses. By choosing the right metaphor, you can create powerful and engaging writing. To practise, go through a story you’ve already written (or write a new one) then change some of the description by using metaphors instead. Compare the two pieces and ask yourself which is more engaging. Time to take a giant leap off the metaphoric edge and spread those writing wings!  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 Genre Is My Book?

A few weeks ago, I was asked what I do for a living. When I said, ‘I’m an author,’ the gentleman said, ‘Oh, what do you write? Crime?’  ‘No, romantic comedies.’  ‘What, like Dame Barbara Cartland?’  ‘Er, no. She wrote historical romance.’  ‘So not like that E. L. James either then?’  ‘No. She writes erotica.’  He looked disappointed by this and sloped off, presumably to go and lose himself in a gritty murder or a rampant bodice-ripper.  What Is A Book Genre? So what genre is your book and how would you describe it?  In simplistic terms, a genre is the category or style of a book - for example, romance, crime or horror. It comes from the French word, for ‘type.’ In essence, it describes the type of story being told.  There are many book genres, ranging from dystopian to horror (more on that soon) but two of the most popular book genres, in terms of sales figures right now, are romance and crime.  Bestselling names in the romance genre include authors such as Danielle Steele and Sophie Kinsella, whilst for crime, authors such as Ian Rankin and Martina Cole reign supreme.  Romance has an enduring, escapist appeal and has seen a huge variety of its authors and titles consistently topping the bestseller charts for a number of years. The tales of love overcoming adversity, sometimes whilst in sun-soaked climates, set in sprawling castles or with a good dose of humour, continue to enchant and enthral readers of all ages and from a wide demographic. Romance Subgenres But, to make things more complicated, there are also subgenres within each genre. As my Cartland vs E. L. James example shows above, just because there’s a lot of kissing in two different books doesn’t mean the reader is going to get the same kind of romance in both. So, when looking at genre, it’s important to also consider subgenres. In romance, the subgenres are plenty – often crossing over into other genres:  Romantic comedyParanormal romance Fantasy romance Queer romance Christian romance Young adult romance New adult romance Historical romance Regency romance Contemporary romance Erotic romance Romanic suspense  The list goes on…and, much like love itself, there’s something for everyone.  Crime Subgenres But readers, and authors, don’t always stick to enjoying just one genre. As I’m an author of romantic comedies, you won’t be surprised to learn that romance is my favourite genre, but I am in no way adverse to any others. I have just finished reading The Affair by Hilary Boyd, an often dark thriller about a married woman having an affair, who then finds that her ex-lover begins to stalk her.  As most writers know, reading across all genres helps hone your craft enormously.  In recent times, crime and thriller novels have seen a huge resurgence in popularity. Perhaps due to the odd times we are living in, it is the appeal of good triumphing over evil and justice prevailing, which explains why so many readers are keen to lose themselves amongst their pages.  Cosy crime, described as a gentler form of the crime genre, has also seen a massive rise in readership in recent times. Authors like Richard Osman and M.C Beaton are hugely popular in this book category.   Let’s look at some more crime and thriller subgenres:  Cosy mysteries Classic detective/PI Police procedural Hard-boiled crime Thrillers (legal, medical, forensic, military) Suspense thriller Psychological thriller  Book Genre List There are frequent debates as to how many different book genres exist. During my research for this article, I read claims that there were approximately thirty-five varying book genres, whilst other articles insisted there were around fifty.   I have therefore pulled together a book genre list (excluding subgenres) which I consider to be the most prominent ones – with some details as to how they may be defined. Fantasy Categorised by works including elements of magic or the supernatural. This can encompass high fantasy, like Tolkien\'s Lord of the Rings and George R.R. Martin\'s Game of Thrones, or magical children’s books, like Rowling\'s Harry Potter. But it also includes steamy novels like the fae-filled series A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Sci-Fi Sci-fi stands for ‘science fiction,’ meaning it looks at outer worlds with a heavy leaning towards space, technology and science. Think aliens, time-travel or exploration to other planets. This includes anything from Star Wars to Ernest Cline\'s Ready, Player One. Speculative Fiction This can encompass all the above – basically anything with a twist of magic – but can also include fabulism and magical realism. That’s to say stories based in our world (past or present) with a hint of magic. Think Chocolat by Joanne Harris, or The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow. Horror When you say ‘horror book’ most people think of Stephen King – for good reason. Horror is known for its frightening, often graphic, elements and paranormal elements. Anything from The Shining to The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells. A subgenre of this is Gothic books, such as the classics Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Brontë\'s Wuthering Heights – think eerie and spooky, more than blood, guts and monsters.  Mystery Fiction that includes a mysterious occurrence and a gripping plot to be solved. This can include a good old-fashioned Agatha Christie ‘whodunnit’, or bestselling novels like Flynn\'s Gone Girl.  Crime Stories that incorporate a crime being committed and illustrate the protagonist’s struggle to solve it. Think Lee Child, P. D. James, and Martina Cole.  Historical Books defined by a time period from the past. Fictional stories based in a historical setting such as the Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn or Gabaldon\'s romantic Outlander novels set in eighteenth century Scotland. Or many of the books by Tracey Chevalier or Philippa Gregory.  Thriller A step up from Mystery, more edge-of-your-seat stuff, this fiction is often charged with lots of excitement. For example, a life-or-death scenario, huge stakes, cliff-hangers and action. Think of all of Dan Brown’s books, or modern classics such as Hawkins\' Girl on the Train or Larsson\'s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Western Fiction focusing on the American Frontier. Genre usually set in latter 19th and early 20th century, centred around the lives of cowboys and gunfighters. Although more modern stories, such as Proulx\'s Brokeback Mountain (as the tale of two cowboys falling in love set against the backdrop of bigotry and judgement) was a huge hit when it won the National Magazine Award for Fiction in 1998, and then went on to become a Hollywood blockbuster.  Romance Romantic relationships are at the heart of this genre (if you’ll pardon the pun!) Stories may follow various tropes including star-crossed lovers, love triangles, unlikely lovers, and soulmates. As we saw earlier, it can reflect anything from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes to Jackie Collins\' works. Erotica Fiction designed to arouse the reader with explicit sexual scenes and imagery. The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy was the highest grossing book series of the last decade.  Dystopian Part of the science-fiction genre, dystopian novels usually describe a frightening aspect of the future, such as oppressive governments. Think Sweeney-Baird\'s The End of Men, Atwood\'s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Mandel\'s Station Eleven. Literary Literary fiction concentrates on real-life issues and, unlike commercial fiction which is plot-driven, this form of storytelling is a lot more character-driven. It also often has a more complicated or convoluted story structure, using a more complex vocabulary. Sally Rooney has had great acclaim in this genre with her books Conversations With Friends, Normal People, and Beautiful World, Where Are You.  Children\'s Fiction This is a broad subject that includes everything from picture and board books for very young children, through to Middle Grade and Young Adult. Classic Middle Grade authors would include Roald Dahl, and more contemporary novels would include Wonder by R. J. Palacio, Sophie Anderson\'s The House With Chicken Legs, and The boy At The Back Of The Class by Onjali Q. Raúf. These books are written predominantly for 9-12 year olds, and often cover important life lessons.   Likewise, Young Adult (for 13-18 year olds) is very varied in style, themes and content, and includes books such as Angie Thomas\' The Hate You Give, Suzanne Collins\' The Hunger Games, and They Both Die At the End by Adam Silvera.  Why Is Genre Important? You might ask yourself whether the question of book genre really matters. Surely it’s the plot and characters that are important, not the category?   Well, genre does matter as it acts like a building block to establish where your book will sit in the market and what readership it’s likely to attract.  By having an awareness of what genre your book is, you’re able to carve out not only your own unique voice, but also an audience who enjoys reading that genre of novel. You are enabling your readers to identify your book as one which they will enjoy reading.   Being able to neatly categorise your book into a particular genre means you’re creating a strong author brand in a genre where other authors have already established themselves. You’re creating a foundation for (hopefully) solid book sales and letting agents, editors, booksellers, and readers know what to expect from your work.  For a book to therefore become successful, the writer, reader and marketer must all possess the same vision and understanding of what the story is and how it’s being told.  Agents And Editors It also makes prudent sense to have identified what book genre your novel is, when the time comes for you to pitch to agents and publishers. Targeting the right publisher and agent for your work, via the genres they publish and represent, means that you will be giving yourself the best possible chance of achieving representation and publication.   I once read a great quote from an agent who said, ‘Imagine yourself in a lift with the agent of your dreams. You have ten seconds to pitch your latest novel to them before they get out. How would you describe it to them?’ This elevator hook or pitch should draw in the agent, enticing them to ask for your manuscript. It would also, if it has done its job properly, give them an idea of where your book would sit alongside their current authors and in the market generally.  For instance - sending your completed manuscript to an agent who represents science fiction, when you have penned a rollercoaster 110k word espionage tale, is a waste of not only your time, but also that of the agent.  Booksellers And Librarians When someone is looking for a book, the first thing they do is head for the shelves categorised by genre. If the genre of your book isn’t clear, and it’s wrongly categorised, then it won’t reach your ideal market. Your Readers Establishing an author platform in the book genre you write in means you stand a good chance of readers of that genre returning for more. It’s therefore essential to create a certain anticipation in your prospective readership, so they know what they can expect from you. This is why authors often write in just one genre – and don’t spread out into others without either waiting to become very established or writing under a number of pseudonyms.  How To Identify The Genre Of Your Book To increase your novel’s chances of success, you, as the author, together with your publisher, agent and marketing team, should have a certain expectation as to where your book will fit into the market.  Where do you imagine your novel sitting on the shelf in a library or in a book store? Which other authors would it sit comfortably beside? Is it a heart-warming romantic comedy, in the vein of Jenny Colgan and Trisha Ashley, or a political thriller similar to that of Ken Follet and Jeffrey Archer?  Book genres often cause a degree of heated discussion amongst the writing, reading, publishing and agenting communities.  Everyone, to a greater or lesser degree, has a different idea of what each genre represents. The question of what each genre should carry, can elicit strong feelings, not to mention very differing views. Even book covers in particular genres can cause much debate about their style and substance. How often have you read quotes on the cover of books which have said things like, ‘For readers who love Maeve Binchy’ or ‘For fans of Stephen King?’ This is a publisher communicating a book’s genre to its readership.  This is a clever marketing tool, designed to appeal to the loyal readers of these authors, that your novel is in the same book genre as these giants of commercial fiction and therefore they would enjoy yours too. The most important thing is that you, your agent and editor agree (or, if you are self-published, you are consistent with your marketing). So, How Can You Define The Genre Of The Book You\'re Writing? My advice would be:  Read a lot of books and see what elements are featured, and which chime with yours. Familiarise yourself with the book genre options out there and how they relate to your book. Identify the genre elements that are contained within your novel. How do they reflect those? Pull together a short list of potential genres and also subgenres. How does your novel compare with others in those categories? Concentrate on the most relevant genre/subgenre for your book. Think about the audience of the books that you enjoy reading in your favourite genre. Are they the same readers who you think would enjoy your book?  Check out book genre labels which are often featured for each of the different book genres for Kindle reads. Do any of these relate to what you are writing? For example, words such as ‘dark’ and ‘conspiracy’ are often applied to books in the Thriller genre.   Remember, you’re not trying to explain the entirety of your book, you’re trying to advertise its aesthetic. You are aiming to create a similar air of anticipation amongst the book-buying public, so that they too will be drawn to your novel.  Once you have done that, take a look at your own book and ensure your writing style, characters, and plot stick to one (at most, two, genres). For instance, if your spy is getting more action in the sheets than the streets, ask yourself whether you are really writing a spy thriller – or a spy romance novel. Then amend accordingly.  Determine Your Genre Nailing the genre of your book is not the most important element of your writing journey – at least not to begin with.   However, the importance of identifying the most appropriate genre and subgenre of your book, should not be underestimated. Finding that commercial aspect to your writing and to your novels is crucial, if you are to identify a reading audience for your book and appeal to their reading tastes – not to mention hook the right agent and editor.  So, have a clear genre (and audience) in mind when you start plotting and writing, and make sure you don’t veer too much into too many other styles and categories. It’s the first step to ensuring your readers will one day find your book and savour every page – no matter which genre it ultimately finds a home in! More than ready to get the ball rolling with agents, but just need a little push? Or perhaps you’ve had a few rejections but aren’t sure why? Our Agent Submission Pack Review gives you detailed professional advice on how to perfect your submission and increase your chances of securing an agent.  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. 

L M West’s Self-Publishing Success

As writers ourselves, we know how daunting it can be to self-publish your first novel. Member L M West did just that, embarking on the mammoth task of learning all the skills effective self-publishing involves. Now, she\'s reaping the rewards. From editorial assessments to cover commissioning, she takes us through her process and explains why self-pub can often be the perfect fit. JW: Tell us a bit about your background as a writer. When did you start writing?  LMW: I left school in 1970 with three O levels and hadn\'t written anything before. After reading about a local woman who was accused of three instances of witchcraft, the story of my first novel, ‘This Fearful Thing’, was forming in my head - but I had no idea how to go about setting it down or how to actually write. I had done the research and when lockdown hit I thought I had nothing to lose by having a go. I started off by doing a short online course with Curtis Brown Creative called Write to the End of Your Novel. This was just what I needed as a complete beginner and really helped me get to grips with what I was trying to do.  Cover of \'This Fearful Thing\' by L M West JW: What made you change your mind about pursuing a traditional publishing route?   LMW: A lot of the information and courses out there are geared towards traditional publishing and that was what I thought was the ‘proper’ way to go. Two other writers I had ‘met’ on the CBC course (and who had become my Trusted Readers) both got agents within a week of each other and were over the moon. I hadn’t quite finished my book, but my synopsis was done and my query letter all ready. I was so thrilled for them and thought this was what I wanted as well. But then, about three weeks in, they started to mention deadlines, a possible title change, and a major re-think of some of the characters. It also became clear that you, as an author, do not always have the final say on things like the cover design. I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I don’t want this’. I had suddenly realised that I didn’t want the stress of deadlines and alterations, of the problems of getting an agent and maybe, even then, not getting a publishing deal. I also hadn’t realised just how long the traditional publishing process takes and I wanted my book out there sooner rather than later, so I looked again at self-publishing.  I just woke up one morning and thought ‘I don’t want this’. JW: Self-publishing involves a lot of plate-spinning - how did you go about learning all the skills required?   LMW: In the early stages I’d decided that self-publishing was far too complicated and would take up valuable writing time, but when I revisited the idea I began to look at it in more detail. This is where Jericho Writers came into its own for me. I paid to have a professional editorial report which was a complete game-changer and something I’d wholly recommend, as you need another – unbiased - opinion on your work before putting it out there. I think self-pub has still got a bit of a stigma around it. With this in mind, I wanted to make my book as professional as possible so I also commissioned a cover from a local printmaker/illustrator. Both these things were costly, and I did hesitate before committing to them, but they helped make the book the success it’s been. It became stronger and much tighter for the editorial report, and I’ve had so many lovely comments about the cover design, so I’m pleased I made the investment.   I paid to have a professional editorial report which was a complete game-changer and something I’d wholly recommend, as you need another – unbiased - opinion on your work before putting it out there. I Googled the skills I needed and decided to publish via Amazon KDP as there is no up-front cost. The process was easier than I thought as the KDP site talks you through the process in simple stages, and I resisted the urge to check it \'one more time’! I decided to publish in both Kindle and paperback format and interestingly, so far I have sold about 75% paperbacks to 25% Kindle copies - I think it’s the cover! It’s when you press the ‘publish’ button that you realise it’s now sitting in a pond with six million other books – how will anyone know it’s there?  JW: What was your experience marketing yourself as an author?   LMW: I commissioned a small company to build a website for me, which was another investment. But it’s the first place your readers see and hear about you so I think, like the book, it must look professional. I also don’t have the skills to insert things like Amazon links and a mailing list form, so it was well worth having someone else do it for me. I was very lucky too that, on the day I published, Richard Osman had just been awarded Writer of the Year and there was a lot of discussion going on about that. I’m a member of a couple of Facebook book groups so took a chance and posted on one that today I was happier than Richard Osman as, at age 67 and with no further education, I had just published a novel. I didn’t do a direct link to Amazon, just put an image of the cover. An hour later I had five likes and was really pleased. By lunchtime the likes had turned into hundreds and the comments were rolling in. I replied to anyone who had put more than ‘congratulations’ or ‘well done’ and so spent what turned into four days responding to Facebook posts! In that first week, I had over 1,800 likes and nearly 700 comments. The sales on Amazon soared and I was off. I also approached local bookshops who were very encouraging. I underestimated the time this would all take though, especially as I have to distribute the books myself. However, it means you get to establish a relationship with bookshop owners, which has been a joy. I did a book event and found I really enjoyed standing up in front of a room and speaking about my book.  You get to establish a relationship with bookshop owners, which has been a joy. JW: Do you have any advice for aspiring writers wondering whether self-publishing is for them?   LMW: Jericho Writers have masses of information about self-publishing, and I wish I had seen this before I started out - it would have saved me a lot of time! There is plenty there to help you decide if self-pub is for you, but my advice is to give it a go. If you have a strong book, professionally produced and formatted, that has a great story, then just try. And if you get stuck (as I did several times) you can email the staff at Jericho Writers and they will always help. The support is there, and the information. I don’t regret it at all. I never thought I could do it and am very proud that my book is selling steadily and that book two is written and being edited. I won’t hesitate to self-publish this as well.   If you have a strong book, professionally produced and formatted, that has a great story, then just try. The support is there, and the information. I don’t regret it at all. About Laina Laina’s first novel, ’This Fearful Thing’ was published in May 2021 and is available on Amazon. Her website can be found here. Laina lives in Suffolk with her husband. Interested in self-publishing? Take a look at our Simply Self-Publish Course with award-winning author Debbie Young - the perfect way to go from publishing novice to indie-expert. If you’d like some help with your writing, try our copy-editing service.

What Is Chekhov’s Gun?

You may have heard of Chekhov, and you may even have heard of his gun, but what does that have to do with storytelling and plotting a novel? In this comprehensive article we will teach you everything you need to know about Chekhov’s Gun (with examples), and explore similar literary principles and devices. What Does Chekhov’s Gun Mean? The principle of Chekhov’s Gun (sometimes called Chekhov’s Law or Chekhov’s Gun Law) is not to introduce anything that won’t eventually be important to the plot. This principle not only helps writers cut down on extraneous and unnecessary details in their stories, but ensures readers will be satisfied by the end. Drawing attention to something that doesn’t have any significance to the story can frustrate the reader and waste precious words in your novel. Essentially, the principle enables writers to generate clear plots by considering the significance of everything they mention in their story, and tackles the over-symbolism in literature. (The exception to the rule is a red herring – but we’ll look at that a little bit later on.) So who was Chekhov and why is everyone so interested in his gun? History of Chekhov’s Gun Chekhov’s Gun is a dramatic principle that, unsurprisingly, comes from Anton Chekhov - a Russian playwright and short story-writer in the late 1800s. While Chekhov leaves behind a great literary and theatrical legacy, he is probably most well-known for this dramatic principle. In a letter to Aleksandr Semenovich, Chekhov once said: One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn\'t going to go off. It\'s wrong to make promises you don\'t mean to keep. Similarly, he once wrote: Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. 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. If it\'s not going to be fired, it shouldn\'t be hanging there. Intended as advice for young playwrights, this principle is still widely cited and utilised today. Chekhov used this principle in his play, The Seagull, where there is a literal gun that gets introduced at the start and then fired at the end (hence the name given to the principle). In Act One, Konstantin Treplyev uses a rifle to kill a seagull. In the final act, Konstantin uses that rifle to kill himself. Significance is placed on the rifle in the beginning which draws the audience’s attention to the item, and then the rifle has significant impact at the climax of the play. The audience is satisfied, there are no loose ends, and the principle has done its job. Chekhov’s Gun vs Foreshadowing If you get the concept of Chekhov’s Gun and foreshadowing confused then you aren’t alone. Though they have similarities, they do also have some big differences. Chekhov’s Gun is the dramatic principle whereby the writers won’t make ‘false promises’. That you must only draw attention to something if its significance will be revealed later in the story. Foreshadowing is the literary device where the writer drops hints that the reader will probably overlook until the end, or even until a second read through. This can be something fairly innocuous that hints at a bigger plot development later on. Though Chekhov’s Gun is a form of foreshadowing, the ‘gun’ (item, person, etc) has a direct impact on the plot by the end of the story. While traditional foreshadowing merely hints at the outcome of the plot rather than having a direct influence. Let’s look at an example: In Othello there are examples of both Chekhov’s Gun and foreshadowing. Desdemona’s handkerchief acts as the ‘gun’ here. In Act III Desdemona drops her handkerchief. Iago later finds it and uses it to trick Othello into believing Desdemona has been unfaithful. This is an example of Chekhov’s Gun – Shakespeare draws significant attention to Desdemona’s dropped handkerchief, which then plays a crucial role at a critical moment of the plot. Foreshadowing appears in the play when Desdemona sings a song to her maidservant about a lover who goes mad. This foreshadows the outcome of the play as Othello, Desdemona’s husband, descends into madness and kills her. This moment drops hints for the climax of the plot, but does not have any influence on the plot. How is Chekhov’s Gun Used in Writing? In order to achieve the principle of Chekhov’s Gun there are certain things you need to do as a writer. 1. You must first set up the ‘gun’. The ‘gun’ can be anything potentially impactful in your story, such as an object, a character, an event, or a place. 2. To set up the ‘gun’ you should draw attention to it early in your story, giving it significance and ensuring the reader notices it. You can draw attention to this item multiple times if you wish between the initial introduction and the conclusion of the story, but that’s up to author preference. 3. To round off this principle, the ‘gun’ must then ‘go off’. The item must return by the end of the book and have a significant impact to the conclusion of the story. The item must play a crucial role in order to truly achieve the principle of Chekhov’s Gun. The exceptions to this rule are red herrings and MacGuffins. Red Herring: The exception to the rule of not introducing or emphasising anything that won’t be significant to the plot is the red herring. A red herring is something that distracts from the true plot, and makes the reader guess at the conclusion (it must still be plausible). Red herrings are often used in thrillers, crime stories, and whodunnits, when the author wants to highlight something which makes the reader think it’s significant to the plot, when in actuality it’s there to distract and trick the reader. This literary device is most commonly used in novels where the reader is busy ‘sleuthing’ and purposely looking for clues. It should be noted that a red herring should still have some casual impact on the story, but not significant. The dead ends can’t be haphazardly placed with no tie-in with the overall plot. Red herrings are very common within Agatha Christie novels, particularly And Then There Were None. Ten people are invited to an island under mysterious circumstances, and are killed one by one. There are several convincing red herrings throughout the novel that lead the reader to guess the killer, but each time the new prime suspect is killed. Christie achieves the ultimate plot twist by having the actual murderer \'die\' earlier on in the novel (a death he faked so convincingly that neither the characters nor readers doubt it), so when the reveal occurs it ends up being a twist that no one could have guessed. MacGuffin: MacGuffin is a plot device which many claim is the opposite of Chekhov’s Gun. It’s an object, event, or character that serves to set and keep the plot in motion but actually lacks significance to the outcome. This is usually a goal or object of desire for the protagonist, but whether or not it is achieved has no influence on the plot. An excellent example of a MacGuffin is the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. It seems of vital importance to the characters but the object inside the briefcase is never revealed to the audience so the object is of little actual consequence to the plot. How Chekhov’s Gun can be effective in a series: Used effectively, Chekhov’s Gun creates a cyclical and satisfying conclusion to a story. If you were to follow the Save The Cat plotting beats, for example, Chekhov’s Gun would go off in the last 10% of the book and mirror the first 10% of the novel (either through setting, actions, theme, or dialogue – but with a twist). This way the reader/audience is happy, there are no loose ends, and the plot makes sense. This principle has been used in books and on screen since its inception. Not only can this literary principle be used in standalone novels and movies, but also as part of a series. If an item is mentioned in book one, then by book 3 you expect it to come into play again. The same principles that work within one story, can work across a number of novels in a series. Let’s look at some examples of Chekhov’s Gun in books and on screen. 5 Book Examples of Chekhov’s Gun Great Expectations In Dickens’ Great Expectations, the ‘gun’ is the character Magwitch. He is introduced significantly at the start of the novel due to his interactions with Pip. Enough mystery surrounds him that the reader is interested in his story, but then many years pass and he isn’t mentioned again. When it’s finally revealed that Magwitch has been Pip’s financial supporter this is an unexpected but satisfying twist. The reader has forgotten about this character in the interim but the second he is revealed we instantly remember him again. The use of Chekhov’s Gun here, the initial spotlight on Magwitch and then the big reveal, is both shocking but satisfying to the reader. The perfect plot twist. Ready Player One In Ready Player One, the ‘gun’ is a coin. Specifically, the 1981 Quarter Artefact that protagonist Wade Watts collects from a Pac-Man machine after playing a perfect game. He takes the coin and doesn’t think about it again. There is enough emphasis placed on this moment that the reader remembers it, but not enough that they guess the climax of the book. The coin turns out to be an extra life which enables Watts’ avatar to survive an explosion and continue his quest. This brings about the conclusion of the story and ties up all loose ends in a satisfying way. All the elements of the story were relevant and essential to the plot. The Hunger Games In The Hunger Games, the ‘gun’ is Katniss’ knowledge of poisonous plants. This demonstrates how the ‘gun’ doesn’t have to be an object but can be a character trait. This knowledge is explained and emphasised multiple times throughout the novel, and its significance is revealed at the climax of the novel as she uses poisonous berries to trick the Capitol into releasing both her and Peeta. A Gentleman in Moscow In Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow, the ‘gun’ is a pair of duelling pistols. Count Rostov discovers a pair of duelling pistols hidden behind a wall in the hotel manager’s office. The significance of this discovery is revealed in the climax of the novel as Rostov uses one of the pistols to intimidate the Bishop into destroying secret files on the employees of the hotel, and locks him up in order to resume his plan to escape. The reader already knows about the pistols, and so it makes sense when Rostov later uses one in order to escape. Harry Potter The Harry Potter series contains multiple examples of Chekhov’s Gun, which Rowling utilises within individual books and across the series as a whole. Examples include the mention of bezoar in Harry’s first potions class which is later used in Book 6 to save Ron when he drinks poisoned mead. Also in Book 1 is the introduction of the Snitch caught in Harry’s first Quidditch match which becomes significant again in the final book as the hiding place for the resurrection stone. These are just two of many Chekhov Gun examples occurring within the series. It’s satisfying to the reader when the solution to a problem involves something that we’ve seen before. 5 Screen Examples of Chekhov’s Gun The Shawshank Redemption There are multiple examples of a ‘gun’ within The Shawshank Redemption, namely a poster, rock hammer, and bible. These objects are highlighted when they’re introduced at the beginning of the movie but seem fairly innocuous at the time. Andy requests a poster of Rita Hayworth, supposedly because he’s lonely, a rock hammer for his boredom as he likes rock carving, and a bible, which wouldn’t raise any eyebrows. These items actually have another use which we find out at the climax of the film. The rock hammer is used to dig a tunnel out of his cell (and he hides the hammer in the bible), with the escape tunnel covered by the poster. The reveal is both shocking and satisfying to the audience. The items are only ever alluded to as for their false use, and none of the other characters even know their real use, so when the twist is revealed it has the required effect on the audience. Breaking Bad In the Breaking Bad episode “Box Cutter” the ‘gun’ is, surprise surprise, a box cutter. At the beginning of the episode we see the box cutter, which is then later used as a weapon by Gus to kill Victor. It’s an ordinary object that you wouldn’t be surprised to see in the setting, so the climax is shocking to the audience. The Lost Boys In The Lost Boys the ‘gun’ is the antlers and fence post in the protagonists’ Grandpa’s house. He has a taxidermy collection so the antlers on the wall are unsurprising, and he’s building a fence in the garden with wooden posts, which are appropriate to both the character and setting and, once again, appear completely innocuous. These items are focused on early in the movie, but disregarded by the audience because they simply appear to serve as character building. Yet these items are key to the climax of the movie. Michael, the protagonist, defeats David, a vampire, by impaling him on the antlers, and the head vampire is killed by one of the fence posts as the Grandpa drives through the building and the post flies off the hood of his Jeep. The solution to their problem was highlighted right at the start of the movie, but no one would have guessed – least of all the audience! Shaun of the Dead In Shaun of the Dead, the ‘gun’ is an actual gun – the Winchester rifle. At the start of the film Shaun and Ed are arguing about whether the Winchester rifle mounted above the bar in the Winchester pub is real. Later on in the film Shaun uses the gun to hit the zombified pub owner and it goes off, proving not only that it is a real gun, but its significance is highlighted as it ends up playing a crucial role in Shaun defending himself. Signs In M Night Shyamalan’s Signs, the ‘gun’ is represented by glasses of water and Morgan’s asthma. Graham’s daughter Bo leaves glasses of water around the house (she believes the water is contaminated after being left so gets a new glass each time she wants a drink.) At the climax of the movie they discover that the invading aliens are vulnerable to water, and the significance of these glasses of water becomes immediately apparent in defeating the attacking aliens. Similarly Morgan’s asthma, alluded to in many ordinary ways throughout the film, has a massive significance in saving his life at the climax of the film. His airways are closed due to an attack, meaning he is unable to inhale the toxic gas from the alien and survives the murder attempt. Both of these things (the glasses of water and the asthma) are innocuous and ordinary so it’s surprising to the audience when they end up having a big impact on the plot. Conclusion Having outlined the importance of Chekhov’s Gun in storytelling, we hope you are now confident to utilise this literary principle in your own writing. Go ahead and create an exciting and satisfying cyclical plot for your readers, and remember to cut out extraneous and unnecessary detail in your story. Remember – if you shine a spotlight on something at the beginning of your story, make sure it helps save the day at the end! 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. 

Tips For Authors Getting Headshots

You\'ve finally finished your book! After months of writing, followed by toing and froing with your beta readers and editor, the book is ready to go to print. But just as you\'re thinking of jetting away somewhere hot and having a much-deserved rest, your publisher (or Amazon Central) asks you for an author headshot.   You could give them that photo of you at your cousin\'s wedding, or the one work took for their website. Right?   Wrong.   In this guide, I\'ll be explaining how author headshots function, why having the perfect one matters, and I\'ll show you how to organise a professional photoshoot, get the right look, and make the best use of the result. I’ll also link to some real-life author headshot examples. The Importance Of Author Headshots Like any aspect of self-branding, the writer headshot should never be overlooked. However open-minded we like to think of ourselves, people make snap decisions about each other and what they have to offer based on what they look like. This also holds just as true for an author on the back of a book, as well as people we meet face to face.   This is both bad news and good. While a poor author portrait could put potential readers off your work, a good one can do the opposite. It\'s an excellent opportunity to communicate your genre, tone, and style. And it\'s in your control!  This is why it makes sense to invest time and money hiring a professional photographer for a photoshoot (unless you have a generous friend in the business who will do you a favour, or you’re exceptionally good at selfies and have a well-lit studio at home).  So where do you start?  Author Headshot Tips Find The Right Photographer  Traditional publishers will occasionally arrange author headshots themselves. Usually, however, it is left to you to choose a good local photographer. Make sure you follow any specific instructions from your publishing house – and if you\'ve collaborated with somebody else on this book, you will both need your own photo.   The ideal photographer will have taken this kind of portrait before, and they should be able to show you some of their previous work to help you decide. Take a look at the photographer’s online portfolio or check out the name of photographers that took author headshots you like from other local writers.  Are They Right For You? Choosing a photographer may not be a life-long commitment, but you are paying them to take photos that will be defining you as an author – not to mention spending a morning or afternoon with them. It’s important you feel comfortable around them. Meet them first to discuss your requirements or have a quick Zoom call to get an idea if you will work well together (after all, you may need more photos in the future). If you’re not happy, walk away. The more comfortable your photographer makes you feel, the better the results will be.  Calculate The Best Package For Your Budget Author headshots can cost thousands of pounds or dollars. However, the average cost is between £100 and £150 (US$100 and $250). Location shoots with multiple looks and outfit changes are likely to cost more than straightforward studio shots in front of a single background.  Confirm the price and what to expect within the package. Ideally, you want to own the images you choose (the alternative is paying a licence fee every time you use one). Find out whether you will need to pay for each photo separately or if the photographer will give you all the images in a digital file.   You may want your photos retouched to remove blemishes (dark circles under the eyes, for instance). The need for this may only become obvious after the shoot and add to the cost as it’s not always included. So be prepared for that.  Create A Good Brief  Decide the impression you want to make with the headshots and communicate this clearly to your photographer. What do you need to consider?  Research your competition To get an idea of what style of author portrait photo is right for you, look online at the Amazon pages and websites of other writers in your genre for inspiration.   What are you trying to get across in your author portrait? Are you fun and lively, or moody and dark? Is your work serious literary fiction, or do you write light and fun rom coms? The photos on the website of a picture book author will be very different from the one Ian Rankin uses for his crime books, for example.   Black-and-white or colour?  While black-and-white works well for high-brow literary types, most commercial authors choose colour. A traditional publisher may make this decision for you. The average release from Galley Beggar press wins at least one literary award, so it\'s no surprise the author photos on their website are all in monochrome. But bear in mind, if you wish to use the same photo for press, many magazines ask for a colour photo. Some writers use a number of images from the same shoot for various things.  Location, Setting, And Background The focus of the headshot should always be on the author\'s face. Thus, many writers use a plain studio background, particularly for online stores like Amazon. However, others use an appropriate setting, hoping it will help communicate their brand.   Mary Berry, famous cookery book writer and presenter of The Great British Bake Off, stands in a white kitchen for her author portrait. Robert Thorogood’s photo is in front of Marlow, the UK setting for his new cosy crime series. Cathy Cassidy, a Young Adult writer, is pictured in the back of a VW campervan.   The dark red wall behind Rory Sutherland’s Twitter profile, clashes with the bright red jacket he’s wearing. The overall effect is unexpected for a business guru, yet his latest release \'Alchemy\' has the tagline, \'The Magic of Original Thinking in a World of Mind-numbing Conformity.\' He’s not trying to be corporate.   Plain studio shots work particularly well for serious black-and-white photos. But remember, an entirely plain white background flatters very few people.  Image Styling: Be Yourself If I was being entirely myself in a writer headshot, I wouldn\'t brush my hair. That kind of honesty, however, would probably stop me selling books.   I\'m not suggesting you lie about who you are, but it’s important to project how you wish to be perceived. Think of yourself as the main character in a book about your writing career. What does this person wear? What expression and mannerisms do they use? Are they business-like, fun, or very serious?  Outfit Even authors going for ‘zany’ should keep their outfits as simple as they can. The safest plan is to wear one or two layers of plain clothing with an open collar. Busy patterns will detract from your face, as will too much jewellery. (The shy may see that as a good thing, but it isn\'t).  Period costumes may well suggest historical romance, but they will detract from the author’s face – and it’s important that your readers (and the press) know what you look like. Period romance author, Evie Dunmore, gets it right. Her outfit suggests a Victorian or Edwardian woman by wearing three simple items - a lace top, a wide-brimmed hat, and a pearl ornament in her hair. Not quite fancy dress, but enough of a nod to her genre.  Different make-up and clothes will look better in colour or black-and-white. If you\'re not sure which will work best, play around with both looks. You can always ask to have more than one photo taken at the shoot, but as discussed, this will increase time and possibly cost. Save time and money by taking selfies at home and asking friends and family what they think suits you best. Hairstyle This is probably not the time for a radical new hairstyle unless you\'re given to eye-catching changes. Ideally, you want readers to be able to recognise you at author events. Even if you don\'t think you’ll attend real-life book signings, you may want to appear online in a Facebook live, for instance. So if you\'re usually blonde and wear your hair back in a ponytail, do that. Now is not the time to try out a bright pink beehive. Lighting If the shoot is outside, the photographer will probably make the most of the natural light. Depending on the time of day this may be warm, soft, and flattering light. Let them decide the best time of day to achieve the look you are going for. For instance, during the late morning or early afternoon, there\'s usually a yellow light with few harsh shadows. And the ‘golden hour’, the period just after sunrise or before sunset, gives a red light and softer look.   Wherever the shoot, light on the face makes you look fresher and more approachable, a good thing for almost every author. If you write crime or horror, an arty portrait with your face in shadow may seem like a good idea. Take care, however. You don’t want to be confused with one of your villains! Practice Your Pose Body language matters, and so does being relaxed in front of a camera. This is the time where the mirror is your friend.   Choose a pose that feels natural. Don\'t force a smile or anything that doesn\'t feel right. If you\'re not comfortable, it will come across in your photos.   Consider if you\'re going to have your hands in the picture and what you can do with them to add to your message. For example, you could rest your chin and hands on a flat surface for an informal feel. Or hold your chin to look like a professional with good advice. Some authors cross their arms, but remember that depending on your genre this can look defensive and may make you look unapproachable.  Again, take a look at what other authors are doing. Some writers opt for the close up to be framed so no arms make it into the shot (a lot less pressure). Props You could also think about using an appropriate prop (and whether it would make you more or less comfortable during the shoot). Perhaps, you could hold your own book, or the Golden Dagger you were awarded last year. Again, the emphasis should be on you, so keep it simple and avoid cliché. Only use a prop if it will add to your overall message.   Also bear in mind whether this photo is just for one book, or you want it to be used for a number of years. It doesn’t always help to use a photo of you holding up your debut when five books down the line you are known for a lot more.  Rest Before The Shoot A photoshoot may seem like a largely passive activity, but how you feel on the day will affect how you look and come across on camera. Avoid those dark under-eye circles by drinking plenty of water and getting a good night\'s sleep beforehand.  Look Directly At The Camera Many headshots break this rule, but it helps create a sense of connection with the viewer. Again, ask yourself if you want to come across as a whimsical, mysterious writer or direct and approachable.  Be Relaxed The photographer will do their best to put you at ease, but there are also practical things you can do to help yourself on the day.   Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the shoot, so you\'re not rushing.   Remind yourself that however badly it turns out, your author headshot is nowhere near as important as writing a good book. And the photographer will take lots of photos, so you can always discard those you hate at the end. If it puts your mind at rest, ask to take a look at the first few shots to see if they are working.  And, going back to acting like a character in your own book, if it helps hide behind your new persona. Yesterday you were a nervous introverted debut writer, but today you are a famous author - cool, calm, and collected.  Listen To Your Photographer They should be able to guide you to an author headshot that works. If they say that a certain pose works best, listen to them. Take direction. They know what works.  Ask For Black-And-White Copies Of Your Colour Photos This increases your choice later on. You can convert the photos digitally yourself, but it’s usually better done by a professional.   Select The Right Images You may be tempted to choose the image that makes you look fifteen years younger or like a supermodel - but the best author headshot is the one that conveys the right message and reinforces your \'brand\'.   Ask other people to tell you honestly what they think, especially if they read the genre you write. Why not enlist the help of your followers on social media or your publisher’s publicity department? This can be a fun way to connect with readers and see yourself through their eyes.  Use The Same Photo Across All Of Social Media Consistency is key when it comes to self-branding. Whatever image you choose to use on your website or the back of the print book, use the same photo across online stores and social media. This will make it easier for readers to recognise you as the same person and, hopefully, increase your number of follows.  But, like most rules, some are made to be broken. Picture book author, Julia Donaldson, uses a headshot with a plain studio background for her Amazon page but she’s surrounded by soft toy versions of her characters on her website. There’s a particularly good photo of her reading to the Gruffalo.   So, if your Linked In profile is serious and you are using it to connect to the industry to sell them a self-help book you are pitching – perhaps don’t use the same sultry image of yourself that appears on the website of your raunchy erotica series.  Keep Your Photos Up-To-Date Whatever the temptation to stay eternally young in your reader\'s minds, you should upload a new book author headshot every two to three years – especially if you change genre or publisher. As your career evolves, so should your photos. To Summarise… All in all, preparing for the perfect author portrait shoot is simple.  Hire a professional, brief them well, prepare your look and setting beforehand, and relax during the shoot. If you follow this advice, you should have a great headshot to add to the rest of your marketing package.  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. 

Top 12 Best Self-Publishing Companies

Self-publishing is no mean feat. After the herculean task of writing your book, it may seem easy to go at it yourself. Maybe you\'ve already explored the option of traditional publishing, and it isn\'t for you. Perhaps you\'re burnt out from the hunt for an agent. Either way, if you\'re reading this, self-publishing may well be the gleaming light across the dock enticing you with promising book sales and a sense of achievement. Going it alone is admirable, but there\'s also lots of things you must be aware of first. Cutting corners may lead to you being blinded by less than virtuous offers. Integrity in book publishing is not a lost art - you just have to know where to look. This article will show you the best self-publishing sites, platforms, and companies around to help you (help yourself) and get your book into readers\' hands - the non-traditional way... What Do Self-Publishing Companies Do? Self-publishing companies are in essence service providers. You bring the completed project and all its frills, they supply the technology/logistics needed to publish it. But there are different levels of service you can opt for. At the most basic (and essential), you can sign up with a pure retailer - notably Amazon. Amazon obviously has the power to reach all the readers in the world (and it\'s extraordinary to think that all that power can be at your disposal - for free.) But if you self-publish with Amazon, the whole business of cover-design, blurb-writing, pricing decisions, marketing and so on are for you and you alone. Amazon is not going to get involved. At the other end of the spectrum, you have companies that will do all of that for you ... but at a cost. That cost is measured in dollars, certainly, but also, those companies don\'t care about book sales the way you do. If they sell you a cover design that you\'re happy with, then they\'ve made their money. Job done. They don\'t actually care whether that book cover generates sales for you or not. In other words, the more you get others to do, the more you are putting your book into the hands of people who care less than you. For that reason, it\'s worth taking a look at the range of options out there ... Types of Self-Publishing Companies Rest easy, for self-publishing companies will not own the rights to your book - you will. They will typically take a share of the royalties, however. When deciding who to go with to publish your book, it\'s important to consider the differences between the three main types of publishing service companies and the roles they each fulfil. Retailers Think of retailers as online bookstores. They give your book a spot on the digital shelf, so to speak. If they\'re a big enough name, you\'ll publish your book through a branded ebook publishing platform. You\'ll share the royalties, just like you would if you went with an aggregator. Examples include: Amazon KDP, iBooks Author, Barnes & Nobles Press, Kobo Writing Life Aggregators Aggregators distribute your book to multiple retailers simultaneously. They often charge you for this convenience. They take their share of the royalties only after your book has made its sales. Examples include: KDP Print, PublishDrive, Smashwords, Draft2Digital Full-Service Companies Full-services companies are the whole package. They offer editing, formatting, interior and cover design, blurb, and distribution all rolled into one. Just because you\'re going the self-publishing route, doesn\'t mean you have do all the publishing heavy-work yourself. However it\'s worth noting that this option is best suited to those looking to sell only a few copies of their book—and not with significant commercial success in mind. Examples include: BookBaby, Outskirts Press, Matador, White Magic Studios Vanity Publishers and Hybrid Publishers We should probably also include a note about vanity publishers. These guys are the snakes and serpents of publishing. They essentially pretend to be a real publishing company contemplating the commercial publication of your book. Inevitably, however, you\'ll be told that the \"editorial board\" or something other fictional entity decided they couldn\'t quite afford the risk of going it alone. So you\'ll be invited to spend some quite large sum of money on \"partnership publishing\", or something like that. If it smells bad, it is bad. Just say no - with emphasis. If you feel like adding a cuss-word or two when you say so, then we won\'t be offended Hybrid publishers are a somewhat cleaner version of the same thing. They\'ll ask for money to get you published, but be more candid about likely outcomes. If you encounter honesty and openness, the publisher may well be trustworthy. If you encounter heavy selling and a lack of candour, then avoid, avoid, avoid. Self-Publishing vs Traditional Publishing Some authors will instinctively know which publishing route to take for their book. For others, it may be a tougher decision. Traditional publishing often follows a linear pathway from submission, to finding an agent, to having that agent pitch to publishers on your behalf, to the publisher buying the rights to your work and distributing it as widely as possible across various territories and mediums. When trad published, your work has a whole host of people behind it who all have a vested interest in its success. You, on the other hand, are now an empty-nester taking a more hands-off approach to the future of your book. Will you be involved much in the rest of the process? Well: up to a point. You\'ll never have the same level of control - and you\'ll never get the same level of royalties. A self-pubbed ebook will give the author royalties of 70%. The same number for an ebook sold via a trad publisher through an agent will typically be under 15%. It\'s that stunning difference which has powered the whole self-pub revolution. And while good book sales are simply too multifactorial to summarise neatly, the fact is that self-published authors typically make more money than trad-published ones. There are more million-dollar a year indie authors, than there are million-dollar a year trad authors. The same is true if you knock one zero off that number, or two zeroes. Yes, you can make money as a trad author, but if money is your only metric, you should think seriously about self-pub. But the money doesn\'t come by itself. It\'s not enough to write books, you have to market them. You have to write books that people want to read. You have to think hard about the genres that do best as self-pub books. And the money won\'t flow without a little investment upfront. And you won\'t make money until you have a little stable of books to offer, not just the one. And of course, it\'s unlikely that you\'ll see your book in a physical bookstore. So yes, there are challenges - and ones that you need to take seriously. But if you want total creative control and the best chance of making money, self-pub is just too good an option not to take seriously. Top Self-Publishing Companies If you are going to go the self-publishing route, then take a look at our compilation of the 12 best self-publishing companies and what they have to offer: Retailers: 1. Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Amazon\'s KDP is the kingpin of self-publishing companies, where most e-book sales take place (about 85% of the total). To use this service, you must first create a Kindle account and fill in your tax information. Uploading an ebook-ready manuscript is quick and easy after that point. You have to do it all yourself, but the user-friendly interface invites every author to give it a go. It\'s not the only piece of the puzzle, though. Amazon can step in with their KDP Select program which helps you market your book with deals, though it will own your book\'s exclusive rights for whatever period of time you choose to use this additional service. Furthermore, Amazon also offers one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services - KDP Print. To get your book turned into a paperback and distributed, all you have to do is upload a formatted PDF and cover design - made even easier if you already sell ebooks on KDP. This service is technically an aggregator and will get your book (as a paperback or ebook) to other bookstores and retailers if you opt in to \'Expanded Distribution\' via your KDP dashboard. Know this: One of the biggest decisions you\'ll be making is whether to publish \'wide\' (via every retailer) or \'narrow\' (via Amazon only.) It sounds obvious that you should want every retailer on your side, except that exclusivity with Amazon confers some powerful benefits. As a rough guide, we\'d suggest that you publish narrow to start with, then reconsider your strategy once you have two or three books out there. 2. Apple Books (iBooks Author/Pages) iBooks Author is the second-best free-to-upload self-publishing outfit - but it\'s a distant, distant second best. No sane person would consider working exclusively with Apple. It\'s only a question of who you sell with in addition to Amazon - if anyone at all. Also, do note that Mac users have a monopoly on this service, however, as you have to be a Mac user to publish there and take advantage of the 70% royalties rate. If you are already assimilated into Apple\'s eco-system, you can upload your manuscript from Pages, which as of mid-2020 replaces the iBooks software. If not, you first need to use an aggregator to publish (in industry-standard ePub format) to the Apple Store. iBooks Author pairs nicely with Vellum, a free-to-download formatting software made for Mac with purchasable packages for exporting your ebook. It has great features and you can even publish in paperback with Vellum Press. 3. Kobo Writing Life Another retailer on this list - Canadian Rakuten Kobo\'s self-publishing division \'Writing Life\' - accounts for 25% of Canadian ebook sales, as well as having a significant international presence. You might have also heard of their e-reading device. The simple, step-by-step publishing process is attractive, as well as the inbuilt sales analytics tool on their platform. With its maximum royalty rate and global outreach, Kobo\'s self-publishing program is very popular. But again, don\'t publish via Kobo only. Either publish with Amazon exclusively, or with Amazon, Apple, Kobo and everyone else. For most (all?) newer authors, it\'ll make most sense to attack those smaller retailers via an aggregator. 4. Barnes & Noble Press Free to upload, 70% royalties, an easy-to-use interface. But B&N is fourth on this list for a reason. Add it as part of a \'wide\' sales strategy. Don\'t think about it, even for a moment, as an exclusive partner. Aggregators: 5. Draft2Digital Draft2Digital is a service which takes care of your book formatting for you. Getting your book published with them is easy: set up a free account, upload your manuscript, choose from a wide range of vendors, set your own list price, manage your book sales and track your metrics. They take care of the rest and provide ongoing support. If you want to publish \'wide\', then we recommend: Setting up a direct account with Amazon KDP. You always want direct control of your Amazon account. It\'s too important to entrust to anyone else.Handling your wide sales via Draft2Digital. D2D is the best of the aggregators and is a nice easy way to enter all the retailers other than Amazon Customer service at D2D is great and the tools are slick and constantly being improved. Recommended. 6. Smashwords Smashwords was one of the first aggregators to come about, and it distributes to just about everywhere BUT Amazon. Its cut is 15% and that doesn\'t include formatting - you\'ve got to do that yourself! With a little effort, it\'s a wonderful resource and can teach the average independent book author all they need to know about branding, marketing, and publishing. Smashwords has seen a lot of competition lately - namely Draft2Digital who does distribute via Amazon AND formats your book for you. Smashwords has traditionally been strong in the romance area, but even there, we don\'t think it\'s the best option for you today. 7. PublishDrive PublishDrive boasts connections with over 4500 publishers and over 400 stores - with excellent international distribution. The interface is used to check in on all your royalties and sales, which will be slashed by 10% if you don\'t pay to subscribe to their service and keep all of your royalties. Luckily PublishDrive has 24/7 customer support to help you keep all those plates spinning. A good alternative to D2D. 8. Ingram Spark Ingram Spark is the only meaningful competitor to KDP Print worth mentioning. This company reaches a great amount of readers with its global print services independent of Amazon. They can sell your book through 40,000+ retailers and libraries—in stores and online. For this reason, IngramSpark provides one of the top print-on-demand (POD) services, though does not sell direct and is instead technically an aggregator for print. Full-Service Companies: 9. BookBaby Using BookBaby for self-publishing authors means purchasing one of their Self-Publishing packages. These vary depending on how much help you need with design, marketing, print, and distribution - although they are very good at helping writers get seen on Amazon. You can rest assured that the professional care taken to perfect your pages for print comes at no extra cost other than that which you pay upfront. Royalties suffer slightly however at 50% if you choose to sell directly to readers via BookBaby\'s Bookshop. BookBaby boasts a global distribution network of its own as well as offering an Amazon Priority Service to further expand your reach with KPD Select. 10. Outskirts Press Outskirts Press\' full-service package offers much of the same, with the caveat of having fewer distributors for your book as well as more limited expert services to get your work to standard before distribution. There\'s just as much support, but less tailoring involved with your package. 11. Matador Unlike the other full-service companies on this list, Troubador\'s Matador caters more to the UK\'s indie authors. They distribute through the traditional channels as well as POD. They are choosier about their clientele, only taking on 75% of those who would like to publish with them. Your book undergoes more scrutiny than with others on this list—this is not an everyman option. If you are one of the lucky few, you will benefit from their reputation in the publishing industry alone AND a whole host of publishing, marketing, and distribution services depending on your needs. 12. White Magic Studios Matador\'s affordable UK counterpart White Magic Studios gives you 100% of the royalties and ownership of your book. They don\'t quite have the same gravitas as others on this list but they\'re still a safe bet for an all-in-one package if you know what you\'re looking for in terms of service and distribution. The Self-Publishing Option That Works for You The ultimate, best-of-all-time, undeniable front-runner, crème de la crème of self-publishing companies happens to be the one that works best for you and your book. Do your research (work your way through this list, for example), go with your gut, and see how you get on. Self-publishing has worked for others, so it can work for you! All you need is the makings of a good book, stellar knowledge, and a can-do attitude. Other Self-Publishing Support Services Most of the self-pub companies in the list above will provide a broad range of services as part of their offering. But it\'s worth understanding the various different services that go into a full publishing package as you may, for example, want to handle a particular discipline by yourself, perhaps because it\'s more cost-effective or because you want control or simply you aren\'t happy with the quality on offer from your chosen publisher. So: Copyediting and editing These services really ought to be supplied by any serious publisher, but the quality you get will be variable. There are two (or three) separate disciplines here and you need both. First, editing (or structural editing or manuscript assessment) aims to identify weaknesses in your manuscript and offers advice on how to improve them. These issues will range from the small (eg: \"this sentence reads clumsily\") to the structural (\"The middle third of your book feels baggy and repetitive. You might want to address this by ...\"). All professional authors receive this kind of advice from their traditional publishers and their books get better as a result. You can buy this kind of editing direct from Jericho Writers: we\'re very good at it!. Secondly, you need copyediting, which is the tedious but important business of avoiding typos, spelling errors, punctuation mistakes and the like. Again, no matter how often you read your text, those errors will creep through, so an impartial and professional pair of eyes is nec