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What Is Intertextuality? A How-To Guide With Examples

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

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

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

The Very Best Fantasy Tropes To Include In Your Writing

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

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

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

Different Types Of Writers – Which One Are You?

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

10 Story Hook Tips For Grabbing Attention

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

How To Write A Spine-Chilling Horror Story

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

25 Different Types Of Poems

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

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. 

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 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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

How To Find Inspiration For Your Writing

How To Find Inspiration For Your Writing All authors, at some point in their writing journey, have found themselves staring at a blank page and wondering where writers find their inspiration. There’s nothing more intimidating than finishing a great book and thinking to yourself ‘I will never come up with an idea that original.’  If your creative well has run dry and you’re panicking you will never be inspired again, read on for some top author inspiration. YA and children’s writer, Patrice Lawrence MBE, shares with us all the fun ways she has ignited her imagination when penning her award-winning books.  Potential Sources Of Inspiration I must admit I don’t really struggle for lack of inspiration to start stories. I have so many ideas wrestling with each other in my brain that one day I’ll cough, and a mouthguard will fly out of my ear. But whether you are struggling with the concept of your next book, or your mind and notebooks are bursting with ideas, the following tips and games are fun for every writer to do as they will push your imagination even further!  In this article I will be talking about what inspired me to write my books, how I keep my ideas fresh and original, and how to find inspiration for writing from everyday life and by looking at other inspirational authors.   Writing Prompts One of my favourite sources of inspiration is writing prompts. (Try one of our prompts for thrillers, fantasy, horror, romance, or Christmas stories.) My first published novel, Orangeboy, surfaced from a writing prompt on a residential creative writing course. The slip of paper I pulled out of a hat read - He woke up dreaming of yellow.   It was an exercise about hiding clues in crime fiction. We were supposed to write a paragraph or two and other writers would guess the prompt. I thought about a recent trip to Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London, mustard on hotdogs and yellow fairground tokens. I imagined a geeky boy on a first date with a girl way above his league. She’s buying hot dogs for them. The vendor squirts on the mustard. The boy hates mustard, but he sure as hell isn’t going to tell her. What else would he do to impress her? And what could possibly go wrong? That book went on to win the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstone\'s Prize for Older Children\'s Fiction. Not bad for a bit of paper pulled out of a hat!  Let’s play a writer’s block inspiration game of our own. Pick up your pen or pencil, or poise your fingers over your keyboard, and set your timer for seven minutes. Ready?  Christopher Columbus meets the Wicked Witch of the West in a blender. Go!  I’ll come back to this later…  Asking Others To Inspire You For some reason, prompts feel more powerful if they come to me from other people. When I was struggling to find a direction for Rose, Interrupted, I asked my daughter to send me prompts on Whatsapp. I’d write the sentence at the top of a blank page then carrying on writing below it. Her prompts took me in new and satisfying directions and unexpectedly helped me with a plot point.   Until recently, I was part of a writing critique group. Once a year or so we’d devote a session to rekindling our creativity. We’d all bring different types of prompts. One writer might favour images. (Old postcards are a fantastic source of inspiration. Somewhere in the past I asked children to write a story inspired by a postcard of a camel being hoisted on to a boat.) Other writers might suggest rewriting fairy-tales or set up a potential scenario for us to populate with characters and dialogue.   Poetry As Inspiration One writer in my critique group enjoyed extracting prompts from poetry books. Try it – select a page number and find a line or even a poem that inspires you. As a child, I loved Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. I had no idea what it was about, but the imagery sparked such vivid images in my head. I wanted to see that wild land and find out why a lady was playing a dulcimer there. Whatever a dulcimer was.  Ideas Are All Around You Some prompts are vignettes of life I’ve passed on a bus. Some are snippets of conversation. Others are just weird speculations or take idioms literally. By the time I get to look at them again, they are new and totally out of context which is perfect for free writing.   I now have a small hardback day-a-page diary where I record random prompts: What happens if you have to carry your air in a rucksack on your back? What if a train stops just outside your station and everyone else has disappeared? What if you really did have all your butterflies tied up?  That first prompt about carrying air in a rucksack came in very useful when I was commissioned to write a short story for environmental scientists.   Free Writing From Prompts Now let’s talk free writing. I love free writing. Just pouring my ideas onto a page without censoring or editing myself is incredibly liberating. Reading through afterwards, I always find something that excites me. But if the words don’t flow and the prompt just prompts panic, what next?  I always start with questions. I am insatiably curious. I want to know what makes people tick, so for me, my first thought about a prompt is ‘why’? Why is that happening? Why is that person doing that? Why now?   Then I open the imagination tap and let the subconscious flow out – usually pretty messily. So, for instance, let’s head back to the famous Italian seafarer and the fictional monkey-wrangling witch from the prompt at the start of this article. (There’s nothing like putting too widely dissimilar characters in a peculiar situation to help me the ease the words out.)   My first question would be - why is Christopher Columbus in a blender? Perhaps an idea would dominate my thoughts. Possibly, the indigenous folk of Jamaica saw him coming and built a giant, manually operated blender with sharpened bamboo blades to greet him. Then the Wicked Witch of the West flew back in time to rescue him so that together they can plan a super-heist that involves a hurricane that blasts away all the islands in the Caribbean Sea. Or perhaps he’s been shrunk. (Who shrunk him and why?) Or perhaps it’s a metaphor for western colonialism, or he’s starring in a Covid fever-dream. Or alternatively, you could start with the Wicked Witch. Or a description of the blender that contains these two unlikely personages.   Alternative Narrators Once I’ve teased out all the possibilities and settled on an idea, my second question is – who is telling the story?   Inspiration can be found by prodding around the margins for the untold stories. The musical Wicked, of course, tells the story of Elphaba, the so-called Wicked Witch of the West. Jesus Christ Superstar explores the rise of Jesus from Judas’s point of view. Sections of Elif Shafak’s The Island of Missing Trees are told by a fig tree and the world of Elif’s earlier book, 10 Minutes, 38 Seconds in This Strange World is realised through the consciousness of a murdered woman. I remember reading James Herbert’s, Fluke, as a teenager, narrated by a man who is transformed into a dog.   Challenge yourself to free-write a paragraph or two from different points of view, not all necessarily human. Set a timer for a short writing sprint. Did you produce more material? Did anything unexpected emerge? (If you’re writing from the point of view of the blender, it’s bound to, isn’t it?)  Let’s take a look at two other rich sources of inspiration that are a lot of fun to indulge in...  Books Inspired By Other Books: Revisiting And Retelling The first is myth and legend.   My first published book, Granny Ting Ting, was part of a guided reading scheme for primary schools. I’d recently visited my family in Trinidad and I wanted to set the story there. It includes a chapter about duennes, sort of ghost babies, that confuse late night travellers and lure them into the forest. In my follow-up guided reading book, Wild Papa Woods, the wild papa is based on the mythical Papa Bois who turns into a stag to protect his forest. I’ve recently written a short story for an anthology, ‘Happy Here’, for upper-primary school readers. It’s about three generations of soucouyant – Caribbean shapeshifting witches – who live in a tower block in south London and run a bureau that organises real world experiences for jaded fairy-tale, mythical and legendary folk. (Sisyphus, who was sentenced by Hades in Greek myth to push a boulder up a steep hill for eternity spends his down time bowling in a subterranean alley near London Bridge.)   Alexandra Sheppard (Oh My Gods) and Maz Evans (Who Let the Gods Out?) have great fun bringing Greek gods to the contemporary world in books for children and young people. Pat Barker and Madeline Millar are among writers who have retold myths from alternative points of view for adults. Or you could go full Tolkien and create a whole new mythology.  Different Types Of Storytelling Another way to find inspiration for writing is popular culture. I’ve never been a cool kid, so I have no problem finding joy in pop music and superhero films.   Have you seen the music video of My Universe by Coldplay X BTS? It’s neither BTS nor Coldplay, or indeed the song, that keeps bringing me back to it. It’s that video. I want to write a story about the Silencers or, more importantly, DJ Lafrique on her alien radio ship. She needs a comic book series and a film franchise.   Korean dramas have also been an unexpected source of inspiration for me, particularly for the mechanics of storytelling. They are sponsored by brands like Body Shop and Subway sandwiches, so are obliged to bring as many viewers to the screen as possible, week after week (you’re so hooked you happily overlook the blatant and sometimes bizarre product placement). Characters must be compelling and relatable but surprising. Plots must twist and turn making the improbable acceptable. And each episode must end dangling on frayed string from the highest cliff.   Look at storytelling outside of your own culture and see how they tell tales. There are so many ways to find inspiration in everyday life, and the lives of others.  Inspiration Is Infinite I like to think that inspiration is infinite. It’s in the everyday and the bizarre, possibly juxtaposed in the same sentence. It’s unpicking moments that seem well-known then creating alternative narratives, perhaps told by unlikely storytellers. It’s keeping a notebook of random prompts that you can draw on when your creativity is running dry.   I hope I’ve given you some ideas, as well as permission to sink yourself into K-drama, pop videos and Marvel films. From now on, your excuse for playing games, watching TV, eavesdropping, and discovering new and wonderful examples of storytelling, is that an unexpected prompt might lead to an unexpected – and successful – 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. 

Writing Flash Fiction: A Complete Guide

Have you been meaning to write flash fiction, but been put off by the different word counts and apparent ‘rules’? In this guide you’ll get a brief introduction to flash and its history, then we’ll talk about the essential elements to include in your flashes. I’ll also give you a checklist as an aide-mémoire at the end of the guide. And if by the end you feel confident enough to enter a few competitions, check out our guide to the best flash fiction competitions. What is Flash Fiction? ‘Smoke-long’ is my favourite (albeit not very healthy) description for a piece of flash fiction, because it refers to the time it takes you to read the story – the same amount of time it would take you to smoke a cigarette. Some flash fiction is even shorter, one puff-long if you like.  Japanese writer Yasunari Kawabata referred to them as palm-of-the-hand stories. Flash fiction is also known as fast fiction, sudden fiction, postcard fiction, a micro-story, a nanotale, a short short, amongst other names.  So what exactly is flash fiction? In a nutshell it simply means very short fiction.  The longest flashes are generally considered to be 1,000 words, the shortest 6 words. Try writing and reading each of these and you’ll soon realise there’s a big difference. In 2007, the Guardian newspaper challenged several well-known writers to write 6-word short stories. Take a look and decide for yourself whether they succeeded.  Just as a short story isn’t a truncated novel, flash fiction isn’t a truncated short story. The challenge, with very short fiction, is to tell a complete story within the word count, one thing that differentiates flash fiction from prose poetry. This gets harder the shorter the word count, and that sense of challenge is one reason flash fiction is so popular. For example, in the above Guardian article, Blake Morrison’s story “Womb. Bloom. Groom. Gloom. Rheum. Tomb” gives a sense of a whole life, with a beginning, middle and end, or an overarching narrative – but contains no detail – whereas Jim Crace’s “See that shadow? (It\'s not yours.)” suggests a story, which readers tell themselves.  Arguably a piece of flash fiction is unique in the way it invites the reader to tell themselves the story like this. Other forms of prose writing do this, but because of their length, they also provide detail and narratorial incursion. In flash, this detail and incursion has to be nifty, playful – or cut out entirely. Hemingway’s $10 bet The above two stories were written in response to the famous 6-word short story allegedly written by Ernest Hemingway as part of a bet over dinner, which won him $10: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” As with Crace’s story, this one suggests a story which the reader then infers, and it’s probably the most famous flash fiction story in circulation today.  However, it is likely Hemingway never wrote this story. You can read the background in this article. There isn’t much evidence that the bet took place, and if it did, earlier versions of the story had appeared in newspapers several years earlier, so he was probably repeating something he had read, as an amusing riposte. Writers from all over the world have used the flash form, including Jorge Luis Borges, Kate Chopin, and Italo Calvino. In fact, ancient myths and fables can be considered a form of flash fiction. This article by Sandra Arnold will give you a sense of the history of flash fiction – very handy if you want to learn about flash fiction in literature. She attributes the first use of the word ‘flash’ to an anthology edited by James Thomas in 1992 – giving more of a sense of the experience of reading the finished story, rather than the word length. Flash Fiction Sub-Genres Flash fiction has a range of subgenres but in the same way, they don’t necessarily have strict definitions either. But if you’re looking for a general guide to flash fiction word counts, we’re here to help.  Here’s a rundown, from the longest to the shortest: 1. Novel-in-a-flash and Novella-in-a-flash. This is essentially a sequence of flashes up to around 18,000 words. 2. ‘Sudden fiction’ or simply ‘flash fiction’ refers to stories of up to 1000 words or sometimes 1500 words, or two pages of an anthology. The ‘up to’ is important. These are usually loose guidelines.  3. Nanofiction or microfiction refers to stories up to 300 words, but the constraint can be stricter than that. Here are some examples: Postcard fiction: stories that can be written on the back of a postcard. Twitterature: microfiction, derived the original Tweet limit of 140 characters. Stories of exactly 100 words, known as the Drabble, or exactly 50 words, known as the Dribble. Not so exacting, some calls for submissions ask for fiction under 50 or under 10 words. Twitter Flashes Twitter is alive with flash fiction. I recently tweeted out a call for resources and the flash fiction writers of Twitter didn’t disappoint. Here are some of the responses.  Thank you to Laura Besley (@laurabesley) who suggested the following journals: @FictiveDream @EllipsisZine @FracturedLit @EmergeJournal @CraftLiterary @50wordstories @101words @flashficmag @flashfroglitmag And these follows:  @kathyfish (who has a flash fiction newsletter) @megpokrass @TommyDeanWriter @nancystohlman Thank you to El Rhodes (@electra_rhodes) who suggested the following: @BBludgers for competition info. @sagetyrtle for a list of UK flash mags.  @FlashFicFest runs an event end of October. @FlashRoundup digests new flash regularly.  Edited highlights of the rest of the responses include: Shorts Podcast (@ShortsthePod), a podcast about the contemporary short story, including flash, @SmokeLong, a journal that has 18 years\' worth of archives, and @RetreatWest, which has over 150 flash stories published on their website, plus 9 anthologies of flash and shorts. Key Elements of Flash Fiction How do you go about writing flash fiction? Flash fiction stories usually include certain key elements, which I’ll explain here, but having said that, one of the elements of flash is its ability to surprise, and the continuous development of the form, creating new writing challenges and new ways of thinking about storytelling. Therefore, it is best to check several different sets of submission guidelines before editing and sending out your work. Story Plot Here are some general guidelines on how to create flash fiction, part of a range of techniques that go into creating short short stories: A piece of flash fiction isn’t a scene from a larger piece of fiction, or an extract. It is a stand-alone, and a complete story. Flash isn’t usually a ‘moment in time’ like a prose poem could be, or a discussion of the narrator’s opinion on something. It has narrative drive. Most flash fiction stories have a beginning, middle and end. This is possible even with the shortest short stories, like Blake Morrison’s “Womb. Bloom. Groom. Gloom. Rheum. Tomb.”But the shorter the flash gets, the more likely it is to use Jim Crace’s “See that shadow? (It\'s not yours.)”  technique and to require the reader to create the complete story for themselves, through implication. Morrison and Crace both provide us with a guide to plotting flash: 1) begin, grow, develop, make things get bad, provide resolution, and 2) make the reader form the story in their own mind. Few Characters What do you do about characters? How many should you include?  Read plenty of examples so you can see how other writers do it, but here’s a rough guide: Keep the number of characters in your flashes to a minimum. Often, you’ll only use one character, or two, as protagonist and antagonist.As you only have a few words available you can’t dwell on anything very much, and that includes character development.To create characters, you can use brief but pertinent descriptions (he wore his best suit trousers over his broken leg), unusual connections (petunias always make the best guard dogs), suggestive statements connecting place and character (he worked as a stripper at the fire station) or assumptions (I didn’t fit in and neither did my imaginary friend). A Hook It’s important to start strongly when writing flash fiction. You don’t have time for explanations. The aim is to ‘hook’ your reader in, engaging them from the first few words. When Tania Hershman starts a story with ‘My mother was an upright piano’, from a collection of the same name, we’re hooked in by the unusual image, which hints at conflict with the narrator. Create your ‘hook’ from conflict because stories thrive on conflict.Both ‘in media res’ and ‘mis en scene’ are important when writing flash. ‘In media res’ means starting in the middle of things, whereas ‘mis en scene’ refers to the arrangement of actors and props, scenery etc. to create a ‘stage picture’. With fiction, the stage is the reader’s mind. 1) Plunge right into the action, cutting extraneous introductions, and 2) create a picture in the mind of the reader using as few words as possible. Don’t do one without the other. Strong Finish Flash fiction writers often use a twist or (more loosely) an unexpected ending. The unexpected ending is like a punchline, it emphasises the ending. They make the ending live on in the readers’ memory, aiding the sense of the reader creating the story in their own mind. If the ending were subtle, the short short story could easily feel like an extract. Making the ending like a sort of punchline gives the flash a shape. That doesn’t mean to say that all short story stories use twists or the unexpected, but it is a technique you’ll see a lot when you read examples of the form. Honed Editing Editing is important with any piece of writing. In fact, I’d go as far as to say redrafting is writing. The first draft provides you with the words you’re going to play with, and in subsequent drafts you form those words into what you want them to be.  Editing takes on an extra function in short fiction writing – I mean specifically anything under 2,500 words – and the shorter the word count, the more this special function applies. Within whatever wordcount constraint you’ve undertaken, you are attempting to hone the writing to create the maximum meaning and story experience for the reader in the fewest words possible. You need to do both of those things for the story to be successful. When writing flash, you may well write much more than you need in the first draft and then cut by chipping away at extraneous words and story threads until you’ve reached the word count required. It sometimes helps to do this in sections, like this:  Divide the word count into beginning, middle and end. Usually the middle is twice the length of the beginning and end, so in a 1,000 word story, the beginning and end = roughly 250 words and the middle = 500 words.Write your story without worrying too much about word count.Now edit each section in turn to get it to the required amount. When editing, you’ve got to be hyper-aware of every word you choose to use. Read Plenty of Flash Fiction From reading plenty of flash you’ll learn how to create a strong start, launching straight into the action, how other writers create characters economically and how they use as few words as possible. Because the flash fiction community is so vibrant, and there are so many opportunities to share your work, from reading you’ll also learn about being a literary citizen, and how to promote the work of other writers, while putting your own work out there. Up for a Fun Challenge? Writing flash fiction is a fun challenge and a great exercise for writers. You also get the chance to become part of the online flash fiction community. Here’s a quick summary of this guide: Read plenty of flash fiction and become part of the flash fiction community. Use your first draft to get your ideas down without worrying about word count, then edit.Create a strong start by launching straight into the action.Use as few words as possible. Use ‘in media res’ and ‘mis en scene’: 1) Plunge right in, and 2) create a picture in the reader’s mind.Use one or two characters and develop them economically.End with a twist or an unexpected ending.Use ruthless editing and redrafting to hone your flashes to get them down to the required word count. Have fun, keep practicing, and in a flash you’ll become a flash fiction aficionado! 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. 

12 Top Tips on Writing Flash Fiction

Writing flash fiction can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a real challenge. I’ve been a children’s author for the past fifteen years, and I’ve also been writing flash fiction stories since before I knew the term. In this article I will be exploring the meaning and definition of flash fiction, its characteristics, and sharing my 12 top tips while drawing on my own writing experience. What is Flash Fiction? Flash fiction is also known as Sudden Fiction, Drabble, Nanotale or Microfiction. It refers to very short pieces of prose writing. Usually under 1,500 words, the word limit can vary depending on which publication, website, or competition you are writing for. It was popularized in the nineteenth century by writers like Walt Whitman, Kate Chopin, and Ambrose Bierce, but some of the best flash fiction is still being written (have a Google and see what’s out there).  It is also a genre that lends itself well to competitions (way quicker for judges to read entries than your average writing comp). In a world of thumb scrolling and multimedia distractions, it is also an appealing form for writers and readers, because once you get the hang of it you can write an entire story on just one page. Flash Fiction Characteristics The defining characteristic of flash fiction is that it is both short and fictional. So, what is so appealing about having such constraints imposed on your creativity? One of my publishers once set up a competition called 24/7 which involved several authors writing stories with a maximum of 247 words. After I had submitted mine, the editor commented that he was surprised that all the authors had chosen to make their stories precisely 247 words (and no less). It was not a surprise to me. Often the constraints of a commission like this are part of the appeal. They present a challenge. They are puzzles to be solved, and ones which require intricate and precise solutions. So let’s take a look at my top tips for tackling the trickiest of short story writing… How to Write Flash Fiction – 12 Top Tips A good flash fiction story takes the reader into a world which is already established - where things are happening. But it’s not as simple as merely hitting a small word count. Here are some things to consider when writing flash fiction. Select Your Genre Flash fiction can be in any genre, therefore the perfect opportunity to try something new. Whether you usually write romance, thriller, horror or sci fi, consider using your flash fiction to try something new. Unlike novel writing, there’s no need to worry about worldbuilding or backstories – just jump straight in! Choose an Overarching Theme One of the things I notice when I write my flash fiction is that the ideas that most attract me are often related to current events: things I’ve heard on the radio or read about online. I take a news story then think about how one moment of that story could affect one or two of the people involved. From these thin slices of life, you can explore broader subjects such as love, death, power or family. Have a go yourself at re-writing a piece of history in just a handful of words. Use One or Two Key Characters With such a limited word count, you might find it helpful to focus on fewer characters. Try making your protagonist complex or flawed or putting them up against their antagonist from the onset. Choosing first person over third person is also worth considering as it throws the reader straight into the action. Make Every Sentence Count and Don’t Rush As a writer, I both suffer and benefit from both optimism and selective amnesia. I always think that things won’t take long to write. You need a picture book text about dragons in a week? Sure? You need a short story on the subject of sharks in a few days? No problem.  I never learn.  Just because you have fewer word to manage, that doesn’t mean your piece of flash fiction will take any less time to write. Quite the opposite. In many cases, shorter pieces of writing will take more time than longer ones, as you are forced to peel away the unnecessary words in order to find the core of your narrative. I often imagine writing as an act of carving. I throw a pile of words at the page then, through editing, chisel away until I find the shape of the story. This is precisely the technique that is required to make a short piece of fiction impactful and worth reading. Prompt Visualisation One way to draw readers into your story is to focus on one powerful picture or piece of imagery around which to build the story. For inspiration why not look at pictures in a magazine or newspaper, an old photo album, or a piece of art. Sometimes, something as simple as an image of a half-eaten apple, can inspire you to create a glimpse into a story that will entice your readers. Because that is what flash fiction is, a glimpse – a flash – of a story that could easily belong in a much larger world. Start in the Middle & Use Descriptive, Concise Language The reason a lot of flash fiction starts in the middle, is because there’s no time (ie words) to build a rambling intro. It’s the same when writing my children’s books - I don’t have time to spend on floral descriptions, I need to grab my readers from the first line. That’s why the story must start at the most exciting (or most dramatic/upsetting) point, which is often the inciting incident in a longer novel (at about 20%) or the midway point. This is also true of Flash Fiction. Don’t introduce the story - tell it. Your characterisation has to be precise, efficient and entertaining too, without relying on lazy stereotypes. Whether its dialogue or description, every word needs to earn its keep.  Deal with a Single Conflict Flash fiction is not the same as prose poetry. Something should happen. Something should change. It requires a beginning, middle and end. In other words, your story requires movement. It is unlikely that you will have time for a subplot or backstory, but the longer you spend on your piece of writing, the more you will discover you can wrap things up in surprisingly few words. Most fiction is driven by conflict, but with flash fiction you will most likely need to limit your conflicts to one single struggle or choice that your character encounters. Use Descriptive, Concise Language Good writing is all about precision and there’s nothing quite like a strict word count to really sharpen your text. Keep sentences short, and don’t use three words where one will do.  Even if you have no intention of submitting your flash fiction for competition or publication, it is still a useful exercise to try to hone your writing skills. It’s also useful to learn if you write non-fiction or marketing copy - the more you can say, in as fewer words as possible, the more impactful your message. Create Surprise and Provide a Twist One subgenre of flash fiction is Twitterature, in which you have to tell a story in the form of a tweet. That’s 280 characters these days but it was even shorter when I wrote this in answer for a call for twitter stories using the hashtag #StoryShop.  “The shop sold plots, themes, characters, dialogue etc, but reaching the section on twists I realised it wasn\'t what it seemed. #StoryShop” One of the things I struggle with when I write my own flash fiction is my natural inclination to include a dramatic or amusing twist. This is often seen as a key component for a good short story, and one which can certainly be put to good use in flash fiction, but for many publishers and judges it is not as necessary as you may think. A good piece of flash fiction often simply illuminates a fleeting moment, causing the reader to pause and reflect on something or see something differently. If you can surprise your reader then you’re onto a good thing, but that surprise doesn’t necessarily need to appear at the end. Present a Memorable Last Line I once wrote a joke book, which also included hints and tips on writing jokes. In a sense, joke writing is another form a flash fiction. Comedians will tell you that a good gag relies on a precise choice of words and carefully formulated sentences to ensure that the punchline lands in exactly the right place. Just as flash fiction doesn’t require a twist, neither does it call for a punchline, but you’ll still want to find a final line with a little punch. Write a Powerful Title With my own writing, I often start with the title as that can ignite all sorts of ideas for the story. With so few words to play with in flash fiction, your title is a part of the story. Make it catchy, memorable, and in keeping with the theme. You can even be clever with it. Like a piece of art, the title may well provide a different angle in which to view the story. Get Others to Review and Critique Your Story Sometimes it’s hard to find beta readers to read your novel, but when writing flash fiction there’s no excuse for your story-loving friends not to take five minutes to look over your story and see if it impacts them the way you intended. Like with all forms of writing, it’s vital to be open to criticism and suggestions – plus you’ll be getting your friends hooked on flash fiction too! And Finally… Enjoy the Challenge I read various examples of flash fiction before I sat down to write this article, including several stories penned long before the term was coined. One of the most famous flash fiction stories - and one of the shortest - is this example of the six-word story. “For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.”  The origin of this story is unclear, but the story of the story (that Ernest Hemmingway wrote it to win a bar bet) is as intoxicating as the alcohol that Hemmingway is said that have earned for writing it. It’s the idea that you don’t need a lot of words to move and inspire your readers. But to do this, you do need to find the heart of the story.  However short your piece of writing, flash fiction can be extremely rewarding. Not just in how it forces you to hack away all unnecessary words, but also because it affords you the opportunity to play with a nugget of an idea and, hopefully, come up with something interesting, fresh and illuminating. 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 Purple Prose?

How To Spot Purple Prose In Your Writing And Make Your Prose Tighter And More Effective In this guide we’ll look at the definition of purple prose and consider examples of its use. If you’re worried your writing is dangerously close to the purple zone, we’ll help you transform it into tight, effective prose that agents and editors will fall in love with. Purple Prose Definition Purple prose is flowery and ornate writing that makes a piece of text impenetrable. It is characterised by long sentences, multi-syllabic words, excessive emotion, and a plethora of clichés. It’s typically melodramatic and often too poetic. It’s frowned upon because it breaks the flow of a story, slows the pace, detracts from the text, and leaves the reader perplexed or, even worse, bored. It can pop up in patches throughout a story, or it can weigh down an entire novel. Purple prose is most likely to creep into your writing if you’re trying too hard to impress your readers by emulating the style of your favourite author. Or perhaps you’re just being a little over-zealous with your word choices.  We’re all guilty of over-embellishing our writing from time to time. We’re writers - we love words, so who can blame us for getting a little carried away when immersed in a powerful new scene? But if we want our writing to be taken seriously, we need to make sure we don’t go too far. Purple Prose Examples Many authors have been accused of the sin of writing purple prose over the years. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s ‘Uncle Tom\'s Cabin’ oozes mushy sentimentality, with sentences such as, ‘Even so, beloved Eva! Fair star of thy dwelling! Thou art passing away; but they that love thee dearest know it not.’ Even though it was written in 1852 when such contrivances were more accepted, this is still considered one of the most purple of the classic texts. Another great example is this short extract from Jim Theis’s 1970 fantasy novella, The Eye of Argon which seeps purple prose from every pore.  ‘Glancing about the dust swirled room in the gloomily dancing glare of his flickering cresset, Grignr eyed evidences of the enclosure being nothing more than a forgotten storeroom. Miscellaneous articles required for the maintenance of a castle were piled in disorganized heaps at infrequent intervals toward the wall opposite the barbarian\'s piercing stare.’ If you’re worried your writing might be tinged with too much purple, take a look at the following red flags, and read how to make your writing leaner and more readable. Purple Prose Red Flags: 1. Too Many Adjectives And Adverbs Writers love adjectives, but if used excessively they become a distraction, interfering with your story and making your prose a deep shade of purple. William Strunk and E.B. White, in The Elements of Style, say: ‘Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs.’  Scrutinise every adjective in your writing and consider how it earns its place. If you can do without it, delete it. For example, if you’re describing a lawn, only use the word ‘green’ if that’s out of the ordinary. Or find a stronger noun that doesn’t need an adjective at all – for example ‘light rain’ could be replaced with ‘drizzle.’ And try to avoid using two adjectives if one will do, as increasing the number of adjectives before a noun severely reduces its clout and makes your prose even more purple. The same goes for adverbs. Does the drunk person ‘walk erratically’ or do they ‘stagger’? Pro tip: Use your thesaurus with caution. It will throw up all sorts of unnecessary distractions your story doesn’t need. Only use a thesaurus to help you recall known words. Good writers use adjectives and adverbs sparingly. Cut them with care and decide if your sentences seem less purple as a result. 2. Excessive Sentence Length Every definition of purple prose highlights the excessive use of long, winding and overly dramatic sentences. By the time your reader has reached the end, they won’t remember where they began. The following example is by Victorian writer, Jerome K. Jerome in his book, Three Men in a Boat. He was writing at a time when authors were paid by the word, so perhaps we can forgive him for this lyrical, but rather convoluted and distinctly purple sentence. ‘The river—with the sunlight flashing from its dancing wavelets, gilding gold the grey-green beech-trunks, glinting through the dark, cool wood paths, chasing shadows o\'er the shallows, flinging diamonds from the mill-wheels, throwing kisses to the lilies, wantoning with the weirs\' white waters, silvering moss-grown walls and bridges, brightening every tiny townlet, making sweet each lane and meadow, lying tangled in the rushes, peeping, laughing, from each inlet, gleaming gay on many a far sail, making soft the air with glory—is a golden fairy stream.’ Did reading that make you a little breathless? Be kind to your reader and keep an eye out for overly long sentences. Limit the number of clauses and play with length, mixing up shorter and longer sentences to give your writing a sense of rhythm.  3. Excessive Emotion Some authors unwittingly make their prose purple by sledge-hammering emotions onto the page, especially when describing a visceral reaction to a situation. Trust your reader to get it without telling them twenty times in twenty different ways. Of course, much depends on the genre of your writing. Romantic fiction readers will be more tolerant of a little emotional embellishment than steely-eyed crime fiction fans.  As you write or edit, think about whether the magnitude of the reaction matches the event. Will your main character’s breast heave that violently at the sight of her love interest? Or will Philip’s teeth really gnash and his brow drip with sweat on hearing that Sally has been promoted ahead of him?  Think of other ways to create authentic tension without resorting to purple prose. If you’re unsure how to go about this, identify the essence of your scene; what really matters? Make it exciting in its own right and don’t rely on flowery language to jazz it up. The story, not the distracting writing, should be the thing that grabs the reader’s attention. And if you’ve forgotten what’s going on, then so will your reader! 4. Generic Or Clichéd Images A reliance on clichés is considered the number one crime in creative writing, and for good reason. Clichés are lazy shortcuts to expressing an emotion or situation, suggesting the writer hasn’t been able to think up their own words. They’re old and boring and offer nothing to surprise or shock your reader. Examples of purple prose across the internet cite the deployment of clichés as a key feature. Every first draft will have the odd cliché skulking in its shadows, but if you spot one, get rid of it. And then say what you’re trying to say in your own words. Clichés will only hint at your inexperience, so be brutal and delete those tired old phrases without mercy.  If you’re struggling to spot clichés in your writing, ask a friend or beta reader to read it through or consider signing up for one of our tutored courses to help you identify problem areas such as this. 5. Lack Of Clarity All of the above conspire to create writing that lacks clarity. Imagine for a moment you’re the reader of your book. You’re walking through a forest, surrounded by new and exciting sights, but as you progress, the path turns to mud. It sucks at your boots, slowing your pace. Brambles run their thorns along your bare arms and mosquitos nip at your cheeks. The birds screech, laughing at your sluggish progress. You’re desperate now to get to your destination, but come upon a patch of tall nettles. You beat your way through, your shins stinging …  I’m getting a little carried away here, but do you get my point? When a piece of prose becomes too purple, the overly-ornate text becomes an impediment to the reader’s progress and they’ll simply turn back and go home, or put your book down. As an author, it’s your job to take your reader by the hand and guide your reader to the end of the story without unnecessary hurdles to impede their progress. The following extract from Sean Penn’s debut novel, Bob Honey, is a perfect example of an author’s purple prose affecting clarity. Even though the book is a satire, the text is as impenetrable as my imaginary forest. “There is pride to be had where the prejudicial is practiced with precision in the trenchant triage of tactile terminations. This came to him via the crucible-forged fact that all humans are themselves animal, and that rifle-ready human hunters of alternately-species prey should best beware the raging ricochet that soon will come their way.” I think Mr Penn is trying to say something about hunting animals, but I really can’t be sure. So, how do you make sure your writing never lacks clarity?  Leave plenty of time between writing and editing so you can read your work with fresh eyes. Does it make sense? Do you understand what you’re writing about after time away from it? Is anything confusing? Think how you could make it clearer using the advice listed above. If you’re still not sure, ask a beta reader to help, or consider using our editorial services. It takes skill and experience to write with clarity, so remember, as you write, focus on your story, and keep your reader in mind. Do you really want them to battle their way through that forest, arriving battered and bruised at their destination, or would you rather they enjoyed the journey? How To Write Tight, Effective Prose Even if your writing isn’t that purple, or only purple in patches, thinking about the above will help your writing become tighter and more effective. Keep your reader in mind as you write. Ensure every word, sentence, paragraph and scene drives the story on. Pro tip: Take a narrow-eyed look at your dialogue tags too. Keep them simple, so if possible, use ‘said’. Nothing makes a reader cringe more than a character ‘blustering’ or ‘interjecting’. While you’re busy trimming your work, keep an eye out for modifiers too, like the word ‘very’. Find a better, stronger word, and your writing will be less purple because of it.  Professional, publication-ready writing is lean. The author has taken the time to cut unnecessary adjectives, adverbs and dialogue tags. Only the essence of the story remains, making the text easier to read because not one word is wasted.  Read more tips on writing perfect prose here. A Final Thought On Purple Prose Writing purple prose is a part of the writing journey, and we should never be ashamed to spot it in our work. But we need to learn to recognise it when we see it, and be brave enough to get rid of it. Experienced writers have learnt that the big idea is what makes something meaningful, not the language used to embellish it. The idea should always come first. Don’t try to be Daphne du Maurier. Be you. Play with language until you find your voice and then pare your writing right back until it gleams. 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. 

Opening Lines For A Story (Great, Effective & Bad Examples)

What’s great & effective? What’s downright bad?Real Examples From Real Writers. Recently, we ran a competition soliciting opening lines or sentences from real writers, with a small prize available for the winner. We’re going to look at some examples drawn from that competition... along with my own (hyper-picky) comments about what’s really good, and really effective. And what’s just a bit... not so good. Before we plunge into our sentence surgery, three quick comments. First, the examples that follow are drawn from writers writing real novels (or short stories). They are, like you, serious aspiring writers, but not yet published. For the most part, we were looking at works-in-progress, so these examples were all subject to change anyway. Second, opening sentences don’t matter all that much. The opening paragraph of the novel I’ve just handed to my publisher ran, in its entirety, as follows: \'Rain.\' Was that a good opening line for a novel? Well, no one asked me to change it, but does that sentence hook a reader in? And hook them into a story set in Wales, where the presence of rain hardly merits much discussion? I don’t think so. The fact is that the process of hooking a reader usually takes longer than a sentence and writers shouldn’t obsess unduly about the stuff above and to the left of the manuscript’s first full stop. There’ll be plenty more full stops to come. And last: I’m horrible. I mean, yes, I’m nice to widows, orphans and stray dogs, but I’m horrible to slightly iffy sentences. I’m very picky and my standards are high. So if some of my could-do-better commentary below depresses you – well, forget it. It’s not you. It’s me. But if you want to learn how to write opening sentences, then you probably want to look at what follows... How To Write A Good Opening Line: Full stops are your friends. Short, clear sentences will grab your readers’ attention.Use language that will add weight to your sentences.Use your verbs correctly, and your adjectives sparingly.Opening lines don’t have to be loud, subtlety is just as effective. Opening Lines To Novels / Short Stories: Examples So much for the preamble. Now for the sentences. (No authors are named because very few of the sentences I had had named authors on the page.) Example #1\'There were just three things that Samine was certain of in her life; first she was dangerous; second, she was never allowed to leave her room and, third, the spirit of a dragon lived inside her.\' Not bad, though it’s a little too close to Stephenie Meyer’s now famed three-part quote from Bella Swan in Twilight. Still, you can see what the author is wanting to do and the idea itself is fine. Here’s one way of tweaking things without altering anything too much (though it brings it still closer to Stephenie Meyer’s phrasing): There were just three things that Samine knew for certain. First she was dangerous. Second, she was never allowed to leave her room. Third, a dragon lived inside her. That’s shorter, clearer. It’s also better weighted. The key word in the first part of the writer’s sentence is “certain”. The addition of “in her life” doesn’t add much meaning but it does de-emphasise “certain”. My formulation is that bit clearer about where the interest of the sentence lies. One other thing, I’m not sure if this is the place to reveal that Samine can’t leave her room. The middle of one of the three certainties doesn’t tie obviously to the other two and feels a bit different. (#1 and #3 feel like existential statements; #2 feels like a simple, known fact.) But if the middle of those three statements goes, then the whole opening needs reconsideration. Example #2\'The most ironic thing about your first impression of me – I looked like butter wouldn’t melt.\' Interesting. I almost like this. My only real worry is that “the most ironic thing” bit. It feels a bit like a teenage use of ironic, which is perhaps not correct given the context, but in any case, I do wonder if there aren’t simpler, less laboured ways of doing the same thing. Suppose, for example, we just said this: Your first impression of me: I looked like butter wouldn’t melt. That is surely strongly suggesting that that first impression might be way off base, yet it conveys that impression by making the reader do most of the work. As a rough guide, the more the reader feels they’ve made a deduction, the more powerful that conclusion will feel. Example #3\'He’s stalking behind the disused factory, waiting for the flapping of wings to alert him to where you are.\' You remember when I said I’m pedantic? To stalk is a transitive verb, that is, it requires an object. I stalk you, etc., I don’t just stalk in the abstract. So that first clause feels a bit uncomfortable. And “alert him to where you are” also feels a little bit strained. Wouldn’t “alert him to your position” read better? And the double participle (waiting for the flapping) seems a bit needless here. But you only need a little tweaking and this is a strong, engaging opening: He’s searching you out behind the disused factory, waiting for a sudden flap of wings to reveal your position. That’s better. (Oh, you want to delete the word “sudden” from that? Yes, that’s probably better.”) Example #4\'The house had something American Gothic about it, though nothing it was minded to share.\' Excellent! Nothing to pick at, except that me personally I’d probably sooner say “had something of the American Gothic …”. But it’s a great, subtle opening. I like it a lot. Example #5\'What do you pack when you have four minutes to leave your husband?\' Again, that’s great opening line. Oh, and you want to know why that sentence works as well as it does? It’s because it makes you do a double-take. The first part of the sentence makes you think, “oh, this is a question about packing...” The second part makes you go, “whaaaaaat?!” It’s that mid-sentence pivot that gives it wellie. It’s also nice, because it instantly launches the reader into two important story-questions. Not just “why is this woman leaving her husband?”, but “why does she only have four minutes?” Of those two questions, it’s the second one that has the greater bite. Marriages collapsing are (unfortunately) a rather everyday occurrence. Marriages that collapse and give the wife just one minute to get away – well! We want to know more. Example #6\'My mother’s shroud was a grubby net curtain and her coffin was a gun case.\' You like that, don’t you? Yes, and it’s almost terrific. But I don’t like that word “grubby”, at all. It pulls attention away from “net curtain” and the use of a net curtain for a shroud is quite striking enough irrespective of whether it’s grubby. Just delete the adjective. The sentence gets instantly stronger Also, I hope this writers is about to tell us how come the gun case was big enough to fit a mother. I mean, that’s a very large case, or a remarkably small mother. So long as the author explains that niggle sometime soon, that’s fine, and (once you’ve deleted that “grubby”) it’s a good opening line. Example #7\'It was not a good day to bury a child, let alone ‘The Chosen One’, and the more Thomas Cowper tried to console his mother the more she sobbed, ‘Fear not, Mary... Blessed art thou amongst women.’ Hmm. I’m afraid I don’t rate this as an opening line. It’s almost good, but gets itself into a tangle, then trips over itself. And the thing is, the best bit of this sentence is the very opening and the longer it goes on the more the writer overwrites that clean and striking opening. Some full stops would help: It was not a good day to bury a child, let alone ‘The Chosen One’. The more Thomas Cowper tried to console his mother the more she sobbed. ‘Fear not, Mary … Blessed art thou amongst women.’ That’s already a lot better. Even so, I’m not completely happy. That opening line now has real merit and launches plenty of story questions (why is this a bad day? Why is a child being buried? Why is this child The Chosen One?) So if it were me, I’d leave the reader dangling a bit more, before starting to answer the questions they really cared about. So I’d run with the first question (why is this a bad day?), and just answer it with a description of winds and rain. Mourners getting soaked. Rain on the preacher’s Bible. That kind of thing. And this approach would work because I’m pretending to answer the questions I opened up with my first sentence ... but not the ones the reader really cares about. It’s like the reader is yelling at me, WHY ARE YOU BURYING THIS CHILD? and all I’m doing is explaining why the day is a bad one. I’ve basically created suspense already, and my description of the weather is just keeeeping that suspense going for longer. Example #8\'Deano’s hair was still wet from the pool and he swept his palm over his scalp trying to chase off the cold. ‘Come on, cock-snot. Pick up. Please.’\' Okay, I very much like the dialogue. I like the contrast with the more formal opening line. The writing itself is fine. Just... I don’t quite believe the gesture you’re telling us about. When people get out of the pool their hair is normally already very flat and smoothed from the water. You definitely can’t chase cold away by palming your already flat hair and it’s not even a gesture most of us feel tempted to make. If he’s cold, he grabs a towel, or moves into the sun, or does something other than what you tell us he’s done. Picky? Yes. But getting those kinds of details utterly convincing from the off is part of what gets a reader into the story. Here, you do get the reader in, but you’ve done so with a tiny – and needless – stutter upfront. Example #9\'The hands on the clock didn’t seem to move, unlike mine as I drummed and fidgeted on the table.\' Hmm, this is okay, but it’s not quite good. The hands-not-moving-on-the-clock isn’t a cliche exactly, but it is a very familiar idea. Likewise fidgeting hands: also a very standard way of conveying impatience. Further into a novel, those kind of issues dissolve a little bit. Sometimes it’s just quicker and cleaner to reach for the familiar, so the novel can hurry onto wherever it’s heading. But in an opening sentence, I think any whiff of cliche threatens a reader’s trust, and you need to extirpate it completely. As I say, there isn’t an out-and-out cliche here, but I do think you’re cycling a little too close to the edge. My verdict? Rethink this sentence from scratch. Example #10\'The cat barked.\' Everyone will want to read on to see what follows. Purrfect. That’s a terrific opening line. Example #11\'The fucking train is cancelled. Again.\' Yep, good – cancelled trains as a sign of commuter distress is well-used, however, so I hope the writer has an interesting way to develop the incident. I would be disappointed in an opening page that just rehearsed the various woes of the commuter – but we’re on sentences here, not pages, and the sentence itself is fine. And finally: Example #12\'I had not been awake long, when I heard the knock on the door, I opened it and saw Sheriff Dennis Munroe on the porch, he stood a little over five foot six, but gave the appearance of being almost cubic he weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds and had arms like a bear, thick, powerful and covered in coarse black hair.\' Here’s one of those ‘sentences’ which is begging to be carved up. A few full stops instantly make this a mile better: I had not been awake long, when I heard the knock on the door. I opened it and saw Sheriff Dennis Munroe on the porch. He stood a little over five foot six, but gave the appearance of being almost cubic. He weighed over two hundred and fifty pounds and had arms like a bear, thick, powerful and covered in coarse black hair. That’s a relief already, only a few remaining niggles really. Using Munroe’s full name doesn’t seem right, since the narrator clearly knows the guy, and we don’t think of people as know as Title Firstname Lastname. Yes, you may want to give us Munroe’s full name in due course, but you don’t have to do it here. Secondly, that last sentence has four ands in it. That feels awkward, especially so early in the book. Third, how does the narrator know what Munroe weighs? I mean, the sheriff is clearly a fellow who likes his meat and potatoes, but that’s different from knowing someone’s measured weight. I’m not convinced. And finally, a minor thing, I have a hesitation about ‘I opened it’: it’s just that you’re narrating every tiny incident, even those we take for granted. Better to take a slightly less blow-by-blow approach. Something like this, maybe: It was early, when Sheriff Munroe came calling. He stood at my door, five feet six and almost cubic. He must weigh close to two hundred and fifty pounds, and he has the arms of a bear: thick, powerful and profusely hairy. I know that last sentence still has three ands, but the restructuring helps the rhythm, at least to my ear. And it’s so much shorter! It has the exact same content as the first sentence, but compresses it into a much shorter space. Result: much more energy per pound – and a much more compelling story. Best Opening Lines: The Winner There, we’re all done. If I must pick a winner, I’ll go for: \'What do you pack when you have four minutes to leave your husband?\' Or: \'The house had something [of the] American Gothic about it, though nothing it was minded to share.\' I like both of those. The second is a bit more literary; the first is a terrific opening line for a psychological thriller, or something of that sort. They’re both excellent. And One Last Comment On Story Openings The thing to remember? That your opening line it doesn’t really matter. The opening sentences for my five Fiona Griffiths novels are: #1: Beyond the window, I can see three kites hanging in the air over Bute Park. #2: It’s a Friday afternoon. #3: I like the police force. #4: Rain. #5: ‘Well?’ None of those are good opening sentences (though none of them are terrible). And, in most cases, it doesn’t take long to get something that puts a scrap of meat on the reader’s dish. The opening paragraph to my second Fi Griffiths novel, for example, goes like this: Example: Love Story, with MurdersIt’s a Friday afternoon. October, but you wouldn’t think so. High clouds scudding in from the west and plenty of sunshine. The last shreds of summer and never mind the falling leaves. That last sentence already advertises a certain strength and confidence. The reader feels immediately placed in the mood of the story. Because the writing has that confident tone, the reader trusts me. It’s as though they’re thinking, “OK, this is supposed to be a crime story. Nothing much seems to be happening yet, but I can tell this author knows what he’s doing, so I’ll stick with him and see what develops.” An opening paragraph can do more if it wants to, but it really doesn’t have to. Notice that this opening para sets up nothing interesting about the character, the situation, or, indeed, even the weather. It just sets a scene and does so with confidence. If your manuscript does that then, no matter how unshowy that opening sentence, you’re doing just fine. Oh, and if you need a little more inspiration for your opening lines, check these out. 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. Happy writing – and happy editing! 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 according to Myers-Briggs personality type

Guest author and blogger Lauren Sapala is a writing coach, the author of The INFJ Writer, and writes about writing, creativity, and personality theory on her blog. She currently lives in San Francisco. It’s often empowering to understand what helps you as a writer, but types only take us so far. First and foremost, you’re you. What builds your own creativity and what holds you back? If you’re struggling to make headway on a writing project, think how you best work, how maybe a “weakness” could be a strength, and what’ll most help you finish – will it be a deadline? Or a designated day of the week to write? For more on the MBTI system, the Myers & Briggs Foundation website is a great place to start. However, I’d urge every writer to experiment with many different methods of writing to find what works best for them. There can be great variation, even among the same type. Every artist is an individual. All artists should give themselves the permission to do whatever works best for them. Are You An Intuitive Writer? I struggled for years as a writer. I wanted desperately to write a novel, but I couldn’t even write the first page. Then, when I finally worked up the courage to take a creative writing course in college, I failed miserably. I stopped writing altogether for seven years. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I discovered my Myers-Briggs personality type that I began to shine as a writer. Finding out that I was an intuitive personality was just the information I needed to finally move forward. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is a system of 16 personality types that divides people along a spectrum of traits that determine how an individual interprets and reacts to the world. The MBTI system focuses on such tendencies as introversion versus extroversion, and intuition versus sensing (i.e. relying primarily on concrete information gleaned from one’s five physical senses). The complexity of the MBTI system is too vast to be addressed fully in this article, so if you don’t already know your type or you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating area of psychology, I recommend you make use of the wealth of helpful resources that can be found online. If you do already know your type, and you want to know a bit more about how this affects your strengths and weaknesses as a writer, look at my selection of “writers by type” below, to discover how you can start using your type as a creative advantage. These below are intuitive personalities on the MBTI system – ones I seem to work oftenest with, encouraging their ideas and intuitive talent. Tips For INFJ Writers I’m an INFJ writer myself, and so I’m intimately acquainted with many of the most common obstacles INFJ writers face. The number one challenge I see INFJ writers struggle with is perfectionism. INFJs have a rich, all-consuming inner life, and they excel brilliantly at seeing the big picture and imagining the ideal version of how something could take shape in the future. Because INFJs are such amazing abstract thinkers, it’s easy for us to bring together different elements in our mind to form a perfect whole. It’s when we try to make this “perfect whole” a physical reality that we’re confronted with the real world and all the messiness, pitfalls, snags, and less-than-perfect elements it contains. INFJ writers who are unconscious of their own perfectionistic tendencies will get stuck at this stage, always dreaming and never making any of their dreams a reality. It’s only when INFJ writers realize that the real world is never perfect, and anything they create will necessarily be bound to this real-world truth, that they can begin to accept their writing for what it is, flaws and all. Tips For INFP Writers INFP writers suffer the most from too many ideas, and a feeling of being overwhelmed by all the choices and different creative paths they could take. I’ve written on my site on the non-linear way I’ve often seen INFP writers work. This can be a strength, though – a means to connect patterns between scenes, images, characters, and ideas. It’s also not uncommon to see an INFP writer working on several writing projects at once, but the problem is not that INFPs work on too many things at the same time. Instead, the problem is that they tend to judge themselves harshly and resist their natural tendency at every turn. INFPs need a lot of variety. They also need a sense of flexibility and the freedom to be spontaneous and fluid in their artistic pursuits. Out of all the types, INFPs are most likely to work in circles. This means that the INFP writer usually works on one story, then moves onto painting for a few days, then moves onto writing a poem, and finally circles back to the story. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and, in fact, it can work quite well for INFPs who have accepted their nature and embrace this circular way of working. INFP writers run into trouble though, when they compare their creative processes to others and try to force themselves to work in a linear manner. Tips For ENJF Writers Out of the four intuitive feeling types (INFJ, INFP, ENFJ and ENFP) the ENFJ is the type that is most likely to fall prey to an extremely harsh inner critic. ENFJs are almost preternaturally aware of the relationship dynamics surrounding them, and that includes a thorough assessment of how others view them and how they measure up in the larger order of any community of which they happen to be a part. This leads many of them to easily play the comparison game, and many times feel like they’re coming out on the losing end. ENFJs also have a strong need for connection and community. If they feel isolated in their writing pursuits, or like no one understands them or “gets” what they’re attempting to do with their writing, they can quickly shut down and then begin isolating themselves even further. ENFJs must feel emotionally supported by a group of peers they love and respect. This is when they will do their best work. Tips For ENFP Writers ENFPs are similar to INFPs in that they suffer from the feeling of being overwhelmed by too many ideas, but with ENFPs this includes an outer world component that can contribute to even more overwhelm. Simply put, ENFPs are unabashed extroverts. They love people and they love getting out and having adventures with people. A healthy ENFP might work two jobs, have a family, and still take up demanding hobbies such as snowboarding or Spanish classes in their spare time. This kind of schedule usually leaves little time for writing. The number one problem most ENFPs struggle with is finishing things. They begin novels, plays, and short stories full of enthusiasm for the project, but then a sparkly, too-interesting-to-resist person or cause comes along and immediately distracts them. The best method for ENFPs is to devote one day a week to a certain piece of work (maybe the novel they’ve always dreamed of writing) and keep firm boundaries in place around that day so that the project gets a guaranteed slice of their creative energy on a regular basis. Never feel boxed in, though. Find your best writing habits. Always do what works for you. Learn about Lauren’s journey and read more at her site. Learn more about all different MBTI types and writing styles – and check out more free writing advice on us.

Vivid Verbs – The Easy Way to Spice up Your Writing

The ultimate guide on how to use verbs in your writing, including vivid verb examples and a handy list of over 333 strong verbs! Sometimes you write something and it just feels… dead. So you go to work on it, juicing it up with adjectives and adverbs. Trying to put a sparkle into your writing. Only then do you take a step back and look again. And what you have is actually worse. It’s still flat, but somehow trying too hard at the same time. Like playing canned laughter at your own bad party. So let’s pare back and go back to basics. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.From The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day… fifty the day after that… and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.Stephen King Others, such as Elmore Leonard and Mark Twain, seem to agree. So what’s the problem that all these authors are getting riled up about? The fix sounds simple enough, and yet we may still find ourselves asking: exactly what are vivid verbs? Weak Verb + Adverb Versus Strong Verb Take a look at these sentences: “No, Thomas,” she said very quietly.He ran as quickly as he possibly could to the station.She jumped as high as she knew how off the diving platform. The words in italics are either adverbs or (same basic idea) adverbial phrases. And don’t you feel how cluttered they are? Don’t you feel like there are a lot of words being used there to communicate very little? Here’s how we could have done it: “No, Thomas,” she whispered.He raced to the station.She leapt off the diving platform. Fewer words. No adverbs. Simple, effective communication. Doing more with less. And that’s the basic idea about vivid verbs. If you use the right verb, you will communicate more swiftly and effectively than if you choose the wrong one to start with – then try to patch the damage with yet more verbiage. OK. So that’s a win. But there’s more to explore here – because, yes, there’s another way to go wrong with creative writing verbs, and it’s this. State of Being Verbs Take a look at these sentences: Jerry was a great believer in the virtues of cold water.Jemima was never out of bed before midday. Notice that both those sentences use a state-of-being verb (in this case, “was”) to link a person to something about that person. And, OK, there are plenty of times when that’s a perfectly fine approach. None of the issues raised in this blog post are rules; they’re more like guidelines, or at least useful things to think about. But in this case, both sentences could be made better by using a more active verb – a vivid verb – in place of that state of being one. Here’s how those sentences could have gone: Jerry believed passionately in the virtues of cold water.Jemima lay in bed well beyond midday. Better right? Jerry is now doing something, not just being something. And in Jemima’s case, we’ve removed that negative / state of being approach, and made a positive statement about her indolence. Both sentences seem somehow more active, more emphatic. Oh yes: and you probably noticed that, in the sentence about Jerry, I slipped the word passionately in there. That’s optional, but if you want to strengthen the verb, you can. There’s no neat one-word way to say “believed passionately”, so using an adverb there is certainly a legitimate choice. There Is / There Are Another perfectly valid construction in English is to start a sentence with “there is” or “there are”. For example: There were countless trees in that forest and only one of them…There are many opportunities at this company… Those sentences are not grammatically wrong. You won’t get shot if you use them. But… Well, we could do better right? For example: Countless trees peopled that forest and only one of them…This company offers many opportunities… Boom! In the first case, we’ve got rid of a horrible empty construction (“there were”), we’ve used a good strong verb (“peopled”), and the whole sentence has got better. It feels like that forest is more alive, more exciting. That’s a perfect demonstration of how a good vivid verb can help fix an underpowered sentence. Same thing with the next sentence too. In the first version, the “company” features only as an afterthought. In the second version, it is actively offering something – it’s the subject of its own sentence and its generosity seems now like a positive act. And note the role of the verb here. The act of generosity is encapsulated in that verb, “offers”. We’ve killed a weak verb, added a vivid one – and our sentence has improved. Better right? And so damn easy. Passive Verbs vs Active Verbs Let’s take a look at two more sentences. The cake was made by my grandma.The fender was bent out of shape by a fallen branch. And yes: you spotted the issue there. In both cases, the sentences use the passive voice, not the active voice. So the person who actually made the cake was grandma. The thing that actually bent that fender was the branch. (Need more help remembering the difference between active versus passive? Check out this easy guide.) So in effect, both sentences pushed the real subject to the back of the sentence, almost as though shoving them out of sight. Here’s how to rewrite those sentences and make them better: My grandma made the cake.A fallen branch bent the fender. (Yes, you could say “out of shape” but doesn’t the word bent already convey exactly that? I think it does.) But again, I want to remind you that we’re dealing with guidelines not rules here. Which of these is better: Detective Jonas arrested and charged the suspect.The suspect was arrested and charged. The first sentence is all about the admirable Detective Jonas. But what if we don’t care about him? What if this story is all about the suspect, and what happens to him? In that case, the second sentence is better. In fact, the use of the passive voice here almost emphasises the suspect’s powerlessness. As always in writing, you need to use your judgement. And if in doubt, you can find extra help here and here! Sometimes Weak Verbs Are OK And while we’re on the issue of judgement, let’s just remember that sometimes weak verbs are really OK. For example, you can’t get a much blander verb than say / said. So you might think that your dialogue should be littered with words like trumpeted, shouted, asserted, called, whispered, muttered, declaimed, hollered, and so on. But can you imagine how ridiculous that would get how quickly? And what do you want people to pay attention to? The dialogue itself, or your comments about it? There’s no contest. In other words: weak / dull / lifeless verbs are fine when you don’t especially want to call attention to that part of your writing. Let the dialogue shine. The rest of it can just go quietly about its job. The Ultimate List Of 333+ Strong Verbs OK. That’s a lot of preamble. But you want some vivid verbs? You got em. Here goes, grouped by the kind of word they might replace: Instead of say: Ask, enquire, reply, answer, state, hiss, whisper, mumble, mutter, comment, bark, assert, shout, yell, holler, roar, rage, argue, implore, plead, exclaim, gasp, drawl, giggle, whimper, snort, growl, scream, sing, stammer Instead of run: Sprint, dart, bolt, canter, gallop, trot, zoom, hurry, speed, jog, saunter, scamper, hurtle, rush, scramble, spring, swing, swoop, dive, careen Instead of walk: Stroll, hike, promenade, saunter, march, amble, stride, tread, pace, toddle, totter, stagger, perambulate Instead of look: Observe, glance, stare, examine, peek, study, notice, see, glare Instead of go: Leave, depart, shift, take off, move on, quit, exit, take a hike, travel, drive, proceed, progress, run, walk away Instead of eat: Pick at, nibble, munch, chew, gobble, devour, consume, demolish, gulp, swallow, scarf, wolf Instead of hold: Grip, clench, grasp, seize, reach, embrace, clamp, clench, clasp, grab Instead of give: Provide, offer, present, hand over, deliver, contribute, furnish, donate, bequeath, pass over, pass to, extend, assign, allow, lend, bestow, grant, award, confer Instead of let: Allow, permit, authorise, agree to, consent to, accede to, give permission for Instead of put: Place, set, lay, position, settle, leave, situate, locate, plant, deposit, plonk, plunk Instead of pull: Yank, heave, haul, draw, cart, lug, hump, drag, tow, jerk, attract, pluck, wrench Instead of move: Progress, transfer, shift, topple, change, redeploy, refocus, relocate, prod, nudge, induce, cause, budge, stir, lead, encourage, propose, induce, slink, scamper, careen, zip, ram, drift, droop, heave, edge, stalk, tiptoe, creep, crawl, plod, waddle, drag, stagger Sensory verbs / quiet: Sigh, murmur, rustle, hum, patter, clink, tinkle, chime, whir, swish, snap, twitter, hiss, crackle, peep, bleat, buzz Sensory verbs / noisy: Crash, thunder, clap, stomp, beat, squawk, shout, yell, explode, smash, detonate, boom, echo, bark, bawl, clash, smash, jangle, thump, grate, screech, bang, thud, blare Instead of tell: Order, command, instruct, dictate, require, insist, warn, caution, decree, mandate, charge, direct, dominate, lead, rule Instead of like: Love, adore, yearn, treasure, worship, prefer, idolise, cherish, admire, enjoy, be fond of, be keen on, be partial to, fancy, care for, appreciate, hold dear Instead of want: Desire, crave, covet, yearn for, aspire to, envy, fancy, require, wish for, hanker after, need, lack, miss, aim for, choose Instead of cover: Bury, wrap, conceal, mask, veil, hide, cloak, shroud envelope, obscure, blanket, curtain Instead of throw: Toss, lob, chuck, heave, fling, pitch, shy, hurl, propel, bowl, cast, drop, project Instead of surprise: Confuse, puzzle, bewilder, baffle, bamboozle, disconcert, flummox, perplex Have fun, my friends, and 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.

Dealing With Writer’s Block

Guest author and blogger Jane Struthers is the author of over twenty non-fiction books on a range of subjects, including Red Sky at Night: The Book of Lost Countryside Wisdom and Beside the Seaside: A Celebration of the Place We Like To Be. She lives in a rural corner of East Sussex. You know how it is. You’ve spent ages thinking about what you’re going to write, anticipating it, feeling frustrated because other things are getting in the way of it. Finally, you clear a couple of hours from your busy schedule, switch on your computer or get out your pen and paper and...c nothing. The words won’t come, or they seem laughably trite or clichéd or flaccid. You’re gripped by the urgent need to wash the kitchen floor, track down a sock that’s been missing for the past five years or surf a favourite website. Hey, maybe you could call that research. Or maybe you could call it procrastination. Or writer’s block. It’s an insidious business because the more you allow it to happen, the more often it will happen. So how do you stop it? Here are some of my favorite tips. 9 Tips To Conquer Writers’ Block 1) Sit Down and Show Up As Mark Twain so famously said (and as other writers have echoed since), writing is all about application: the application of the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. Don’t give in to those internal urgings to tidy up, sow some lettuce seeds or do anything else that will curtail the agony of sitting there and not writing. You’ll never make any progress if you don’t get those words down. Sit it out! 2) Cut Out the Internet If you find that you’ve spent two hours at your desk but most of that time has involved writing emails or surfing the web, then the only answer is to switch off your Internet connection at its source before you start work. If you don’t, you’ll be drawn to the icon of your chosen browser sooner or later. Don’t give yourself that temptation. 3) Write Something Else Instead If the words really won’t come, write something else instead. Write about how you’re feeling. Write a letter to your dog. It doesn’t really matter what you write, as long as you write something. (But don’t write anything self-defeating, such as telling yourself how pathetic you are. That won’t help.) Write for ten minutes and stop. Switch to your current project and start writing that. Don’t think about it. Just do it. (Julia Cameron created a whole creative practice built on this called \"Morning Pages\" and it can work really well even beyond breaking writers\' block.) 4) Embrace the Mess Writing is an untidy business, but published books rarely reflect that. If they’ve been edited and produced in a professional manner, the prose is seamless. It flows in a way that may make you tear your hair on a bad day. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by this. The raw manuscript of your favourite novel was probably just as messy as yours is right now. That’s OK. No one is going to see it. You aren’t completing an exam paper. 5) It Doesn\'t Have to Be Perfect If you want every sentence to be perfect as soon as you’ve written it, or you fret that your grasp of apostrophes isn’t all it could be, you will probably agonize over every word so much that the flow will soon dry up. Right now, you need to get the words down. The editing stage can come later. And if there really is room for improvement, maybe you could start teaching yourself grammar, spelling and syntax in your spare time. 6) Take Notes for Later If you aren’t happy about a word or a sentence when you write it, and you keep coming back to it instead of moving ahead, highlight it so you can come back to it later and keep the flow going in the meantime. If you use Microsoft Word, get into the habit of using Track Changes. This allows you to insert a comment into your text at the relevant point, so you can flag whatever is necessary. Track Changes also remembers your editing in case you have second thoughts about it and want to revert to your original text. 7) Set an Achievable Goal If you’ve only got half an hour of writing time, there’s no point in telling yourself you’re going to write 1000 words. It’s unlikely to happen, which will be discouraging. If you are really struggling, aim to write a single paragraph. Then, if you’ve got time, write the next one. 8) Give Yourself a Stopping Point Some writers like to stop work when they reach the end of a chapter. Others always stop mid-chapter or even mid-sentence, so they can plunge straight back into what they were writing because they’re excited about what happens next. Figure out where it feels good to stop, when you know that you\'ll have something exciting to come back to -- because you\'ll be setting yourself up for success tomorrow. 9) Write at the Same Time Ideally, try to write at the same time each day. This makes it part of your daily routine, so it becomes a habit. If you show up every day for the muse, the muse is more likely to show up for you. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How To Start A Writer’s Blog (The Basics)

Whether you’d like to be traditionally or self-published, this kind of contact between yourself and readers can start with a blog. Sharing your thoughts and writing life in a blog helps create a connection to readers, whether you’re published now or are hoping to be. For in-depth social media and blog insights, you may like our self-publishing course content – but, be you published or not, here’s a whistle-stop tour on how to successfully start a writer’s blog for time-pressed writers. What To Write About In Blog Posts A few first ideas. Opinion post (perhaps wise or poignant, perhaps funny, depending how you write)How-to guide (on something you know well)Personal anecdotes (sharing stories that serve audiences and serve you)Book reviewsBook giveawaysRound-ups (e.g. writing or competition news, links, etc.) Enjoy mind-mapping, as this should be a passion project and unique to you. A blog you love is a blog others will love. (If you’re a planner, you may enjoy creating a blog content calendar, too.) What Blog Platform To Choose If you’re an uncertain blogger, try starting a hosted blog., for instance, is a free platform that makes it easy to transfer to, the latter giving autonomy on domain, design choices, and more. You’ll have the option of upgrading later to a self-hosted site when you feel confident. Joanna Cannon, for instance, uses WordPress. Squarespace is an alternative blog home, as used by Tor Udall. If you’re time-pressed, another idea is a micro-blog. Writers like Erin Morgenstern, Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman use Tumblr. On a hosted site like Tumblr, it’s easy to ‘re-blog’ if you’re on the move. You can re-share social content (bookish images, links, quotes, audio, and video), whilst still linking to original users. If you know you’ll struggle finding time for posts, Tumblr is a ‘low-maintenance’ choice, and you can buff up less-frequent writings with this sort of re-sharing. Question how much time you can really commit to a blog, how confident you are, your aims and the content you want to create. Research your options and work from there, as best suits you. How To Write Blog Content That Sticks You need writing readers can return to. How will your blog shine out, and how will your posts stick over time? Creativity on your own time and terms should bring fun and fulfilment, so write posts that bring you to life. Just remember, if you’d like to create engagement and connected readers, everything you post needs justification. What value is it bringing? If you’re writing for other authors, as an example, why must people with limited writing time stop by to read? Is there timeless advice you’re posting, encouragement you can share, a round-up of quotes, or tips for productivity and self-confidence you can give? Brainstorm advice, anecdotes, lists and inspiration you can offer. Write for enjoyment, but make it worth a reader’s time stopping by. If your content grips, they’ll linger, feeling more connected to and interested in you and your books. Look up popular authors’ blogs for ideas. A Note On Copywriting You’ll have no in-house editorial team as a blogger, no line- and copy-edits made, just as if you were self-publishing a novel. As a plus, you can write what you want. As a minus, you can write what you want. Shakespeare’s observed brevity is the soul of wit, so keep sentences clear, concise, and sharp. Use shorter paragraphs, bullet lists and subheadings, remembering people will often read on the move. Simpler is better in blog copy. How To Get People To Blog Your Book Whichever social channels you feel comfortable using (never the ones you don’t), add your blog URL to profiles. Make use of writers’ and readers’ hashtags like #amwriting, #askagent or #bookstagram if you’re sharing post links on Twitter. If there are calendar days or months like #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November), tap into these, schedule thematic blog posts and join the chats. Social media helps feed your blog. (Just don’t spend too long on social media. Keep it to only an hour a day.) What’ll make readers linger on your blog, though, is still value of content. Once those readers are there, really enjoying your words and your stories, they can enter their emails to subscribe to your feed. Ultimately, whatever you’re posting should bring readers value and wisdom in some guise. This gets readers to your blog and keeps them there. Do Writers Need Blogs? You’ll need a website and social media, online spaces your readers can find you. A personal blog should display writings, musings, advice, insight into what readers may find in your books. It’s the space you can create meaningful connections with readers. Do share your links on social media with us. For more free insights, peek at our prose advice, or other writing advice pages to give you ideas. There’s also our self-publishing course with details on arranging blog tours, plus more marketing essentials for self-publishing writers and bloggers. Happy blogging! 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 Fantasy Novel

Fantasy fiction is a difficult area – and many fantasy first-time writers can neglect the basics. For more, see Geraldine Pinch’s words of wisdom below. How To Write Fantasy: Author Geraldine Pinch Shares Tips Writing fantasy is not an easy option or a quick way to make money, but if you have the imagination to see wonders and the skill to describe them, if you have things to say that can only be said with dragons, then fantasy may be your genre. The best preparation for writing fantasy is to read myths and legends from lots of different cultures. Many fantasy classics are longer than the average novel, but you don’t have to write a multi-volume epic to break into the fantasy market. Anything from 90,000 to 200,000 words is an acceptable length. Ideally, your novel should be satisfying as a standalone work, but perhaps have the potential to be the first of a series. Literary agents see hundreds of manuscripts set in vaguely medieval worlds, in which magic works. There will need to be something distinctive and compelling about your manuscript to make it truly stand out. Don’t base your book on a role-playing game. Don’t feel that you must use the standard cast list of warriors, wizards, dragons, elves, etc. Only write about elves if you are passionately inspired by elves, if you have something new to say about them. Creating new worlds is one of the most enjoyable challenges in fiction. Readers (and that includes literary agents!) should feel that you know everything about your invented world and its history. Getting to that stage may take years of thought, planning and research. Then, be ruthlessly selective. Most of your beloved background material should stay in your notes. Genre novels are expected to be fast-moving, so don’t start with pages of scene-setting and explanation. Plunge into the story as quickly as possible and only tell your readers what they need to know when they need to know it. Your basic plot doesn’t have to be completely original. You might choose to tell an old story with a new twist or from an unusual viewpoint. There will always be a market for classic quest stories and battles between good and evil, but if you don’t genuinely care about how and why the ‘good guys’ win, neither will your readers. If you give your heroes unlimited magical powers, it will be hard to get enough tension and conflict into your plot. Try to restrict the number of ‘voices’ you use to tell your story. If your main viewpoint character is an outsider of some kind, this will make it easier for your readers to identify with her or him. Your characters don’t have to speak in pseudo-archaic language, but they shouldn’t all sound like American teenagers, either. Finally, remember that what works in a fantasy film or comic won’t necessarily work in a novel. Blow-by-blow accounts of sword fights can be boring to read and huge battle scenes just confusing. In a novel, action scenes need to be personalised. Show what an individual warrior is thinking and feeling as he fights, and take your readers right inside the world of your imagination. Then get your manuscript to a literary agent … and best of 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. 

Second Novel Syndrome (The Disease, The Symptoms, The Cure)

I know what you’re thinking. Why do I need to read a blog post about Second Novel Syndrome, when I haven’t even finished the first? Well, publishing is a funny thing. In January 2017, I wondered if I’d ever get a novel published. By March that same year, I had an agent and my book was in the London Book Fair catalogue. When it happens, it can happen fast. [Ed’s Note: It kinda helps if you come to one of Jericho Writers’ events. That’s where the magic happened for our Sarah.] What Is Second Novel Syndrome? Second novel syndrome (SNS) isn’t talked about a lot. I spent twelve years writing books and trying to get an agent, and I didn’t think much about what would happen after that. Getting an agent felt like an impossible end goal. It wasn’t. Second books are actually notoriously difficult to write. I know – I didn’t think they would be, either. I wrote three ‘practice’ books before I made it with my debut. What’s the big deal about writing one more? SNS Symptom #1 – You Have Way Less Time I started my debut novel in July 2014. In 2015, I completely trashed the draft and started again. In 2016, I wrote my next draft as part of a writing course, and then completely changed it again in the summer of that year, thanks to some feedback from an agent. All in all, the novel took me two and a half years to write – and then another year editing it with my agent and editors after that. When I casually asked my agent when publishers expect an author’s second book, she said ‘usually a year after delivery of the first’. Yep – a year. Somewhere in that year, I had to come up with an astounding concept that was as good as the first. I had to research, plan and write a terrible first draft (that I could bin and re-write entirely, before no doubt re-writing again). All of this whilst trying to hold down a full-time job and all those other things that go with being a human being. The cure: make more time Certainly not an easy feat. For me, I’ve had to cut my working week to four days, so I have at least one day to donate entirely to writing. I work from home as much as I can, so I have more energy to write in the evenings. This won’t be doable for everyone. Find the pockets of time you can squeeze out of your day, no matter how big or small, knuckle down and make that happen. SNS Symptom #2 – You Now Have Multiple Projects On Your Hands I’m a bit of a loyal writer. When I have my head in a book, it consumes me. Over the last year, I’ve learnt that it’s not really possible to write a second book and have it consume you. I’ve had to split my time between writing my new book and editing my old one – occasionally dropping the new project completely to make a deadline. Some writers are already brilliant at project juggling. For me – it’s been a big learning curve. The cure: learn how to juggle projects As your writing career progresses, you’re going to have more and more projects to juggle. When you’re writing your fifth book, you might still be doing events on your debut. No one talks about it, but it is one of those skills you have to learn if you want to be a professional writer. I’m still in the process of learning it, but so far, I’ve found that sectioning my working week can help differentiate between projects. In the morning, I could be working on debut edits from home. Then in the afternoon, I take my laptop to a café and I throw some words down for book two. SNS Symptom #3 – You Can’t Shake Off Your Last Book My debut was written in first person present, from the point of view of a girl with a distinctive voice and a weird way of seeing the world. I’ve spent three and a half years with her, and I’m still with her now. She’s difficult to shake off. I’ve written over a hundred first pages of my new novel, and they’re still not quite right. I need a new, equally distinctive, but completely different voice – but everything I write still seems to be about her. The cure: get out of your comfort zone If, like me, you’re struggling to find a new voice, try writing your story in a completely different way to your first. For example, I’ve found writing in verse to be a helpful way in. Writing poetry means I can get to know my new character in a place my previous protagonist doesn’t belong. Yes – I’ll probably scrap every word. But with first drafts, everything and anything you can write will help you reach the finish line. SNS Symptom #4 – Your Next Book Needs To Be As Good As Your First As a writer, I feel the need to impress. My agent is amazing – she fights in my corner and believes wholeheartedly in my writing. I want to hand her a new novel that is even more amazing than she thought my first one was. Unfortunately, what I’m actually writing is terrible. I mean – of course it is. She saw my debut after two rewrites and a year of edits. All she’s going to see now is that first draft I’m going to throw away. Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier. And, of course, when we’re writing something we don’t think is as good as it could be, it can be difficult to keep going. It becomes easier to stop for a bit, maybe have a tidy up, or obsessively scour Pinterest for home décor ideas... (Not that I do that.) The cure: forget about other people This one I definitely find the hardest, as I have a (somewhat ridiculous) need to please people. The truth is though – other people don’t matter when it comes to first drafts. Anyone who writes, or who knows writing, will know that first drafts are for the writer to work out what it is they want to write. First drafts of book two do not need to be as good as your finished debut. And – all because you have an agent now, doesn’t mean you are suddenly a know-it-all, master writer. All writers need to keep learning and – importantly – keep making mistakes. The important thing is that we keep writing. That’s the only way horrible first drafts get turned into published novels. Second Novel Syndrome: A Cure There is no complete cure for Second Novel Syndrome other than just doing it. But do remember this: Jericho Writers is a club for writers like you. Like us, in fact. 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 Historical Fiction

Writing historical fiction gives writers a fantastically rich background against which to write. But the old verities of fiction – character, story and prose – remain as important as ever. Here a few practitioners offer their words of wisdom on how to write historical fiction which will feel brilliantly alive – and wonderfully saleable. Tips From Emma Darwin Emma Darwin is author of acclaimed literary historical novel The Mathematics of Love. It goes without saying that you’ve researched your historical facts. That includes manners and morals as well as stage-coaches and corsetry: how people behave in matters of sex or smoking must be as accurate and convincing as how they cook or bet or fight. You’ve kept a sharp eye out for things you didn’t know you had to check: don’t make your medieval peasants eat potatoes, or your Regency heroine tell her fiancé to ‘step on the gas’, and don’t forget that everyone always wears a hat outdoors. You’ve read writing of the period and found a voice for your novel that’s neither incomprehensible, nor twee pastiche, nor crashingly modern. And then you must leave it all behind, because you’re not writing history, you’re writing fiction, and fiction is all about what you can make the reader believe you know: not what you’ve learnt in a library, but what you know as naturally as you know your own house. The worst writing you’ll ever do is what you write when you’ve got a history book in the other hand. The best is when your characters and their points of view are so alive to you that of course you write what they see and how they see it, their voices filling that panelled room or smoky alehouse. And all of that must happen without you once letting the reins drop. Your readers want to live and breathe history, but they won’t keep reading if the narrative grinds to a halt on a hill of historical detail. Find it all out, get it right, and then, in a sense, forget what you’ve found and write. You’re telling stories, not histories. Tips From Susan Opie Susan has been senior editor at HarperCollins and publisher of Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl, among many other works of historical fiction. Before you embark upon your historical novel, ask yourself: who are you writing for? Not only must you have a clear idea of your potential readership (male, female, crossover, and how literary), but also you should bear in mind the state of the market in this area as well. The publishing industry changes, and it has certainly done so in this field within recent memory. The market demands good fiction, but also looks for a strong sense of authenticity. That’s as applicable to commercial historical novels as it is to the more literary kind. Remember, readers want to come away from the novel feeling that they have been entertained and that they’ve learnt something, as well. They might then go away and discuss the book in reading groups, so it’ll have to stand up to such scrutiny (and the scrutiny of literary agents, of course!) The biggest successes in the area have tended to evoke a period we think we know something about, and have then gone on to shine a new light on it, bringing it to life in a fresh way. It might be told through the eyes of a character not directly in the line of historical action, allowing the narrator much more freedom to move and to comment. Generally, readers are drawn in by familiar elements (if not the period, then a famous character or setting), but not so familiar that they’ve heard it all before. Keep an eye on what’s come out over the past year or two, also on what’s about to come out. If a particular character, setting or period has featured several times already, why would a literary agent or publisher take on another book of the same kind? If you receive an offer of publication, the harsh reality of the industry will mean that your publisher will ask you to produce books in quick succession. That can be hard in this genre; research takes time, and the novels themselves tend not to be short, so you’d better love the period you’ve picked. It’s much easier to write regularly in a period you know well rather than try to change eras with every new book. If all that hasn’t put you off – good luck! Tips From Harry Bingham Harry is the founder Jericho Writers and author of historical novels Glory Boys and The Lieutenant’s Lover. First, authors of historical fiction need to write good fiction, meaning a strong plot driven by strong characters and prose, but the historical genre does make a difference to the writer, all the same. In my experience, settings drawn from history give a rich backdrop for novels. Make sure you relish the opportunities you get to use an evocative vocabulary. Pay attention to nouns. Get specific and reach for details that illuminate the period. Keep dialogue modern, with the occasional dip into the vocabulary or grammatical structures of the past. Use of the occasional, now obsolete, slang or idiom can help. One other point, for commercial novelists especially, is that you do need to be careful about the attitudes of your characters. An English gentleman born in the nineteenth century would (almost certainly) have been racist, homophobic by modern standards. You’ll still need the empathy of contemporary readers, so you will need to finesse these issues. On the whole, unless you are portraying villains, you should have old-fashioned attitudes tempered by more liberal concerns, even if these never quite wind up winning. Finally, enjoy writing. It ought to be pure joy. It certainly has been for me. 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. 

99 Quotes About Writing By The World’s Greatest Writers

Have you ever wondered what advice your favourite author would give to a debut writer? Here are 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful writers! Enjoy. The quotes and aphorisms gathered together below range across more than 2,000 years of the practice of the craft. Within these quotes you will find agreement on what constitutes good writerly practice, but you will also find a decent slice of disagreement. One writer plots it all out, right down to the finest details before embarking, while another writer could not begin to work if they knew beyond the next scene. One writer works out meticulous biographical histories of their characters, for another writer it is enough to close their eyes and picture their subject. Some of these quotes below contradict or dispute each other. That’s deliberate. That’s fine. Many ‘story gurus’ or ‘formula writers’ might wish you to believe that their approach to story is the one, that they have cracked the secret and if you follow their approach – and buy their book – your work will be bestselling. But writing is not like that. There are many ways to arrive at the same destination. If there were one single successful approach then literature would be all the poorer for it. The application of formula to practice tends to make results more formulaic. The resulting work would be samey and bland. What are offered below are tools not rules. If a quote strikes a chord with you then think about it, use it. If the quote intuitively offends how you wish to proceed with your work then you are entitled and right to discard it. It is not right for you – someone has offered you a hammer when you need a spade. Only you will know when you read something and think, ‘That’s it! That’s what I’ve been looking for.’ Each writer must collect the twigs to build their own nest and no nest is the same. Don’t feel anxiety because you disagree with Anton Chekov’s approach, or Colette’s approach. What made them Chekov and Colette will not make you into you. Rejoice in the venerable writers and quotes below, enjoy, relax and I hope you find some twigs for your nest. Good Writing Here’s a diverse collection of musings and advice on what makes good writing from many of the best practitioners who have trod the path before you. See if any ring your bell. “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write quickly and you will never write well; write well, and you will soon write quickly.” ― Marcus Fabius Quintilianus (about) “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Sooner or later every writer evolves his own definition of a story. Mine is: A reflection of life plus beginning and end (life seems not to have either) and a meaning.” ― Mary O’Hara (about) “Comparisons deplete the actuality of the things compared…” ― William S. Wilson (about) “A good story is a dream shared by the author and the reader. Anything that wakes the reader from the dream is a mortal sin.” ― Victor J. Banis (about) “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” ― Mark Twain (about) “Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”― William Faulkner (about) “In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader – not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” ― E. L. Doctorow (about) “Story is metaphor for life and life is lived in time.” ― Robert McKee (about) “Good writing is like a windowpane.” ― George Orwell (about) “In good writing, words become one with things.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “All good writing leaves something unexpressed.” ― Christian Nestell Bovee (about) “I believe that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading.” ― Charles Kuralt (about) “It may be observed of good writing, as of good blood, that it is much easier to say what it is composed of than to compose it.” ― Charles Caleb Colton (about) “The problems of the human heart in conflict with itself… alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” ― William Faulkner (about) “Good writing can be defined as having something to say and saying it well. When one has nothing to say, one should remain silent. Silence is always beautiful at such times.” ― Edward Abbey (about) “You do an awful lot of bad writing in order to do any good writing. Incredibly bad. I think it would be very interesting to make a collection of some of the worst writing by good writers.” ―William S. Burroughs (about) “By the time I am nearing the end of a story, the first part will have been reread and altered and corrected at least one hundred and fifty times. I am suspicious of both facility and speed. Good writing is essentially rewriting. I am positive of this.” ― Roald Dahl (about) “You don’t write about the horrors of war. No. You write about a kid’s burnt socks lying in the road.”― Richard Price (about) “A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”― G.K. Chesterton (about) “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”― Thomas Jefferson (about) “Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne (about)  “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.” ― Voltaire (about) “It’s not wise to violate the rules until you know how to observe them.” ― T.S. Eliot (about) “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” ― Stephen King (about) “Write what will stop your breath if you don’t write.” ― Grace Paley (about) “What is the essence of the art of writing? Part One: Have something to say. Part Two: Say it well.” ― Edward Abbey (about) Character How can collections of words on a page approximate to the living, breathing complex ambiguities that people present in real life? Every writer knows it’s a tough job to even try, but that try we must… “Let’s face it, characters are the bedrock of your fiction. Plot is just a series of actions that happen in a sequence, and without someone to either perpetrate or suffer the consequences of those actions, you have no one for your reader to root for, or wish bad things on.” — Icy Sedgwick (about) “The one common thread in all of the books that are falling apart on my shelf? Characters—flawed ones with desires and needs who spend most of the story tripping over their weaknesses in an effort to get what they want.” — Becca Puglisi (about) “You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.”― Joss Whedon (about) “Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.” ― Ray Bradbury (about) “The characters in my novels are my own unrealised possibilities. That is why I am equally fond of them all and equally horrified by them. Each one has crossed a border that I myself have circumvented.”― Milan Kundera (about) “In displaying the psychology of your characters, minute particulars are essential. God save us from vague generalizations!” ― Anton Chekhov (about) “Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Fictional characters are made of words, not flesh; they do not have free will, they do not exercise volition. They are easily born, and as easily killed off.” ― John Banville (about) “Everyone here seems to have some weird secret or other.” ― Iris Murdoch (about) “When I am writing, I’m very much on the ground, on the same ground my characters are treading.” ―Graham Swift (about) “When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away. ” ― Kurt Vonnegut (about) “Action, reaction, motivation, emotion, all have to come from the characters. Writing a love scene requires the same elements from the writer as any other. ” ― Nora Roberts (about) “The real story is not the plot, but how the characters unfold by it. ” ― Vanna Bonta (about) “My only conclusion about structure is that nothing works if you don’t have interesting characters and a good story to tell. ” ― Harold Ramis (about) “Almost all great writers have as their motif, more or less disguised, the passage from childhood to maturity, the clash between the thrill of expectation and the disillusioning knowledge of truth. ‘Lost Illusion’ is the undisclosed title of every novel.” ― Andre Maurois (about) Plotting A plot is just a string of events, sure, but if it reads like just a string of events then your book is dead in the water. Here, a range of writers offer advice about how make your events meaningful to keep readers turning the page. “A lack of narrative structure, as you know, will cause anxiety.” ― John Dufresne (about) “What I’ve learned about writing is that sometimes less is more, while often more is grander. And both are true.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich (about) “The novel cannot submit to authority.” ― Julian Gough (about) “Of course, the writer can impose control; It’s just a really shitty idea. Writing controlled fiction is called “plotting.” Buckling your seatbelt and letting the story take over, however… that is called “storytelling.” Storytelling is as natural as breathing; plotting is the literary version of artificial respiration.”― Stephen King (about) “I once tried to write a novel about revenge. It’s the only book I didn’t finish. I couldn’t get into the mind of the person who was plotting vengeance.” ― Maeve Binchy (about) “Character is plot, plot is character.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “… plot, the absolute line between two points which I’ve always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.” ― Grace Paley (about) “Modernist manuals of writing often conflate story with conflict. This reductionism reflects a culture that inflates aggression and competition while cultivating ignorance of other behavioral options. No narrative of any complexity can be built on or reduced to a single element. Conflict is one kind of behavior. There are others, equally important in any human life, such as relating, finding, losing, bearing, discovering, parting, changing. Change is the universal aspect of all these sources of story. Story is something moving, something happening, something or somebody changing.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin (about) “What monster sleeps in the deep of your story? You need a monster. Without a monster there is no story.” ― Billy Marshall (about) “Don’t resist the urge to burn down the stronghold, kill off the main love interest or otherwise foul up the lives of your characters.” ― Patricia Hamill (about) “An author must learn the principles of good storytelling only in order to write better from the heart. ” ― Uri Shulevitz (about) “The last thing one discovers in composing a work is what to put first.”― Blaise Pascal (about) “[T]he success of every novel — if it’s a novel of action — depends on the high spots. The thing to do is to say to yourself, “What are my big scenes?” and then get every drop of juice out of them. ”― P.G. Wodehouse (about) Editing You spend the whole first draft being delighted at getting more words down on paper, then as soon as you’ve finished you spend the next few months trying to take word out. As all writers know, editing is a tough game… “If it can be cut out, then CUT IT OUT. Everything non-essential that you can eliminate strengthens what’s left.” ― Alexander Mackendrick (about) “The part you must jettison is not only the best-written part; it also, oddly, that part which was to have been the very point. It is the original key passage, the passage on which the rest was to hang.” ― Annie Dillard (about) “Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counselling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, ‘How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?’ and avoid ‘How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?” ― James Thurber (about) “No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.” ― J. Russell Lynes (about) “The best advice on writing was given to me by my first editor, Michael Korda, of Simon and Schuster, while writing my first book. ‘Finish your first draft and then we’ll talk,’ he said. It took me a long time to realize how good the advice was. Even if you write it wrong, write and finish your first draft. Only then, when you have a flawed whole, do you know what you have to fix.” – ― Dominick Dunne (about) “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.” ― H.G. Wells (about) “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shovelling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” ― Shannon Hale (about) “I’ve found the best way to revise your own work is to pretend that somebody else wrote it and then to rip the living shit out of it.” ― Don Roff (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “Whatever in a work of art is not used, is doing harm.” ― C.S. Lewis (about) “I write, “Jane came into the room and sat down on the blue couch,” read that, wince, cross out “came into the room” and “down” and “blue” (Why does she have to come into the room? Can someone sit UP on a couch? Why do we care if it’s blue?) and the sentence becomes “Jane sat on the couch – ” and suddenly, it’s better (Hemingwayesque, even!), although … why is it meaningful for Jane to sit on a couch? Do we really need that? And soon we have arrived, simply, at “Jane”, which at least doesn’t suck, and has the virtue of brevity.” ― George Saunders (about) “Let the reader find that he cannot afford to omit any line of your writing because you have omitted every word that he can spare.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson (about) “It was like removing layers of crumpled brown paper from an awkwardly shaped parcel, and revealing the attractive present which it contained.” ― Diana Athill (about) “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.” ― Blaise Pascal (about) “Put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it.” ― Colette (about) “No iron can pierce the human heart as chillingly as a full stop placed at the right time.” ― Isaac Babel (about) Inspiration Whoever you are, no matter how motivated or disciplined, sometimes the well is dry. Here’s a collection of quotes from other writers that might help to get the wheels turning again. “Imagination is like a muscle. I found out that the more I wrote, the bigger it got.” ― Philip José Farmer (about) “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London (about) “Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” ― John Steinbeck (about) “Write what should not be forgotten.” ― Isabel Allende (about) “Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ― Alan Wilson Watts (about) “One should use common words to say uncommon things” ― Arthur Schopenhauer (about) “He asked, “What makes a man a writer?” “Well,” I said, “it’s simple. You either get it down on paper, or jump off a bridge.” ― Charles Bukowski (about) “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.” ― Octavia Butler (about) “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”― Thomas Mann (about) “Go for broke. Always try and do too much. Dispense with safety nets. Take a deep breath before you begin talking. Aim for the stars. Keep grinning. Be bloody-minded. Argue with the world. And never forget that writing is as close as we get to keeping a hold on the thousand and one things–childhood, certainties, cities, doubts, dreams, instants, phrases, parents, loves–that go on slipping, like sand, through our fingers.” ― Salman Rushdie (about) “The difference between real life and a story is that life has significance, while a story must have meaning. The former is not always apparent, while the latter always has to be, before the end.”  ― Vera Nazarian (about) “A good writer refuses to be socialized. He insists on his own version of things, his own consciousness. And by doing so he draws the reader’s eye from its usual groove into a new way of seeing things.” ― Bill Barich (about) “Good novels are not written by orthodoxy-sniffers, nor by people who are conscience-stricken about their own orthodoxy. Good novels are written by people who are not frightened.”  ― George Orwell (about) “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau (about) Motivation Writing relies hugely on internal resources and personal fortitude and whoever you are you’ll have days when those things are in short supply. Here’s some wisdom to help keep the fires burning… “The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize.” ― Robert Hughes (about) “Writing is about resilience and faith. Writing is hard for every last one of us – straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine coal? They do not. They simply dig.” ― Cheryl Strayed (about) “Art is only the means to life, to the life more abundant. It is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.” ― Henry Miller (about) “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”― Robert Frost (about) “There is nothing harder to estimate than a writer’s time, nothing harder to keep track of. There are moments—moments of sustained creation—when his time is fairly valuable; and there are hours and hours when a writer’s time isn’t worth the paper he is not writing anything on.” ― E.B. White (about) “A writer who is a pro can take on almost any assignment, but if he or she doesn’t much care about the subject, I try to dissuade the writer, as in that case the book can be just plain hard labor.” ― Sterling Lord (about) “A novel takes the courage of a marathon runner, and as long as you have to run, you might as well be a winning marathon runner. Serendipity and blind faith faith in yourself won’t hurt a thing. All the bastards in the world will snicker and sneer because they haven’t the talent to zip up their flies by themselves. To hell with them, particularly the critics. Stand in there, son, no matter how badly you are battered and hurt.” ― Leon Uris (about) “Writing is a manual labor of the mind: a job, like laying pipe.” ― John Gregory Dunne (about) “Never ever forget that you enlisted in the ranks – you weren’t press ganged or drafted. Nobody owes you anything – least of all respect for your work – until you’ve earned it with what you put on the page.” ― T.F. Rigelhof (about) “Before I start a project, I always ask myself the following question. Why is this book worth a year of my life? There needs to be something about the theme, the technique, or the research that makes the time spent on it worthwhile.” ― David Morrell (about) “Work like hell! I had 122 rejection slips before I sold a story.”  ― F. Scott Fitzgerald (about) “Since I became a novelist I have discovered that I am biased. Either I think a new novel is worse than mine and I don’t like it, or I suspect it is better than my novels and I don’t like it.” ― Umberto Eco (about) “I can’t blame modern technology for my predilection for distraction, not after all the hours I’ve spent watching lost balloons disappear into the clouds. I did it before the Internet, and I’ll do it after the apocalypse, assuming we still have helium and weak-gripped children.” ― Colson Whitehead (about) There we have it, 99 quotes from some of the World’s most successful authors. What did you think? Have you got any memorable quotes of your own? Head over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know! 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 Generate Ideas For Worldbuilding In Fiction

Novelists of science-fiction or fantasy know worldbuilding is a huge part of the fun of writing, from magical medieval worlds to apocalyptic dystopias. There’s something wonderful about writing brave new worlds. As George R.R. Martin has written: We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La. They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth. What’s described here just comes down to worldbuilding. Whatever genre you’re in love with – historical fantasy, urban fantasy, hard or soft science-fiction, or something else – here are some general guidelines from us and an overview to consider. Worldbuilding: Two Methods To Choose M. John Harrison has defined worldbuilding as an ‘attempt to exhaustively survey a place that isn’t there’. There are two established methods for science-fiction and fantasy, defined in The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding. These are outside-in (otherwise called top-down) or inside-out (bottom-up) – so we’ll work with these definitions to help you sense which broad approach you prefer. If you’re for outside-in, you’ll go with worldbuilding before just about anything else (i.e. plot, character, creatures) in your sci-fi or fantasy writing. You’ll want that intricately-crafted world there in your mind, detailed in notes, ready for readers to explore as much as you yourself would wish to. Maybe you’ll need it complete with histories, languages and more – because you feel fantastical worlds need a sense and structure first for a story to operate in. Perhaps you’ll want to know every nook and cranny, creating mythologies, histories, etymologies surrounding your characters, like J.K. Rowling, or as J.R.R. Tolkien did when he created Middle Earth. Tolkien, though, built The Hobbit around Bilbo Baggins – and then there came the history of Middle Earth and more. This makes Tolkien an inside-out world-builder. Bilbo, his character, came first and Middle Earth is built around Bilbo – all he must achieve, how he must grow – before Bilbo’s young cousin, Frodo, is forced to pick up Bilbo’s legacy in The Lord of the Rings and continue the journey. Similarly, the centre of J.K. Rowling’s series was always Harry himself. With an inside-out approach, you’ll build worlds around characters, exploring as you go. This way is (arguably) most useful to you, helping you not get bogged down in the fun of worldbuilding. You mustn’t ever neglect your story. Mapping A New World It’s not just a lot fun to create a world map. It’s worth doing even as a draft sketch for yourself, because the key rule to never break in worldbuilding is that your world must have an internal, underpinning logic to it. This helps convince us that no matter how fantastical your book material, it is authentic enough to feel plausible – enough for readers to buy into it all. Think as you map mountains, savannahs, deserts – what do terrains mean for the societies you’ll create? In fantasy epics, much of plot – including backstories, world histories and more – is tied up in mapping. The Iron Islands of A Song of Ice and Fire, as an example, are known for ironborn ships. Surrounded by seas, Iron Islanders depend upon their Iron Fleet. This doesn’t just sound imposing and impressive as a plot device from George R.R. Martin. It makes a certain logical sense that Iron Islanders would be dedicated to seafaring for their prosperity and survival. There must be underpinning, internal rules to your world to create a due sense of realism, and this can feed into your plot arc, character journeys and all the rest. As Jeff Vandermeer has written in Wonderbook: Approaches to setting and character should be multidirectional: organic and three-dimension, with layers and depths. Throwaway settings are like throwaway characters: a missed opportunity. These geographical elements are interconnected and worth exploring, researching carefully as a conscientious writer. Mapping A Universe If you’re building a planet for your science-fiction novel, or mapping star systems – all sorts of scientific questions begin to surface. That’s enough for a separate tome entirely. Still, a quick note here to ‘hard sci-fi’ writers on its importance. Let’s say you were creating an alien planet with rings like Jupiter or Saturn. In terms of detail, some geological knowledge and understanding could help you in your descriptive writing. Writer Stephen L. Gillett has written in his book World-Building how this planet would look: Rings would make for spectacular skies … during the day, a vast white arch, probably visibly subdivided into concentric arcs, would stretch high across the southern sky, pallid but plainly visible. … As the sun set, the arch would blaze … like a lacework with its multiple interior arcs. Shepherd moons would appear like bright pearls. … As nightfall encroached … no stars at all would appear in the black band … [then] high in the east a brilliant arc would appear where the rings first caught the sunlight, and the brilliance would spread westward until the whole arch would glow just before dawn. If you’re an enthusiast for science-fiction, learn to love the sciences, and read up on them. They could just offer new mines of inspiration. It’ll all take time, yes – and is it necessary? It just depends. Know how deep you wish to go. Know if your story (or you) may need it. It can’t hurt to consider, though. Writing World Histories Readers love exploring the histories of Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire – the complex, horrific politics of King’s Landing. Readers become immersed in the stories of George R.R. Martin’s great families, forging uneasy alliances to retain positions of power. The books wouldn’t allure us if it weren’t for such details. On the other hand, part of the suspense and unease of a novel like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale stems from Offred’s patchy knowledge of her dystopia and its ambiguity. A fairy-tale retelling like Uprooted by Naomi Novik strikes a middle ground. Some history is sketched for us but there’s no extensive mapping, no comprehensive history of intrigue. There’s still much mystery surrounding the Dragon, the ‘reaping’ faced by Agnieszka and Kasia, which can work to advantage in Uprooted. A little mystery is no bad thing. However, to truly know your world, a world history or survey detailing just as much as you need to write would probably be useful. It’ll be useful material for you, yourself – no matter how much you share of it in your book. So that’s the most valid reason to create a world history – if you’ll enjoy making it, love writing it. Create notes, etchings for yourself. You needn’t create these with the intension to publish, either. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Silmarillion, reams on the histories of Middle Earth, but never meant this book or others to be published. J.K. Rowling also kept detailed notes and sketches of Harry Potter’s world for years. All of it was meant for her reference and only after Harry’s success did she go on to reveal these on the website Pottermore, from supporting characters’ back stories to the intricacies and origins of wandlore, and more. Wherever stories catch on, a desire for more can often follow as George R.R. Martin also discovered before finishing his series. He published The World of Ice and Fire, an informative history ‘textbook’ for his world, detailing all that led up to events of A Game of Thrones. Still, your world history is really your backdrop for readers. In one sense, you must ‘always leave them hungry’ because a world history is not the same thing as your story – and it’s the stories themselves that grip us. Better leave readers hungry then inundate too much and risk boring anyone. This said, a world history would still bear heavily upon your plot and any world history should feel organic, not tacked on. Your world history, at least as far as readers are concerned, needs to be fleshed out just enough as far as is relevant for the here and now of your plot and characters. Writing Alternate Histories Building alternate histories (i.e. reworking the histories of this world, recreating this world with intricately changed aspects), though, is another matter. A separate branch of worldbuilding, this is trickier, because you’ll need to research extensively before you rework. If certain events didn’t happen, how would this bear on your written worlds or societies? Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is an example of how to write an alternative history well. Set in Regency England with magicians thrown in, the myth of the Raven King casts a shadow over all as magic ‘returns’ to England, as London society is dazzled by spells and ladies raised from the dead. The entire novel is punctuated with long (optional) footnotes and backstories, making for a deftly and thoroughly researched world of alternative history. In this sense, you can take inspiration from real-life histories – in A Song of Ice and Fire, civil war ensues following the beheading of key protagonist Eddard Stark – but anyone who’s read The Accursed Kings by Maurice Druon (on the collapse of the French Capetian Dynasty) will see some parallels in A Song of Ice and Fire. Don’t be afraid of tapping into history, however extensively, to inform your own worldbuilding. Creating Magical Societies If you’re writing a fantastical society with some magic (as so often will be the case), what are your magic’s rules and limitations? Harry Potter’s magical universe is held together by rules. A curse can be met with a counter-curse. Servile creatures like house-elves have secret powers that Voldemort, who wants to be invincible, spurns to his cost. Are there cults (religious or not), guilds or secret societies, like the Order of the Phoenix created to battle Voldemort? Also, how will it affect your protagonist if he or she isn’t using magic in a magical world? Are they afraid of it? In children’s series The Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce, Alanna and Thom are twins sent away from home. Protagonist Alanna is to go north and learn magic (as ladies do in her world). Thom is to become a knight, and neither wants their fate. In secret, Thom travels north – both boys and girls can learn magic – but Alanna becomes ‘Alan’, disguises herself a boy, and learns to fight. Alanna isn’t drawn to magic (synonymous with power in these stories), as her brother is. She finds she must still use her magic to help defend Tortall as she grows older. If you’re creating religions, too, will these be monotheistic or polytheistic? In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, different gods are worshipped – with consequences. Arya Stark joins a cult worshipping the ‘Many-faced God’ or ‘God of Death’ to become an assassin. Melisandre is a prophetess carrying religion to catastrophic extremes. In The Song of the Lioness, however, it is a Goddess worshipped. She’s able to appear to protagonist Alanna as a tangible being, appealing to Alanna’s inner life and journey at a deeply personal level. So how will your story’s religion affect things, if you’re writing one? This can’t be a throwaway topic, just as there can’t be throwaway settings or people. Everything, no matter how much you create, how big or small the details, should remain significant. Creating Dystopias Dystopian societies are (arguably) on trend in writing right now. Dystopia has long been established as a ‘soft’ sci-fi subgenre, as have fantasy novels. Writing dystopian societies whilst keeping details rich, and characters human despite their loathsomeness, can be tricky. In The Handmaid’s Tale, for instance, ‘criminals’ targeted are hanged in public to control, to crush subversion. Handmaids like Offred lose their names in Gilead, so Gilead also makes the spread of information impossible. Margaret Atwood’s setup is clever and it makes revolution seem a distant dream – it’s impossible to rebel if you can’t pull together accurate enough information. As an example, Offred meets her companion, Ofglen, one day, only to find a different Ofglen waiting. Her Ofglen has been replaced. In the novel, Offred is left to believe Ofglen hanged herself before a van could arrive and take her away. Names, identities, information, are lost as another tool of this repressive society. Even in Gilead, though, nothing is black and white. Offred’s Commander helps uphold a sick regime. Yet even he is nostalgic for the past – offering Offred a secret night out, bribing her with Scrabble game matches, old magazines – outlawed under Gilead. So keep your storytelling, characters and worldbuilding complex, even (or especially) where it’s tempting to paint the world in black and world. Releasing Information If you inundate readers too much on ‘world material’, it could risk being a ‘turn-off’. So often a novel works because of a delicate control of information, i.e. you reveal more as you write, more as we read. Authors like J.R.R. Tolkien know this. He released information to his readers and to Frodo over time, just as J.K. Rowling does for Harry, etc., etc. Meanwhile, Samantha Shannon, author of fantastical dystopia The Bone Season, has written on building heroine Paige Mahoney’s world of clairvoyants and the Rephaim, as well as writing about releases of information. How do you reveal a complex world without launching into fully-fledged history? Samantha’s blog post reads: After several attempts at an opening, I finally decided that it was worth setting aside a few pages in the early chapters to explain some key aspects of the world – spirit combat, the London gangs, Edward VII, dreamwalking and so on – before the story got going. In the long run, I knew this would save me time and stop me having to drop in this information in later chapters. It would also, critically, allow a reader to grasp the bare bones of the world before I started fleshing it out – at the risk of making them feel like they were being ‘talked at’. It was a fairly big risk and I know it won’t work for everyone, but I’d rather a reader knew too much than too little. So just remember to bear in mind ‘story view’, as a narrator – how much do your readers need to know at this moment? Will it serve the plot? Think where and how you’ll connect the dots over your novel. An End Is Just A Beginning These are the pointers, the foundations of all you need to think about. Sketch and map out the details of your world, and if you need, create a collage (or a Pinterest board) of ideas and images to spark inspiration. Most importantly – have fun, and 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. 

How Crime Writers Can Research Police Procedure

Guest author, blogger and former police officer, Clare Mackintosh, shares how to research police procedure. Whether you’re a published crime writer or an aspiring one, you’ll need to know how to research police procedure, and the prospect can be a daunting one. Perhaps you have police officers in the family, or within your circle of friends, or maybe – just maybe – you’ve been arrested enough times to add a ring of authenticity to your writing… If, like most crime writers, your only brush with the law has been a speeding ticket, this post on how to research police procedure is for you. Watch Television It might seem counterintuitive for an author to suggest you watch television, yet there is a wealth of police procedural information on the small screen right now, most of it meticulously researched. It’s been many years since The Bill slammed its cell doors for the final time, but dramas such as The Missing and The Fall give a great insight into forensic possibilities, and can be a good starting point for researching police procedure. Television shouldn’t be your only source of information, but that’s true of any research medium. Read Fiction In my experience, police-based novels tend to be less reliably accurate than television, and I’d advise a hefty pinch of salt when using these to research police procedure. I’m assuming that, as an aspiring crime author, you already read widely within the genre (and outside it), so use what you learn to inspire, rather than inform your own writing. Authors like Peter James and Val McDermid are known for their accuracy with regard to procedure, and with more than fifty books between them, they should keep you busy for a while. Read Non-Fiction Michael O’Byrne’s updated 2015 The Crime Writer’s Guide to Police Practice and Procedure, for the serious crime writer, might be worth the investment. The cramming tools of the serving police officer are the Blackstones Police Manuals. As these are updated every year (making failing one’s Sergeant’s exams an expensive process), you can often pick up previous years’ editions on eBay for not much money. Use The Web There’s no excuse for inaccuracies when referring to legislation and criminal offences: it’s all right there on the web for you. The Crown Prosecution Service Legal Guidance pages list every piece of legislation – from Abuse of Process to Youth Offenders and everything in between. Bookmark it now, and use it as a checklist to make sure your case is watertight. Consulting Cops also offer a range of helpful resources too, you can find their website here – it’s definitely worth a read. Phone A Friend So you don’t have a police officer you can phone and ask questions? Are you sure? They say you’re never more than seven feet from a rat, and with more than 100,000 cops in the UK, the same is probably true of the Old Bill. Ask everyone you know. Put out a call on Facebook, speak to the neighbours, hassle Aunt Maud, and the chances are someone you know knows a police officer. For a crime writer, nothing beats having your own tame police officer to call on. Ask The Police If you really can’t find someone, it’s time to be brave. Go into your local station – or visit the force where your books are set, if this is different – and ask if someone can spare the time to speak to an author. If you’re not yet published, don’t feel you need to apologise for that: everyone starts somewhere, and most police officers are keen to encourage an accurate representation of their work. If you get a knock-back, don’t be deterred: maybe they’re just having a bad day. Try a different officer, a different station. If no one has time to sit down and chat over a cuppa – they’re busy people, after all – apply for a ride-along, where you get to shadow an officer for a few hours. It’s an amazing experience, and the best way of absorbing police culture as well as picking up investigative tips. Follow The Police Not literally. At least, not unless you want to see the inside of a custody block, which might be taking ‘method writing’ a little too far. There are hundreds of cops on Twitter nowadays, and almost as many blogging (both legitimately and anonymously). This increase in transparency from Britain’s police force is a gift to crime writers. Spend some time browsing social media (yes, this is your invitation to procrastinate), bookmarking the ones you like the look of. Dip in regularly to stay up to date with how today’s cops are feeling, the cases they’re working on, and the pressures they encounter. Hire A Professional Advising writers of crime books and television dramas is a lucrative side-line for many retired police officers, but most authors don’t have a BBC-sized budget, and I’d be wary of leaping into a cash relationship with someone. In my experience, most police officers are happy to lend their expertise for free, but if you feel you’re going to need more help than just the occasional chat, make sure you do your research (yes, you need to research the police officer helping you research police procedure). That grizzled ex detective superintendent with 30 years’ experience of Major Crime will undoubtedly know his stuff, but he’s been retired for 20 years: is he likely to be up to date? And the traffic sergeant charging by the minute for his expertise may know dangerous driving from undue care, but how is he on witness protection issues? Ask for credentials, testimonials from authors he or she has helped, before getting out your cheque book. Done all that? Congratulations: you’re a master in how to research police procedure, and your crime novel should now be ringing with authenticity. As with all types of research, moderation is the key. Not everything you discover should find its way into your book, otherwise you may as well write a police manual, but your findings will add realism to your characters and settings, as well as ensuring no one can pick holes in your plot. Although this post is about how to research police procedure, I firmly believe that story should come first, accuracy afterwards. Many a good yarn would be spoiled by the intrusion of too much real life, but consider carefully which elements can be stretched. Ask your helpful police advisor not does it happen this way, but could it happen. Like grammar, you need to understand the rules before you can decide which ones to break. 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. 

7 Tips For Writing A Thriller Novel

With numerous successful novels to her name, guest author and blogger Eve Seymour has cemented herself as a master of the thriller genre. In this post, Eve shares her secrets for writing a thriller you just can’t put down. 1: Focus On Characterisation Whatever the genre, strong, memorable main protagonists are important.  In thriller writing, they are absolutely vital and can make or break a story.  Irrespective of gender, if your main player lacks the tenacity and determination to crack the code or conspiracy, locate the kidnap victim or hunt a murderer, he is pretty much sunk before that opening chapter is penned.  So if your main player would rather file his/her nails, watch sport on TV, or stay in bed, think again. In a similar vein, boredom and cynicism are no defence for inactivity and ‘seeing how things pan out.’  The main protagonist needs to at least make a stab at being in control of events, rather than behind the curve, even if he fails due to the many obstacles thrown in his path. Notwithstanding all of the above, there’s no need for your central character to be an angel.  Crime fiction and thrillers are littered with flawed individuals.  Drink and relationship problems, sometimes inextricably linked, and failure to commit are popular attributes.  It’s easier for readers to empathise with characters who have identifiable weaknesses and failures and who, at times, seem just like us.  Recently, there’s been a trend towards characters that are morally ambiguous.  This can be a thorny path to tread for the new writer and requires the utmost skill to pull off.   Probably best not discussed here. It may be stating the obvious, but an octogenarian with a limp isn’t going to cut it with the bad guys.  The obvious simple fix is to ensure that your main man (or woman) is young enough or fit enough to run like hell – even if in the opposite direction.  More importantly, they must be smart.  This does not mean they are members of MENSA, but they do need to be bright and have a measure of psychological insight, (which means that writers need to too).  Street cunning and being able to think outside the proverbial box also goes a long way to defeat enemies of whatever persuasion. Which brings me to those pesky ‘bad guys.’ It’s not enough to refer to shadowy dark forces doing dastardly things in dungeons.  Give your foe a face.  Let the reader hear an antagonist’s voice, see how he behaves, take a trip inside his mind and let’s hope it terrifies because a main protagonist is only as ever good as the main villain.  This is where a writer can really pull out all the stops.  Seems easy, doesn’t it?  And yet, to avoid stereotype and caricature, coming up with convincing antagonists is harder than it sounds.   The best way to avoid obvious pitfalls is to ensure that your bad guy or femme fatale ticks with his or her own internal logic, even if he/she seems nuts to the rest of us.  How to do this?  Look at motivation and backstory, and ensure both are watertight and credible. 2: Create Plausible Characters Still on the subject of characterisation, there’s a school of thought that writers somehow have to choose between characterisation, or plot.  In truth, the two are indivisible because, although a story can unfold in a variety of ways, these are self-limiting due to the particular attributes of character. To take a facile example: say your main guy is an estate agent.  He’s unlikely to grab an MP5, eliminate the opposition, board a helicopter, grab the controls (and the girl) and fly off into the great blue yonder even if this is to suit the purposes of plot. While coincidence occurs in real life, it’s harder to pull off in fiction and yet often writers will write characters that just happen to be on the right street at the right time, enabling them to randomly carry out an action critical to the story.  Sounds vague?  That’s because it is. While coincidences can occur at the beginning of a story – a killer claps eyes on his victim  – random events fare less well if dumped into the plot mid-way.   The obvious faux pas is when a random event occurs to get the writer out of a hole, a classic case of Deus Ex Machina.  When applied to an ending, the result can be excruciating. 3: Ensure Every Scene Contains A Plot Twist When creating a scene, ensure that you give enough away to compel the reader to keep turning those pages, or clicking the side of a Kindle.  While you might be able to confine this to a minimum number in other genres, in thrillers there’s a requirement for numerous ‘turning points’ or revelations to sustain the narrative and guarantee exceptional pace and tension.  If a scene doesn’t ‘turn’, then, as brutal as it is, it has to go. After all, plot twists are an essential part of the thriller genre, and they are particularly crucial in psychological thrillers. It’s known as ‘murdering your little darlings’, and nobody likes blood on their hands.  It can be dispiriting to chop lovingly written material, containing tons of detail and exposition, but, sadly, no ‘turning points’. However, information alone won’t cut it. Everything must be relevant to the main thrust of the story.  If your main man is en route to question a potential suspect, he’s not going to drop into Costa for a coffee and baguette en route, or spend time discussing Christmas plans or his next salsa class with his best mate first.  It’s really tough to excise a perfectly decent or beautifully written scene but if it doesn’t drive the story forward, your best option is to hit the delete button. A good tip when creating a scene is to think about the situation in which the main protagonist finds himself.  Simplistically, if things are going roughly his way, then mix things up and throw in a few obstacles so that, as the plot develops and he makes more discoveries (relevant to the main plot line), his situation turns from not too bad to not too good.  The reverse also works (to a point).  With more and more (hopefully grim) revelations, and pressure put on your main protagonist, clearly the ‘bad days’ will outnumber the ‘good days’, as he finds himself boxed more and more into a corner.  If you do this, before you know it, tension will be as taut as cheese wire. 4. Avoid Superfluous Exposition (An Instant Pace-slower) This is really the incestuous cousin of the above.  Some writers are natural scene-setters.  They love the build up.  They love description – and they are very good at it.  That’s grand and most definitely has its place but it cannot be a substitute for telling the story, or a delaying tactic for ‘getting on with it’. ‘Cut to the chase’ is one of my most overused pleas.  The trick is to understand what’s important and what isn’t.   Nine times out of ten, less is more.  This particularly applies to the writer who ‘overwrites’ or ‘covers old ground’. More often than not, this will occur around the halfway mark and it usually signifies that the plot is in trouble and the author has run out of steam.  As a basic rule, if the reader is made aware, for example, that great aunt Ida is a bit of a cow, there is no need to remind the reader at any and every opportunity.  We get it. Aside from resisting the urge to bash the reader over the head with something already well established in the text, there is a very good reason for heeding this advice.  Superfluous exposition has a deadly effect on pace, suspense, and tension.  Before you know it, the reader will be thinking about what’s for dinner and whether there’s time to nip to the gym.  A good way to avoid the story running into ‘snooze time’ is to read it aloud.  If you start to flag after a chapter or two, the reader stands no chance. 5: Avoid Dreams, Memories, Recollections And Flashbacks Unless applied with exceptional skill to ‘turn’ a scene, in which case they can be used for dramatic effect, these are instant pace-slowers. For some reason writers can be quite taken with dream sequences and recollections. Perhaps it’s the freedom to go ‘off piste.’ Scenic detours, like these, may well work in other genres, but in thrillers, when focus is a key issue, they can overshoot their intended destination. Not only do they interfere with strong narrative drive in what must be a fast moving plot line, they puncture tension. As mentioned, there is an exception to the ‘rule’. A flashback or recollection might emerge during the last third of a novel when a character suddenly remembers something that has a bearing on current events. If used within the climactic scene, they can be used to stunning effect because they throw an original and illuminating light on the denouement. It’s a cliché but, for example, if good guy comes face to face with bad guy, and is about to kill him in self-defence, the good guy might recollect to playing with his (missing) brother as a kid, and recognise the birthmark on his arm. The effect on the reader should be an emotional one, i.e., ‘Blimey, didn’t see that one coming.’ 6: Collect Two Types Of Research: ‘Nuts And Bolts’ And Emotional Both are essential for authenticity and quite distinct from each other.  ‘Nuts and bolts’ might be research into police procedure, forensics or ballistics, and all the permutations in between.  Imagination will only carry you so far. Basically, you can’t take the procedure out of the police procedural, or the military out of the action adventure.   Today’s crime readers are so sophisticated that they can sniff out lack of authenticity at fifty paces.  Many will give the average crime or thriller writer a run for his or her money when it comes to knowledge.  Unless you’re an ex-con, intelligence officer, police officer, in the military, with inside knowledge at your fingertips, you’ll need to get out and about and research. Google is a good starting point, but if we all write according to the Gospel according to St. Google, then our stories will wind up with same or similar shout-lines.  I’m a fan of multiple sources.  If you have a library, use it to check out your chosen subject.  But, and it’s a big one, nothing beats approaching people ‘in the know.’  Most folk respond to a friendly and polite approach, especially if the ‘help’ word is applied.  While I wouldn’t suggest rocking up at your local police station to bend ears, there are other avenues to pursue, via police press officers. If you’re really stumped, there are now plenty of recently retired police officers that, for a fee, will walk you through an investigation.  Similarly, pathologists, ballistics experts and crime scene examiners are normally happy to talk about their favourite subject. If you can ferret out a tame source, you’ll get a feel for how things roll.  In the interests of research, I’ve flown in helicopters, spent a memorable evening with firearms officers in a laser-simulated training suite, flown to Berlin and Barcelona, both for location hunts, and talked to people working at the United Nations and those connected to various charities involved with refugees and victims of war. All this comes with a warning:  if you’ve spent your hard-earned money on obtaining information or oceans of time fact finding, there is a temptation to slay the reader with your newly acquired fund of knowledge.   This is where I refer you back to point number 4.  A few books ago, an editor once told me:  ‘This is really interesting, Eve, but it doesn’t add anything to your story.  Cut.’ I did.  Lesson learned. ‘Write what you know’ is a well-used, and occasionally misunderstood, phrase. While we may all believe that our existences are thrilling, not many of us lead the kind of lives that will translate easily into great page-turning thrillers.  So what does ‘write what you know’ really mean?  It means you draw on personal emotional experience.  Just saying someone is sad or angry won’t cut it. This is where emotional research comes in. All writers are amateur psychologists.  We need to know how people tick and how they respond.  While you might not experience what it’s like to be shot at, you will know what fear feels like, just like you’ll know how it feels to have loved and lost, loved and found the woman or man of your dreams, got the job you always wanted, failed to get the job you always wanted, passed your driving test, or failed it for the millionth time and, dare I say, obtain agent representation after slogging away for years, or feel the cutting pain associated with your umpteenth rejection. In essence, we all know what it’s like to feel lonely and unhappy, elated and sad, frustrated and angry and everything in between. These are the emotions you draw on for your characters so that, when you describe them, they are a true representation. ‘Okay,’ you might say, ‘I can do all of the above, but how do I write about something well outside my sphere of experience, for example, the trauma associated with violent crime, either as perpetrator or victim?’ Simply put, it’s hard to avoid cliché, stereotype, and melodrama when tapping into trauma, if you have no direct experience of it.  Again, crime readers are bloodhounds at spotting false notes.  Best advice is to, firstly, ensure that the stakes are raised high in your story so that characters are forced to grapple with powerful, life-on-the-line events.  Be bold in this regard.  Think of the worst that can happen to your character then make sure it does.  This way, you’ll ensure that your characters are properly motivated to respond truthfully. Sneak right under their skins and imagine the extremes of human behaviour and what it does to people.  But, before you do this, climb under your own skin and dig deep.  You may well be surprised, maybe even shocked, at what you find loitering beneath.  Whatever you unearth, this is what you use as a foundation for your character’s response. If this doesn’t work, you could always try a more ‘nuts and bolts’ approach, and talk to a psychologist or someone trained to help people who have encountered tragedy in their lives. 7: Take A Big Breath And Read Aloud You’re a writer.  You love stories.  You’re interested in words and their correct spelling.  You go all tingly when your sentences flow and convey your magical  (or should I say your diabolical) world.  So ensure you take the time to read the entire manuscript aloud to pick up on pesky typos, clumsy sentences, repeat words in consecutive sentences, verbal ‘tics’, punctuation and grammatical errors, and mysterious verb tense changes.  Avert your eyes now if you are of a sensitive nature. In three words:  ‘This.  Stuff.  Matters.’ And it’s no good thinking that you can wing it. If you don’t know the difference between ‘there’, ‘their’ and ‘they’re,’ or ‘where’ and ‘were’, do yourself a favour and learn.  On occasion I’ve been told that ‘Agent Bloggs will be so knocked out by the story, it won’t matter …’, and ‘The copy-editor will fix it …’, as if he or she has a handy magic wand with which to transform your less than perfectly polished prose. Agents receive so many submissions they can afford to be picky.  If your lovingly crafted story is set aside due to a multiplicity of errors on the first page, it stands no chance of reaching the fairy copy-editor.  Your hard work would be wasted. And that would be a shame. Very best of 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 Create a Great Inciting Incident

Got a great plot-twist in mind, but not quite sure how to get there? C M Taylor’s blog post will help you piece together your ideas and show you how to implement that all important inciting incident. The catalyst. The plot-twist. Or, as we’re calling it here, the inciting incident is the pivotal moment when your protagonist is forced to change course. This blog post will give you all the tools you’ll need to create your own page-turning incident. What Is An Inciting Incident? Put as simply as possible, the inciting incident is an event that occurs, in relation to your protagonist, near to the beginning of your story, which sets that story moving in a different direction. The word ‘inciting’ is used because the event which occurs incites your protagonist towards a new course of action. But note, it causes them to react. It does not necessarily cause them to act at this point, that may come later. The inciting incident as we are calling it here has many names. Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero’s Journey calls it ‘The call to adventure’. Blake Snyder in his book Save The Cat refers to it as ‘the catalyst’.  Scott Myers, host of the esteemed Go Into The Story blog and resource calls it simply ‘the hook’. You can call it what you like, but in terms of how you tell your story, it has the same effect. It provokes the hero, it incites them, it creates a before and an after. The inciting incident is the gateway to the action. And like all gateways, it leads from something and it leads to something. The inciting incident leads from the before to the after. It leads from the world that was to the world that will be. Before the inciting incident, the world is as it was. The hero was about their normal business. They were doing what they normally do at work, at rest and at play. This is what Chris Vogler in his book The Writer’s Journey calls ‘the ordinary world’. It is what Dara Marks in her book Inside Story refers to the as ‘the known world’. It is what Blake Snyder calls the set-up. Snyder says that, ‘in the set-up you have told us what the world is like and in the catalyst you knock that wall down.’ The known world is suddenly not the only world there is. There is the glimmer, the allure of the new world on the horizon, tugging away at the hero. Perhaps not yet compelling the hero to act but certainly disturbing them with the strong sense that their everyday world is fragile and temporary... How to Write An Inciting Incident: Make sure the inciting incident is suitable for the genre you\'re writingAn inciting incident is normally (not always) done to not done by the protagonistThe event should upset the status quoIt should create questions for the reader and engage the reader\'s attentionAnd, generate a sense of urgency by setting the story in motion How Soon Should An Inciting Incident Take Place In My Novel? While there are strong tendencies and traditions, there is no programmatic answer to this question. It’s always a good idea to consider how you’re going to move your story on in the planning stages. Remember, most stories have an inciting incident that takes place very early on in the story, within the first 10-15% of elapsed story time, certainly within the first quarter of the story. But that does not have to be, because your story – its genre and tone – will dictate the nature of your inciting incident. I’ll explain… Five Tips to Write A Great Inciting Incident The Inciting Incident Is Commensurate With Your Genre And Theme In The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, the inciting incident does not take place until a quarter of the way through the book. This is when the narrator of the novel meets the titular character for the first time and the relationship, which will define the plot’s course, commences. Now, even though this is an unusually long wait for an inciting incident, it is perfectly appropriate for the subject of the book. The Great Gatsby is a work of apostolic fiction – where one person tells the story of an impressive other. The book is about being dazzled by money, is about money separating the rich from others and from consequence, and it’s about the mysterious nature of the titular Gatsby. Dazzle, mystery, separation. What better subjects could justify holding off the meeting that incites the action than those? Holding off increases the allure, the anticipation, the yearning that are the subjects of the book. The subject and genre of the book has dictated the timing and nature of the inciting incident. Conversely, in the screenplay Juno by Diablo Cody, the inciting incident has already happened when the film begins. The titular Juno, a 16-year-old school student is already pregnant after a one-off dalliance with her best friend, Bleeker. How can you have an inciting incident happen before the story starts? Well, remember that the inciting incident is a departure from the known world. Now in many stories, the inciting incident obliges the hero to leave their physical world in quest and so the backstory of the character – the known world – needs to be sketched to show what is being departed from. But in Juno, Juno stays at home throughout the film. The film takes place in the backstory. There is no physical separation. It is an existential departure. The problem of the film for the main character Juno is how to integrate the unknown of the pregnancy into the known world. We see her friends, school, parents, home throughout the film. The contrast between the new world of the pregnancy integrating with the known world of the mundane high schooler is the subject. If you are writing an adventure story, the inciting incident might be a physical summons in some nature, a push or a pull into a new physical world. If you are writing a crime story the inciting incident is very often a crime, or villain, that is brought to the attention of the detective. The Inciting Incident Usually But Not Always Is done to Rather Than Done by the Protagonist The letter arrives. The stranger arrives. The murder is committed. The friend betrays. The partner leaves. The bank forecloses. The job ends. The aliens descend. The microfilm is stolen. But this is not always the case. Take the film Her for example. The protagonist of that film conjures the inciting incident themselves by buying the software with which they are going to fall in love. Whenever It Happens, and Whoever Authors It, the Inciting Incident Seems Designed to Upset the Status Quo As Robert Mckee says in his book Story, ‘The inciting incident radically upsets the balances of forces in your protagonist’s life.’ But that is not all. A great inciting incident, as Dara Marks says, ‘Prays on the inner conflict of the character established in The Known World.’ Harry Potter is already established as victimised and desperate to leave his known world before the letter from Hogwarts arrives. Luke Skywalker is already frustrated and bored on the farm before the message from Leia is transmitted from R2-D2. The protagonist is already susceptible to the summons of the inciting incident before it arrives and the incident maps on to and accelerates the disintegration of the status quo. Create Questions for the Reader The inciting incident introduces the central problem of the story. How will Juno handle the pregnancy? What will the narrator learn of the mysterious Gatsby now he has made his acquaintance? The protagonist is the avatar for the reader in the story and the summons for the unknown world creates mystery and urgency. Generate Some Sense of Urgency The ticking clock of Juno’s pregnancy means the action is concertinaed by necessity. The jeopardy voiced by Princess Leia communicates to Luke that he needs to get his skates on. The inciting incident sets off the ticking clock – the known world is disintegrating and the unknown is beckoning. And yet the inciting incident is just the call to adventure, it is not the adventure itself. It is the signal that the departure must be made, it is not the departure itself. The protagonist reacts to the incident - they do not yet act on it. In Joseph Campbell’s description of the underlying structures of narrative, what is followed by the call to adventure (our inciting incident) is the refusal of the call. At first, the new world which has beckoned the heroic character feels too onerous, too difficult, the cosy allure of the status quo, however dissatisfying, is stronger in the beginning than the summons. As Dara Marks explains in Inside Story, humans only ever act to make radical changes when the risk of staying the same is greater than the risk of changing. When the inciting incident arrives, the risk of staying the same is still not great enough in many examples to justify definitive action. The inciting incident is the beginning of the story arc. The inciting incident introduces the problem to be solved, it is not the protagonist acting to solve the problem. Cinderella receiving the invitation to the ball is not the same as her attending. Inciting Incidents: 8 Great Examples In the anonymous 14th century chivalric romance, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the gigantic Green Knight interrupts King Arthur’s New Year’s feast at Camelot to issue the gathered nobles with a challenge.In The 2015 Ridley Scott film The Martian, during a violent storm on the planet mars, botanist-astronaut Mark Watney is separated from his team. Believing him to be dead they take the difficult decision to evacuate without him, marooning Watney on the red planet.In the 1992 film by David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross, based on the author’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play of the same name, the inciting incident occurs when the salesman Blake is sent from head office to motivate a team of dysfunctional salesman. Insulting and subjecting them to profane abuse, Blake challenges the team to sell or be sacked.In Homer’s 8th century BC epic The Odyssey, after the opening exposition, the hero Odysseus having being marooned in the known world of Ogygia for seven years, is visited by the Goddess Hermes who urges him to build a ship.In the 1942 Michael Curtiz film Casablanca, small time crook Ugarte shows Rik the letters of transit which will allow two people to leave the occupied city. Ugarte is arrested, leaving Rik with the letters.In Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, Mr Darcy’s negative assessment of Elizabeth and his refusal to dance with her set in train the suppressed and combative emotions that will eventually see the two fall for each other. Just to really demonstrate this sense of how malleable the call to adventure can be, it is often said that in the romantic comedy genre it is the meeting of the lovers that is the call to adventure or the inciting incident (a moment that aficionados of the form refer to as the ‘meet cute’), but it really does not have to be so. To take a couple of examples… In the 1984 rom-com, Romancing The Stone, written by Diane Thomas, it is the arrival of a treasure map pointing to the possible whereabouts of her kidnapped sister Elaine which incites lonely romantic novelist Joan towards action.While in the 1993 Nora Ephron directed and co-written romantic comedy masterpiece Sleepless in Seattle, the lovers do not meet until the final sequence of the film, and it is the Meg Ryan character Annie hearing the Tom Hanks character Sam talk on the radio about his deceased wife that incites the lovers to cross paths. So, there we have it, a foolproof method to create an inciting incident. What do you think? Have we missed anything? Head on over to the Jericho Townhouse and let us know.  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 Great Scene (And Nail It Every Time)

Enrich your novel, by writing great, vivid and memorable scenes. Writing a great scene – or just as importantly, knowing if a scene you have already written stands up – can be approached as a process of inquisition. If you\'re asking yourself how to write a great scene, then you should ask yourself a number of questions to find out if the scene holds up. One successful writer of my acquaintance has a list of sixty questions which he asks himself about every scene he writes, and while we’re not going to reach that number, below I have gathered 10 key areas to ask questions about when writing scenes, thinking about scene structure, or assessing the scenes you\'ve already written. If you score ten out of ten, your scene should be good to go. If your score is a lot lower than that, you’ve still got some editing work to do. Let\'s have a look at these 10 key areas... What Is The Unique Purpose Of The Scene? This is worth asking first of all, because if you get the wrong answer here, you save yourself the bother of asking all the other questions as you can just use our friend the delete key to solve the problem. Does this scene earn its keep? Is it doing something that is simply not being done anywhere else in the work? And if the unique thing that it does was omitted from the story, would the story have a hole? Does the scene belong in the story being told? Should you kill it? What happens? How does it uniquely advance the plot? Or uniquely establish mood? Or uniquely deliver character comprehension, or feeling? Does it advance the work in a way that might be done more effectively in any other scene? If you pass that test, move on to the next question. Is The Scene Thematically Congruent? If the theme of your work, say, is unrequited love, does your scene angle in to that theme? Does it demonstrate a circumstance or a feeling which is associated with unrequited love? Or does it demonstrate a circumstance or a feeling about requited love, so as to throw into relief the experience that one of your characters will have about unrequited love? Is your scene about what your book is about? And if it not but you still need it in because – as above – it’s the vehicle for a unique and irremovable aspect of your story, then how are you going to rewrite the scene so that it amplifies, however distantly, the theme of your story? How Does The Scene Turn? What do I mean by ‘turn’? Well, first let’s back up… People say that without conflict there is no drama. Now, I’m not so sure about that, I think a broader and more accurate assessment would be not without conflict but without change. Without change there is no drama, and what people mean by conflict is resistance to change. You could write a scene about a woman digging a tree stump out of the ground that was full of drama, as she struggled and the tree stump resisted, and she changed from being in an optimistic state to an exhausted, pessimistic state. But would that scene be full of conflict? You might say she was in conflict with the tree stump, but that to me would be stretching it. Instead it is a scene where a character tries to change the world and that change is resisted. Or, you could write a scene where somebody realised they had totally misremembered a very important incident from their past and that life in facts was different to how they imagined it. The drama would be in the correction of the memory. It would not be a conflict, instead it would be a swift and significant change. So, when I ask, ‘How does the scene turn?’, what I mean is, ‘What change does it effect?’ If all of the characters in the scene are in the same state at the end of the scene as they were at the beginning of the scene, then no change has been affected and so no drama has occurred. What is the central change of the scene? What is it that turns from one state to another state? Is it one character who turns? Many characters? A situation? Is the turn for the negative or the positive? Is the character further way from what they want, or closer? What are the obstacles facing the character from turning the scene the way they want to turn the scene? If the character does not get what they want, change and drama are still demonstrated as they have failed and so their emotional state and desperation have increased.  No change externally does not mean no change internally. Change is of course linked to motivation and goals and desire. Make sure that the change which the scene turns on directly affects what your character is trying to achieve. Make sure their goal and motivation are clear. Are they closer to their clear goal, or are they further away? How your scene turns will be bound up with your cast list. Does the scene change when a new character enters? Who is present at the beginning of the scene and who is present at the end? If a new character enters, is their entrance memorable and is it their arrival that turns the scene? If not, why not? In that case you have introduced a new character without that introduction having a big impact. Is that what you want? Does it suit your plot and their character for them to sidle in? Maybe it does. If you want more information on how to create that scene turning event, then check out our inciting incidents blog post too. Are You Clear On Your Point Of View? The person to whom the largest change is happening is often, but not always, the person from whose point of view we will be seeing the scene. ‘Often, but not always’, because in fiction, unlike in film, point of view is not an utterly promiscuous tool, it needs to settle on, usually, one or just a handful of characters. So, whose point of view are you telling the scene from? If it is possible, best do it, but it may not always be possible to tell it from the point of view of the person to whom the greatest change is happening. If you think about how to write a death scene as an example. The largest change is happening to the person who is dying, but it is often not right to write the scene form their perspective as once they’re gone, they’re gone. In fact, some of the most famous deaths happen off screen. Take Cordelia in King Lear, or Ophelia in Hamlet as examples. Both of these deaths are moving, but both happen off stage – out of point of view. But take Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich which as the title suggests is clearly focussed on the biggest change of all for Ivan and whose death is described as ‘that black sack into which an invisible, invincible force was pushing him’. So, don’t go chasing the point of view of the person to whom the biggest change is happening if it mutilates your novel’s point of view schema. But if you can describe death from the point of view, then make it as appropriate to the unique sensibility of the character as possible. Similarly, when thinking how to write a sex scene, or if you are thinking about describing a kiss, point of view is everything. The unique attributes of the person to whom the sensation is happening govern how the sensation is described. How does it map on to their personal history? What are they not saying? How would their particular imagination describe what was happening? Basically, are you in the point of view of the person having the strongest sensation of change? If you can’t be in that point of view, make sure the change being experienced elsewhere emotionally impinges on the sensations of your point of view character and effects their motivations and desires. Does Your Scene Make Good Use Of Location? Where does the scene take place? At what time of day or night? Could another time or location serve to heighten the impact? Where were the characters before the scene started? Where are they going after it ends? How do they move physically across the space? Are you creating a sense of place? Some scenes require the claustrophobia of a locked room. Other require a huge canvas. Location is particularly important when thinking how to write a battle scene. For example, the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan is nothing without the water and the sand, while the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back would lose so much without the ice world. In those instances, the type of battle you can have is heavily defined by the location. The combatants’ experience of the battle will be similarly defined. And of course if you filter the character’s experience of battle through that physical reality (sand in the eyes, struggling to keep the rifle’s magazine out of the salt water …), you will end up with a much more vivid and intense scene than you’d have without that level of detail. Is Your Scene Commensurate With Your Genre? Let’s say for example that you are thinking about how to write a fight scene. If you are writing a work of historical fiction, say set amongst the samurai of feudal Japan, then you will make the fight scene a different scale and tone and pace to if you were writing a work of science fiction. And again, for example, the tone of a sword fight set in feudal Japan, which might be bound up with honour and stoic, wordless masculinity, would be very different to say the sword fight scene we get in the fantasy comedy The Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya is given humorous dialogue as sharp as his rapier to utter as he fights. Any scene must be attuned to the feeling tone of the genre in which it is placed. How Do You Make Use Of Dialogue? Does the dialogue reflect character? Is it natural? Forced? Can you cover up the name of the person who is speaking and know who they are just from the sound and pattern of their words? Do they have unique speech patterns? Or if they all have the same accent, is it your conscious and correct decision to make them all sound the same? How is your dialect rendered? And then feed those thoughts back into the ones about location, and genre, and theme. These things all feed off themselves, of course. So your dialogue may naturally include observations about the location. (“Damn sand!” or “Hell, my rifle’s soaked.”) Those genre / thematic issues will smuggle their way into the dialogue too. And that infiltration is an entirely good thing, of course. It’s part of making your work feel integrated and alive. Is Your Scene Static Or Mobile? Do your characters have something to do? Is there something going on? An activity they are engaged in? If two characters are talking about their love lives what would they be doing as they spoke? In screenwriting they call this ‘interference’ – an action that characters take part in which can mirror how the scene is developing emotionally. Are they playing tennis? Putting up an Ikea shelf? Let’s say it’s tennis, their game can improve as they talk confidently about their love life, or degenerate as they talk neurotically about their love life. If they are putting up a shelf, they can drill through a pipe just as they are told bad news. Give your characters props to enact their feelings. Of course, some scenes are physically static and internal. No problem. Make the energy internal. Don’t let their emotions be static. Let the reactions rather than the actions carry the kinetic power of the scene. How Does Your Scene Deal With Time? Narrative art is intrinsically about the passage of time. Change can’t happen without it. Be absolutely sure where the scene stands in the work’s overall chronology. How much time has elapsed since the last scene? Is it clear to the reader how much time has elapsed? If we are moving into the future or the past, had you better make that very clear to the reader or are they okay to surf the time waves? Think about continuity. Is your characters hair long one week after it has been short? If your scene takes place in a very different time are their physical characteristics about the character you can employ to imply this passage of time and give a sense of time passing? And Finally – Is Your Scene Any Damn Good? Be honest. You can probably find a way to start your scene later, to get out of it earlier, to push up more on the felt drama of your point of view character, and to clarify and affect your turn more dramatically. Don’t just go through all these points once, go through them again. Scenes are not brought to their sharpest point in one pass. If you found this helpful, then you’ll definitely find this article on spicing up your writing and this one on chapter lengths useful – especially when you come to writing that great scene. 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. 

Ideas for Writing a Book (and How to Develop Them)

We once got a strange email. It was three lines long, from someone telling us he wanted to write a book. OK. That’s great. The email wasn’t written very well. The spelling wasn’t great. The punctuation – uh – had all fallen off. But none of that was the issue on his mind. His email was simply entitled “Book Ideas“, and he was writing to ask for help. In a word, he wanted us to develop his ideas for writing a book. And here was the thing. He was sure he was a good writer, which is great, but he hadn’t actually written anything. Worse still, he said he didn’t have a single idea for a story, so could we maybe give him one? Right. Yes. I’m sure that’s how Herman Melville got started too. But the fact is, all of us know what it feels like to feel uninspired and stuck in a rut when ideas just won’t come. And this post is all about solving that problem, showing you how to get started writing a book, and how to come up with ideas. Where do ideas for a book come from? How do you know if they’re any good? And how can you take your existing ideas and make them better? Big questions, but let’s see what we can do to help. What follows is a simple way to generate good quality ideas that work for you. We know they’re going to work for you, because the ideas come from you. In fact, you already have them in your head right now. All we’re going to do is help you find them. Let’s start. Book Ideas: How To Get Them And What To Do Next Note down your ideas – your daydreams, interests, favourite booksLearn the market by reading your genreStart developing your ideas, jotting down what you know about your future bookGive your ideas time to develop – don’t rush it!Work on your writing skills and technique How To Have Ideas: The Good News Consider this. It’s not a question of forming the idea, but of recognising one (or ones) you already have, so let’s do that. Make lists of: Things you daydream about;Your special interests (medieval churches, IT security, tattoos);Your areas of expertise;Your current passions (things that get you off on a rant or long-winded explanations);Things you loved as a child (amazing how often the child seems to predict the adult, so look back, see what you loved in the past);Books you loved as a child;Books you love now. Write actual lists of these things. Not in one single half hour session, but bit by bit, over time. Let things stew, bubble up. Almost certainly, you’ll find something nagging at you. Something that stays with you after you leave your lists. That there is your idea. Good, huh? But stick with us. We’ve only just got started. How To Handle Ideas For Books (What To Expect) The trouble with inspiration is it never arrives fully formed. Writing is messy. Few novels arrive complete. Most have had to be hacked out of rock. It’s okay, though, if you decide development is easy and fun, and remember ideas take time. You don’t get from nowhere to perfect in one leap. It’s not a generator. It’s an incubator. You don’t find your idea. You grow it. We’ll talk a little more about that shortly but first, ask yourself. Is your book idea any good? Be sure your idea is strong enough to carry you to publication before you start writing. There are techniques for (a) figuring out if your idea is strong enough and (b) adding sparkle to it if it isn’t, fortunately. Learn The Market Read the area, niche, genre in which you are going to write. Read widely. Stay current. Know new names, not just old ones. It’s a massive mistake not to do this, and many new writers don’t. You should, because these are the books your ideal readership is reading. Start Developing Get a sheet of paper and write down what you know about your future book, or interests you’d like your story to make room for, to explore. That might be very little at first. It might be no more than: Antarctic settingSeismologySecret weapons testing That has no characters, no plot arc, no meaningful line of development, but it’s a start. Not just that, but it’s an exciting one. There’s a frisson of interest there already. A stew that might bubble up into something wonderful. So keep going. Whatever comes to mind. When you\'re looking at how to come up with characters for a book, and developing the plot, jot down words and sentences. Note down anything that comes to mind around plot events, themes, settings, ideas for your protagonist. Keep listing, see what comes to you. An Example: First Attempt Try out things. So you might find yourself writing things like this: Ex-SAS man turned seismologist is there.Baggage from the past (a mission gone wrong?).Meets Olga, glamorous Russian geologist. How do you feel about those? Take a moment to see what your actual reactions are. Me personally, I think the ex-Special Forces seismologist could be a decent character, but the glamorous Russian Olga feels like a bit of a cliche. I feel I’ve seen her too often before. And the ‘baggage from the past / mission gone wrong’ element feels dangerously on the edge of cliche. That’s fine. Remember that this whole process is a development exercise. So you can try things out, see how they feel, and discard them as much as you like. Discarding stuff is good – that shows that you’re pruning the bad stuff and keeping only the good stuff. Just add explosions … An Example: Second Attempt So maybe we try again. We might start sketching something like this. Leila – who is ex-Special Forces – is a British seismologist.She loves extreme adventure, including climbing, sky-diving.She’s sampling ice cores to track past earth disturbances.She finds weird, inexplicable traces – too recent.A multinational team – many scientists there.Russian scientist, aloof, unnerving (will turn out a ‘good guy’). … … And so on. Maybe we haven’t yet nailed much with this list, but it’s the forward-back process of development that brings rewards, helping you make subsequent connections (e.g. perhaps you decide Leila’s the only woman on that team, perhaps she needs to prove she’s as strong as any of them, etc., etc.). The only test of whether a list like this works is whether you have a deep-ending tickle of excitement about your jottings. If that fades, you’ve gone wrong somewhere, so find out which element isn’t working, delete, and try again, following your intuition. Remember that the process of story development is one of constant experiment. You sketch something out. You see how it feels. It feels good? OK, great. You continue to add depth to your sketch. (Add a character, a possible plot point, some more about settings, some more about the challenge to be faced, etc.) It feels wrong? OK. So scratch out the thing that felt wrong. Try something else in its place. Or if you can’t find (say) the right antagonist for the moment, then leave that issue for the moment and turn to an area where you do have some good ideas. You’ll find that as you build up one area of the story (say, settings), you’ll find that other parts (say, your antagonist) suddenly flash into view. Each part of the story illuminates and supports the others. How To Give Your Story The “X-Factor” And as you’re doing this, remember that readers always want something new, something unexpected. So give it to them! The way to do this is to make sure that your list of story ingredients always includes a rogue element – something that you don’t expect to be there. That rogue element will always have the effect of lifting the story and giving the reader a little thrill of excitement. What’s more the rule basically applies to ALL huge-selling novels of recent years. Take romance plot ideas, for example: BORING STORY: a normal American teen falls in love with a normal American boy.GREAT STORY: a normal American teen falls in love with a vampire. Two versions of the same thing; the basic ideas to write a love story. One is too dull to cross a room for. The other one (Twilight) was one of the biggest YA sensations of all time. Or how about crime novel ideas: BORING STORY: a journalist investigates a murder in Sweden.GREAT STORY: a journalist plus a bisexual, Aspergers, rape-surviving, computer genius combine forces to investigate a murder in Sweden. The “rogue element” of Lisbeth Salander’s kick-ass character basically gave the Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy the fire it needed to conquer the world. And so on. You can look at any huge selling hit of recent years and find that unexpected ingredient that blasted the book to international success. And you can repeat that trick for yourself. If you find your story is just too expected, then throw in something to freshen it up. So, let’s go with this Arctic idea, and let’s say that your draft story looks something a bit like this. FIRST DRAFT STORY:Leila, ex-Special Forces British seismologist is sampling ice cores in the Antarctic.She finds evidence of recent blast activity – human-made.She suspects of team of Russian scientists are really testing a new type of nuclear device.She investigates.The situation escalates.It resolves itself in a dramatic shoot-out. And what are your feelings there? I’m going to guess that you thought, roughly, “Yeah, that’s OK, but it doesn’t really set my pulse racing.” And the issue is that everything is exactly what you’d expect. It’s as though we read this story plan, and already feel like we’ve read that book or something very similar. So now let’s apply our rogue element strategy and see how the story might run. STORY WITH ROGUE ELEMENTLeila, ex-Special Forces British seismologist is sampling ice cores in the Antarctic.She finds evidence of recent disturbances that make no sense.And there are thefts from the camp – unexplained>At first the Russian team is suspected, but – caught out with a Russian captain, Arkady, in a snowstorm – it looks like Leila and Arkady will both perish. But they’re saved – mysteriously – as fresh kerosene is added to their supplies.Leila and Arkady come to believe they are dealing with the ghosts of Scott’s tragic expedition to the Antarctic.They realise the souls of Scott and his men are trapped in the ice and are only seeking escape. Leila & Arkady use their knowhow and technical resources to liberate the ghosts. How’s that? Personally, I’m not yet sure about it – I literally just this minute came up with the idea – but I will say this: You were not expecting that story to emerge. You’ve never read anything like it before. Already, it has a grip over your imagination that the first version never did. In fact, if we took the bones of that story and really did some work with it, I’d say we’d have the chance to create something really extraordinary. A story that no one had ever read before, or would ever forget. The short moral of this example is obvious: Yes, the process of story development is intuitive, trial-and-error, and has plenty of dead ends. But it’s not random. Good stories follow a formula, which can be put roughly as follows: Your passions + a rogue element = a great story If you want to structure that process some more – and you should – then do use our idea generator, available on this page. It’s great, and it’s pretty much guaranteed to work. From here you can go on to work on character development and character arc. Developing the plot beyond your initial idea is important too, so check out our articles on seven basic plots, and plotting a novel. Remember To Give Yourself Time Give yourself time to muse over your book. If all this takes a week, it’s taken you too little time. Three months would be good, but if it takes six months, that’s fine, too. Jack Kerouac, famed for writing his draft for On the Road in twenty-one days, pondered his ideas for years. My most successful novel (Harry Bingham writing) was two years in development, then written within two months – so development matters. Real inspiration takes time, care, effort, and thought. Technique Matters, Too Often, new writers can give up on a project by starting in a rush, noticing things aren’t quite working. They don’t quite know how to analyse what isn’t working, though, so give up – probably convinced that they don’t have the talent. And that’s not just untrue, but a shame. Writing books takes time and needs patience. It is also tough, and some new writers spend no time learning how to do it. The best solution? Simple: Get expert helpHang out with supportive writer-friendsImprove your technique And you know what? Jericho Writers is a club for writers like you and was set up to help writers like you. Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 

How Many Words Are There In A Novel?

When I (Harry Bingham) wrote my first novel, I started to worry that I was off the mark regarding how many words I had to offer. I was scared that agents would reject my book simply because I had got the length wrong. How many words are there in an average novel, how many pages in a book, how many words per page? I didn’t know. I went to a bookstore, gathered some (big, hefty) novels in a genre like mine, and sat there on the shop floor and counted the average words per page to come up with a number. It turned out that, yes, in terms of book length, I was at the very long end of things, but not impossibly long. I sold that book for a good six-figure sum, and have never looked back since. At least you don’t need to run down to your nearest bookstore, since this guide will tell you quickly the ideal word counts for every category of novel. Average Word Count For A Novel The average word count for adult fiction is between 70,000 to 120,000 words. For children’s fiction, the general rule is the younger the audience the shorter the book, and for YA novels the average is 50,000-70,000 words. Non-fiction word counts sit between 70,000-120,000 words. Word counts also vary by genre, as detailed. How Long is a Book of Adult Fiction? Novel word counts vary by type of book So: how many words in a novel? Broad Guidelines We’re going to talk some specific genres in just a moment, but it’s worth setting the landscape a little first, just because you may as well know the territory here, and because a lot of fiction simply doesn’t fit in tidy boxes. So, the average wordcount for a typical novel is anywhere from 70,000 to 120,000 words. I’d guess that the actual average number of words in a novel was somewhere close to 90,000 words. (How come? Because novels mostly cluster at the shorter end of that 70-120K spectrum. There are plenty of prolific authors who might never break the 100,000 word barrier.) These guidelines assume that your book is broadly commercial (rather than highly literary, let’s say) and that you are writing for adults. If you are within that broad zone, then as far as length goes, you’re doing fine. But then again, sometimes fiction is long. If your story justifies the length, you needn’t worry if you get up to 150,000 words, or even 180,000. But that is on the very long side. 180,000 words print about 650 paperback pages. You only get away with novels of that scale if the story has an epic quality and storytelling is remorselessly excellent. (Also, don’t trust any source on the internet which tells you that such stories are unsaleable. They’re just not. My own first novel was 190,000 words long and was sold to HarperCollins for a lot of money.) Genre Romance If you are writing true genre romance – the kind of thing Harlequin Mills & Boon is known for – then books are typically short. Your target is probably 50-60,000 words. That said, longer books that still tell a proper romantic story, can do well. These books generally run from 75,000 to 100,000 words, or in rare cases a little more. Examples When we Believed in Mermaids – Barbara O’Neal – 100,000 wordsAnd Then You Loved Me – Inglath Cooper – 90,000 wordsThat Boy – Jillian Dodd – 80,000 wordsRescuing Lord Inglewood – Sally Britton – 55-60,000 words Women’s Fiction A lot of fiction written for women will have an element of romance, but is far more complicated and interesting than classic Mills & Boon fare. Such books will have a minimum length of 75,000 words but seldom exceed 110,000. See our comments about saga though! Examples Me Before You – Jojo Moyes – 140,000 words — very unusual length for women’s fiction this one, but it was a very unusual book!The Storyteller’s Secret – Sejal Bedani – 110,000 wordsWhere the Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens – 105,000 wordsThe World That We Knew – Alice Hoffman – 95,000 wordsThe Dressmaker’s Gift – Fiona Valpy – 80,000 wordsBridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding – 75,000 words Family Saga Saga, by definition, has an epic feel, and you’re not really in saga territory at less than 150,000 words. But some of those books are very long. I have a friend who writes saga and her publisher actually wants books of 250,000 words. That’s about three ordinary novels squashed into one. Wow! (And, uh, you don’t get paid three times as much, so unless you really want to write saga, I’m going to suggest you review your choices!) Examples The Thorn Birds – Colleen McCullough – 195,000 words Crime And Thriller Genres Crime novels often run a little longer than women’s fiction. So 75,000 words is fine as a lower limit, but anything up to 120,000 words is unproblematic. Truth is, as long as you make sure every single word counts, you can go up to 135,000 words without troubling anyone. Examples I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes – 195,000 words (epic feel to this book, hence the length)Talking to the Dead – Harry Bingham (that’s me by the way!) – 115,000 wordsI let you go – Clare Mackintosh – 95,000 wordsThe Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins – 95,000 wordsThe Crossing (Harry Bosch) – Michael Connelly – 80,000 words Historical Fiction Historical fiction is a slippery category, because it’s not really a category. A literary-type love story set in Renaissance Venice is very different from massive war story about the Mongol hordes. Reader expectations are utterly different in both cases. So for “normal” historical fiction – typically, a somewhat literary category – I’d suggest that 75,000 to 100,000 words is about right. But as soon as you introduce the sense of something epic – in time, space, and magnitude of events – you can get up to word counts of 150,000 to 180,000 words, or even more. Examples What the Wind Knows – Amy Harmon – 100,000 wordsBeneath a Scarlet Sky – Mark Sullivan – 150,000 wordsWolf Hall – Hilary Mantel – 200,000 words Fantasy And Sci-fi Genres Fantasy novels can be long. They can be up to 180,000 words, or even over 200,000, but the novel must be wonderful and must fully justify its word count. In other words, you must be scrupulous about editing every sentence for length. With SF, you really just need to explore your niche, as it can be quite variable. Epic space opera can easily run to over 150,000 words, whereas a short, hard space disaster book might run to just 60,000 words. If you’re not sure of your genre, just find the most appropriate bestseller list on Amazon and take a look. You’ll soon get a sense for where your book needs to fit. Examples Lord of the Rings / The Fellowship of the Ring – J. R. R. Tolkien – 190,000 wordsThe Atlantis Gene – AG Riddle – 135,000 words1984 – George Orwell – 90,000 wordsHarley Merlin and the Secret Coven – Bella Forrest – 110,000 words Literary Genre - Novel vs Novella If you’re writing for a more literary audience, then the rules above apply on upper limits. In other words, anything up to 120,000 words, no problem. And lower limits are quite a lot lower. A good, short literary novel might be 60,000 words. A very good, very short novella might be as little as 45 or 50,000. The shorter it gets, the better it needs to be. Examples Wolf Hall (by Hilary Mantel) is over 200,000 words On Chesil Beach (by Ian McEwan) is just 40,000 words long A Note About Our Word Count Estimations In some cases, word counts are published and in those cases, we’ve used those published sources. In other cases, we’ve used online tools such as Reading Length to estimate the length of a work. We would expect the actual length to be within +/- 10% of our stated length and usually closer. We have rounded to the nearest 5,000 words in all cases. How Long is a Non-Fiction Book? Memoir And Biography Most memoirs need to be in the 70,000 to 100,000-word range. Only if you’re a major celebrity can you blow right through that word count and just keep going. Examples Becoming – Michelle Obama – 165,000 words. I’d say she’s a major celebrity, though, so …Educated – Tara Westover – 100,000 wordsThe Salt Path – Raynor Winn – 90,000 words Popular Non-Fiction For the kind of book that normally sits on the front tables at Waterstones or Barnes & Noble, you’ll find that 70,000 to 120,000 words is about typical. If the topic really justifies length (and especially if your credentials are highly impressive) you can go longer, but check that you remain interesting, even at length. Examples Really hard to give examples, because this is a very broad category indeed. But for what it’s worth … Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahnemann – 150,000 wordsFear: Trump in the White House – Bob Woodward – 135,000 wordsHillbilly Elegy – JD Vance – 75,000 wordsA Brief History of Time – Stephen Hawking – 50,000 words Niche Non-Fiction For anything really niche – e.g. How to Get Started in Internet Fraud – there are no real limits. Just write a good book on the topic and let length look after itself. How Long is a Children’s Novel? Young Adult Fiction YA fiction usually needs to be 50,000 to 70,000 words. You can go up to 100,000 if your material is phenomenal and justifiable, but no longer than that … Or at least that’s what I used to say, except that Stephenie Meyer really rewrote the rules. So yeah, you can go over 100,000 words if you are about to reinvent an entire category of fiction. Examples Twilight – Stephenie Meyer – 120,000 wordsHunger Games – Susan Collins – 100,000 wordsThe Fault in Our Stars – John Green – 90,000 wordsOutside – Sarah Ann Juckes (our head of membership content) – 70,000 words Middle Grade Fiction Children’s fiction is so varied in terms of length, type, illustration. Your best bet is to go to a good children’s bookstore and look at books like your own in terms of target audience. Multiply up by the number of pages and get to a rough word count. The younger the child, the shorter the word count. Examples It’s not really safe to offer examples. Your best bet is to figure out what books yours is comparable to, then sit down and count the words on 2-3 typical pages. Get a rough average. Multiply by the number of pages in the book. And that gives you your rough word count. Self-Published Work And Ebooks: Word Count Guidelines In the world of print and physical bookstores, length kind of mattered. There’s just a minimum cost of printing a book, trucking it to a store, marketing it, and everything else. Since a 50 page book for $7.99 just feels like bad value most of the time, books like that were never commissioned by publishers. They just didn’t happen. Because traditional publishers still tend to think of print first and digital formats second, the same thing still mostly holds true. For them. But if you’re self-publishing, it just doesn’t need to hold true for you. What if you wanted to write: Beach read romances – 30,000 words each – in a series of 8 or so books. Well, heck, you can do it. Readers love that kind of thing. Short, subject-led books on internet marketing, or cat nutrition, or meditation technique. Well, heck you can do it. Readers can get real value from that kind of thing. There’s no right or wrong here. The only golden rule is: You communicate the type of book accurately to the reader, andYour pricing reflects the length / value you are offering. I know that’s technically two golden rules, but the second one is kind of a repeat of the first. As a rough guide, I’d say that a 30,000 word book shouldn’t sell for much more than $2.99 / $3.99. If your book is very short – 15-20,000 words – it probably wants to be $0.99 or free. Do You Need to Edit Your Novel? Take a good look at the average word counts you need for a novel or non-fiction. If your book is too long and you need to cut it, don’t fret. It’s often possible to take a good 30,000 words out of a book without really affecting the content, just by being rigorous about what works – what words, sentences, paragraphs, scenes and chapters truly earn their place. The secret to effective self-editing is always just a relentless search for material that isn’t really contributing to the story . . . and searching at every scale. So you need to ask, “Is this chapter or scene really needed? Could I cut it or simply delete it?” But you also need to ask, “Does this sentence contain more words than it needs? Could I do the same job more effectively with less?” Bear in mind that cutting a 12-word sentence down to 9 words might feel like nothing to you . . . but that’s the same proportionate reduction as cutting a 120,000 word novel down to 90,000 words. And you only achieve that kind of reduction by being picky about every single word. 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. 

9 Tips For Writing Perfect Prose

How To Write Prose- The Best Way When you send your work off to an agent, the agent’s first look will be fast, smart and brutal. They’ll ask, “Do I even like the concept for this book?” And they’ll ask, “Can this person write? Does this feel like the prose style of a serious, professional author?” If the answer to either of those questions is in the negative, you’re on the path to rejection, no matter how hard you’ve worked on all the rest of your manuscript. Well, we’re not going to address the issue of ideas in this post (though you could check out our comments in our article on writing an elevator pitch, if you’re worried, or see what we have to say about checking and developing your ideas.) We’re going to deal with the second of the things that an agent (or their assistant) has uppermost in their mind when they consider your submission. Quite simply, they’re thinking: Can this person write? Agents see hundreds of manuscripts and you’ll need yours to say, from that very first page and paragraph, “Yes, this is good prose. You are in the hands of a confident, capable writer. You will not be wasting your time with what follows.” What are you aiming for? You are aiming for prose that is: ClearEconomicalPrecise If you can check those three boxes, you’re doing fine. John Grisham isn’t some kind of prose writing superstar. Nor is Suzanne Collins. Nor is Stephen King. Their genius all lies elsewhere. 9 Ways To Perfect Your Prose Style: Avoid clichés.Be accurate.Keep it short.Trust your reader.Cull your adjectives.Mix your rhythms.Ditch the modifiers, let the verbs do the work.Use unexpected words to shock readers into understanding.Ask for help. If you can write clear, economical and precise prose – and it isn’t hard to do – you’re basically forcing the agent to read on. To judge your novel on its merits. To give your story a chance. Here’s what you need to do. Not sure what prose writing is? It’s basically the opposite of poetry. Any novel is written in prose. So is the text in any newspaper. So is the letter you write to your bank or your doctor or your secret lover. When novelists talk about prose style, they really just mean the way you write. Does your writing sound good or bad? Does it do the job you want it to do? Or does the way you express things always let you down? Wikipedia has more on what prose is, if you want to know that. Kill Clichés Cliché is the enemy of every author. And you recognise it when you see it, right? We’re talking about things like this: His eyes were blue enough to swim in.She felt a sharp pain, as though cut by a knife.The breeze whispered softly through gently waving trees. It’s like watching a movie we’ve all seen before. It’s language that’s stale, old, past its sell-by date. But cliche creeps in all over the place. The flame-haired passionate redhead? She’s an old, overused stereotype. The midnight hostage exchange in a deserted warehouse? Seen it, read it. The rose-covered cottage with a smiling old lady and lots of home-made cakes. Yep, nothing new there. The simple fact is that wherever you grab for pre-made stereotypes – scenes, people and settings that we’ve seen a million times before – you bore your reader that tiny bit. You distance them from the text, when what you want is to hug them close. So, look for cliches everywhere. Then kill them. Need more help? We have a brilliant video tutorial on Cliches – it’s part of our How To Write course and is available free to members of Jericho Writers. If you’re serious about writing, you probably want to consider joining us. You get tons of free learning materials, live online classes, an active and supportive community, and so much more besides. Learn more or join us. Be Accurate Let’s start with an example. Consider this sentence: She lay in the early morning light listening to the roar of traffic softly rising like mist in the streets. What do you think of that? Good? Bad? Half and half? I hope you said that it’s an awful sentence, because it is. If I were an agent and I encountered this sentence on page 1 of a submission, I would read no further. Why? Because the writer isn’t in control of their language and that proves to me that they aren’t yet ready to go pro. So let’s see what’s wrong. “She lay in the early morning light” – that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. “listening to the roar of traffic” – yep, OK. (Although why is there a roar of traffic in the early morning? Unless there’s a very specific setting which answers that question, I worry that we’re not really dealing with early morning here, in which case why say so?) “softly rising like mist in the streets” – OK, that’s where this sentence collapses completely. If traffic roars, it can’t softly rise. You could have a murmur of traffic doing something softly. Or a roar of traffic doing something loudly or violently. But roar + soft just doesn’t work. The two ideas are fighting each other. And that’s not all of it. Mist doesn’t rise, it just hangs. It’s a stationary image, not a moving one. So that’s another fail. And why say ‘In the streets‘? Obviously cars are in streets (so why bother to remind us?) And if you want to talk about a slow-rising mist, then isn’t that more naturally a rural metaphor? In which case the word streets again introduces an awkwardness. In short, the writer of that sentence failed the Accuracy test, because they weren’t sure enough what they wanted to say and ended up just serving up a mess. Oh, and if you think I’m being picky here, then I admit it: YES! I’m picky. So should you be. Prose style matters – and it’s good that it matters! Books are made out of sentences and sentences are made out of words. If you\'re not very picky indeed about your word choices and sentence constructions, you will never be (or deserve to be) a real professional author. So be picky. It’s the first ingredient of success. Keep It Short When you write, treat your manuscript as though you had to pay 10p a word for the privilege of writing. Look at this paragraph, for example: He walked slowly away, trying not to make any kind of sound. His feelings were in a turmoil, roiling and boiling, a tumult of emotion. He couldn’t help reiterating to himself again and again that he had done the right thing; that he had done everything he could. He insisted to himself that she, too, would surely see this one day. Ugh. Let’s try that again. Here’s the same example, tightened up. He crept away, his feelings in turmoil. He had done the right thing, he told himself. One day, she would see this, too. Almost a third of the length. And everything about it is better. It doesn’t just say it faster, it says it better. In the first version, all that verbiage just got in the way. And again: you just can’t be too picky here. Let’s say you had a sentence in your book that was 12 words long, when it could say the same thing in just 9-10 words. Would you make the change? Or would you just think, nah, who cares? I certainly hope that you said you’d make the change, because look at it like this. What if you write a 120,000 word book that could be reduced to 90 or 100,000 words without losing any material content? That book would be 20-30,000 words overweight . . . and would be way too baggy for any top-end literary agent to get involved with. But you will only cut that 20-30,000 word surplus by finding the 2-3 unnecessary words in that 12 word sentence and cutting them out. That’s what that part of the editing process is all about. There are no shortcuts. In short: good writers work at their writing. Getting your prose style right is all about acute attention to detail. If a bad sentence bothers you, you just need to keep going until you get it right. You have to care about your sentences –because your entire novel is made of them! If you’re not open to cutting your work in service of your novel, making it the best you can, we’re in trouble. Trust Your Reader Another amateurish trait is that of not trusting the reader. We get many clients who write something rather like the following: He rolled in agony. Fire shot through every limb. He felt like screaming out in pain. His entire face was distorted with the grotesque effort of not shouting out. That uses many very forceful words (agony, fire, screaming, distorted, grotesque). You don’t need that many words to do the job. It’s as though the writer of this snippet doesn’t trust the reader to get the point, so he/she keeps making the same point again and again like some classic pub bore. Readers will ‘get it’, as long as you write in clear, forceful, non-repetitive language. Here’s another example. What do you think of the following little dialogue / micro-scene? “Yes?” I nudged.“Yes, only . . .” she hesitated, then stopped completely. Waved her hands at me to signal she was done, or that I should look away. Some gesture like that.“So, yes, we should invite him?”“Of course. Fine. Whatever you want. It’s not like I care.” We don’t know what’s going on here of course – presumably, if we read this in a book, we’d have more background to make sense of it all. But it’s pretty clear, isn’t it, that the woman here has some set of quite strong, deep emotions about the guy they might or might not invite to something – and she’s not that keen to talk about what she feels.# And you got all that, without the writer having to spell anything out at all. The writer just dropped stuff on the page and let you figure it out. So now take a look at this way of doing things: “Yes?” I nudged her, anxious to know what she would think.“Yes, only . . .” she hesitated, then stopped completely. She waved her hands at me to signal something. I guess she was quite conflicted about me inviting him. Maybe she was a little bit angry, plus a little embarrassed. Her body language was more than consistent with these two emotions, so I decided that I should try to clarify the situation in order to identify her opinions more precisely.“So, yes, we should invite him?” I said, hoping that this time I would get a more detailed answer.“Of course. Fine. Whatever you want. It’s not like I care.”But although she said she didn’t care, it was evident to me that she did. As a matter of fact, when she spoke the words “whatever you want”, it struck me that maybe she was being passive-aggressive, that although she said “whatever you want”, maybe what she actually means was, “No, I’d prefer not to see him.” That’s terrible, right? And it’s terrible, partly, because this version of the dialogue massively breaks the “keep it tight” rule. But it’s also terrible because it just lectures the reader in this horrible heavy-handed way on stuff that the reader can perfectly well figure out for themselves. It’s even worse than that, actually, because in the first example, all the nuances of the situation were left open to the reader to figure out. In the second example, all that clunky explanation just crushes the nuances underfoot. The moral of this story? Trust your reader. They’re smart like that. (And get more dialogue help, if you want it.) Cull Those Adjectives To stick with this theme, and especially when it comes to descriptive writing, double adjectives are almost always a no-no. The second adjective almost always weakens the first. You want an example? OK, so take a look at this: He leaned over the black iron railings, the coarse grey cloth of his sleeve catching on the sharp, treacherous spike. Deleting any superfluous adjective improves this description straightaway: He leaned over the iron railings, the coarse cloth of his sleeve catching on the sharp spike. That’s better, right? But I hope you notice that we can go one step better again. Every sentence needs nouns and verbs, while adjectives are definitely optional. And in many cases, a sentence just doesn’t need any adjectives at all. So in fact, the best way to write that sentence would be simply: As he leaned over the railings, his sleeve caught on the spike. Good writers use adjectives sparingly. And if you\'re in doubt, write the sentence without the adjectives and see if it works better. If it’s actually missing something then reinsert the adjective. Your prose will instantly tighten and feel more alive, more taut. Want more help on descriptive writing? Then get it here and here. Mix Your Rhythms Short sentences are strong. So use them. But too many? All short sentences? They’ll irritate the reader. You’ll annoy them. A lot. Aren’t you annoyed already? I bet you are. Equally, if you work with only longer sentences, you risk losing the reader, who’ll miss that bit of grit, of sharpness, that shorter sentences bring. The same thing applies across the board. Description is great, but too much of it? Every small thing described? You’ll lose the reader.Abstract nouns are great – but big blocks of them? You’ll lose the reader.Emotional language is great. It’s a big part of why we read. But constant examination of every small emotion? Yep, you know what I’m going to say: you’ll lose the reader. The secret, always, is variety – and flexing your language according to the mood and moment of your story. So if your hero gets brutally dumped by his long time partner? Then look in detail at his emotions! But if you’re in the middle of a tense action scene? Now’s probably not the time for all that. Of course, it sounds obvious if you put it like that, but it’s not always so obvious as you write your text. One great trick, used by plenty of pro authors,is to read your work aloud. If it starts to grate with you, or if the rhythms seem awkward to say, then stop and rewrite! It’ll be worth your time, guaranteed! Work Those Nouns, Work Those Verbs! Look at these examples, and figure out what’s wrong with them: He said loudly, raising his voice so she could hear it across the field.She jumped high in the air.He said as quietly as he could. In most cases, of course, you’ll do better to simply cut out the adverbs (the things that describe the action – like loudly, high, and quietly). English is rich in vocabulary so in most cases, there are neater ways to say what you’re after. For example: He called to her (adding, across the field if you want).She leaped.He whispered. I’m not saying those replacements are always better – you have to use your judgement given the particular place you are in your story. But as a rule of thumb? Ditch the modifiers and let the verbs do the work. There’s a similar trick to see whether your nouns (words for objects) are working hard enough for you. Compare these two examples: He passed her some food, on an old white plate.He gave her lamb tagine. Big scoops of it, mounded on a plate of old porcelain, with a faded floral rim. The first sentence is very bland, partly because all of the components words are very bland. If you listed all the commonest words in the English language, them pass, food, old, white, and plate would surely be amongst their number. The second sentence has some much less common words, lamb, tagine, scoops, mounded, porcelain, faded, floral, rim. Because those words are less common, they feel tangier to the reader. They burn brighter in the reader’s imagination. Again, I’m not saying you can use this trick all the time – your judgement has to come first; sometimes simple is good – but it’s worth bearing in mind. If you read over your prose and find it a little bland or lacking in energy, then giving (especially) your nouns and verbs a big more zing will make a huge difference. Do you find this helpful? We have some brilliant video tutorials on prose writing – they’re part of our How To Write course and the whole thing available free to members of Jericho Writers. If you’re serious about writing, you probably want to consider joining us. You get tons of free learning materials, live online classes, an active and supportive community, and so much more besides. Learn more or join us. We’d love it if you did! Add Some Little Flashes Of Genius You’ll occasionally find a phrase that perfectly captures something: an unexpected word use that shocks a reader into understanding. Here are some dazzling examples of what we mean: “A quick succession of busy nothings.”“One moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.”“I shall be dumped where the weed decays, and the rest is rust and stardust.” These are snippets from writers of genius – Jane Austen, Graham Greene, and Vladimir Nabokov. Never try forcing this on your every paragraph or page (they didn’t). Only a scatter of diamonds here and there has effect, so go for it, if you can. And if that seems a bit daunting to begin with, then start small. The main trick in writing well is simple:You just have to care enough. We mean that pretty literally. Let’s say, there’s something you want to convey. Something, let’s say, about those moments of transition in childhood, when new possibilities suddenly open up. You’re talking about a semi-magical moment, so it would be great if you could find a description that had a little magic to it. But how to do it? The answer is, you write something and see how you feel about it. Maybe this, for example: It was one of those moments in childhood, that suddenly seemed rich in possibility. That’s OK, right, but not exactly magical. So just let your imagination find what you are trying to say? What is it that for you conveys that idea of ‘rich in possibility’? As soon as you ask that question, you might start finding some answers. For example: It was one of those moments in childhood, where the future suddenly bloomed, like a field full of poppies.A moment in childhood, where a window swung open, letting in the sunshine, letting in the future. Or of course, you might end up with something like Greene’s own version: “One moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” Bear in mind, he probably didn’t write that sentence cleanly at the first time of asking. He probably wrote something, felt it wasn’t quite right, then fiddled with the sentence until he was happy. That’s how writers write. Dissatisfaction + more work = the route to better writing! Get Writing Help I hope you know by now that Jericho Writers is a club for writers just like you. We have a ton of helpful advice to offer. There are free courses. Free films. Free webinars where you can ask agents and authors real questions about your work. There’s a community full of writers like you exchanging questions and comments on each other’s work. And once you take out your (low cost, cancel-any-time) membership, everything within the club is absolutely free to members. It’s like you get access to the world’s best resource bank for writers, and pay just a fraction of what it would cost to buy those things outright. Does that sound good? We really hope so. We built the club for writers like you, and we’ve already helped 100s of writers to achieve their dreams of 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. 

10 Great Examples Of How To Begin A Short Story

In this article, author Dan Brotzel shares 10 examples of how to create a perfect opening for your short story. In a short story, where a whole world or emotional journey can be summoned up and dramatised in the space of a few pages, every line and word has to count – and that’s especially true of the way you begin. Here, for inspiration, are a range of starting strategies from some great exponents of the form… 1. The Telling Detail “One Dollar And Eighty-seven Cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheek burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.” From ‘The Gift of the Magi’, by O Henry Sometimes known as the American Maupassant, O Henry’s stories are tightly plotted narratives of ordinary lives with lots of humour that usually end with a classic sting in the tale that, while surprising, flows with unerring logic from the story’s premise. In this classic tale, we know the whole set-up within a few lines. It is Christmas and Della has no money to buy a present for her beloved husband James. In their whole house they possess only two things that they really value: his gold watch and her golden hair. In a formula that has been much copied since, we watch Della sell her golden locks to raise money to buy a fancy fob for James’s watch, while unbeknownst to her he has pawned his watch to buy her a set of ivory combs that she has long coveted for her (now departed) hair! It is a tale that sounds tragic, but is actually heartening, because in the end the couple are confirmed in their real gift: the love they bear each other. (Plus, of course, Della’s hair will grow back!) But it all stems from a single telling detail: that opening cinematic detail of a tiny sum of money, piled up in pennies and scrimped from tense negotiations with tradespeople, that is all Della thinks she has to show James how much she loves him. 2. The Paradox “In the beginning, Sanford Carter was ashamed of becoming an Army cook. This was not from snobbery, at least not from snobbery of the most direct sort. During the two and a half years Carter had been in the Army he had come to hate cooks more and more. They existed for him as a symbol of all that was corrupt, overbearing, stupid, and privileged in Army life…” From ‘The Language of Men,’ by Normal Mailer Published in 1953, ‘The Language of Men’ tells the story of an over-sensitive, frustrated serviceman who, after years of being passed up for promotion and never finding his niche in the army, ends up as a cook – the thing he hates most about the army. Immediately we are curious: What will happen to a man who becomes the thing he most despises? Carter feels that he never manages to understand other men, to feel either equal to them or able to lead them. ‘Whenever responsibility had been handed to him, he had discharged it miserably, tensely, over conscientiously. He had always asked too many questions, he had worried the task too severely, he had conveyed his nervousness to the men he was supposed to lead.’ Even after starting to enjoy his work as a cook, the story builds to an incident where the men come to him and ask for a tin of oil for a fish fry-up they are organising – a party to which he is not invited. Carter stands his ground, and earns some grudging respect, but then undercuts it all again after the event with his ‘unmanliness’ – the true source of his self-disgust. The whole drama of a man failing to fit in with and gain respect among other men is foreshadowed in the paradox that’s set in motion in the story’s opening lines. 3. The Historical Backdrop “Paris was blockaded, starved, in its death agony. Sparrows were becoming scarcer and scarcer on the rooftops and the sewers were being depopulated. One ate whatever one could get.As he was strolling sadly along the outer boulevard one bright January morning, his hands in his trousers pockets and his stomach empty, M. Morissot, watchmaker by trade but local militiaman for the time being, stopped short before a fellow militiaman whom he recognized as a friend. It was M Sauvage, a riverside acquaintance.”From ‘Two Friends,’ by Guy de Maupassant A protege of Flaubert and the author of the novel Bel-Ami, Maupassant wrote over 300 short stories, many of them – like this one – set during the Franco-Prussian war, and showing how innocent lives are swept up and crushed by futile, brutal conflict. This story starts with a brief paragraph of context and another telling detail: the absence of sparrows. At this point in the conflict, the Prussian army has established a blockade around Paris and is seeking to starve out its citizens. The two friends of the title were passionate fishermen in peacetime, and after a chance encounter they convince each other to go off and fish once again. As well as the hunger they feel, they are motivated by a hankering for a return to the innocent pleasures of their pre-war lives. They slip out past the French lines, to an area where they think they will be safe, but after a brief interval of bliss the Prussians detect them, with tragic consequences… The opening line describes the war situation in vivid, journalistic terms, after which we are plunged into the tale of these two innocents. In a few telling phrases, it provides context and general background for the very particular tragedy which is about to ensue. 4. The Anecdotal Approach “Margot met Robert on a Wednesday night toward the end of her fall semester. She was working behind the concession stand at the artsy movie theatre downtown when he came in and bought a large popcorn and a box of Red Vines.“That’s an… unusual choice,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever actually sold a box of Red Vines before.”From ‘Cat Person,’ by Kristen Roupenian ‘Cat Person,’ reportedly the first short story ever to go viral, tells a simple tale of a doomed romantic encounter. Margot, a student, meets an older guy, Robert, and they begin a flirtation that turns into a date that turns into a rather unsatisfactory (for her) sexual encounter. Robert starts off as rather funny and charming, but over time we see that he is needy, insensitive, possessive, and utterly unaware of what Margot is thinking or feeling. Margot regrets the whole thing but doesn’t know how to tell him; Robert, when he is let down, turns all-too-predictably toxic. In short order he goes from mooning after her to demanding who she’s slept with to calling her a ‘whore.’ This sequence of events struck a chord with many, many people because it is clearly so familiar. The story emphasises the banality of the whole progression by narrating events in a straightforwardly chronological, anecdotal style, right from the opening paragraph. This approach serves to underline the depressing banality of Robert’s misogyny while implicitly asking the question: Why should women have to accept this as normal? 5. In Media Res “And after all the weather was ideal. They could not have had a more perfect day for a party if they had ordered it. Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud. Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer. The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine. As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that -parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing. Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.”From ‘The Garden Party,’ by Katherine Mansfield Literally ‘in the middle of things’, an in media res beginning is where the story drops us into the middle of the action of the narrative, so that we are instantly caught up in events. In this case, we are plunged into the excited bustle of a well-to-do family preparing a sumptuous garden party, and the story does a fantastic job of building up the anticipation and painting a picture of the affluence of the hosts. There is a marquee to put up, a band on its way, an enormous delivery of fancy flowers, fifteen kinds of sandwich, and a retinue of servants to ensure everything is ready. Beginning with ‘and’ adds to this effect, giving us to understand that garden-party fever has been going on already for days, and seeming to hark back to earlier worries about what the weather would be like on the day. But against all this blithely affluent gaiety comes the story’s turning point: news that a poor workingman living in a cottage nearby has died in a sudden accident. Laura, a daughter of the house, wonders if it appropriate to continue with the party, especially as all the noise and music and bustle will carry to the grieving widow (who also has six children, we later discover). But just as happens to the reader with the introduction, she is swept along by the occasion, and only really reconsiders the incident at the end of a successful party, when her mother suggest she take a basket of sandwiches from the party down to the widow. Laura’s reaction to this difficult task is initially ambiguous, but ultimately it seems as if again she finds a way to paint the tragedy in complacently optimistic colours, choosing to find a serenity and beauty on the dead man’s face and so blind herself to the grim reality of the tragedy and the agony of the grieving wife. 6. The Refrain “The thing about being the murdered extra is you set the plot in motion.You were a girl good at walking past cameras, background girl, corner-of-the-frame girl. Never-held-a-script girl, went-where-the-director-said girl.You’ll be found in an alley, it’s always an alley for girls like you, didn’t-quite-make-it girls, living-four-to-a-one-bedroom-apartment girls. You’ll be found in an alley, you’ll be mistaken for a broken mannequin at first, you’ll be given a nickname. Blue Violet, White Rose, something reminiscent of Elizabeth Short, that first girl like you, that most famous one. The kind of dead girl who never really dies.”From ‘Being the Murdered Extra,’ by Cathy Ulrich Cathy Ulrich’s extraordinary ‘Murdered Ladies’ flash fictions present a series of stories – there are 40 of them in her collection, Ghosts of You – which always begin with the same line: The thing about being the murdered extra/girlfriend/moll/classmate/witch/dancer [etc] is you set the plot in motion. It’s a thought-provoking line, which grows in power with every repetition. On the face of it seems strange to see these women as setting the plot in motion, when they are all victims of male violence. But we start to see that what they set in motion is actually the story that the people who survive them will appropriate from their lost lives, and blithely relate in their absence. Each woman may set her plot in motion, but in each case she is not alive to explain how everyone gets her wrong, or projects their own version of events to absolve themselves too easily. We see that this theft of each woman’s own story is another violence that is done to them, something the stories seek in some small way to redeem. As Ulrich says: ‘Every story is looking for the lost girl from the title […] I am looking for the lost in these stories. I don’t know if I will ever find them.’ 7. Setting The Rules “The north and the west and the south are good hunting ground, but it is forbidden to go east. It is forbidden to go to any of the Dead Places except to search for metal and then he who touches the metal must be a priest or the son of a priest. Afterwards, both the man and the metal must be purified. These are the rules and the laws; they are well made. It is forbidden to cross the great river and look upon the place that was the Place of the Gods—this is most strictly forbidden. We do not even say its name though we know its name. It is there that spirits live, and demons—it is there that there are the ashes of the Great Burning. These things are forbidden—they have been forbidden since the beginning of time.”From ‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ by Stephen Vincent Benét In any story that seeks to build a world that is not ours, there is some work to be done in establishing the reality of that world – its customs, its landscape, its people, its rules. World-building stories can sometimes fall down when they indulge in too much of an expository info dump, as the accumulation of background detail can quickly dent narrative momentum. What’s so clever about the start of this story is that the rules are themselves the engine of the plot. We pan cinematically across the edges of the story’s territory, and understand the legends and forbidden areas of this world. But the quest of the narrator – who is indeed the son of a priest – will take him east, into the forbidden Place of the Gods (about which, of course, we are already very curious). At the outset of the story we do not the time in which the story is set, what kind of being he is, or where he lives. But all these things will be revealed as the narrator’s journey through a post-apocalyptic, post-technological world takes him to places that gradually start to seem very familiar… 8. Beginning With The Inciting Incident “The day my son Laurie started kindergarten he renounced corduroy overalls with bibs and began wearing blue jeans with a belt; I watched him go off the first morning with the older girl next door, seeing clearly that an era of my life was ended, my sweet-voiced nursery-school tot replaced by a longtrousered, swaggering character who forgot to stop at the corner and wave good-bye to me.”From ‘Charles,’ by Shirley Jackson Screenwriting guru Robert Mckee describes the inciting incident as a moment that ‘radically upsets the balance of forces in your protagonist’s life’. It’s the moment when our main character is plunged out of their normal routine and a challenge or quest appears which will shape their journey, and with it the rest of the story. It’s common to locate this point near the start of the story after some introductory ‘normality,’ so that we can understand how the main character’s life is to be disrupted.But here the inciting incident is placed by mystery and horror writer Shirley Jackson – best known for The Haunting of Hill House – at the very start of the story. Everything that happens flows from Laurie starting kindergarten. Laurie gets cheekier and less innocent with each passing day, as he brings home increasingly hair-raising tales of an even naughtier boy called Charles. The whole story deals with the comic escalation of Charles’ behaviour, as reader and narrator alike become ever more curious to meet the errant child and speculate on what his parents are like. I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that there is perhaps a clue in the mother’s lament in the opening paragraph about the end of an era of innocence… 9. The Thought Experiment “MY LOVER IS experiencing reverse evolution. I tell no one. I don’t know how it happened, only that one day he was my lover and the next he was some kind of ape. It’s been a month, and now he’s a sea turtle.”From ‘The Rememberer,’ by Aimee Bender Aimee Bender’s story begins by asking the reader to imagine something extraordinarily counterfactual: that her lover is regressing through millennia, going through the evolutionary process so fast – a million years a day, in reverse – that we can actually track his progress by the day. One day he is a baboon, another a salamander; eventually he is no longer even visible to the naked eye. As with so many of Bendee’s stories the result is mournful, strange, poetic and profound. She takes a surreal thought like this and turns into a powerful meditation on memory, the difference between evolution and maturity, speciesism and loss. And it all begins with that challenging idea which confronts us in the very first sentence. 10. THE CONUNDRUM “1-0. Who would expect the Embassy of Cambodia? Nobody. Nobody could have expected it, or be expecting it. It’s a surprise, to us all. The Embassy of Cambodia!Next door to the embassy is a health center. On the other side, a row of private residences, most of them belonging to wealthy Arabs (or so we, the people of Willesden, contend). They have Corinthian pillars on either side of their front doors, and—it’s widely believed—swimming pools out back. The embassy, by contrast, is not very grand. It is only a four- or five-bedroom North London suburban villa, built at some point in the thirties, surrounded by a red brick wall, about eight feet high. And back and forth, cresting this wall horizontally, flies a shuttlecock. They are playing badminton in the Embassy of Cambodia. Pock, smash. Pock, smash.”From ‘The Embassy of Cambodia,’ by Zadie Smith This subtle and absorbing story from Zadie Smith opens with a mystery: an embassy, set in a leafy north London suburb rather than a grand central district of the city, and a wall, behind which a mysterious game of badminton is being played. The rest of the story picks at this mystery and uses the imagined score in the ongoing game-playing as a backdrop to the unfolding tale of Fatou, a domestic servant to the affluent Derawals, who has escaped servitude and dodged abuse in Africa only to face privations and hardships in London. Each mini-chapter of the story is headed with a score from the badminton match – from 1-0 up to 21-0. This mechanism provides a rhythmic framework to the tale. We may never learn who actually holds the rackets, but we see that the back-and-forth motion behind the wall of an embassy – an institution with the power to grant deny or people access to whole a country – is a fitting counterpoint to the enforced travels of impoverished migrants, and to the desperate movements of Fatou’s hopes and fears in a world where she has little agency or resources, and only one friend. Now you’ve seen how these authors have done it, it’s time to get stuck into actually putting pen to paper – or fingertips to keyboard – and start writing your short story. For more from Dan, check out his top 10 steps for writing short stories (with even more examples!). Jericho Writers is a global membership group for writers, providing everything you need to get published. Keep up with our news, membership offers, and updates by signing up to our newsletter. For more writing articles take a look at our blog page or join our free writer\'s community. 
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