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Chapters In A Book: How To Structure Them

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

Internal Monologue Examples And Tips 

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

How To Write An Immersive Setting

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

What Is Foreshadowing In Literature? A How-To Guide

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

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

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