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Use Fear in Your Fiction

Fear is described as an emotion, but really, fear is a primal, negative reaction to something or someone. More often than not it is driven by the unknown, since humans fear what they don’t understand.  The sense of fear is something writers can evoke in their writing, especially in horror or psychological stories, but creating and exploiting fear isn’t solely for the horror or psychological/crime genres.Fear is something all characters will feel, whatever the genre of story, because it’s a real, tangible emotion that the reader will completely understand – it’s the one emotion that affects all of us. Writers use fear in different ways to provoke their characters, create tension and atmosphere and underpin different moods. Not only that, but a sense of fear can make your descriptions more vivid and realistic. There are two ways you can create fear. You can do it through your characters and you can create the sense of fear through narrative and description. A Character’s Fears Every characte…

Is Your Story Relatable?

Often we read stories that reflect our own lives in different ways. Whether it’s through characters that feel very real to us or certain incidents and events we might have experienced for ourselves, or we may have felt something similar, we find we can relate somehow. That sense of familiarity creates a connection and enables us as readers to get close to the characters.For writers, creating something that’s relatable to the reader is a vital step towards helping them become part of the story and establishing a sense of immediacy. Making a story and its characters relatable brings the story into the hearts and minds of readers. Every author wants to achieve that, but the realism of life is often overlooked by writers, or they fail to realise how immediacy works. Instead they choose ridiculous, convoluted plots that drown in cliché and stereotypes, populated with unbelievable heroes with superhuman powers and skills, with caricature type villains more suited to Hollywood action movies.…

How to Add Depth to Your Writing – Part 3

To add depth to writing is to add layers. The more layers you have – and the idea of different perceptions – then the more depth you create.Parts 1 and 2 looked at the general ways to add depth, but there are also more complex ways that can also work. How often do you use simile or metaphors? Writers often use similes without realising it, because we naturally like to compare one thing with another when describing things. You’ll spot a simile whenever the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ are used. For instance, ‘Her voice sounded like a knife on glass’, or ‘His skin tingled as though ants crawled all over him’. Both these similes help create vivid description, because they are comparing one thing to another - in this case, the sound of someone’s voice is compared to a knife scraping across the surface of glass (which produces a high pitched, excruciating sound), and the sensation of tingling skin is compared to a horde of ants crawling all over the body. Similes like this add those extra descripti…

How to Add Depth to Your Writing – Part 2

Part 1 looked at how characterisation, creating immediacy, themes and emotions can develop a sense of depth to storytelling.But of course, there are many more that every writer should include, which form the basic backbone to any writing. Conflict – in its many forms – gives greater depth to writing, because where there is conflict there are a gamut of emotions. Conflict draws the reader deeper into the story because the main character is often at the centre, but the emotions that stem from such conflicts create reactions within the reader – they’re moved somehow; they’re angry, they’re on the edge of their seat, they’re scared or they’re on the verge of tears. Deep connections with your characters will create greater depth. One of the best ways to add depth to any story is also one of the most simple, and it all revolves around detail.Every bit of information, every description and every brushstroke provides an almost limitless depth to your writing. Unfortunately, a lot of writers skip…

How to Add Depth to Your Writing – Part 1

Depth is a word that’s used often. It’s more complex than writers realise, simply because there are so many facets involved in creating depth. It involves every aspect of the story and characters, and applies to both the basics and the mechanics of writing. The depth of any story can be as deep or as shallow as the writer wants it to be. Think of the ocean. All sorts of stuff can float on the surface, but below it, lots of other things are happening that can affect what goes on above the surface. The more depth there is to a story, the more engaging it becomes.  The Basics If you have a plot, then your story already has some depth. It’s how you develop that depth, by exploring ideas, characters, adding multiple brush strokes, different story threads and undercurrents, and using different themes that make the sense of ‘depth’ work. The characters in your story will add extra depth to the story arc. Characterisation is a rich deposit for any writer, so make your characters realistic and int…

How Characters Can Change

While still on the theme of characters and deep characterisation last week, it’s worth looking at how characters are affected by the events in your story and how characters actually change by the end of it. Many beginners who are not familiar with different layers of characterisation don’t always develop their main characters, so they end up with the same character at the end of the story as they did at the beginning. While this might seem consistent, it doesn’t develop the character’s story arc. No character should remain unchanged. Your main characters, and some of your secondary ones, will absolutely change and develop throughout the story because of the different escalating events that occur, the range of emotions they have to deal with and the reactions they have towards the event and each other. If they don’t change in some way, then the reader won’t see the character as believable, and they won’t connect with that character or have any empathy. Just like real people, characters c…

The Ultimate Guide to Building Characters - Part 3

Last week looked at things like emotion, making characters relatable, giving them behaviours and traits and making them infallible. Each of these facets builds more of your characters; it brings them further into the reader’s imagination. But the one thing that brings characters to life is the similarity to real life people – that sense of realism. As previously touched on last week, emotions play a huge part in creating characterisation, and one of those emotions that span the distance between fiction and reality is the emotion of fear. Fears Any story that can tap into fear is one that will hook the reader from the first chapter to the last. Fear – real or imagined – affects all of us in different ways. Everyone knows what fear feels like, whether it’s fear of spiders, the dark, the fear of heights, snakes or other irrational phobias. That’s why horror stories work so well – they exploit those fears and make us face them. Those fears feel real.
It’s not just the irrational fears that we…