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How to Plant Clues in Your Story

As writers we strive to write the best story we can. Constructing stories can be difficult and complicated at times, but we do it for our readers. They love nothing more than figuring out stuff for themselves.They like to peel away the layers and look inside the real story. They like to follow clues and they like to guess ‘whodunnit’. Clues are a way of enriching the story and creating a more enjoyable, deeper reading experience.
So, one question that writers often ask is: How do I plant clues in my narrative, and when?
Clues are a way to keep your reader interested because they impart necessary information at key moments throughout the story. They help layer the story and they can be as obvious or as subtle as you want them to be. Some clues may even be hard to spot, and readers miss them first time around, but they’re there, just waiting to be discovered.
They are a way of helping the reader ‘connect the dots’. A clue can be anything – an object, something said in a conversation, a col…

How to avoid Deus Ex Machina

To avoid Deus Ex Machina, (pronounced dayus ex mack-in-a), you first have to understand what it is and what it can do to a story.And when you understand what it is, you can avoid the urge to use it.
Deus Ex Machina literally means ‘God from the Machine’ and has its origins in classic Greek theatre. It’s a literary device that is as welcome as a large dose of adverbs, simply because it absolves the writer of any responsibility – it acts as the hand of God by swooping in to miraculously (and conveniently) save the day (and the story). Unsolvable problems convenient get solved, characters are miraculously saved from peril by unexpected and convenient means and things become contrived.
Writers often resort to deus ex machina when they’ve run out of ideas and don’t know any way to progress, or they’ve got into a situation with their characters that would not be logical or believable, and they can’t readily resolve this. While this may be convenient for the writer, the reality is that it weak…

How to use Background and Foreground

There are all sorts of things that make writing effective. Creating the right balance of background and foreground is one of them, and that starts with knowing what background and foregrounds are.
The background is something all writers are familiar with. It is information that is relevant to the story, but is presented in manageable narrative snippets throughout and slotted into the background of the main story, whereas foreground information has more relevance – it’s information presented in description and narrative that is right at the front of the story; it’s what makes up most of your story.
Background is the story details that the writer shows the reader from time to time, when the time is right, to help layer the story. This includes things like the setting, snippets of a character’s backstory, historical information on the character or a place or something else like a clue. These background details are usually placed within the narrative or sometimes in dialogue and they can al…

How to Use Background and Foreground

There are all sorts of things that make writing effective. Getting the detail right is crucial, and one of the best ways if to create the right balance of background and foreground. Both make those details count. But what exactly is background and foreground? Think of a painting. The main focus is on the subject of the painting and what is going on immediately around that subject. This is the foreground. But away from the main subject, there may also be something in the background – another person or object, bright colours and layers, the kind of things we don’t see right away; things that enhance the whole picture. That’s how background and foreground works. The background is something all writers are familiar with. It’s the type of information that is relevant to the story, but is presented in manageable narrative snippets throughout, so as not to be too intrusive. In other words, certain information stays in the background, yet is always present. Background detail works because the wri…

Developing a Story Idea – Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at the building blocks of story development – formulating the idea, brainstorming, creating the characters and their goals, using mind maps, linear graphs or other ways to visualise how the rest of the characters and story revolve around the main character, so in Part 2 we’ll look at the last stages of development – the story arc, outlining and the important critical choices before you write.
You’ve written down the plot, you’ve thrown together some ideas, you’ve created your characters and mapped each one thoroughly and you might have a mind map or linear graph or just simple notes to help pull the story together.
Next, plot the story arc. In other words, put together some sort of incident running order of important plot points; the key moments that will elevate the story. These are often the foundations for the story, because without the chain of events, there wouldn’t be much story to tell. So, for instance, point A happens, which results in Point B, which in tu…

Developing a Story Idea – Part 1

Story ideas come in all manner of ways. Sometimes they pop into our heads from nowhere, or sometimes they appear after we see, hear or read something. But for writers who are more thorough in their approach to writing, the seed of an idea will need a huge amount of development to grow from an idea into a fully-fledged plot for a novel.
The story is made up of several different components – the initial idea, the plot, the characters, the themes, the sub plot and so on. They’re all interconnected and they all require a place within your story progress, so that means those elements need to be brought together to create a flawless story.
The first step with story development is writing the idea down. It doesn’t have to be precise or detailed. Most often our ideas are raw, undiluted and at times more of a jumble. The idea for a story can come from anywhere – it could be from a simple observation, an overheard conversation or a collection of thoughts. Or it could be a slightly more rounded id…

Creating Characteristics

Characters are a vital ingredient to a successful story, and well-drawn, memorable characters are what we remember and enjoy about stories. We become immersed in their world, their adventures and their actions.
Characters are notable because they’re multidimensional; they’re almost real, and very often they are drawn from real life. But the one thing that makes characters so effective is their characteristics. These multifaceted features give your characters life. It’s the thing that makes them real. But what do we mean by characteristics?
Real people are fallible. No one is perfect. Everyone has foibles and we have unique personalities, shaped by our genes, experiences, childhood, parents and peers and our environments. Everyone has a history, a background; a story. We all have personality traits – the little things that make us…us.
These are the various layers your characters need in order to have realistic characteristics.
Behaviours
This is an important aspect that writers shouldn’t …