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Give Your Protagonist More than Just Words – Part 2

Part 1 looked at the how your character’s inner thoughts (or inner dialogue) can help with characterisation, and ways that it can deepen the narrative, but in addition to that, writers also use visual prompts – things like gestures and body language - to give their protagonist more than just words. A lot our communication is nonverbal – we gesticulate, we move our bodies, and our facial expressions show sentiment, mood or emotion. We easily pick up on those subtle movements and we interpret them, or “read” that person. In fiction, your characters are no different. Writers can show a lot about a character without him or her having to say a word. Body language covers a large area – everything from gestures, posture, ticks, facial movements, and other movement not associated with gestures. But gestures are the one thing we all do and understand – it helps us express ourselves and reinforces what we say. For instance, someone might show open palms as they talk, which is often symboli

Give Your Protagonist More than Just Words – Part 1

The depth of characterisation comes from how well your write your characters. Their personality, their flaws and their unique characteristics, coupled with how they behave, how they act and react to other people and situations, and importantly, what they say, provides more for characterisation than just the words they speak. Characterisation isn’t just about what your character says or how they say it. While dialogue is important, it’s also important to give them more than just words. As writers, you can give them more, and to do that we give our characters inner dialogue, or inner thoughts. Inner dialogue refers to the internal thoughts of your character. It’s his or her deep thoughts and feelings, which the reader is privy. This provides the reader with insight into the character which can’t be gleaned by actions alone – because often what the character really feels on the inside is very different to what they do or say on the outside, seen by everyone else. So in a way, inner dialog

Putting the Horror into Horror Stories – Part 2

When we think about horror, we immediately think of visceral, blood and guts stories, but horror is much more than that – the best horror stories are about our fears, perceptions and the unknown - the things we don’t see or understand. All you need is the fears of your reader’s imagination.   No horror should be without some foreshadowing. It’s another way to add atmosphere and tone to the story, as well as added tension. Writers use all manner of things to foreshadow – the weather, an animal, a dream, a sound, circling birds…as long as it isn’t out of place within the story, and the reader can see it, so they will know that the birds circling the trees might signify something, or the coal coloured clouds in the distance represent a dreadful, suppressive mood that belies something terrible is about to happen.   The right pacing is essential. It can create dread, tension and provoke fear. To do that, use longer descriptions that deliberately linger on certain sensory details –

Putting the Horror into Horror Stories – Part 1

So what makes horror stories so...horrifying?   Writing a good horror story is all about tapping into the reader’s fears. Everybody is afraid of something, whether it’s the dark, spiders, thunder and lightning, snakes, even death...there is always something that terrifies people, and the best horror stories exploit these irrational fears (or phobias). Most of our fears come from childhood – an incident that we remember, such as seeing a spider, or behaviours and fears picked up from the adults around us. Often their fears become our fears. Additionally, there are instinctual and primitive fears – such as being afraid of large predatory animals like sharks or bears.   On the other side of the coin there is the fear caused by imagination; the monsters we create for ourselves, such as vampires, demons, bogeymen and creatures under the bed. But whether they’re primitive fears or made up ones, they all have something in common – they are all illogical – such fears make people be

Enhance Tension, Conflict and Drama Using Your Characters

Characters don’t just help tell the story – they also add different perspectives and dimensions to situations and incidents, and the narrative. Not only that, but most importantly, they help to move the story forward. The prime ingredients to create drama are conflict and tension. Drama brings both action and characters to life, and we use characters to enhance conflict, tension and drama in ways simple narrative won’t. Characters can convey more than just a few lines of dialogue. They can lift the story from the page. That’s because they are like real people – they have emotions and sensibilities and they react to things and people around them in so many ways. In other words, writers should appeal to the reader’s senses by showing their characters’ reactions and emotions to the things that go on around them. Don’t ‘tell’ or explain things – let the characters lead the reader. We tend to think of conflict and tension by way of description and narrative, but writers shouldn’t let

Avoid a Contrived Story

It’s very common for writers to orchestrate certain things that they think work for their story, whether it’s something to do with the plot or the characters or situations, but in reality what they end up doing is creating a contrived story. In writing, when something is contrived, it means that some aspects of the story have been deliberately created or forced into being, rather than happening organically or naturally because of the story. The result is that some plots and situations stretch plausibility – something the readers always notice. It’s something all writers do at some point, but not all of them break this habit. So why do writers artificially engineer their stories in such a way to leave the reader thinking, “As if!”? Every story needs to be plausible. The plot, the characters and the events all need to believable. Those key events need to happen functionally and organically because of the story arc, not because the writer has run out of ideas, or he hasn’t planned the s

Creating Great Secondary Characters

Almost every novel has a range of supporting characters to help bring the story to life and who revolve around the main character. These secondary characters aren’t just there to make up the numbers. They’re necessary if you want to tell a complete story. Writers use them to create different viewpoints, reveal important details and involve them within subplots, they support the protagonist and they help the story arc to evolve. They also help the story move forward. The main character needs them, whether they are friends, family, strangers or enemies. They are there to help, motivate, challenge or even create conflict with your protagonist. Ultimately, they all have the same purpose - to help get the story from the beginning to the end. They bring added dimension and depth to your story. So who are secondary characters? Secondary characters usually have some dialogue and interaction with the main character. They may have their own scenes, or be part of a subplot. Characters that s