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Are Plots Really All the Same?

There’s nothing worse than spending months, years even, writing your novel, only to find that the moment you come to publish it or submit it to agents or publishers, there is one already one the shelf with virtually the same plot as yours. While this can be quite disheartening, it does not mean writers should abandon their projects with failed hope. The simple truth is that plots are not limitless, but ideas are. How often have you watched a movie or read a book and the story is so familiar to something else you’ve seen or read? That’s because they are inevitably similar; they share the same plot outline, but they’re not exactly the same.That’s because they will have very different characters, different themes, different subplots and different styles. They will have different titles, too. So even if you have a novel that is very similar to one that has just hits the book shelves, don’t despair. Yours will, inevitably, be quite different. All stories are unique. They can share similar st…

Passive & Active Voice

You may have heard ‘passive’ and ‘active’ voice mentioned in previous articles, or seen something written about them online and wondered if they are really that important in fiction writing, especially with the emerging consensus among self-published writers they can ‘write what they like’. Of course they can write what they like. It’s just most of it isn’t worth reading. So what is passive and active voice? Is it really that important? When we talk about active or passive voice, it means that the verb is either active or passive. For instance: John answered the door = activesentence. The door was answered by John = passive sentence. The first example is active because the subject and verb is in the correct sequence. In active sentences, something that is doing the action is the subject of the sentence. The thing receiving the action is the object. Therefore in the above sentence, John is the subject. ‘Answered’ becomes a verb because it is the action being used with an object. The object…

How to Improve Writing Skills

None of us start out as experts at writing. We all have to start at the beginning and learn and grow as writers, but there are many ways writers can improve their writing skills. Some of them are very simple. Know the Basics The basics of fiction writing should not be beyond the comprehension of any writer, even newbies. By basics, I mean things like a good grasp of vocabulary and grammar, a familiarity with the language (i.e. to have some knowledge of verbs, adverbs, adjectives, nouns, pronouns and so on), and syntax, the ability to provide decent narrative composition. When these basics are not in place, then learn about them, otherwise the resulting attempt at a blockbusting novel might be a mess. The easiest way to learn about the basics is to read lots of books on grammar and writing. Observe and Listen Not many writers give credit to this, or they fail to see how it could possibly improve their abilities, but observation is vital to learning and improving writing skills, because the …

Symbolism - Part 2

With some understanding of what symbolism is and the important part it can play in your fiction, how does a writer use it to his or her advantage, and more importantly, when should it be used? Symbolism is about representation and interpretation, so the inclusion of it should be carefully considered. It’s not one of those things a writer can make up on the spot. And more often than not, these elements don’t make themselves known until the second or third draft, when the narrative has been edited and the story arc becomes clear. By then, themes and motifs will have emerged to strengthen the story, and any symbolism you have in mind will be closely related to the themes running through the story. In short, symbols need to mean something within the story; they have to have a purpose and they should link to the themes within the narrative. You may find that some symbols become apparent while writing, while others emerge during the editing process. Placing symbolism first requires the writer t…

Symbolism

How much symbolism do you use in your fiction? Some? Not much? None at all? In truth, many writers don’t bother with symbolism, it’s absent from their fiction, simply because they don’t really understand much about it or why it should be there in the first place. Literary devices such as symbolism aren’t a must. Writers don’t have to have to use it in their writing. There is no rule to say you should. But like most literary devices, it adds those ‘brush strokes’ or layers of depth to the finished story, those subtle nuances that readers really like, but don’t always realise are there. But what is it? What does it do for fiction? Symbolism is an extremely useful device that contains hidden, deeper meaning to the narrative, but represents many aspects of the story.In the context of any story there is the literal meaning to the narrative, but also a symbolic meaning, if the writer chooses. This is done using objects, people, colours, shapes, words, actions and even the senses…practically any…

Creating Believable Plots

It’s at the forefront of every writer’s mind to create a story that is believable or realistic, to ensure the story doesn’t lose its credibility by the end of the story. The plot is a fundamental necessity. So what exactly is a plot? A plot is the sequence of events within the story that are all related in some way – The bare bones of the story which will follow a main character who has a specific goal, but he or she is unable to reach it and has to do what is necessary to achieve that goal. The plot is the framework for which all events are built around. For instance, a simple plot would be that a boy really likes a girl, but she’s going out with the handsome kid who is good at everything, and because of that he’s arrogant, cocky and not a nice person. Our hero is a quiet underachiever, who thinks he won’t amount to much, but a series of events helps him to get closer to the girl and eventually she sees beyond his nerdy persona to the real person within and eventually she falls in love …

How to Write Scary Scenes – Part 2

Last week we looked at the different elements writers can use when writing scary scenes. Part 2 is about bringing those elements together into believable, cohesive scenes that should build upon the mood and atmosphere, with a sense of impending doom, danger or hidden anticipation for the main character. Usually the reader is privy to this approaching danger, but the main character is not.Writers use this ploy very successfully. That means that the reader is aware that something bad will happen any minute, so there is a build up of expectation. The reader will know something is about to happen. The trick with this kind of atmospheric scenes is to keep the focus on the main character – their actions and thoughts and reactions - and not allow POVs to shift around. That will instantly kill any tension and atmosphere you have already established. Description is also key to a successful scary scene – the reader is relying on the writer to deliver such imagery that they feel as though they’re r…

How to Write Scary Scenes – Part 1

It’s an age old question. How do you scare your reader out of their wits? Whether you are writing a horror story or a ghost/supernatural story or indeed any story that you want to illicit plenty of emotions – especially the scary ones – the ability to scare the reader or invoke fear, helps to makes the story all the more realistic. But scaring people isn’t easy. The art of scaring your reader is all about what you DON’T reveal, as opposed to what you do reveal. And that’s because fear – psychologically speaking – is a primitive emotion that manifests when we don’t understand what we are confronted with. It’s easy to fear something we don’t know about, and that’s because we feel like we have no control over the situation. Not being in control scares many people. In fiction, it’s about creating that sense of no control, not knowing, not seeing the whole thing, of being helpless. It’s about creating a heightened sense of tension and atmosphere. It’s about manipulating how and what the read…