Showing posts from 2018

How to Stay Inspired

Writing isn’t easy. It’s a long, drawn out process that takes months or even years, and the ability to stay inspired can waver. No one is perfect, which is why there will be times during that process when writers grow weary of writing and the inspiration dissipates. Staying inspired is as much about remaining focused as it is about having ideas and being creative, as these are intrinsically linked, but how we maintain that is a different thing altogether. If inspiration dries up, don’t worry. It’s quite normal; so normal that all writers will experience this. It’s a matter of keeping things in perspective rather than becoming anxious about a lack of ideas and the thought that if you’re not writing then there must be something wrong.   There isn’t anything wrong. Lack of inspiration or ideas is NOT writer’s block.   Writer’s block is a problem with the writer, while a lack of inspiration is, well…a lack of inspiration. It’s as simple as that. The ideas are just not t

How Do You Know When Your Story is Finished?

Writers know that, in truth, a story is never finished, and if given a choice, they would tweak and rewrite ad infinitum. That’s because we’re never satisfied – we can’t help ourselves; we have to keep rewriting until we think it’s perfect. Of course, there must come a point when the story has to finish and reach a point where there is nothing else to write and you have to let it out into the big bad world for others to read. But how do you know the story really is finished? The answer is all down to the process of writing. There’s a logical flow to how stories are constructed. It happens in gradual steps, so the finished product comes as part of the last few steps in that process, rather than when you write ‘the end’, because ‘the end’ isn’t the end at all. This process begins by writing the first draft – the bare bones of the story. New writers believe that’s all it needs. They’ve written the story, so it’s finished. But it’s far from finished – it’s barely written

Irony and Deception as Literary Devices - Part 2

Part one looked at different types of irony writers can use – a very subtle way of duping or manipulating the reader.   Outright deception can also be used to good effect, which is very popular among crime, thriller and mystery writers. There are different types writers can use, but the main ones are misdirection, red herrings and outright lies. Throughout a story, writers often create deliberate deception. They do so by manipulating reality to mislead their readers to add a different perspective or heighten tension of conflict and to create drama. False clues help to achieve this. Misdirection is an effective way to direct the reader from what is really happening. This effect is created by a false reality. For instance, writers can deliberately lead the reader into a wrong assumption whereby a character jumps to the wrong conclusion and accuses another character of perpetrating a terrible crime. The reader will most likely also think the same thing, until later in the stor

Irony and Deception as Literary Devices Part 1

Writers are always looking for ways to layer their stories, to give their writing depth and meaning and provide more than what can be gleaned on the surface. There are plenty of plot devices that help writers to do this; however, two lesser known ones are irony and deception. Irony in fiction occurs when the writer intentionally uses a different meaning to the literal one in order to create a dramatic, comedic or emphatic effect. Such meaning or intention will be clear to the reader, but some or all the characters(s) will not be aware. It’s about creating different layered perspectives. There are three types of irony commonly used in fiction - dramatic, situational and verbal. Writers use dramatic irony for different purposes and effects. It relies on the fact that the reader knows something that the other characters do not. This affects the way the reader reacts to the narrative. Sometimes none of the characters are aware, or it may be just one or two that don’t know what’s

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 i

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

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 an

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 work

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,

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 slight

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 a