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Creating Tone

How often do you think about the tone of your writing? You probably don’t, but it’s something that enhances the story and creates different layers within the narrative.     Tone can work on different levels. There’s the main tone of the story and then there are undercurrents of tone, or undertones. The overall tone of the story is normally set out in the opening of the story and provides the reader with an idea of what kind of story it is – a horror, a romance, a thriller etc., and it can provide the pitch and resonance of the story to come. You can create the feel of an entire novel with tone. For instance, the tone of horror novel could be portrayed as dark, sinister or oppressive. The tone of a thriller might be shown as fast and exciting, while a romance novel might be light and flowery.   These are overtones – they highlight to the reader the type of novel they’re reading.   Then there are undertones – the mood, the attitude and the presence that your words can carry.  

Background Information

Background information shouldn’t be confused with backstory. When we talk of background, we’re referring to the peripheral details that writers use to colour certain areas of the story. It provides extra information for the reader and therefore makes the story more immersive. Backstory refers to past events which form the development of the character and story arcs, while background provides a little bit of context to the action taking place in the present. Background is all about the details that can help layer a story and provide some depth, such as where and when the scene is taking place, or subtle things that are happening within the scene. It’s important that you show the reader the background for each scene, otherwise they won’t be able to build a picture in their mind.   Writers often forget to describe where the characters are in relation to a particular moment in the story, which can make it difficult for the reader to follow what’s going on. Readers need details. If th

Fragmented Sentences – Are They Really Bad?

Every writer who has used Word will be familiar with the phrase ‘fragmented sentence’.   It’s usually flagged up because it thinks the sentence is incomplete and therefore not grammatically correct, for example: A lot of rain. The children outside. A fragmented sentence is a clause that is missing a subject and a verb, so it appears as though it’s an incomplete thought. The subject is the who or what of a sentence and it gives the reader extra information within the sentence. And without a subject, there is nothing and no one to complete the action, which means the sentence is expressing an incomplete thought – it appears fragmented, for example: A lot of time and effort. As it stands, this sentence doesn’t form a complete thought – it’s doesn’t have a subject or a verb. The verb tells the reader what the subject is doing, so if there is no verb, readers won’t have a complete picture. The inclusion of a verb provides the action in the sentence, for example: A lot of ti

Finding Connection

Finding connection is all about the ability to connect with the reader through your story and your characters.   Why? Because everything within the story should be relatable to the reader – something they understand, sympathise with or have experienced. The moment the reader makes that connection with the story and the main character, that’s when then the story takes on a deeper meaning – the moment the reader will care and become emotionally invested in what happens to the characters and the story. They’re not just reading a story; they’re being part of it. Finding connection isn’t as difficult as it sounds. It happens when you create a sense of immediacy , which is like an invisible bond; a sense of familiarity. Immediacy can be achieved through your characters, so the characters you create play an important role in establishing a connection with the reader. They have to be likeable and believable people. That’s why readers are drawn to ordinary people whose circumstances they

Use Semicolons to Your Advantage

It seems that many writers don’t understand the semicolon, or they don’t know how or when to use it. Some writers just don’t like it and never use it in their writing, which is a shame, because the semicolon is such a versatile little thing, and when used correctly, it can change the dynamic of a sentence. The semicolon (;) isn’t a comma and it’s not a full stop. Whereas a comma indicates a brief pause to separate two independent clauses, and a full stop indicates the end of a sentence, the semicolon is considered stronger than a comma because while it can act as a brief pause, it can draw the reader’s attention to something specific in the narrative and can add context and it can bring clarity to your sentences. Writers use it to emphasise a connection of elements within a sentence, as well as to separate those elements within the sentence. A semicolon is most commonly used between two independent clauses (stand-alone sentences), in the absence of a co-ordinating conjunction (wo

Give Your Novel Structure

Give Your Novel Structure Story structure is the basic framework for the story.   How it’s constructed is down the writer, but to give your novel a good structure, you need to know all the working elements of a great story – a tight plot, underlying themes, unforgettable characters, an exciting beginning, escalating action, drama, conflict, emotion, plot twists and, of course, a satisfactory ending. The narrative structure should allow the reader to understand what is happening to the characters and understand why the story is happening by using an almost invisible step process. Most people think of story structure as a three-act type of framework – the beginning, the middle and the end, but that’s quite vague and doesn’t truly capture the different aspects.   Story structure doesn’t have to be very complicated. A basic narrative framework follows a general pattern, something that has a catalyst - an instigating incident that starts the story, followed by escalating actions as

Creating Anticipation

Anticipation isn’t at the forefront of a writer’s mind, but it’s an equally important element for creating a good, page turning story. Isn’t anticipation the same as tension?   Not quite.   Writers use tension like a rubber band, they flex it to heighten tense moments during a story and then loosen their grip when they want to relax things or lull the reader into a false sense of security, but creating anticipation is a little different. A sense of anticipation is all about expectation . The reader is expecting something to happen; they’re expecting Character A will do something drastic, they’re expecting the story to conclude with a showdown…and so on. In a way, the reader is quietly predicting what will happen as the story unfolds, so writers need to divert that expectation so that the plot isn’t as predictable as readers think. And the way writers do that is by creating uncertainty and doubt to develop a different sense of anticipation. Think of a football competition – one team w

How To Recognise and Avoid Heavy Narration

Every story requires narration – it’s the glue that binds the dialogue and the description to the framework of your story, but if not done correctly, it can cause problems for writers. The narration in a novel is most often either first person or third person. It’s the informative stuff that the reader needs to help them follow the story – background information, facts, non-active description and character revelation. Narration is the ‘telling’ part of writing, not the showing. It fills the gaps between description, active scenes, and dialogue. It’s an essential part of storytelling, but as with so many things when it comes to writing, it’s easy to provide too much of it. When used correctly, narrative can help to control pace – it can slow the story when necessary. This allows the reader to take a breather from the action while they process prior information or events. It also gives the writer time to establish background details, give more information, move the story to the ne

The Ability to Control Time – Part 2

The great thing about fiction writing is that writers can manipulate time to move the story forward; however, there are also times that need to move the story backward.   This is the premise of a flashback or indirect recollection. Part 1 looked at how to move the story forward to clearly show the reader the passing of time – known as transition – so that they understand a period of time has continued from one scene or chapter to another, without confusing things. That ability to control time in a novel gives the writer the freedom to show much more to the reader than reality would allow. In order to tell the entire story, time must be controlled, whether that’s going forward or backward. That way, the readers can that see that some events that have happened in the past directly relate to the present story. If used correctly, the use of flashback – known as analepsis – is a good way of providing necessary or vital information to the reader to keep the story moving forward, a

The Ability to Control Time – Part 1

One of the things I see when I edit other writers is the inability to control time. But what does that mean?   The notion of time in a novel is different to time in the real world. That’s because in the fictional world, we can jump from point to point in time – sometimes whole generations. We can move forward or back, we can speed up time and manipulate it, but it needs to be done properly, otherwise it can cause problems with the pace of the writing and cause the reader to become confused as to when time should have passed, or not, and what might have happened in between. The biggest problem with controlling time is a tendency for the writer to rush the narrative, because that means the sense of time is also rushed.   For example, when one scene zips to the other without the slightest hint to the reader that three weeks have passed, then it blurs the sense of transition. This will confuse the reader. Has time actually passed? By how much? Of course, this does not need to hap

Intensifiers and Qualifiers

There are certain things in writing that should be avoided wherever possible, such as clichés, passive sentences or info dumping, but there are two things writers should also look out for, which are intensifiers and qualifiers. But what are they and what do they do? Intensifiers and qualifiers are words or phrases that can be added to another word to modify its meaning, by either limiting it or enhancing it. They are placed before adjectives and adverbs in an attempt to intensify or modify its effect, but u nless they’re a part of dialogue and form the way a character might speak, intensifiers and qualifiers can weaken the writing if overused, or make it look lazy and amateurish. A qualifier can change the meaning of a verb by limiting it, and so it changes how absolute or certain something is, for example: ‘She was somewhat flustered by his invite.’ In this example, the word ‘somewhat’ is qualifying the word ‘flustered’ and it creates doubt about any certainty. It has

Use Motifs to Make Your Novel Interesting

Motif is a literary device that is repeated throughout a novel.   It has symbolic and thematic significance that can add an extra dimension to your writing because it can evoke a mood, highlight certain aspects of the story, act as foreshadowing, underscore themes, provoke the reader’s senses, and provide depth and meaning beneath the surface of the story. A motif can be anything – a recurring phrase, a colour, a character, a scent, an action, an object, a specific image or even an idea. It can be absolutely anything, as long as it’s repeated throughout the story and is apparent to the reader, but more importantly, the motif must relate directly to the story. For example, in a crime story, the image of blood could be a relatable motif. Maybe a particular piece of jewellery keeps appearing in your romance novel. Maybe the sound of a grandfather clock is repeated. Whatever the object or image, make sure it relates to the story so that it emphasises your theme or something significan

Laying Story Foundations

On the surface, writing isn’t just about stringing words together. It’s much more than that, and it goes deeper than the surface. Think of a story like a house that needs to be built. You cannot build the walls or roof until you have sound foundations and the supporting structure in place. The same is true of storytelling – the foundations of any story always support the plot, subplots, themes, characters and everything else contained within the story. Laying solid foundations for a story is vital, otherwise the core of your story might crumble. We all know that a structure won’t support itself unless it has firm foundations. The same is true for a novel. It may not hold up too well without something firm to shore it up. The idea of laying your foundations shouldn’t be confused with creating the framework from which your story hangs. Instead, it encompasses the major building blocks required for the novel, like genre, plot, strong main characters, a main theme and a setting. From

How to Create Atmosphere

Like tension and mood, atmosphere is a key component in fiction writing. It’s a way of creating a particular emotional feeling with the reader and makes use of different elements to achieve this. It elevates the narrative and keeps the reader engaged, but it also means the writer can manipulate the reader’s senses. Let’s start with setting. Various scenes will take place in different locations, so the environment is key to setting the tone and mood. Is the location dark woodland, a deserted beach, the ruins of an old house or maybe a road in the middle of nowhere? Or what about a cosy restaurant, a coffee shop or even the sofa at home with a blanket and some popcorn? How does the location affect the way your main character acts? Are they comfortable in their surrounds, or are they apprehensive, scared or curious about something? Their emotions should enhance the mood and translate to the reader. They should pick up on those sentiments, too. With the right setting for a scene,