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A standard short story is a fictional work that is usually less than 7500 words. It includes one plot, one or two characters, a central theme and one setting. The best short stories present an unusual perspective and are rich in figurative language. A short story follows a narrative arc. The four parts of this are detailed.
Writing a novel set against an actual historical backdrop might seem easy at first blush. I refer to the simple fact that, unlike the science fiction or fantasy genres (in which one is almost obliged to construct a Tolkienesque landscape with a myriad of cultures, languages, and species), history, by contrast, provides us with ready-built cultures, cartographies and casts of characters. Presto! Instant context. But historical fiction comes with its own conundrums and pitfalls for the unwary writer.
The fear of failure for many writers is so strong, it can cause the very best of us to quit mid-draft, procrastinate writing for weeks, or make the act of writing a misery.
But, there are simple techniques that can trick the brain into making writing easier and help anyone conquer the fear of failure.
As you may know children around the age of 7-13 don't enjoy reading. Many people would say to them you just haven't found the right book yet. But what if the right book isn't there? Writing books for children can be difficult for the simple reason your not a child.But we can all try to look through the eyes of a child.
There is nothing more exciting for an author than to see their work in print.
Like many writers just starting out, my desire for that moment outweighed my plan to make a living wage as a writer - being published as the goal rather than being paid.
How many of us on Critique Circle see our writing as “job,” “hobby,” “art,” “meditation,” or….? And what do we want it to become?
The Kindle store offers more than seven million individual titles. About a third have not sold a single copy. That’s right, more than two million books remain unread. Why? I’d speculate that a significant proportion were published by authors who believed they’d done all the hard work. They thought they could sit back and watch their creation find a readership all by itself. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published writing ‘THE END’ on your manuscript is only the beginning.
Love at first sight is one of the most ancient and familiar romance tropes. But contemporary genre romance has its own spin on the matter. There, the first impression is decidedly physical: once the main characters meet, they can hardly keep their hands off each other. It follows that there must be obstacles that prevent them from getting together at once, and it is through meeting them that they learn about each other. What does this tell us about whether love at first sight is real?
It has become a truism that writing in first-person offers more intimacy than third-person. But any mention of intimacy in writing raises the question, How is it expressed and in what genres or types? Some candidates are straight autobiography, fictional autobiography — also known as autobiographical fiction — as well as memoir and biography. All can offer intimacy of different kinds and in varying degrees.
This list can be broadened to include autobiographical novels, a.k.a. autobiographical fiction. All can offer intimacy to varying degrees. There is only space to touch on a few of these here.
When it comes to power escalation, there are many advices; many formulas. There are often guidelines one should follow so as to avoid a cheap and uncaptivating power escalation. The formula that is perhaps most used and known, is the guideline where the power escalation corresponds to the character's growth.
In many stories, a romance is founded on a Big Lie. Resolving that discontinuity—bringing the relationship safely onto a firmer footing—tends to become the main issue of the storyline. And because at least some of the characters are mistaken about what’s going on, incongruities abound, and the natural home of such stories is romantic comedy.
It’s no secret that many of the stories we read as kids are just retellings of ancient myths. But as writers we can do better. By having a deep knowledge of ancient mythology we can connect our stories to myths within myths, weaving in different cultures and histories in a tapestry of ideas that were connected this whole time, but were unacknowledged.
Hoping for the best, Jeremy cinched the rope around his waist. Spreading the bedsheet behind, he was suddenly doubtful this crazy plan would work. A thousand-foot drop awaited, taunting him. The river glistened, calling him. Stepping to the edge, he tightened his boot laces. He summoned his courage, leaping. Cold wind roared in his ears, freezing his cheeks. The makeshift parachute fluttered, collapsing. Cartwheeling down, splintering tree limbs, and slamming rocks, it was death by participial phrases.
Our story approaches its climax: Our Hero prepares for the cataclysmic action on which all depends. She tenses her muscles, tightens her fists, screws up her face into a tense grimace. Or does she? There are actually two ways to imagine how one achieves some brilliant feat. We have conflicting ideas about how we can make action most effective.
The ancient prophecy is a staple of fantasy. The source of the information is often vague, but once we've heard the prophecy, we know it's going to come true - somehow. There's also a comparable science fiction trope: the long-term Plan. But the Plan functions rather differently. Here we take a look at the two together.
This gives you and idea of where we are going, if you want to go with me. If you want to know what She Writes Press is about, check out this Ted Talk from Brooke Warner, who began She Writes Press. I think you will find it fascinating: Green-Light Revolution: Your Creative Life on Your Terms
When the instructor entered and we each got up at the front of the room and talked about what we were trying to achieve in our paintings. The instructor would ask for comments from the other students. Their comments were remarkably revealing and insightful. Everyone was treated with the same respect and courtesy regardless of the quality of the work. Comments made to those students who were struggling were made with compassion and understanding. Sometimes they were offered suggestions on where and how to get more help so that they too could raise their skill level.
I’ve always enjoyed storytelling hiccups that involve the “fourth wall” – you know, that imaginary barrier between fictional characters and the audience. The name, fourth wall, comes from theater where performances have three physical walls, to the left, right and behind the stage. Characters in a stage play aren’t supposed to know that somewhere off in that fourth direction, there are people watching them. Once in a while, those characters figure it out, and that’s when the comedic fun begins.
Revising a novel is like eating a whale, both massive and overwhelming. We struggle with where to begin, what to focus on and how to manage the process. If you’re like me and have trouble identifying what the steps of revision are, let alone figuring out what order to do them in, then I think this blog will really help you. I’ve been wishing for a system like this for a long time and feel like I’ve found my unicorn.
The writer Francine Prose wrote a wonderful instruction manual, Reading Like a Writer. In it she describes how to do a 'close read' on a work of fiction, thereby learning how to do scenes that may have been previously difficult or impossible to do. Prose suggests doing this with James Joyce's short story, 'The Dead,' to learn how to write group scenes with a large number of characters.
At some point, most writers who have finished writing a novel and who do not have an agent will think of hiring an editor. Depending on how well they write, what they have to offer, their financial situation, and the qualifications of the editor they choose, hiring could be a wise move or a foolish one. It’s a tough decision, unless money is not an issue.
I have been on this earth long enough to accept rejection, both social and professional, with humor and good karma. But it has never occurred to me to rebrand rejection as acceptance. I struggled to grasp the writer’s reality, that a sheaf of rejection letters validates you as a writer. One of my advisors contemptuously sniffed, “Well you don’t want to be a hobbyist do you?”
One surefire way to bog down your text is to include too many descriptions of your characters' physical movements. Too many new writers feel compelled to describe every movement a character makes, no matter how small or irrelevant. Instead of painting a picture, an abundance of these moribund details clutters your story and bores your reader.
It has become very important to shoehorn one’s creative words into a particular genre so that the book can be shelved with other books of its kind in brick and mortar bookstores or promoted with other books of its kind online. This is a marketing problem and a marketing solution.
We've all gotten them. Critiques that rip our works into tattered remnants of the once glorious early drafts that flowed from our fingers like purified honey from the holy honeycomb of our creative minds. Too many adverbs, they say. Superfluous commas, they wail. No plot, poor pacing, didn't hold their interest, and dozens of other things that we've all heard before (and if you haven't, then chances are, you haven't met someone being truly, awfully honest about your early work).
The opening was alluring; the formulations scintillating; the characters fascinating; the dialog sparkling. Oh, this is going to be a great story, you thought. And then came time for the ending, and days of head scratching followed by despair.
I’ve been there, which is why I’ve spent some time researching the kind of endings one finds in the real world. The results surprised me. Perhaps they will surprise you, too.
Hello there! Hopefully, you've read my other two blog posts, Beta Readers: Part One and Beta Readers: Part Two. If you haven't you can follow those two links and catch up. If you have, you may be wondering what to do next! You've developed relationships with your beta readers, you've gotten your feedback, and you have all of your notes. So now what?
Witty wordplay is fun to find in a story. Conversational sparring comes in a number of varieties—and especially in exchanges between romantic interests. The combination of verbal sparring and affection reaches its apex when the two participants are in love with each other, whether or not they know it yet.
Hello again! Early this month, I wrote a blog post about how I select my beta readers and why. In that post, I broke down some basic things one might be able to expect from different kinds of people, and what value they would have for you as a writer. As I mentioned in that post, they aren't end-all-be-all concrete rules, of course, but they can give you some ideas of what to expect.
So, there was recently a thread about how one handles beta readers. There were many fantastic responses about what people liked to see from their betas, and what people liked to give. As someone who works very closely with my beta readers, I'd like to share my process and methods.
It’s hard to root for a romance if you don’t care about the characters. What happens when we don’t like the person the main character’s supposed to be interested in? Just as there’s peril in making the romantic interest too perfect, there’s a corresponding set of pitfalls if the object of our protagonist’s affections pushes imperfection to the point of no return.
Everyone knows stories with morals. Disney's fairy tale adaptations are some of the best examples of this genre. (And if a fairy tale doesn't have a moral, someone will shoehorn one in somewhere.) Some stories weave the moral in subtly. Others are as subtle as a punch in the face. But there's nothing inherently wrong with a story having a moral.
Why are SF writers so fond of equipping future societies with kings, emperors, and aristocracies? The reasons include the appeal of colorfulness; stability; personal loyalty; and individual agency. But we can only concede such power if the king is characterized by virtues such as humility and selflessness.
Why is Star Wars so fond of Death Stars? What’s the mysterious attraction of this plot device? The choke point is a great plot convenience. We can focus the storyline so that an entire campaign can be resolved in a single concentrated set of actions, ideally carried out by a few individuals.
Writers have to name a lot of characters. Coming up with the right names is tricky; some writers are better at it than others. Name styles can range from the convention to the fantastic, and different writers’ approaches contribute to the distinctiveness of their worlds.
When I was starting out with my writing, everything I read - everything I learned - preached "show, don't tell." They talked about using "stronger words" to present what was happening instead of using adverbs to support. As a person with a very large vocabulary, I had dozens of words at my disposal. I thought I was doing everything right. Until….
Why has memoir taken a sudden resurgence and the seemingly forgotten genre is now flooding the bookshelves? What could make a person’s truth so compelling that readers would choose memoir over mystery or fantasy?
Coming from the Latin word for “memory,” memoir is a sneaky little genre that skips past its boring sisters “biography” or “autobiography” but doesn’t quite meet up with adventurous fiction. Memoir is truth according to one person and isn’t based on lengthy research.
Memoir, in fact, can cut quite deep.
We all strive to write first sentences that are good enough not to cause a readers to snicker. But if it exists, a first sentence that convinces a reader that the author is a great writer and that the book is worth reading has eluded my radar; just about every opening sentence I've seen was nondescript, even though the paragraphs they began were sometimes spectacular. That is why I decided to devote some time searching for a genuine hook and also to try and answer the question, Does anyone who can write a good opening paragraph really need to fret over hooks?
I've read books where I've been taken up and down on an emotional roller coaster of triumph and despair, and feel exhausted, but good at the end of the book… Each writer must choose themselves what they want their writing to accomplish. Are you writing simply to titillate or shock? Are you writing to make people question their preconceptions? Are you writing to be edgy and push the boundaries? What is it you're trying to accomplish?
Conflict can come in many different forms. From Michael Keaton battling his substance abuse in Clean and Sober to the battle between the Caped Crusader and the Ultimate Hunter in the DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics crossover Batman vs Predator. Whichever way you put it all drama is conflict, it stands in the way of the protagonist accomplishing his goal. But it doesn't have to be limited to a single conflict: it comes from within and without. The protagonist might have to face obstacles that are arranged for him by his opponent and from within himself.
The suggestion to write this came from a fellow critter after we discussed a revised version of his wonderful story. It had been posted on CC three years ago. The six critiques he received didn’t convey much about the story and, though he didn’t say it, were disheartening. That is not to say there wasn’t useful advice, it was just so difficult to unearth.
The difference between professional critiques and those by fellow writers sharing the trenches with you are important. Fellow writers in groups or with whom you swap chapters or manuscripts are often motivated by the promise of receiving a critique in return. The natural state of most writers is to want to receive feedback on their own writing rather than give feedback on someone else’s. For most writers, giving feedback is the cost you pay to get feedback. Which means that most of the feedback you get from fellow writers could be tainted by the expectation of something in return.
Some stories—especially comedies—include a character who seems to have the job of making sure everything comes out right in the end. We can call them the Master Contrivers. A Contriver naturally falls into the niche of the benevolent uncle or aunt—a kindly older person who isn’t typically a player himself, but an enabler of other characters’ fulfillment. In a comedy, it’s reassuring to have someone around who can be trusted to untangle all plotlines to a happy ending.
At the end of every year, I have a tradition of looking back to see what I have done, the steps that I have taken, the joys and pains that I have experienced, etc., before I close the year and welcome the new one into my life. On the strong recommendation of a good friend, I joined Critique Circle late this year. If I were to summarize in one word what I have gained from this platform, I would say growth.
Even the thickest-skinned writer will admit that criticism isn’t always easy to take in good spirits. For the newbies, it can be a soul-tearing, heartbreaking process that leaves you questioning why you ever picked up a pen.
It was just over four years ago I began a personal project and successfully brought it to fruition. With every word typed I pondered over what it might mean to others. I questioned how they would connect, or how they might view the project. But I forged forward, and when the last word was written, I knew the real work was about to take place…editing.
One of the specialties of science fiction and fantasy is to evoke a sense of strangeness. In dealing with the alien, the cosmic, that which is far away in space or time, SF can make us feel we are encountering something that passes the limits of our knowledge or understanding. This isn’t as easy as it looks.
I used to say that when it came to criticism I had thick skin, but after five years of publishing, it’s become downright leathery. As it should be. Anyone whose work is reviewed or critiqued on a site like this must decide which parts to ignore and which to take to heart.
Since advanced weapons are available in much science fiction—the famous "ray gun" is iconic—it’s surprising how often a fight comes down to the humble, and archaic, sword. Some examples show us how this is justified in a science fiction context, and why authors and readers may be fond of swordfights.
When I speak to other writers, one of the first questions I ask is, “Where do you get your best story ideas?” Time and time again, my mind is opened to new avenues, like the man who was inspired by war stories at his grandfather’s deathbed, or the young girl who never met an animal whose story she didn’t want to tell.
There are three courses of particular notability that will boost anyone’s writing knowledge, even those who are more experienced.
Literature of the English Country House may seem, on the face of it, only for those with a taste for classic literature, but you’ll be mightily surprised how much insight this course gives you into the deeper meaning of words and creative writing techniques.
Journalism is about real people doing real things. Often, those real things take them years to accomplish. For instance, I just finished an article about a woman who did some rather groundbreaking cancer research. She has been studying the same thing for over 20 years. That is the kind of dedication that makes journalistic narrative work. Persistence.
Ever find yourself approaching the end of a new book—and you realize there’s no way the author can tie up the plot in what remains of the novel? It’s that moment when you realize: we’re in for a sequel. But the story alone hasn’t told us there will be a sequel. Rather, we’re drawing on something outside the text itself—our knowledge of how much of the book remains—to tell us something about the story. We can call this process of drawing on outside information “meta-reading.”
Naming your book can be harder than naming your first born. For a child, you can go to sites like Behind the Name or Baby Names; but besides the occasional random title generator you might stumble upon, there is no easy way to slap a good title to your writing.
This is the part where I say, “Or is there?”
Are metaphor and simile becoming less frequent used in modern writing? It seems to me that they are, but is it merely a trick that my memory plays on my mind? I remember this being a subject at school when I was about twelve years old. Is this subject still taught, or is it considered old fashioned and not worth teaching the modern pupil?
I have often heard it said that it is the job of the artist to hold up a mirror to society. I suppose I have never agreed with that philosophy. It’s rather like holding a mirror up to a fat person so that they are constantly reminded of their weight. Regardless, the trend of deeply flawed heroes has become more prevalent in books, movies, and television.
Like many writers, I have trouble getting motivated. Usually this problem manifests when my obligations mount, and my time does not feel my own. When I do manage to tackle an item on my to-do list, a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction spurs me on to the next with renewed determination.