Hey! This blog is run by one person from rural USA who writes fanfiction and mainblogs fandom stuff. I started this blog in 2013 to collect writing advice for myself, and it ended up helping out others as well 😀
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>> My fanfic: AO3 - Wattpad
>> Photo inspo & writer resources: Unsplash - Pinterest <- where the whole blog idea actually started
>> main blog @doesnotloveyou
>> OC blog @stilldoesnotloveyou
>> other writeblrs’ short fiction, excerpts, OCs, and promos @hey-writers
Not Accepting Writing Asks right now
inbox open for average tumblr communications such as “hey, did you know your post is on fire?” or “can you come get your mutual out of my yard? they’re eating the rosebushes again”
druddigoon : ghvstheart : “pick up the spatula spongebob” is SENDING me 😭
[A tweet responding to “where are the fic writers? y'all on strike too or something?”
The response reads, “seriously you guys are wayyy too comfortable when it comes to fandom creators like i swear the attitude is like "i don’t cook but I have particular taste so im gonna bully the chef until they make what I want” just pick up the spatula spongebob"
The reblog is of tumblr tags reading, “#seriously though this is a good take #like especially the motherfuckers who moralize so hard about other people’s works and never write anything #like dude if you want a perfect unproblematic story where no one does anything bad ever feel free to write it #and be sure to stand at the top of a hill and proclaim to the masses that you have never done anything wrong in your life #build that glass house and pass out stones to the crowd. go ahead.”]
(via tlbodine )
I’m afraid my character has stereotypical traits. How do I avoid making them a caricature? Is your character composed of several stereotypical traits, or is it just the one? Are they allowed to act and think in ways that are not confined to stereotypes? The more three-dimensional your character is, the less they are defined by the stereotypes. One strategy that works in some cases is the “offset” character. This refers to weakening character A’s stereotype by including a character B of the same identity who isn’t stereotypical in that way. Say you have a selfless, “motherly” Black woman who looks after the cast. In addition to developing her own arc and her own desires, try adding a Black woman character with 0 maternal instinct who goes full steam ahead with her goals. Trace your logic as to why you decided to give certain traits to a character of a certain identity. Our aptly named #trace your logic tag contains examples where we prompt the asker to interrogate their intentions behind certain ideas. Try to ask yourself the same questions. Further reading: Tropes and Stereotypes Stereotyped vs Nuanced Characters and Audience Perception — This Q&A is an excerpt from our General FAQ for Newcomers, which can be found in our new Masterpost of rules and FAQs. For more advice on writing with diversity, start there! -Writing With Color
You would never tell another writer that their writing sucks. So why use such words when describing your own? Extend the kindness you provide others to yourself and be mindful of the words you use when scrutinizing your work. “my writing isn’t yet where i want it to be, but in due time it will be” “i have yet to reach my full potential” “here’s how much i’ve improved” “my writing has its flaws and that’s okay” “i know my weaknesses + what i need to work on” “here’s a list of things i’m good at” “one day i‘ll reach my goals, but i need more practice, that doesn’t make me a failure, every writer goes through this”
Everyone who was/is dedicated to tagging Goncharov as “unreality” pls do the same with AI images. Untagged fake photos are permeating the art, interior design, and now writing prompt areas of tumblr. It gives me uncanny valley ick, so there’s probably others who it stresses out more. Please tag your auto-generated images!
for ppl who simply repost images without knowing they’re AI, maybe this is the time to start crediting the photographers of what you share instead of just uploading your Pinterest collection to Tumblr without any sources
Wouldn’t my writing be worse off if I forced in elements like diversity? If you are asking this question, you have yet to challenge the “default” of your culture’s media. Consider that the majority of modern Western media fill their casts with white men, and when there are women or POC, they stick out conspicuously. Many people view adding diversity as tweaking some white man characters by toggling race or gender. But this assumes that “white man” is some default, standard character template. If you feel pressured to include diversity in your writing, distance yourself from this pressure and ask yourself why you feel it. If you feel attacked when seeing campaigns for more diversity or criticism of all-white, uninclusive media, sit with the discomfort and ask yourself why those who are different from you say they need diverse media. These are people whose voices and faces are rarely visible in entertainment. Despite this, they enjoy an adventure as much as anyone, and have become accustomed to projecting onto white characters. Yet, when the reverse is asked of white audiences to acknowledge protagonists of color, it becomes a difficult ask. These character choices are immediately questioned, discredited, fought against, and accused of being “woke” or “unrelatable.” This resistance reflects a larger issue: the imbalance between audiences’ empathy towards the majority/“default” and empathy towards those perceived as Other. By mostly reading about white people, they become easier to relate to. By the same token, if we are not reading media and histories from the perspective of POC, we end up with more people who literally fail to relate to POC . When we talk about hope-deficits, increased alienation and lower self-worth among marginalized populations, underrepresentation in media is a big factor. Imagine for a moment: never the beautiful princess in the tower, never the badass hero riding dragons; always the two-second sidekick. People of color are people and want to be seen and treated as such. Not as a burden to devote your time to, but people who have a place in the world, fictional or no. Really, writing a world in your story that is all or mostly white is more unrealistic, more forced—after all, there are far more non-white people on Earth. Becoming comfortable with diversity requires unlearning White as the Default and POC as the Other. It takes setting aside feelings of pressure to emphasize, open your heart and listen. Further Reading: “Diversity has gone too far!” Diversity is for everyone. Children and the Myth of Colorblind Youth Those who read about aliens learn to emphasize with aliens. Those who read about wizards empathize with wizards. — This Q&A is an excerpt from our General FAQ for Newcomers, which can be found in our new Masterpost of rules and FAQs. If you liked this post, we have more recommended reading there! -Writing With Color
*through gritted teeth* it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be done. it doesn’t have to be-
(via theygender )
Anonymous: I'm writing a scene where a cultivater (chinese martial artists who fights ghosts) falls in a forest and I'm trying to figure out how someone who fights on rough terrain would train to fall. I tried looking at martial art/parkour/stunt man tutorials, but I feel like a lot of the basic techniques (rolling, and slapping the ground to distribute weight) wouldn't work well on uneven ground. I also tried looking at hiking advice but they just say to fall on your pack. Any insight?
Chinese cultivators don’t fall, they choose to reacquaint themselves with the ground. That sounds like a joke, but the best way to understand Chinese cultivators and Chinese fantasy media is to realize that martial arts are the gateway drug to magic. And that will get you into a lot of trouble if you follow that all the way into Martial Arts Give You Superpowers, which is both the outgrowth of the western understanding of Chinese culture and a trope rife with orientalism. Cultivation seems simple on the surface when you’re watching Chinese media, but it’s more than martial arts, it’s more than religion, it’s more than mythology, (though it is all of those too) it’s a genuine transition into metaphysics that reorients how we understand and interact with the world around us. The concepts we see in cultivation come from real martial arts philosophy that you find in Tai Chi, Shaolin, and most other Chinese martial arts. They come from real religions including Daoism, Buddhism, a healthy dose of Confucianism, general mythology and mysticism from a wide range of subcultures, and, to an extent, Animism. If you aren’t doing your reading with the Eight Immortals, Journey to the West, The Legend of the White Snake, and others then you should dig in. I also really suggest watching the live action C-Dramas whether they’re true Wuxia or more Xianxia idol dramas (and in this case the idol dramas are better because the action is slower) so you can acquaint yourself with the stylized martial arts portrayals, a wide variety of choreography, character archetypes essential to motif based storytelling, and the most important aspect of all—wire work. Understanding and conceptualizing stunt action done on wires is essential when you’re trying to visualize and create action scenes in any East Asian genre. Your first instinct might be to dismiss the stylized movement as unrealistic (it is) but remember that it’s also genre essential. Hong Kong action cinema has a very specific feel to it that’s very different from the way Western cinema structures and films their fight scenes. Even when you’re writing, you’ll want to find ways to imitate it through your visual imagery on the page. Probably the best way to contextualize cultivators is that they’re wizards who do martial arts. They’ve learned to transcend the limitations in our understanding of reality through knowledge and study to perform superhuman feats. How superhuman? Well, it gets wild. They can be anywhere from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon/Who Rules the World fly through the trees levels to Shang Tsung’s “I’m going to slam my hell reality into your normal reality because commuting to work is too much of an inconvenience.” Which is to say, they don’t always fight ghosts. Sometimes they fight other martial artists, sometimes they fight other cultivators, sometimes they fight demons, sometimes they fight gods, and sometimes they fight incredibly overpowered monkeys. They’re often monks living in seclusion on a mountaintop, but not always. Cultivation is more of a state of mind. Anyone can do it if they learn how to absorb spiritual energy from the world around them through meditation and breathing exercises. Gods cultivate. Humans cultivate. Animals cultivate. Remember, the demons and the ghosts cultivate too. Sometimes, your master gets reincarnated as a demon. Sometimes, you do. The amount of wacky spellcasting you can do is dependent on how much energy you’ve cultivated, which is dependent on how old you are and how good at cultivation you are. Using the power means you need to cultivate more energy, the greater the spell or difficult the battle then the more energy is lost. This is important to the question of: how does a cultivator fall? Metaphorically? Existentially? Physically? When we’re talking physically, wire work becomes very important. Think of your cultivator as being on wires. If they have the knowledge and understanding to do it, they can slow their own fall through the air to land harmlessly on the ground or twist over like a cat and launch themselves back off the ground to fly at their opponent in a counter attack. If they have the knowledge and understanding, they can teleport. If they lack the knowledge and understanding or want to trick their opponent, they can hit the ground like a sack of potatoes. If they’re relying on basics, they can also smack the ground to counter and spread out the impact then use the momentum from that fall to roll back onto their feet. They’ll do it no matter what terrain they’re on because it’s a basic technique that’s trained into their foundation to the point it’s a reflexive action. Any force distributed away from, and reducing impact on, important body parts like your spine is better than nothing. It’s better to sacrifice your arm than be paralyzed. At its heart, that’s the point of the technique. If you’re able to walk away with a functioning spine, it’s done its job. Your shoulder hurts? That’s normal. Your arm is sprained or broken? Sucks, but that’s better than the alternative that is paralysis and death. For reference, learning to fall was the first lesson my Wushu instructor ever taught me. It is that basic. A lot of the time when portraying cultivators in media, the goal is to show them as being beyond the limitations of standard martial artists. How vast the gap is between the cultivator and the average human is dependent on both the setting and the cultivator. So, the average martial artist who possesses superhuman talents but hasn’t dedicated themselves to a life of cultivation and cultivators who are new to the path are going to be on the rung below and more likely to be knocked on their ass. Cultivators in the mid-range are more likely to have crafted or trained in solutions to being knocked on their ass which put them in a less vulnerable position while recovering and empowered/enhanced their martial arts. Cultivators in the top tier are usually straight up masters at spellcasting, if they deign to fight at all. Gravity need not apply. Rember, the time it takes you to hit the ground and roll to your feet is time your opponent has to launch a counter attack or move to a better position. Also, it means you’ve taken your eyes off your opponent. This is bad enough against a normal human opponent. Against another mostly immortal or ancient magic user this risks a terrible outcome. Cunning and strategy are both as important as skill. Wisdom, knowledge, and hard work outweigh talent and raw potential. You’ll have to decide how esoteric you want to be and what limits you want to set. I really urge you to do this because the danger of power creep is real and especially prominent here. A character’s growth in power is often linked to their growth in character or their arc, as they gain a greater understanding of themselves and the world around them their skill increases. The self-discovery/self-reflection/self-interrogation/intense suffering to reach enlightenment portion is just as important and intrinsic to the martial arts portion of Martial Arts Give You Superpowers. It’s easy to focus on the Superpowers or the Martial Arts parts of the equation and miss the genre necessity of character growth. This growth often happens through heaps of steadily increasing trauma. Or, failing to undergo that by being too powerful and thus unable to progress is the joke like it is in Qi Refining for 3000 Years. (Go to hell, Bai Qiuran, you hilariously overpowered monstrosity.) The irony is that the trajectory in character growth is the same trajectory the average student experiences when practicing martial arts. The only difference is that the power arc is inflated. This includes overcoming ingrained truths that you believe about yourself, about your own abilities, what you believe yourself to be capable of (both good and bad,) about your biases toward yourself and other people, your biases about reality in general, your understanding of good and evil, the potential upending of right and wrong, and facing the greater complexity found in the world at large. The stripping away of these illusions, coming to terms with uncomfortable realizations in a more complicated world, and the gaining of new understanding and confidence are vital to that growth. Skill isn’t just represented in the power creep, it’s also found in a character’s sophistication and complexity in their approach to combat and life in general. Their awareness both of themselves and of other people, their ability to read intentions, their predictive abilities, their complexity in initiating their own strategy and tactics while also recognizing and countering the plans of others. It’s their insight into human nature and their cunning. It’s not enough to be powerful. The world is full of powerful people and not so powerful people who have the capacity to be just as dangerous. This isn’t Goku and Freeza slamming into each other while the planet explodes in nine minutes. You also need to be smart. It’s also not about being a better person. It’s about being a self-aware person. A person who is self-actualized. Monkey’s growth is in his awareness of the world around him through his experiences and in approaching problems differently rather than becoming less of a little shit. If you grow up in the West, one of the issues you’re going to face is thinking of these hurdles as materialistic rather than emotional or intellectual. A lot of Western media misinterprets the concepts of “giving up” as physical sacrifice. One of the popular examples is physically sacrificing the person we love. In order to have enlightenment, we must be separated from them. We can’t physically be with them anymore. Whereas under a Buddhist structure, what we are actually sacrificing is our own ignorance, our own preconceptions, and beliefs that keep the world comfortable. Under this structure, we’re sacrificing our preconceived notions of who our loved one is. The person that we invented when we first met and we must force ourselves to come to terms with who they really are. The outcome of this isn’t necessarily going to be bad, but it’s still painful. The person we think we love could be perfectly wonderful. However, they’re not who we imagined. If we choose to hold onto the illusion we created, to ignore the realization that the illusion is the person that we love, we’ll only end up causing ourselves and our loved one more pain. We must fall in love with them all over again. Coming to terms with that is painful. All pain comes from ignorance. In sacrificing, letting go of, or overcoming our ignorance, we grow. These are the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual challenges necessary for a cultivator because they allow the cultivator to level up. Yes, level up. Whether this is coming from the influx of gaming culture into media at large or because the concept synergizes with the Buddhist goal of progressing through the Six Realms toward nirvana, leveling up is how a cultivator’s increasing power is often depicted. Of course, once we reach the next level we can’t go back except by falling or failing and are no longer the person we once were. This then gets mixed in with Daoist principles of finding divine understanding by living in harmony with the universe. The more understanding we gain of the world, the more energy we can absorb as a result, but our original goals may be lost or changed in the process. If a character begins their journey on the path of revenge, their newfound contextualization of the situation that caused them immense pain may force them to give that revenge up or find they don’t want revenge anymore. Failure is also an option and often a common part of the story. These stories usually follow characters through multiple lives and rebirths over hundreds and even thousands of years, especially if they’re also gods. This is the existential fall. The fall to the Dark Side. All our heroes are going to go through it at least once. This is also why a lot of Chinese media ends in tragedy with hope for the next round. -Michi This blog is supported through Patreon. Patrons get access to new posts three days early, and direct access to us through Discord. If you’re already a Patron, thank you. If you’d like to support us, please consider becoming a Patron.
It wouldn’t be historically accurate for my story to include BIPOC! This is an argument often made about European-style fantasy media like Game of Thrones , Lord of the Rings , and Disney’s Frozen. Audiences, often white, assume that due to the majority-white setting, adding any visible number of BIPOC to the story would be unrealistic. What these critics fail to realize is that BIPOC do in fact live, and have lived, in these settings, and records of BIPOC presence in places assumed to be majority-white have been buried, written out, or not taught due to white supremacist and/or colonial bias in the field of history. There are historical European settings that were far more diverse than is often portrayed. Consider: The Moorish Empire exerted an extensive influence over life and culture in Southern Europe from Spain from 711 to 1492 The Ottomans were heavily involved in European affairs up until the treaty of Karlowitz in 1699, but still considered a part of Europe even through the 19th century The sheer size of the Roman Empire ensured the continued movement of people from various backgrounds within the Mediterranean well until the end of the Byzantine Empire. “Historical accuracy” should not be used as an excuse for media to be exclusively white in its casting. While there are places which are or were predominantly white, there will always be factors like global trade and immigration that bring multiculturalism to their doors. And even if the presence of a certain demographic is unrealistic for a certain setting? Consider that we’ve accepted far worse inaccuracies in historical fiction in the name of artistic license. Consider that our understanding of human history is, and will always be, incomplete. Further Reading: Historically Diverse London, “Historical Accuracy,” and Creator Accountability Making a Black Pride and Prejudice Resonate — This Q&A is an excerpt from our General FAQ for Newcomers, which can be found in our new Masterpost of rules and FAQs. If you’re new to Writing With Color and/or want more writing resources, check it out! -Writing With Color
Listen. Listen to me. Don’t ever stifle your creative impulses because you’re afraid your vision will come across as too pretentious. You’re allowed to express your passion with as much melodrama as is necessary to achieve catharsis. You’ll find it’s amazing what you can achieve when you pursue your art without internalized shame.
(via insanitysilver )
What is the best book you read this year?
What is a book you would recommend to a stranger?
A reminder to everyone writing for NaNoWriMo this year: You do not, under any circumstance, have to complete NaNoWriMo. If you do not reach the 50k word goal, that is perfectly fine. If you only write 25k, 2k, 250, or 2 words, that’s fine. You wrote something, and that is the important part.
authorkimberlygrey : Take frequent breaks (drink water too!) and do your goddamn wrist stretches Image (source)
Something that helps me stick to this is making a two-video youtube playlist that has a 1-hour timer then a stretching video. I have it loop infinitely in the background for as long as I write.
(via bloodthirstyminx )
Showing versus Telling I struggle a lot with “showing and not telling.” Here’s some exercises and techniques I’ve tried to practice this from researching different methods that I just conjured up together (please take with a grain of salt, everyone is different, lol.): Object Observation : Choose an object in your immediate vicinity and describe it without naming what it is. Include details about its texture, color, size, shape, and any other distinctive features. Basically: have someone else to identify it based on your description. Character Emotions : Write a list of emotions and for each one, write a short scene that shows a character experiencing that emotion without directly stating what the emotion is. i.e., Instead of saying, “Alistair was angry”, you could say… “Alistair’s fists clenched, his jaw tightened; his face turned red as he stared at the broken amulet on the floor.” Active Verbs : Challenge yourself to rewrite sentences using more active, specific verbs. i.e., “She walked into the room” (telling) could become, “She strutted into the room, her boot heels clicking against the marble floor” (showing). Sensory Details : Choose a setting, real or fictional, and describe it using all five senses. What can a character see , smell , hear , taste , and touch in this environment, or moment? Dialogue : Use dialogue to reveal information about your characters and the plot. Instead of telling the reader that a character is upset, show it through what the character says and how they say it. In-Depth Character Description : Take a character from your story and describe them in detail. Show their personality through their actions, speech, and appearance, rather than direct statements. Rewrite Telling Sentences : Take a piece of your own writing or a passage from a book and identify the “telling” sentences. Rewrite them in a way that “shows” instead. Hope this helps! ✍(◔◡◔)
(via keepcalmandwritefiction )
See, that’s what the app is perfect for.
The Write the World Blog
Our blog has moved.
We have moved our blog to a new site, and this page is now an archive of old posts from 2017 and before.
Head to the new blog for our latest content!
December 2017 Editor’s Picks
Today marks our last batch of Editor’s Picks for 2017. Throughout the past twelve months, we’ve seen our writing community grow, not only in size but in spirit. More writers than ever are reviewing each other’s work and leaving a steady stream of encouraging words in the comments sections. Your brilliance and individual growth has not gone unnoticed! And the proof of how amazing all of you are can be seen in the responses to three of our recent prompts: “Fernweh,” “Ten Words to You,” and “My December.”
“Fernweh” asked you to think about a concept that can not quite be expressed by a single word in the English language. The word fernweh , for instance, is German for being homesick for a place you’ve never been to. In the pieces below, you’ll find a bevy of words that writers created to describe the (currently) indescribable. And who knows, if we all start using these words, they might become part of the official English lexicon!
“Trepsomnis” by AJ Robinson (Canada)
“Tacitagrim” by JCWriter (US)
“Yatra” by sKRUwriting (India)
“New Words!” by WhiltiernaWolfLord (US)
“the words I need” by Shanti (India)
The final month of the year brings with it a palpable feeling of nostalgia. In your responses to the prompt Ten Words to You—which asks writers to pen a piece about their home country in only ten words—we could feel the weight of these final few weeks of the year. Some writers, like the ones below, used this prompt as an opportunity to reflect upon their home country, covering topics like social injustice and economic inequality.
“United States of American Contradictions” by abigailholder (US)
“Surroundings” by Jacob Hickman (US)
“Winnipeg, Manitoba” by Gabe Krawec (Canada)
“Albania” by Patt (Albania)
Other responses were lighter, reading more like love letters, resplendent in rich descriptions of landscapes and musings about weather patterns:
“Jersey, Darling” by Rachel A. (US)
“Home” by raindrops (South Korea)
“Japan” by IzzyRE (Australia)
“Just a grey town in Wales” by Rosie (UK)
“Embrace” by darlingdrizzle (UK)
To round out our Editor’s Picks, we’re thrilled to share a few of our favorite responses to the “My December” competition. This December, writers from around the world wrote about the rituals and traditions that define the final month of the year in their corner of the globe. We learned about December in the sweltering heat from our friends in the tropics, and December in sub-zero temperatures in places like Canada. Despite the differences in physical location, however, a constant theme prevailed: December is about family and friends and setting goals for the new year. Here, we’ve listed some fabulous “My December” pieces, as well as photos to accompany each piece from the authors themselves.
“A Christmas Far Away From Home” by theMGCpage (Netherlands)
“Quickly” by nd360 (US)
“The End of the Old The Soon to be New” by Natalieshift13 (Malaysia)
Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year from everyone at Write the World !
Featured Writer: Holly Richardson
At Write the World , our hope is that all of you find the strength and support necessary to thrive as writers and as people. And if you end up pursuing a degree in a writing related field, well, that’s just a bonus! Canadian writer Holly Richardson , a second year English major, is committed to making her last year on Write the World a memorable one. In her Q&A, Holly offers advice on pursuing English at the university level and discusses her goals for carving out a career in the writing industry.
In your profile you write, “Because my nineteenth birthday is coming up, I won’t be here much longer, and I’m trying to make the most of the time I have left on the site.” What do you hope to gain from the rest of your time on Write the World? What have you gained thus far?
Write the World has helped me gain confidence as a writer from other young writers’ comments and peer reviews. Compared to other sites I have used to interact with other writers, Write the World feels like a closer community where people truly care about helping one another as writers. I am hoping to both contribute to this community as well as receive more feedback in the time I have left.
You’re a second year college student studying English. What’s different about studying English at the university level?
English at the college level is much more open than high school English courses; instructors urge you to pick your own topics to write on and the essay format is looser giving you more room to argue your position on a subject. In addition, choosing specific English courses such as Detective Fiction or Children’s Literature allows students to focus on their interests. And finally, college instructors provide feedback to help students improve as much as possible, so my writing has benefited greatly from that.
What advice do you have for young writers who are interested in pursuing English beyond high school?
First of all, I would say that an English degree does not lead to the most jobs. However, if you want to write professionally, or want to pursue a career in an English-related field, then it is a great way to start. Once you enroll, it is important to prioritize your classes so you get instruction in the type of writing you’d most like to explore. If you write poetry, be sure to enroll in a poetry workshop, and so on. Just don’t expect too much course diversity until your second year.
Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?
This is a tough question because I am just starting to learn how to develop my writing. I would, however, like to publish a book with a fairly large publishing company. I have a long way to go, but I am willing to work for it. I am especially interested in writing to help people struggling with mental illnesses—whether that means helping people find refuge in fiction, or to provide support through nonfiction self-help books.
What is your hometown of Red Deer, Alberta, Canada like this time of year?
Around the holiday season, the stores are full of people and everywhere is busy. Even eating out on a weekday is difficult. The trees downtown are wrapped in colored lights, and the grass is covered in fluffy snow. Usually, it is much colder than this, but we’re lucky this year, and it’s hardly been below -10℃. It gets dark very early (about 5 pm), but it can be nice because I get to see the sun set almost every night, and the neighborhood Christmas lights turn on earlier.
My name is Holly Richardson, and I’m from the city of Red Deer in Alberta, Canada. I am 18 years old and currently in my second year of college earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Writing has had a big impact on my life since middle school, when I first started to write stories. I’m so passionate about writing that I even switched my major to pursue it. Besides writing, my interests include music, films, and baking. When I’m not too busy with school work, I mostly spend my time with my fiancé and the friends I have made at my church. No matter what, I still find time to work on any story ideas I have floating around, or I at least jot down any ideas I may have for a new one. It can take me a long time to be happy with a story or poem, but the important thing is to keep writing. When it comes down to it, I’m a quirky college student hoping to touch others with words.
From My Desk to Yours with Michael Lydon: Making Up Words
by Michael Lydon
Mirst kon chargin, plastopus flander, ita bastrip songrap plam gosnat…
Oh, excuse me, for a moment I forgot that today I am writing for an English-speaking, not Tradonian-speaking, audience. Tradonia, as I’m sure you know, is an old and proud nation that lies northwest of Smooland in South Heptrador, and everybody there speaks Tradonian. My grandparents came to America from Tradonia many years ago, and since I heard Tradonian all around me as I child, I sometimes fall into it without thinking…
Oh, excuse me again: what I just wrote is me goofing around with “fernweh,” Write the World’s latest prompt that encourages us to make up new words. I love this prompt because I’ve been making up words since I was a kid. My brother Johnny and I often walked along crowded sidewalks in downtown Boston, conversing in ordinary tones of voice, (asking questions, interjecting comments, etc.), but inventing all the words:
“Berf, da, naccoseen picar?” “Charn, charn!” “Peerkell didobas, Cartoph.” “Sasstozan boda, kerrope” (Laughter).
Certain phrases we kept coming back to, among them “scullabada” and “gully galloo gallee.” Of “Gully galloo gallee” I have one distinct, embarrassing memory: walking in a flood of people headed to 4th of July fireworks at a county fair, Johnny said excitedly, “Gullee galloo gallee!” Just as excited, I answered back, “Gullee galloo gallee!” A little girl in the crowd heard us and sassed us back, “Gullee galloo gallee!” as if our saying was the stupidest thing she had ever heard in her life. We stopped saying “Gullee galloo gallee!” for a few months after that.
My favorite phrase was “Kuncee bungratcee cheena,” which I always declaimed in a rapid-fire monotone:
Kuncee bungratcee cheena, kuncee bungratcee cheen, Kuncee bungratcee cheena, kuncee bungratcee cheen.
I never forgot my silly chant, but I gave it no meaning until, years later, I put it in a song as a space creature’s message of peace and love to our troubled planet.
So why do people make up words? First of all because it’s fun!
You Write the Worlders, however, have taken things a step further than Johnny and I did, and have imbued your made-up words with meaning in your delightfully imaginative responses to the fernweh prompt. From the Philippines, Suit of Swords sent in “stagre” meaning: “feeling the need to do something though quite not knowing why”: “She has been feeling a little stagre ever since their classmate announced that their teacher couldn’t come to class.” American Rachel A , like most of those submitting, built her word, “latonic” on a well-known word, “platonic”; latonic, she declared means “love in which you would give your all to someone.” Sentenced, another American, submitted “vaccor,” latonic’s opposite, that she built on Latin roots, vac meaning empty, and cor, meaning heart, and giving as a possible use of it in a sentence, “What once was a heart bursting with love and emotions, turned vaccor.”
Kanigi7 tells us that “zonify” means being able “to space out in order to be more aware of one’s atmosphere.” JCWriter declares that her new-born “tacitagrim,” pronounced tah - si - TAY- grim, is born from Latin roots, tacitus (silent, secret) and aegrimonia (sorrow, melancholy, grief”), is and means “a deep sorrow/grief/anguish that is kept hidden.”
Inventing new words, however, is more than fun and games. Languages in every corner of the world are constantly morphing so that they can faithfully describe the constantly morphing realities of daily life—the roots of morph , for example go back to ancient Greece, but morph was not a noun or verb a century ago. When motion pictures became popular around 1900, people started calling them movies ; when those movies got sound and actors began speaking their lines, people started calling them talkies .
Notice, however, that people didn’t pull the new words out of a hat; in most cases, new words get built from old words. In the last few decades, for instance, people needed to find a new name for the marvelous modern machines that could store ginormous amounts of information ready for instant retrieval and analysis. Nothing like these devices had ever been seen before, but people didn’t name them mersflads or pargzebs , they went back to a good old Latin word, compute , that suggested the machine’s essential ability to solve problems with mathematical accuracy. Sometimes I’ve wished computational pioneers had called computers abracadabrers , a name that would have suggested both their mathematical and magical aspects.
Computers are perhaps the most fertile source of modern new words: what would we do today without upload and download , kilobytes and megabytes , google and algorithm , internet and interface ? Note, by the way, how the face of interface suggests the nearly human quality of today’s computers. We relate to older machines less personally, and our language matches that relationship: we don’t call an old-fashioned saw a cutface or a hammer a strikeface .
The fun of neologisms (the fancy term for brand new words) persists because writers like to be silly, to surprise, bewilder, amuse, and baffle their readers with slangy expressions and brand new uses of old words. Years ago, when I started playing guitar with a jazz band, I got a big kick out of calling my apartment “my crib,” my guitar “my axe,” and a job “a gig”. Not all of these words were brand new, but the informal spirit behind them was new for me, and pretty soon I felt like a true jazz cat respected by the other cats because I had the chops to blow some burning changes, man, over mean root-reet rocking rhythms.
Or as they like to say in Tradonia, tarn spocket increll, panta zo partin, quarndalic so cran plateer!
About Michael Lydon
Michael Lydon is a writer and musician who lives in New York City. Author of many books, among them Rock Folk , Boogie Lightning , Ray Charles: Man and Music, and Writing and Life . A founding editor of Rolling Stone, Lydon has written for many periodicals as well, the Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, and Village Voice. He is also a songwriter and playwright and, with Ellen Mandel, has composed an opera, Passion in Pigskin. A Yale graduate, Lydon is a member of ASCAP, AFofM local 802, and on the faculty of St. John’s University.
My December Competition Winners Announced!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of starting a new year. There’s a palpable energy in the air. People begin exercising, buy stacks of books they intend to read, and start taking those piano lessons. But right before this flurry of activity and good intentions, there are a few precious weeks where things start to slow down and people take time to celebrate with family and friends—to reflect on all that’s happened in the past twelve months. To mark this special time of year, we host our annual My December Writing Competition. As always, we received a huge number of entries and today, Guest Judge Melissa De Silva is eager to share her favorites from the bunch. Read on for Melissa’s commentary on the top pieces.
BEST ENTRY ‘Tomorrow’ by Laika
For me, this piece shone for so many reasons. The freshly imagined expressions that never veered toward cliché or stock phrases, like the ‘wake-up-in-the-morning-and-there-it-is present’ (we all know those!) and how the writer ‘shot up in a rush and tangle of limbs’, the vivid image and rush of words both conveying the growth spurt.
There were also the delicately observed details so important in bringing creative nonfiction to life. While there were many examples, my favorites were ‘the kind of misty rain that’s like standing near a waterfall’ and ‘heads dipped by guilt’.
And while it is often tempting for us writers to get overly effusive when it comes to description, the writer of this piece shows remarkable restraint with deft, succinct descriptions: the store lady’s ‘crisp white bob swishing, nose wrinkled like a prune’, the bike that ‘shone with electric beauty’.
As a reader, I always appreciate getting a hint of a writer’s sense of humor, even when a piece is about a sobering subject. This makes the writer come across as an even more fully dimensional human being. And this is just as important in creative nonfiction, when we the writer become the ‘I character’ in the work. Laika did a fantastic job here through her observations of the cats patrolling the bike shop and by relating, in excruciating comic detail, the bike topple incident. Her emotional reactions to the domino-ing bikes (‘my cheeks burned hot’, ‘felt like 'a five year old’) took us right there with her, in her very shoes even.
The tragic unfolding of health crisis symptoms related with factual distance again demonstrated masterful restraint and had the effect of making the reader feel more dismay and empathy at what the writer went through, rather than a more emotive telling might have.
I was struck by the incredible strength and resilience of the writer, her emotional maturity:
‘I just have to make it to tomorrow. And I do. It hurts and it’s messy, but I always make it to tomorrow.’
As I read about how she’s undergoing treatment, I would have loved to know more about what the treatment involved, the small and big triumphs that are making things look more hopeful than they have in a long while.
The simple line: ‘I’m starting to live again’ made my heart swell with rejoicing for her, with her, after all she has suffered.
‘Maybe next Christmas I’ll be riding that bike.’
I loved how the piece ended on this beautiful note of hope and optimism. Thank you Laika, for sharing your incredible story with us, allowing us the privilege to witness a little of what your journey this past year has been.
RUNNER UP ‘Christmas Day’ by Michael Leahy
The lovely warmth of this piece sang out to me immediately. The earnest anticipation of the writer –‘I wait all year long for Christmas’– sets the tone of this wonderful account from the beginning.
There were so many delightful details and observations: the teachers who seem ‘more relaxed, even jolly’, Grandma in her ‘Christmas bling’ outfit complete with candy cane earrings, the dogs leaping and barking over the mess in the living room.
I found especially striking the beautiful picture the writer painted, replete with sensory detail, of how he and his sisters race into the stillness and silence of Christmas morning:
‘The house is dark, yet the Christmas tree is glistening with red and green lights, as if beckoning us to come in.’
The love and joy of a family and extended family coming together over succulent food were conveyed with such unselfconscious charm and honest observation:
‘It is one of those moments where we are just living in the present, enjoying every morsel of food, laughing and being happy to just be together.’
And I love how the piece ended with an account of the elaborate family project of everyone pitching in to make Christmas dinner and the gentle beauty of the result:
‘I quietly take in the scene. Our house is full. Everyone is happy. No one fights. We laugh, we eat, and we cherish every single moment of this amazing day.’
BEST PEER REVIEW Camryn’s Review of ‘Snow Day’
This was a great peer review. Camryn put in so much effort to provide helpful suggestions for the writer. And the comments were also very thoughtful—usually a suggestion with examples or constructive critique followed by an explanation of why that would be important or helpful, such as: “Can you make this active tense such as ‘closed’ and begged’? It will make the piece more interesting.” I liked that the reviewer was also quick to enthuse about whatever was going on in the story (“This is hilarious! Good detail!”). This showed the reviewer’s emotional involvement in the story, which is always encouraging to a writer. I think all of us take feedback better from those who also make it a point to tell us what they enjoyed about the piece, as well as what they thought could be improved. To me, this is what makes the best feedback-givers for writers. And the last thing that stood out about this reviewer was that they weren’t afraid to ask difficult questions about the work that might nudge the writer into examining more uncomfortable emotions, such as “Why was this heartbreaking?…why did you feel this way?” A critique partner who isn’t afraid to push us to make our work the best it can be is a treasure indeed.
Soo Young Yun on Winning our Novel Writing Competition
In her commentary on “Ankh” , Guest Judge Cath Crowley marveled at Korean writer Soo Young Yun’s ability to make “the reader feel as though, in a very short space of time, she has been taken through history and shown the future.” In our interview with Soo, she talks about how a trip to Egypt in the sixth grade made a lasting impression and inspired her prize winning piece. Soo also takes us through her editing cycle which includes a process of self-editing as well as enlisting the help of her friends, family, and the Write the World community.
What inspired you to write your piece, “Ankh”?
I actually visited Egypt during my sixth grade year. After touring the temple in Luxor, I became really interested in the hieroglyph “ankh,” which symbolizes life and eternity. There are so many aspects about Egypt—that go beyond photographs and documentaries about the pyramids and the Nile—that I became aware of only after visiting the country. I wanted to convey this revelation through “Ankh”.
Is “Ankh” part of a larger work?
It’s not currently part of a larger work, but I would like to extend this piece into a full-length novel, with each chapter named after a hieroglyph.
What was your process for editing this piece?
After vigorously editing my writing, I tend to let my work sit for a few days in order to read it again later with fresh eyes. For “Ankh”, I also asked some of my friends and family members to read it and give me their feedback. Even after I submitted it to the competition, I saw that AwkwardCrow had reviewed “Ankh”. I really enjoyed reading her comments on my piece.
Guest Judge Cath Crowley called your story, “a travel guide of Egypt.” What steps did you take to make sure the story felt authentic to that area of the world?
It really helped that my story is based on a real-life experience. Although it was quite some time ago, I was able to pull out some pictures I had taken of memorable engravings and hieroglyphs during my trip to relive the experience again in my mind. Also, I did some research on Egypt to make the dialogue appear more realistic.
You’re from South Korea, who are some of your favorite writers from your home country?
Some of my favorite writers are Krys Lee and Shin Kyung-sook. I especially loved reading Krys Lee’s “Drifting House” and Shin Kyung-sook’s “Please Look After Mom”. Also, one of my favorite novels is “Native Speaker” by Chang-rae Lee.
Antonia Harrison on her Winning Peer Review Entry
As a Peer Ambassador, young writer Antonia Harrison dedicates time each week to helping her fellow Write the World members improve their drafts. Last month, Antonia’s stellar review earned her much acclaim from guest judge Cath Crowley who deemed her the winner of Best Peer Review in our Novel Writing Competition. Today, Antonia reflects on the editing process and what she’s learned about her own writing from serving as a Write the World Ambassador.
What drew you to Becky H’s piece ?
I’m really attracted to pieces with a distinctive tone—maybe the writer is using descriptive phrases that I haven’t heard before or conveying aspects of character through their voice. For me, this shows that the writing has genuine meaning to the writer and that they can project their own quirks and individuality onto the work. It’s also refreshing to read something that nobody else could have written in the same way—it’s more inspiring as a writer to be exposed to freshness and something new. This is what drew me to ‘Suspicion'—the way it was written didn’t stray into conventionality or cliché, but sustained a really personal element throughout.
You’re one of our Peer Ambassadors. What does the role consist of and what has being an ambassador taught you?
As a Peer Ambassador, I write a set number of reviews per week in a fairly professional capacity and discuss with others what we have learned from such exposure to the review process. It’s taught me a lot, partially because it’s been really interesting to hear how others approach this and partially because the volume of reviews we write makes it possible to really evaluate how people respond to feedback and what’s helpful. One thing that strikes me especially now is how important it is to encourage writers to keep at it. I frequently get responses to my reviews from people who haven’t had their work acknowledged or commented on before and who have felt disheartened by this. As writers, we can all recognize this feeling, which is why it’s so essential that we all encourage one another to keep going.
How has being a Peer Ambassador changed the way you view your own work?
The exposure I’ve had to lots of different styles of writing, and the way different individuals craft their work, has been so useful to me. You can only really consider how you want to articulate or scribe your thoughts when you’ve seen how others’ emotions are manifested on the page. I’m more likely now to try to apply an original voice, for instance, because I’ve learned how engaging that can be to a reader and how it can make a piece stand out.
If you could get feedback on your work from any writer in history, who would it be and why?
This is so difficult to choose! There are a million people I could choose, but I’ll say either D.H. Lawrence or Dylan Thomas because they both have a really unique, unmistakable style of writing that nobody can quite mimic. I’d love to be able to write in such a vivid way. Lawrence was also a stern social critic and offers really interesting social commentary, which I find very important!
You’re a self described “activist, feminist and socialist.” In what ways do your morals and/or political leanings influence your writing?
I’m a firm believer in the fact that, as a writer, you can’t remain distanced from the world around you. Especially in this day and age, it’s so important for writers to strive to make a change. Writing without critiquing society is missing one of the key functions of being an artist. As an activist, I’ve been on the streets trying to make changes in small ways, and it’s made me realize the momentous impact that words and language can have on a listener. That’s why I think it’s always important to use your words to right some of the wrongs we see everyday. Otherwise, why are you doing it?
The Write Place: ‘Tis the Season - My December
by Lisa Hiton
Looking for the right advice on pursuing the writer’s life? You’ve come to the write place!
My family is Jewish. We don’t celebrate Christmas. And yet, isn’t going to a movie and eating Chinese food while the rest of the world closes down for a day a kind of ritual—its own kind of made-up holiday? I’m sure that these details seem usual as well. But, dear writers, a lot more is there than meets the eye. Your family’s traditions, rituals, and habits—no matter how ordinary they seem—can be made extraordinary by turning them into words.
Family Hanukkah with multiple Hannukiahs! These are different than menorahs as they hold nine candles instead of seven.
PANNING FOR GOLD
An easy way to describe your holiday season to someone else (and kickstart your writing process) is to make a list of traditions and rituals that you think of when this time of year comes around. Mine looks something like this:
Tuesday before Thanksgiving
- take a train into the city
- to go to the Art Institute with my mom
- followed by shopping for new art supplies
- and a nice dinner
- and train ride home
Thanksgiving Eve and Day
- prepare spinach balls
- cook cook cook
- eat eat eat
- play games with cousins
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
- hang Hanukkah stockings
- attend Cathy Nathan’s x-mas party
- cook a big breakfast including eggs, fresh squeezed OJ, and bacon
- open stockings
- go to a movie at the theatre
- cook a nice dinner (Chinese food takes too long in my hometown since we live in a pretty Jewish part of Chicagoland)
- watch holiday movies with mom and brother, especially The Family Stone
Winters in Chicago can be brutal; there’s no better antidote than playing in the snow! Here I am enjoying the snow with my first friend, Rebel.
Are you bored yet? This isn’t even counting Hanukkah since it doesn’t always fall near Christmas! All of these things may seem pretty usual. That might be true if you make your list of traditions as well. You might decorate a tree, hang twinkle lights, go caroling, go to the same person’s house every year to celebrate, leave out cookies for Santa, etc. Most neighborhoods and cultures have their usual lists of traditions. Part of your goal as a writer is to pan for gold among them.
Looking at this list, I began to ask myself, Why is it that my mom , brother, and I do these same things every single year? Some of it seems like the larger culture, but some of it was made by us. As I think about why, it’s clear that a lot of these rituals are in some way related to my parent’s divorce. Through that lens, I might start panning for my own gold—to sift through this litany to find something that might be worth more than meets the eye. Each of these seemingly usual bullet points, in fact, triggers different memories for me. In that field of memories, where might I find a scene that begins a longer story? How might I organize these scenes and memories into something cohesive for myself and my readers? I’ll begin with my freshman year.
My freshman year of high school marked the first year of spending winter break with divorced parents. While breakfast time was never particularly special in my house, Christmas day posed a dilemma: what would my mom, brother, and I do in this new situation, just the three of us? Especially since nearly everything is closed on Christmas day and people are with their families, filling the time posed some anxiety for my mother and me, especially with my young, shy brother.
To be sure, I already had thrown one tantrum about adjusting to these new circumstances. It was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. In elementary school and middle school, I normally had that day off as part of my holiday break. In high school though, this was not the case. It was second period when I received a pink slip during chorus to report to my advisor’s office. As a self-proclaimed academic, I was not used to be in trouble. With a room full of eyes on me as I left the choir room, my angst only increased.
It seemed my senior leaders had gone to my advisor worried about my general sadness. In my humiliation that anyone had noticed such negative energy, I proceeded to have the first of many tearful conversations with my advisor about adjusting: to high school, to a new home situation, and more. My mom came and picked me up from school so we could play hooky and keep our one ritual of going to the Art Institute of Chicago. I knew it was a temporary solution to a larger problem, and that this was just one of many adjustments I’d have to make. Yet, the gesture helped me persevere despite my pain.
That choir room would continue to serve as a literary backdrop for growth and tough love throughout high school. It was also a common community I kept throughout high school while everything else changed. For our annual fundraiser, we sold grapefruits and oranges by the box. When the trucks pulled up to the high school, we passed the boxes one by one down the line, just like the who’s down in Whoville, singing all the while in the face of another frigid Chicagoland winter.
While I’m more of a night owl than a morning person, and certainly not a big breakfast eater, this introduction to ripe grapefruits became my exception. Cut in half with a little bit of sugar was all I needed to jump-start my day with a jolt of Vitamin C. And so when the week of Christmas came around, my mom picked up a citrus juicer. The morning of Christmas. My brother and I sat on the island in our kitchen cutting oranges in half. We took turns pressing oranges onto the machine as it whirred and whirred. In an absolute mess of pulp, we finally squeezed enough halves for three cups of juice, just as our bacon was coming out of the oven. It was a new tradition, mundane as it may seem now, and a way of lightening the day and passing the time on a holiday that is not ours.
Christmas may not be our holiday, but it would be a boring day without our own tradition of “Hanukkah stockings”. My brother, Merrick, and I still give each other socks and chapstick as a ritual!
AMONG THESE ROCKS
Among the rocks in the river, there are some that are worth spending time with as a writer, and others that probably don’t add much to the larger story. The larger story in a personal essay is not always about a narrative arc. In the passage I just wrote about making orange juice, the larger story is about recasting the family unit as three instead of four, connecting to my younger brother, and trying to lift my spirit despite how hard it was to start high school with divorce at the forefront of my thinking and feeling. While all of that may not have come out precisely, writing this little passage is a signal that with time and effort, I could write that longer essay. Now as a writer, it will be up to me to describe these anecdotes as scenes, make characters out of my self and my family members, and reflect on the meaning. If this can all be done well—the showing and the telling—then it’s likely the reader will feel a similar sense of nostalgia.
The house where I grew up is on a hill whose swale leads to the north fork of the Chicago River. My fondest memories of winter are sledding down that hill and walking on the frozen river. Here I am teaching a new friend, Miriam, about these prairie-land games.
That is, perhaps, the most important way to approach material. If something is significant, memorable, or worthy of reflection to your own sense of self or personal narrative, there is probably a way to translate that to your reader in writing. Take for example Vani Dadoo’s My December piece from last year, “December in Delhi” , about waiting for the train:
Winter is not good for a polluted city like mine. December, being the main month of winter in India, is always the coldest.
All things in nature huddle together in winter, trying to find, or steal, some warmth from the other.
The clouds creep towards the ground. The fog and the smoke meet and embrace, and together try to steal the little sunlight before it touches the earth. The smog becomes denser, trying to wrap the earth in a heavier, grayish blanket, like the people sleeping in woolen quilts in their homes. Evening darkness approaches faster than before, as if the smog did succeed in robbing the sunlight. Even after twilight, the smog refuses to diffuse. The air becomes thicker, but the world puts on an old, dull, sweater and wraps a muffler around its neck and walks on. Some evenings, it coughs and some mornings, it can see its breath. But most days, it can’t peer into the distance. This year, my father decided to travel to escape the harsh winters. “Migration over hibernation,” he called it, and, “better to get the sun somewhere than get closer to that old, rusty heater at home,” is what he said. We decide to journey to the western coast around Mumbai by train. Indian Railways was a part of family, as all cross-country trips; from Himalayan foothills to the Rajasthani deserts, were made by train. As we take a cab to the New Delhi railway station, the moon is rising. The moon is a blurred piece of white in the black sky, clouds and smog. The street lights, though, filter through this, illuminating every speck of dust. The cars zoom past on the highway. One can rarely see stars in my city.
Dadoo wavers between a present-tense meditation on December, and a swell of memory related to waiting for a train in Delhi. While these may be ordinary in another context—waiting for a late train or reflecting on the season—Dadoo weaves these two threads together, a double helix, to arrive at grand statements of the human condition: that like waiting for a train, we wait for a season’s end so that we may be carried into a new one.
Dadoo also brings us Delhi in her sensory details. From the opening passage about all things in nature “huddling together”, Dadoo mirrors her descriptions to match the crowded and polluted city around her. Just as Dadoo was able to give the details of December in Delhi while waiting for a train, you can give your own details as you think about your family—their traditions and rituals, the personalities of each member, and the things that make you nostalgic.
A reader gets a clear sense of a train station in Mumbai from this piece. If you’re familiar with such a place, you will get swept up in a shared nostalgia. If you’re unfamiliar with this land, you may find these descriptions to be exotic. In both cases, the very things that are both familiar and new bring the reader into a shared sense of the human condition with the writer herself. That shared humanness is the the entire point of sharing stories! And all of that came from writing about waiting for the train!
So, dear writers, as you think of Decembers past and enjoy your current December, what memories and rituals are for keeps? What gold will you find in waiting for the train, cooking with your grandmother, visiting a museum, playing in the snow? Show us your favorite places, traditions, and people at this time of year by tagging your stories and images with #MyDecember on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Lisa Hiton is an editorial associate at Write the World . She writes two series on our blog: The Write Place where she comments on life as a writer, and Reading like a Writer where she recommends books about writing in different genres. She’s also the interviews editor of Cosmonauts Avenue and the poetry editor of the Adroit Journal .
December Spotlight: To Show and to Tell
My birthday is July 4th. A celebratory day in the USA, filled with fireworks, parades, and family BBQs. And since my birth, every year on July 3rd, my mom sits with me and tells the story of how I chose my own birthday as we look through a photo album from that time. It was clear to the doctors that my mom would likely need a C-section, as I would weigh in at 10lbs 4oz, but being my mom’s firstborn, she didn’t want to choose my birthday. Nearly ten days past her due date, it might surprise you that she swiftly attributed a “stomach ache” to a pie she’d eaten at a July 3rd party…
Thirty years later, she still tells me the story of how I chose my birthday—how she missed the fireworks that year, and how firework displays now hold so much symbolism for both of us. And she shows me the photos—my lithe mom carrying a huge baby. Though it’s not written on paper, the story feels written—I know the order of events, the timing of the jokes, and how the fireworks have literal and symbolic meanings throughout the telling.
We often think of our first encounters with stories in books. And yet, our lives are writing themselves all along. And if we are lucky, we have great storytellers around us who not only remember the plots and scenes of a life, but can tell them with panache. As writers, we must do that on the page. Especially when we want to make something permanent and beautiful from our own experiences. Personal essays take these parts of our lives and weave them into something artful and literary—helping us make sense of our experiences here on earth.
TO SHOW AND TO TELL
A common phrase used to critique or edit a writer’s work is “show, don’t tell”. For example, if you’re writing about a character who is sad she received a rejection letter from her first-choice college, you might be tempted to write:
“Juniper was devastated to be rejected from NYU.”
Now, at face-value, the sentence isn’t terrible. It’s grammatically correct, well punctuated, and likely true. However, I might suggest to a writer that they “show, don’t tell” the reader about the scene. Instead of telling the reader that Juniper is “devastated”, the writer might instead give the whole anecdote:
“Juniper raced to the mailbox after school. As she grabbed the pile of envelopes, the one letter she wanted sat right on top: a small envelope from NYU. She stared at the school’s crest in the corner, which turned to a blur, as she ripped it open, knowing full-well what it said inside.”
Sure, it’s longer. But this depiction shows the moment of devastation without ever having to state how Juniper feels. When writing personal essays, it’s important to do both of these things. Though you might not want to state outwardly how Juniper feels, you might follow up a scene like this one with some connective tissue that help the reader weave this real-life situation into something a bit more artful. In this sense, to show is to paint the scene, to tell is to confess something to your reader—to draw for the reader connections they might not be able to make outside of the experience of your own life.
AN EARL [OF ESSAYS] AMONG US
Nonfiction is often remarked as the “stepchild of serious literature” by critics and literary snobs alike. Personal essays seem like the antithesis of serious reading and writing: they show and tell, they don’t follow formal rules of structure or narrative arc, and they can sound as colloquial as my mom telling my birth story. But it’s precisely these traits that make writing personal essays so very difficult to write. In order for a reader to feel as though they are sitting with my mom, listening to her tell a funny, heartfelt story about her firstborn child, a lot of work must be done.
Phillip Lopate, director of Columbia University’s creative writing program and one of the most celebrated, living personal essayists of our time has explored this phenomenon deftly in his anthology on personal essays, The Art of The Essay , and his follow-up book on crafting personal essays, To Show and to Tell . In To Show and to Tell , Lopate grapples with the rules and boundaries of essays. As an example, an entire chapter is called “The Essay: Exploration or Argument?”. Especially as we look at different essays, this question can help frame our understanding of the genre. Sometimes, essays make a case for a particular idea or belief. But other times, telling a story can lead the writer astray, to something unplanned. Think about it: even within the world of nonfiction, there are different subsets—biography, autobiography, memoir, personal essay to name a few. And each of these has its own set of goals, rules, and structures. In The Art of the Essay , Lopate paints the core values of the genre for the reader:
The hallmark of the personal essay is intimacy.. The writer seems to be speaking directly in your ear, confiding everything from gossip to wisdom. Through sharing thoughts, memories, desires, complaints, and whimsies, the personal essayist sets up a relationship with the reader, a dialogue—a friendship, if you will, based on identification, understanding, testiness, and companionship. At the core of the personal essay is the supposition that there is a certain unity to human experience. As Michel de Montaigne, the great innovator and patron saint of personal essayists, put it, “Every man has within himself the entire human condition.” This meant that when he was telling about himself, he was talking, to some degree, about all of us. The personal essay has an implicitly democratic bent, in the value it places on experience rather than status distinctions. (Lopate, xxiii)
Lopate’s books help writers decipher the work before them and approach each story with both anecdotes and a sense of artful organization. Unlike other genres, personal essays allow us to show and tell—meaning we can give an anecdote and reflect on what has happened. That sense of reflection can allow us to think of our lives and the people in them as we might with a work of fiction. We can, in a personal essay, show what has happened and offer forgiveness, love, compassion, and the like as the narrator is also the writer.
To Show and to Tell: The Craft of Literary Nonfiction by Phillip Lopate : To Show and to Tell weaves Lopate’s trade secrets with anecdotes about teaching writing and life. From turning yourself into a character, to understanding what kind of personal essay you might be writing, this craft book is useful to writers at every level.
The Art of the Personal Essay: An Anthology from the Classical Era to the Present ed by Phillip Lopate : Covering over 400 years of personal essays, Lopate’s anthology brings readers into the lives of Joan Didion, James Baldwin, Gore Vidal, Virginia Woolf, Jorge Luis Borges, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Adrienne Rich, Henry David Thoreau, George Orwell, Samuel Johnson, Plutarch, Ou-Yang Hsiu, Michel De Montaigne, and more. With arrangements by theme and form, readers and writers can begin to see the breadth and depth of this genre across time and nations.
As far as personal essays go, there are so many I love that it is hard to select just a few. From different writers, to different subjects, there are just so many thoughts and feelings about how we interact with the world around us that I’ve decided to honor a handful of essays available to you online. Here is a mini-anthology of essays to read, with prompts to pair. As you write your own personal essays, think about how these essays mirror their main subjects and characters—how the writer chooses to honor and champion their subject and why.
And so, dear writers, as you go into your own Decembers, remember that every detail, no matter how mundane or extraordinary, is part of our common human experience. And we look forward to reading all about it in the pages to come.
Author Melissa De Silva on Writing Creative Nonfiction
For many of you, our My December Writing Competition presents a new milestone in your writing careers: penning a piece of creative nonfiction. According to Lee Gutkind, founder of Creative Nonfiction magazine, “Creative nonfiction writers do not make things up; they make ideas and information that already exist more interesting and often more accessible.” Today, Guest Judge Melissa De Silva expands upon Gutkind’s ideas about the genre, shares with us her own experience of writing creative nonfiction, and offers tips for drafting a strong competition entry.
You recently published your book, ‘Others’ Is Not A Race . Can you tell us more about this work and why you decided to share this collection of stories?
This collection is a combination of creative nonfiction, fiction, literary food writing, and family memoir. These stories are tied together because they all center around my journey to reclaim my Eurasian heritage. Eurasians are those of both European and Asian ancestry, and in Asia, there are Eurasian communities in various countries due to European colonialism in this region in the past. I reached a point when I realized I didn’t ‘feel’ very Eurasian. I didn’t eat our traditional foods, speak my mother tongue, or practice any Eurasian traditions. So I set out to reclaim these—by starting to learn my mother tongue (a creole of Portuguese and Malay called Kristang, which originates in Malacca, Malaysia), by cooking various traditional foods and by traveling to Malacca to document the traditional livelihood of our community there: fishing.
I also wrote 'Others’ Is Not A Race to raise awareness about our Eurasian community’s history and culture. Even though we are Singaporeans, many Singaporeans do not know much about us, because we are a micro-community, of less than one percent of the country’s population. It doesn’t help that in official national categories of race, Eurasians are classified under the vague and meaningless ‘Other’ category (Singapore’s three other official racial categories are Indian, Malay and Chinese). So I wrote this book as a statement: that we Eurasians are not ‘Other’, we are a distinct culture and people with our own unique heritage and traditions.
Some of your essays are works of creative nonfiction, which is of course the genre for this month’s competition. What is your advice to our young writers who haven’t tackled this style of writing before?
It’s a fantastic genre to experiment with, because so much material is already there for us to play with, in the form of our real life experiences and our reflections on the events that are happening around us. For me, what has been very useful is recording all the details of events and experiences as they occur. I can then refer to these things later when I am writing, and use them to enrich the stories and bring them to life. And I think that while in fiction, there is often a consciousness of the need for tension to keep the reader reading, what I find liberating about creative nonfiction is the genre gives ample room for a writer to delve into reflection in the process of making meaning. So I’d say, don’t hold back with your musings in your nonfiction writing. They are the key to making an already competent piece really soar!
Do you have any tips for writers on how to approach the editing process?
I keep editing my work until I can say what I need to say with the least amount of words. Also, I try to keep in mind what the reader knows, and doesn’t know. Often I’ve found I might have something in my head, but it’s not on the page—where it needs to be! And my third tip, also related to the reader, is to be as clear as possible. . There’s no point in writing the most beautiful sentences if the overall meaning of them is unclear to the reader. This is something I have to constantly work at in my own writing.
What are you looking for in a winning entry?
I would love to read pieces that move me—whether they make me smile or laugh, or feel the pain of loss or regret. I also love getting insights into places I hadn’t known before, or a new perspective on something.
What is December in Singapore like?
It is relatively cooler than rest of the year (perhaps 29 degrees Celsius on a cool day), and more rainy. Singapore has a tropical climate so it’s hot and sunny (about 31 degrees Celsius during the day) most of the time. There’s not much temperature variation throughout the year with a tropical climate. In December it often rains every day, though thankfully, not all day! And because it’s tropical, our trees and plants remain green all year round, even in December :)
Melissa is a writer, journalist and editor from Singapore. She is the author of 'Others’ is Not a Race and is published in The Wilderness House Literary Review , the Quarterly Literary Review Singapore , and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal . This year, her short story, 'It Happened at Mount Pleasant’ was selected for the anthology Best New Singaporean Short Stories Vol. 3 . Melissa likes trees, clean white spaces and well-mannered rabbits.
Write the World
Write the World is a global community, where young writers can publish their work and refine their craft through a regular writing routine, an attention to revision, and access to quality feedback.
A Source For Creative Writers
See, that’s what the app is perfect for..
1. Take notes of funny or interesting things you hear people say
2. Make lots of lists
3. Write down ideas, even if they don’t really fit into your story. They may be useful later￼
4. Stay organised￼
5. Watch an old movie for inspiration￼
6. Listen to music that fits the mood of your chapter while you write￼
7. If you remember your dreams, write them down￼
8. Learn a new word every day￼
9. Use a thesaurus￼
10. Take breaks
11. Don’t force yourself to write ‘2,000 words a day’ or whatever. Some days will just be bad writing days. Others will be great￼
12. Don’t beat yourself up
13. If it’s a bad chapter, don’t delete it. Take a break, then come back and edit it￼
14. Look at pictures of landscapes or scenes online. It will help you vividly describe what your story looks like
15. Read other’s work for ideas
16. Get feedback from others
17. Bounce plot ideas back and forth with your friends or other writers￼
18. Write when you feel comfortable and not rushed￼
19. If you really like something that others don’t, you should still consider keeping it in your story￼
20. Write down a few sentences explaining what your chapter is going to be about before you write it￼
21. Don’t force it￼
22. Drink something hot while writing￼
23. Stop comparing your work to others￼
24. Let yourself daydream￼
25. Seek another perspective
✨CORE QUESTIONS WHEN CREATING CHARACTERS
💛LIKE and SAVE for future reference!
📖I love character creation, and I enjoy the gut feeling of just knowing how a cast of story characters will react to and feel about a particular situation. I tend to know more about them than I do myself.
❓WHAT MAKES YOUR MAIN CHARACTER STAND OUT FROM THE OTHERS AROUND THEM?
❄️Have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are in the world and however you plan to spend it! Love from Scotland 💛
🏷 #character #characters #characterconcept #characterinspiration #charactercreation #fictionalcharacters #fictionalcharacter #aspiringwriter #aspiringwriters #prose #novelwritingtips #novelwriting #wattpadwriter #writingabook #bookwriting #bookwriter #fictionwriters #fictionwriting #writingprompts #writingprompt #writersofinstagram #wattpadwriters #writingprocess #writingaesthetic #writinghelp #fictionwriter #wegotstory #storywriting #storywriter https://www.instagram.com/p/CX3YEfeg8yh/?utm_medium=tumblr
✨ARE YOU A FICTION TRADITIONALIST OR MODERNIST? ADD UP YOUR SCORE 🍂I am truly split down the middle, in some cases I truthfully answer both. Hopefully you get a clearer answer! 📝 Difficulty also comes from having different answers as a reader and writer, but that’s why many of us don’t enjoy writing what we read! I run to the supernatural horror section of the library but I’m all about the realistic human experiences when I write. 🌐It’s been a bad week on IG for me, my engagement took a hit (it always does when I post about upcoming competitions but people use it so I’ll suck it up for them!) and the platform is making it extremely hard to see new posts of people I follow. Thanks to those who let me know they’re experiencing this too! I was so relieved, I thought I had done something. 💛 I hope you have a WONDERFUL week, resting when you need to and being productive to be happy. 🏷 #writingprompt #plottwistedit #plots #writinganovel #writingabook #writeabook #writersofinstagram #writersoﬁnstagram #writingmotivation #storyboard #writersblock #writerlifestyle #writergram #writers_around #fictionbooks #readerforlife #fictionwriter #authorlife #writerslife #writinglife #tropes #fictionalcharacters #fictionbooks #fictionbook #writerstag #writingchallenge #authorchallenge #thisorthat https://www.instagram.com/p/CVfYkxSgQuT/?utm_medium=tumblr
✨SUNDAY FUN - DO YOU HAVE CHARACTER BINGO?
❓QOTD❓Which of your characters are you most proud of creating?
🎭 For me, it’s my comic relief who was only intended to appear twice but readers really liked him so he ended up taking on a larger role. He was sassy as hell, I can’t say I was unhappy with the change!
💛I hope you’re all having a great Sunday, resting if you can, and being awesome.
🏷 #characterbio #characterbingo #protagonist #antagonist #villain #comicrelief #smartone #storybingo #sidekick #novelwriting #novelwriter #writingchallenge #writingchallenges #bookchallenge #bookfun #charactersheet #characterstudy #writingprompts #writingprompt #writinginspiration #writinginspo #wegotstory #iamawriter #aspiringauthor #aspiringwriters #aspiringwriter #futurewriter #writingismyfreedom #writingskills #writingtime https://www.instagram.com/p/CVaV-aUgZc0/?utm_medium=tumblr
You Know What Would Be A Cool Reader Experience?
Witnessing a writer completely abandon the original plot to focus on the cool sidekick’s more interesting storyline and we legit never hear from the protagonist again, except a half-hearted summery paragraph near the end. A mid-write-reshuffle.
I’d respect the crap out of that writer..
Does This Chapter-By-Chapter Plot Outline Work for You?
Hero and Ordinary World
1 - really bad day, 2 - something peculiar, 3 - grasping at straws, a - inciting incident, 4 - call to adventure, 5 - head in sand, 6 - pull out rug, b - first plot point, exploring new world, 7 - enemies & allies, 8 - games and trials, 9 - earning respect, first battle, 10 - forces of evil, 11 - problem revealed, 12 - truth and ultimatum.
Act II (cont.)
Bad Guys Close In
13 - mirror stage, 14 - plan of attack, 15 - crucial role, second battle, 16 - direct conflict, 17 - surprise failure, 18 - shocking revelation, second plot point, defeat and victory, 19 - giving up, 20 - pep talk, 21 - seizing the sword, final battle, 22 - ultimate defeat, 23 - unexpected victory, 24 - bittersweet return.
Latin Words and Phrases
veni, vidi, vici - I came, I saw, I conquered.
Vivamus, moriendum est - let us live, for we must die., ergo dum me diligis - so long as you love me., alis volat propriis - she flies with her own wings., sic mundus creatus est - thus the world was created., aut inveniam viam aut faciam - i shall either find a way or make one., mors certa, hora incerta - death is certain, its hour is uncertain, mors mihi lucrum - death to me is reward, aeternum vale - farewell forever, mors ultima linea rerum est - death is everything’s final limit, nascentes morimur - from when we are born, we begin to die, mors vincit omnia - death conquers all, omnia mors aequat - everything is equal in death, tempus edax rerum - time, devourer of everything, poeta nascitur, non fir - poets are born, not made, luctor et emergo - i struggle and emerge, armor vincit omnia - love conquers all, pulvis et umbra sumus - we are dust and shadows, ad hoc: to this, alibi: elsewhere, amaritudo - bitterness, astrum - star/sky, basium - kiss, bona fide: with good faith, bonus: good, carpe diem: seize the day, de facto: in fact, e.g.: for example, ergo: therefore, et cetera: and so on, excrucior - i am tortured, extra: in addition to, i.e.: that is, impromptu: spontaneous, intro: within, multi: many, per se: in itself, pro bono (publico): for the good (of the public), quid pro quo: something for something, sentio - i feel, sepulcrum - tomb, status quo: existing state of affairs, verbatim: in exactly the same words, versus: against, vice versa: the other way around, volatus - flying, latin phrases worth knowing.
ad astra per aspera - to the stars through difficulties
alis volat propriis - he flies by his own wings
aut insanity homo, aut versus facit - the fellow is either mad or he is composing verses
amantium irae amoris intergratio est - the quarrels of lovers are the renewal of love
ars longa, vita brevis - art is long, life is short
dum spiro aperitif - while I breathe, I hope
ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem - with the sword, she seeks peace under liberty
exigo a me non ut optimus par sim sed ut malis melior - I require myself not to be equal to the best, but to be better than the bad
experiential docet - experience teaches
helluo librorum - a glutton for books (bookworm)
in libras libertas - in books, freedom
littera scripta manet - the written letter lasts
mens regnum bona possidet - an honest heart is a kingdom in itself
mirabile dictu - wonderful to say
nullus est liber tam malus ut non aliqua parte prosit - there is no book so bad that it is not profitable in some part
omnia iam fient quae posse negabam - everything which I used to say could not happen, will happen now
poeta nascitur, non fit - the poet is born, not made
qui dedit benificium taceat; narrat qui accepit - let him who has done good deed be silent; let him who has received it tell it
saepe ne utile quidem est scire quid futurum sit - often, it is not advantageous to know what will be
sedit qui timuit ne non succederet - he who feared he would not succeed sat still
si vis pacem, para bellum - if you want peace, prepare for war
struit insidias lacrimis cum feminia plorat - when a woman weeps, she is setting traps with her tears
sub rosa - under the rose
trahimir omnes laudis studio - we are led on by our eagerness of praise
Ruben latericium invenit, marmoream reliquit - he found the city a city of bricks, he left it a city of marble
ut incepit fidelis sic permanent - as loyal as she began, so she remains
Them: A good story is like an iceberg.
Me: because they are hard to come by, exist in extreme conditions, and when you find one it both mesmerises and destroys your cruising vessel, them: no, because most of the information is kept hidden from the reader - wait, what did you say, me: nothing..
Plays. Poems. Scripts. Essays. Non-Fiction. Flash/Micro Fiction. Short Stories. Novels.
There’s something for everyone in August-September. You can find the master list at the We Got Story website (link in IG bio).
We have so many that are free to enter! And not one, not two, but *three* that have $20,000 for the winning entry!
If you find any I’ve missed, or want me to check out the validity of a contest you’ve found, shoot me a DM. Now hit the like button, save the post for future reference, and enter some competitions!
Me watching the stupid little movies in my mind instead of writing them down:
Originally posted by toppetlove
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Contact me through my e-mail:
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Please bear in mind we do not answer questions demanding personalised feedback on writing under any circumstance, as this is unfair to our students and disrespectful of our time and profession. Any other emails with an unclear purpose, or the purpose to cold-sell marketing services will not be answered.
How to find comp titles for your novel without crying
What are ‘comp titles,’ you might be wondering…🤔
Comp titles are comparative or contextual reads for your own project — books which are similar and comparable to your own.
They’re a very important part of query letters, and every agent will want to have at least a handful of these, so they know where your book fits in the market. But don’t think that if you’re self-publishing, you should just dismiss them.
You might think to yourself: but I didn’t use any books as inspiration, so I don’t have anything to compare it to.
If you do think that way… You’re 100% completely wrong. 😬
There will always be, not just one, but more than a few dozen books that can easily be compared to your project. Such is the nature of stories.
Searching for comp titles can be a painful process, but it is a necessity.
Even if you’re self-publishing your book, you should still be doing research to see where it fits in the market.
Comparing your book in front of your audience to an already published novel that they loved could be the deciding factor of them actually buying it! People want to feel comfortable in the idea that they’re already gonna love it, based on previous experiences.
“Ah, but what of the impostor syndrome? I’m not a copycat.”
Trust me, I get it. I’m in the stages of doing my comp research, and finding similarities to your book in already published media can be nerve-wrecking.
The good news is that if you didn’t actively copy anything, the similarities you find will not run deep.
They’ll usually be chalked up to things like similar names, tropes and settings. These are called genre conventions, and shouldn’t put you off the process. Every genre has their own set of conventions that you will find again and again and again.
My novel is gothic fiction, and I’ve already discovered that my idea of naming a character ‘Liv’ in a novel about death was not, in fact, genius, but that it’s very standard in horror.
Set on a haunted estate? Check. Seeing ghosts of old family members? Check.
So how do you actually search for novels that could become comps? 🤔
It’s not a straight-forward process of ‘type into google and get all the books that are like yours.’ But definitely start with genre. Clearly defining what genre your book fits into narrows that pool by a lot.
👉 Other things to compare:
- audience expectation (by age, gender, culture, etc.)
- the setting of the story or its tropes
- the leading characters
- the narrative style and POV
Finding the exact right comp titles to use takes a lot of research and a lot of reading. You should ideally be doing comp reads all the while you write your novel.
Through my process of writing mine, I must have gone through about 10 titles that I actively seeked out to help me in crafting the story with the right genre conventions in mind, and now that I’m moving into my rewrite, I picked up another 12 to read.
Of those, you’re hoping for a handful of titles that are strongly comparable.
And what are you looking for? 🤔
You want to aim to find books that are at least somewhat successful, and recent. Don’t compare your work to a book that was on the market two centuries ago. You can use it as source and inspiration, but your comp titles should be from the NOW.
And one disclaimer that goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… Never compare your book to a popular one if you haven’t read it or done your research properly to ensure it does actually resemble yours.
Need a place to get started with your novel? 👀
Pick up my 3 for 1 e-books made to make any writer feel like they know exactly what they’re doing with their story. 💜
Packed with theory, resources, and fully customizable pro-designed templates like you won’t see anywhere else on the market.
Grab it through the [link here] or below!
Kill the Impostor
Juliana Palermo: Dealing with the monsters in our heads to become good writers.
Writing is hard . Any kind of art is hard, as it demands a piece of your soul. But writing, when you’re insecure, it’s much harder. It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a published best-seller, if you’re really good or just mediocre, if other people like what you write or you don’t share it, you always end up feeling like an impostor. Like, somehow, you managed to fool everyone around you into believing you are a good, creative and talented writer, when actually you are just crap.
This is called Impostor Syndrome, and it’s very famous, very on trend right now. Every respectable artist wears it. But what does it actually mean? Are we all under the same social pressure of being perfect? Or is it just some individual problem we have to get through, one more test in our personal hero’s journey? And if so, how do we win it?
👉 [Read more] 👈
Share your month’s word count.
I’m sure most of you have heard about the events over at Nanowrimo, so here’s a gentle reminder that your writing doesn’t have to stop and you can find a safer space to support each other.
Note that we have an open Discord groupchat at The Plottery, which you can join to still write with other like-minded authors in a space where the mods and myself listen to your concerns. 💜
Also, today’s the very last day to join to VIP mailing list for our early black Friday offer, if you are nearing the end of your manuscript and looking for editing services soon.
Sign up today for the last chance to see the offer first through the [link here] or below!
The Subcreation of Inspiration, with Editor in Chief at Fellowship & Fairydust
F. Abika: From connecting with the pulse of Earth to understanding the spark of creation running our storyworlds, Avellina Balestri, explains her journey of ‘sub-creating’ stories that reveal God in All Things’.
I had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Avellina Balestri, Catholic Author of the Robin Hood retelling “Saplings of Sherwood”, the first of a planned seven in “The Telling of the Beads” series. Based on the Maryland/Pennsylvania border, USA, Avellina is also the editor-in-chief of Fellowship & Fairydust - an online publication on a mission to “inspire faith and creativity by exploring the arts through a Spiritual Lens”.
As somebody who was brought up around atheism before transitioning into adulthood by exploring my own spirituality, I was really excited to get to know Avellina when I saw her post about Saplings of Sherwood. I entered the conversation with a completely open mind to the direction this piece would take us, which I am so grateful I did as the theme that screamed out to me throughout the entirety of our phone call was entirely unexpected, and if I may say, pure magic.
How to create conflict in your story
Here are the easiest ways to instantly create conflict in any story that you’re writing.
🔥 Start with your character’s personality versus their goal.
Whatever their goal is, their personality should be the the first opposition in achieving it.
🔥 Moral values are a huge one.
Put two characters of opposing beliefs into a situation they have to solve together, but neither of them accepts the other’s way of thinking.
🔥 Betrayal is always going to hit deepest.
Force a character to betray someone they care about for the greater good.
🔥 Set a timer.
There’s absolutely nothing that gets people thinking of the most brutal solutions than when they’re racing against the clock. There just isn’t time to spare everyone’s feelings.
Allow your characters to make mistakes - bad ones, not ones they can easily bounce back from. Mistakes are the thing that makes us human, and it can do wonders for raising the stakes in your story.
My Black Friday offer is going to be announced in two days, only to people who are on my VIP mailing list.
If you’ve got a nearly finished manuscript and are about to start looking for the best editing deal, you won’t want to miss this one.
Follow the [link here] or bellow and fill in your details (name and email) , to be added on the VIP list!
Offer will be revealed on the 17th of November, and you’ll get early access to claim it!
There are only 3 spots in total that I will be taking on, so the VIP list might even be your only chance.
How to write female friendship
In the case of a female protagonist, there is often space for her bestie… But at times, it can be hard not to have the bestie feel like a flat and stereotypical support character!
How do we fix this? 🤔
💜 Give them history and a reason to be
This is the first step to crafting a friendship that feels like it existed long before. Make sure you know exactly how these two came to be, how they act around each other, and why they’re the other’s safe space.
Additionally, if the friendship begins in your story, give it a good reason to form. Filling the friend space just because is lazy writing. Give it as much effort as you would a meet-cute for a romance!
💜 To each their own storyline
Self-explanatory, but each of the girls should have their own issues and their own storyline. Even if the bestie is a secondary character, she’s still going to have a life and struggles.
If you don’t do this, she’s likely to feel like an unfinished product of the author who just inserted her there to support the main.
💜 Through good times and bad
Don’t only bring the bestie into the picture when your protagonist needs comfort and they don’t know who else to go to.
And additionally, for a little more complexity in the relationship, the bestie shouldn’t always be available when your hero needs support!
💜 Their own conflict
As with any relationship, your female friendships can (and should!) have their own conflicts.
Whether that’s differing opinions, neglect of the friendship, disagreements, not honouring their mutual trust, or not being present at a pivotal moment, this will really spice up the story!
💜 Their own conversation
This one is so especially important when you come across the typical issue of only having your protagonist discuss their romantic interest with their friend!
Of course, besties talk about that, but it shouldn’t be their every conversation.
Expand their topic area, throw in private jokes, and things they know about each other from way before, and they will immediately feel more real.
Need a place to get started with your novel? 🤔
Pick up my 3 for 1 e-books made to make any writer feel like they know exactly what they’re doing with their story. 💜 Packed with theory, resources, and fully customizable pro-designed templates like you won’t see anywhere else on the market.
Find it through the [link here] or below!
Crafting Complex Characters
Ariadne Aaronson : How to avoid a mary sue
The most interesting characters to read about are usually the most conflicted and complex characters, the ones that mess up and have to figure out how to fix it, the ones who have to struggle to excel.
Unless you’re writing a vanity project for wish fulfilment that will never be published, don’t be a rookie and just tack a “flaw” onto your character that is otherwise perfect. Experienced readers don’t want to read about a character who is loved by everyone, good at everything she does, and reaches all her goals— but alas, she’s quirky. Or worse, she’s clumsy. Mary Sue is that girl.
How to make your characters feel real
Here’s my list of must-haves for a character that actually feels like a real tangible person. You should get to this point with your characters as you write your first draft, where you begin to know exactly how they would react in any given situation. That’s how you know you’ve done a good job.
Follow the [link here] or below and fill in your details (name and email), to be added on the VIP list!
How to overcome impostor syndrome
Struggling with impostor syndrome as a writer? Here are some perspective shifts for you to let yourself off the hook and just get on with writing.
📚 You’re unique
No matter what writing style an author is using, whether it’s super sophisticated and distinguished, or simple and to the point - it’s their own style. You don’t have to be more like one or the other in order to be better. Find what works for YOU.
📚 Being inspired isn’t the same as copying
Listening to a really well-written song, watching a good TV series, or reading a great book are all things that can get you inspired and spark up new ideas. Just because this idea came from another artwork source, does not mean you’re a copycat. As long as you breathe your own life into it, it’s still going to be unique.
📚 There is no such thing as originality
No idea is truly original anymore. There are aspects and details you can mix together to feel fresh and innovative, but striving for originality is a surefire way to self-destruction.
📚 It happens to the best of us
If you’re struggling and you feel you’re not good enough, remember that you are not the only person going through this. So many published and successful authors STILL feel impostor syndrome from time to time, and in a world filled with so much pressure, this is incredibly common.
📚 At the end of the day, all art is subjective.
This is a major mindset shift to consider. Any piece of art can be perceived in a completely opposite way by two different parties. The same book could get a review from person A who says it’s got too much description, and person B who says it doesn’t have enough. No matter what you write, you cannot predict how people will receive it.
Want to get started on your writing journey and prep your project the right way?
Pick up my new book, out now and ready to order through the [link here] or below! Finish Your First Novel by Char Anna.
You Said, I Said, We All Said
Elizabeth Miles: What your creative writing teacher really means when they tell you to “always use said” and how to break that rule.
In the early 2010’s, my writing underwent two dramatic paradigm shifts in a single summer.
I was by no means new to writing in the early 2010’s, but I had reached a place where I wanted to actively improve my writing. I was taking classes, going to workshops, borrowing craft books from the library, and scouring the internet for advice. I devoured knowledge like only an undiagnosed ADHD-teenager could.
From the structure of entire novels to the structuring of a sentence and everything in between, I learned and practiced and learned some more. I studied grammar and syntax and word choice and, fatefully, dialogue .
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Welcome to writersources !
Here you can find any resources you want or need for your fiction work, and if you can’t find them, send an ask and I’ll find them for you! With a both huge and specific tag system, we will have just about a bit of everything after we get going. I’m not currently looking for anybody to help me out, but if you are interested, just shoot me a dm or message and I’ll let you know when I am. Any boosts are highly appreciated!
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Oh my gosh. I just found this website that walks you though creating a believable society. It breaks each facet down into individual questions and makes it so simple! It seems really helpful for worldbuilding!
Heads up that this is a very extensive questionnaire and might be daunting to a lot of writers (myself included). That being said, it is also an amazing questionnaire and I will definitely be using it (or at the very least, some of it).
for all you writers out there:
donjon has tons of generators. for calendars. for demographics of a country and city. for names (both fantastical and historical) of people, nations, magics, etc.
this site lets you generate/design a city, allowing you to choose size, if you want a river or coast, walls around it, a temple, a main keep, etc.
this twitter, uncharted atlas , tweets generated maps of fantasy regions every hour.
and vulgar allows you to create a language, based on linguistic and grammatical structures!!! go international phonetic alphabet!!!
Everything You Need To Know About Writing Stab Wounds
Stab wounds are a daily occurrence for a writer. They're a common factor we constantly encounter when writing fight scenes, thrilling action sequences, and moments of intense conflict. However, let's be honest, most authors don't have personal experience with such wounds which can make their descriptions fall short without adequate research.
I'm sure you could find a variety of blogs with advice on how to write stab wounds, but here is my take on everything you need to know about writing stab wounds.
hello! if i may ask do you have any advice on how to get our characters' personality right? i'm very bad at pouring personality into my story. whenever i tried to write a certain character, they always sounds like someone else... i faced this problem not only when i write my own story, but also fanfiction of established characters and world. it's so frustrating and i begin to think whether writing is not for me...? i want to learn how to. im sorry for my poor english. thank you beforehand 😊
Getting Character Personality Right
I have some links to previous posts for you! ♥
Making Personalities Unique and Keeping Them Straight Giving Your Characters a Unique Voice Important Points of Character Personality Choosing the Traits That Define a Character Character Arc Tips Fleshing Out Characters 5 Tips for Getting Attached to Your Characters
I’ve been writing seriously for over 30 year s and love to share what I’ve learned. Have a writing question? My inbox is always open!
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Tips for writing amputees: We don't wear our prosthetics 24/7
Amputees don't wear their prosthetics 24/7. Most of us don't even wear them any longer than we have to lol.
I only really wear mine when I leave the house. I know other's who wear theirs around the house still, but they take them off when they're relaxing, going to bed, showering etc. Most prosthetics aren't water proof so you don't want to take them into the bathroom at all when water is going if it can be avoided.
They're like shoes (yes even arm prosthetics) - they're good, they can be comfy if you get good ones, that doesn't mean I want to sleep in them.
Originally posted by somehow---here
I actually tried that once as a kid because people kept asking my why at school, so I did it so I could give them an answer. They kept getting stuck on the blankets whenever I moved and my stumps swelled up so much during the night that the prosthetic got stuck on in the morning (presumably because prosthetics trap heat, so that plus the blankets meant I got hot, which triggered the swelling) . I had to sit with my legs raised in the air for an hour so it would go down and I could take them off. -100/10 do not recommend. I did get the day off school though so that was good at least.
smartdraw.com - A cool website I found!
I wanted to do a blueprint of a scene and searched for a free online tool. This website has more than just house plans and mind maps, and I think it could really come in handy if you want to make some settings more approachable.
You can choose to start from scratch or use one of the many templates. The latter is probably easier in the beginning, to try out the different ways to arrange and color the objects. After getting used to the interface (it is similar to PowerPoint) you can use the result as a way to plan your scenes or give your readers a visual aid to follow the plot.
The symbols (or rather objects) for the floor plans, timelines, family trees, crime scenes etc. are sorted in many subcategories, e.g. Floor Plans -> Furniture -> Kitchen. No matter which type of diagram you pick, you can also use the objects from the others, so if you want an endoplasmic reticulum in your bathroom blueprint, go for it.
I think that for whump purposes you should especially check out the Crime Scene category for blood, drugs, weapons and so on.
I do have to say that I experienced some bugs and long loading time, but that could just be my ancient computer going wild. Also, the graphics are certainly not the prettiest. As someone who would have had to draw everything themself instead, it's still a great option.
TLDR: It's like Picrew but for locations.
Hello! How are you? I have to thank you for how helpful you have been! Because of you my writing journey had been much more smoother, and your tips and advice has improved my writing greatly! And I have to ask, how do you write fighting scenes? I've been struggling with this for a while now as I feel I write a scene that's too descriptive. How can I shorten it to keep my Reader's attention whilst writing a fighting scene that makes sense? Thank you very much for your time, hands a lovely day!
Writing Fight Scenes
I’m so happy to hear the blog has helped with your writing!
When I have to write a fight scene, I do five things:
1 - I find clips on YouTube of the type of fighting/fight scene I need to write about and study the way it looks/learn about the moves.
2 - I research the type of fight moves I want to portray (whether that’s just general fisticuffs, a martial art, self-defense moves, etc.) and learn what the moves are called, the positions, what the body does and how it reacts, etc.
3 - I “block” the scene like I would for a stage play, writing out a summary of how the fight will look, sometimes marking actual body positions on a page as though I was looking top down at the scene and seeing where they go. This is important for when there’s interaction with the scenery, like being pushed up against a wall, climbing up onto things, or attempting to hide.
4 - I go to Google Image Search and look for pictures of people fighting… which can be risky (because you might see some real gore) but it can help refine the images in my minds eye as far as body positions/body language, facial expressions, injuries, movement, etc. Alternatively, you could watch fight scene clips from movies on YouTube by searching “movie fight scene” or “TV show fight scene” or something similar.
5 - Sometimes I kind of act it out, going through one character’s motions first, then doing the scene over again with the other character’s motions. Or, if you have someone who can stand in for the other character, that could work, too. Obviously you don’t really want to hit anyone or do anything that could lead to you inadvertently hurting yourself, but just a light run through of the moves as you see them in your mind’s eye can help refine the scene’s finer points.
Obviously all of that won’t necessarily make it onto the page, but having a good understanding of what the moves are and look like, the proper terminology (when needed), and what the fight will actually look like really helps me.
Also, I strongly recommend following the blog @howtofightwrite as they’re trained fighters who have a lot of helpful knowledge and resources about writing fight scenes.
establishing good pacing in your story!
(request from instagram )
in writing, we can think of pacing as a kind of rhythm , which determines the speed at which a story moves.
to clarify, length is not an indicator of pacing. short books that jump from event to event can be slow-paced, and vice versa. pacing is more about movement; it is the heartbeat of a story.
Here’s the truth:
You don’t have to read sci-fi to write about space ships, and you don’t need to read punk to write about funky machines and airships.
Unless you do some insane researching, what you write won’t be traditional sci-fi or punk, but it’ll still be cool and marketable in it’s own way.
I write primarily punk and sci-fi worlds but I’ve read a meager handful of books relating to either of the genres, and I couldn’t get through a single one of the traditional big name books. (My brother gave me his copy of Dune and I handed it back a week later because I couldn’t relate to or enjoy any of the characters or settings, and I hated everything about it.)
So, I don’t write traditional sci fi or punk. I write a soft, fantasy-esque version of the genres, things which appeal very highly to fantasy readers who are bored with the typical fantasy setting. I write what I want to read.
Use whatever inspiration you wish, and create a world you enjoy.
Chances are high that some readers of traditional versions of those genres will scoff and say, “that’s not true science fiction!”
But changes are even higher that far more readers will see it and go, “Maybe that’s not traditional science fiction, but it’s exactly the science fiction I want to read.”
(And if you do what to write something more traditional, wikipedia has a great long lists of the types, themes, tropes, etc, of most genres and sub-genres.)
If you’re trying to develop a regular writing schedule, but find yourself staring at the screen for hours before you manage to type a single word–if you manage to type anything at all– end each writing session at a place where you know exactly what will happen next.
Take the time to figure out where your story’s going, and how it’s going to get there, before you call it quits for the day.
A lot of productivity is based on momentum. It’s easier to keep going than to start from a dead stop. So if you start each day with something easy, a continuation of the previous day’s work, moving forward with your story will become a much less arduous task. You might even LOOK FORWARD to sitting down at your desk and getting to work.
It may be tempting to stop writing at a place where your brain has run out of words and you’ve put everything you’ve got on the page, but eating an entire cake in one sitting sometimes seems pretty tempting too, and it’s just as bad an idea. Stopping where it’s easy to stop makes getting started the next day So. Much. More. Difficult.
Save some of your cake for tomorrow. Future you will appreciate it.
And if you save a particularly delicious scene to write for tomorrow, future you will REALLY appreciate it.
WIKIPEDIA MONSTER COMPILATION PAGES FOR PEOPLE
- japanese creatures
- greek creatures
- creatures organised by type
- creatures listed by letter
- humanoid creatures
- filipino creatures
- chinese creatures
- ‘fearsome critters’
- beings referred to as fairies
- creatures that pretend to be human
- a page on therianthropic creatures
- hybrid creatures
- extraterrestrial creatures
- a page of mythology page links
- a section of folklore page links
- flying creatures
- theological demons
- fictional species lists
- mythology related lists
- legendary creature related lists
Character creation and development:
- Character creation questionnaire
- Character foils
- Core values
- Core values 2
- Creating a character from scratch
- How eating an orange reveals character
- Fears, weaknesses, and pet peeves
- Flaws and Vices (list)
- Outline for a distinct character
- Personal effects
- 7 Key Traits of Enduring Characters
- What does your character know?
- Your character as a paradox
- Your character’s closet
- Dealing with large character casts
Types of Character:
- Creating a likable villain
- Strong Female Characters
- Supporting characters
- Throwaway characters
- Mary Sue / Gary Stu
- Loner Characters
- Building a character arc
- Series Characters
- Steps of change
- Swoons and wounds
- How your character asks for help
- Character-specific dialogue
- Speech patterns
- What we say vs. what we mean
- Who has control
- Power imbalances
- Pacing your romance
- How to avoid unintentional romantic subtext
On the page:
- Creating a strong first impression
- An exaggerated first impression
- Characterization through appearance
- Showing emotion
- Thank God I have (insert character here)
- Torturing your Character (and reader)
Free vampire teeth ideas, preferably used in combination:
- Shark teeth: rip and tear! Much more blood than just normal or Slightly Sharper human teeth. Serration, baby! Designed for messy eaters.
- Retractable snake fangs: these extra-long teeth can sink in and help ensure the prey doesn’t escape, keeping the mouth nicely anchored. less blood. Probably a pain if they break off if prey struggles, so you’d probably want a way to restrain the prey as well. Some sort of paralyzing venom could be administered, or we could go with my original mistaken vampire idea and just reverse those badboys and have vampires suck up the blood via the teeth. I think that’d be neat, but if we went with the combo route, then it’d be less necessary because you’re already just getting oodles of blood the normal way.
- Canid teeth: yeah that’d work. I think this is the industry standard, not much to say here
- Rodent teeth: doesn’t make a lot of sense because those are more for gnawing over extended periods of time. I think this would be more useful for zombies or a bone-eating organism.
- Crocodile teeth: probably not very effective because vampires still probably have a humanoid mouth shape. However, these teeth really are more suitable for clamping onto prey and not letting it go rather than cutting. This might pair really well with the snake fangs.
I love multiple POV stories! I really like when authors explore multiple characters and really give the readers a chance to take in the story from many perspectives.
Multiple POV stories work best when :
- You have many plots . The more complex the story, the more information you need to feed the reader for the story to work. Sometimes it’s just not possible to get all that information through a single protagonist. Many protagonists, however, are better suited to learning all that information. Many protagonists - especially if they aren’t working together - are also better at screwing up plans and creating chaos.
- The plot is character-based . A character-based plot means the story deals more with internal struggles than external struggles. If your plot is character based, you really want to show the reader what all the major characters are feeling. Again, a single protagonist probably isn’t privy to everyone’s emotions.
- Your POV characters don’t need equal time . And when I say equal time, I mean in chapter time or wordcount time. Devote time to the most important characters and most important situations. Do as the plot demands, not as the character demands.
- Don’t double up scenes . One of my least favorite moments in multiple POV stories is when the author covers an event with one POV character, then goes back to the beginning of the event to cover it again with another character. If you want another character’s perspective, let them remember parts of the event or revisit as little of the even as you possibly can.
- Work on voice . You want to keep those characters as distinct as possible. They are different people, after all. I have a voice tag here to get you started.
- Divide the POVs . Not with that awful fanfiction.net * *KATNISS’ POV** paragraph starter. Divide POVs by chapter or put a little divider thingy in between POVs if you’re switching in the middle of a chapter.
- Keep track of information . Your POV characters will not know the same things because they live different lives and will be exposed to different situations. If your POV character suddenly knows something they shouldn’t, you’ll have a plot hole .
- Try to avoid one-shot POVs . One-shot POVs are when a character gets one POV chapter, then no others. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it feels strange to hear from a character once and then no other times.
- The plots should interact . Even if the POV characters never meet, their plots should have a common element: for example, a common struggle, a common character, or a common theme. This prevents the story from becoming a collection of badly patched short stories.
So I just started my short story writing class! These are dialogue tips
high fantasy writer | artist | 18 || current wip: Throne of Vengeance (ToV) | i post writing tips, tricks, & advice for fellow writers, as well as excerpts from my own writing | follow my socials (check pinned post)
Hey! I’m @thecomfywriter . Welcome to my writing blog! I post memes, book excerpts, oc sketches/art, mood boards, aesthetics, and random thoughts about writing. I also reblog a lot of writing tips.
y’all, i’m rereading a bit of my writing to help me get back into the flow and write the next chapter, and i dunno why, but i LOVE these two paragraphs so much. so here’s to sharing!
and of course, if you have any feedback, do let me know :)
In hindsight, as I describe this tale to you with the wisdom of the future, I should have trusted the eerie twist in my gut that warned me of the artificiality of Hilbert’s avidity. Perhaps I would have had the brain to question what business an old man without any strength nor gall to defend himself, what benefit he would gain from breaking one of Soilaila’s greatest laws for a boy he had no obligations towards. Perhaps if the thrill of risk did not enchant me nearly as much as Hilbert’s conniving words and inviting demeanour did, I would have noticed the perverted intentions he harboured behind those velvetine eyes.
But if I were any the wiser, this narrative would not exist. Thus, I regret to inform you that all these blaring warnings flashing before me escaped my notice when it truly mattered. And rather than rightful fear spiking in my chest at Hilbert’s enthusiastic response, I felt nothing but pride and joy.
finally got it done folks :) took a spider crawling on my laptop for me to just screw it and finish my post
Hey! It’s your girl— @thecomfywriter — back with another post. Apparently, an anticipated post :) Fr though, before we start, I want to thank you all for the warm welcome and kind comments since coming back to this account. It makes me really happy to see these posts help people, and hopefully I can continue to be a resource for you guys, or even share my own works too! I started doing writing prompts on my instagram, so that’s always an option.
Anyways, today’s post is about writing tension. Perhaps one of the greatest devices you can use as a writer, as it allows you to utilize the narrative to grip your reader, immerse them into your story, and have them truly feel for your characters and the events. Because of its power, it’s also not the easiest thing to navigate. Thus, this post is here to help, as rather a launching point or hopefully a guide on how to implement and work tension into your story.
Before we get started, here are all my socials. Do pop on, give it a visit, spread the love. And if you find my posts particularly helpful and you want to show your appreciation, you can tip this post &/or buy me a coffee using the link down below.
- Writing: @tovwriter
- Art: @gkmarts
Tension is a subdevice of foreshadowing, in which readers are made to anticipate the worst occurring and/or face a conflict. Tension adds mood, depth, atmosphere, and engagement with your story. It is a tactic employed to cause emotional distress to your readers and characters alike. There are multiple different facets to developing tension successfully, each with its own purpose in crafting your perfect narrative. Not every story is going to need all of these to build tension but every good story with proper tension that leaves your readers unable to put the book down because, “what’s going to happen next” will have at least more than one.
The foundational aspect of tension is conflict. Your character is experiencing a tense chapter, or the narrative has an increased sense of tension in it because there has been an introduction of conflict, whether that be through internal or external forces. Internal conflict may result in emotional distress and the reader’s anticipation of when those bottled up, unresolved emotions will come to fruition and make a muck of character relations (as an example). Or, it can cause the retrograde degeneration of a character’s arc. Meanwhile, external conflict gives your characters a focus, an opposition to combat. Conflict is a natural breeding ground for tension because it festers resistance and opposition. Depending on the type of conflict within your story, the effect and consequences will be different. However, some things to bear in mind for each are such:
Internal conflict is the idea of “ man vs. self ,” in which your character is their own antagonist. When dealing with internal conflict, understanding the character’s motivations (or lack thereof), their personality, their morality/values, and their perspective is key to understanding their reaction and thus the outcome of this conflict. Personally, I love using internal conflict for building tension, because it creates a sense of dichotomy and indecision that puts the reader in a sense of discomfort. It’s powerful because it’s uncomfortable, and it’s uncomfortable because it’s confrontational. It requires the characters to face the most undesirable, the worst, deepest, darkest, most heinous parts of themselves and question how it aligns or rejects against their self-perception. When writing internal conflict, the tension should arise predominantly from the character’s emotions and their struggle, putting them at a crossroads within themselves. Here’s a brief outline of each of the types of internal conflict:
- Religion/faith : your character is questioning their spiritual stance
- Desires: these can be regular old desires or sexual ones, but your character is left repressing or struggling to accept/control their untamed/scandalous/unacceptable desires
- Morality: your character is questioning/forced to confront their sense of morality (or lack thereof), usually inspired by an external conflict
- Identity: your character is attempting &/or struggling to form an image of themselves OR they are struggling to accept their self-image, typically in contrast to the image/identity they desire or have been prescribed to
- I want to do another post on identity because my sister made this brilliant presentation on the types of identity for her global health class and I think it can really be helpful in understanding how to forge your character’s identity in respect to the rest of the story/society
- Love/guilt: these are two of the most powerful emotions a character can feel, specifically emotions that drive action, which is why I grouped them together. Also because they’re often connected, whether it be the internal conflict of rejecting love, repressing it, being in denial, trying to force or reject it, or feeling the guilt of lost love, unrequited love, unethical love, or hurting a lover. Or, of course, the entire ballpark of dealing with guilt itself. Guilt is the needle for a person’s moral compass; remember that when exploring the dynamics of a character’s internal struggle when it comes to guilt, regret and shame.
- Existential: the character must face themselves and come to a decision about their purpose/the meaning of life. This type of conflict typically involves an internal struggle against what the character knows or is prescribed to believe versus what they themselves truly find meaning in.
- Interpersonal : kind of like identity and existential, interpersonal conflict is a struggle in which your character opposes their role or their identity and its place within a larger context. For example, your character grappling with their sense of identity versus the societal norms and expectations is considered interpersonal because it goes beyond their own self-image, but instead of how their identity contributes to a larger scale.
This type of conflict is your classic, “ man vs other, ” in which your character is opposing a force beyond themselves. When dealing with external conflict, setting up a basis for motivation for each party and allowing your readers to understand why these motivations clash is key in developing character intentions, which keeps your story consistent and is also a helpful reference tool for areas where you want to add tension. There are also a plethora of external conflict types, which I will outline here:
- Antagonist : this is a character who doesn’t necessarily have to be a villain, but they do have to be in opposition to your character. For example, your character’s antagonist can be the tyrant who conquers and enslaves tribes and cities of these ancient lands, or they can be the crush of your character’s love interest. The crush didn’t do anything wrong. They’re not a bad person. They’re just in the way of the protagonist’s goals in the story, which in this story, would be to woo and romance their love interest.
- Nature : natural disasters. The world is ending. Radiation. Alternate planets with weird, mystical, and dangerous wildlife. Surviving the outdoors.
- Society : character is combating against society, whether it be norms, authority, or the community itself.
- Technology : character against technology that has gone too far. Typically in sci-fi, futuristic settings. Think AI, robots, nuclear bombs/weapons/warfare… the list goes on. You can be so creative with this one, I love it. Technically, Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was character vs. technology.
- Fate : character is trying to prevent, oppose, or deter a certain inevitability or destiny they’ve been prescribed to. Think of oracles or prophecies, maybe even soulmates for romance books. I always like to think of Oedipus as the classic example.
For example, character X has lost their father in a lynching after his father spoke up against the corrupt government that was leaching off their already struggling and vulnerable village. Thus, X has a strong vehemence towards the corruption, the government, and specifically the authority + everyone involved in the lynching. His motivation lies in his grief (which, in it of itself is an internal conflict, as he struggles to process the traumatic incident and cope with the violent and public murder of his parent) and thus may motivate his desire to dismantle the government and abdicate the leader that ordered the lynching to begin with. In this example, there are 2 external conflicts. Conflict 1 is the authority who ordered the lynching (antagonist) and conflict 2 is the society that endorsed the corruption that his father was rebelling against to begin with. Your character’s motivation may be to honour his father’s memory by dismantling both corrupt regimes, and his antagonist’s motivation may be to silence any acts of rebellion in order to maintain governorship, power, and retain authority. These motivations, when outlined, are in direct opposition to each other, and being able to recognize that can help you as the writer facilitate scenarios in which those motivations and oppositions are exacerbated. By forcing your characters to make a difficult decision that reveals their intentions or puts their intentions on blast, you create tension in the story (i.e. if X had to choose between telling the authorities of a near-broken dam that would flood their village to save the innocents at the cost of increasing their hold on the population by embellishing their reputation, or allow the dam to break, killing the innocents and forcing the authority to go under higher investigation that would rule them out of power. What does your character value more?)
Building the atmosphere:
Okay, lemme explain what I mean about this because I feel like this is a common trope in horror that always has me shitting BRICKS. Basically, there are elements of horror (that’s the next point I’ll be explaining, fret not), in which one of them is the overdescription of a scene. Essentially, I like to think of it as, say your character is in the middle of a super tense scene. They’re alone in the house late at night. They live in a cabin wood area, no neighbours for a couple of kilometers. Their phone—blasted! They forgot to put it on charging. The hairs on their spine are rising. An odd sense of urgency has replaced their relaxing movie night when multiple creaking floorboards sound from upstairs. Your character slithers into the kitchen, grabbing the first knife they see, trying to make as little noise as possible as they slowly trek up the stairs. One hand is on the railing, the other raised with their knife ready to stab. Their eyes are darting. Their senses are heightened. Shadows from outside cast onto each step in non-symmetrical patterns, making each step more difficult to see than the last. The top of the stairs is a void. The wooden banister is the only thing illuminated by the shreds of moonlight, and it reflects as though polished. What is that? On the railing? Why does it seem wet?
Your character checks their hand, realizing it too has been trailing over a sticky fluid. Sticky and viscous. They can’t see in the shadows. They don’t want to look down, even for the second it would take to check their hand. Do they look? Do they keep going forward?
A creak sound behind them. They spin around, slicing the knife into the air. The whoosh of it cutting empty space rattles their bones. It was only their own foot behind them. Though, when they look back up towards the banister, they notice the railing isn’t reflecting as much as it used to. Whatever liquid had stained it had matted to dullness.
This is stupid. I should be leaving. Your character pivots swiftly, rushing down the stairs, when suddenly, a firm hand covers their mouth and yanks them back.
In that uncalled for example, the environment is built through perceiving the entire scene in the character’s frantic and limited vision. We are following their frantic eyes, processing all the information and observations they make, whether they make conclusions with the observations, or set them aside for later use. I dunno what it is about this device, but it gives me the heebie jeebies everytime because DAMN stop describing the shadows in the corner of the room and the chills up your arms at the brisk wind that shouldn’t be indoors considering you locked all the windows. I dunno, that kind of writing puts me on edge, and that’s exactly the point.
Elements of Horror:
Briefly, I will outline some of the elements of horror and perhaps make a more detailed post on it separately, if y'all would like that.
- Being vague with crucial details (limiting the characters and readers POV)
- Loss of senses
- Overstimulation (creates a sense of anxiety)
- Emphasis on a character’s reaction to the events around them // bodily fear (the pit in her stomach clawed into her chest, lodging itself in her throat. A sick acidity overcame her in waves as the sharpness of his fingernails traced along her collarbones. His hot breath feathered the cold skin of her neck, rendering her paralyzed within his clutches)
Varied sentence structure:
The actual construction of your sentences influences the tone and fluidity of your writing // the scene. General rule of thumb: if you want to draw out a scene, use longer, connected sentences to build anticipation, anxiety, and atmosphere. On the contrary, if you want to blast your readers with a quicker, faster pace, short sentences can jar your readers and give the “loss of sensation” effect to help stun them.
This is the idea of creating stakes for your characters by making whatever event is occurring to them personal. When thinking of personalization, the key questions to ask yourselves are:
- What does (character) have to lose?
- Why is losing (thing being lost) significant to (character)/the narrative?
- How will (character) change as a person/the narrative change its course if (thing being lost) was lost?
- Why is (insert character goal) worth the risk of losing Y?
- What other risks is (character) willing to take for (insert character goal)? How do these risks interact with each other?
- What are the consequences of these risks/decisions/actions? Consider emotional and narrative consequences.
By personalizing each risk to your characters, you are upping the stakes of their goals, thus increasing the tension because there is more of a gamble to it now. NOTE: in order for this to work, your readers must truly believe that real consequences exist in your story. Not half-assed. Real, proper, committed consequences. Don’t give your character this deadly illness only to immediately present them with a cure. Don’t give them this life altering injury and have them heal within a week. Do NOT give them the easy way out. If you want to increase your stakes, show your readers you are willing to make your characters hurt. Show them that real consequences exist. Your characters, no matter how darling they are to you, should not be immune to the laws of your world. When in doubt, always remember the genius case of Ned Stark— he was the classic hero protagonist who everyone loved and rooted for. And then he died, and he stayed dead, because the story had consequences and he took unforgivable risks. An added weight, a sense of gravity was added to every character’s decision and the reader’s perception of safety after that, because if Ned wasn’t safe, no one was.
Readers on edge:
Taking away your reader’s sense of certainty is one surefire way to build a source of tension and anxiety, as it removes the sense of security that allows them to otherwise remain comfortable in the narrative. By decreasing the sense of security, you increase the tension within the narrative, allowing it to drive the plot forward and increase reader engagement. It also forces the reader to question everything. Will they make it out alive? How did she escape? Who was on the stairs? What was the mysterious reflecting liquid? What happens next?
If you are able to keep your reader asking these kinds of questions, you are able to maintain their apprehension, which seeks to lock them in and truly sell your story as immersive.
How do you pull this off? When building tense scenes, consider yourself in the character’s shoes. What in that situation would make you feel secure? What would make you feel like you were aware of what was going on? That you could rely on your wit and foresight to help you in your quest? What would give you confidence?
Now take that away.
Anyways y’all, I’m spent. Hope this helps! Feel free to suggest more posts through my asks and inbox. Until then, I’ll be working on some super in-depth posts for my buymeacoffee page.
Happy Writing! :)
yall, why is this post deadass 1.7k words when i’m not even done yet? i-???
Hello, I wanted to ask two things that I'm confused for some time.
Firstly How do you really show your character's emotion, and inner conflict amidst the external conflict and plot, and how should it affect the other characters?
And secondly I wanted to ask about High Stakes. Surely I have added high stakes in my wip, but when I look it as a reader it didn't bring out emotions in me, if you know what I mean.
So how to add High Stakes that really get the reader hoping for better.
Hey @izoraofthenight ! Thanks for the ask!
When it comes to portraying a character’s emotion, I like to keep one thing in mind— consequences. A lot of writing can be boiled down to cause and consequence. Think of a personal experience in which you have had an emotional reaction. What was the reason? Why did it fester to the point of such extremity? What did that emotion look like to a third person? By asking these questions you are highlighting: a) the cause/origin of the character’s emotion, in your case, an external conflict; b) the outcome of that emotional reaction; c) the perspective/affect it has on other characters. How it affects the characters itself depends on the type of emotion and outcome the character has portrayed. If their emotions are fear and they act in a way of self-preservation, another character might also begin to feel terrified by the reaction and sheer horror depicted by your character alone. However, if the second character were the origin of your character’s fear, they might instead feel satisfaction, or confusion, or disdain for the reaction. Determining how your character’s emotions impact others depends on the personality of your oc’s, the dynamic between the characters, and how that reaction progresses the story.
I’ll give you an example.
Character A has just realized their partner of four years has been cheating on them with their best friend, who is now pregnant with their child. The emotion A might feel in this moment is shock, betrayal, grief, anger, disgust, loneliness, confusion, and abandonment. These were two incredibly significant people in their life whom they had complete trust in, and that trust was violated and broken. A feels beyond terrible. They are unable to process their emotions because of the rapid fire in which they are experiencing them. A’s inner conflict may be trying to navigate the betrayal. An inner monologue, or perhaps a scene in which they are just sitting in their bed, slumped over in defeat, struggling to take deep breaths because, who do they call in this situation? Who do they vent to? Who do they have to help them feel better? They might pace around their room in attempt to ease the restlessness that is overcoming them. Feel anxiety clawing at their chest because How could this be happening? They might be too hurt to cry and confused why they can’t ball their eyes out like they want to. Or a heaviness in their chest. All of these portray the inner conflict of your character by depicting the external outcome of that internal struggle. Because of this, A is now distancing themselves from both their partner and their best friend. They begin ghosting them, leaving them confused and agitated because they don’t know if A has found out about them. Maybe they try pampering them, love-bombing and showering A in gifts and compliments. Their coldness is setting them in unease. Why isn’t A at least responding, or confronting, or something other than silence? This is how A’s internal struggle and its outcome is now affecting other characters. The decisions these characters choose to make depend on their personality and unique reactions.
Now, about high stakes. I am actually writing a post on a topic that relates really well with this right now— a post about tension. The reason why you may feel that, as a reader, your stakes don’t feel high enough isn’t because you aren’t gambling a lot in your narrative. It is because the tension and weight of that gamble hasn’t been fully developed or explored. If you want your readers to feel the designated effect of your writing, you have to build up the tension and invest them into the narrative so they themselves understand the impact and domino effect of the risk your characters are taking.
In order to build that tension, you must create an immersive scene in which readers can step into the character’s perspective and fully interact with the story being told. It should not feel like they are being told that they should worry. The scene itself should be crafted in such a way that worrisome elements set your reader on edge and build anxiety within them. THAT is how you up the stakes. Not by giving your character’s impossible situations, but by personalizing them and adding emotion and tension so the reader feels the impact of their choices and truly feels as though the consequences are threatening.
I’ll give you an example of how high stakes are built through tension.
I hurried into the story, short steps tripping over one another as the double doors pulled back for me to enter. Two burly guards stood by the entrance, donning a stern expression that governed the entire pharmacy. I shifted my eyes away from them when the taller of the two cast his gaze towards me. I’m not doing anything wrong. I reassured myself, though the cold sweat on my back reeked otherwise. The aisles were neverending, adding to the numbing urgency I was already drowning under. My poor baby was all alone at home. What if he began vomiting again? Would he be able to turn himself on his side? What if he choked? Focus, Raven. Find the medication. When I finally reached the aisle for pharmaceutical drugs, I scanned nook and corner for the drug the doctor had advised, trying to identify the long name against the brands I did not recognize. While my eyes scanned between the written slip and the bottles, I tried to avoid thinking about the bill for the doctor’s visit. How much is this all going to cost? I shook my head. It didn’t matter the cost. I’d work overtime if it meant my little boy’s fever would go away. I didn’t understand half the words the doctor had explained to me, but I knew if I didn’t bring home a bottle of medicine, things could seriously progress. ‘ We do not want to neglect it before it progresses, Ms. Anderson. An infection like this can fester severely without immediate medical care. I strongly suggest taking him to the hospital.’ He had only given me the drug name as an alternative when I told him of my three jobs and stamps. And not a single source of insurance. I heaved a breath of relief when I finally spotted the antibiotic. My blood went cold when I saw the price. No, that can’t be right. I peered into the emptiness of my purse, drained away from the doctor’s visit. Why is it so expensive? My chin began to tremble at the thought of leaving without the medicine. What would happen to my baby? I couldn’t afford the hospital. I couldn’t afford the medicine. But I couldn’t afford to lose him either. Hot tears lined my waterline when the thought occurred to me— I didn’t need to afford the medicine. My gaze flickered towards the stoic guards, still standing at the entrance to intimidate every new customer that passed by. They weren’t looking my way. It would be as easy as slipping it under my chemise. It wasn’t like I was without experience. A flash of memory reminded me of the last time I stole. My officer and lawyer in the room, their voices filling my head with threats. ‘There will be no second chances, you understand this Ms. Anderson?’ I told them I did. The bottle was cold against the tremble of my fingers as I considered the risk. If I got away with it, my baby could get better. All the drugs he didn’t use, I could even sell for some extra cash for the bills. But if I didn’t…? Prison. Foster care. His fever would get worse. Would they care? Better question—would they care as much as I did? No. No one could. With a sigh of resolution, I scouted for the officers once more, noticing the way their attention kept lingering back to me. Feigned browsing had me wandering the aisle, bottle still in hand, searching the shelves aimlessly while I waited for their focus to wither. When it finally did, I relaxed my posture and slipped the bottle up my sleeve.
Anyways, I’ll have a full post on writing tension hopefully by the end of this week. Until then, I hope this helps! Let me know how the story goes :)
Cheerios, and Happy Writing!
Hey y'all! I just wanted to open the night for answering asks while I write my next post! It can be wip related or for general writing tips. If you have any posts you’d like to see, topics covered, writing advice, or are curious about anything else regarding the blog/me/writing, submit a question! I always love recieving
just found a sketch of one of my oc from two years ago and apart from the proportions of the body being stiff, awkward, and off, why did i give this man a DUMP TRUCK LMAO
"But let me give you the dark side of writing groups. One really dark side of writing groups is, particularly newer writers, don't know how to workshop.
"And one of the things they'll try to do is they'll try to make your story into the story they would write, instead of a better version of the story you want to write.
"And that is the single worst thing that can happen in feedback, is someone who is not appreciating the story you want to make, and they want to turn it into something else.
"New workshoppers are really bad at doing this. In other words, they're really good at doing a bad thing, and they're doing it from the goodness of their heart. They want you to be a better writer. They want to help you. The only way they know is to tell you how they would do it, which can be completely wrong for your story."
—Brandon Sanderson, Lecture #1 Introduction, Writing Science Fiction And Fantasy
And this is why many writers (including me) don’t ask for concrit on their published stories - they’ve told the story they want to tell.
If that’s not the story you want to read, you are welcome to write your own version. 😉
He goes on to say that to give good feedback, tell them how the writing made you feel. Don't say, "instead of that you should do this." Tell them, "this part confused me." Or, "my attention drifted during this scene." Your job isn't to tell them how to fix it or even that it needs fixed. Your job is let them know what impact their story had on you, the reader. Then they can determine if it's accomplishing what they want it to and if not, they know which parts need attention.
This is part of why I love being in a graduate program. Experienced writers are willing to meet your story where it is. And if they give direct suggestions it’s generally because they think it would enhance the story you’re trying to tell. In that environment, even the bad suggestions feel somewhat helpful.
Hey! It’s your girl, @thecomfywriter , back with another post. I’m going to keep the intro short for the sake of convenience, but here’s the promised list of writing tropes , organized by genre. Also, don’t forget to check out my socials, and if you like my posts, support me with a coffee! Enjoy!
- Boy/girl next door
- Bad boy x nerd/good girl
- “You’re just, not like other girls” (*gag* Ә)
- Makeover scene
- *character A takes character B to their secret “special spot”*
- Love triangles
- Enemies to lovers
- Best friends to lovers
- Star-crossed lovers •
- Unrequited love (highkey love this one lol)
- Character A is so logical and sciencey that they don’t believe in something so unquantifiable as love until character
- B, the artistic and emotional one, shows them what it’s about
- Fake dating
- Forced marriage/alliance
- Opposites attract
- Instant love
- Billionaire fantasy
- Alpha x rebellious defiant (“strong independent woman” vibes)
- Supernatural x human
- Virgin x player
- Reincarnated lovers who must find each other to stop the cycle
Mystery // Crime:
- Dark past
- Murder for secrets
- “It was *insert ordinary unsuspecting random-ass character* all along” (“Scooby-Doo villain phenomenon”)
- Note: a lot of crime is committed by random strangers unbeknownst to the victim, and a lot of it is personal crime where the victim was selected for a reason. Whichever one your story falls into, just know the appeal of mystery is the audience’s ability to try and figure it out before the big reveal. If that isn’t possible because they’ve never met the character before… you see how that can be disappointing?
- The only witness/protagonist with amnesia
- The hidden staircase/passage/attic
- The important clue in the book
- “Escape Room” Plot (they’re stuck until they solve the mystery)
- Red Herring
- The Raged Confession (the killer/culprit exclaims their confession in a fit of anger)
- Good Cop Bad Cop
- The genius detective ((they can see clues and the case in a way that no one else can)
- Clue hunt
- Planted evidence in the protagonists possession
- The slip up (the cul[rit/suspect reveals information they shouldn’t know about the crime, thus incriminating themselves)
- The mystery kingpin
- Medieval setting
- The Chosen One
- The Wise Old Woman/Witch
- The Rebel
- The Runaway Royal
- The Dark Lord // “Evil Leader”
- The Gang (group of friends/fellowship)
- The tumultuous journey
- The Mentor
- The Lost Object/Artifact/Weapon (necessary or the key to the adventure)
- Do not make this object a plot device to explain away everything or help your hero in every situation PLEASE. Let them struggle
- The secret/lost heir
- The underdog
- The Prodigy
- The Damsel in Distress
- The Badass Heroine
- The (evil) Enchantress
- The animal companion
- The benevolent king
- The ancient wise immortal who rEFUSES to help or get involved
- The prophet / oracle
- The price to pay for key information (the sacrifice)
- The martyr (hero or close to hero that dies for the cause, thus becoming motivation to succeed in their mission)
- The gala/ball (bonus points if the enemies/-to-lovers must dance with each other while having an intense, sarcastic and witty conversation)
- Time travel // into the past
- The badass
- The sexy female badass (bonus points if she’s not like other girls)
- The undercover spy
- The womanizer
- The chase scene
- Butting heads with authorities
- The vigilante
- The villain monologue
- Closely relates to “The Incompetent Villain” who somehow always loses even though they have the clear advantage and might have even cornered the hero
- The explosion walk-away
- The feisty love interest who hates the protagonists’ guts and won’t be swayed by his charm
- The gadgets
- The ticking bomb
- The stalker
- The party / event where the gang must go under disguise
- America, the heroes! (why is everything so america centered lol)
- The snarky dark humour protagonist
- Example of pulling this trope off successfully: deadpool
- The tough cookie crumbles (the strongest character begins to lose hope/strength/motivation/feel scared or weakened)
- The impossible unexplained escape (hero escapes high security prison/chains off screen, with seemingly no logical explanation)
- Cabin in the woods
- Serial killer on the loose
- Home invasion
- The masked killer
- The (idiot) group of friends
- “Let’s split up”
- Sexy-time couple dies first
- The shadow monster
- Paranormal events/activities
- Flickering lights
- Sudden loud crash
- Angry spirit
- Demonic possession
- Revenge killer
- Ouji board
- The smart character that dies before revealing the secret of how to stop/survive the supernatural force
- Everything happens in the dark/night
- Cryptic messages
- Breathing on the phone
- Wild animal/dog
- “They’re behind you”
- Everyone dies in the end
- Glitching technology
- Possessed doll
- The hunt and quarry (the characters on the “quarry” for the killer/creature hunting them)
- The creepy synchronized twins
- Creepy children in general
- Animals and children can see what others can’t
- Zombie invasion
- Rampant disease
- Alien invasion
- A long war
- Protagonists are the common underdog who became a symbol of rebellion/change
- The competent but unwilling companion who helps the protagonist
- authoritarian/dictator government
- The tyrant leader
- Extreme class divide
- Poverty and slums vs riches and nobility
- The rebellion / uprising
- Journey through the wastelands
- Toxic environment
- The bunker
- A tournament/trials character must compete in
- The utopia that isn’t actually a utopia
- Conformity and cruel law enforcement
- Advanced futuristic technology
- Future setting
- Collapsing society
Alright, this is where we’ll end. If you have a genre you want covered or if I notice I’m missing one on the list, I’ll edit and update this post. Hope this helps!
Happy Writing :)
hey guys! long time no chat! I’m actually working on a masterlist post right now so I won’t be gone for too long, but I just wanted to introduce my buy me a coffee page that I made, since your girlie has been finding herself snoozing more than writing.
you don’t have to do it, obviously. I’ll never force any of y’all. but if you like my posts and want to support me, here’s a way to help out.