Creating a character #2 – Origins

When we think about ourselves, we’re made up of everything that has ever happened to us, plus our family background, our culture, religion, our view of the world and much more. So are our characters. You might ask why you have to bother knowing your character’s life story and who their family is/was. Some writers prefer to write their way into a character’s life and make it up as they go along. But once you create a history for your character, once you know where they came from, you will find … [Read more...]

7 tips for overcoming life writing blocks

While we might recognize the blocks that stop us writing material from life, we need some practical strategies to get past them. Some methods are practical, some are “sneaky”! Apply whatever works for you. 1. Write each story as fully as you can. In other words, don’t try to censor yourself before you even start. That leads to stops and starts, lack of flow and giving in to doubts. Write everything – literally. Every single detail you can remember or conjure up, including using the five … [Read more...]

5 tips for using your own life in fiction

There are a number of “rules” that writers are told, and one of the most common is “Write what you know”. To counter this, we are also told “Make things up – use your imagination”. Along with those is “Anything can be researched” and “There’s nothing that will help your novel more than actually visiting the place where it’s set”. I’m sure there are many science fiction and fantasy writers who are totally on the side of “make it up”, and there are as many others who insist you only write what you … [Read more...]

Point of view: you are a camera

For this point of view, pretend you are a movie camera. You can only write what a camera would see/film (although you can use the five senses).  No going into any character’s thoughts and emotions. Everything must be shown externally in some way. There is an Ernest Hemingway story, Hills Like White Elephants, that is a good example of this POV. This is our example: George tipped his wine onto the white tablecloth. The red stain spread quickly, unlike blood. Jane had already run to the kitchen … [Read more...]

Second person – it’s all about “you”

When writing in second person, the pronoun used is you. Over and over. Whereas I in first person blends into the voice, you sticks out. Second person is tricky. It seems clever but is very difficult to pull off effectively. It works best in short stories, but there have been a couple of novels that have done well. I’d recommend a YA novel, Damage by A.M Jenkins, as a good example. Here is our sample in second person, where the you is George. Second person almost demands present tense, by the … [Read more...]

Omniscient: encompassing or head-hopping?

Omniscient used to be the standard. It’s also known as eye of God, because the reader gets to see inside everyone’s heads and emotions. It also allows for a lot of description and detail. Back in the 1800s, it meant pages and pages of setting and description, but these days they’d be considered info dumps. It is tempting to load ominiscient POV with every single thing, but you need to choose carefully what will best serve your story. You also have to avoid head-hopping. Once you establish you … [Read more...]

Third person: how close can you be?

There are several different terms for this POV but I use Third Person Intimate. It means that the story is told in third person (he or she) but is confined to one person’s POV. So I might have a story about Jane, George and Phillip but I tell the story through George’s POV only, using he, and cannot go into Jane or Phillip’s heads. E.g. George tipped his wine onto the white tablecloth. The red stain looked nothing like blood. Jane had already run to the kitchen for a cloth, but Phillip leaned … [Read more...]

Up close and personal: first person POV

This is the first in a short series on the different kinds of POV in writing, how they work and how you can use them to best effect. In simple terms, first person POV uses I, and the story is seen entirely through one character’s eyes, ears and emotions. So I might have a story about Jane, George and Phillip but I tell the story through George’s POV only, using I, and cannot go into Jane or Phillip’s heads. E.g. I tipped my wine onto the white tablecloth. I was right. The red stain … [Read more...]

Why is Point of View important?

For a long time, writers commonly used a point of view that we now most often call omniscient (also called eye of god or camera). It was the POV that saw everything, often in great detail, and rather than dwell on one character, took us into every major character in the story. There was a lot of setting, a lot of authorial intrusion (the author explaining stuff to the reader in various ways) and even times where the reader was directly addressed. More and more now, stories are told in … [Read more...]

Breaking down writer’s block

It can be handy to visualize your writer’s block before you tackle it. Does it feel like a wall? Imagine pulling it down, brick by brick. Does it feel like a black hole? Imagine creating a swing of words and floating over the top. If it feels like your mother or father sitting on your shoulder, you have to turn around and shove them right back in the corner! Every time you sit down and write, your block gets smaller. Every time you give into it, it gets bigger and harder to vanquish. So the … [Read more...]