A Quick Overview About Point of View

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
A Quick Overview About Point of View
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First, we should define point of view just in case you need a refresher. Truth is, we all often need a refresher even when we don’t want to admit it.

Point of view is all about who is talking and/or telling the story.

YOUR NEXT QUESTION IS:

Is There One Narrator Or Many? And who the heck is it?

That’s really one of the first questions you want to think about. You have to decide if you’re going to have just one point of view in your story or a lot.

A lot of our stories follow one character scene after scene after scene. Things that happen to the story happen to this character. We are invested in that character pretty heavily.

But sometimes, the story is about a person one but not told by that same person. This makes us a little more  worried that Person One might not make it through the story because our subconscious brain thinks, “Um, why isn’t Person One telling the story? DO THEY DIE?!?!”

Or sometimes the events of the story happen to a ton of people. Think of that zombie story that became a movie. We have a lot of different narrators because there we want to show all their stories.

Then, you have to decide which of the main point of views you want to use. They all have good points and bad points, but let’s just set you up with the big three. Each can be determined by the personal pronouns that the narrator uses.

First-Person Point of View.

This is the land of I. It’s all about me. It’s all about my story.

Here’s an example.

I went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Second-Person Point of View.

This is all about you, you, you. Yes, you.

You went to the hospital and brought pizza.

Or to some cooler

You went to the hospital, bringing pizza with you.

Third-Person Point of View

This is all about them and her and him. It can be omniscient or limited omniscient.

Here’s third person limited

Sadie went to the hospital. “I’m bringing pizza,” she thought. I hope they like it.

Or third person omniscient where you aren’t directly in the characters’ heads with internal monologue but know everything about everyone.

Sadie went to the hospital, a pizza box carried in her steady arms, the smell of pepperoni whisking around each person she passed, the orderly, the struggling father, the mother with the heroin-track arms, the gunman. He would kill for that pizza, but how could she know that? To be fair, right now he’d kill for anything and nothing.

There you go! There is also a Fourth Person Point of View, but that one would require its own podcast. So we’ll try to get there next week.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

A Couple Tips On How to Write More Engagingly

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A Couple Tips On How to Write More Engagingly
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Here are some fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?


Think about your tenses

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense. If you want a little padding? Write it in the past tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might have been having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make that phrase even more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again in the present tense again and make it more immediate.

The original

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, sexier words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

Switch up your sentence structures.

This just means don’t have all your sentences always be the same lengths. If you are woman who uses a lot of clauses, try to add a few shorter sentences in there. And vice versa. Simple sentences and compound/complex sentences can be your friends. The same goes for paragraphs. Uniformity makes a lot of readers bored and they start to skim.

Let’s take that example again and mix it up more.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. My left hand and arm go next. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. A stroke. I’m having a stroke.

Pretty cool, right? Five minutes or less of work can really change how immediate, how engaging, and how dynamic your sentences are.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel

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Write Better Now
The Big Scary Fear Monster Is Really the Rock Star of Your Novel
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


One of my favorite writing exercises is super simple. I take a bunch of novelists and ask them:

What is your protagonists more afraid of happening than anything else in the whole freaking universe?

We authors talk a lot about what our characters wants are, their yearnings, their goals, but we often forget about the dark side. Cue scary ominous music.

The fears are linked to a couple of really important things:

  1. Obstacles
  2. Motivations

Obstacles are easy. As the novel’s hero goes out in search of his goal to get his love, there are things that obstruct him. A terrorist. A snake. His sexy best friend who likes the same person. The obstacles GIVE him fear that he won’t get what he wants—the goal of the story, his perfect result, the yearning. The fear MOTIVATES him to keep trying.

But fear motivates in another way as well. When you make your character imagine the worst thing in the world—the fear can also hold him back from getting what he wants.

When you think about your character’s biggest fear, the deepest fear, the conceptual fear, the root fear, the FEAR OF ALL FEARS, you realize that it’s this fear that MOTIVATES the character. He isn’t just running to something. He’s running away from something.

Is it death? Isolation? Humiliation? Loss of wealth? Actual success? Failure? Humiliation? Aging? The big unknown?

Whatever it is, that root fear pushes your adorable character into the arms of the story, searching and working toward things that take him away from that big scary fear monster.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Don’t Be Chunky – Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs

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Write Better Now
Don't Be Chunky - Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


It’s a super quick writing tip again today. Ready?

When you’re writing dialogue, make every new speaker a new paragraph. If you’re writing kids books? You might as well just keep each dialogue a paragraph of their own?

Why? Our brains are wired to read each paragraph as a new speaker. If we jumble a bunch of different speakers into one paragraph, it slows down the reader’s pace of reading and also can get their brain all hitched up as they try to figure out who is talking and when.

Why else? It makes more white space on the page. The more white space on the page, the less intimidating the text is for the reader—especially the reluctant reader.

So don’t write a paragraph like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.” Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.” “That’s true.” They laughed. Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Instead write the paragraphs like this:

Carrie said, “Please support our channel.”

Shaun nodded and said, “We are insecure.”

“That’s true.”

They laughed.

Shaun added, “Wow. This is boring dialogue to prove a point.”

Pretty easy, right? Now we know who said “that’s true” even though there wasn’t a dialogue tag there. No readers’ brains hitched during the reading of that dialogue and all is good with the world.

For other posts about writing dialogue, check out below:


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Grammar Break Some Day vs Someday

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Write Better Now
Grammar Break Some Day vs Someday
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


No lofty talk about exposition or your story’s theme this week. Instead, we’re going back to basics with an easy grammar tip.

Some day (two words) vs. someday (one word). It’s a debate that happens on the page over and over.

Here’s how it works.

Someday (one word) is basically “at an indefinite time in the future.”

Some day (two words) is all about a specific day that we won’t know in the future. It’s unknown. It’s unspecified.

Still confused?

We’ve got you.

Someday (one word) is an adverb. It’s talking about something that might happen in the future.

Here’s an example:

Someday Shaun may not make a sexual innuendo, but I’m not holding my breath.

Some day (two words) is an adjective and a noun hanging out together. The adjective (some) is saying at some unspecified or unknown day.

Here’s an example:

I am so psyched to have free time some day next month.

Here’s another:

I’m going on a date some day in July, but I totally can’t get excited about it because it’s so far away.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

Let’s Get Fighting BECAUSE Conflict in Stories Is Good

Hey, everyone! We’re having a wee bit of drama in our lives, so we’re taking this week off in the podcasts. Gasp! I know! We never do that.

But it means that we’re going to bring back one of our podcasts for a lovely redo.

It’s great! Here you go! And we hope you’re all doing well!

In our random thoughts, we talk about:

  1. Killer trees in Maine
  2. FBI agents looking for gold
  3. Chainsaws being a hot stolen item.

One of the big things that pretty much every traditional story in Western culture needs is conflict.

CHARACTER + WANT + OBSTACLE = CONFLICT

In your story or your life, you have wants? Sometimes there are obstacles in the way. They keep you from getting your want. Therein lies the conflict. The story becomes interesting because of how you or your character deals with that obstacle.

A lot of writers wait a long time to get that conflict into their stories.

Don’t do this. It is usually boring when you do this.

Nobody wants to be boring. There are two overall types of conflict – internal (inside the character) and external (outside the character), but they can be broken down even more.

AND THERE ARE TONS OF DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONFLICTS. CHOOSE ONE. MAKE THAT LITTLE JERK YOUR FRIEND.

First off, there are all sorts of lists about the types of conflict in novels. Sometimes you’ll see four. Sometimes you’ll see three. Whatever. Nothing is ever set in stone.

Character vs. character -Podcaster Carrie is trying desperately to not get an explicit rating, but her co-podcaster, Shaun, likes being explicit. How will Carrie make $5 a year off her podcast if it is banned?

Character vs. society – Podcaster Shaun must fight against an overly oppressive society that doesn’t like his explicit nature. How can Shaun survive in a society that crushes his inherent Shaunie-ness?

Character vs. nature – Nature or an aspect of it is about to kick your ass. Think Jaws. Think tidal waves. Think the moon messing up the Earth’s axis. How will there be a podcast if you are fighting off a Sharknado?

Character vs. technology – Your submarine breaks and you have only hours to fix the tech and live. Your mechanical love doll decides to kill you. Your downloads keep buffering. HOW WILL YOU PODCAST?

Character vs. supernatural – The ghosts have invaded the podcast studio and keep whispering, “WHO YOU GONNA CALL” over the audio. HOW WILL YOU PODCAST?

Character vs. self – The Reedsy blog states

Internal strife will stem from a debate that occurs within a character. It might originate from any combination of the character’s expectations, desire, duties, and fears.

Reedsy

Carrie has massive social anxiety, but also a hammy tendency. Every time she has to do a podcast, she panics and paces the house. Will she get it together enough to podcast? Can she get over her reluctance to speak aloud because her s’s are sloshy in order to finally have a voice?

Character vs. fate – Think Greek tragedy or boy wizards and prophecies. You are fated to die at the hands of a monster, in battle, via evil male wizards. You are stuck throwing an evil ring into a volcano. You are stuck becoming a podcaster in a prescribed fate sent from God. How do you deal with this once you know? How do you fight your fate?

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Put lots of conflict in your story. Put it in early. You can use more than one kind.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t create drama in your life when you’re bored or for attention. We all know people who try to create grievance and controversy out of random events. We all know people who go trolling on Facebook or Twitter or try to create drama and get that negative attention in their own post or life.

Spoiler: Negative attention isn’t the best kind of attention. Go for the positive.

RESOURCES

Articles mentioned in random thoughts are all linked here. And here.

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

AND we are transitioning to a new writer podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW! You’ll be able to check it out here starting in 2022!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

Other Quick Ways To Develop Your Theme in Your Novel

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Other Quick Ways To Develop Your Theme in Your Novel
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


So, over here on WRITE BETTER NOW, we’ve had a three-post series about how to develop your theme and what the hell even in a theme and blah, blah, blah.

This last post is really just focusing quickly on how to develop your theme.

Step One:

Think what the hell kind of insight you want your readers to get. Can you show them a new way to think or see or feel about life?

Step Two:

Write that as a statement with a noun and verb. I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT MIGHT DOES NOT MAKE RIGHT.

Step Three:

Make sure that you aren’t shoving that concept down your reader’s throat like a bad over-moralizing superhero movie, right?

Step Four:

Wonder how to do that. Realize that it’s about being subtle, not being a cringy cliché. But it’s also about your character actually struggling and not believing that concept.

Step Five:

Think about those subplots to help show what that character needs to figure out.

Practical Creative Writing says it well:

A story without a theme is little more than a list of events.”

Wow, right? They even call the theme the pulse of your story.

MasterClass suggests:

First look for something universal that will resonate for people outside our own psychographics.

Then try to think of something that will keep your reader thinking.

All of that is very esoteric and abstract.

I think you should think about your plot and what your character needs to learn. Your story is about a firefighter with a dead eccentric dad who was raised by an uncle who believed magic and weirdness should be avoided at all costs. She’s up for a promotion at a fire department and doesn’t stand out. Something magical happens on a run and things spiral out of control. What is the theme here from just the bits I wrote out.

Theme has to be part of plot and character. It has to make sense.

But MasterClasses’s next suggestion we heartily agree with you want to make sure your theme is throughout the whole story, not just slammed in at the end.

They write:

“As you fill in the details of each act, make sure your main character encounters situations that highlight the theme. If you’re balancing multiple story lines, see if you can make your theme manifest in each of those narrative threads—ideally in a different way in each story line.”


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

People are trying to ban my book

I’m on vacation, which means that I am supposed to be giving my brain a bit of a break from all things work, but that’s not happening because:

  1. I still have to work on clients’ stories
  2. The world is ridiculous
  3. I have a work ethic/neurosis that every month makes me constantly worried that I won’t earn enough money to support my family

That’s not what this post is about, but it’s probably something you can relate to because not all of you think you can relate to banned books. But you probably can.

Think of your favorite tv show, book, video, TikToker, YouTuber, podcast, movie:

  • Are they straight? Cis-gendered? Only have cis-gendered friends?  
  • Are they all white (the European descended kind of white)?
  • Never swear?
  • Never deal with sexual situations, kissing, allude to sex?
  • Not know what Marxism is?

If they don’t, then those people’s creative products are considered ‘inappropriate’ and have ‘no education value,’ by this book-banning parents.

I can’t speak to every book on that list. I do know about my book, my first book published, which won a ton of awards given out because it’s a pretty awesome book.

Back when it was released in 2007 some bookstores (not the big ones) didn’t want to stock it because it had the word ‘gay’ in the title. Amazing, right?

Apparently, we’re back in 2007 again.

This book was inspired because I couldn’t wrap my head around a local hate crime that happened in a high school. I tried to write my way through that. It’s not my most popular book, but it’s my most stolen-from-libraries book. There’s a reason for that. A lot of girls (at the time I wrote it) where feeling alone as they tried to navigate their way through a break-up with their boyfriends who had either come out during or after their relationships. My book helped not only them but also their ex-boyfriends create discourse, to feel less alone.

That’s what books do: they make us feel less alone.

And they also teach us through the safe distance of pages what it’s like to live through situations and lives and settings and conflicts that we might not live through ourselves. They build empathy, make us think. Sometimes they make us cry. Sometimes they make such big emotions and thoughts that people who are frightened want to burn them.

My book also features a main character who has epilepsy, but epilepsy isn’t the theme, the driving force, or defining trait of my character. It didn’t give her superhero powers or make her suddenly embarrassed. It was just something that was part of her. And that is why this book, my first published book, will always be important to me. I wanted to push beyond the epilepsy and disability tropes in fiction even as another kids book full of epilepsy tropes won one of children’s fiction’s highest honors within the next couple of years.

Obviously, there’s still a lot of work to do on a lot of levels.

Here’s the thing:

Books are easy to ban and burn because books are brave. They put thoughts and views and images of our culture, stories of our peoples, out in print—unable to be truly retracted, mistakes and all, grit and all, pain and all.

You can’t erase pain from our kids’ lives, but you can erase books from them.

You can’t erase experiences and thoughts from our kids’ lives, but you can pretend to by banning books.

But what you can do is push your beliefs down upon an entire generation so that they don’t have the intellectual or emotional room to build up their own.

That’s a bit of a lie though.

Kids are resilient. They are strong. They are thinkers. And they will scavenge out the stories that they need to hear, to be exposed to, to cling to. The thing is that we should trust them enough that they don’t have to scavenge. We should trust them enough to give them the stories that they need.

And banning books? Yanking them out of school libraries? That’s the kind of crap that means that we don’t trust our own parenting and our own kids’ brains to make their own choices, to ask us questions if they find books are inappropriate, to be able to talk through differences and examine thoughts and life and what it is to be human rather than just laying down edicts about what is appropriate and what isn’t for entire school districts, instead of just our own kids.

And that’s pretty sad.

Maybe if we all spent a little less time crusading against each other, we could spend a little more time teaching our kids that we are safe people for them to talk to if a book offends them or makes them question how things are done or confuses them. Maybe if we spent a little less time focusing on our own fears, we can all start lifting each other—and students—up together.

The link to the list is here. Yes, I know I’m in good company. I’m always in good company on these lists. The other authors are in good company, too.

Baby Got Backstory Using Backstory in Your Writing

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Write Better Now
Baby Got Backstory Using Backstory in Your Writing
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Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


A long time ago we talked about backstory on our podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, but we thought it would be pretty helpful to quickly talk about it here on WRITE BETTER NOW.


Hey baby, what’s your backstory?

It’s that I married you, honey.

Hey baby, what’s your backstory?

It should be a pick-up line at a bar, yet it somehow is not a pick-up line at any bar that I know of except maybe in a New Yorker cartoon or a bar in a town where there’s one of those MFA programs in writing literature for literary people doing literary things.

Anyway, it’s a term writers throw around all the time and it is basically just how we imagine our characters’ lives went before they are in the actual story that we’re writing.

But basically it’s the formative experiences that make your character who they are today in the story of your novel or poem or essay or short story.

I know! How can you imagine that your character had a life before your story? It’s like imagining your spouse had a life before you that wasn’t totally centered around you. Us narcissists have a hard time with that.

Do you know, in nine hundred years of time and space, I’ve never met anybody who wasn’t important.…

Steven Moffat, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol

According to a post on https://www.nownovel.com/blog/talking-character-backstory/

There are three uses of backstory.

  1. Developing the understanding of the characters. Like if your dad died of a heart attack in front of you and you couldn’t save him, then your character might have a savior complex. It helps the reader understand your characters’ motivations.
  2. It can heighten the stakes and the suspense. You were once addicted to dating cops. Cops were always bad for you. Will you date this one? NO! YOU MUST NOT.
  3. It makes it real damn it. By the time, you make it into a book, you’re not going to be a blank slate, born out of Zeus’ head or a clamshell fully formed on page 1. We all have prologues.

Here’s a nice link about it for those of you who read this on Carrie’s blog.

Standout asks how much backstory does a story need and answers its own question pretty simply:

If judged solely on complexity, the answer to ‘how much backstory should I include?’ would be ‘enough to pay for the reader’s efforts,’ however you also need to consider immersion.

Standout (source above)

Ah. Okay?

Here is our advice:

  • Don’t be fake. Don’t be pretend. We all know people who show up at a party, engage in small talk about absolutely nothing other than the weather, the traffic, where they work. There is no underlayment. It’s like they are a rug thrown on the floor, but if you touch that rug it will just slip away because there’s nothing holding it there.

Do not let your characters be rugs.

Ground those suckers with nails and staples if you have to. ModPodge them to the floor, give them a life before you.

  • Don’t tell us everything about them. We do not know that they prefer Aquafina to Poland Spring water or that they had an ingrown toenail when they were twenty-four any more than you want to know about the guy at the party’s hemorrhoid treatment unless it’s really good. Be sparing. Make it relevant to who that character is now and what’s going on in the story.
  • Don’t lump all that back story together in paragraph after paragraph of exposition. That makes the forward motion of the story disappear.
  • If you can SHOW the backstory via dialogue or flashback (short ones), it’s so much better than TELLING it in a big, ugly paragraph.
  • Mine your characters experiences and memories and mementos from those of yourself, famous people, friends, anecdotes.

The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.

Stephen King

Writing Tip of the Pod All Condensed

Find the balance in your backstory and your life. Backstory is important, but it shouldn’t take over the current story


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

How To Make Your Writing More Intense

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How To Make Your Writing More Intense
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It’s Writing Tip Time and we’re going to give you three fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?

Think about your tense

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might be having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make it more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again and make it more immediate.

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, cooler words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

There you go!

We’ve learned three fast tips to making your writing more intense.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Be in the present (tense). Don’t be distant. Mix up your words, man.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better. There’s a free option too without the bonus content but all the regular stuff is there.

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