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

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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.

Don’t Be Chunky – Put Your Dialogue in Paragraphs

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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.

Don’t Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Don't Chunk! The Brain Science Behind Bad Exposition
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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.


This week it’s not so much a writing tip, but a writing explanation as we dive a little deeper into why too much exposition is bad.

It’s all about the human brain.

But before we start, once again, exposition is just a literary device that according to Masterclass:

“Is meant to relay background information about a main character, setting, event or other element of the narrative. Exposition comes from the Latin word expositionem, which literally means “showing forth.”

And in a story, exposition often bores the reader or breaks up the forward motion of the plot.

So why does that suck?

There’s a thing called working memory. Most of our brains can only keep four or five things inside our memory at one time.

That’s not super good. JUST FOUR OR FIVE THINGS!

So, our brains adapted because our brains are awesome and they do this cool thing called “chunking.”

As Anne Hawley, writing for Story Grid explains,

“Chunking is when we group ideas so that together they occupy only one of the four or five available memory slots in our brain.”

 Or the APA Dictionary of Psychology says chunking is

“the process by which the mind divides large pieces of information into smaller units (chunks) that are easier to retain in short-term memory … one item in memory can stand for multiple other items”.

She cites Steven Pinker who wrote The Sense of Style and gives this example:

M D P H D R S V P C E O I H O P

 If we don’t chunk those sixteen letters together, we would have a much harder time remembering them.

But we can chunk them like this:

M D  

P H D  

R S V P

C E O

I H O P

And voila! You think about the doctor and the Ph.D. who rsvp’d to the ceo of Ihop.

Amazing, right?

So, exposition inserted into our stories as an info dump? It keeps us from chunking. It makes our brain work harder and that can take our brains out of the story.

SPOILER ALERT: Be kind to readers’ brains. Most of them don’t want to be taken out of the story, but immersed in it.


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.

How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition

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How to Conquer The Beast Called Exposition
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Exposition.

It’s a beast. And I never have a problem with it as a writer until I’m writing middle grade fiction.

This podcast we’re going to explain what exactly an agent or editor or writing coach or a teacher means when they look disdainfully down their noses at you and say, “You have too much exposition!”

Anne Hawley writes for The Story Grid:

There’s a tendency among many writers, myself included, to explain too much, and I’ve become ruthless about weeding out as much exposition as possible. So my gut reaction to the client’s question was, “None of the above. Get rid of it.”

Here are some definitions:

“Exposition is a literary device used to introduce background information about events, settings, characters, or other elements of a work to the audience or readers. The word comes from the Latin language, and its literal meaning is ‘a showing forth.’ Exposition is crucial to any story, for without it nothing makes sense.” Literary Devices.net

“Exposition means facts—the information about setting, biography, and characterization that the audience needs to know to follow and comprehend the events of the story.” —Robert McKee, Story (p. 334).

Over on Carrie’s new substack newsletter, we’ll share some examples of this.

So, while some exposition is allowed in a story, it’s something you want to clean up as much as possible. You want to be in the scenes with the characters as much as you can and this is especially true in the very beginning and that last third of the novel.

That’s because in the beginning the reader needs to be immersed so that they’ll keep reading and hooked along. In the end that’s because the reader has stayed with you for all these words and now they want to have the big emotional payoff. That doesn’t happen with exposition. That happens when you’re immersed in the scene.

Exposition can be ALL THESE THINGS SO LOOK HERE:

  1. Just an info drop where the narrator is telling (not showing a bunch of information).
  2. Too much internal dialogue for too long.
  3. Flashbacks.
  4. Dialogue sometimes. I know, right? Dialogue is action, but sometimes dialogue is an info dump particularly when a villain is explaining their motives or in science fiction or fantasy when a character is explaining the world to the noob.
  5. Letters pulled out or emails and presented as a block. Read it with the character instead.
  6. Those long, long paragraphs where you go on forever and ever describing setting and senses.

Hawley also has this great example:

Let’s go to the mall,” Heather said.

Imani thought back to the last time she had been to the mall. The terror she had felt at the sound of the first shot fired, the screams of people fleeing for their lives, the crash of displays falling over as customers dove under racks and counters for cover. It had been the worst day of her life.

“I don’t want to go,” Imani replied.

However vivid Imani’s recollection is in that middle paragraph, it does little to reveal her character. It explains some things about Imani, but it’s an info-dump—a Big Block of Explanation.

The block interrupts the action—that is, the dialogue between Heather and Imani—by referring you to a past whose details may or may not be relevant at this point in the story. Here’s what happens in your brain:

You expend energy time-jumping to Imani’s past.

You process terror, shots fired, screams, crashes, and people diving under racks. By the time you get to Imani’s response, all your memory slots are engaged, and you’ve lost sight of what Heather said.

So you expend more brainpower backtracking in the text to remind yourself of Heather’s initial suggestion.

Exposition? It’s a beast and it’s a beast that keeps your reader from being immersed. We’ll talk about it more again soon, but the first step to battling this monster? It’s knowing where to look.

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.

Never Shut Up: You Get To Write History

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Never Shut Up: You Get To Write History
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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.


What is your story? Really? It’s more than you’re a writer. You’re a citizen of your community, your country, your world. You might be a certain race, religion, a sex (or not). You might have a faith, an economic status, a job. You might have hobbies, traits.

But you might not think you have a story especially when you see huge events unfolding in the world. You might think that your voice doesn’t matter, that your viewpoint doesn’t either. You might be used to people shouting you down when you say things they might not agree with or don’t want to hear.

This week we wanted to touch on how big events happen and we find them so harrowing and we think: Who am I to tell this story? I’m not in the Ukraine. I’m not on the frontlines of human rights struggles in Texas or Florida or China. I am not this or I am not that.

But here’s the thing. We are all witnesses or witnesses of witnesses. We all are a part of this world and the moments of this world. And we all get to tell our moments and our stories if we want to. Perspective and voice doesn’t just belong to people in power and it doesn’t not belong to people who see, who can testify, who can witness.

In Tell It Slant: Writing and Shaping Creative Nonfiction, Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola write, “Our role as writers can be that of witness. … Think of yourself as a witness and your writing will take on greater weight and urgency.”

Daisy Hernandez has a great essay where she comes to terms with her aversion to the term ‘witness’ when it comes to literature.

She writes (link below):

“While it may well be that no book has ever prevented genocide or fascism, we still have a necessity for literature to testify to the political conditions of our lives—not only so that we might have a record of those we have lost, but also that we might have a reason to gather with others to read and to continue resisting.”

She prefers the term ‘testimony.’

“In contrast to witness, I love the word testimonio, testimony. I love how it sounds: serious and engaged, aware of itself. Intentional. It says: I have made a decision, and I am here to testify.”

Intention is important. Connections are important. And so are authentic narratives. We learn by story, but we also learn how to be human via stories.

Connections happen because humanity happens. And even if you think that you’re not an important piece to the story that unfolds, you are. We all come through things through our own psychographics and demographics and bubbles and experiences. Each piece and understanding of the stories of our times matter.

George Sand wrote,

“Everyone has his own story, and everyone could arouse interest in the romance of his life if he could but comprehend it.”

Here’s the thing: There are enough buttheads out there in the world trying to prevent people from having a voice and trying to keep others from hearing that voice. It could be a company or government censoring tweets, political statements, books. It could be an ideological group banning books. It could be a sibling shouting at you to “Shut the hell up” when you talk about feminism.

But you can’t. You must not shut the hell up. As long as you can fight, fight. As long as you can write, write. As long as you can survive, survive.


Here are a couple of exercises adapted from Tell It Slant

What event (national or world) do you remember super well? How did you know about it? Were you there? Were you not there? Where were you when you heard about that event? What in your life resonated because of it? Write about it.

What part of you do people think is cool? When you meet people and they are socially aware enough to ask you questions, what do they want to know? Now, imagine your life the way someone two hundred in the years in the future would find interesting. What bits of history would they want to know about? Write about that.


American University has some great writer as witness texts, but there are so many more, but here are some to start you off.

Previous Writer as Witness Texts

  • Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, by Eli Saslow, winner of the 2019 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Nonfiction.
  • The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, winner of the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in the General Nonfiction Category
  • Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, by Arlie Russell Hochschild, National Book Award finalist
  • We Gon’ Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation, by Jeff Chang, the Northern California Nonfiction Book of the Year
  • Notes from No Man’s Land, by Eula Biss, winner of the Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism.
  • The Good Soldiers, by David Finkel, a “Best Book of the Year” for the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, the Christian Science Monitor, and others, and the winner of the Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism.
  • The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, by Luis Alberto Urrea, a Pulitzer Prize Finalist and winner of the Lannen Literary Award.
  • Savage Inequalities, by Jonathan Kozol, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. 

LINK WE MENTION

https://www.zocalopublicsquare.org/2021/01/11/literature-of-witness/ideas/essay/


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.

Other Quick Ways To Develop Your Theme in Your Novel

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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.

I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It

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I Lost My Damn Theme How Do I Find It
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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.


Last week on our podcast we talked about theme, and we’re going back there again.

We know! We know! So scary. Why risk it again? We risk it for you, dear listener. Like a matyr-parent from the early 2000s, we’re writing your college essays and yelling at the soccer coach and doing the work.

Once again, what actually is a theme?

So, the theme is the central idea of your story.

According to aresearchguide.com:

“A theme in a story is the major idea that the story leans or surrounds. It comments on human experience, and more often a story relates to real life situations. All stories have at least one theme.

“A theme gives the general view of the story. It gives the reader the insight into how the story characters live to pursue something good, the results of conflicts and how all these choices come to pass in their lives. In a story, there can be major and minor themes.

   A major theme is an idea the writer keeps on repeating in his work, portraying it as the most significant idea.

   The minor theme is the idea that appears briefly in the story.

“A theme needs to be compelling and captivating. You need to think carefully when choosing a theme for your story.”

Let’s go simple: It’s the idea your story is about and it’s good to include a verb in that idea and a noun/subject.

Some writing coaches will say to never ever explicitly state your theme. Some coaches will say you should absolutely have a character state your theme early on in your story (first act) but have your main character not get it.

Over on the blog writerswrite, they give examples of themes:

Crime pays.

Honesty is the best policy.

Who dares wins.

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Home is where the heart is.

The past is a foreign country – they do things differently there.

You never really know anybody.

People are predictable.

People with nothing to lose are dangerous.

Love conquers all.

Blood is thicker than water.

You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.

What does not kill you makes you stranger.

That site uses the Lajos Egri Theme Cheat Sheet, which is from Ljos’s book: The Art of Dramatic Writing.

This is from the writerswrite blog.

And, according to Amanda Patterson who wrote that fantastic post, a theme is important and helps you actually write your novel because you then can make sure that every scene in your novel works toward that theme.

Over on the aresearchguide, they say,

“A theme gives a story meaning and hence creating an emotional impact. A theme creates a difference between a great story that readers can relate to and a mediocre one. The theme adds an in-depth and creates a connection to the story. It is necessary for an author to have a good and clear understanding of the theme (h)as this is the key to crafting great and awesome stories that readers will love.”

But it’s over on Amanda’s brilliant post that the three steps, the three really helpful steps, show up. These are a direct quote.


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.

What is Theme?

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What is Theme?
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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.


What is theme?

This is the first in our three-week series about what theme is and how to find this abstract bugger and even develop it in your own stories. And to start things off, we have to define theme. Turns out there are a lot of different takes on this bad boy, but for today we’re going with LitCharts.

According to LitCharts,

A theme is a universal idea, lesson, or message explored throughout a work of literature. One key characteristic of literary themes is their universality, which is to say that themes are ideas that not only apply to the specific characters and events of a book or play, but also express broader truths about human experience that readers can apply to their own lives. For instance, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (about a family of tenant farmers who are displaced from their land in Oklahoma) is a book whose themes might be said to include the inhumanity of capitalism, as well as the vitality and necessity of family and friendship.

And you can have more than one theme in your story, but we’re just going to be focusing in on one right now.

The theme is something you have to develop in your story and it has a significant impact on your main character.

Your book will have a plot – the things that happen in the story.

Your book will have character development – how your character evolves or doesn’t in a story.

Your book will have a theme – the more abstract concepts that your story involves.

Themes can be broken into concepts and statements.

A concept would be:

Love

Grief

A statement would be:

Human love is imperfect.

Living with grief is permanent.

And your work as the author is to embody those themes in your character as they navigate the plot and world of the story.

Sara Letourneau is a poet who also writes for diyMFA and coaches. She has a great piece about developing themes in stories and a worksheet on her website. 

She advocates when developing a theme for your character’s story, you can do so in their big choice in act one of the story.

A pause for a refresher. Act One is the beginning of your book where you establish the character, setting, story problem, character goal’s, etc. And it is also the place where the character’s world begins to change. This usually happens in the inciting incident.

Because of the inciting incident, the character that you’ve developed has to make a big-time decision. Will they keep on with the same old, same old or will they make a change that gets them involved with the story, a choice that makes it so their life isn’t going to be the same old, same old at all?

When they make this choice, the story usually enters ACT TWO, the place where everything is different for the main character, a point of no return.

So, what is this choice?

According to Leternous, it has the following elements:

  • “It typically occurs around the 25% mark, and signals the end of Act I and the beginning of Act II.
  • It shows the protagonist becoming fully engaged in the external conflict.
  • It further establishes the protagonist’s story goal.
  • It raises the stakes and underscores why the story goal matters to the protagonist.”

She writes (and I love this),

“It’s easy to confuse the inciting incident and the Act I choice, since they occur so close together. However, while the inciting incident invites the protagonist into the main conflict, the Act I choice is her RSVP. It shows the protagonist committing to her involvement and taking the first step out of her comfort zone. In other words, it’s her internal response to an external change in her status quo. And like with the inciting incident, it has the ability to reflect a story’s themes.”

So, what does theme have to do with this?

The inciting incident is where your character’s desires are triggered or maybe it’s her fears. It pushes her towards the choice that becomes her story goal.

She uses the Hobbit as an example:

“J. R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit:
Bilbo Baggins, the titular Hobbit, meets the wizard Gandalf, who invites him on an upcoming quest. Bilbo initially refuses, claiming he’s not the adventurous type.”

But then things change a lot because there is that choice. And your main character has to pick the option that makes the story happen. They have to want it more than they want to stay in their safe, same-old, same-old life.

The theme comes into play because your character’s goals and desires, and fears are all involved in this choice. What thematic/abstract ideas relate to your character’s choice? That’s a big hunk of your theme.

For Bilbo that choice has to do with courage. He chooses adventure and exploring.

She has a GREAT worksheet if you want to check it out and the link is in our podcast notes at carriejonesbooks.blog.

https://www.litcharts.com/literary-devices-and-terms/theme

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.

The Biggest Thing Holding Back Your Writing

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The Biggest Thing Holding Back 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.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers

Carrie got really confused this week because she went on YouTube and looked up “Writing Advice” and there was a really popular vlogger who gives a ton of writing advice, but she’s not published things.

She is, however, really definite on her views on how to be a good writer, which is lovely. It’s lovely to be so confident.

But it made us think about what the worst writing advice ever is.

IT’S NOT:

Write every day.

IT’S NOT EVEN:

Write what you know.

IT’S NOT:

Write for you and if you like it, that’s all that matters.

IT’S NOT ANY OF THOSE ONE-SIZE FITS ALL TIDBITS.

HERE’S WHAT IT IS:

Don’t write. It’s a waste of time.

I don’t care who is giving you this advice. It might be your mom, teacher, bff, your life-partner, kid, an evil bastard who lives next door, a published writer. Or worse, it could be your own inner-critic, which lurks like a demon of self doubt in your frontal lobe.

That advice? It’s crap. It’s jealousy or stupidity or self-doubt. If you want to write? Write.

Don’t believe me that everyone deals with this? Or almost everyone? Here is a quote from the man, himself.

The problems of success can be harder because nobody warns you about them.


The first problem of any kind of even limited success is the unshakable conviction that you are getting away with something, and that any moment now, they will discover you. It’s Impostor Syndrome—something my wife Amanda christened the Fraud Police.


In my case, I was convinced that there would be a knock on the door, and a man with a clipboard (I don’t know why he carried a clipboard, in my head, but he did) would be there to tell me it was all over, and they had caught up with me, and now I would have to go and get a real job, one that didn’t consist of making things up and writing them down, and reading books I wanted to read. And then I would go away quietly and get the kind of job where you don’t get to make things up anymore.


—Neil Gaiman, Commencement Speech at the University of the Arts Class of 2012

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Author Matthew Kesselhas some pretty cool advice about what he does when he’s overwhelmed by self doubt.

He writes through the doubt.

He reminds himself of all the good things he’s done as a writer.

Incorporates that doubt into more emotionally resonate characters.

Talks through it with other writer people who know how it is.


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.

How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Story’s Opener Like a Boss

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How to Use Foreshadowing in Your Story’s Opener Like a Boss
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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 the coolest things you can do when writing fiction or longer nonfiction is to foreshadow the ending of your story in the beginning of your story.

Foreshadowing according to litcharts.com is:

A literary device in which authors hint at plot developments that don’t actually occur until later in the story. Foreshadowing can be achieved directly or indirectly, by making explicit statements or leaving subtle clues about what will happen later in the text. The Russian author Anton Chekhov summarized foreshadowing when he wrote, “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” The description of the gun on the wall, in other words, should foreshadow its later use.

You want to tell the reader that something is going to happen, give them a clue about what it might be.

Foreshadowing can be subtle, mysterious, or direct.

Over on the Reedsy blog they shrink the types to two: direct and indirect. And explain them as follows:

Direct foreshadowing occurs when an outcome is directly hinted at or indicated. It gives readers a nugget of information, prompting them to want more.

Indirect foreshadowing occurs when an outcome is indirectly hinted at or indicated. It subtly nods at a future event but is typically only apparent to readers after that outcome or event has occurred.

Foreshadowing when it’s direct can be a fantastic way to hook the reader into wanting to gobble up the story. A great example they use is Lauren Oliver’s Before I Die, which opens with:

“They say that just before you die your whole life flashes before your eyes, but that’s not how it happened for me.”

So the reader knows that the narrator is going to die and what they want to know is how. It’s damn direct, right?

An indirect style of foreshadowing can be something as simple as

   The air grew chill as I walked toward the beach. Winter is coming.

Now we know the air is chill and cold is coming and we indirectly think:

Oh, something is going to happen because it’s cold and winter is almost here and someone is probably going to die.

The symbols in our culture can carry a lot of metaphorical and foreshadowing weight in our stories.

So we want to use it like a boss and give the readers a little wink so that they are hooked into the story but also feel like they are figuring out the story as they go along. It’s pretty cool.

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.

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/mrruiz/winter-haze-summer-daze

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