Guide To World-Building: How To Write Fantasy, Sci-Fi And Real-Life Worlds

SciFi-Worlds

World-building is so much more than just a framing device. It’s the very essence of any good fantasy or science fiction story, and the basis of a sense of place in other genres. Good world-building lends an immersive richness to your writing, while also giving readers the information they need to understand characters and plot lines.

So, how exactly should writers go about building worlds in their fiction? To find out, we’ll break down the concept of world-building into three main categories:

  • Imaginary worlds – the construction of entirely fictional universes, found primarily in fantasy genres.
  • Alternate reality – re-imaginings of the details of our existing world; popular with writers of science fiction.
  • Actual locations – the invocation of a real place in the world, utilised in novels with no elements of the fantastic.

Let’s begin by entering the wondrous realm of fantasy fiction.

IMAGINARY WORLDS

Creating an imaginary world is one of the most complex types of world-building. It’s most often utilised in fantasy and science fiction, where a writer conjures up from scratch every detail of a world: geography, history, language, lore, characters, social customs, politics, religion…

Understandably, the thought of creating all these elements to form an entire fictional world can be very daunting – and deciding where to start can seem almost impossible! For inspiration, we recommend turning to some of the great world-builders of our time to see how they’ve built up whole universes from nothing.

Deciding on a starting point

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the RingsThe Hobbit and countless other classic works, began the development of Middle-earth in an unusual way: by first creating an entire fictional language to be spoken by his characters. A professional philologist and talented linguist, Tolkien developed the Elvish language of Quenya, using it as a base for expanding his imaginary world into the vast, detailed, lore-rich Middle-earth we know today.

Of course, not all writers will be capable of (or interested in) creating a functional, fictional language – but budding world-builders can still follow Tolkien’s lead in order to get started. By pinpointing one aspect of your imaginary world that you’re most interested in or most apt at developing, you’ve got yourself a great starting point. Work hard on this element first, and then concentrate on building up and fleshing out from there. You’ll find that the pieces of your world fall much more easily into place once you have a solid foundation from which to expand.

Asking questions about your world

After you’ve got the ball rolling by establishing a starting point, you’ll need to begin working out the details that make up a convincing, consistent imaginary world. A great way to start doing this is to ask (and answer) a set of questions pertaining to the different aspects of your world.

Approach this exercise as if you were describing your home country to someone who knows nothing about it – or, on a larger scale, as if you were introducing Earth to someone from an alien race. How would you explain:

  • What it looks and feels like – its landscapes, its climate?
  • Its people – their appearance, customs, ethics and values?
  • The dominant forces that shape change and development?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the potential details you need to cover, it’s advisable to start by creating a list of fundamental questions you need to answer about your world. Many online resources, such as this list from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America website, contain suggested questions about everything from social organisation and government to the rules of magic and technology. (The latter of these is particularly important to keep in mind. Even though your world may be an entirely imaginary one filled with magic or made-up technology, it must still be governed consistently and carefully by the internal logic and laws you set up for it. Its fantastical nature cannot be used as an excuse for lapses in continuity.)

After devising your list, you may feel even more overwhelmed now you have such an expansive range of questions to answer! If this is the case, take a step back and make sure that all the questions you’ve listed really need to be covered. It’s likely that some questions may not apply to or directly affect your characters and narrative, so decide which aspects are most crucial to the stories you want to tell within your world, and focus on answering the most relevant questions.

While you’re answering these world-building questions largely for the benefit of your readers, it’s imperative to keep in mind the age-old advice about showing, not telling. You don’t want readers to feel like they’re simply being spoon-fed a bunch of facts, details and history. The most successful storytelling comes from a subtle, nuanced approach to building your world through narrative detail, description and development.

Drawing inspiration from real life

Even though imagining an entirely new world is one of the most creative processes a writer can undertake, it’s almost impossible to create something entirely from nothing. Naturally – even if only subconsciously – you will adapt and incorporate some real-world elements into your imaginary setting and story, using them as a base of inspiration.

A well-known fantasy epic with strong undertones of historical influence is George R. R. Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Martin openly acknowledges the fact that many elements of ASOIAF are inspired by real historical events and locations: the Wars of the Roses, the Glencoe Massacre and Hadrian’s Wall, to name just a few.

If you feel your world is lacking in depth or credibility, perhaps take a leaf from Mr. Martin’s (extremely long) book and delve into some real-world history for inspiration. You may be able to flesh out your world by moulding, adapting or drawing parallels with real-life locations, landmarks, pivotal events, or even historical personalities.

Where reality and fantasy collide

An interesting way to provide contrast or conflict within your story is by developing your fictional world alongside, or within, an established location – for example, right here on Earth. Perhaps the most famous example of this reality/fantasy cross-over is J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which involves an entirely made-up world of magic that’s hidden away on modern-day Earth. Harry himself, as the main character from whose point of view the story is presented, is as much a stranger to this world as readers are in the beginning. We’re introduced firsthand to every person, place, detail and experience right alongside Harry; as he journeys into this magical new world and has his questions answered, so, too, do we as readers.

As well as adding depth and relatability to your story, such a setting also poses questions about the concept of an alternate reality. Let’s now look at this concept in more detail.

ALTERNATE REALITY

Similar to the creation of an imaginary world, but slightly less demanding due to the existing base you have to work with, the construction of an alternate reality is a type of world-building often found in dystopian, speculative and science fiction. By creating an alternate reality, you are developing an alternative version of our own Earth, imagining how things could be different and posing questions about what these differences would mean for humanity. Authors often use this style of writing to express their thoughts about the flaws of humanity and today’s world, exploring the consequences these flaws may have to potential to produce.

What if?

As a writer imagining an alternate reality, the most important question you can ask is ‘What if?’ This is the base-level query on which your story’s entire premise should be founded, and upon which you will build the individual elements of your world. For example:

  • What if a particular, important historical event had never happened?
  • What if our planet and its inhabitants had evolved differently?
  • What if a fundamental aspect of life as we know it was to change suddenly?
  • What if we invented new technology that could accomplish wonderful/terrible things?
  • What if we could visit or communicate with other life forms (or vice versa)?

These are the type of questions you should be asking as you develop the differences between your world and the real world. They are the essence of the changes, challenges and consequences you should examine through your alternate setting, its characters and their narrative.

Belief and disbelief

A key difference between creating an alternate reality and creating an imaginary world is the suspension of disbelief you can expect from your readers. The imaginary worlds of fantasy and science fiction we examined above – Westeros and Essos, the kingdoms of Middle-earth – imagine an entirely new world, quite unrelated to our own. Due to this complete removal from reality, readers automatically enter with a higher level of tolerance for things that may otherwise have jarred the story’s logic or lifted them out of the moment. Readers would never think to question, for example, the fact that a single magic ring has the power to rule the world; they’re also less likely to query the fact that a teenage girl is slowly conquering a kingdom when there are dragons involved in the equation!

In alternate reality fiction, however, you may have to work a little harder to draw readers deep into your world – and keep them there. The slightly familiar settings, warped realities and semi-relatable human scenarios presented in this type of storytelling will heighten readers’ senses of what’s believable and what’s not. Therefore, you’ll need to convince them that everything happening in your story is a realistic possibility for the Earth on which it is based. Let’s look at some of the best ways to achieve this.

Past, present or future?

One of the best ways to begin establishing your alternate reality is by clarifying the time period in which you want it to be set. When will your story take place in relation to the real world? Is it:

Each of these approaches has its own advantages and benefits, and each lends itself well to different purposes. You’ll need to decide which of these settings best serves the particular story you want to tell.

If you choose to rewrite the past, you are employing the gift of hindsight to imagine what could have been; think of it as alternate reality historical fiction, if you will. A well-known example is sci-fi author Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, which explores our world ‘as it might have been’ if the outcome of World War II had been different. Likewise, the majority of volumes in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series take place in an alternative 1985, where England and Russia have been fighting the Crimean War for over a century. Not restricted to reimaginings of definitive wartime conflicts, however, this method of storytelling is also a popular vehicle for stories about time travel; H. G. Wells’ pivotal novel The Time Machine and more recent books such as Stephen King’s 11/22/63 are great examples of time-travel tropes used effectively to explore alternate realities.

Stories set in the present, on the other hand, have an element of immediacy and can be more easily related to by the reader. This type of story can often be considered similar to those that rewrite the past, as it often imagines drastically altered historical events preceding its own setting. However, the main difference is that present-day stories focus solely on portraying of an alternate version of today’s world, rather than rewriting the history that has come before. As we mentioned above, the Harry Potter series, while primarily a fantasy, might also be considered an alternate reality; it takes place on Earth, in the modern-day U.K., but is largely set within a magical world that lies hidden within our own. Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia employ similar settings of an unknown world-within-a-world.

Finally, imagining the future can serve as a warning or projection of what might be to come if the present-day world does not change its ways. George Orwell’s seminal work, 1984, is a classic example of this; published in 1949, it leaps almost 40 years into the future to make bold extrapolations about the potential dangers of politics and technology. Similarly, Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular Hunger Games trilogy, as well as Aldous Huxley’s esteemed 1931 novel Brave New World, both pose questions about the demoralisation of the human race, depicting the type of scenario that could be in store for our future.

Know your building blocks

In order to portray a compelling alternate version of the world, you must first be well-versed in the facts of the real version. Whether you’re setting your alternate reality in a real-world location or reimagining a history event, learn all you can about its real counterpart and incorporate your knowledge into your new interpretation.

As mentioned above, Orwell’s 1984 is perhaps the most well-known example of a novel exploring an alternate reality. On the surface, it’s a story about an alien-sounding, utilitarian nation that’s as far removed as possible from the Earth we knew in 1984. However, when we look a little deeper (as most of us were forced to do as high school English students), the meaningful real-world allegories Orwell is drawing – Soviet Union politics, life in wartime Britain – become all too clear. It’s obvious he really knew his stuff before bringing to life his alternate futuristic vision.

The end of the world as we know it

Dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction has seen a meteoric rise in recent years, especially in the young adult sub-genre. The Hunger Games trilogy, perhaps the most popular of the bunch, has spawned a plethora of YA novels set in reimagined versions of Earth, and it’s easy to see why. Imagining a global-scale apocalyptic event gives you the freedom to predict how humanity might rebuild itself after such a disaster – a meaty subject to tackle.

A key decision to be made when writing in this genre is how you will treat the apocalyptic event itself. The most common choice is to set the narrative after the event and describe its consequences (hence ‘post-apocalyptic fiction’ becoming a well-known genre in itself).

Series such as the Hunger Games and Maze Runner trilogies, as well as standalone novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Richard Matheson’s much-adapted I Am Legend, choose the post-apocalyptic path. I Am Legend and the Maze Runner books allude to a deadly global pandemic, while The Hunger Games and The Road both choose not to disclose the manner of the cataclysm that preceded their events. Ultimately, you’ll need to decide if clarifying the apocalyptic event is necessary by considering the ways it could benefit or detract from your story.

Despite the prevalence of the post-apocalyptic approach, remember that you also have the option to portray the actual details of the global catastrophe as it happens, as well as the series of events leading up to it. If you choose this method of storytelling, you may wish to consult some novels that handle it particularly well, including Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, The Stand by Stephen King and Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Now, if you’re not a writer of fantasy or science fiction, by this stage you’re probably wondering whether there’s any point in learning about world-building. Well, we’re here to assure you that there is – so read on!

ACTUAL LOCATIONS

In genres other than science fiction and fantasy, the practice of world-building is more commonly known as creating a sense of place. Place has an important role in every story, and is often used to great effect in literary fiction. In novels with an especially strong sense of place, the setting virtually becomes a character in itself; it embodies, reflects, supports and enhances the narrative at every turn. So how can you build and develop a deep, engrossing and original portrait of an existing location?

Pack your bags

The first piece of advice for anyone wishing to infuse their work with a sense of place is also the most obvious: go to that place! Whenever possible, spending a good amount of time ‘on location’ wherever you’re setting your story is the best thing you can do as a writer. Bonus points if you’re writing about the place in which you’ve grown up or spent the majority of your life; if you know the place inside-out, it’s going to be much easier to paint a convincing and engaging picture for your readers.

The Brontë sisters are a fantastic example of writers drawing on personal influences and surroundings to create a strong sense of place. Emily’s only novel, Wuthering Heights,interweaves a bleak landscape of English moors so powerfully into her narrative that it practically becomes a definitive character in itself. Charlotte’s best-known work, Jane Eyre, creates a compelling portrait of life at a 19th century English boarding school; along with Anne’s first novel, Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre also explores life as a governess in a noble family (and as a woman in Victorian England). However, the Brontës are by no means the be-all-and-end-all of creating a sense of place – pick up any good novel set in a specific location and you’re sure to pick up some tips.

Do your research

Sometimes – for example, in the case of a novel set 50 years in the past – it’s not possible to have an authentic experience of the place you’re writing about. In this case, you will really need to do your research – and we don’t just mean a bit of Googling, because unfortunately, that won’t quite cut it! You’ll need to delve deeply into the history of the place in any way you can: by watching documentaries, visiting museums, reading books and other literature from the time period – seek out anything you can get your hands on and start absorbing it all. If you can, we also strongly recommend speaking to people who were in that place at the right time; there’s no better source than someone who can tell you all about it from firsthand experience.

Historical fiction books are a good resource for those wishing to write immersive, authentic fiction set in past time periods and real locations. An expansive genre, historical fiction contains a wealth of titles from which to gain inspiration and examples, but a good starting place might be exploring the work of:

  • Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities conjures up particularly vivid images of London and Paris during the French Revolution;
  • Chinua Achebe – a Nigerian author whose African trilogy, especially Things Fall Apart, paints a striking portrait of post-colonial Africa;
  • Philippa Gregory – author of The Other Boleyn Girl, who specialises in British historical fiction that mostly examines the stories of the aristocracy.

Other great titles to investigate include Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, which takes place in wartime Germany, and Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha, set in twentieth-century Japan.

Speak with your senses

Building and developing a sense of place is a great excuse to flex your descriptive muscles. But don’t just rely on describing what you see – talk about the sounds, the smells, the feel of your chosen place; the atmosphere and the things that contribute to it; and, perhaps most importantly, the effect the place has on your characters. (On that note, it pays to remember not to get too bogged down in description at the expense of plot and character development. Keep in mind that your invocation of place is ultimately to serve the characters and story within it.)

***

After all that, you’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of effort it takes to build a whole world with words – whether that world is fictional, real or somewhere in between. Our suggestion? Take a well-earned break, make a cup of tea, and set aside your world for now. Tomorrow it will still be there waiting for you, and armed with your new knowledge, you’ll be ready to build it from the ground up.

Via https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/the-ultimate-guide-to-world-building-how-to-write-fantasy-sci-fi-and-real-life-worlds/

The Sound Of A Memoir | Article

Lyrics-in-novel-article

An interesting and useful article about using song lyrics in your novel. Makes for a very informative read. Enjoy!


Music is great for writing. Pop those headphones in, start up your two-hour Epic Music track or your carefully curated, book-specific playlist, get in your headspace and go go go.

Music is not great for reading. When I edit a manuscript with song lyrics used as epigraphs, or quoted from one character to another, or someone singing along, I have standard cut-and-paste language:

Consider whether these lines are necessary: using song lyrics falls under a specific copyright area that is not subject to fair use, and obtaining permission is tedious and can be difficult and expensive.

The short answer to “What about using some song lyrics in my memoir?” is “You can’t.” To elaborate, songs written after 1923-ish (depending on when you read this blog post) are almost certainly under copyright. The singer or band associated with the song may or may not be the writer(s). Once you google to find the writing credits, you’ll need to track down the publisher through ASCAP or BMI. The publisher does not want to talk to you until you have a publication contract, or specific, written publication plans including where you’ll be selling the book, the cover price, and how many copies you’re printing. Then the publisher bills you.

It can get expensive, Blake Morrison tells the Guardian:

I still have the invoices. For one line of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”: £500. For one line of Oasis’s “Wonderwall”: £535. For one line of “When I’m Sixty-four”: £735. For two lines of “I Shot the Sheriff” (words and music by Bob Marley, though in my head it was the Eric Clapton version): £1,000. Plus several more, of which only George Michael’s “Fastlove” came in under £200. Plus VAT. Total cost: £4,401.75.

But what about “fair use”?

Fair use is the legal principle allowing us to quote lines or paragraphs from books under copyright. Quotations are fair use if the number of words used is a very small proportion of the total words in the original work; if the quote is properly attributed; and if it’s essential to the point you’re making in your own work. Song lyrics have not yet been held to a “fair use” standard. Arguably, even a line of a song is a fairly large proportion compared to say, 200 words from a 90,000-word novel. But poetry can be fairly used and often is. What makes songs different?

Publishers with deep pockets, excellent legal teams, and a strong precedent of defending their copyrights.

Beyond legal battles, it’s worth it to consider what impact the quoted lyrics will really have in your book. Does your reader associate “Janie’s Got A Gun” with that beautiful night you sat in a convertible, watching the ocean roll in below the hills? Or does she remember her school’s anti-violence initiative that used the literal message of the song? Will readers from another generation even know the song you’re quoting? Will they think of it as “Mom’s music” instead of “pulse-pounding jam”? Writers can’t control how readers react, so we might as well use words we can craft ourselves.

In the Brevity Podcast Episode 8, Geeta Kothari and I discussed using quotes within essays and stories. In her experience as an editor for Kenyon Review, lyrics often pull the reader out of the story on the page and into their own associations with the song. JoBeth McDaniel, from the Rush editorial board, mentions in the same episode that even quoting other non-song writing raises legal issues that editors just don’t want to deal with.

Sure, it’s a great feeling when a single lyric conjures up a world of emotion in our heart. But it’s both uncertain and a bit lazy to expect that line to do the same for every reader. Instead, ask yourself what emotional purpose that song serves, and put that feeling in the setting, in the narrative, in the dialogue. Or obliquely quote in a way that makes knowledge of the original song unnecessary:

He banged his head to Sweet Child O’ Mine and I wished hard I could like Guns N Roses. (Titles are OK!)

On the radio, Springsteen was on fire, singing his creepy lyrics about Daddy not being home.

We rolled down the windows and cranked up the stereo–GooGooDolls, The Cure, KLM, all the music everyone was listening to, the bass throbbing in my chest and making me feel like I was part of everyone.

You’ve got something important to say. Don’t lean on a song to say it for you. Use your words. Use your images. Use your experiences. Trust in your power to create your own music in the reader’s head.

***

Via: https://brevity.wordpress.com/2018/04/24/the-sound-of-a-memoir/

Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck

John-Steeinbeck

The Pulitzer Prize winner and Nobel laureate John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902 – December 20, 1968) gave us six tips on writing, which were originally set down in a 1962 letter to the actor and writer Robert Wallsten.

Steinbeck counsels:

  1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.
  2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
  3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.
  4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it – bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave trouble is because it didn’t belong there.
  5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.
  6. If you are using dialogue – say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

But perhaps most paradoxically yet poetically, twelve years prior –  in 1963, immediately after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception” –  Steinbeck issued a thoughtful disclaimer to all such advice:

If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that make a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.”

If you’re bold enough to defy Steinbeck’s anti-advice advice, you can do so with these nine essential books on more and writing. Find more timeless counsel on the craft in the collected wisdom of great writers, then see how Steinbeck used his diary as a tool of discipline and a hedge against self-doubt.

Happy writing!

***

Via: https://www.brainpickings.org/john-steinbeck-six-tips-on-writing/

Create Compelling Characters With These 3 Types of Character Arcs

Characters2

We all know that crafting believable characters with strong motivations is vital in fiction writing. But how do you ensure that your characters remain compelling throughout the course of your story?

The answer is simple: make sure they all have strong character arcs.

What is a character arc?

A character arc is basically the journey a character undertakes over the course of a story. But this doesn’t mean a physical journey.

We’re talking about an inner journey: one that makes a character grow, learn, change, evolve, or even completely transform as the story unfolds.

Generally, this means that a character begins the story as one person, transforms, grows or changes throughout, and ends the story as a different sort of person. In other words, a round character.

Think of it this way: all good stories revolve around conflict. This usually comes in the form of obstacles, both external and internal, that a character must overcome. In order to overcome the obstacles, the character needs to grow or change in some way. And that’s where the character arc comes in.

Obviously, no two character arcs in fiction are exactly the same. But there are three basic archetypes that the majority of character arcs fall into.

Let’s take a look at those now.

 

The 3 basic types of character arcs

1. Change/transformation arc

The first and perhaps most common arc is one of change and/or complete transformation. It goes hand-in-hand with the hero’s journey – a plot structure found in more books and films than you can count.

This character arc involves a complete change from ‘regular’ person to hero or saviour. Usually reserved for main characters/protagonists, the change/transformation arc usually begins with a plain old ordinary person who’s something of an underdog, or at least seems rather unlikely to be saving the world anytime soon.

However, as the story unfolds, this character undergoes a transformation – usually quite a radical one. Drawing on some inner strength, talent or drive they didn’t know they had, the character ultimately achieves success in what they’ve set out to do – and basically becomes a completely different person in the process.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Harry Potter in the Harry Potter series
  • Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit
  • Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars series
  • Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series

As you may notice, this character arc is perhaps most common in genre fiction such as fantasy or sci-fi. This is largely due to the mythic/epic quality of the ‘hero’s journey’ narrative – the theory of which has its origins in studies of mythology.

Writing a change/transformation arc

Perhaps the most useful concept to keep in mind when writing this type of arc is that of the lie your character believes.

Most, if not all change arcs involve the character in question believing a particular lie or misconception about themselves or the world around them. The character then discovers the truth, and the way they react to this discovery – how they change in the face of it – forms the basis of their character arc.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be a single lie or misconception, especially if the character arc stretches across multiple books in a series.

In the Harry Potter series, for example, the initial ‘lie’ that Harry believes is a literal lie told to him by the Dursleys: that he is an ordinary boy whose parents died in a car crash. He soon discovers the truth: that he is actually a wizard, and that he survived an attack from an evil wizard who killed his parents.

This sets off Harry’s character arc – his transformation from ordinary boy to brave, world-saving wizard who defeats Lord Voldemort. However, there are many more ‘lies’ that shape and reinforce his arc throughout the series, such as his perception of Severus Snape and the major reveal about his fate as one of Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

So when writing a change/transformation arc, ask yourself: what lie or lies does my character believe? How will they discover the truth? And how will this discovery lead them to change or be completely transformed as a person?

2. Growth arc

This type of arc is different from the above, in that the character grows, but does not necessarily undergo a complete change or transformation.

By the end of the story, they are still essentially the same person, but they have overcome something within themselves. As a result, they are a better or more rounded person, or simply different in some way.

Growth can also be achieved by the character changing their perspective, learning something new, or having a different role by the end of the story.

Basically, this arc is a little more subtle than the ‘hero’s journey’-style arc; in a growth arc, the character won’t end up being the saviour of the universe, but they will have grown, developed and changed in some way.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice
  • Nick Carraway in The Great Gatsby
  • Jaime Lannister in the A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones series
  • Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings series

Just as the change/transformation arc is used most often in sci-fi and fantasy, the growth arc tends to be more common in literary fiction (but, being perhaps the most ‘general’ type of character arc, it’s found across all genres and styles).

Writing a growth arc

Growth arcs work particularly well for secondary characters, especially if your main character is undergoing a complete change/transformation arc. Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings, for example, experiences a growth arc, while the main protagonist Frodo Baggins undergoes more of a transformation.

While Frodo is totally and irrevocably changed by his experience with the One Ring – symbolised by him leaving the Shire to find peace instead in the Undying Lands – Sam is essentially the same hobbit after his journey, albeit a wiser and more weathered one. He returns to life in the Shire, different but not totally transformed.

When writing growth arcs, compare your character at the beginning and end of the story and ask yourself: at their core, are they essentially the same person? Would they be able to return to ‘regular life’, just with a different perspective, worldview or way of doing things?

As long as your character has learned something, changed their perspective, or improved an aspect of themselves throughout the story, they’ve experienced a growth arc – even if, in their heart, they’re the same homely hobbit they’ve always been.

3. Fall arc

While the above two types of character arc are generally positive, this is a negative arc. It involves the decline or ‘fall’ of a character through bad choices they have made, which ultimately doom them (and potentially others).

By the end of this arc, the character has usually either died, become corrupted, or lost their mind (or if they’re lucky, all three). They have likely ruined their own life as well as the lives of others, and have experienced no redemption or salvation – only downfall.

In the most extreme form of the ‘fall’ arc, the character begins the story as a good/happy/successful person, but by the end of the story is completely unrecognisable – basically the polar opposite of the positive change/transformation arc we discussed above.

Well-known examples of this type of character arc include:

  • Walter White in Breaking Bad
  • Hamlet in Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  • Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader in the Star Wars series
  • Dorian Gray in The Picture of Dorian Gray

This type of arc is seen a lot in classic tragedy, but is also common in modern literature and film.

Writing a fall arc

Author K. M. Weiland posits that there are three sub-types when it comes to this arc:

  • ‘Typical’ fall – the character changes for the worse through bad decisions.
  • Corruption – the character changes for the worse but ends up embracing the change.
  • Disillusionment – the character discovers a truth about the world that leaves them unhappy or bitter at the end of the story. (This type is sometimes better applied to the growth style of arc, as it doesn’t necessarily involve a complete transformation, just a change of perspective within the character.)

Fall arcs are perhaps most commonly used in creating villains. They’re particularly effective when the character begins as someone who could be perceived as the hero, but undergoes a negative transformation and becomes a villain or antagonist instead (plot twist!).

When writing a fall arc, it helps to consider whether you want readers to be sympathetic to your character. If so, perhaps go down the route of a traditional ‘fall’ arc or a disillusionment; if not, you can create a full corruption arc, in which the character is as terrible as they come!

Be sure to keep things realistic when it comes to character motivations, though – there’s no point giving a character a negative or ‘villain’ arc if there aren’t believable motivations behind it.

 

A note on flat character arcs

Something to remember: not all characters need to experience a major, defined character arc.

Flat character arcs, while much less common than the types we’ve discussed above, do exist. They involve no change or growth within the character, who’s exactly the same at the end of the story as they were at the beginning.

Flat character arcs are most often found within certain genres, such as mystery (e.g. Sherlock Holmes), adventure (e.g. Indiana Jones), and spy thriller (e.g. Jack Reacher, James Bond).

However, flat character arcs can and do exist within all genres and styles of story. Many minor characters experience flat arcs, leaving the more defined arcs for the protagonist and other main characters.

An important note, though: be careful not to confuse a flat character arc with a lack of development for your character. Sometimes, if your character’s arc appears quite static, it means they are underdeveloped and that their journey and characterisation need to be more compelling – especially if they are a major character.

***

Happy writing!

Via: https://writersedit.com/fiction-writing/create-compelling-characters-character-arcs/

Writing Prompt: Breaking News

News-prompt

Extra extra! Read all about it!

Here is a writing prompt to really get those creative juices flowing:

Write a made-up news report.

This could be an idea taken from something you’ve seen in real life, maybe something you read in a local or national paper.

Or you could take one of your fictional characters and imagine something newsworthy happening to them – how would that event be reported in the morning papers?

It could be an opinion piece or a feature, a wedding announcement, something unusual or exciting taking place in the community, or it could be the crime of the century!

Who knows. Maybe it will spark the idea for your next novel, or give you an exciting new twist.

Or it could be that prompt you needed to develop your plot and get you out of that rut you’ve been stuck in.

Happy writing 🙂

 

If “New Book Smell” Were A Perfume, You’d Wear It: 10 Truths Only Print Book-Lovers Understand

New-Book-Smell

For a book-lover, there’s nothing better than holding the print version of a book in your hands. If you’re like me, you hold on to the belief that this e-reader business is a phase and that paper books can never truly be replaced. For those that cry out the demise of the paper book and hail the new tech-friendly versions, listen up: 70 percent of readers aren’t willing to make the switch from paper books to eBooks. And just a friendly reminder: two-thirds of all book sales still belong to print books.

Print book-lovers know it’s not always the convenient or smart choice to keep lugging around our hefty books. Sure, sometimes it’s a chore, but we wouldn’t trade our beloved paperbacks for anything in the world. Not even if every single book went digital. (Okay, maybe then. Reluctantly.) If you are stubborn like me and refuse to give in to the e-reader, then you know the struggles, joys, habits, and annoyances that loving paper books can bring.

And you can totally understand and relate to these 10 truths below:

1. You Love The Smell Of A New Book, In Fact, If “New Book Smell” Were A Perfume, You’d Wear It

No e-book can beat the way it feels to get a whiff of those pages. It’s part nostalgia, part soothing, part excitement about the book to come – but all totally awesome.

2. You Always Need A Bag Big Enough To Fit Your Books… Which Means Sometimes You Look Like a Bag Lady (But That’s Totally OK)

You’re always in the middle of two or three different books, and your day consists of a lot of waiting around (aka reading time), so you’ve got to be well-prepared. And if the day involves stopping by the book store, which it usually does, then you need extra bags, just to be safe.

3. You Think Nothing Is Sexier Than a Well-Stocked Bookshelf, And It’s The First Thing You Look For When You Go Into A New Person’s Home

As John Waters puts it, “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t f*ck ’em!” And vice versa: Let your kick-ass book collection be your sexy secret weapon. What are you going to do, awkwardly leave out your Kindle so your date might catch a glimpse of the latest book you’re reading? No. Display your collection proudly.

4. You Like To Order Your Books On You Shelf In Order Of Colour

Because Colour Coordination looks amazing and makes you feel like you live in a place of rainbows and fairytales – oh, wait, you do!

5. You Feel More Enraptured In A Story When You’re Reading A Print Book

And, hey, I don’t blame you. Researchers have proven that comprehension while reading paper books is higher than while reading their digital counterparts. “All those cues like what the page looks like, what the book felt like, all those little pieces help you put together the whole thing – unlike the simulated pages of an e-reader,” says Marilyn Jager-Adams, a psychologist at Brown University. So, if you get lost with your nose in the pages… don’t sweat it, it’s totally natural.

6. You Know That Books Are More Durable (Er, Most of the Time)

There’s a reason paper books can last hundreds of years. No worries about a cracked screen or a dead battery! No threat of heat damage if you leave it in your car. A good book can follow you anywhere. (Just, um, don’t leave it out in the rain.)

7. You Pretend Not To Be Bothered By How Easy People With E-Readers Have It At the Beach

OK, so you got a little sand and water on a few pages of your book. It just adds character, right? Ignore those “I told you so” looks from your friends. At least you’re working your arm muscles by holding those pages open. And sand is much easier to remove from paper than from inside your Kindle.

8. You Know The Instant Intellectual Prowess You Feel Reading Out In Public, Especially That Time You Tried To Read Infinite Jest

Hooray for not staring blindly into your phone or iPad like everyone else! Also, you’ve got a shiny, interesting book cover that can be a great conversation piece with the attractive person sitting next to you. (Said person also told you it’s impossible to finish Infinite Jest if you’re not reading it with two bookmarks. Oops.)

9. You Know That Reading In Bed is Better (And Way Cozier!) With A Print Book

It’s true: Using an e-reader at night can cause trouble with sleeping and affect alertness in the morning, which is basically the opposite of what you want reading in bed to do. Where as cuddling up with your new favourite book can both encourage and enable a good healthy sleep. So there’s another excuse to do it (as if you needed it!).

10. You Get Tired Of Having To Defend Your Choice Of Print Books To E-Book Fanatics. THIS ISN’T A WAR, OK?!

Sure, eBooks are great for a lot of reasons. Especially if you are going travelling and don’t have room in your case, or more likely, are saving that space for all the books you will buy whilst you’re away. But it doesn’t mean we all have to trade in our paper books for eBooks in our everyday life. Let’s coexist peacefully. The important thing is that we are still reading, whatever format you prefer.

***

Via: https://www.bustle.com/articles/10-truths-only-print-book-lovers-understand