Viewpoints Tip Sheet

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Do you struggle wondering what viewpoint to use? Or get a bit mixed up as to the difference between them? Here’s a quick guide to them.

Third person viewpoint –‘ he/she said’ – is the most common one, but some authors prefer the first person – ‘I said’ – whichever one you use keep to your main character’s viewpoint. You should only relate what that character sees, hears, thinks, does, feels or knows. Your main character won’t know the thoughts or intentions of the other characters.

Don’t head-hop, that is jump from one character’s viewpoint to another. If you want to write from another character’s viewpoint then start a new scene (by leaving a space) or a new chapter. And stick to that character’s viewpoint for the rest of that scene or chapter. For example, if you have two main characters in your story,  Jake and Georgie, then when you are using Jake’s viewpoint he won’t know Georgie’s thoughts or feelings and vice-versa.

Sometimes the omniscient viewpoint is used, this is where the author is like a storyteller and relates everyone’s thoughts and actions. This isn’t a popular viewpoint now as there is no main character  for the reader to relate to. It is sometimes used to start a story though, to set the scene and introduce the main character. Then the story switches to the main character viewpoint.

Second person viewpoint – You – is rarely used in fiction. This is when the author speaks directly to the reader, a bit like an actor in a play saying an ‘aside’ to the audience. Most editors don’t like it as they think it interrupts the natural flow of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

Is it worth attending a writing workshop?

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This is a question I’m often asked by new writers who wonder if there are any benefits from having writing tuition. Whilst I agree to a certain extent that writers are born not taught, courses and workshops can help improve writing skills. As a writing tutor I try to pass on tips and skills that I’ve used over the years, and wish I’d known when I first started out, so my students can avoid the mistake I made early in my writing career. Other benefits from attending a writing course or workshop are:

1) Socialising

Don’t underestimate this. Writing is a solitary affair, it’s just you, your notebook and pen or computer screen. Attending a writing course or workshop brings you into contact with like-minded people who you can share your struggles with, pick up tips on beating writer’s block, brainstorm ideas and get valuable feedback on your work-in-progress.

2) Motivation

Attending a writing course or workshop could actually be the motivation you need to start writing that story you’ve been thinking about for years, or to finish the one you’ve started.

3) Inspiration

Talking to other writers, discussing books, thinking about story plots and doing writing exercises can get your creative mind working and provide inspiration for story ideas. I attended a writing workshop about 18 months ago (yes, even published writers find attending writing workshops beneficial) and during one of the writing exercises I got an idea for a book that I really want to write – when I’ve finished the two I’m working on at the moment!

4) Time

Most new writers struggle to find time to actually write. Attending a writing course or workshop means you take time out from your daily life to concentrate on writing. It gives you chance to focus on your craft, to explore and polish it, to discuss pitfall and drawbacks, ideas, hopes and inspirations with other writers.

5) Support

When you’re struggling with an idea or have just had your story rejected it’s great to have the support of other writers who are going through the same thing. Your writing tutor and group will help you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and have the confidence to believe in yourself and carry on writing.

6) Commitment

Committing yourself to attending a regular writing class or workshop means that you’re committing yourself to your writing. You’re taking yourself seriously as a writer and are prepared to put in the time and effort to help achieve this. You’re acknowledging that you want to write and taking steps to make that dream come true.

So if there’s a writing class or workshop near you, go along and join in the fun. You might even get that story finished!

 

What Kind of Book Should You Write?

 

 

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It’s often said that there’s a book in everyone, and I think this is true – but it might not be the book you’re trying to write! When most people think of writing a book they think of a novel, a fictional story. And when they struggle with writing it they start to think that they can’t write, that they’ll never be a writer and get really disheartened.  When I see this happening to my students I always suggest they step back a bit and ask themselves if this is the book they should be writing.

You’ve only got to take a look in your local bookstore to see how many different kind of books there are. Books aren’t just story books, there’s educational books that teach you things, craft books that show you how to make things, poetry books, games books, you name it and there’s probably a book for it.

Over the years I’ve written all sorts of children’s books; joke books, activity books, puzzle and plays as well as picture books and story books. For adults I’ve written  romance novels, writing courses, a ‘how to  write children’s fiction book’ and short stories. I’ve written poems and comic strips too. Some of these things I’ve found easier than others. So if you’re feeling a bit disheartened with your writing maybe you should try your hand at something different. Maybe you’re struggling because you’re writing the wrong sort of book for you.                                        

If you’re not sure what sort of book to write then think about what you like to read. Do you like books that scare you? Make you laugh? Stories about people like you? Do you like poetry or plays? Quizzes or amazing facts? If you like reading about something chances are that you’ll enjoy writing about it too. So why not have a go at writing something different? You might even enjoy it!

Get Writing!

 

Tips for writing children’s stories

 

 

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Times have changed. The books children read, the clothes they wear, the games they play and even the way they speak are different to what I remember, and I’m sure you find the same. So how do you, as a writer of children’s stories put yourself in their world?  Here are some of the tips I’ve found useful:

1) Get down on your knees. If you are writing a story for children under eight then try getting down on your knees and seeing what the world looks like when you’re child-size. See how tall grown-ups look, how high the door handle is, how big the table seems. Many people have gone back to their primary schools and been amazed how small everything seems but to a young child everything looks big. They can struggle to open doors, to see out of windows, to reach cupboards and shelves. The world is a huge, fascinating and often frightening place to them.

2) Look beyond the obvious. Children see the world in different eyes to ours. The overgrown lawn might seem a mess to you but to a child it’s a magical world of amazing creatures where they can build dens, play hide and seek and pretend to be animals running through a meadow. The hole in the tree trunk is the home of a woodland fairy, the shadow the lamp throws on the bedroom wall when they’re about to go to sleep is a monster, the branch tapping against the bedroom window is an owl come to take them for  a moonlight ride.

3) Imagine that anything is possible. Young children have limited experience and knowledge of the world so they are open-minded, ready to believe in tooth fairies, the bogey man, Father Christmas and the monster who sleeps under their bed. Many a successful children’s story has been written by tapping into this sense of wonder and belief.

4) Notice children. Really notice them. Listen to them talk, watch how they move, the games they play, the questions they ask. This will give you a good insight into what goes through their minds.

Finally, remember that despite the differences in children today, basically their needs, hopes and fears haven’t changed. They still like to be entertained, to read stories that make them laugh aloud, bring a lump to their throat, make them glance over their shoulder. They still worry about going to school, falling out with friends, not being loved, failing, being left out…things that you and I worried about when we were a child. We all have our own memories and experiences of childhood so my last tip is write for the child you were, but bring that child into the 21st Century.

Happy Writing!

You’ll find more tips on writing for children in my book, Get Writing: Children’s Fiction.getwritingfront

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Characters make stories

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Writers work in lots of different ways. For some writers the story plot comes first – Stephanie Meyer apparently actually dreamt the whole plot of Twilight, wrote it up and we all know what happened next. For other writers the title comes first – a writer friend of mine finds it difficult to write a story if she hasn’t got a title – but for me the character comes first. When I was writing my YA, Sapphire Blue, it was Sapphire who popped into my head first, and gradually her story started to unfold.

I have to know all about my character before I can write my story. I like to know what they look like, how they talk, think and act, what their family is like, who their friends – and enemies are. In a nutshell, I want to know what makes them tick. I think that it’s the character that makes the story because different people react in different ways to situations, things that are a problem to one character aren’t to another. So you can have the same scenario but would get a different story according to the character you’re writing about.

If I can’t think of a character for a story I look at some pictures and ask myself questions about them. Where do they live? Who are their friends or enemies?  Then I try to place my character in a situation that might cause them a problem. I ask myself how would they react? Would they be frightened? I play around with the idea a bit, imagining all sorts of scenarios until I have a story plot that will work.

So if you’re stuck with an idea for a story why not create a character, ask yourself what their story is? What are their dreams, problems, wishes and fears? What is the thing they desire most? The thing they fear most? Asking questions like this can help you get story ideas.

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Using dialogue

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Speech is a powerful tool. It is the way we express ourselves, our likes, dislikes and opinions. In books, dialogue has many uses. It:

Brings the characters alive. Notice how everyone expresses themselves in different ways, uses different tones of voice, different sentence construction, chooses different words to say similar things. Think how dialogue individualises people. When you answer the phone to a friend, colleague or member of your family you usually know who it is without them telling you. You know by the tone of their voice and the way they express themselves. When you write your reader should know who is speaking before they read the name of the speaker, again by the way they express themselves. Make sure that every character in your story expresses themselves differently, speaks with their own voice.

Moves the story forward. Just a sentence of dialogue can move the story along. For example, your character and a friend have been searching for something for ages. “I’ve found it!” Emma shouted. Just those three words tell us the search is over.

Informs the reader of facts. Dialogue can be used to give your reader information about one of the characters, a recent development, something that is about to happen or any other fact they need to know.

Sets the emotional mood. A character’s speech can lighten the mood of the story or increase the drama and suspense.

Describes an action. A simple phrase such as “For goodness sake, Jenny stop fidgeting!” can tell us a lot about a character.

Foreshadows plot development. A sentence of dialogue can often tell the reader that something important is about to happen far more effectively than a chunk of narrative. “What’s that strange light in the sky?” Vicky shouted. “It’s coming nearer. It’s…it’s a spaceship!”

Sustains the reader’s interest. Children (and many adults) find dialogue more interesting than narrative so realistic dialogue can keep them interested, especially in the middle of the story where it can often go flat.

Never use dialogue just for the sake of it. It must serve a purpose and advance the plot in some way

If you’re writing for children and want more writing tips, check out my book Get Writing Children’s Fiction available from Amazon

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Adding conflict to your story

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Conflict is vital to your story. Your character needs to have some conflict/problem to resolve. Conflict is what holds your reader’s interest and keeps them reading. There are three main kinds of conflict:

  • Conflict with other characters.
  • External conflict – conflict with circumstances.
  • Internal conflict – conflict with your own personality.

 

Conflict with other characters is the most popular conflict for writers. There are countless books based around the protagonist having problems with the family, friends, boyfriends/ partners, neighbours, etc. The most common conflict in a romance novel is when the heroine and hero clash over something.

External conflict. This forms the basis of many exciting adventure stories, for example where your protagonist is trapped in a snowstorm, stranded in the fog, involved in a train or aeroplane crash.

Internal conflict. This is when your protagonist is faced with a situation where they have to struggle against their own nature. Perhaps they are too shy, insecure, feel they are too fat, too thin.

Dual conflict. Of course these conflicts can be mixed, for example if a character is kidnapped for a ransom this would be a conflict with other characters (the kidnapper), circumstances (they are rich) and probably internal conflict (they could be scared of closed in spaces and are kept in a small room). However, there should be one major, over-riding conflict that isn’t resolved until the end.