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Amazon A+ Content: NEW Ultimate Guide [Sell More Books!]

New to Amazon A+ Content? You’re in the right place.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has made another great addition to improving the author experience with the A+ content feature. If this is your first time to hear about Amazon A+ content, this is what it is, according to KDP:

“A+ Content allows you to add images, text, and comparison tables to your Amazon detail page to engage readers and give them more information as they consider buying your book.”

The question you might be asking: “Is this at all relevant to my author branding, book sales, and overall reader experience?”

The answer: “Yes!” It matters to all of these features, and more. 

We’ll post the overview video below, by best-selling author and Self-Publishing School book coach, Scott Allen, but if you get stuck, refer to this full article below for step-by-step instructions.

PRO-TIP: Plan on creating a lot of Amazon A+ content for your book or book series? Bookmark this post!

This guide to Amazon A+ Content covers:

  1. What is Amazon A+?
  2. Why you should add Amazon A+ Content
  3. Examples of fiction Amazon A+ Content
  4. Examples of nonfiction Amazon A+ Content
  5. Which Amazon marketplaces support Amazon A+ Content?
  6. How to access Amazon A+ Content
  7. How to create your Amazon A+ Content
  8. How to publish Amazon A+ across international marketplaces
  9. A+ Content guidelines from Amazon
  10. Final tips and suggestions
  11. Is Amazon A+ content worth it?

Amazon A+ Content: Comprehensive Guide

Amazon is always whipping up new things! Now, it’s a way for self-published authors to better compete with traditionally published ones.

Amazon A+ Content Before

Up until now, A+ content was available to publishers only as a means to deeply promote an author’s work and, of course, increase book sales and visibility with images and text. This feature was originally designed for subscribers of Amazon.com Advantage, and it was clearly not for authors back then.

But Advantage had closed its doors in 2014 to new account holders and so, the only way to access A+ Content was to connect with someone that had already been grandfathered into the Advantage program. However, you most likely didn’t have an Amazon.com advantage account in more than one country or region. So, if you had an account for the UK, you could only promote with Amazon A+ Content in that country.

Now, the game has flipped.

With this new feature, self-published authors can access A+ Content and publish to any location where Amazon is active with KDP (and that is over 12 locations).

Note: the only exception is Japan. In order to publish Amazon A+ content in Japan, you must go to the site directly and upload it there at: kdp.amazon.co.jp

What is Amazon A+?

Amazon A+ Content allows you to add images, text, and comparison tables to your Amazon detail page to engage readers and give them more information as they consider buying your book.

Add A+ content to your detail page to make your book stand out, connect readers with your books, and share more about your author story.

In this post, we will walk you through the steps you need to take full advantage of the Amazon A+ content.

You can add details to your book page under the From the Publishers section.

This is a game changer for self published authors provided that you stick within the guidelines and don’t add any links out to promotions or affiliates.

If you’re promoting a single book (or a book series) the A+ content is a great feature you want to take advantage of!

Why You Should Add Amazon A+ Content

You can use this feature with any book published on the KDP platform. By publishing Amazon A+ content to your book’s page under the From the Publisher section, you will be able to:

  1. Showcase your branding.
  2. Reveal key features of your book through visuals
  3. Make your book more attractive to potential buyers (and we all want more buyers)
  4. Add exclusive testimonials to your work to reveal author credibility!
  5. Create timelines for fiction to show the timeline for individual characters
  6. Use graphics to compare different books you have and the differences between them. Again, great for comparing a series.
  7. Create a carousel for characters or, for nonfiction, the benefits of your book on a rotating carousel.

The more you work with Amazon A+ content, you will experience more advantages than we could list here. The potential is exponential for growth of your brand and market to help you sell more books.

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Amazon A+ Content Examples

As we dive deeper into setting up your A+ content, let’s take a look at some of the pages that have already been created by several authors and/or publishing companies.

Fiction examples:

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, has a bestseller on Amazon Project Hail Mary with amazing Amazon A+ content.

In this content, the publisher has used a visual approach to showcasing this bestselling sci-fi book with a header and three smaller images.

example of Amazon A+ fiction content from Andy Weir

From master storyteller Stephen King and his latest book Billy Summers, very powerful branding around the look of his book. Notice there is little text and the focus is more on the images with the hook and testimonials.

example of Amazon A+ fiction content from Stephen King

Nonfiction examples:

Here are two of my favorite examples for nonfiction Amazon A+ content:

From Designing the Mind author Ryan A Bush comes a unique blend of brand imaging plus embedded text for deeper description of the book.

screenshot of Designing The Mind Amazon A+ nonfiction content
screenshot of Designing The Mind Amazon A+ nonfiction content

Self-Publishing School’s very own prolific author Bill Miller has used a nice blend with his business book The Rookie CEO, showcasing the award from Book Authority and testimonials from CEOs.

screenshot from Amazon of Bill Miller's The Rookie CEO nonfiction A+ content

One of my favorites (for simplicity) is Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power.

He really captures the browser’s attention with the colors of his book’s branding. The captions are very easy to read.

Note that he has included the ASINs for his relevant works below.

example of Robert Greene's The 48 Laws of Power color schme branding

 

Which Amazon marketplaces support Amazon A+ Content?

That’s the great plus that comes with this feature. You can use Amazon A+ in most countries where KDP is available. These stores include:

Amazon A+ Content can be published in a variety of marketplaces but readers only see that content if they are viewing it in their preferred language.

After A+ content is published, if your book is available in multiple marketplaces, KDP will identify the other marketplaces that support the language of your Amazon A+ content and copy a draft of that content into the applicable marketplaces where your book is live.

Depending on their language of preference, readers will see the A+ Content in the store relevant to the specific language.

How to Access Amazon A+ Content

Sign into your KDP account. From the tabs at  the top, click into the marketing tab on the far right.

screenshot of KDP marketing section

Scroll down until you come to the Amazon A+ Content section. From there, you can move to the right and under the marketplace, select the Amazon.com store for A+ content.

If you prefer to create your Amazon A+ content in another country and in another language, you can do that as well. We will discuss this in more detail further on. Let’s use the Amazon.com store as an example to set this up.

screenshot of how to choose an A+ content marketplace

How to Create Your Amazon A+ Content

This is where the fun begins! Before we dive into this, there is one very important tool I would encourage you to begin using if you haven’t already, and that is…Canva!

screenshot of using Canva to design visual content

By learning the ropes for creativity, Canva allows you to make creative images with text for just about anything. You can use the free version, or go PRO for just $97 a year. If you’re not certain if pro is for you, start with the free feature (like I did) and upgrade later as you expand your branding and content.

Now, creating Amazon A+ content. Here is a step by step tutorial for everything you need from A to Z and a complete breakdown of how to add A+ content to your page in less than ten minutes.

Setting Up Amazon A+ Content

Click the button that says “Start creating A+ content” in the top-right.

screenshot of start creating A+ content button from Amazon

Now, you’re in the content details page that allows you to set up the Amazon A+ content. In the “Content” section, name your A+ content.

You can use the name of your book, an acronym for your title, or call it anything else that makes sense to you. Only you will see this.

Now, choose your language from the dropdown menu:

screenshot of Amazon A+ content language selection menu

Creating Image and Text Modules in Amazon A+ Content

Next, click on the button that says Add Module. You can find it in the center of the page:

screenshot of Amazon's add module button

Now, you’ll see a plethora of “module” choices for creating your content.

You can add up to five modules for each piece of Amazon A+ content.

There are a lot of styles to choose from, so instead of getting bogged down in decision fatigue, keep it simple with basic images.

Create “something” and publish it. You can upgrade it later. We want you to create and publish your Amazon A+ content today, so pick a module and run with it.

Here are the choices for modules authors have as of now:

  • Standard Company Logo: You can put a company/personal logo. Unlike other image options on this list, this image space is smaller, and will be shown in Amazon’s dimensions of 600×180 pixels.
  • Standard Comparison Chart: Create tables that compare your product to other products. 
  • Standard Four Image & Text: Four images and text that can describe specific features of the product for greater detail.
screenshot showing different types of A+ content that can be created on Amazon - standard company logo, standard comparison chart, standard four image and text
  • Standard Four Image/Text Quadrant: Similar to the first set of four images and text (with a different layout)
  • Standard Image and Dark Text Overlay: You can attach a larger image, and put text above it, with a dark overlay. (One of my favorites!)
  • Standard Image and Light Text Overlay: Same as the above, but with a white overlay that includes a “hero image.”
screenshot showing different types of A+ content that can be created on Amazon - standard four image/text quadrant, standard image and dark text overlay, standard image and light text overlay
  • Standard Image Header with Text: This is a standard image header with some text underneath it, and looks great for positioning at the top of your Amazon A+ content. Note examples above are using this.
  • Standard Multiple Image Module A: This is a great option for having several images that your readers can click through, to show different pieces of the book. For dogs, various types, or if you did a book on gardening, it could be for showcasing the various plants discussed in the book.
  • Standard Product Description Text: This is a standard text section aligned on the left side for greater detail. 
screenshot showing different types of A+ content that can be created on Amazon - standard image header with text, standard multiple image module a, standard product description text
  • Standard Single Image and Highlights: A specially formatted section with an image and several key highlights, which can be formatted in various ways.
  • Standard Single Image and Sidebar: Similar to the Single Image with Highlights, this section also includes a sidebar, making it ideal for trying to fit in a lot of information in one section.
  • Standard Single Image and Specs Details: Similar to the Single Image with Highlights or Sidebar, in this version, you also get a “Specs” addition for things like technical highlights, which could be great for non-fiction.
screenshot showing different types of A+ content that can be created on Amazon - standard single image and highlights, standard single image and sidebar, standard single image and specs detail
  • Standard Single Left Image: This is a simple image on the left with text on the right.
  • Standard Single Right Image: This is a simple image on the right, with text on the left.
  • Standard Technical Specifications: This is a table that allows you to add various technical specs to your Amazon A+ content.
  • Standard Text: A simple heading and text field.
  • Standard Three Images and Text: Three images with text underneath them.
screenshot showing different types of A+ content that can be created on Amazon - standard single left image, standard single right image, standard technical specifications, standard text, standard three images and text

Now that you know what the options are, it’s obvious you have a plethora of choices to mix and match for creative design. We would recommend checking out what other books in your genre are using, and basing your style from what is working or best suits the branding for your style.

Apply ASINs

Under Add ASINs, search for ASINs to apply the Amazon A+ content you created to all your product detail pages. After you add your book’s ASIN, it will appear in the Applied ASINs section. To make it easier to add multiple formats of your book, you can add multiple ASINs to one project. Click Apply ASINs after your selection is complete.

screenshot of how to add ASINs to content

Next, you can add your Amazon A+ content to as many other books as you want.

Tip: Your books should match up as in a series or in the same genre.

In addition: Add the ASINs for your paperback books, too.

Review and Submit Your Content

Now that you have created your content, as Seth Godin says: it’s time to ship it!

You can preview the content before submitting in case any last changes need to be made. When it all looks good, click on submit for approval and you’re done.

The great feature with this marketing tactic is that your content is available on desktop and mobile devices. 

Amazon generally approves A+ content within 24 hours, but it could be faster depending how many times you’ve created it. In our experience, the first time for approval takes the longest but improves with speed once your content is in their ecosystem.

But once you publish Amazon A+ Content in one marketplace, you can look into…

How to Publish Amazon A+ Across International Marketplaces

Yes, you can publish A+ Content in most international marketplaces, but you will have to create separate content for each marketplace. If the marketplace is using the same language (Example: English for the US, CAN, UK, AUS), Amazon will duplicate this content across other markets.

Readers will only see the content for the language that they are signed in for. So, if you publish your Amazon A+ content in France, but it’s written in English, only users signed in with English as their preferred language will see it.

Here are the tables provided by Amazon for clarity on where to publish your A+ Content depending on language:

list of marketplaces and languages for Amazon A+ content

Here is a list of the supported languages by marketplace:

list of supported language options for amazon international markets

To copy and publish to other marketplaces, you can follow these steps:

To publish copied content:

  • Go to the KDP Marketing page.
  • Scroll to the A+ Content section.
  • Choose the applicable marketplace.
  • Click Manage A+ Content. This will take you to the A+ Content Manager page for that marketplace.
  • Check the Show auto-created content box.
  • Click the Content name.
  • Follow the steps to create A+ Content.
  • Click Submit for approval when you’re ready to publish.

A+ Content Guidelines from Amazon

Before submitting your content, we recommend you run through Amazon’s checklist for Amazon A+ Content Guidelines and take note of everything that is listed under the main headings:

Fix top content issues

screenshot of Amazon A+ content guidelines from Amazon

Image and text formatting

screenshot of image and text formatting guidelines fro Amazon

Claims and awards

screenshot of claims and awards rules from Amazon

Content restrictions

screenshot of Amazon's A+ content restrictions

Updating and Resubmitting Content

If there is something in your content that needs tweaking or goes against Amazon’s A+ guidelines, Amazon will not approve the content and you will have to fix it and submit for approval once more.

To submit updates:

  • From the A+ Content Manager page, search for the ASIN you want to edit.
  • Click the Content name.
  • Input your changes.
  • Click Apply ASINs.
  • Click Submit for approval.

Final Tips and Suggestions for Creating Great Amazon A+ Content

  1. Avoid using lots of text. The Amazon A+ content allows publishers to utilize various styles for showcasing your book. But keep descriptive text to a minimum. Just because you CAN add lots of text to images doesn’t mean that you should. Browsers will most likely not stop for ten minutes to read a lot of text.
  2. Any numbers less than ten should be spelled out.
  3. Use Canva to create your images. You can also outsource this to Fiverr as there are several freelancers who can do this. But we do recommend trying it yourself as it’s relatively easy to set up.
  4. Try creating your content in various languages for international marketplaces.
  5. Pay attention to the guidelines to prevent your content from being rejected, and continue to improve on your creativity for showcasing your branding.

Is A+ Content Worth it?

In this post we’ve taken an in-depth look into Amazon A+ content and all the features it provides authors for becoming more savvy in marketing branding and thus, increasing book sales and readership. So yes, A+ is definitely worth your time to set up, and it should only take 20-30 minutes.

Tell us about your experience with Amazon A+ Content, and what are you using it for? Inserting an infographic, a timeline, or promoting your series?

Need Help?

Our Level 2 Course, “Sell More Books” may be the best kept secret in the self-publishing industry…

To see if it’s right for you and your author goals, sign up for the next online training.

If you’re looking for in-depth training, resources, skills, and coaching to help you up-level your author career, this is what we do.

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How To Plot A Children’s Book: (3) Plot Plan Tips for Impact

When you are looking at how to plot a children’s book, keep in mind, children’s book plotting technique it is not unlike the process for a fiction or non-fiction adult or young adult book.

The process is just very condensed.

Writing a full-length novel or nonfiction book can be extremely difficult. However, writing for children is a very special talent.

Fitting an entire storyline, character arc, and orbital characters into a short story can be even more difficult. It seems counter-intuitive, but including the power of a full-length novel in the length of a short story is often viewed as the more difficult of the two.

Writing for children takes this to an entirely new level. Children’s attention spans are relatively short. They are still young, maturing, and growing, and to expect them to sit down for a 100,000 word story is not practical.

However, it’s still extremely important to write great stories for children–they just need to be much more concise. Plotting a children’s book is a feat in and of itself. In this article, we will discuss several factors of this process.

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Remember, just as writing a full-length book is built around the several key points of story structure, plotting a children’s book is much the same.

Of course, these points will be streamlined and condensed in order to pack the most entertainment and learning into the least amount of space. Consider the points of plotting a middle grade, young adult, or adult book as the framework for plotting a children’s book.

With this in mind, plotting a children’s book will probably feel much less difficult, more practical, and much more attainable.

Before we dive in, let’s discuss the main points of plotting a book.

REMEMBER: Plots have three main points: start, middle, and end. A more literary definition would be the inciting incident (what starts the character on his journey), what is often referred to as the Marathon-Of-The-Middle, and the dénouement.

(Dénouement: “The final outcome of the main dramatic complication in a literary work.”)

If you want to be a little more complicated, you could consider the five main points of a book: Inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution. 

Keep these plot points in mind as we progress through this article. 

This preliminary information in mind, let’s dive in.

How To Plot A Children’s Book

Getting into the weeds of writing a children’s book can be a bit intimdating. Many of us start out thinking it will be easy—it’s short, how hard can it be?

But it takes a bit more finesse than you may realize.

1. What’s Different About Plotting A Children’s Book Vs Others?

The difference between plotting a children’s book and a middle grade book, young adult book, or an adult book is simply the target audience you are aiming to reach. 

For instance, when planning an adult novel, your target audience has a certain level of expectation already. They know the general format of a story. They expect to start with an inciting incident and expect to read through the rising action to the climax.

When planning a children’s book, it is important to understand that regardless of the age of the child you are targeting, they are either completely unfamiliar with, or not very familiar with, the general outline of a book.

They also have short attention spans. It’s important to grab their attention as quickly as possible and maintain their attention throughout the rest of the book.

This can be difficult to do in the few words it takes to write a children’s book. Just as every word counts in nonfiction and fiction for older readers, every word counts, literally, for children’s books. 

You can learn more about recommended word counts for different book genres in our post.

DID YOU KNOW: Your non-fiction book can be turned into a children’s book for greater reach and message impact!

2. How To Plot A Children’s Book For Impact

When plotting a children’s book with a focus on making the most impact, it’s crucial to determine exactly what your plot is. While children’s books don’t have many words, creating an elevator pitch can help you articulate what you’re trying to communicate and how you’re going to communicate it. 

It may be helpful for you to sit down and think through exactly what you want to include in your children’s book, then cut down the details until you have a short elevator pitch.

Write this elevator pitch down and keep it next to your work space so you can refer to it throughout the entire writing process: Brainstorming, drafting, and editing. 

When it comes to children’s books, it may also be helpful to cut some of the traditional plot points so you have less to work from. This way your focus will be more targeted.

Trim it down until you see what you specifically want to teach or how you want to entertain, then determine the three ways to do so. 

What starts your protagonist on his journey, quest, or experience?

What is the most important part?

What is the ending?

Once you have these basics mapped out, you can determine how he gets from point A to point B, in the most exciting way possible.

Let’s discuss some steps you can follow to help you do this in a simple way.

3. Steps for Plotting Your Children’s Book

When you decide to start brainstorming, it’s crucial to come with zero expectations. If you start brainstorming hoping that you will write the next bestseller, this expectation will probably hinder your creative process.

Much of creativity comes from strange ideas that aren’t expected. For instance, consider pairing an unusual character with a typical environment, or vice versa.

Brainstorm

First, brainstorm. Open a blank Word document or grab a blank sheet of paper, some different colored pens, and turn off your phone. Write down your theme or idea in the middle of a sheet of paper.

Then create lines spidering out from that word. Write down any words that apply or could be used to teach or entertain. Continue with this method until you are out of ideas.

If you’re unsure of exactly which direction to take your idea, this can actually be a help to you.

Use your brainstorming time to take your idea in as many directions as possible. You never know what idea may spark something that leads to an amazing story.

Develop Your Theme

Once you’ve completed your brainstorming session, it’s time to move on to your theme. There are many themes to choose from, and if you are unsure which direction you want to take your ideas, a simple Internet search can provide you with a myriad of themes to choose from.

When writing a children’s book, it’s best to choose one strong theme rather than try to fit many into the word count. 

Try to focus on one main idea, then present it in a way that your target audience can follow. 

It may be helpful for you to find any nieces, nephews, or other friends’ children and run your ideas by them. If they seem confused, go back to the drawing board. If they are excited and want you to tell them the story, you’ve probably struck gold. 

Tip: Remember that children have great questions and everything is new and exciting. If your story is about a donkey sitting down to dinner, realize that a young child may ask how the donkey sits in the chair or how he uses his fork or if he has to put his napkin on his lap. Try to consider the possible questions a young child may ask, and include the answers in your story. 

Create A Few Different Plots And Get Feedback

Similar to running your idea by young children, try creating several different plots and ask for feedback from other children’s book writers. You may also want to consider reaching out to readers of different genres and different age groups so you have well-rounded feedback.

Writers often use beta readers to provide feedback. This can be a great resource for you as you plot your children’s book. While children;s books have a low word count, it can still be discouraging to put hours into your story only to find out the plot isn’t getting the interest that you hoped it would.

If beta readers point out a plot issue, considerate their feedback. At the end of the day you are the writer and you get to make the final call, but listening to beta readers’ feedback can be extremely helpful during the creative process

Follow Plot Structure For Kids

Plot structure, as mentioned above, should still follow the traditional outline. An inciting incident is important to get the story started, there needs to be some sort of climax toward the middle of the book, and there needs to be some type of resolution at the end.

It’s important to realize a children’s book has such a low word count that the entire plot structure could be summed up in one scene.

For instance, consider the popular children’s book, If You Give A Pig A Pancake. This book follows one main plot point which is summed up in the title. The book doesn’t start with the protagonist, a pig, focused in any other area than the pancake. The entire book centers around the pancake. 

In an adult novel, eating a pancake (or even a full breakfast) could be summed up in one line such as: “After the detective had a breakfast of eggs and pancakes, he hurried out the door for his first appointment.”

An adult can follow this easily, but for a child, more detail is required.

One small meal can take the entire length of a children’s book, as If You Give A Pancake demonstrates. 

The key is to make such a small thing exciting.

Ask how you could make the examples below (one small part of the day) an exciting adventure for children:

  • Brushing teeth
  • Waking up
  • Going to the grocery store
  • Getting ready for the first day of school
  • Feeding the pet goldfish 
  • Learning how to jump rope 
  • Riding a bike for the first time
  • Meeting a new baby brother or sister

4. Don’t Miss Steps!

As you plot your children’s book and work through the process of brainstorming, drafting, editing, and eventually publication, remember that you are creating a book. It can be easy to get into the mindset that having such a low word count makes it easier to write a children’s book than a full-length novel. However, this is not necessarily the case.

Writing a children’s book is an incredible undertaking and takes a lot of preparation, work, and endurance to complete. It’s difficult to fit an entire story into so few words. 

Children’s imaginations are wonderful and their excitement for life is unparalleled. Writing a children’s book can be an enormous joy, but don’t underestimate the difficulty of hitting that word count.

Whether you’re writing a children’s book or an adult novel, a memoir or a young adult dystopia, writing books is a difficult task but one with great rewards.

Work through your brainstorming session, plot out your main points, and then get busy writing. Children devour books. Yours might be the next book they’re waiting on. You never know which children you may influence with your writing.

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biography versus autobiography blog post image

Biography Versus Autobiography: 5 Lessons To Your Best Story

The confusion between understanding the difference between a biography versus autobiography is a simple fix. However, understanding the difference is just the start of deciding which one is right for you. 

Both biographies and autobiographies are stories about an individual. Both follow an individual from birth to present day.  But they differ in who is writing what.

If your personal life story is incredible and you see the benefit of sharing it with the world, you’ve come to the right place. 

If you know someone who has an incredible life story and the world needs to hear it, you’ve come to the right place. 

First, let’s talk about biographies and autobiographies. 

Biography Versus Autobiography: Differences and Which To Write

1.  Biography Versus Autobiography: What’s The Difference?

A biography is a life story of an individual from birth to present day. An autobiography is the story of an individual, written by the individual himself. Often, individuals who write their life story are doing so not because they’re famous for their writing, but because they’re well known in other respects. 

Perhaps they are famous sports players, celebrities, or well-known for breakthroughs they’ve made in technology or medicine.

Maybe they are philanthropists and have dedicated their lives to bettering the lives of others. Or maybe they are an inventor and their story needs to be told.

Whatever the case of the individual’s story, a biography is that person’s story written by somebody else, and an autobiography is that person’s story written by themselves.

When deciding which route to take, it’s important to adequately assess your writing capabilities. 

If you are the individual whose story should be written, are you capable of writing it in the way it deserves to be told? If not, you may want to consider hiring a writer to help you write your story in the best way possible.

Perhaps you are a writer and you’ve dedicated your life to the craft of writing. You know someone whose story must be told and you want to help them get it onto the page. In this case, you would be writing an autobiography. You would be the one writing the book. This means you are responsible to run every single word past the individual whose story you are writing.

Regardless, both biographies and autobiographies should be written with the focus on the reader. Writing succeeds because of readers. Whether you’re covering your life from birth to now, or sharing specific stories of someone else’s life, keep the reader at the forefront of your mind at all times. 

The more you think “reader first” the better your biography or autobiography will be. 

Question: Were you also wondering how memoirs fit into this equation? You can learn about memoirs in the video below and learn more about how a memoir is different from an autobiography.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1V3X9h8HRI&t=90s

2. What’s In A Biography?

A biography is all the major life events of a particular person included in one book.

A biography is not a novel, but a well-crafted biography will employ many fiction storytelling techniques in order to create a riveting story.

While fiction techniques can and should be used when writing a biography, creative liberties should not be taken. 

For example, if you’re writing the story of someone who hiked seven miles through the jungle to get medicine to a particular village, don’t round up. While in fiction, the story might be more engaging to say your protagonist fought through ten miles of jungle before reaching their destination, a biography is reality. Don’t bend the facts. 

That said, names, places, and events can be changed to protect individuals. If you take this route, make a note at the beginning of the book.

One of the great benefits of a biography is that they are fact. Biographies are the real life stories of real life people that really happened.

While fiction can often feel like you’re reading about a real person instead of a character, biographies take real individuals and share their stories. A biography is the life story of an individual without any creative liberties added to the story. 

Writing someone’s biography can be a powerful way to take the story to the masses. Just remember, every word that you write in someone’s biography needs to be approved by the individual. This is their story, not yours, and you are simply helping them share their story with the world.

A biography also needs to include life events. While memoirs focus on a theme and only include real life events that contribute to that specific theme, biographies are the life of an individual from birth to present day (or death), and include all major life events regardless of theme.

As you begin doing your research and collecting your notes, keep this in mind, then begin the writing itself. 

Stories that you may think won’t be applicable will likely be necessary later on.

3. What’s Included In An Autobiography?

Just as a biography includes all major life events of an individual, an autobiography includes all major life events of an individual.

When writing an autobiography, you are the writer of your own life story. 

This can be extremely helpful because you know yourself best. You will not need to spend time explaining yourself to a writer and trying to communicate the emotions you felt during certain life events. When writing your own autobiography, you can make full use of the five senses and employ them to create an engaging read for your target audience.

If any particular life events feel important to you, they likely will be important for your autobiography. 

As mentioned above, a memoir focuses on a theme and uses an individual’s life events to contribute to that theme.

Example: Check out this memoir story centralized on theme from Self-Publishing School students Justin and Alexis Black.

Their memoir theme? How to overcome adversity while growing up in the foster system. Elements of their story, including timelines, weave back and forth through the story using this theme as a guiding point to keep the story on track.

memoir theme sample self publishing school students redefining normal book

An autobiography should include all major life events–an autobiography is more about the person who is writing the biography than about any particular theme.

Of course, a well-written autobiography will likely draw attention to specific themes, but the purpose of an autobiography is to share your life story via book form.

Think of your autobiography as a written documentary on your life. Documentaries are told in a linear fashion. They start at a single point in time and work their way to the end of a time period or to the present day.

Autobiographies are the same. 

The purpose of an autobiography is to communicate your life story. 

4. Examples Of Biographies

Biographies are the life stories of an individual written by someone else. Below are some popular examples. Read them, take notes, apply what works, ignore what doesn’t, and then plunge into your own writing of that biography: 

As you decide the best method for helping someone write your story, or writing someone else’s, remember writing is a journey. Don’t get overwhelmed with how many details there are to remember. Condensing an entire life into one book can be difficult. Take your time, enjoy the process, and slowly work toward the finished result. 

5. Examples Of Autobiographies

If, on the other hand, you decide to write your autobiography, you’ll likely want to brush up on both autobiographies and biographies. 

Autobiographies are written by the subject being written about. Often, famous individuals employ a writer to write their story rather than attempt to write it themselves. Unless they’ve garnered fame because of their incredible writing, it’s usually best to have a writer write their story. This helps do justice to their story and better ensure it is communicated well.

Whether you pick up an autobiography or a biography, the same lessons can be learned: 

As you write your autobiography, remember that although it is about you, you should still think reader first. Write in a way that readers will be able to easily understand and follow. Starting at birth and moving forward chronologically will likely work well.

Remember…

While biographies and autobiographies are about an individual’s life, interactions, achievements, goals, failures, etc., it’s impossible to remember every word of dialogue you have spoken or others have spoken. 

Especially if you are writing someone’s biography, it can be difficult to get dialogue right. 

Readers understand that exact wording has been written to the best of your memory, but is not exact. Be careful to write in a way that reflects the attitudes and intentions of the moment, to the best of your ability. 

If you’re writing your own autobiography, do your best to remember, and write the rest as true to the moment as possible.

If you’re writing an individual’s autobiography, do your best to encapsulate their story and write the dialogue the way you think it would have been spoken.  

Whether you’re writing your autobiography, writing someone’s biography, or having your own story written with the help of a professional writer, protect yourself by changing names, locations, and any other detail as necessary. 

As briefly mentioned above, you can make a simple note at the front of your book explaining how some details have been changed to protect individuals. The last thing you want is to be accused of libel or slander the week your book comes out. 

Biographies and autobiographies have the power to influence in unique ways because they are fact, not fiction.

Of Alexander Hamilton’s biography, David McCullough says, “Grand-scale biography at its best—thorough, insightful, consistently fair, and superbly written . . . A genuinely great book.”

And of Anne Frank’s autobiography, Newsday says, “How brilliantly Anne Frank captures the self-conscious alienation and naïve self-absorption of adolescence.”

Biographies and autobiographies provide a unique niché in which to communicate stories and themes in a way fiction can’t.  

As you journey into biography and autobiography writing, respect this special genre and write in a way that honors the stories of the individual.

Sharing one’s story is a difficult and vulnerable undertaking, but doing so can impact hundreds, thousands, and millions of readers. To share a story is to share a life, and that is a powerful thing.

As you begin writing, don’t forget to employ fiction writing techniques, while refusing to take creative liberties. 

Biographies and autobiographies are the factual life events of real people. Take the time you need to write them well. Brainstorm, draft, rewrite, and when you finally publish, sit back and enjoy the masterpiece that is this story. 

Whether it’s your own story you’re writing or having written, or the story of someone else that you’re writing, finishing a book in this genre is a task well-done. 

Congratulations! 

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SPS 129: How I Self Published My Way To 1M+ Copies Sold And $10M+ In Business From My Book with Michael Bungay Stanier

Listen to today’s episode as I talk with Michael Bungay Stanier, the author of the books, Coaching Habits and The Advice Trap. His upcoming book, How to Begin, gives readers inspiration to be more ambitious about themselves and the world around them. Find out how you can use your book to leverage more business when you listen to this episode.

Why He Decided to Write Books

Michael grew up in England, and his grandmother wrote books when he was growing up as a child. Being an admirer of his grandmother’s writing skills and a book lover, writing a book was an easy step for Michael to take. Michael made his first print run of his first book in 2006, using an inheritance from a family member before self-publishing became popular. 

His third book was picked up by a publisher, so he created a second edition for the publisher to sell. Michael then went back to self-publishing because his former publisher wouldn’t publish his next book.

How His Book Bumped Up His Business

“I knew how the book fit my business ecosystem.” He understood that it wasn’t about the book sales for this book but how he could use his book to sell more business. Michael talks about the ways he has used his book in his business marketing and ways to use QR codes in your book to drive business. 

Listen to discover the four elements you need to do to sell more books, how he makes complicated ideas tangible in his books, why you want to commit to championing your book for up to two years, and how to reverse-engineer selling copies of your book.

Show Highlights

  • [03:00] Michael talks about the first book he self-published over 15 years ago.
  • [09:00] Why he decided the topic of his first book to be around coaching.
  • [12:40] Using QR codes for digital marketing your book.
  • [14:21] Four key components of a successful book marketing launch.
  • [21:04] Top two marketing tactics that sold more books for Michael.
  • [26:02] Find out ways to sell your books in batches instead of singles.
  • [30:29] Adding a video to your book page on your website for SEO.
  • [34:20] The five people whose relationship gave him $10 million in sales

Links and Resources

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Book Coach Hiring Tips: Hire 1, or Hire A Successful Team?

Writing a book, whether it’s your first or your tenth, can be intimidating. Getting the idea is easy enough. Getting that idea from your head to your page in a concise, engaging manner, is another story. 

Writers write.

You can’t be a writer without writing. But writers can have book coaches to help them through the process.

While the writing is up to the writer, sometimes the added help of a coach can ensure you take your idea from just the idea to the final product. 

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Hiring A Book Coach: What Book Coaches Do

Hiring a book coach is not something to feel bad about. In fact, it’s very similar to hiring a workout coach to help you train.

When hiring a coach to help you workout, the coach is responsible for many aspects of your workout process: They may create workouts for you, a workout schedule, they may help you know what to prepare for meals, and they may even come alongside you as you go through your workouts to help you with form and encourage you as you complete your reps and sets.

The one thing the workout coach does not do is workout for you. You are the trainee and you must do the training yourself.

The same is true for a book coach. They can help you through the process, but you are the writer and must do the writing yourself. 

However, just as hiring a workout coach can help you reach your goals in a much more efficient manner and help ensure lasting results, a writing coach can help you do the same.

In this article we discuss: 

  1. What Does A Book Coach Do?
  2. Do I Need A Book Coach?
  3. How Do I Find A Writing Coach?

As you answer these questions for yourself, try to answer honestly.

Having a coach does not mean you are not good at what you do, but simply that you could benefit from some guidance and added accountability. 

Let’s face it: Olympic champions have coaches. So do successful entrepreneurs. So why wouldn’t you?

What does a book coach do?

A book coach helps you through the process of writing your book, from brainstorming to publishing. Their specific coaching depends on what the individual offers and what you need. 

If you need help with brainstorming, a book coach can help.

Want to outline but need a guide? Hire a book coach.

You’re stuck in the middle of your draft? Book coaches can help.

Are ready to pursue publication but don’t know how? You got it: A book coach can help.

From choosing self-publishing vs traditional publishing, a book coach can help you choose a path an keep you accountable to complete your book on time.

But coaches are more than simply people who help you maintain your dad lines. A book coach can help you through every step of the process just like a personal trainer can help you do every step of the process of working out. Of course, they can’t do the work for you, but they can encourage you to do the work and guide you in knowing how to do the work.

You could even consider hiring a book coach for one aspect of your writing experience.

If you have never hired a book coach before, you may want to start with hiring their services for brainstorming, then see if you can work on your own to finish your outline.

Or maybe you’ve written books before and know you always get stuck in the drafting stage. A book coach can help you through your writer’s block as well.

Do I need a book coach?

If you feel like some extra guidance, accountability, and a fresh set of eyes could help take your book from idea to publication, you may want to hire a book coach.

When deciding if you need to hire a book coach, start by genuinely accessing where you are at in your journey:

  • Are you great at brainstorming book ideas
  • Do you know if your original idea is strong enough for a full book?
  • Do you need help outlining?
  • Do you prefer to write via pantsing (figuring it out as you go)?
  • Do you struggle getting your draft finished on deadline?
  • Do you know how to go about pursuing publication?
  • Do you know how to find a good editor and how to self-edit?
  • Do you work better on your own or with a team?
  • What is your goal in writing this book?

Answer the above questions honestly. If this is your first time ever writing a book, hiring a coach to help you through the process will likely make your first writing experience more enjoyable and heighten your chances of being a success.

However, if you simply want to sit down and write a book for the fun of it, you do not have aspirations to publish, to meet a specific deadline, hiring a writing coach would likely cause frustrations.

Let’s go back to the personal trainer example: If you decided to hire a personal trainer, you probably have a personal goal in mind. You will get the most out of your investment if you have already decided to meet a certain goal and decided to hire a trainer to guide you through the process to do so. 

If you hire a trainer but don’t have a goal and are satisfied with where you’re at, the experience may be frustrating for both of you.

The same is true with a writing coach. 

If you know you need to meet certain goals and aren’t sure how to do it on your own, or simply want some guidance to do so, a writing coach may be a helpful option. 

Consider where you are at in your writing journey, then move forward accordingly.

How do I find a writing coach?

Your journey to finding the correct writing coach for you starts with doing your homework. Begin by researching the writers you respect and see what they’ve already put out there. 

Chances are, if they are known and credible in their field, they’ve likely already published books and blogs about the topic you’re interested in.

Before sending out that initial email, read their writing and see if you can find places where they’ve already answered the questions you may ask.

Most people are busy and don’t have the time or capacity to answer questions they’ve already answered.

If you’re wondering about a particular writer’s thoughts on character development, check their website and published books to see if they’ve already covered that topic. If they’ve already covered your topic, read all the information they have. If you still have questions or think working with them in a coaching relationship would be beneficial, reach out. 

Explain that you’ve read their work, respect them as an author, and would love to talk further about the possibility of working together.  

If you don’t have a particular author in mind, a simple Internet search can help you out.

Many well-known authors offer writing training via courses, guilds, or other packages for writers. This method is a way for established authors to coach many writers at once, and may be a good option for you as well.

Some authors offer courses that take you from beginning to end, some focus on specific areas of writing, and others focus on presenting their teaching in book form. 

Sometimes a free trial is offered where you can test a course to see if the particular style of coaching works well for you. As you research your options, note the possibilities, then narrow it down to the several that look best for you. 

Moving Forward

As you work through the process of finding the right coach for you, take your time. Just as different literary agents represent different manuscripts in the traditional publishing world, different coaches focus on different areas of the writing process.

Honestly assess where you are at as a writer and where you have room for growth, then choose a writing coach accordingly. 

Remember that writing coaches have busy schedules. Do your research before reaching out. When you do send the initial email, be professional and respect their time. 

You may want to ask the coach what type of writers they enjoy working with or are looking to work with.

Just as literary agents enjoy specific genres of writing, writing coaches enjoy working with specific types of writers. Be clear on your goals, aspirations, and where you are at as a writer. 

Don’t present yourself as an established writer if you’re still learning. At the same time, don’t sell yourself short.

If you’re working on the third installment of your bestselling trilogy, be upfront. Explain where you’re at and where you hope they can work with you to accomplish your goals.

Don’t forget to enjoy the process! 

Remember This About Writing

Writing is a long journey with many different stages. While publication is a great goal to have, the moment of actually publishing is short. 

Enjoy the stages leading up to your goal, and the goal will be that much more rewarding. 

Honestly assess where you are.

Do your research. 

Be professional.

Be clear. 

Want a Professional Team of Book Coaches On Your Side?

We would be remiss if we didn’t just outright say – this is what we do at Self-Publishing School.

We have teams of specialty book coaches in everything from Fiction Writing to Non-Fiction, from Memoir, to Children’s Books, and more.

Our coaching programs combine a solid, online course – for whatever stage you’re at – from writing your first book or novel, to increasing sales on your books, to using your books to launch a public speaking career – all of that combined with

  • endless book writing and publishing resources and templates to get you moving
  • a book coach to help you reach your goals
  • a community group to post questions in and get real feedback from other published authors
  • live weekly Q&A’s and trainings to answer your questions in real-time.

So, if I didn’t tell you that, dollar for dollar, we are most value-packed, Fortune 500, book coaching company out there, well, I would be leading you down a wrong path.

If you’re serious about hiring a book coach to help you achieve your writing or self-publishing goals, we can help.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfXysUtnhGc

Note: While Bill took a little longer to write and publish his books, we help authors DAILY write and publish quality best-sellers in 90 days or less. It’s all about the system.

Sign up for our video training to learn more.

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How To Hire A Developmental Editor

Most writers will tell you that the first draft of a book is the hardest. “The Hell Draft.” 

It’s usually rife with fundamental errors, inconsistency, and screaming. 

Shannon Hale said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”

Whether you hate or love first drafts, they’ve got to be written or the book won’t exist. That part is clear, which almost makes it easy. But what do you do after you have the first draft? Probably a revision. Then maybe a self-edit. Then what? Hire an editor? What kind of edit happens first?

A book usually goes through several rounds of editing. The first round is called the developmental edit.

Let’s talk about what developmental editors do, how to find them, and how to work with them most effectively.

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What is a developmental editor?

A developmental editor is a professional editor who works with you on the structure and content of your book.

While other rounds of edits focus on smaller things like sentence structure, grammar, verbiage, and typos, the developmental editor helps with bigger picture issues, like plot, focus, target audience, and other elements of the content itself.

Developmental editors shouldn’t tell you what is right or wrong, but should have discussions with you to work together to accomplish your goals and appeal to the correct audience.

A copyeditor can tell you that a grammar rule is hard and fast, and here is the fix, but a developmental editor might ask questions, have you defend your points and choices, poke holes in your arguments, point out plot inconsistencies.

Sometimes having to explain yourself out loud to someone being critical of your work helps you realize your problems without them even having to say it.

“The editor-writer relationship should not be thought of as adversarial.” – Benjamin Percy

To understand the role of a developmental editor, it’s easier to think of them as a writing partner, rather than an editor.

They’re going to work with you to tackle the problems in the story. The conversation is more back-and-forth problem-solving and less red ink.

If you’re just starting the process of writing your book and understanding the steps to writing and self-publishing, starting with the best book writing software for your needs can help both you – and your development editor – down the road.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pLZBlx2dbyE

What do developmental editors do?

As writers, we often become too intimate with our work to realize the problems with it.

This can happen for several reasons:

  1. Being emotionally invested and personally connected with the work makes it harder to see its flaws.
  2. The world of your story lives in your head. You know the intricacies, you know the characters, and you understand your goals with it. You have every bit of backstory. That doesn’t always translate in a way that’s understandable to readers.
  3. Through multiple revisions, we rearrange scenes, delete scenes, lose track of subplots and character arcs, and ultimately forget what’s actually on the page. This can create a story that makes perfect sense to you, because you’ve read every iteration, but may be complete nonsense to a new reader.

Because of this closeness with the story, we need an outside perspective to spot the problems we can’t see. Someone to see the big picture. It’s like we’re nose-to-canvas with a painting, seeing only a few colors and swipes of paint. An observer several feet away can see the whole thing and take it in as one piece.

Developmental editors will read your manuscript and then, your editor will typically give you a write-up of feedback.

That opens the discussion for you to explain your intent, ask questions, and have a conversation about better ways to accomplish those goals before you jump into your first revision. You might do multiple rounds of developmental edits. Different writers and editors have their own preferences for format and process, so be sure to discuss those things beforehand.

“A book that is made up of only great sentences is not necessarily a great book.”  – Mokokoma Mokhonoana 

While you can self-edit your book, many authors find that they need a book editor, as having an extra set of eyes on their draft can help close gaps early on in the writing process.

Where to Find a Good Developmental Editor

There are several ways to find quality developmental editors. It’s a good idea to start poking around for editors before your book is ready for one, because it is often a lengthy process.

The good news is, once you’ve found a great editor, you typically don’t need to hunt for a new one for a long time. And if you do eventually need to find another developmental editor, you’ll be versed in the process.

Here are four ways you might start your search for a developmental editor:

  1. Look at the interior flap of books. If you think a book is well-edited, you might look into who did it and see if they’re open to new clients. A few things to keep in mind here include their schedule and your budget–for example, if you’re a new indie author, you probably shouldn’t reach out to Stephen King’s latest editor. But if you found another indie author in your genre and loved their book, it might be worth getting in touch with their editor.
  2. Referrals from other authors. This is a great reason to network with other authors–most are happy to recommend people they had good experiences working with. If you have authors you can reach out to (and whose books you enjoyed), you might ask them if they recommend any editors. Even if you don’t have author friends, many writers recommend editors to their platforms. For example, many AuthorTubers have videos on how and who they hired to edit their books.
  3. Research editors who specialize in your genre and have proper qualifications. The most important thing in a good editor is that they’re suited for your project. Make sure they’ve worked in your genre before and have proper qualifications, whether it’s academic qualifications or years of relevant experience with good testimonials. When you create a short-list of editor options, you’ll reach out and make sure they have an interest in working on your particular project, but it’s easy to chuck a few options off the list by looking at their genre experience.
  4. Check out this list of resources:
  5. For more tips, check out our post on how to hire a professional book editor (3 steps).

Tips for Vetting Developmental Editors

Once you’ve got a list of possibilities, it’s time to narrow down your editor options. Here are five tips for determining if an editor is right for you and how to work with a book editor for best results.

  1. References. Like I mentioned, a great way to have a headstart vetting editors is through referrals from authors you trust. Reviews, particularly on editors’ websites can be curated, or even faked. Hearing it from the mouth of someone you know doesn’t have an ulterior motive is one of the most reliable ways to find an editor.
  2. Testimonials. That said, don’t forget to read any reviews and testimonials you can find, especially through websites the editor themselves does not control.
  3. Pre-interact. Reach out with questions to get a feel for their schedule and process, as well as checking for interpersonal compatibility. If you’re particularly sensitive and the conversation goes in a way that sets you on edge before you’re even receiving feedback, maybe that’s not a great fit. And vice versa, if you’re looking for brutally honest feedback and you get the vibe that the editor is a people-pleaser, that might not work out either. Having a few conversations before hiring the editor can help you weed out editors who you can’t work long-term with.
  4. Sample edits. If the conversation goes well, you might request a sample edit. Sample edits are easier with line and copy editors, because you can get a feeling for their style and process in a page or two. For developmental editors, this can be a little trickier. Some editors might have an example of their previous work available for you. Otherwise, you can pay them a fee to give you feedback on the first chapter of your book. While editors often supply free sample edits, don’t ask for more than they’re offering. Editing is a service, and they deserve compensation, even if it’s just one chapter.
  5. Reevaluate with every project, especially if there’s a genre or goal shift for your next project. Authors have a tendency to want to stick with the same editors, but that isn’t always the best option. Keep an eye out to make sure each collaboration makes sense. Most editors specialize in certain genres, and you might be better off switching to someone else if you shift genres.

How to Work with a Developmental Editor

While writer-editor teams will all have their own styles and preferences, here are a few general tips for working with your developmental editor.

1. Leave your hang-ups at the door

It’s easy to be offended or defensive about critique if you’re not accustomed to receiving feedback on your work. Try to get yourself into a receptive headspace before you even hire an editor.

Your writing is not you. Editors are here to help.

If you know you’re going to be defensive and obstinate, try practicing accepting feedback in a lower-stakes situation, like working with writing partners. If you’re paying for a service, you can’t be angry when you receive that service.

2. Communicate

The best way to get the most of your developmental edit is to focus on clear communication. Communication is a two-way street–you have to be good at receiving the messages and sending the messages.

Discuss your goals for the piece, establish parameters before you enter a contract, let them know if you have a scheduling issue, and be as receptive as you can to their feedback.

Ask and answer questions as clearly as you can. Be respectful in your correspondence and respectful of their time. 

3. Remember you hired them for a reason

It’s so easy to be combative when someone is literally pointing out what you’ve done wrong. But this is what you asked them to do. Every time you want to be defensive, tell yourself that they’re helping you, and this is what you want. You’d rather hear it from an editor before it’s published than from readers afterward.

If you did the due-diligence in vetting for a good editor, it’s time to trust them and the decision you made.

4. Keep deadlines

Writing is a solitary job, until you hire an editor. If you’ve established a timeline for sending in chapters, getting your revisions done, or whatever other items your editor is relying on you for, stay on schedule. If you have an unexpected conflict, be sure to communicate that.

Likewise, if your editor is consistently dropping due dates and not getting you the materials you need in a reasonable time, hold them accountable. Your time is also valuable.

Apart from writing it, hiring the right developmental editor is one of the most pivotal things you can do for your book.

Be sure to put in the time and do your homework before you hire an editor, then put forth the effort to keep that relationship strong and effective. Your books and readers will thank you!

If you choose to edit your book yourself, make sure to grab our book editing checklist below for tips on what to look for, as well as a tips on hiring a book editor for your project!

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how to write a turning point in your novel blog post image

How To Write a Turning Point In Your Novel – (Successfully)

If you’re wondering how to write a turning point in your novel, this article has you covered.

We’ll break down:

  • what turning points in novels and stories are
  • how many turning points you should have in your novel
  • what makes a good turning point in the story
  • and how to write one a successful turning point in your novel.

Ready? Let’s go!

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What is the turning point in a novel?

While every writer and novel is unique, you’ll see patterns and formulas in the way the stories are assembled. Most stories have formulas. 

If you’ve read books like Save the Cat! Writes a Novel or have used The Snowflake Method of outlining a book, you’re familiar with story pieces like the inciting incident, the rising action, the climax, etc. 

One important element to a story is the turning point. 

There might be multiple turning points (usually five), but not every novel will follow that formula.

Unlike other pieces of a book’s formula, the turning point can happen at any time in the story. It’s essentially a part in the story when everything changes. It might be the character having a brand new perspective, deciding to take an active part in what’s happening, or a reveal of some crucial information that dramatically shifts the trajectory of the story.

Sometimes the turning point is referred to as “the point of no return.” Some people consider books to have one turning point, which is the climax. The climax is the biggest turning point of the story. It’s the point in the story where all of that tension has built up and your character must make a decision. After they make that decision, life can’t go back to how it was.

But technically, there are five or more pieces of a story to consider turning points.

We’ll get into examples later on, but let’s look at the five classic turning points:

  • The inciting incident – this is the event that spurs the story into existence
  • A goal – this is when we realize what the character will strive for
  • The midpoint – when we are fully in the story and there’s no turning back. The character might still (and should) waver and struggle, but they’re heading toward the climax
  • The “darkest night” – this is the point of the biggest obstacles. Everything is bleak, it looks like the character will fail. This is what cooks up the Final Push, where the character either does fail or succeeds in reaching their goal, leading to:
  • The climax – this is the big moment where all of the tension has built to break in a final conflict where we see if the character will succeed or fail 

Turning points are important to execute well because they’re one of the biggest things that will make your book interesting. Just like a disappointing ending, a fumbled turning point can ruin the book and the entire reader experience.

How many turning points are in a novel?

Classically, there are five turning points in a novel. That doesn’t mean you can’t have more (or even fewer), but the traditional structure for a novel consists of those five turning points.

I’ve listed the five turning points above, but let’s illustrate them with one of my favorite books that most readers are familiar with: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

The Inciting Incident Turning Point

Mr. Bingley has come to town, bringing his sisters and best friend, Mr. Darcy. This shifts the story irreversibly into the chain of events that follow.

The Goal Turning Point

Now that Bingley is there, and an eligible bachelor, Lizzie and her sisters’ lives become centered around the goal of marrying him. Lizzie herself isn’t incredibly interested in marrying, and she’s more interested in seeing her sisters succeed. Lizzie’s outlook is that she will marry for love or not at all.

The Midpoint

Darcy proposes. Lizzie turns him down. Up until this point, both characters had an unspoken opinion of each other. Now Darcy has shown all of his cards–he’s in love with Lizzie. And Lizzie equally has dropped her entire hand on the table–she thinks he’s a scoundrel whom she can never forgive for how he’s ruined her sister’s life by lying to Bingley.

The “Darkest Night” Turning Point

Lizzie’s sister, Lydia, is ruined. She has gone off with Darcy’s enemy, destroyed her virtue, and tossed the whole family into irreparable social death. Lizzie can’t marry Darcy now–she can’t marry anyone. “Who will take you now, with a fallen sister?”

The Climax

But Darcy fixed it all. Lizzie learns that he paid for Lydia’s elopement, patching the scandal and unburdening the family. He reunited Bingley and Jane. Everything comes to light, Lizzie forgives him, and they admit their love for each other.

As you can see, each turning point irreversibly alters the course of the story, and each makes sense for the characters, situation, and story up until this point.

What makes a good turning point?

A good turning point is a turning point that works for your story. It is the part of writing the scene that pulls the reader and characters through the current scene and propels the story forward.

There is no right or wrong way to write a story–follow your story’s goals and style. But here are four general things you’ll probably want your turning points to accomplish.

1. Makes sense with the story so far

The turning points don’t need to be obvious, but once they happen, your reader should be able to understand why and track the events that led us to this point.

2. Involves character decisions

You want an active character in your novel, which means they should be taking the steps and actions that lead us to those crucial turning points. If the story is just happening to your character, that makes them passive, which makes them less compelling to read about.

3. Irreversibly changes the course of the story

If the story can go back to the status quo after a turning point, it wasn’t big enough. The Point of No Return means there’s nowhere to go but forward.

4. Intriguing

And of course, your turning point should be significant enough to be interesting and compel your readers to finish the book.

How to write a turning point in your novel

Now that we know what a good turning point is, how do we write one ourselves? Here are six tips to write a stellar turning point. These mostly relate to that BIG turning point, the climax of the story.

1. Earn the turning point.

The turning point is sometimes surprising, but it should be believable. If the turning point is too wild or unrelated to what has already happened in the story, your reader’s belief suspension might get wrecked. Be sure to foreshadow and hint at the major turning points throughout the story so it’s not a total blindside.

2. Makes sense for the characters, ideally revealing more about them

Like earning the turning point plot-wise, the decision-maker for the turning point should earn it. The action the character takes in the turning point should make sense for the character. The perfect action will reveal more about the character. It might indicate their change or character arc, but it shouldn’t come out of absolutely nowhere.

3. Think of it as a “crisis”

For your main turning points, those moments should be tension-filled, do-or-die crises. The character should be at their record lowest as they confront that change.

Writing a fight scene? Check out our post on how to write a fight scene for additional tips.

4. Plot and plan

Even the pantser writers will probably want to have a specific plan for their turning points. Planning the turning points ahead of time will make them read more realistically, because the rest of the story will have been building up to that point.

5. Don’t force a twist

Plot twists can be fun and great, especially in certain genres, but nothing flops like a forced plot twist. It’s okay if your readers guess what’s going to happen–that means you set it up well! Focus on telling a good story, rather than shocking your reader with a surprise twist.

6. Make the changes irreversible

The exciting part of turning points is that there’s no going back to how things were before. The only way our character can move is forward.

Examples of well done turning points in novels

We already saw the turning points in Pride and Prejudice, now let’s look at the turning points in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins to give us a more rounded understanding of how to recognize and write turning points in novels.

The Hunger Games turning points

Let’s take a look at a popular novel/movie and the examples we can learn from there.

Inciting Incident

Katniss’ little sister gets chosen to compete in the Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers to take her place, becoming a tribute in the Games.

This turning point changes the story from being about Katniss illegally hunting to feed her family and surviving in District 12 to following her as a tribute.

The Goal turning point

Up until now, Katniss has more or less accepted that she’ll die in the games. Then Peeta, the other tribute from District 12, reveals in an interview that he’s in love with Katniss. While this initially angers her, she realizes that Peeta did that to make her sponsors want to sponsor her, giving her an edge in the game. She remembers her promise to her little sister that she would do her best to win. This solidifies her goal: survive.

Now that they have the publicity angle that she and Peeta are in love, Katniss’ behavior and overall goals shift to catering to the audience as a fan favorite.

The midpoint

Katniss sees Peeta has partnered with the strongest competitors to hunt her down. Feeling betrayed, partnered with an injury, has her trapped up a tree with the other competitors trying to chase her down to kill her. With her new friend, Rue, the youngest competitor, Katniss hatches a plan to drop a nest of tracker jackers onto the enemies below. She gets stung herself, and is saved by Peeta.

This is a turning point because Katniss realizes both that she wants to survive, and that she is willing to kill to do it.

The darkest night 

Rue is trapped and killed. Rue has become a pseudo-sister and stand-in for Katniss’ actual sister. She feels as if she’s failed, both Rue and Primrose. When the game maker announces that Peeta is alive AND they will allow two victors from the same district, Katniss’ resolve is reignited.

The climax

Katniss and Peeta have been hiding out and waiting for the stronger competitors to kill each other. When the gamemakers push them toward the only remaining tribute, who is being chased by monstrous creatures, they fight with him until he’s thrown into the pile of creatures while Katniss and Peeta hide on top of the cornucopia. When she realizes the gamemakers aren’t going to let the creatures actually kill the other tribute, she shoots him with an arrow in a mercy kill.

When Katniss and Peeta are the only ones left, the gamemakers announce that there can only be one winner. Katniss plays 4D chess, pretending that she and Peeta will commit suicide. ASt the last moment, the announcer stops them to declare that the games are over, and both are victors.

Turning points are an important element in an intriguing and satisfying book, so all authors should learn how they work and how to do them well.

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consonance in writing tips for authors and writers blog post

Consonance: Tips for Writing Story-Based Hooks Readers Love

Have you ever read a line of a poem or heard a line in a song and thought that it just sounded particularly interesting? I’m talking about the kinds of lines that make you go “oh, okay, wow, cool.” They’re the lines that usually stick around later and the ones you can’t get out of your head. 

There’s plenty of things that make these kinds of lines happen, but more often than not, the author’s used consonance to make the song, or hook, pop. 

We’re here today to talk about consonance. We’ll talk about what it is, how it works, work through some examples, and discuss the ways you can use it in your own writing. 

And before you fiction writers click away—we’ll also talk about how consonance works in prose, so this info will help you out, too! 

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What is consonance?

Plainly put, consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in a line, stanza, or sentence. You may have a group of sentences with several different consonant sounds repeated, or you might just have the one repeated in a given sentence or group of sentences. 

Consonance doesn’t mean that this is the only consonant sound we get. It’s pretty difficult to make a sentence using only one or two consonant sounds, after all. But you’ll be able to pick consonance out when you see it—the sounds will sort of click together. 

Consonance vs Alliteration vs Assonance 

Consonance, alliteration, and assonance are all devices authors use to add some rhythm, internal rhyme, and flair to their work (more on that later). These writing tools are all part of a writer’s figurative language toolkit – a toolkit that helps your writing to stand out and be memorable. But, what makes consonance stand apart? 

Alliteration is the repetition of a sound at the beginning of a word, while assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound. Consonance, by distinction, is the repetition of a consonant sound. This doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the beginning of words, although it sometimes does. 

Consonance in poetry

Most people have some sort of loose association with consonance in poetry. Teachers often use poetry to show how consonance works, and for good reason! So let’s talk a little bit about how consonance works in poetry, and what it looks like when it comes up. 

Why do poets use consonance? 

Consonance makes lines memorable. Repeating a consonant sound will give a line a distinct rhythm and feel—this can be used throughout the poem, or it can be focused to one line or one stanza for emphasis. Basically, it gives the poem a sort of internal structure and flow. Plus, it adds some great texture and dimension to the work. 

Examples of consonance in poetry 

Here are just a few ways poets use consonance in their work: 

“Twas Late When the Summer Went” by Emily Dickinson 

“’Twas later when the summer went

Than when the Cricket came—”

We have two examples of consonance here. One is the repeating ‘w’ sound in ‘when,’ ‘went,’ and ‘when.’ Another is the repeating ‘c’ sound in ‘cricket’ and ‘came.’ 

“Shall I Wasting in Despair” by George Withers 

Great, or good, or kind, or fair, I will ne’er the more despair;

If she love me, this believe,

I will die ere she shall grieve;

If she slight me when I woo,

I can scorn and let her go;

For if she be not for me,

What care I for whom she be?”

Again, we have a couple examples to look at. We have the repeated ‘g’ in ‘great, or good,’ as well as the ‘l’ sound in ‘love’ and ‘believe.’ There’s also a repeating ‘w’ sound in ‘when’ and ‘woo.’ 

“The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe 

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—

On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—”

The Raven is absolutely full of consonance, so I picked this line as one single example. We have the repeating ‘d’ sound in the first line, then the repeating ‘h’ sound in the second line. Throughout this section of the poem, Poe repeats the phrase ‘tell me truly, I implore,’ which also uses the repeating ‘t’ sound. 

Examples of Consonance

Consonance doesn’t only appear in poetry, though. You’ll also see consonance in songs, names, and common tongue-twisters—here are a few places you might have seen consonance before without even knowing it! 

Examples in songs 

“The Last Great American Dynasty” by Taylor Swift

“They say she was seen on occasion, facing the rocks staring out at the midnight sea” 

In this line, we have the ‘s’ sound repeating. We’ll talk more about this later, but this gives the line a sense of rhyming without actually rhyming. It’s pretty common for Taylor Swift to use an internal rhyme, alliteration, or a slant rhyme instead of a regular rhyming pattern, and this is what makes a lot of her lines stand out so much. 

Dear Maria, Count Me In by All Time Low 

“I got your picture, I’m coming with you 

Dear Maria, count me in 

There’s a story at the bottom of this bottle”

I don’t know about you, but this has always been one of my very favorite hooks. The big attention-grabber is in the first two lines, but the repeated ‘b’ sounds in ‘bottom’ and ‘bottle’ do a lot of work, too. 

“Washington on Your Side” from Hamilton 

“I’m in the cabinet, I am complicit

And watching and grabbing the power and kiss it

If Washington isn’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidents

This is the difference, this kid is out!” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda packed this verse with consonance, internal rhyming, and alliteration, and this song in particular is a great study in how this can work when done well. This part of the song is basically the song’s climax.

The rest of the song builds to this verse. Because the lyrics get faster, having consonance helps keep the words distinct, so the performer can rap them legibly, and it gives them a natural rhythm. 

Examples in names 

Why would you want to use consonance in a name? Well, again, it makes it memorable and catchy, plus it rolls off the tongue. Here are a few quick examples of names that use consonance. 

Clark Kent 

Bilbo Baggins 

Timmy Turner 

Spongebob Squarepants 

Examples in tongue twisters 

And, finally, loading a sentence down with as much consonance as possible is how you get a tongue twister. While a little consonance gives a phrase rhythm, too much will make it difficult to talk through. In a really diabolical tongue twister, you’ll have a few different consonant sounds repeating, so you can never get comfortable. 

Sally sells seashells by the sea shore. 

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. 

How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood

Learn more about consonance and other literary devices in our YouTube video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JIFG3ojJSug&t=93s

What does using consonance do for your writing?

Now that we’ve talked about what consonance is and how to spot it in the wild, let’s talk about how it can work for you. Remember, even if you write fiction, consonance can still be a really useful tool to make your prose pop! (Get it? The ‘p’ sounds? Nevermind.) 

1. Makes lines memorable 

As I mentioned in a few of those examples, the consonant sounds make lines memorable. Repeating sounds catch the ear and stick around longer than words that don’t sound like one another. 

These lines are also more memorable because of their texture. Adding a repeating sound gives a sentence a little extra dimension—it’s adding a sensory experience. Reading consonance aloud or hearing it read aloud will add a little something, and that makes you remember it. 

2. Emphasizes important themes 

Why would you need to make a line memorable? Well, if it’s important. 

If you’re writing a climactic scene and something is happening which is extremely important for the book’s plot and themes, you might throw in some juicy bits of consonance to hook the reader. Give them something that catches their eye, slows them down, and makes them remember that phrase. Bundle this with an inciting incident in your story, and you’ve go a really powerful one-two punch for story memorability.

Remember from our tongue twisters, though, that this can go overboard pretty quick. Consonance doesn’t require much to work, and having too much can make a line look overwritten. This is especially true in dialogue. 

It’s true that some common phrases that people say, including your characters, contain consonance. It’s also true that we sometimes repeat consonant sounds without meaning to—-you might write a line that just so happens to contain a lot of the ‘m’ sound. But dialogue, generally, should read as naturally as possible. 

Here’s a tip: if you’ve written a chunk of dialogue with a ton of consonance, read it out loud. If it’s easy and natural to say, then you’re good. If you find it’s difficult to get your mouth around the words, you’ve probably got a little too much going on. 

3. Creates a sense of rhythm 

Finally, consonance creates a natural sense of rhythm. This is why songwriters love to use it—it makes each line, verse, and chorus contain its own cadence. 

You can also do this in your prose, especially if you’ve got a particularly dense chapter or dialogue-heavy section. Breaking these parts up with something like consonance will keep the words distinct, the phrases fresh, and the reader following along effortlessly. 

Using Consonance In Your Writing

One of the most common techniques used in poetry and prose is consonance. 

Consonance can give your writing a sense of rhythm, emphasize important themes or make your book’s character dialogue lines memorable. 

The use of consonance may also be able to create a mood that represents what you are trying to say through words without saying them outright. It can help readers feel as if they have been transported into the world you created for them by giving it an atmosphere with word choice and sentence structure rather than just telling about it like any old storyteller would do. 

As such, all writers should consider how using consonant sounds throughout their work might affect its effect on readers–and take advantage when appropriate!

If you want to learn more about creative writing techniques, like consonance, register for our free creative writing class below!

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SPS 128: How I Sold 1,000,000+ Copies Of My Book Through An Informercial with Anthony Morrison

Today I’m chatting with Anthony Morrison, an infomercial creator. He has several businesses and has written books, including The Hidden Millionaire: 12 Principles of Uncovering the Entrepreneur in You, and has sold over a million copies of his book.

Starting His First Business

Anthony started his first business in affiliate marketing over a decade ago. He was successful and wanted to share his business methods with others, so he put his business process in his book The Hidden Millionaire and Advertising Profits from Home. The purpose of his books was to teach entrepreneurs how to think and act to make the right decisions.

Buying Books from Infomercials

People who purchased Anthony’s books from his infomercial were looking to find out how to change their mindset and think like an entrepreneur. So with Advertising Profits from Home, he started teaching people how to live like an entrepreneur and what the lifestyle entails daily. 

Listen to discover his mantra “self-made” pertains to how he created his infomercial around selling his books and why you want your CTA to be a phone call.

Show Highlights

  • [02:23] How Anthony started his affiliate marketing business.
  • [05:03] Learning how to create infomercials to sell his books with Dean.
  • [11:55] How he structured the infomercials to sell his books.
  • [20:14] Using a phone number as a CTA for your sales.
  • [29:06] Finding price points for his products and services.
  • [36:20] The process of automating a webinar.

Links and Resources

allegory in writing blog post image

Allegory: Tips for Writing (and How To Use With Characters)

Allegory is the kind of thing that can get readers, and writers, a little frustrated. 

When using literary devices like allegory, symbolic language and sweeping extended metaphor get confusing, and for some readers, it’s downright frustrating to try and pick apart hidden meaning in stories, let alone incorporate that hidden meaning into their own work. 

But there’s no need to be frustrated! Allegory is actually pretty straightforward. 

Let’s talk about what it is, where you might have seen it before, and how you can use it to add depth to your own novels or stories. 

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What is Allegory?

An allegory, in simple words, is when a story contains a symbolic, ‘hidden’ meaning underneath its literal surface meaning. This meaning is used to explain a hidden message, or a moral. 

This is easiest to identify in children’s books or T.V. shows. 

In a given book or episode, the characters will be faced with a problem which translates to some real-world issue, and the way the characters work to solve it gives us the moral of the story. 

For example: in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, the characters will be faced with a threat, usually a threat to their friendship. 

Each character’s approach to handling this solution will represent a different way that real-world people respond to these sorts of threats. Eventually, they come together and handle the issue, and the episode ends with a lesson about how to be a good friend. Knowing your character’s motivation is key in allegorical story-telling.

While allegory is maybe most easy to identify in children’s media, it’s also a powerful tool in adult fiction. 

Adult fiction can use this hidden meaning to add commentary on contemporary society, which can make for a very compelling reading experience.

Much in the way that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic teaches children how to be better friends, the best allegorical adult fiction teaches us how to be better people.  

Side note: if you’re not sure how allegory works, using children’s shows is a great start, since they generally take a moment to explain to the audience what the message was at the end. This means you can go back through and figure out what each character was meant to represent, basically putting the clues together in reverse.

Examples of Allegory

Let’s take a look at a few examples of allegory across genres and reading levels. 

1. “Animal Farm” by George Orwell 

On the surface, this is a story about farm animals trying to overthrow the owner of the farm. A reader needs no outside information or clues to get this—this is the literal meaning of the story. 

However, allegorically, Orwell uses this setting and these animals to comment on totalitarianism and the Russian Revolution. The owner of the farm represents the totalitarian leader, or Czar Nicholas II in specific. 

The animals are meant to represent the working class of Russia—they’re the ones actually doing the work to keep the farm going, and they’re overseen by the owner. These animals are initially charged up to make sweeping changes to the farm, but in the end, they recreate the same sort of oppressive regime they meant to get out from underneath. 

What’s the point? 

Following this allegory, we can see Orwell delivering a pointed message about effective revolution. He argues, through the symbolic meaning in his surface story, that a small, radical group overthrowing a government will always replicate that government. 

In other words, tyranny is inevitable without empowering the lower classes. Just replacing the people in power won’t solve the problem. 

2. The story of Icarus 

In the story of Icarus, a father and son create wings made of wax to escape from the island of Crete. Icarus puts his wings on, flies out, and gets cocky. He flies too close to the sun, which causes his wings to melt, and tragically falls. 

The summary I just gave is the surface story. These are the literal events that take place in it, which a reader can follow. 

However, there’s also an allegorical meaning here. Icarus is a famous example of getting too cocky, crashing, and burning.

If we apply this meaning, the story has a message: don’t get arrogant in pursuing your goals, or you might be destroyed. 

3. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins 

On its surface, the Hunger Games follows Katniss Everdeen, a citizen from District 13, which is a region in Panem. Panem is meant to be a dystopian America. Panem hosts an annual Hunger Games, where children are recruited to fight and die for sport. 

Katniss volunteers when her sister is chosen, and she’s sent to the Capitol, where she fights for her life in the Games. In the end, beats the Games and keeps both herself and her partner, Peeta, alive by having them both threaten suicide. 

The Hunger Games also has an allegorical read. Panem represents our society, and maybe also Hollywood, and the Districts represent regular people. 

Following this reading, Suzanne Collins is making a comment on how people in our contemporary society have become desensitized and numb to the extreme violence being done to real children in oppressed groups. 

How to Use Allegory in Your Story 

Now that we know what allegory is and how it works, let’s talk about how to make sure you’re using allegory effectively in your novels or stories. 

1. Identify your hidden story 

Before you set out to write an allegory, you’ll want to identify the hidden story you want to tell. What’s the message you’re trying to give to your readers? 

It’s extremely difficult to apply allegory to a story after it’s already been written. Unlike symbolism, which can happen without the writer meaning for it to happen, allegory involves carefully placed clues. When these clues are put together, the message becomes clear.

This means you need to know what your message is from the start. 

You should also figure out how the surface story connects to that hidden story. Orwell, for example, uses the farm as his setting, and works with this extended metaphor throughout the book. Your surface story should give you the tools you need to deliver your message. 

2. Label your characters and settings 

Next, you’ll want to label your characters and settings clearly. This is where that surface story comes in—assign different elements of the allegory to specific features in that surface story. 

To go back to Animal Farm: the farm animals are producing the labor, so they’re the working class. The owner of the farm is the totalitarian leader. Orwell’s using these elements of a farm to his advantage. 

Keep track of which characters represent what in your story. I personally recommend keeping a chart to help you map your characters. Getting these mixed up will muddle your meaning, and it’ll make your message unclear or illegible. 

If you need more help on developing your characters, check out this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpIQwZZ6kus

3. Keep allegory references subtle, but not invisible 

Allegory can be a very powerful tool when it’s used well, but when it’s used badly, it can come off as corny. This is especially true if you use surface elements that are a little too obvious. 

If you’ve got a story critiquing capitalism and the villain is literally someone’s boss, for example, that might feel on-the-nose. 

Basically, you want to avoid lecturing your reader. If your story sounds like you’re using a closely-related metaphor to write an essay, the allegory may be too heavy-handed. 

You also don’t want it to be too subtle. You definitely want readers to be able to connect the clues you’ve laid out for them to get that message, so making it too difficult to understand or too abstract can also cause problems. 

If you’re not sure whether you’ve struck the balance, it might be helpful to enlist the help of a few beta readers or a close friend. 

4. Don’t forget about the story 

Finally, when you’re writing an allegory, the surface story should still make sense and be satisfying.

The reader shouldn’t have to put your message together in order to understand what happened. 

Maybe they didn’t get the allegorical meaning—and not every reader will—but the literal story should still be followable and satisfying. 

In other words, your characters should still be characters unto themselves in the setting you’ve created. 

They should still have motivations that relate to their character, and the events in the story should still be motivated by those wants and needs. Your reader shouldn’t need a degree in political science to understand why one of your characters is doing something in your story. 

The Hunger Games, for example, is still a fun dystopian series without thinking about contemporary issues with American media. You are missing out on a lot of depth if you don’t catch that second layer, but you’ll still probably enjoy the story, and that story still makes sense. 

Take a look at your story when you’ve finished drafting it and consider whether the events make sense on their own, without any allegorical meaning. If not, you need to get to work on your surface story. 

Character-Mapping for Allegorical Story References

Writing allegory can be a fun way to explore new ideas in the novel you’re writing or the short story you’re creating. It’s also an opportunity for you, as the storyteller, to make bolder statements about society or politics without making it too obvious. 

As you write this kind of fiction, there are some techniques that will help keep things feeling subtle and more natural. 

  • First off, label all of your characters with their hidden traits so readers know who they are reading about at any given time. You can use a template, like our Character Development worksheet, to help you have a clean reference in front of you when writing.
  • Second, remember not everything has to have an allegorical meaning—you want people engaged by the interesting events happening on screen or page. 
  • Finally, try keeping references subtle instead of being outright overt—this allows readers to feel like they might have found something out themselves

Want to learn more about using creative writing strategies, like allegory, in your writing? 

Sign up for our free online class!

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