how to write an epilogue

How to Write an Epilogue: 4 Easy Steps [Examples Included]

When constructing a finalized novel, there’s much more to the book than just the story itself.

Books have many parts, and each serves a special purpose. While you might not include all of the possible sections in your final product, understanding each and knowing why and how they’re used will help you create a full, professional-looking book.

Today, we’re talking how to write an epilogue.

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What is an epilogue?

An epilogue, in fiction, is a supplemental part of a story. It appears after the story, and is often used to wrap up loose ends, or to see where the characters have ended up. It is typically set in the future from the main story.

Sometimes an epilogue can be used to set up or drop hints for the next installment in a series.

Epilogues are not a necessary part of a book, though many books include them.

Epilogues tend to follow certain formulas in certain genres. For example, an epilogue in a romance novel will typically show the main couple married, pregnant, with children, buying a house, or some other event in their future to show that they have, indeed, lived happily ever after.

Epilogue vs. Afterword

A lot of people confuse epilogues with afterwords, which makes sense! They’re both short sections at the end of a novel, and both discuss the story after it’s over.

The difference is that an epilogue is a continuation of the same story, in-universe. An afterword is a note about the story, either from the author themselves or from another relevant person.

In an afterword, an author might talk about their process, their research, why they wrote the story, the story’s relevance to the real world.

An epilogue is about the story and characters of the book itself.

how to write an epilogue

Do you need an epilogue?

Epilogues are not necessary to a book, so in a word, no. However, that doesn’t mean your book wouldn’t be enhanced with an epilogue. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine if your book would benefit from having an epilogue:

Will your book have a sequel?

If your book will have a sequel, or is a part of a series, the epilogue is a great place to drop hints about your next publication.

Do you have something to reiterate?

If you have a significant theme or moral you’d like to really hammer in, an epilogue is a potential place to do that. The epilogue is what your reader will be left with, so if you want to strengthen a theme with a resounding note, an epilogue is an option to achieve it.

Are there untied loose ends?

If there are untied ends to finalize, many writers might use an epilogue. I’d be careful to make sure your novel stands on its own, plot lines concluded, to be sure the epilogue isn’t used as a crutch for weak storytelling.

If the story would benefit from a stand-back-and-look-at-it type summary, or a glimpse into the characters’ future, those types of loose ends can be stapled with an epilogue.

Otherwise, your actual story should be satisfyingly wrapped up in the last chapter of the novel.

Is a character follow-up something your readers would enjoy?

In character-driven works, like romance novels, an epilogue is an opportunity to give the audience a little more time with your characters, as well as letting them see how their story after the story ends up.

With romance novels as the example, many readers enjoy seeing where the couple end up after the “happily ever after.” Are they buying a house? Do they have kids? Did they retire to a ranch? How far in the future you set your epilogue is up to you!

How to write an epilogue

If you believe your story would be enhanced with an epilogue, here are a few things to consider.

1. Choose a future point to set the epilogue

When your epilogue happens is important. How far in the future will you jump? Be sure to choose your timeframe intentionally, and use a period that will serve the story. If your epilogue happens too close in time to the end of your last chapter, why wouldn’t it be a scene on its own?

2. Reveal new information

If your epilogue merely repeats the ending of the book, it likely won’t do you much good. Some authors will use an epilogue at the end of a longer novel, like an epic fantasy, to give a sort of overhead snapshot to solidify a theme, or themes. In that case, it’s pretty much repeating information or sentiments that were spread through the book, but doing so long after the initial introductions of those sentiments.

Unless your book or series was notably long and complicated, the epilogue should reveal new information. New information could be anything from a hint of the next book’s premise to a pregnancy reveal for your main couple.

3. Offer a new point of view

Many epilogues are written in third-omniscient, giving the reader a helicopter view of the world, story, or characters. That doesn’t mean all epilogues need to be third-omniscient, but it is typical for there to be a new POV for the epilogue. Perhaps the epilogue is through a character’s POV we haven’t seen in the main body of the book. The same “rule” applies to prologues.

4. Prepare your readers for a sequel

Personally, I believe this is the most solid reasoning for including an epilogue in your book. If you want to set up a premise or teaser for a sequel, an epilogue is a great way to do that.

Some authors utilize epilogues for this reason, while others simply include the first scene or chapter of the next book as a teaser at the end.

Examples of good epilogues

A good epilogue is an extension of the story—it’s not a part of the story. Your story should be complete on its own, and an epilogue is like an accessory. Here are a couple examples of famous epilogues.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games is a series that follows Katniss Everdeen through multiple gladiator-style fights for her life. After the Hunger Games are eradicated, we get this reflective epilogue:

They play in the Meadow. The dancing girl with the dark hair and blue eyes. The boy with blond curls and gray eyes, struggling to keep up with her on his chubby toddler legs. It took five, ten, fifteen years for me to agree. But Peeta wanted them so badly. When I first felt her stirring inside of me, I was consumed with a terror that felt as old as life itself. Only the joy of holding her in my arms could tame it. Carrying him was a little easier, but not much.

The questions are just beginning. The arenas have been completely destroyed, the memorials built, there are no more Hunger Games. But they teach about them at school, and the girl knows we played a role in them. The boy will know in a few years. How can I tell them about that world without frightening them to death? My children, who take the words of the song for granted:

Deep in the meadow, under the willow

A bed of grass, a soft green pillow

Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes

And when again they open, the sun will rise.

Here it’s safe, here it’s warm

Here the daisies guard you from every harm

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true

Here is the place where I love you.

My children, who don’t know they play on a graveyard.

Peeta says it will be okay. We have each other. And the book. We can make them understand in a way that will make them braver. But one day I’ll have to explain about my nightmares. Why they came. Why they won’t ever really go away.

I’ll tell them how I survive it. I’ll tell them that on bad mornings, it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I’m afraid it could be taken away. That’s when I make a list in my head of every act of goodness I’ve seen someone do. It’s like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after more than twenty years.

But there are much worse games to play.

We see Katniss many years in the future, with her children, and as peaceful as she will probably ever get to be. This epilogue is a strong example of letting the reader peek into the future and see how the characters end up.

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The epilogue in The Name of the Wind is popular for something pretty unique—the prologue and epilogue are very similar. Both are poems about silence in three parts, and both end with the same paragraph.

There are many theories about what Rothfuss was attempting to convey with it, but no matter why he did it, he wrote an incredibly strong prologue and epilogue:

IT WAS NIGHT AGAIN. The Waystone Inn lay in silence, and it was a silence of three parts.

The first part was a hollow, echoing quiet, made by things that were lacking. If there had been horses stabled in the barn they would have stamped and champed and broken it to pieces. If there had been a crowd of guests, even a handful of guests bedded down for the night, their restless breathing and mingled snores would have gently thawed the silence like a warm spring wind. If there had been music…but no, of course there was no music. In fact there were none of these things, and so the silence remained.

Inside the Waystone a man huddled in his deep, sweet-smelling bed. Motionless, waiting for sleep, he lay wide-eyed in the dark. In doing this he added a small, frightened silence to the larger, hollow one. They made an alloy of sorts, a harmony.

The third silence was not an easy thing to notice. If you listened for an hour, you might begin to feel it in the thick stone walls of the empty taproom and in the flat, grey metal of the sword that hung behind the bar. It was in the dim candlelight that filled an upstairs room with dancing shadows. It was in the mad pattern of a crumpled memoir that lay fallen and un-forgotten atop the desk. And it was in the hands of the man who sat there, pointedly ignoring the pages he had written and discarded long ago.

The man had true-red hair, red as flame. His eyes were dark and distant, and he moved with the weary calm that comes from knowing many things.

The Waystone was his, just as the third silence was his. This was appropriate, as it was the greatest silence of the three, wrapping the others inside itself. It was deep and wide as autumn’s ending. It was heavy as a great river-smooth stone. It was the patient, cut-flower sound of a man who is waiting to die.

Does your book need an epilogue?

In short, most books do not need an epilogue. Epilogues are fantastic for baiting a sequel, and many readers of certain genres love to see how the characters end up further down the road. If either of those apply to your book, you might benefit from an epilogue!

If you haven’t wrapped up plot threads from your main story, you may need to rewrite the ending of your book, rather than stapling it together with an epilogue.

You also shouldn’t feel the need for an epilogue, if it isn’t something that your book requires.

Happy writing!

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how to stop overwriting

How to Stop Overwriting (And Why It Matters)

Generally speaking, there are two types of writers: overwriters and underwriters.

If you’re an underwriter (not the insurance type), you’ve probably had editors, beta readers, and professors tell you that you need to flesh out your characters, add some padding to your transitions, and add some description and dimension to your scenes. 

But maybe you’ve heard the opposite—that you’re an overwriter, and your work is overwritten. What does that mean? How do you fix that? And how do you avoid overwriting in the future? 

In this article, we’re here to talk about: 

  1. What is overwriting? 
  2. What does it mean if a book is overwritten? 
  3. Why is overwriting bad? 
  4. Examples of overwriting 
  5. How to stop overwriting 

Go From Overwriter to Clear, Compelling Author With The Ultimate Blueprint —Created by a Fiction Bestselling Author  Struggling with overwriting? In this mini-course designed by best-selling  fiction author and book coach, get clear on your story, premise, and learn what  parts of story are essential (and what's not) in this 24-Hour Fiction Challenge.  YES! SIGN ME UP!

What is overwriting?

Simply put, overwriting is when a piece of writing has too much going on. This might mean that there are too many plot threads, which make the story confusing to follow, or there might be a bunch of scenes that don’t contribute to the main plot. This might also mean that the prose itself is too wordy or overly descriptive. 

Overwriting vs purple prose 

You may have also heard the term ‘purple prose,’ and if you have, this might all be sounding familiar. What’s the difference between overwriting and purple prose? 

Purple prose is when an author uses excessive or over-the-top language which pulls the reader out of the book. In other words, it draws attention to itself instead of drawing attention to the details it means to describe. Purple prose doesn’t necessarily have to be wordy, but it often is. 

For example: “Her emerald eyes glistened with effervescent tears which trembled along her translucent cheek.” 

The adjectives used here are over the top in a way that makes us more focused on the bad writing than the action at hand. Another indicator for purple prose is meaningless phrases—what does ‘effervescent tears’ mean, anyway? 

Purple prose is usually a form of overwriting. The writer is doing too much and needs to reign it in. Not all overwriting is, necessarily, purple prose, but most purple prose is overwriting. 

What does it mean if a book is overwritten?

Here are a few signs that a book might be overwritten: 

There are superfluous scenes or characters 

Everything in your book should point toward the plot, themes, and goals of the main character. This doesn’t mean there won’t be breaks or asides, but it does mean that you shouldn’t have scenes that don’t matter. 

Scenes should always do something to change the status quo. In an overwritten book, you might find a lot of scenes that change nothing. You could delete the entire scene, and very little or nothing at all would change for the story as a whole. 

Overwritten books also might include redundant characters. How do you know if a character is redundant? It’s the same trick we used with scenes. If you could delete the character and it would have no major impact on the story, the character is probably redundant.

The prose itself is too wordy or forced 

Overwriting can also show itself in prose. If sentences seem like they go on forever, or if descriptions often feel forced and excessive, you’ve probably got overwriting on your hands. This might come in the form of purple prose, but it might also come in the form of too much. The descriptions might be written nicely, but having way too many of them is still overwriting. 

Overwritten passages often don’t know what to focus on when it comes time to describe something, so they describe everything, all the time, ad nauseum. And while there’s a certain amount of leniency given when it comes to style—some authors write more length descriptions than others—an overwritten passage will feel unfocused and boring. 

It’s difficult to get through 

Have you ever found yourself unable to finish a book because you just didn’t feel like you could get through it? No matter how hard you tried to focus, it felt like a slog—-the plot wasn’t going anywhere, the descriptions were nice but there were so many of them, and you just couldn’t pay attention the whole way through? 

This is a sign that a book is overwritten. 

It’s worth noting, again, that some of this chalks up to personal preference. Some people hail Lord of the Rings as the best book ever written, while others just didn’t like how long and descriptive it was. Fantasy, in particular, tends to trend on the more descriptive side in the name of worldbuilding.

Some readers will love it, and others won’t. But if readers within your genre are telling you it’s too much, you should listen to them. 

Why is overwriting bad?

If overwriting can be chalked up to style, then why worry about it? 

Overwriting hides your story 

Remember what I said earlier about the sludge? Overwriting obscures your story, your plot, and your characters. It takes the reader out of what’s going on and forces them to sift through a ton of content (which ultimately doesn’t have any bearing on the story) to get to what you’re trying to say. 

In other words, overwriting will waste a reader’s time. 

Your meaning gets obscured line-to-line 

If your overwriting tends to show itself more in the prose itself, rather than in excessive plot points, you’ll face the same issue. It’s difficult to sort out what an author means when the sentences are too long and too difficult to follow. If this problem continues throughout the book, it means the reader will have a hard time knowing what the book is about, what’s going on, and why they should care. 

Examples of overwriting

I’ve written a few examples here to show you what overwriting might look like in the flesh: 

Example 1 (Too Much Description): 

“He knew what he had to do. The divorce papers on the kitchen table waited for his signature. The air still smelled like lasagna, which his wife had made for dinner. There was just a hint too much oregano, but overall, it smelled good. He’d enjoyed it, and they’d put the leftovers in the fridge to eat throughout the week. It was always a hassle to go down the hall at his office and use the microwave, but he didn’t really mind. Besides, it was a great chance to catch up with his coworkers, who he liked. He carefully stepped across the kitchen in his shoes, which were his least favorite running shoes—he bought them at Target and they always wore out after a few months, but he liked the way they looked.” 

The issue here is that the description takes us away from the scene to exposit about this man’s life. We have to slog through it to get what we want, which is to find out whether he signs the papers. 

Example 2 (Tired, Flowery Description, aka Purple Prose) 

“He knew what he had to do. Destined, perhaps, by fate, architectured by a cruel god of love with an evil streak of vengeance lurking in its heart. The divorce papers loomed surreptitiously on the deep mahogany table. The auburn streaks in the mahogany gleamed ceremoniously in the gorgeous sunset. His every faltering step shuddered on the rug as he cautiously approached.” 

Here, we have a lot of descriptions riddled with cliche, as well as some meaningless descriptions (‘surreptitiously’ doesn’t even make sense here). Instead of wondering what’s going on with the divorce papers, we’re wondering what’s going on with the adjectives and adverbs in this piece. 

How to stop overwriting

Outline your novel and scenes 

Overwriting might stem from not knowing where your story is going, especially if you tend to have lots of dropped plot threads or redundant characters. A great way to prevent this? Outline! Having an idea of where you’re going will make it much easier to steer there. 

It can also help to outline each scene, especially in revisions, to make sure the scene is essential. What’s the goal of the scene? How is the status quo changed? How are the stakes raised? Again, this will help you know what to spend your time on while you’re writing. 

Condense minor characters and subplots 

If you have a ton of subplots and a cast of thirty characters, you might find it helpful to condense them. 

If you have a character, for example, who really only does one or two things, and another character who only does one thing, make them one character. Now that character has a ton of responsibility, and they’re vital to the story! Hurray! 

If you have a ton of subplots, cut any of them that get dropped or which don’t resolve (or make them essential in revisions). You can condense these, too—maybe instead of having a scene where two characters flirt with each other and a separate scene where they rob a bank, maybe they rob a bank and flirt with each other the whole time. Combining the romance subplot and the robbing-a-bank plot will make both of them more interesting, and it’ll cut your word count. 

Side note: exposition is a common overwriting pitfall for specifically fantasy authors, and this hack works wonders for exposition. Instead of having someone stop the plot dead to explain a piece of worldbuilding, incorporate that worldbuilding into a conversation with real stakes—or else, find a way to make the exposition interesting, so the reader isn’t bored. 

Describe what matters 

Lengthy descriptions can be lovely, but they need to be intentional. Pay attention to what you describe, and have a good reason for describing it. If we get a super detailed description of everything in the story, nothing’s going to stick out to the reader. 

Take, for example, this scene from Shrek: Shrek and Donkey walk into the dragon’s lair. We see a lingering shot of the chandelier positioned just over the dragon’s head, which helps us remember the chandelier when later, it’s used to capture the dragon. 

If this scene were written down and every single thing in the room were given the same weight, we wouldn’t remember the chandelier. Later, when the chandelier is used to capture the dragon, we wouldn’t feel satisfied—we would feel like it was random. 

Overwrite all you want… for your first draft 

Last but not least—if you find that you’re getting stuck on your first draft because you’re worried about overwriting, I’m giving you permission to release that fear and write your first draft as lengthy and excessively as you need. 

It is important to improve, and you will, when it comes time to revise. But for your first draft, set aside your concerns and write the story all the way through, however it comes out, with your primary focus being finishing the darn thing. Getting too hung up on making sure you’re perfectly resolving every plot thread and making every character essential will make a draft more frustrating than exciting. 

Remember: fixing overwriting is ultimately just trimming what you already have. If you have a whole lot when you’ve finished your first draft, that’s okay! Just be prepared to do some chopping. 

Go From Overwriter to Clear, Compelling Author With The Ultimate Blueprint —Created by a Fiction Bestselling Author  Struggling with overwriting? In this mini-course designed by best-selling  fiction author and book coach, get clear on your story, premise, and learn what  parts of story are essential (and what's not) in this 24-Hour Fiction Challenge.  YES! SIGN ME UP!

Writing a Book for the First Time

Writing a Book For The First Time: 3 Easy Tips to Get Started

Maybe your dream is to become a full-time fiction author. Perhaps you plan to use a nonfiction book as a launching pad for a business or build an online course. Maybe you have a story inside you and want to share it to leave a legacy.

Whatever your writing dream is, it starts with writing a book. While writing a book is an exciting first step, it can be an overwhelming prospect. That’s why in this article we will break down:

Whatever you need guidance on, we’re here to help.

Let’s start with the basic question of why? Why write a book? 

Why Write A Book For The First Time?

If you want to be a full-time writer or use a book for business purposes, it’s imperative to write a book to start this journey. Writing a book is a powerful tool and can be leveraged for direct impact with readers, potential clients, and individuals you would not be able to reach any other way. A book can span the continents and impact areas you may never physically be able to go. 

(Resource: If you’re considering writing a book for your niche business, check out this podcast interview on how AJ Osborne used his book to grow his self-storage business.)

Words are powerful. There’s something about connecting a writer and a reader through black and white words on a page. It seems so simple, but words impact in ways that cannot be described. Words encourage, stories inspire, and the difficult life lessons you’ve learned could impact the trajectory of your reader’s life for years to come. Never underestimate the power of the written word. 

Books can also act as a business card, boost your credibility, and inspire others to listen to what you specifically have to say. It takes time, persistence, and grit to take your idea to the final page. Many people talk about wanting to write a book but few actually finish their first draft. When you write a book for the first time, you become one of the few who takes their dream to a reality. That said, how do you actually go about the writing? Great question. 

Tips For Writing A Book For The First Time

While there are seemingly endless writing rules, there are several tips that will help you get through, and even enjoy, writing your first book.

Identify What Type of Writer You Are, So You Know Your Tendencies

It’s crucial to first identify what kind of writer you are. Do you prefer to plot everything out prior to drafting (a plotter)? Or do you prefer to write to find out what happens? This is often called write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants (commonly referred to as a pantser). Maybe you are a hybrid of both. You outline the major scenes, your inciting incident, climax, and falling action, and write to figure out the rest. Whichever it is for you, identify the way you write most naturally. 

This will allow you to utilize your writing time more effectively each day. More on writing routines in a minute.

Find Community

After identifying if you are a plotter or a pantser, it’s important to surround yourself with a writing community to not only teach you the basics of writing but also encourage you on your journey. It’s easy to start writing a book, it’s another thing entirely to finish. Reach out to writers in your area, join an online writing community (like Self-Publishing School), or form your own writing group, but make sure to surround yourself with writers who will encourage and inspire you. Don’t forget to stay open to their feedback too.

These people will encourage you when you lose steam, don’t want to write, or are struggling with that pesky blank page and blinking cursor.

Hone Your Craft 

And of course, the best tip and most obvious—keep writing! Practice daily.

Learn how to write better, too. Writing is one craft in which no one becomes a master. That’s part of the joy of writing. There are always more creative outlets to explore and ways of communicating to test out. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, mastering the craft is a goal to reach for but we’re all unlikely to attain. Learning the writing rules well can help you become a talented writer who impacts readers and changes lives.

Learn the basic writing rules such as:

The more aware you become of writing rules the more they will subconsciously come alive in your writing. The more seamlessly you incorporate writing rules, the more editing time you’ll save and the faster you will be able to write future books.

How To Start Writing A Book For The First Time

You want to write a book. It’s a short sentence but packed with hours of dedication, late nights, early mornings, and highs and lows. The dedication is worth it, so let’s walk through a step-by-step process to help you get started.

Set A Routine

When writing a book for the first time it’s vital to set a writing routine you can succeed at. Second, it’s imperative to stick with it. If you’re a morning person, consider getting up an hour earlier than usual. If you’re a night owl, consider getting home an hour earlier than you usually do. Devote that extra time to writing your book. Set a deadline and determine how many words or pages you need to write every day to hit your deadline. Stay with the task and don’t let everyday distractions keep you from pursuing your writing dream.

Set A Timer 

An important part of writing is actually typing words on the page. If you have dedicated an hour in the morning to writing, it’s important to honor that full hour. It may be helpful to set an actual timer to ensure you write for a full 60 minutes.

It’s easy to sit down to write and then get up to make a cup of coffee or tea, sharpen a pencil, or grab your computer charger. All of these little distractions take away from your writing time. Before you know it, you’ve lost a full 10 or 15 minutes.

Instead, set a timer for the amount of time you plan to write. If you need to get up and get something, stop the timer. When you sit back down and start writing, begin the timer again. This will ensure you set the precedent early on that when it’s time to write, you write. 

Write, Then Edit

21-time New York Times bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins says, “I start every writing day by first conducting a heavy edit and rewrite of what I wrote the day before. Don’t try to edit as you write. That’s likely to slow you to a crawl.” 

When writing your first book it’s important to simply get the words down. Anyone can start writing a book but it takes a certain person to write all the way to the end. 

Day one, when you sit down to write, simply write. 

Day two, when you sit down to write, start by editing the work you wrote the day before.

Follow this process until you’ve finished your book.

This will ensure you get the words down. When you follow this method, you’ll finish your first book and it will technically be your second draft. That’s a win!

Engage With Beta Readers

Beta readers are readers who read a book prior to its publication. When choosing beta readers try to find individuals who will not be biased toward your book. Resist the urge to ask your friends and family to read your book and offer feedback. They will likely tell you they enjoy it. If they don’t, they may feel uncomfortable telling you so. Instead, ask for several writers from your writing group if they would be open to reading your book and providing you with honest feedback.

You are the writer so you will make the final call, but having fresh eyes can help open your own eyes to issues that you may have missed. While beta readers are not absolutely necessary, they can provide timely feedback while it’s still possible to make changes.

Mistakes To Avoid When Writing Your First Book 

Just as there are rules to follow when writing your first book, there are mistakes to avoid as well. Being aware of mistakes before you make them can help you avoid spending time and effort redoing your work. The clearer picture you have of the do’s and don’ts of writing, the less frustration you will experience on your journey. 

Avoid Comparison 

While it’s important to read all the books you can in the genre you write, avoid comparing your first effort to someone else’s bestseller. We are all learning and growing in a craft that is impossible to master, and comparison will stall your creative capacity. Learn from the best, but let giving your best be enough.

Avoid Imposter Syndrome

On the topic of comparison, refuse the Imposter Syndrome mindset. Your first book may not be a bestseller (or it may!) but that doesn’t mean you aren’t a writer. Writer’s write. By default, if you write, you are a writer. Refuse the mindset that unless you’re the best of the best you don’t deserve the title of writer. You are not an imposter. You are a student learning the craft. 

Avoid Following All Advice 

We should be open to constructive criticism and embrace feedback, but don’t change your book every time someone suggests you do so. You are the writer and it’s your vision that should prevail. When you publish your book you want it to be with integrity to the story you set out to tell, whether that is a fiction or nonfiction story. Listen to feedback, but follow your writer’s instincts. 

As You Begin…

You are about to start an incredible journey. Writing an entire manuscript cover to cover is no small task and it is inspiring that you chose to undertake it. your journey will likely have twists and turns you don’t expect, lows that catch you off guard, but highs you never dreamed could happen. Writing your first book is a monumental stepping stone to becoming an author.

Remember, after you get this first one under your belt you will never need to say you’re writing your first book again. You will already know what to expect and understand the rules better than you do today. You have found your own pitfalls and determined a way to get out of them. You will have pushed through writer’s block and days you don’t feel inspired, and come out winning.

This is a journey, so embrace every aspect. Set your writing deadline and commit to your goals. Don’t let distractions keep you from your dream. You’ve come this far. You’ve got this!

Write and Publish A Book in Half the Time!   Learn how 100 people finished and published their books in the last 60 days  and how you can do it, too!    YES! TEACH ME HOW!

Writing Thrillers

Writing Thrillers: A Deep-Dive on Subgenres, Plus 4 Must-Have Elements

Writing thrillers takes work. It takes practice and know-how to balance high stakes and high stress over a long period of time. Too much, and the novel starts to feel predictable or melodramatic. Too little, and it’s not a thriller.

How can we, as writers, keep our readers hooked all the way through our thriller? What makes a good thriller, anyway, and what’s the difference between thriller and suspense or horror?

In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and give you some tips for outlining and drafting your thriller novel. By the end, you’ll be ready to stress out any reader who picks up your book (in the best way imaginable)!

What defines a thriller novel?

First things first: what makes a thriller novel a thriller novel?

Thriller novels use heightened emotion to keep their readers hooked. They often feel cinematic and involve high stakes and dramatic plot points. Thriller often overlaps with other genres, namely mystery and crime novels.

Thrillers are defined by how they make the reader feel, and thrillers make their readers feel anxious. They aim to make readers unsettled, nervous, and eager to read what happens next. All fiction should elicit some amount of stress in the reader in the form of conflict, but in a thriller novel, the stress is the main feature.

Writing Thrillers

What are some examples of thriller novels?

If you’re going to be writing thrillers, you’ll need to read lots of them. Here are five thriller novels to start you on your way—think of these as a starter kit for reading thrillers.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

2. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

3. A Time to Kill by John Grisham

4. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

5. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What are the key elements of a thriller?

These elements are commonly found in all types of thriller novels.

1. Suspense

Suspense is how an author builds tension throughout the story. It’s necessary in any genre, but it’s absolutely vital in thriller novels. Ultimately, your goal for the reader is that they never want to put the book down.

How do you make sure that happens? End each chapter (or most chapters) with a cliffhanger. Throw in a twist. Change up the pacing. More on this in the coming points.

2. High stakes

If you want to stress a reader out, you need to give them something to be stressed about. This means you need a plot with high stakes. The characters must have a lot on the line—it needs to really matter whether or not they succeed. This is why thrillers are so often crime or mystery novels, especially murder mysteries, and it’s why you don’t see a lot of thrillers about, say, bake sales or fantasy football teams.

3. The big question

In a thriller, the plot should be driven by one big, important question. Think Gone Girl—from the start, the reader is asking themselves what happened to Amy, and whether Nick had anything to do with it. This question drives much of the suspense throughout the novel. It fizzles in the back of a reader’s mind and laces everything that happens in a layer of nail-biting anxiety.

4. Realistic pacing

Readers will get worn out with nonstop action. Real-life doesn’t actually include bombs going off every five pages and shootouts around every corner. The suspense and intrigue need to be constant, but the action doesn’t have to be. Oftentimes interesting and punchy dialogue, dream sequences, or the character reviewing the disparate facts and puzzle pieces is enough to keep you turning the page.

Types of thriller novels

On Masterclass, their site outlines eight types of thriller novels—this list isn’t all-inclusive, but it covers most of the thrillers you’ll come across.

Also, note that there’s often overlap between these sub-types. Gone Girl, for example, is a psychological thriller for its use of an unreliable narrator and its exploration of its characters’ psyches and relationships. It’s also a crime thriller because it centers around a missing person investigation.

We’ll follow the Masterclass list, but explain each subgenre in more detail.

1. Psychological thriller

Psychological thrillers concern themselves with the inner workings of people’s minds. They’ll often be about subjects like mental illness, substance abuse, trauma, morality, and crime. Psychological thrillers are likely to use unreliable narrators, since unreliable narrators are great for bending reality and being generally creepy.

2. Action thriller

Action thrillers are distinguished by their focus on physical danger. In an action thriller, most of the excitement comes from watching characters navigate action sequences. An action-thriller will have things like car chases, shoot-outs, or fist fights. Action scenes will probably come up in other types of thriller novels, but again, in an action thriller, the action scenes are the main attraction.

3. Crime novel/crime fiction

As you might have guessed, these types of thrillers revolve around solving a crime. Sherlock Holmes is the epitome of this genre. The mystery might be a murder, a series of robberies or assaults, a drug cartel, or any other criminal activity. The drama comes from the nature of the activity and the solving of the crime by our protagonists.

4. Political thriller

Political thrillers take place within the government. The tension comes from the high stakes—if the problem isn’t solved, there are probably some huge ramifications for the nation or government. Usually, a political thriller explores the nature of politics and forces the audience to consider their stance on political issues.

5. Mystery thriller/mystery novels

In a mystery thriller, the characters are working to solve a mystery. This is usually a crime, but doesn’t necessarily have to be—the justice system isn’t always involved. The tension comes from seeing the perpetrator captured in time to avoid further crises.

6. Spy thriller

Think James Bond or Jason Bourne. These thrillers follow a spy, usually working for a real or fictional government agency, and the excitement comes from watching the spy navigate their mission. Often, this genre combines action, politics, and crime, and there’s some focus on the spy’s psychological state as well for added tension.

7. Legal thriller

Think John Grisham. Legal thrillers focus on a specific legal investigation. Characters will be in a court case navigating the justice system. These usually showcase the impacts of the legal process on the characters involved, and they also ask readers to explore their understanding of justice.

8. Science fiction thriller

Think Jurassic Park! Or the Marvel series. Science fiction thriller authors take a look at science and ask themselves: how could this be used in the weirdest, most stressful way possible? Sci-fi thrillers often explore the ramifications of scientific experimentation, and they’re often rooted in some believably scientific premise (though your suspension of disbelief may vary).

Tips for writing thrillers

How do you make sure that your thriller keeps your readers hooked from page one to the end? Follow these tips to create a fast-paced, interesting thriller that not only hooks your audience, but sticks with them after they’ve finished reading.

1. Focus on crafting great characters

Writers often lose themselves in the technical aspects of crime or mystery novels. They’ll write pages explaining the layout of a museum or dedicate an entire chapter to the ins and outs of a given chase sequence. In doing this, writers detach from characters, and this is the fastest way to lose a reader.

People care about people. Readers are interested in characters above anything else. In any story, the conflict and intrigue come from wondering what’s going to happen to the characters. If the readers don’t care about the characters, especially the main character, they’re not going to be glued to the page to find out what happens to them.

Create a compelling protagonist with a vested interest in the plot. Make them emotionally involved in the story so that your readers get emotionally invested, too. A reader will forgive any number of plot contrivances in the name of a character they love, but they’ll be less likely to care about a technically perfect plot if they have to see it through the eyes of an uninteresting character.

Need help developing your characters? Check out this free resource below.

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2. Create an interesting problem with high stakes

Readers might forgive plot contrivances for characters they love, but that doesn’t mean the plot shouldn’t be interesting!

The central conflict of your thriller should revolve around an interesting problem with high stakes. If you’re writing about a serial killer, what’s interesting about this particular serial killer? If it’s a murder mystery, what about this particular murder is different and unique?

The problem should also have high stakes. It should matter deeply to the main character that the problem is solved—maybe the killer is coming for the protagonist or the protagonist’s loved ones next, or maybe the fate of the nation hangs in the balance. Again, you want the character emotionally connected so that the audience will be emotionally connected, too. Make it personal.

3. Don’t make it easy

At the risk of sounding too obvious, a thriller should, first and foremost, be thrilling. If a reader can tell who the killer is on page three, they’re not going to be interested in reading the rest. If they do keep reading, they’re probably going to be frustrated that the characters can’t seem to see the obvious solution dangling in front of them.

To make your thriller satisfying and exciting, you’ll want to put your characters through some serious difficulties. Throw obstacles in their paths. The bigger the obstacle, the more satisfying it’ll be to watch the character overcome it. Don’t be afraid to really change up the status quo for your characters.

Have your characters lose their jobs, their spouse, or their friends. Have them get lost, have them get caught by the villain and have to fight their way out, and take away all their weapons. Making it as difficult as possible for the characters to achieve their goals will not only make the reader more interested to see what happens next, but it’ll also make the reader respect and like the characters more for gritting their teeth and persevering.

One easy way to nail this is to create a great villain. The villain should be powerful, unpredictable, and have some personal connection to our main characters.

4. Nail the pacing

This is an entire subject to study on its own, so this is a very, very quick rundown of how to nail the pacing in your thriller novel.

First, keep your action scenes quick. Any fight sequence should be vital to the plot, contain high stakes for everyone involved, and change the status quo when it’s done. These scenes should also be fast-paced. It should happen as quickly as possible (without losing important details). Instead of focusing on the technical movements of the fight, focus on the character’s reactions, feelings, and problem-solving skills.

Next, keep the pace varied. Not every single scene in your thriller should be fast—you need slower scenes to build suspense. Maybe the cop just finished a day of high-stakes interviews with suspects, comes home and debriefs with his wife, and settles into bed. But then, he has a wild dream that in some way seems connected to solving the mystery.

Balancing high-drama scenes with slower scenes will make your book more balanced, and it gives you more room to build momentum as you work toward the climax.

Finally, don’t neglect your climax! All the momentum in your story should point toward it, and when it happens, it should be all-hands-on-deck. This is why it’s often hard to put a good book down once you’ve gotten about three-quarters in. Everything builds to the climax, and if you’ve done your job, the reader will be eager to see the story through.

What’s Next?

If you saw this article through to completion, we must have kept the suspense at just the right level for you. At Self-Publishing School, we have a ton of resources to help you write and publish your novel. If you’re serious about getting started and writing a thriller, check out this free training:


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Flat Character Arc

Flat Character Arc: How to Write It Well [5 Modern-Day Examples Included]

A flat character arc is a less-common arc used in literary fiction and nonfiction, as well as movies and TV shows. While dynamic character arcs are compelling in their dramatic change, shift, or focus, flat character arcs can be equally powerful when used well.

The term flat character arc can be used interchangeably with the term static character arc. You may be used to crafting dynamic characters with big changes, so let’s dive into flat character arcs and how you can use them to write a compelling story. In this article we discuss:

Remember, good writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, uses a myriad of tools to communicate to readers. Just as it’s difficult to portray a truly heroic protagonist without a truly evil villain, without flat characters, it’s difficult to show the dichotomy of dynamic characters. 

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What Is A Flat Character Arc?

The definition of a flat character arc is a bit dependent on who defines it. 

  • The Novel Smithy defines them as, “Flat arcs are still character arcs, but instead of growing and changing as a character, flat arc characters stay the same. Instead, their journey is about learning to uphold their inner truth in a world that doesn’t accept it, allowing them to overcome the external conflict along the way.”
  • Studio Binder defines them as, “Flat characters, often called stock characters, never deviate from their rather simple traits. They are the opposite of ‘round characters’ who have complex personalities and change throughout the course of a story. Flat characters are often used to support main characters in a story.” 
  • Literary Devices defines them as, “A flat character is a type of character in fiction that does not change too much from the start of the narrative to its end.” 
  • Master Class says, “A flat arc is a much less common form of character arc that can mostly be found in action and thriller stories.”

Regardless of your exact definition for a flat character arc, this specific arc can be just as compelling as a dynamic character arc. Sometimes it is more difficult for a character to hold true to who they are in difficult circumstances than it is to give in to change. Of course, the arc you give your character is largely dependent on your story’s plot and the goal of your protagonist. 

For nonfiction, keep the above definitions in mind. If you are writing your memoir, consider what your personal journey has been and what type of arc best demonstrates it. If you’re writing a self-help book or an educational book, the basics of character arc can still be applied to the examples you use and the goals you have for your readers.

What is the message of your book? Do you want readers to walk away changed (dynamic character arc) or stand strong in who they were when they first started your book (flat character arc)?

When To Write A Flat Character Arc?

When to write a character arc depends on the message of your story. If you write fiction, a good place to start is with your protagonist. Do you want him to change by the end of the story, or be the same person as he was on page one? A flat character arc does not mean there is no growth. Sometimes it takes more strength to stay the same than it does to change, especially in difficult circumstances. 

If you write fiction, consider the power a flat character arc may have on your protagonist if he has a dynamic character arc. Sometimes the most powerful way to demonstrate change is by showing a lack of change in another character. This dichotomy acts as a mirror, revealing the opposite in a secondary character and shining a spotlight on the dramatic change of your protagonist. 

For nonfiction, the same is true. If you write a self-help book, consider using varying examples of character arcs, flat and dynamic, to demonstrate the positives and negatives of your message. If you write a book on how to be financially independent, consider demonstrating the power of staying within your budget even when surrounded by people who do not. 

A flat character arc does not need to be any less inspiring than a dynamic character arc. However, a flat character arc can also be used to demonstrate the effects when someone refuses to change even when it is clearly the best choice.

If you write fiction with a theme of redemption, consider incorporating a flat character arc to show the negative effects of not accepting redemption. For nonfiction with a particular theme, consider demonstrating the repercussions of your theme by sharing an example or story of someone who refuses to change. Flat character arcs can be both compelling, revealing, and a combination of the two. 

How To Write A Flat Character Arc?

How you write a flat character arc depends on the character you write it for, as well as your genre and the theme of your book. But now that you have a general understanding of what a flat character arc is, it’s time to determine exactly how to write this particular arc.

Step One: Know Your Genre And Theme

When writing your flat character arc it’s essential to know the rules by which you are playing. A fantasy with a theme of forgiveness will have a much different character arc than a historical fiction with a theme of resilience. Before crafting your characters, make sure you have a healthy understanding of the genre you write, as well as the theme you are aiming for. Writing a flat character looks much different in young adult dystopia than it does in middle-grade fiction.

Step Two: Know Your Character’s Purpose

The purpose driving your character directly impacts his or her character arc. The better you know your character’s purpose (whether protagonist or supporting), the more realistically you can tie it into their character arc.

For example, let’s say you write historical fiction. Your character is a prisoner of war, struggling to survive and maintain their moral code in the midst of desperate circumstances. This is their purpose. Knowing that you want to make them a flat or static (unchanging) character will allow you to lean into their purpose and align it with their arc. If he is eventually freed, having maintained his moral code for the entirety of his time as a prisoner of war, how much stronger will this character be? In this way, sometimes a character’s flat arc shows more than a dynamic arc could.

Step Three: Know Your Story Goal

Your story goal will drive your protagonist’s arc, so it’s important to have a firm grasp of it. Distill your story goal into a simple phrase that concisely covers the core theme (if you’ve written an elevator pitch before, follow this format). The more simply you can define your story goal, the easier it will be to use it to influence your character’s flat arc. Ask yourself:

  • What is the overall plot?
  • Why does it matter to the character?
  • How does the goal influence my character’s arc?

Knowing your goal and distilling it into a simple statement will make writing that much easier. 

Examples Of Characters With Flat Arcs 

Sometimes it’s helpful to have a list of concrete examples to draw from. Whether it’s in the genre you write and helps you specifically, or gives you ideas from movies and TV shows to cross over into your genre, examples can give a specific foundation and help you build with your own creativity. It’s helpful to have something to draw on from writers who have gone before. 

Diana from Wonder Woman is considered a character with a flat arc because, from beginning to end, she is firmly rooted in her conviction that “only love will truly save the world.” Her belief influences soldier Steve Trevor and even brings an end to World War I.

To continue with the superhero example, Steve Rogers from Marvel’s Captain America is also considered a flat character. Cinema Debate says,

“A flat character arc is used for a protagonist that knows the truth about himself from the start; there is no arc to find himself for better or worse. Instead, this character can change the world around them…For Marvel, Captain America holds this status. No matter the consequence, no matter the sacrifice needed, Steve Rogers always does what is right. His morals, ethics and outlook does not change or bend with circumstances.”

If you’ve read Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice, you likely have a love-hate relationship with the protagonist’s cousin, Mr. Collins. Conceited, concerned with appearances, and desperately desirous of a wife, Mr. Collins vainly pursues the female characters in the novel until one settles to marry him. His goal to “select a wife” remains throughout, and once married, he simply settles down, satisfied.

Sherlock Holmes from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is another classic literary example. Holmes is smart, witty, and drives the plot forward with his genius. He does little growing or changing but simply reveals more of who he is through every crime he solves.

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings is a wizard who offers sage advice, acts for the good of Middle-Earth, and fights for what he believes in. He is a mentor for the protagonist and a guide for the band of friends traveling to Mordor to destroy the one ring and defeat Sauron for good. While Gandalf does go from Gandalf the Grey to Gandalf the White, his character remains the same throughout.

The Power Of Flat Characters

We all want to stay true to our convictions, beliefs, moral code, and the parts that make up the best of us. That said, just as we try to make our characters human, we are human and often fail to remain strong at times. Flat character arcs are powerful because they demonstrate the ability to remain true even under great suffering, difficult circumstances, peer pressure, or other negative circumstances that affect your protagonist.

While it may seem that dynamic characters get the most page or screen time, when researching in a little more depth, flat characters are just as powerful. Gandalf would not be Gandalf if he was not the steady, wise companion he was. Captain America would not be Captain America if he bent under his convictions when the stress got too high.

As you write your next character, consider creating their arc as a flat arc rather than a dynamic one––it may be more dynamic than you realize. Take your time, do your research and then give it your best. It’s worth it!

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RedemptionArc

Redemption Arc: 5 Steps to a Flawless Arc [Examples Included]

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, incorporating a redemption arc can be a beneficial way to make your story relatable. After all, just as all humans have flaws, characters should be flawed as well. A redemption arc is not possible without something to redeem. Some of the most well-loved movies, books, and TV shows center around a character’s redemption arc. If you’re wondering how to make your writing more relatable, you’ve come to the right place. 

In this article we discuss:

RedemptionArc

Before diving in, note that redemption arcs can be as varied as protagonists are unique. There is not a one-size-fits-all redemption arc just as there aren’t cookie-cutter protagonists. While there are tropes that have been used time and again, as you read through this article, take note of how you can make your character’s arc unique to the individual character

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What Is The Meaning Of A Redemption Arc?

The meaning of a redemption arc is dependent on the intention of the author, as well as the genre, plot, and individual characters in the book. A redemption arc is when a character either 1) performs a heroic act that essentially makes up for his previous wrongdoings, or 2) is redeemed by another character.

The act can be external, internal, big, or little. The repercussion is that the act performed by the character helps make up for what he did in the past. Additionally, a second character could proactively act to redeem him (consider Victor Hugo’s portrayal of the Bishop redeeming Jean Valjean in his 1862 novel, Les Miserables). 

Every character will have a different meaning behind their redemption arc. This is part of the enjoyment of creating stories and these particular character arcs. The redemption arc can be applied to any genre and any character.

For villains, a redemption arc can be extended by the protagonist and rejected by the antagonist. This will have a much different meaning than if the protagonist earned his own redemption on the last page. However, the meaning of a redemption arc can change based on the character it is applied to. It’s important to know when to write a redemption arc.



When To Write A Redemption Arc?

Just as the meaning of a redemption arc changes from character to character, when to write a redemption arc is also subjective. When deciding what type of character arc to include for your villain, your protagonist, or your secondary characters, it is essential to first dive into who they are. Write out their backgrounds, goals, dreams, and fears. Get to know what makes them who they are.

Is your protagonist the type of character who would offer redemption to another? Is your villain a character who would never be able to redeem himself no matter how gracious the other characters are? What about your secondary characters? They should be nuanced even if they are not given much page time. Consider how even a sentence or two of dialogue can include a redemption arc.

As you research your characters, consider the other character arcs and what most naturally fits with each character. It is unlikely you will want to write a redemption arc for every character in your story. If you are writing a memoir, maybe you are the protagonist and you experienced your own redemption arc. Include this and give it realism by writing about the details that truly matter. The term redemption arc may sound heroic, but often, it is the small details that give it the power it deserves. 

How To Write A Redemption Arc?

Writing a redemption arc is similar to writing any other type of character arc. However, the redemption arc may feel a bit more nuanced than other character arcs. Below is a process to help walk you through step by step. After you walk through these steps, keep reading for specific examples of redemption arcs. 

Step One: Know Your Character 

Before launching into your redemption arc, it is important to know your character inside and out.

  • Are they the type of character that will work to redeem themselves?
  • Would they be humble enough to accept redemption from another character?
  • Are they cocky or proud?
  • Are they heroic and selfless?

Know the answers to all these questions so you can better articulate how to incorporate their specific redemption arc. If your character is selfless, forgiving, and shy, it may take some time for them to accept redemption from another character or publicly own up to their mistakes. 

Step Two: Reveal Your Character’s Goal

For sake of example, let’s assume you’re writing a redemption arc for your protagonist. It may help to create a goal that opposes their redemption.

For instance, let’s say you’re writing a mystery crime novel. Growing up, your protagonist never felt loved by his father, who is involved in illegal activities. When the father is sentenced to fifteen years in prison, your protagonist’s goal is to break his father out of prison with the hopes of earning his love. Against all odds, he succeeds, but his father goes back to his old ways, consequently hurting the protagonist’s friends. The protagonist’s inner goal (earn his father’s love) conflicts with his external goal (break father out of prison) in that it results in harming those he loves.

Step Three: Reveal Your Character’s Weakness

In the above example, the protagonist’s strength (sacrificing for those he loves) is conflicted by his character flaws or weakness: Going too far for those he loves and placing too much weight in what his father thinks of him. These unmet needs result in those he loves being hurt by his actions. His inner morals (wanting to extend help) conflict with his need (to be loved). When your protagonist’s goals and weaknesses oppose each other, you create tension. This sets the stage for your protagonist’s response, which directly leads to the redemption aspect. 

Step Four: Show Your Character’s Response 

How your character responds to the repercussions born from his weakness is essential to his character arc. When determining your character’s response, you have two standard options:

  • The first is to see his weakness for what it is and work with it for his redemption. Staying with the above example, he could apologize to his friends and work to reverse the wrong done to them.
  • The second is to see his weakness and become overwhelmed by it. Again, to stick with the above example, the friends could offer forgiveness when they see the protagonist is incapable of redeeming himself.

Step Five A: Reveal Your Character’s Response To Their Response 

In the fifth step, it’s crucial to reveal your character’s response to himself. Does he accept his weakness in seeing it for what it is, take proactive steps to right his wrongs, and therefore earn redeem himself? Or does he remain blind to his weakness and unable to work for his own redemption? Often, individuals’ responses to their mistakes reveal more about their character than the mistake itself.

Step Five B: Reveal Your Character’s Response To Others’ Response

Whether you choose to write a redemption arc that your character earns or is given, his response to others is equally as important as his response to himself. How does your protagonist respond when others extend redemption? Maybe part of their character arc is losing his ego enough to be able to accept forgiveness. Maybe you’re writing a trilogy and your character won’t be able to accept redemption until the last book. If you’re writing nonfiction, portray your experience or the experience of the protagonist you are writing as true to fact as you can. How your character responds to other characters will reveal much about his own character.

Examples Of Redemption Arcs 

Before wrapping up this article, let’s dive into some examples of redemption arcs. 

  • Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All The Light We Cannot See depicts Marie-Laure LeBlanc in charge of protecting a diamond wanted by the Nazis. Her opposite, Werner Pfennig, is with the Nazis and finds both the diamond and LeBlanc. However, seeing the Nazi actions for the cruelty it is, Pfennig refuses to let LeBlanc be killed or the diamond to be taken. 
  • Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, is the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete, and World War II airman. In 1943 Zamperini’s bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean. Captured by the Japanese, Zamperini was a prisoner of war in two separate prison camps. After torture and other unimaginable difficulties but with his spirit unbroken, Zamperini was released. While Zamperini struggled to overcome his difficulties and battled post-traumatic stress, he became a Christian focused on evangelism, and emphasized the power of redemption. Zamperini is a true example of a redemptive character arc and exemplifies the power of extending redemption to those who least deserve it.
  • Part true and part fiction novel Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is the story of an Australian robber who escaped prison. Knowing he can’t return to his country, India becomes his destination. He makes his home in the slums, fights in Afghanistan with freedom fighters, and builds a health clinic with free service for those in need.
  • As mentioned above, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables is a classic story of redemption. The protagonist, Jean Valjean, is a convict who steals from a bishop. Despite his thievery, Bishop Myriel extends redemption and saves him from going back to jail for his crime. Throughout the book, Jean Valjean works to help his fellowmen, forges his own path, and seeks forgiveness. Valjean’s character arc is one of redemption not just for himself, but for a myriad of other characters as well. 

Redemption arcs are powerful because they offer hope to readers. Hope is powerful and can last long after the book is closed. Whether you choose to incorporate a redemption arc for your villain, your protagonist, secondary characters, or apply a redemption arc to a myriad of characters over a series of books, redemption arcs can transform characters in a compelling way unique to themselves. 

As you go about your redemption arc, consider the steps and examples illustrated to help you on your journey. Remember, redemption arcs are unique to your specific character. This type of arc is not a one-size-fits-all. Do the necessary research you need to create a compelling character arc that will not only transform your characters but inspire your readers for years to come.

Whether you prefer to outline every scene of your book (plotter) or write to find out what happens (pantser), do your best to read many, many books in your genre. As you read you will discover examples of what has been done well and what shouldn’t be done. Take all this to heart and then write well. You’ve got this!

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How to Write Supporting Characters

How To Write Supporting Characters That Readers Love (10 Examples)

A book is made of more than just the main characters. You might have one or two main characters, a handful of significant supporting characters, then a cast of minor characters to make your novel full and intriguing.

But those supporting characters are just as important as your main characters! They deserve their own arcs, their own aspirations, and their own complex personalities. Supporting characters are an important part of worldbuilding in a story, and their actions can greatly influence the protagonist’s path.

Let’s talk about what a supporting character’s role is and how to write them well.


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What is a supporting character?

A supporting character is a character who plays a role in the main character’s story. That doesn’t mean they’re just a plot device, but their arc isn’t the main focus of the story. They’re typically the people in your main character’s life, like their friends, family, coworkers, classmates, and love interests.

A supporting character should still have a developed personality, a character arc, and strong opinions. Your supporting characters should be fleshed out, just like your main characters. They might take the role of a supporter, antagonizer, or informant, but more on that in a bit.

What do supporting characters do?

Supporting characters can do things like add depth to your story, establish context for your world, help or hurt your main character on their journey, and make the story fun and interesting.

Imagine a book with only one character to understand why supporting roles are important.

Some characters will offer support and encouragement for your protagonist throughout their arc, while others will act as conflict starters.

They’re important for conversations where we can hear the main character’s struggles and ideas out loud, providing the character with guidance, and creating conflict.

Types of supporting characters

Supporting characters can play many roles in a story, but there are a few recognizable archetypes you’re probably familiar with. Sidekicks, romantic interests, henchmen, mentors, best friends, rivals, nemesis, confidants, comic relief — these are all archetypes of the supporting character. But there are three basic roles that all of these types fit under: supporters, antagonizers, and informants.

Supporters

Supporters are important for taking on the role of a caring, safe spot for the main character (MC) to find comfort, air grievances, and reveal their feelings to the reader via conversations with their support system.

These characters can also challenge the MC by questioning their judgment, offering alternatives, and sometimes convincing them that they or their actions are wrong.

Think of one of the best friendship stories ever written–Lord of the Rings. What would have happened if Frodo were sent on his journey alone? He couldn’t have made it all the way without the support of Sam, Pippin, Merry, and the other people who helped him along the way.

Antagonizers

Antagonizer characters, as you’ve probably guessed, have the opposite role. They’re there to challenge your MC in a negative way. They’re working against the MC.

There’s typically one character that we refer to as THE antagonist, but you’ll ideally have more than your main antagonist.

Since conflict drives stories, we’ll want to have more conflict than just one antagonizer can provide through the whole book. Another important note is that antagonizer characters aren’t necessarily villains. They can be, of course, but some characters oppose your MC for non-villainous reasons. They might even do it by accident.

Their role can be provoking, angering, or riling up your MC for any reason. It doesn’t have to be intentional, and it doesn’t even have to be rational. It could be your MC’s best friend, but they produce conflict because of their outlook, personality, or a relationship dynamic between the two characters.

In short, an antagonizer is a supporting character who is there to stir sh*t up.

Informers

Informer characters, as the name suggests, act as informational sources for your MC. While their role is to provide information and guidance, like the mentor archetype, they should still be fully formed characters. This is the easiest type of supporting character to accidentally turn into merely a plot device, so take special care that you build informer characters complexly.

What are examples of supporting characters?

The supporting characters in a story are often the main character’s social group. Co-workers, classmates, friends, family, roommates, and love interests are all examples of the types of roles a supporting character can take.

Here are some examples of famously well-written supporting characters in popular books.

Supporting characters in Hunger Games

Haymitch Abernathy — Haymitch is the cranky, stubborn, unwilling mentor to Katniss and Peeta. He’s reluctant to help them out, but he eventually grows to care for them and becomes a genuine mentor and source of help. Haymitch works as a supporter, an informer, and in some instances, an antagonizer. But overall, his role is supporter.

Peeta Mellark — Peeta can be seen as the main character’s love interest (arguable), but he’s definitely her friend. He’s always on her side, even when he’s been brainwashed to kill her. Peeta is a supporter character.

President Snow — Throughout the entire series, President Snow is the villain. He’s an antagonizer supporting character. He’s responsible for the Hunger Games, which is the main conflict our characters have to confront. He also works toward Katniss and Peeta’s deaths for the rest of his life after they escape the games alive.

Effie Trinket — For an idea of someone who is almost solely an informant, we might look at Effie Trinket. While her role becomes more important throughout the series, in the first book, she’s our look into the Capital and how it works. We get a lot of exposition in a natural way through Effie as she guides Katniss and Peeta through what is expected of them in this new world.

Supporting characters in Pride and Prejudice

Mr. Darcy — Mr. Darcy, as the love interest, is a supporter character. In the beginning and middle of the book, you might say he takes on the role of an antagonizer character, just because he gives our main character, Lizzie, so much grief. In the end, we see that most of the antagonizer moves he made were a result of misunderstandings and his own social ineptitude, leaving us with Mr. Darcy, the supporter.

Mr. Collins — Mr. Collins is an antagonizer supporting character throughout the whole book. He foists his unwanted marital advances upon any Bennet sister who will glance his way, he’s to inherit their house upon Mr. Bennet’s death, and he’s just a weird little pervert. He causes grief no matter what his goal is, and he thinks he’s doing amazing work.

Mrs. Bennet — Mrs. Bennet is an antagonizer character with the best of intentions. Her role can switch back and forth, as Lizzie grows tired of her, then fond of her, then pities her, and around again. While she has the best of intentions in pushing her daughters to marry, she does so in the most egregious and grating ways possible, often getting in the way of her own goal by scaring away the rich and eligible bachelors who are, indeed, in want of a wife. What do you think—is Mrs. Bennet a supporter or an antagonizer?

Supporting characters in I Am The Messenger

Audrey — Audrey is one of Ed, the main character’s, best friends, as well as his love interest. Though she causes him a considerable amount of pain, Audrey is consistently a supporter character. Her presence creates inner turmoil for Ed, but she’s always on his side.

Bev — Bev is Ed’s mother, and she is unquestionably an antagonizer character. Every scene she’s in ends with Ed feeling beatdown, disrespected, and unmotivated. Her only role is to criticize and demoralize him. Even though he ends the story forgiving her, Bev keeps her role as antagonizer through the book.

The Doorman — The Doorman is the main character’s dog, who is voiced through Ed’s imagination. The Doorman provides a back-and-forth inner monologue for Ed to work out his problems and gain clarity. Whether it was his choice or not, The Doorman is a supporter and informant character.



How do you write a good supporting character?

Writing good supporting characters for your book requires thinking of them as full, complex people. Here are some tips for writing compelling supporting characters:

1. Make their dialogue distinct from other characters.

Each character, even supporting characters, should have distinct ways of speaking. This can be based on their background, education, hometown, life experience, age, and personality. Take those factors into consideration when you craft your character’s voice. Are they snarky? Long-winded? What kind of vocabulary do they use? Do they speak to every character in the same tone, or do they shift based on their audience and environment? Do they speak with an accent, regional dialect, or a speech impediment?

Making distinct dialogue becomes more important as your character cast grows. It’s one of the most important tools you can use to help your readers keep up with who’s who.

2. Give them a distinct name.

Along with distinct dialogue, a name that stands out from other characters will help your readers to keep the characters straight in their heads as they read the book. I had two characters in one of my novels who had the same job, and both of their names began with a C. In a long book like that one, we’re introduced to very many characters. I changed one of their names for clarity’s sake, because it’s an easy way to help your reader along.

3. Make sure your characters want something.

If they don’t have a goal or agenda, supporting characters can easily become a plot device. Each character you include in a scene should want something out of it, big or small. If they’re important enough to have a name, they’re important enough to want something.

4. Put in the effort.

Writing a strong cast of supporting characters really comes down to giving them as much care and attention as we give our main characters. Supporting characters should have a backstory that makes sense for their current state of being, flaws, likes and dislikes, and character arcs of their own. At the very least, ask yourself these questions:

  • What do they want?
  • What’s stopping them from getting it?
  • What will they do in response to the thing that’s stopping them from achieving their goal?

Supporting characters play an important role in any book. Without them, the world around our main characters would be drab, boring, and unexciting. A good character needs good characters to work with and against!

Make sure you’re giving just as much love to your supporting cast as you do when building your main character. Remember: If they’re important enough to be named, they’re important enough to want something. What do your characters want, and how are they going to go after it?


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dynamic character vs static character

Dynamic Character: 9 Examples

Dynamic characters can bring a plot to life, stay in the mind of readers for years to come, and inspire change. However, there is a myriad of ways to create a dynamic character, and the term itself can be misleading. A dynamic character is not always outgoing, as the term may imply. In fact, some of the most dynamic characters can be reserved and collected. Whatever personality your novel’s protagonist or the focal character of your nonfiction takes, making him or her dynamic can be integral to creating a great story. 

That said, there are a few questions to get out of the way before diving into the creation of dynamic characters. The more you understand at the forefront, the simpler it will be to create a character that brings life to your story. In this article we discuss:

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The deeper understanding you have, the better you will be able to wield the tools that create a dynamic character. So let’s start with the definition. 

What Is A Dynamic Character

According to Dictionary.com, a dynamic character is, “A literary or dramatic character who undergoes an important inner change, as a change in personality or attitude.”

Consider the protagonist in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Ebeneezer Scrooge. Even in his 1843 novella, Dickens understood the importance of a dynamic character. More on him later.

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, the protagonist of your story should have some type of character arc by the last page. Character arc is crucial because without it, there is little journey to take your readers on. Some of the most loved stories are made up of dynamic characters going through difficult circumstances and reaching the last page changed.  

Dynamic characters are the power behind story. They take the plot from passive to active and tie plot points together. Whether you’re writing fiction with a traditional protagonist, or nonfiction where the protagonist is yourself or perhaps even your reader, it’s imperative to take your readers on a transforming journey. 

When considering how to write a dynamic character, it’s essential to first define the difference between static characters and dynamic characters. Artist and stage designer Es Devin says, “You need to start without light to find it.”

There must be a polar opposite to find the other. In the same way, it’s crucial to understand what a static character is in order to understand what a dynamic character is. 

Static Characters Versus Dynamic Characters

According to Dictionary.com, static characters are, “A literary or dramatic character who undergoes little or no inner change; a character who does not grow or develop.”

Just as darkness is important for light, static characters are important for dynamic characters. Sometimes the most impactful way to show the dynamic change of a character is to mirror them with a static character.

If a book was made up of only dynamic characters (fictional characters transforming their worlds or nonfiction protagonists all creating great change), it would likely fail to bring the ring of truth. The world, and therefore our readers’ world, is made up of both active and passive people, static and dynamic individuals. As you choose how to best portray the individuals or characters in your book, keep the above in mind.

When To Write Dynamic Characters

When to write a dynamic character depends on the goal of your story. There are great stories of characters who entered a difficult situation and overcome the situation without losing the core of who they are. While these can be inspiring stories, there is also a time and place to combine this strength with dynamic growth.

For instance, for nonfiction, if you’re writing a memoir and want to communicate how you overcame difficulties without losing the core of who you are, you may need to leave the dynamic character writing for your next novel. However, if your memoir is about how you overcame a difficult situation without losing your morals, while also growing and changing, writing yourself as a dynamic protagonist is an honest way to communicate your story. 

For fiction, dynamic characters can go a long way in making your book both memorable and impactful. Watching a character transform from insecure to bold and daring, or from hurt and wounded to strong and empathetic can be an inspiration to readers. We often love to read stories about characters we want to be like. As humans, we grow and change. Whether learning how to execute a task better at our job or interpersonally as we learn to relate with others at a deeper level, we are growing.

As a writer, communicating this through a flawed and human, yet dynamic character, can be transformational for your readers. For a reader to close your book and think, if they could do it I can do it, is an honor. So practically, how do you write a dynamic character? 

How To Write A Dynamic Character

The exact execution of how to write a dynamic character depends on many factors:

If your protagonist is by nature extremely shy, introverted, or insecure, their dynamic shift will look different than an extroverted, confident, or bold character. Before beginning to write your dynamic character, take time to consider their personality in-depth. Consider asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your protagonist’s backstory?
  • His ideal way to spend free time?
  • What must she overcome?
  • Greatest desire?
  • Greatest fear?

Next, consider how these questions would influence writing the following protagonists:

  • Example 1: A single mother, afraid of ending up completely alone.
  • Example 2: An introverted teenager whose parents adopt a special needs child.
  • Example 3: A veteran with PTSD who wants to share his story for his grandchildren.
  • Example 4: An insecure heir to the throne who could use his newfound power for his own good.

As you read these examples, take note of how their different desires and weaknesses will influence their character arc in dynamic ways. The single mother may have to focus on her children for a season, rather than her personal dreams. The teenager may have to overcome her introversion to help her new sibling adjust, or she may become a recluse who never leaves the house for the rest of her life. The veteran may need to face his demons in order to share his story and leave his legacy for his grandchildren. The heir to the throne may need to overcome his insecurities in order to help his people, rather than use his power for his own gain. 

When writing dynamic characters, often what differentiates a protagonist from an antagonist is how they overcome their weaknesses for the greater good.

With the example of the heir to the throne, if he lets his insecurity rule and uses his power for his own corrupted good, he is doing so at the expense of the kingdom (think Commodus in Gladiator, a static character, antagonist).

The single mother could let her fear of being alone rule her and completely ignore her children, to their detriment. She’d be working against the greater good and thus be an antagonist.

When you pair the fears or goals above with dynamic characters, instead of static characters, you’ll often produce more memorable protagonists.

What are Examples of Dynamic Characters

Ebenezer Scrooge’s (Example 5) character arc is so dynamic he has gone down as a classic character and is still studied today. His last name, “Scrooge,” became modern vernacular for anyone who was stingy, cold, and selfish, especially around Christmas time. But if you’ve read the story, you know that’s not how he ends. He transforms into a giver.

While classic examples are helpful because they are commonly known and studied, some more current examples may inspire your own writing. 

Let’s dive in. Spoilers ahead!*

  • Example 6: In Andy Weir’s The Martian, botanist Mark Watney finds himself trapped in an environment he knows little about. He must change in order to learn to survive. Although his journey takes place alone, his character grows as he builds on the strengths he already possesses and strengthens them to the point where he can sustain life on Mars. While his personality may be more laid back, his character growth is dynamic in that it takes him from certain death to surviving on a planet far from earth.   
  • Example 7: If you’ve read (or watched) the Divergent series, you know Beatrice Prior, otherwise known as Tris, is the main protagonist throughout the books. When Divergent begins, Beatrice is a shy girl nervous to take her aptitude test. By the time she realizes she is divergent, she’s fighting to keep her secret hidden and her family safe. This fight results in dramatic, dare I say dynamic, character growth that transforms her into a bold yet still caring individual. 
  • Example 8: Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy follows a similar character arc. She begins on page one wondering where her little sister is and soon after is immediately plunged into a life or death reality. Her initial goal is to save her sister from the deadly Hunger Games, but by the end of the third book, she has gone up against the villain himself, broken down his empire, and started a new life with her family. 
  • Example 9: Winston Graham’s Poldark portrays a dynamic character through one of his protagonists, Demelza. She begins her journey saved from a street brawl, dirty, and rejected by her family. Taken in as a maid, Demelza slowly learns a new way of life, while not putting off her old ways too quickly. She is still brash and daring, simply in a new context. As she grows, so do the dynamics of her character. She comes full-circle, being accepted into society on the very streets she once brawled in. 

Drafting Considerations

Characters are by nature both dynamic and static. Whether they grow in one large area and remain unchanged in one small area, most human characters usually possess both dynamic and static traits. As you draft your dynamic character, remember to add human qualities. Humans usually have a little hero and a little villain, a little perfection and a little imperfection, inside. To be human is to be imperfect. A dynamic character grows through these imperfections and transforms through circumstance. Unless they’re an antihero.

Pair the appropriate context with the right character, create a dynamic arc, and then walk with your reader through every scene. Show the dynamics that are at play, the fight between apathy and passion, pursuit and abandon, stillness and resolve. A dynamic character grows, but it is not always a quick process.

Take your time, revisit your character, and add layers to every draft. To be a dynamic writer involves creating a dynamic story. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, do your research on dynamic characters as well as static characters. Decide what is best for your story, and of course, your protagonist. Then sit in the chair, put your fingers to the keyboard or the pencil in your hand, and begin writing

Incorporate those human character traits. Then let your imagination and research take over. Writing a great character is worth the effort, the time, and the persistence involved. You can do it!

Want the Fast Pass to Writing Great Dynamic Characters?

Character Development Cheat Sheet [also printable!]

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onomatopoeia in writing blog post image

Onomatopoeia: How To Use (And Not Abuse) Them In Writing

Are you looking to spice up your writing? Do you have a scene that falls a little flat, or do you find yourself looking to add dimension to your description, settings, or characters?

Maybe you have all the technical details in place, but you’re just looking for that little something to make it pop. 

Well, allow me to introduce you to onomatopoeia!

You may have heard of these guys before, but I bet you haven’t heard of all the different ways you can incorporate them into your prose. In this article, we’ll talk about what they are, give you some examples, and discuss different ways to use them to make your writing shine whether you’re writing a short story, a nonfiction book, or even if you’re writing a novel

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What is an onomatopoeia?

An onomatopoeia, plainly put, is a word that sounds like the thing it’s describing. 

If you’re like me, you might have learned that onomatopoeia is reserved for writing comic books and writing children’s literature. They’re fun, but they’re always accompanied by an exclamation point, and they’re not really useful for anything above middle grade fiction. The examples I learned growing up are things like Zap! Bang! Pop! 

But as it turns out, onomatopoeia includes a much wider umbrella of words than you may think. Some of them are single word phrases accompanied by an exclamation point. These are your comic book phrases: Bam!, *slurp*, and Pow! are all examples of this. 

There might also be more subtle uses of onomatopoeia in writing.

The word ‘pop,’ for example, sounds like something popping. These words evoke the thing they’re describing, so they’re super useful in making your descriptions and scenes come to life.

Not only do they describe the object to your reader, but they’ll also add a textural element that’s super satisfying when done right. 

Examples of Onomatopoeia

Let’s take a look at some examples of onomatopoeia that might be helpful in your writing adventures! 

Example: “The onions sizzled on the stove.” 

In the word ‘sizzled,’ the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds sort of mimic the way food cooking in a skillet sounds. Sizzled sounds like sizzling, which is how we know this is an onomatopoeia. This is a lot more lively than saying something like “onions cooked on the stove,” because with the onomatopoeia, we have that textural element from the ‘s’ and ‘z’ sounds. 

Example: “Popcorn crunched under their feet in the dark theater.” 

We actually have two here—’pop’ and ‘crunched.’ The ‘p’ sounds, as well as the short percussive structure of the word ‘pop,’ mimic a popping sound. This is why popcorn is fun to say, and it’s why it’s so evocative! We also have the hard ‘c’ and the ‘ch’ in ‘crunch,’ which sound a bit like something crunching. This combo of sounds mimics the sound of popcorn crunching underfoot, which is a great sensory experience to put the reader right in the scene! 

Example: “I snap my fingers. ‘Get back here!’” 

 Here, the onomatopoeia is ‘snap.’ Like with ‘pop,’ we have a short word, which automatically gives the word a clipped, quick feel. We also have that ‘p’ sound again. This makes the word ‘snap’ evoke the sound of a snap. 

Example: “‘You’re safe now,’ she murmured.” 

In the word ‘murmured,’ we have the ‘m’ sound and the ‘ur’ sounds doing some heavy sensory work for us. This combination, when spoken aloud, sounds soft and a little blended together, much in the way murmuring does. You might notice that it’s kind of hard to shout the word ‘murmur.’ It’s possible, but it feels wrong, because the sounds are so soft. 

Example: “When I thought my head couldn’t hurt worse, the city bells started clanging.” 

Onomatopoeia is often at its most potent when it comes to impact sounds. ‘Clanging’ is the perfect storm of syllables. We have the hard ‘c’ and the tangy sound from ‘ang,’ which, combined, sound kind of like reverberating metal. Have you ever hit a sheet of metal and heard the sound it makes? It sounds like ‘clang,’ doesn’t it? 

Example: “I still couldn’t hear the movie over the teenagers’ chatter, so I shushed them again.” 

Similarly to “murmur,” the ‘u’ sound in ‘shushed’ helps give this a soft feel. But the real impact here comes from the double ‘sh’ sound on either side of ‘shush.’ This makes ‘shush’ sound like you’re actually saying ‘shhh’ to someone. 

Side note: You might notice that when someone gets mad and really wants someone to be quiet, they’ll go for a more percussive variant: “Shut up!” Why is that? 

Soft and Hard Sounds Using Onomatopoeia

Take a look at the examples listed above. Do you notice some common traits or differences? 

Onomatopoeia relies on the sounds in a word, and to evoke certain sounds, you need to distinguish between hard and soft sounds. 

A soft sound will come from soft vowel sounds, like the ‘uh’ sound in words like ‘chuckle,’ ‘murmur,’ or ‘mutter.’ Soft sounds also come from soft consonant sounds, like those ‘sh’ sounds in ‘sh,’ the ‘m’ sound in ‘murmur,’ and the ‘s’ sound in ‘sigh.’ 

A hard sound, on the other hard, will come from harsher vowel and consonant sounds. These words will usually also be shorter, especially if they’re describing an impact. Remember the ‘p’ on either side of ‘pop?’ Shorter, more percussive sounds will give a punchier feel. ‘Punch,’ too, is an example. Yes, we have the soft ‘u’ sound, but the hard ‘p’ offers it some oomph, while the ‘ch’ does here what it did back in ‘crunch.’ 

This is why our curse words tend to be short and full of those satisfying consonant sounds. They’re fun to say, and they sound exactly as harsh as what we’re searching for when we, say, stub our toe. It’s also why someone yelling ‘hush’ doesn’t sound nearly as harsh as someone yelling ‘shut up!’ 

When is the best time to use onomatopoeia in writing?

Hopefully now you can see that onomatopoeia is absolutely everywhere, and that they cover a ton of words you may not have even realized it covered. Now that you have this descriptive power, you may be ready to take it to your novel and pop, bang, and sizzle! 

But there is a time and place for onomatopoeia, and like any literary device, you want to make sure you’re using it intentionally. So, when’s the best time to use onomatopoeia? 

1. You’re writing a creative piece 

First things first, onomatopoeia belongs in creative writing. If you’re writing something technical, like an essay for school or copywriting for a manual, you’ll almost never want to use onomatopoeia. 

Let’s take an essay, for example. If you’re describing something that happened in a book, you could say that on page six, the main character ‘murmurs’ to her lover. However, this is going to read a little informally, because academic writing generally doesn’t include a lot of descriptive or image-heavy language. Instead, you would say that the main character ‘said’ something. 

This doesn’t mean your technical or academic writing needs to be as bland and robotic as possible. It just means that you’re not trying to evoke imagery here—you’re trying to argue a point or analyze something, which means you need to be simple, clear, and concise. 

There are exceptions, of course. In a manual, for example, maybe you need to say that if a customer hears a ‘pop’ when the product is turned on, they should unplug it immediately. If there’s a word that best describes what you need to describe, and it happens to be an onomatopoeia, that’s fine. Just don’t go out of your way to get super artsy when you’re doing technical writing. 

2. Your description needs a little pizzazz 

Onomatopoeia should be one of the first things you reach for when you want to give your description a little extra something. It adds texture, and therefore, dimension. 

Let’s look at this sentence: “Traffic deafened him on his drive home.” 

Let’s add in some onomatopoeia: “Car horns blared the whole drive home.” 

This first sentence isn’t terrible. ‘Deafened’ is a pretty strong verb, and we have an active sentence, which puts the reader right alongside the action. But we aren’t really getting what that traffic sound feels like. We could use onomatopoeia to get closer. 

The words ‘horn’ and ‘blare’ both add some extra description here. This ‘a’ sound, like the one in ‘clang,’ gives that loud, aggressive feeling we’re going for. Try to whisper the word ‘blared.’ Not impossible, but it always sounds just a little bit loud, right? 

3. You’re not ditching ‘said’ 

Contemporary literature demands that dialogue tags be as invisible as possible. Occasionally, you may need a ‘whispered’ or ‘sighed,’ but you should overwhelmingly stick to ‘said.’ If the line of dialogue beforehand falls flat without ‘yelled’ or ‘roared,’ you probably need to rewrite that line and work on the surrounding action. 

Just like you shouldn’t overuse basic verbs, like “jump” or “walk” in every sentence when describing your characters actions (you’ll want to swap out these for strong verbs to help keep your audience’s attention and better convey your story points), swapping “said” for some new onomatopoeia words can be fun!

Let’s look at this infamous snippet from a literary classic called “My Immortal,” published on Fanfiction.net between 2006-2007. 

“My name’s Harry Potter, although most people call me Vampire these days.” he grumbled.

“Why?” I exclaimed.

“Because I love the taste of human blood.” he giggled.

“Well, I am a vampire.” I confessed.

“Really?” he whimpered.

“Yeah.” I roared.

This section is packed with onomatopoeia. We have ‘giggled,’ ‘whimpered,’ ‘roared,’ and ‘grumbled.’ But, as you can probably tell, the writing isn’t better for it. Instead, it feels like way too much.

Leave onomatopoeia out of your dialogue tags, and use it sparingly for maximum effect (plus, learn how to write dialogue well in the first place, and you’ll naturally avoid this). 

Using Onomatopoeias in Children’s Books and Fiction Books

If you’re looking for a way to give your writing more flair, onomatopoeia is the perfect tool.

Onomatopoeia are words that imitate sounds and they can add some extra flavor to any creative piece of writing—whether it be fiction or nonfiction. 

In fact, nonfiction books can be turned into children’s books for greater reach of your message.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2JZzZM0jpY

You may have noticed this word used in children’s books while reading with them before bedtime; it adds an element of fun while simultaneously teaching kids about different animals and their noises! 

Ever wanted to use ‘hissed’ instead of saying ‘he whispered?” Now you can! 

There are many variations so don’t feel limited by these examples–find what works best for your project and get started!

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Top Fiction Writing Prompts to Get Your Pen Moving

Fiction writing prompts, fiction writing prompts adults, fiction writing prompts high schoolers, fiction writing prompts middle schoolers, fiction writing subgenres 

51 WRITING PROMPTS TO KICKSTART YOUR NEXT GREAT STORY! 

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a brand-new writer, using writing prompts is a great way to get your creative gears turning and start on a story. Feel free to use these prompts exactly as they are to write short exercises, or to modify them and use them as a jumping-off point for your own worlds and plot ideas! 

We’ve broken these prompts up into adult, high school, and middle school prompts, and there’s a few ways to look at them. You can stick to the prompts that much up with your age group, which might be especially helpful if you’re a new writer, to make sure you’ve got prompts with experiences relatable or relevant to you! 

You can also think of them as separate genre prompts. Maybe you’re a highschool student writing adult fiction, or you’re an adult writing middle grade. Feel free to try prompts across all age groups to see what sticks! Writing for a different age group can also be a fun exercise to flex your writing muscles, so even if you don’t typically write outside your age group, use one of these prompts to try it out. 

Without further ado, here are 51 writing prompts for adults, high schoolers, and middle schoolers! 

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Writing Prompts for Adults 

Here’s a list of 20 writing prompts for adults, or anyone writing adult fiction! 

  1. Two rival coworkers get assigned to the same hotel room during a company retreat. They think they can grin and bear it, but then they get snowed in for the weekend. Do they fall in love, or do they plot their revenge? 
  2. Fresh from college, a new graduate gets their dream job. But when they show up for their first day of work, things seem… strange. And no one will tell them what happened to the last intern. 
  3. A new renter’s upstairs neighbors won’t stop stomping around during the odd hours of the night. Fed up, the renter goes to confront them, but it turns out nobody’s living there. In fact, no one has ever rented that apartment since the building’s completion. 
  4. It’s a small town, and any scandal can ruin you forever, but that doesn’t stop a woman in an unhappy marriage from filing for divorce. To make things worse, her husband is the mayor. 
  5. Mary is a happily married woman with two kids and a dog. One night, a visitor comes to her door, claiming to be her partner’s former lover. What does the visitor want? 
  6. A recently retired lawyer receives a mysterious letter calling him to return to a beach he hasn’t visited since childhood. 
  7. Write from the perspective of an old house watching a family move in and, gradually, move out. 
  8. Two adult siblings prepare to head home for a tense holiday season–Mom’s remarried, and no one likes her new husband. 
  9. An estranged family decides to meet up for a family reunion at a ski resort deep in the mountains to reconnect. As soon as they get there, things start to go wrong. 
  10. Anthony’s never heard a sound from his next door neighbors, and when he knocks, no one is ever home. One day, all the lights are on, and the front door is wide open. What does he find? 
  11. A detective duo takes shelter from a snowstorm in a small town where there’s been a string of murders. They don’t plan to stay long, but there’s something strange about the people here. Something that makes them unfriendly and skittish. 
  12. It’s been a few hundred years since the war that ended civilization as we know it. One group of people travels from town to town playing old jazz music on scavenged instruments. Write about their journey across America. 
  13. At a company Christmas party, a worker decides to finally let her boss know everything that’s been bothering her about this job. 
  14. The new resident living in 111B has been acting strangely. Write from the perspective of the landlord inspecting the apartment when the resident’s out one weekend. 
  15. A woman gets a phone call from the same man every Friday night. Eventually, she falls in love and agrees to run away with him. When she meets him at the spot they chose, what happens? 
  16. A CEO goes on an island retreat in the hopes of brokering a deal with another company. Write the emails he sends home as he slowly goes insane. 
  17. Matt’s lived in his small town his whole life. One morning, he wakes up and realizes he’s the only person left on Earth. 
  18. Write from the perspective of a woman who decides to quit her job in the big city and work on a farm in the middle of nowhere. 
  19. Everyone thinks the king has gone mad and moves to remove him from the throne, but in truth, the king isn’t mad–his son has just convinced everyone that he is. Write from the perspective of the king as he seizes back control over his court. 
  20. One day, a man decides to move his entire family to a remote island far from the American Coast. Write from the perspective of his wife. 

Writing Prompts for High Schoolers 

Here’s a list of 16 writing prompts for high schoolers, or for anyone writing young adult fiction! 

  1. Two best friends get stood up on the night of homecoming. Instead of going home, they decide to make their own fun at the dance. 
  2. It’s the night of the big Varsity football game, and one student notices that the opposing football team has been infiltrated by vampires. 
  3. Two teenagers are head over heels and things are looking good, until one of them has to move across the country for their parents’ job. Write the letters they send each other as they try to make long-distance work. 
  4. A pair of high school sweethearts are planning to go to college together. One of them gets an acceptance letter, and the other one doesn’t. What happens next? 
  5. It’s the first day of school, and there’s a new kid in town. No one knows where he came from, and when people talk to him, something seems… strange. 
  6. There’s a new French teacher every year. A group of students decides to find out why they keep quitting, and why each new hire is stranger than the last. 
  7. A new student decides to join the Chess Club to make some friends, but finds that the students are cold and unwelcoming. They decide to stay anyway, determined to defeat them in the District Tournament. 
  8. The high school marching band has earned a perfect score at competition every year, until this year. What goes wrong? 
  9. A teenaged kid gets expelled from high school, and in the hopes of whipping them into shape, their parents send them to an old boarding school on the East Coast. There’s no cell service or Internet, and at night, the kid hears strange noises on the water. 
  10. Three friends decide to start a cryptid hunting club. They’re mostly in it for the jokes, but one night, they find something lurking in the woods near the school. 
  11. Write the diary of a teenager sent to live with her wealthy, eccentric aunt shortly after the death of her parents. 
  12. Write from the perspective of the cheerleading captain as she decides to leave the captain of the football team for the captain of the dance team. 
  13. Sadie’s best friend moved out of town when they were kids, but she’s come back for their senior year of high school. They decide to reconnect over the summer. What happens? 
  14. When a zombie outbreak strikes town, the high school students and staff are locked in the high school. What happens next? 
  15. Write the social media posts that one local teenager wrote in the leadup to their mysterious disappearance over the summer. 
  16. During a tornado drill, two students break into the principal’s office and find something neither of them could have prepared for. 

Writing Prompts for Middle Schoolers 

Here’s a list of 15 writing prompts for middle schoolers, or anyone writing children’s or middle grade fiction! 

  1. Mark’s parents take him to the pet store to get a new hamster. He picks out a cute one and brings him home, and everything seems normal. But at night, the hamster acts strange. 
  2. Write from the perspective of an alien disguised as a middle schooler, sent to pick up information from a public middle schooler and relay it to their home planet. 
  3. The middle school theater kids seize control of the entire school and issue a full lockdown.  Nobody enters, nobody leaves. What happens next? 
  4. A middle schooler wakes up one morning to discover that she’s completely invisible, even to her family. 
  5. Four childhood friends have always been told never to wander into the neighbor’s yard, and to especially stay away from the neighbor’s run-down shed. When they decide to break the rule and go searching, what do they find? 
  6. Julie’s the best volleyball player on her team until a new kid moves in and outperforms her. The new kid is better at volleyball–in fact, she’s too good. Is there something more to this kid than meets the eye? 
  7. A middle schooler makes friends with the boy across the street, but his parents won’t let him sleep over at their house. Finally, they agree to let him go for the boy’s birthday party. 
  8. Write about a middle school in a fantasy world where students are trained to ride dragons. 
  9. A kid’s dad goes missing on a work trip, and he’s pretty sure the neighbors are to blame. When none of the adults will listen to him, he takes matters into his own hands. 
  10. In this town, the citizens always elect a twelve-year-old mayor. When the mayor turns fourteen, they elect a new twelve-year-old. The newest mayor doesn’t want to give up his seat. What happens? 
  11. In this fantasy world, an immortal tree keeps the kingdom alive and strong. The princess in line to the throne notices that the tree is beginning to get sick. What’s causing the sickness, and how does she save her kingdom? 
  12. Every year, the Richards go to the same cabin for a week-long vacation, and Emily is sick of it. When they get there, Emily’s mom tells her this is the last time they’re coming to the cabin. Why? 
  13. A group of Girl Scouts discovers a secret society living in the campground mountains. The citizens of this society are kind, but they offer the Girl Scouts a choice–stay forever, or never come back. 
  14. The local middle school D&D club falls into their world, and has to survive the campaign with their friend still acting as Dungeon Master. 
  15. The principal is dragging his feet solving the series of locker thefts terrorizing the middle school. One group of kids decides to get to the bottom of things and catch the locker thief red-handed. 

With these prompts under your belt, you’re ready to get started. Happy writing! 

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