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Using Motifs in a Powerful Way in Your Fiction

This is a reprint of a post I wrote many years ago, but it bears reprinting!

Motifs are powerful elements that writers can take advantage of when constructing their novels. But few novelists ever give thought to adding motifs. They might do so subconsciously or inadvertently, but I’d like to encourage you to take some time and deliberately construct some motifs so that they serve as superglue in your story.

Motifs differ from theme. However, the best way to bring a motif into your story is to tie it intrinsically into your theme. In The Hunger Games we see that not only does author Collins use an actual object or thing—the mockingjay itself, and the metal pin Katniss wears—the “song” of the mockingjay is used symbolically. The characters adopt the bird as a symbol for their revolution, and so the object and the theme are bound together. Continue Reading…

4 Steps to Create Perfect Plot Twists

Plot twists are all about the unexpected. So, the best tip for writing great twists is come up with unexpected plot developments.

The challenge for the writer is to craft twists that are both unexpected and believable. Ah, there’s the rub. How can your twists be believable if they’re unexpected?

Often, the trick is to set up hints, or foreshadowing, in earlier scenes, so that when the truth of the twist is discovered, your reader won’t get mad because they feel cheated or tricked. Having a new character show up at the climax to save the day for the hero will do just that. No setup, no believability (and no satisfaction on the reader’s part).

If your novel has twists at the start of the story, immediately misdirecting due to appearances, that’s fine . . . again, so long as it’s believable. We humans make assumptions and come to conclusions about events we experience, and it’s believable that we may misinterpret what we see and hear.

For example: your character is walking down the street of her city at dawn. Two men come running out of a bank, holding black briefcases. The bank alarm begins to clamor. She hears screaming from inside the bank, then an explosion. Not wanting to stick around, she runs . . . only to turn a corner, where she crashes into the two men . . .

Your reader might presume these men are bank robbers. And what transpires upon encountering them may also reinforce this belief when one points a gun at her and tells her to get lost and quick. Continue Reading…

5 Tips to Writing about Place in Fiction

Today’s guest post is by Yasmin Chopin.

I am often asked, ‘What is place writing?’ As a field of study, it is frequently linked with the more familiar genres of nature writing, memoir, travel writing, and autobiography. Place can be home, or somewhere you visit, or somewhere you’re traveling through.

Writing place in fiction is a skill worth developing. When place is an essential part of the story, it should be as authentic and whole as any protagonist. When place is more than a backdrop, it takes on a symbolic role that can be portrayed in a variety of ways, from the naming of place to its architecture and weather.

Writing place is most successful when the author has had personal experience of it. Then it can be adapted for the story, embroidered, and renamed under the creator’s pen.

Spend time on the page to accentuate difference. Sometimes it is difficult to find an entry point, so look for a detail in the big picture and expand from there. Treat places like personalities, learn to love them, see them clearly in your mind’s eye, dress them, give them conflicting characteristics, and put them through hell and back.

Maps have become familiar paratextual material; believability is enhanced by geography. As any fan of Thomas Hardy knows, a map can be a helpful device for the reader to keep track. In fact, Hardy drew his own as a way of managing his complicated plots. When he finished Return of the Native, he posted his sketch to the publisher and insisted it be included in the printed volume.

He was not the first to use cartographic drawings to sell a book, and I am not suggesting that you must practice illustration or that your characters should follow a map in their story, but if you develop place to a significant degree in your narrative, the reader might enjoy the opportunity to dive a bit deeper and dwell in the mystery of a graphic depiction. Continue Reading…

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