Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hooking Your Readers

The hook is one of the most important parts of your novel. It's what gets the readers interested in your story. A bad hook disinterests readers and also makes it tough to get an agent interested. A good hook, on the other hand, can captivates your readers and makes them want to keep reading.

But how do you write a good hook? It can be challenging, and usually you'll have to rewrite it many times to make it just perfect, but it is possible.

Just to get this out of the way, don't start with the weather. As easy as it is to describe the weather in beautiful words, it doesn't get the reader's attention.

Which of these sentences would you rather read?
"The wind rustled the trees' leaves as the sun lowered beyond the horizon." OR
"A hand muzzled my scream as I began to fade into blackness."

Personally, I prefer the second. It leaves you wanting more. Whose hand muzzled the scream? Who's screaming? Why are they screaming? The first, on the other hand, doesn't make you question anything. Sure, it sounds nice, but it doesn't grab the reader's attention.

There are many different ways you can start to interest your reader. One of them is with action and danger, as I did above. Readers want to know what's going on with the character and why it is going on.

Another way is to start with a short and sweet sentence that leaves you wondering what's going on. See something similar with this one and the action? They both leave the reader wondering.

You don't want to tell your reader everything, and the key to a good hook is to leave them with a question in their mind. Readers are curious, and if they have a question, they'll want to find the answer.

So whatever you write for your hook, make sure your reader has a question in their mind. If they do, it will make them more likely to keep reading.

How do you grab your reader's attention? Was this helpful? Let me know in the comments.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Creating Diverse Characters

Creating diversity in characters draws readers in. It makes them appeal to different audiences. And frankly, it's hard to do.

One problem I always had with this is that to know what someone is going to do, you have to be in their head, and the only person whose head you are fully in is my own. Even my friends who I know well still surprise me, so anticipating actions of people different than yourself can be challenging.

The easy way out of this would be to write characters just like yourself. The problem with that, though, is that no one wants to read a book about twelve people who all act the same. And no one wants to read one.

So how do you write characters not like yourself? One thing that helps is to look at the behavior of those around you. Look at how everyone in your environment lives, act, and reacts to everything and make notes of anything that surprises you.

Another process that helps is to mentally (or in a journal) interview your characters. If you find a lot of similar answers from different characters, that means you probably need to find ways to make them different. Similar to this process is using character journals, in which you write journal entries from the perspective of different characters. This can help you develop different voices for the other characters and get into their heads more.

One thing that I've used to evaluate my characters is a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). It is similar to many personality tests, but I find it gives good information and things to think about for characters. Many different sites have this type of test, and a good amount of them work well. A website I have used in the past is If you're not familiar with MBTI, I recommend looking at it.

Using the MBTI, I recommend that your main characters aren't overly similar in their type, usually no more than two of the classifications being the same with two characters (i.e. an INTJ and an ISFJ are okay, but not an INTP). Now, in some cases I know there are characters who are similar, even to the point that they receive the same classification on an MBTI. This isn't always a bad thing, but make sure it doesn't happen too much.

Lastly, I recommend that at least as a starting point you use a part of yourself as the basis of characters. I've found this very helpful because I can use multiple different aspects of my personality to create different characters and from that point the characters grow and develop different personalities. I even use this method for creating my antagonists.

And as always, creating diversity in characters is a process that takes time to get used to. In my first few projects, all of my characters seemed mostly the same.  Now, my characters can be polar opposites of myself sometimes and more similar to me at others. After lots of practice, I've learned to get in the head of my characters.

How do you create diverse characters? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Passive Versus Active Voice

Passive and active voice is something I see spoken about constantly by writers, and the big problem is a lot of them don't know what it actually is. If you said, "She was walking down the street," you would not be using passive voice.

This is one of the most commonly seen mistakes that I see people thinking is passive voice. This could be written stronger by changing "was walking" to "walked," but that doesn't mean it's passive.

Writing is only actually passive voice when you make the object of a sentence (what the action is happening to) into the subject. So saying something like "The ground was walked on by Elizabeth," would constitute passive voice.

I know that was a fairly obvious example, but it isn't always that clear. "The city was filled with tourists," may look fine, but it's passive and could be said better as "Tourists filled the city." Not only does this use fewer words, it also makes those doing the action (tourists) the subject in the sentence.

You can directly identify passive voice by the use of a form of “to be” plus a past participle.

Another problem that arises with use of passive voice is a lack of clarity in the text. Let me give an example: "The news station was informed that a twelve-year-old boy was murdered." Who informed the news station of the murder? Based off of this sentence, we have no clue whatsoever.

A better way to state this would be to say "The police informed the news station that a twelve-year-old boy was murdered." Now if you look at the end of this sentence, you'll see I still use the phrase "was murdered" which is passive voice, but in this instance, it is acceptable. This is because you don't know who was responsible for the boy's murder, so it's okay to use passive instead of having to say something like "The police informed the news station that someone murdered a twelve-year-old boy." This sounds weak and would sound better in the passive form.

As you can see, there are exceptions over not using passive voice. The above example is one, as well as if whoever completed the action is not at all relevant to the sentence, such as if you're talking about a baby's delivery, you could use the passive voice to avoid mentioning the doctor's name. For example, "The baby was delivered at 3:21 A.M."

There can be other exceptions, and if you have any questions feel free to comment, and I'll do my best to answer.  

Do you struggle with passive voice? Did this post help? Let me know in the comments. 


Friday, May 16, 2014

Getting Started . . . And Keeping Going

Now, I know this is something I struggled with when I first decided to write, and I'm probably not alone. Starting my project seemed impossible; I didn't know anything about writing, and everything I tried to write looked terrible. If you're feeling this way, know you're not alone, and there's only one way to fix this problem. Write.

I know almost everywhere you look you'll see writing as the advice for how to write better, and that's because it's usually one of the most successful ways to overcome problems in writing. But it's also one of the hardest. One big problem is that many writers, no matter how experienced, can have trouble with over-analyzing their own work. Noticing weak sentences, poor plot, or even just spelling and grammar errors can make you doubt your ability, especially if you compare your work with that of acclaimed published authors.

One strategy that I've read about and am a big proponent of is writing a "bad first draft." No, you don't need to purposefully write badly, but don't stress if you have some plot holes or weak sentences, scenes, characters, or chapters.

You'll get better the more you write, and sometimes, looking over your old work might make you cringe, but that means that you recognize the errors you've had previously and that you've gotten better since then.

But sometimes, just writing isn't enough. It's good to write, regardless, but there are other things you can do to get better as you write and to keep yourself going. One big thing is to read. Reading other books, whether they're in your genre or not, can help you to recognize writing techniques in other books and to see how different authors do things.

The last thing I recommend doing to get started or keep working, depending on where you are in your writing journey, is to read advice. If you're looking at this, then you've already started on this. Reading about how to write certain things can help you to improve, but be careful; too much reading about how to write, and you get sidetracked from writing.

There are lots of different writing technique/tip sites and books you can look at, but some that I personally recommend include or Go Teen Writers: How to turn your first draft into a published novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson. Another that I've seen recommended by reputable sources is The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises by James Scott Bell.

Also, if you need grammar help or advice, I recommend Grammar Girl, who has written many posts over things I hadn't been sure about. You can find her at She also has books which you can find at the bottom of her main page.

Have you had trouble getting yourself to write? Did you have any way to get over it? Let me know in the comments.

Ahem, Awkward Welcome Post Time

Hi, I'm a Christian, a nerdy teenage girl, a musician, and a writer. This is going to be a blog with writing tips, some stuff from my writing, book reviews, and basically all things writing. I'm not the most experienced writer, but I have written a reasonable amount and constantly review other writing resources for more advice (one of my favourites: I'll give my own personal advice for you, as well as things I've picked up from other authors.