July 2016 - In Writing





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15 Most Useful Phrasal Verbs

'Phrasal verbs' are a combination of words with a meaning beyond the individual words. They are verbs that are followed by a preposition or an adverb. They can be confusing if English is not your first language. 

Phrasal verbs are mainly used in spoken English and informal texts. We should avoid using them in formal and academic writing, where it is better to use a verb like 'postpone' than a phrasal verb like 'put off'. 

This infographic illustrates 15 common phrasal verbs.

Source: Visually


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Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 25: Your Mid-Year Analysis

Welcome to week 25 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

Goal setting
  1. Recap your mid-year progress.
Breaking it down

Back to basics
As we approach the mid-point of our journey to write a novel in a year, it’s a good time to take a week to pause and take stock of our progress. Let’s recap the basic elements you should be working with.
  • Do you have your genre and theme as crisp and clear as possible?
  • Do you have a working synopsis or outline of your novel?
  • Do you have character cards or sheets for your main characters?
  • Do you have your primary research done?
  • Do you have a clear idea of your settings and a timeline for the events in the novel?
When I look at my novel, I can see that I’ve stayed on track in terms of genre. It’s still very much a psychological thriller. However, my theme has changed a bit. I can see that the theme is more about trust and jealousy in a relationship between my two main characters, the lovers Matt and Jenna.

At this point, I think it would worth my while to re-write or edit my synopsis. Having a short 3-5 page document will help me to see the whole story arc and see if it’s still making sense.  I’ve been doing some extra research as I go alone but I’m not spending too much time on this – the idea is to keep on writing the draft.

For me, my setting is really nailed down because it plays such an important part in the story.  I know that the story will take place over no more than two or three months – but I guess I could be crisper in my timeline.
The palette - plot, character, and setting
By now you should have broken your plot down into individual scenes, chapters, or a group of sequences. You should have your main plotline sorted out and perhaps your subplots.

What I’ve done in my novel is focused on writing the key scenes in my novel – those that I know definitely have to be in the final manuscript. There are still gaps in places but I’m not stressing about these too much.

It’s been exciting to see my characters come alive in my imagination and on the page.  My main character is well formed in my mind. I really understand Jenna. However, I’m still struggling with the other characters. They simply won’t behave the way I want them to behave.  This is something I’ll have to look at.

In terms of setting, this is the easiest part of the story architecture for me.  It’s also been the fun part of writing – maybe because descriptive writing is one of the less demanding elements of writing. I suspect it is for most writers.

You, the writer
One thing we overlook in this process is ourselves. We tend to get lost in the writing. But a writer is also a human being – that has to eat, sleep, and have some sort of life outside of writing.

In one of my favourite novels, Valley of the Dolls, the author Jackie Susann explains the internecine tensions creative people sometimes experience as it applies to her unstable but brilliant character, Neely: ‘It’s like a civil war, with her emotions against her talent and physical strength.’

Writers tend to get depressed or fatigued more than other people – and that can be a stumbling block. What I’m saying is that you have to look after yourself.  Don’t get overwhelmed.

One way to manage yourself is to make sure you have a realistic writing schedule.  Also, try to schedule social activities and exercise. Celebrate your achievements.  Keep in mind what we said right at the beginning of this journey: We’re going for progress and not perfection.
Timelock — 1 to 2 hours

1-2 hours to recap your mid-year progress.

5 Quick Hacks
  1. Take a break from your novel. Go for a short holiday. Get a manicure. Visit friends and families.
  2. Create a shelf or drawer to keep all your writing notes and research material.
  3. Print out what you’ve written or do a word count of your scenes. Remind yourself how far you’ve come. Celebrate your achievements.
  4. Do something that requires physical work as a distraction. Clean the windows. Wash the dog. Paint a room. Tidy your writing room.
  5. Reward yourself with a great novel, biography, or a trip to the cinema. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break.
Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.’ — Harlan Ellison

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

If you enjoyed this post, read:


      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

      How To Convey Setting In Dialogue - Without Sounding Like A B&B Brochure

      I was on a bit of a dialogue spree a few months ago, but I decided to post this with the setting series to give you (and me) a bit of a break. As I have mentioned, I prefer dialogue to narrative. So much so, I actually skip blocks of description when I read. This is obviously not ideal, but then again neither is my wine habit. And I’m not giving that up either.

      As an author I need to find the balance between narrative and description. I have written about Talking Heads and how leaving details up to chance can create confusion or ambiguity.

      When I discussed layering, I worked hard to use body language and actions to help me fix my talking heads. Remember body language and internal thoughts are also considered part of dialogue. So, now I should have something like talking bodies. But, I still don’t have setting. 

      How do I include setting detail without inducing a coma with blocks of description? Remember, I love writing that shows. There are authors who excel at telling and who write brilliant, intoxicating descriptions. I don’t. I want stuff to happen.

      Let’s take a look at some examples. Using a line like “Please pass the salt” already tells us we are at a dinner table. It could be a restaurant or a home.

      Having your character say: “Grab your jacket, it’s freezing.” Tells me it is cold, without having to use the line: It was a cold and snowy day, just like the weatherman predicted.

      This is a skill that you will hone. The more you make a conscious effort, the better you will get. I just sounded like a motivational gym DVD, didn’t I? But it’s true.

      Consider this example:
      “Why did you choose this place?” His nose is scrunched. His upper lip is pulled up at the corner. “It’s very dark in here.”
      “You said you didn’t mind where we ate.” She sighs, closing her eyes for a moment.  
      “Well, I mind now.” He tries to move his chair, but it catches on the thick carpet. “How do they expect you to move your chair?” He tugs it again.
      “Do you want to go somewhere else?”
      “I’ll survive I suppose,” he says and flicks open the menu. “When in Rome,” he mumbles, “although I suppose Rome would find the association rather insulting.”
      Fran folds her napkin in her lap. Paying careful attention to the errant corners and folds.
      “What are you going to have?” He leans forward, peering over the menu, and his reading glasses.
      “I haven’t looked yet.” She watches the people at the next table. Young, beautiful, in love. She traces the damask pattern on the white tablecloth. “These are like the ones we had for our wedding, can you remember? The tablecloths?”
      He peers again. “Why would I remember the tablecloths at our wedding?”
      “Because your Mother insisted on them and they blew half our budget?”
      “Mother, does have good taste. She wouldn’t think much of this place, though. Too flashy, very nouveau riche.” He pretends to shudder, and nods at the menu. “The show starts at nine.”
      “I know.” She glances at the glossy pages.
      “I don’t want to be late.” He says behind the menu.
      “Fine, what are you having?” She says, snapping her menu closed.  
      “I can’t decide.” He re-appears, perky eyebrows with black, piggy eyes. “What do you think I should have?”
      Her smile disappears, sucked into a thin, straight line. “For heaven’s sake, can you not make a single decision on your own?”
      “I was just making conversation, Fran. It’s date night, remember? Dr Benedict says, we should-”
      “No, you were not making conversation. You were waiting for me to choose so you could blame me if you didn’t like it.”
      “When have I ever done that?” He squints in the dim, dinner light.
      “Only at every session we’ve had with the good doctor.”
      “But Mother says therapy-“
      She signals the hovering waiter. “I’ll have the house salad, please.”
      The waiter turns, eyebrows raised, pen poised.
      “I haven’t decided yet.” Panic cracks his voice. He perches on the chair scouring the pages, jaw pumping. “Why did you do that? I haven’t decided.”
      “He’ll have the line fish, grilled, with a side salad.”
      He deflates. Disbelief floods the table, followed by an angry fist. “Why did you do that? You knew I wasn’t ready.”
      “You’re never ready, Frank.” Resting her hands on the rattling silverware. Her wedding ring glints, mocking her with its cheeriness.
      “Well, I didn’t want that.”
      “Yes, and now you’ll blame me. Your life is my fault.”
      “Why are you being like this?”
      “Like what? Like the woman you chose to marry, and then complained about for the next five years.”
      He stares at her. Mouth agape.
      “What? Honesty too nouveau riche for you?”
      Ok, I hope that helps to explain using setting in dialogue instead of writing it in big blocks at the beginning of the scene.

      Try it using the prompt: “Why is it so dark in here?” OR “Where the hell are we?”

      Happy writing. 

      If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Please email news@writerswrite.co.za for more details.

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

      1. 7 Simple Things To Remember About Setting
      2. 7 Other Characters To Consider When You Write A Book
      3. The Role Of The Love Interest In Fiction


        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

        60 Things For Your Characters To Do When They Talk Or Think

        One of the easiest ways to show and not tell is by making your characters do things while they are talking or thinking about something. It could be anything including a chore, a daily grooming ritual, a hobby, or a group activity.

        When you do this, you show who the character is by the things they choose to do or have to do. You also have to think about their body language, because the way a character does something says as much as the words they are speaking as they do it. [Read Cheat Sheets for Writing Body Language}

        Try to avoid the act of scrolling through cell phones. Even if many people do this, it is passive and does not allow for movement, thought, and changes in body language.

        Choose activities that fit naturally into your characters’ lifestyles. Do not force them to do things unless you mean to make them uncomfortable. [Read 5 Simple Ways To Describe Characters]

        If you are stuck for ideas about what your characters can do when they are thinking about something important or while they are having a conversation, I’ve put together a list of suggestions:
        1. Colouring in a book
        2. Shopping for groceries
        3. Working on a car or a motorbike 
        4. Trying on clothes – at home or in a shop
        5. Taking a dog for a walk
        6. Playing a board game
        7. Playing a game of cards
        8. Giving a dog a bath
        9. Cuddling a cat
        10. Feeding pets
        11. Walking through a museum or art gallery
        12. Knitting, sewing, needlework
        13. Having a bath
        14. Taking a shower
        15. Cleaning up after an accident – spilt glass of wine, 
        16. Cleaning up after a deliberate act – smashing a photo frame, throwing a wine glass
        17. Gardening – planting, weeding, cutting
        18. Doing the dishes
        19. Changing a baby’s nappy 
        20. Counting money
        21. Wrapping presents
        22. Buying a present for a friend or loved one
        23. Preparing a meal
        24. Baking 
        25. Setting a table
        26. Looking for something
        27. Browsing in a bookshop
        28. Catching the bus or train
        29. Decorating a room for a party
        30. Packing a suitcase
        31. Packing a box
        32. Unpacking a suitcase 
        33. Unpacking a box
        34. Sorting out old clothes
        35. Sorting through old papers
        36. Rearranging bookshelves
        37. Sorting through photo albums
        38. Ironing clothes
        39. Getting your hair styled or coloured
        40. Getting dressed or undressed
        41. Putting on makeup or removing makeup
        42. Dressing or undressing a child
        43. Putting a child to sleep
        44. Watching a child doing homework
        45. Tending to a wound
        46. Painting nails
        47. Playing a sport 
        48. Going for a run
        49. Hiking – alone or with somebody
        50. Sharpening knives
        51. Sorting medication for the week or month ahead
        52. Sitting in the doctor’s waiting room
        53. Making a shopping list
        54. Shaving
        55. Going to the gym
        56. Exercising
        57. Watering houseplants
        58. Watching a child play
        59. Saving a new contact on a phone
        60. Rearranging furniture
        These activities allow for different types of reactions. A character could stop in the middle of any of these after hearing shocking news or realising something. News could also spur characters into changing what they are doing or the way in which they are doing it.

        If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

        Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

        © Amanda Patterson

        If you enjoyed this articleyou will love:


        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa.Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        The 18 Responses You Need For Content To Go Viral

        Content that elicits extreme positive or negative emotions gets your audience's attention. Once you have their attention, it is easier to get them to share.

        According to an article in Inc. there is a way to create content that goes viral. Devra Prywes, from Unruly, an ad tech company that gets videos watched, tracked and shared, says that these are the 18 emotional responses you should aim for, remembering that the positive responses encourage people to share more on social media than the negative emotions. 

        These are the 18 you need to elicit:
        1. amazement
        2. anger
        3. arousal
        4. confusion
        5. contempt
        6. disgust
        7. exhilaration
        8. fear
        9. happiness
        10. hilarity
        11. inspiration
        12. knowledge
        13. nostalgia
        14. pride
        15. sadness
        16. shock
        17. surprise
        18. warmth 
        Remember that people share on social media to connect with friends. We share content we believe could be useful, for example, a post that alerts others about an event they may want to attend. We share with others with the same interests.

        We are more likely to share if we believe a post is genuine. We like to promote good causes or raise awareness, especially if we are the first to share something that is trending. We also share to start conversations and to make friends with similar interests. The content we share shows the world who we are and what we care about. It makes us feel less alone to know that other people are interested in the same things as us.

        Many people will not share posts with truly appalling grammar and spelling mistakes. Most of us will not share things that make us look stupid or silly. 

        If you are writing a business blog, you may want to get your readers to subscribe, or to buy an ebook, or to take a course.  If you can create content that presents a problem by eliciting a response, and then show your audience how to solve it in an inspiring way, you will get the response you need. 

        Five Practical Tips For Making Content Go Viral 
        1. Use Images: I still cannot believe the number of blogs that do not have appropriate images for sharing across various platforms. I cannot pin text on to Pinterest. A post that converts into an ugly link without a picture on Facebook is not worth sharing. [Read 11 Reasons Why I Won't Be Returning To Your Blog]
        2. Keep It Short And Simple: Remember that this post is about viral content and the majority of this type of content is short. Viral videos range from 30 seconds to one minute. A post of our that went viral is a list: 45 Ways To Avoid Using The Word 'Very'
        3. Use Interactive Tools: Create a quick quiz or a poll. [Read 7 Trends Bloggers Can't Afford To Ignore In 2016]
        4. Use Lists: People love posts that give them ‘10 ways to do…’ or ‘50 examples of…’ or 12 ‘things to avoid when…’ We do not get tired of these lists. 
        5. Create The Best Headline You Can: Catch people’s attention. Give them a perceived benefit. Make them curious. [Read How To Write Headlines That Make Your Readers Happy]
        If you want to learn how to blog and write for social media, join us for  The Complete Blogging and Social Media Course. Please send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for details.

         by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

        If you enjoyed this post read:


        Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

        Write Your Novel In A Year - Week 24: How Important Is Style In A Story?

        Welcome to week 24 of Anthony's series that aims to help you write a novel in a year. Read last week's post here

        Goal setting
        1. Continue writing the scenes or chapters of your novel.
        2. Prep your scenes.
        3. Consider the style of your book. 
        Breaking it down

        Preparation doesn’t have to be dull
        As we hurtle towards the halfway mark of our writing year, you’re probably excited to push forward – to write more productively, to catch up on periods you skipped, or improve your word count.

        One method I’ve found that works is to spend five or ten minutes planning your next scene before you go to sleep at night. Keep a note pad or an index card next to your bed. Write down the things you want to get across in that scene before you turn off the light.

        This means that while you sleep, your creativity will (hopefully) be at play in the hidden realms of your brain. When you wake up, jot down any ideas, images, or fragments of dialogue that pop into your mind.

        When you settle down to write, you won’t feel intimidated by the blank page or the blinking cursor on your screen. You’ll already have your little ‘to-do’ list ready.

        I was surprised by how well this worked. The other morning, I woke up and immediately had an idea of how my antagonist would disrupt my heroine’s day – by showing up when she least expected him or was prepared to deal with him.
        Story before style?
        On the weekend, I watched the movie We Need To Talk About Kevin – yes, I know I should’ve been behind my desk writing. While I haven’t read Lionel Shriver’s book on which the movie was based, I have to admit I found the story a bit slow. It’s visually arresting and the theme was haunting – in the end, it was a satisfying movie – but it got me thinking. Would it better to tell the story in a more linear and traditional way? Did it overdo the symbolism just a bit? Was there enough empathy for the main character?

        I guess it’s very subjective, but the more I read novels and watch movies, I realise that what draws me to a book or movie is the story – the way characters and plot come together in such a way that you’re glued to the screen or can’t wait to turn the next page.

        As much as a great style can enrich the reading or viewing experience, it won’t be enough if the story is too thin or the characters too distant from the audience.

        While writing the scenes of my novel, I’ve made a conscious effort not to worry too much about style. Instead, I try to focus on getting the plot across in the shortest amount of time. I try to focus on what the characters are feeling – and why.  The style and tone of the scene should feel as natural as possible – without trying to force it.

        As Elmore Leonard says, ‘If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.’

        Talk about your book at your peril
        The other night I was at dinner with three of my close writer friends – yes, I know I should’ve been home writing.  Of course, once deep conversation about our love lives was exhausted, the topic turned to the projects we were working on. ‘What’s your book about?’

        By this time we’d switched from red wine to coffee, so I was lucid enough to give a brief description of my novel. ‘Oh, that sounds good – but what if this happened or that happened?’

        Yes, it would be interesting if this happened to a character or that happened in the plot. But I’d just spent the weekend batting down the last plot changes and getting some major scenes on paper.  What was I to do?

        Sometimes friends and first readers – and I always listen to advice of other writers I trust – have great ideas for improving a manuscript. I guess it would be foolish to ignore their advice. I’ll definitely keep their comments in mind as I work on my book this week.

        But at the same time, you also can’t get too distracted by this advice. If it will help your book, grab it with both hands. But if it doesn’t serve your story and your characters, then it’s best to let it go. Who do you talk to about your novel?
        Timelock — 2.5 to 5 hours

        Spend a half-hour or full hour a day writing your book. 

        5 Quick Hacks
        1. If you don’t have time to write a full scene, give it a quick and dirty draft – write it as a five-minute short story.
        2. Imagine you have to write a report on the status of your novel. What would be the highlights or successes? What would be the challenges? Sometimes seeing it written down can help you refocus.
        3. Think back to the last book you read or movie you watched. How would you describe the style of the piece? Did it add to your enjoyment of it? Or simply detract?
        4. Have a conversation with an ‘imaginary editor’ about your book. What kind of questions would they ask?
        5. Have the same conversations with the characters in your book. What would they ask about what you’re doing to them? What answers would you give? 
        Pin it, quote it, believe it:

        ‘The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.’ — Philip Roth

        Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

         by Anthony Ehlers

        If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. 

        If you enjoyed this post, read:


          Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.

          7 Simple Things To Remember About Setting

          You have these awesome characters, a thrilling plot with an epic story goal, but where are they? You have to create a complete picture. If you don’t, you run the risk of alienating your reader. We will not believe you, because we need the backdrop. Think of watching a movie that takes place on a black screen. Not so much fun. 

          Basic elements of setting include: 
          1. Town, country or kingdom: Where does the story take place? This space can be as big or as small as you want to make it. In Room by Emma Donoghue, it starts off literally in one room. In the movie, Phone Booth, the character is stuck in a phone booth, in Locke the character is confined to his car. Other stories take place on continents or even in universes.
          2. Present, past or future: When does your story take place? If it takes place hundreds of years ago there were no phones or cars. The abovementioned movies would not be possible. How does technology, or the lack thereof, influence your story? Today in crime stories the cops use facial recognition software, a few years ago witnesses had to go through pages and pages of possible photos in big fat files.
          3. Ball gowns or bellbottoms: What era are they in? What were they wearing? A girl in a ball gown will find it harder to climb out the restroom window than a girl in a pair of bellbottoms. Consider their clothes. 
          4. The minutes, the hours, the days: This is the timeframe. What happened during that period of history? You can’t set your story in Europe in 1943 and ignore the war. The continent was almost crippled by death and destruction. Give it a Google and see what happened in your story's timeframe.
          5. Weather: Sandstorms, rain or even snow can be a blessing or a curse. For lovers being trapped in a cottage in the snow is heaven, for a mother stuck in a cabin with four kids during a snow storm, it is hellish.
          6. Walk like an Egyptian: What kind of culture are you dealing with? Super conservative or super liberal? What is frowned upon in this society? What is celebrated? What would make them go to war? How do they treat their woman, their elderly, their children, their pets?
          7. Geography: Africa, Asia or Antarctica? Does your protagonist need sunscreen, chopsticks or snow goggles? Are they dodging volcanoes or swimming in the sea? 

          Examples: Let’s use the example of marriage or a wedding. How do different settings influence a wedding?
          1. Town, country or kingdom: Does it take place in a grand, old church or in office down at the courthouse? As a rule, princesses don’t get married in courthouses and couples who get married on the spur of the moment don’t get married in big churches.  And then it depends on which country you choose to set your story in. What laws govern the marriage? Does the couple need to slaughter a lamb before the ceremony? Do they need to pay for a license? Do they need to have blood tests done? Do they have to ask their parents for permission? And then, whose opinion is more important, the mother or the father? Can they get divorced? 
          2. Present, past or future: Attitudes have changed; at least we like to think they have. In 1852 being unmarried at 25 was almost a sin, today it’s considered the average age for a bride. Marriage was the norm 50 years ago and divorce not as common. Today, it’s different. King Henry got divorced, got syphilis as a bonus and ruined his kingdom. King Edward VIII abdicated to marry the divorced Wallace Simpson. Prince Charles got divorced to marry Camilla Parker Bowles, but still has a shot at the throne. Our attitudes about marriage and divorce have changed. ‘When’ you set your story should reflect the attitudes of the times.
          3. Ball gowns or bellbottoms: What will the bride and groom be wearing? Do they attend the ceremony naked to express the purity of their love? Do the brides wear overpriced gowns to symbolise their virginity? Do they wear red dresses, or Jackie O suits? Is she wearing the dress the groom’s grandmother wore to her own wedding? 
          4. The minutes, the hours, the days: When does the wedding take place? In the morning when the groom is still hung over? Or at night, when it is dark and the groom is tricked into marrying the wrong girl because he can’t see her through her veil.  Is your story told before, after or during the ceremony? Is it a weekend wedding that has been planned for months or a quick ‘I do’ at the courthouse?
          5. Weather: Rain is supposed to bring good luck to the couple, but who looks good with wet, frizzy hair? Who loves a hot suit on a summer’s day? No one. That’s who. Does a hurricane postpone the wedding, allowing the true love to arrive in time to stop the ceremony? Is it so hot the flowers wilt and the cake melts before the guests reach the reception? Does the bride consider it a sign and back out?  
          6. Walk like an Egyptian: Cultures vary. Their thoughts on marriage even more so. Is it a matriarchal society? Does the man marry into the wife’s family to become her possession? Is it an arranged marriage? Is it a mail-order bride?
          7. Geography: What mountains lie between the lovers? What is keeping them apart? Is it distance like in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’? Are the lovers from warring kingdoms or are they strangers married two strengthen trade between two countries? 
          Consider each one of these aspects when you write. Creating setting is an art. Work hard to hone your skills. 

          Happy writing.

          If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg. Please email news@writerswrite.co.za for more details.

           by Mia Botha

          If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

          1. 7 Other Characters To Consider When You Write A Book
          2. The Role Of The Love Interest In Fiction
          3. All My Friends Are Fictional


            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate

            The Only Character Questionnaire You Need to Complete

            Creating Characters - From The Cradle To The Grave

            I read a sad, simple Facebook post a few days ago. Jane’s mother had died unexpectedly and she wanted her friends and family to know. The responses from her friends and family ranged from the reasonable to the unreal and included:
            • Condolence, such as ‘Thinking of you’ and ‘Sending you love’
            • Offers of help
            • Religious and/or spiritual assurances that Jane’s mother was in the arms of a variety of mythical beings
            • Certain knowledge that her mother was in a ‘better’ place
            • Sage assurances that Jane was learning an important life lesson and that she should embrace it
            • Reassurances that the writer understood exactly what Jane was going through and how Jane felt, going on to share their own experiences in detail
            • Suggestions for retreats, healers, therapists that Jane needed to try
            All of these tell us so much about the message writers. I thought about how different we are and how obvious it is when we have to convey our support for life-changing events in words. 

            What isn’t obvious is how we got there. How did we end up on that page writing those different messages? It’s a long answer and it begins before we are even born.

            94 Questions About The Characters We create

            Complete this questionnaire for your character even if you never use the information in your book. It will help you to see them as three-dimensional, nuanced beings who leave marks on many people’s lives. 

            If you are writing speculative fiction, adjust the questions for the worlds you create in science fiction, fantasy, or magic realism. 

            Before life 

            Tell us about your character’s parents.
            1. Where were they born?
            2. Did they have happy childhoods?
            3. Were they wealthy, poor, comfortable?
            4. What was their social class?
            5. Were they well educated?
            6. What were the most important things that happened to them?
            7. Did they have any history of illness – physical or mental?
            8. Did any major world conflict or change in the world affect them? 
            9. Were your character’s grandparents alive when he or she was born? Describe their relationship with the character’s parents. 
            After birth - baby 
            1. Was your character raised by one of these parents? One or both of them?
            2. If not, who was the caregiver? What was the relationship between the two of them? How did it affect your character?
            3. Into what circumstances is your character born?
            4. Are the character’s parents / caregivers happy with the sex of the child?
            5. What expectation do the character’s parents / caregivers have for this child?
            6. Does society expect something from the character? 
            Becoming - childhood 
            1. Where do they live?
            2. Is your character considered plain, ugly, beautiful? Would the character agree with this assessment? How has this definition of their looks affected them?
            3. Does your character lose a parent/caregiver?
            4. Does something else happen that changes everything for him or her?
            5. How old is your character when this happens?
            6. How does this affect the character?
            7. Does his or her social status change during childhood? If it does, why does this happen and how does it affect the character?
            8. What is your character’s relationship with his or her caregivers like?
            9. Who does your character love most when he or she is a child?
            10. Do they have brothers or sisters? What are their names? Are they older or younger? How do these relationships affect them?
            11. Do they have relationships with any other family members?
            12. List the five most important things that happen to your character as a child. Tell us when they happened and describe how they affected him or her.  Did your character learn anything?
            13. Is your character an introverted or extroverted child?
            14. Is he or she popular?
            15. What interests, hobbies, and sports does your character enjoy?
            16. Is tradition / spirituality / religion an important part of your character’s life?
            17. Does your character do well at school?
            18. How do his or her teachers see the character?
            19. What is the character’s greatest fear? 
            Growing – adolescence
            1. As your character becomes a teenager, where does he or she live?
            2. How has the character’s life changed?
            3. Parents?
            4. Siblings?
            5. Friends?
            6. Love Interests?
            7. School?
            8. Social status?
            9. As your character’s sexuality becomes more fixed, does he or she fit into the norms of society? If not, how does he or she feel different?
            10. What words would you use to describe your character’s style? Dress sense?
            11. Who does he or she admire?
            12. Is there a genre of music/books/games that he or she enjoys?
            13. Is there anything that happens during these years that forces your character to mature more or less quickly?
            14. What is the character’s relationship with his or her caregivers like?
            15. Is your character independent?  Do the caregivers give him or her more or less freedom and responsibilities than the average teenager?
            16. Is your character prepared to become an adult?
            17. Who does your character love most during these years?
            18. Does your character know what he or she wants to do as an adult?
            19. List the five most important things that happen to your character as a teenager. Tell us when they happened and describe how they affected him or her. Did your character learn anything?
            20. What is the character’s greatest fear?
            Settling - adulthood 
            1. Did your character complete his or her education?
            2. What does your character do for a living?
            3. How has the character’s life changed?
            4. Life Partners?
            5. Children?
            6. Friends?
            7. Siblings?
            8. Parents?
            9. Social status?
            10. What goals does your character have?
            11. Is your character in a relationship? How many times has he or she been ‘in love’? How have these people influenced the character?
            12. How do they see the world? Is it different to when they were children or teenagers?
            13. List the five most important things that happen to your character as an adult. Tell us when they happened and describe how they affected him or her.  Did your character learn anything?
            14. Do they see patterns of behaviours that emerge through their lives?
            15. Is your character independent?
            16. Does he or she live alone or with somebody?
            17. Does your character have children?
            18. Write a bucket list for your character at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60. Does the list change? Has your character achieved any of the things on the list?
            19. What is your character’s favourite quotation?
            20. Does he or she have a motto?
            21. As your character reflects on everything that has happened, is there an interest from childhood that has endured and matured during his or her life?
            22. What is the character’s greatest fear?
            Slowing down – old age 
            1. Have they accomplished their goals? How do they feel about them?
            2. How does the character’s life change?
            3. Life Partners?
            4. Children?
            5. Grandchildren?
            6. Siblings?
            7. Friends?
            8. Social status?
            9. Have they built strong relationships during adulthood? What is this family or support system like as they age?
            10. Who do they love most at this stage of their life?
            11. Are there patterns in their relationships with their children that were present in their relationships with their parents? Is there a ‘sins of the fathers’ theme that runs through their stories?
            12. How does your character want people to remember them?
            13. How do they react to the effects of ageing, illness, losing strength?
            14. What does your character think happens when we die?
            15. What is the character’s greatest fear? 
            After life 
            1. Who is left after your character dies?
            2. How do these people remember your character?
            3. Has your character left a mark on the world?
            You can add layers to this profile based on the character’s sociology and psychology. For example, the food they enjoy, the clothes they wear, the places they choose to live will evolve out of the progression of their lives.

            If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.

            Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

            © Amanda Patterson

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            Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa.Writers Write - Write to communicate.

            What Is A Style Guide And Why Do I Need One?

            What is a style guide?

            A style guide is a document that is created by editors, managers, or producers to define how they want writers to write. It prescribes how employees should use grammar, tone, punctuation, spelling, and formatting. All of these define your company's writing style, which, in turn influences the way customers perceive you.

            A style guide usually covers things like:
            1. Grammar 
            2. Formatting
            3. Spelling
            4. General recommendations
            For example, a grammar concern could be whether or not you use the Oxford comma. Formatting includes fonts, bullet points, and margins. Do you use American or British spelling? General writing recommendations could include rules for the usage of acronyms and jargon. Read our comprehensive post about this: 10 Things You Should Not Exclude From Your Company's Style Guide

            Why do I need one?

            Style guides are vital if you want to present a polished and professional image. They also help staff members who may struggle to understand your company's writing rules. Read this post to see what I mean: 4 Ways A Style Guide Will Revolutionise Your Organisation’s Communication

            Seven examples of online style guides

            These companies and institutions use their own style guides for their employees and writers to follow. The rules change depending on the guide.  

            Online UK Style Guides: 
            Online US Style Guides:
            Compiling a style guide can be hard work, but it can be made easier if you choose the correct person to do it for you. You also need to consider how you will share it with your employees and how you will update it. If you want suggestions on how to do this, you could follow these steps: Create a Style Guide for your Company in 10 Steps

            If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme. Please email news@writerswrite.co.za  for details.
               by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  Facebook,  Tumblr,  Google+,  LinkedIn, and  Twitter.

               If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
              1. 27 Blogging Tips To Grow Your Business
              2. 5 Fool Proof Ways To Write Better Emails
              3. The Amazingly Simple Anatomy Of A Meaningful Marketing Story


              Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. Writers Write - Write to communicate.