The Six Questions Writers Must Answer In And Within A Novel


We sometimes overlook the obvious when we write. We become obsessed with sentence structure, descriptions, characterisations, world building and plotting instead of looking after the basics.

What are the basics? Every good story, and this includes essays, short stories, novellas, memoirs, and novels, answers six simple questions. These are:
  1. Who is the story about?
  2. What is the story about?
  3. Where is the story set?
  4. When is the story set?
  5. Why does this story matter?
  6. How does the story unfold?
This is based on journalism. Every writer of news stories is taught to answer the 5 Ws and the 1 H in the opening paragraph of an article. As writers of fiction, we take a bit longer, but a good story should answer all six. 

There are other ways to use the six questions in a novel:

Characters: Answering these six questions about each character will bring them into sharp focus. It helps you to remove unnecessary information and to create a clearly defined purpose for each one.
  • Who is she? 
  • What is her story goal? 
  • Where is she (physically) going? 
  • When will she try to achieve the goal? 
  • Why will she do it? 
  • How will she do it?
Plotting: These six questions will help you to discover if you have a plot
  • Who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist? 
  • What happens to them in order to start the story?
  • Where does this happen? 
  • When does the story take place? (Create a timeline) 
  • Why do the characters act and react? 
  • How will the story goal be achieved?
Scenes: It is also a useful technique to use when you write scenes in your novel. Try to answer all six in every scene you write. 

Happy writing, everyone!

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

 by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on PinterestFacebook,  Google+,  Tumblr  and Twitter. 

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

It’s Not A Story ‘Till Something Goes Wrong

If you’re struggling to start your story or you're stuck before you reached half way, stop and ask yourself: ‘Is it really a story yet? Or is it just an idea?’ 

In The Princess and the Pea, for example, the idea may be to write about a princess who marries a prince. Great idea, yes … but it’s not a story yet. Not until we press that tiny little pea under a mound of mattresses and cause the princess a sleepless night as a test of her royalty, do we have a story. Remember: it’s not really a story until something goes wrong.


Five ideas in five minutes

Grab a piece of paper and jot down five random words. I came up with brain, election day, pregnancy, interview, and traffic jam. 

Now spend just five minutes writing down a line or two on what could ‘go wrong’. 
  1. A traffic jam in a busy motorway tunnel and a bomb is about to go off.
  2. An interview at the best company in the city and you’re stuck in a busy motorway tunnel and a bomb is about to go off.
  3. And it’s election day and the president’s wife and his pregnant daughter — heck, maybe his mistress — are stuck in a motorway tunnel and a bomb is about to go off …
When I started the brainstorm, I was going to write separate ideas for each word, but as soon as I started thinking ‘What goes wrong?’, I immediately started adding in layers and layers of conflict. It already has the strong bonding of a story. Perhaps a bit predictable but you can always work on that.

The conflict cake

Conflict is like a cake. The more layers you add, the more delicious for the reader. Now that we’ve distracted you for a few minutes, go back to your own story. See if you can brainstorm five or 10 things that could go wrong for your characters or within the plot points. If you want, you can also set a time limit on this exercise.

The sooner, the better

One of the reasons we struggle with a first draft as a writer is that, in our stories, something doesn’t go wrong soon enough. The quicker we set up the conflict, the quicker the reader is hooked.

It’s also worth mentioning that the conflict you introduce should be a catalyst for change for your character as much as it is a test of survival. It should leave your character vulnerable, exposed, and even fearful. For example, a heroine in a romance will feel like this when she meets the hero for the first time. Similarly, the protagonist in a thriller will feel like this when he meets the villain.

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

Image: Source

       by Anthony Ehlers

      If you enjoyed this post, read:

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

      Protagonist vs Antagonist Worksheet

      I am on a worksheet spree. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. Fill this in for your two main characters and keep it close.  

      Happy writing.

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

       by Mia Botha

      If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

      1. First Draft Checklist
      2. If John Green feels like fraud, how am I supposed to cope?
      3. 14 Points To Consider Before You Write The Ending

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

        The Makings of a Great Business Story


        Once we understand the power of stories and accept the need for them in our businesses, we need to learn how to tell them. We believe this is crucial on our business writing course.

        The best business stories are the ones we can relate to. If you want to get an audience's attention, use these tried and tested fiction storytelling techniques. It is vital to focus on specific events with sensory details. Do not write about abstract concepts. Do not generalise.

        You should Include:
        1. People who act to achieve goals - passive characters are boring
        2. Insight into what they are thinking and feeling - their doubts, hopes, fears
        3. Showing, not telling, how the character evolves or changes
        4. Brief explanations to show why things happened as they did
        5. A well-constructed beginning - something causes change 
        6. An entertaining middle - how the character acts to achieve a goal
        7. A satisfying ending - does the character fail or succeed?

        Use this outline to help you write your story:


        If you want to improve your business writing skills, join us for The Plain Language Programme

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


        If you enjoyed this article, read these posts:
        1. Six Reasons To Embrace The Power Of Stories
        2. The Seven Points You Need To Build A Story For Your Business
        3. Storytelling for Business - 12 Tips For Better Business Writing

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

        Social Media 101 - What is Tumblr?

        I have written about the importance of bloggingFacebookPinterest, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter in my Social Media 101 series. Today I am going to talk about Tumblr.

        What is Tumblr?

        Tumblr is a free user-friendly micro-blogging platform. It allows you to mix social networking and blogging in a single website. The platform lets you share original content in the form of text, links, quotes, music, and video content. It has a loyal user base and if people like your posts, they 'reblog' them. 

        Why is it important?

        There is a strong sense of community on Tumblr. It gives users the opportunity to show their personalities and give insights into their lives and businesses. The content format is ideal for sharing photographs from events, audio clips, videos of your working environment, and interviews. 

        How to set up a Tumblr account
        1. Set up a page for yourself or your brand by visiting Sign Up Tumblr.
        2. Tumblr will assign you a URL, but you can change it. Mine is amandaonwriting.tumblr.com
        3. Choose an avatar (your profile photo) and a theme for your Tumblr (there are around 200, many of which are free) and start tumbling. It really is that easy.
        How to use Tumblr
        1. Tumblr allows you to share seven different types of posts — links, conversations, photos, quotes, audio clips, videos and text-only blog posts. Find content you want to share. Go to your Tumblr dashboard and click on the appropriate icon for your type of post. Add anything extra you want. And blog it.
        2. Tumblr posts are longer than those found on Twitter, but shorter than a usual blog format. Use it to combine images, videos, or audio with text. 
        3. Reblogging other Tumblr profiles’ content is important in this community. If you share what you are interested in, others will reciprocate.
        Tumblr Tips
        1. This is a great platform if you or your business are associated with culture and the arts, including books, literature, and libraries. It also has a strong community following in history, education, medicine, and science. 
        2. Animated GIFs and pictures attract more attention than video and audio content. Spend time choosing great images - Tumblr has a visually driven audience. Make sure your pictures are cropped and adjusted if necessary.
        3. Tumblr demands that you post regular interesting content.
        4. Use hashtags to make sure your content is sorted into the correct categories. This allows it to show up in other user's searches and interests on Tumblr.
        5. You can choose whether or not you allow comments on your posts, which is a relief if you don't want to monitor everything you share.
        6. Always link to the original source of any third party content you post so the owner gets credit.
        7. If you want real engagement with your community, it's there for the taking.

        If you want to learn how to write for social media,  email news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

          9 Famous Anti-Social Fictional Characters


          Having an anti-social personality disorder does not mean that your character is unsociable. It means that they are indifferent to what others think of them.

          They violate and disregard the rights of others and they do not believe that the rules of society apply to them. Anti-social characters frighten us because they lack empathy.This makes them formidable enemies and a great resource for writers who can create villains that show no remorse, no guilt, and no shame. 

          Remember that not all people with anti-social personality disorder are psychopaths or sociopaths, but every psychopath and every sociopath has an anti-social personality disorder.

          As writers, we often use sociopaths or psychopaths as antagonists in our novels. Here are nine examples:
          1. Tom Ripley from The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith. Tom will do anything to maintain his fraudulent life of luxury. He is an expert at forgery and deception, and he does not mind murdering anyone who threatens to reveal his true identity.
          2. The Jackal from The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. The assassin known only as 'The Jackal' is hired to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. He is a chameleon who plans his mission meticulously, evading capture, mercilessly killing anyone who stands in his way.
          3. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Patrick is a stylish investment banker with the meanest of streaks. He tortures, kills and mutilates his way through the book. This detached killer never shows any emotion or remorse.
          4. Tyler Durden from Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk. Tyler, along with the narrator, is the co-founder of Fight Club. He launches Project Mayhem, commiting violent attacks on consumerism. He is magnetic, unhinged, lethal, and demands blind obedience from his followers. In a terrible twist, we find out that Tyler is really a projection of the narrator.
          5. Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. Anton is a relentless, cold-blooded assassin who enjoys his job. He kills almost everyone he meets, occasionally allowing a coin toss to decide their fate. He is devoid of compassion and immune to pain. He is terrifying.
          6. Casanova from Kiss the Girls by James Patterson. Casanova is a serial killer who 'collects' beautiful, intelligent young women. He keeps them captive in an underground harem, where he rapes and eventually murders them.
          7. Alex DeLarge from A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Alex is pure evil. When he isn't killing, torturing, raping and destroying, he relaxes by fantasising about more violence.
          8. The Joker from Batman. The Joker is a vicious, calculating, psychopathic killer who is responsible for numerous tragedies in Batman's life. He is a criminal mastermind with a warped sense of humour and zero empathy.
          9. Hannibal Lecter from Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. Hannibal is a cultured, charming man - a psychiatrist who loves good books, music, wine and food. His favourite dish is human flesh.

          The best thing about having a strong antagonist is that you have to create an equally strong protagonist to confront and defeat him.

          Who is your favourite anti-social fictional character?

          Join us for Writers Write - How to write a book - and make sure you're creating a compelling crazy villain.

           by Amanda Patterson. Follow her on  Pinterest,  FacebookGoogle+,  Tumblr  and Twitter.  

          If you enjoyed this post, you will want to read:
          1. Personality Disorders - DSM-5 Resource for Writers
          2. Personality Disorders - A writer's resource
          3. Eight Personality Disorders - Illustrated

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

          7 Ways To Sharpen Your Business Writing Skills


          It doesn’t matter if you’re a personal assistant who must draft correspondence on behalf of your boss, or a marketing director putting together a new strategy, everyone in business needs to write better to communicate better.
          1. Find the right shape for your message. Spend some time figuring out why you want to write the piece. What is the message you want to get across to the audience? Decide what format would work best for this — an email, infographic, report, brochure, and so forth.
          2. Know your target audience. Keep the reader in mind. Is it an internal message going to your staff? Do you want to engage existing clients — or target new ones? What do you want them to know? Write this out in a single sentence and keep it in front of you when you’re writing.
          3. Get the draft down. Once you have an outline of the piece and you know who your reader is, write the first draft quickly. ‘You have permission to write badly’ applies in business as it does in fiction. It’s better to see your thoughts on paper than keep it locked in your head.
          4. Get out your scissors. Try to put your document aside for a day before editing. Cut out words, sentences, and paragraphs that are repetitive. Always try to adhere to the principles of plain language. If your company has a style guide, refer to this as you edit.
          5. Go for clear rather than clever. The idea is always to get the right message in the mind of the reader as quickly as possible. It’s not to prove to the reader than you know many big words and have mastered business speak.
          6. Strike the right tone. You don’t want your tone to come across as too cold and formal — but you also don’t want it to be too chummy and relaxed. Look at words or phrases that change the tone in your piece and see if they can’t be rewritten.
          7. Get out your scissors – again. People don’t have time to read today — so don’t give them more to read. It’s the quality of your writing rather than the quantity that matters. 

          If you want to learn how to write for business, join us for  The Plain Language Programme.

           by Anthony Ehlers

          If you enjoyed this post, read:

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

          First Draft Checklist

          For the last few weeks I have been writing about first draft planning. Visual aids are a great way to help keep you on track. They also act as a safety net when you veer off course. This worksheet will help you with that. You can follow this link to help you fill it out.

          Print it out, fill it in and stick it to your wall. 

          Happy writing.

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

           by Mia Botha

          If you enjoyed this post, you will love:

          1. If John Green feels like fraud, how am I supposed to cope?
          2. 14 Points To Consider Before You Write The Ending
          3. Seven Ways Blogging Improves Your Writing

          ~~~

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

            September 2015 - In Writing


            Course

            Description

            September 2015

            October 2015

            Writers Write

            How to write a book

            14-17

            26-29

            Writers Write

            How to write a book

             

            10,17,24,31

            The Plain Language Programme

            Advanced business writing

            8-9

            20-21

            The Social Brand

            How to write for social media

            18

            16

            kids etc.

            How to write for children

             

            18

            Short Cuts

            How to write a short story

             

            4

            If you want more details, please email news@writerswrite.co.za

            ~~~

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

            25 Proven Ways To Beat Writer’s Block

            For many people, there are days when it is difficult to get motivated and be inspired by their jobs. For writers this situation often results in writer’s block. If you write for a living then it is something to be avoided at all costs. 

            There’s some debate about whether writer’s block truly exists, but a study of 2000 writers has confirmed that it does.  According to Stop Procrastinating, the productivity website and website blocker, more than 60% of writers said they had suffered from it at some point.

            As with most productivity issues, there’s a range where some writers may find it difficult to work for a few days, and all they need is a break, while for others the block is far worse and needs some radical intervention. Thankfully, all of the writers overcame it. The survey also found the solutions that the writers used to get them writing again.

            These solutions include an interesting mix of creative motivation techniques and unorthodox routines. From practical advice like pretending to write a letter to a friend or writing for shorter but more intense periods, to more unorthodox suggestions such as taking a break and baking a cake or having a cold shower, the full survey results can be found in this Infographic below:

            by Stephen Bennett from Stop Procrastinating

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

            If you enjoyed this post, read these:

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