Eight Commonly Misused Words

Source for Misused Words - Daily Infographic

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Six Fascinating Character Types

Characters are the stars of a story, the heartbeat in a novel or screenplay. We sometimes hear that characters should be interesting but interesting is not always an adequate description. Characters should be fascinating.

So what makes a character fascinating?

  1. One that pops to mind is Flawed Perfection. This character seems perfect in every way—until you scratch the surface. It is often an Achilles Heel or emotional blind spot that threatens to bring their whole world crashing down around them. Examples: Francesca Day in Fancy Pants by Susan Elizabeth Phillips, or Judy Bennett in Nancy Thayer’s Bodies and Souls.
  2. Another fascinating character is the Innocent in a Turbulent World. It can be the child who travels without guile through a world of conflict—war, social change or family upheaval—and becomes a symbol of hope. This character sees beauty in other people or unexpected events. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a child-like character. It can be a naïve adult—naïve in the purest sense of the word. In fact, it can be a character with a disability or a mental disorder, which gives them a unique way of looking at the world. Examples: Forest Gump or Kitten Braden in Breakfast On Pluto.
  3. The Radical Believer is another powerful character. It can be the madman who sees and pursues a vision, someone who will uphold a value no matter the risk of persecution. He firmly believes in something others may see as abhorrent, strange or simply unbelievable. Examples: Curtis LaForche in the film Take Shelter, or Jeff in the film Jeff Who Lives At Home.
  4. Almost a flip side to this character is the Chosen One. This is a character shaped by destiny. Their lives have been mapped out for them. They struggle under the hero’s burden. This is a great way to create a mythical or larger-than-life character. Examples: Harry Potter in all his adventures, Sonia in The Girl Who Could Silence The Wind by Meg Medina or Michael in Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein.
  5. To create a character that an audience will identify with is the Everyman. This is the little grey man we often overlook. It can be the single parent or the high-school wallflower. What’s underneath the surface of this character is often a struggle worthy of an epic. Examples:  Willy Loman in Death of A Salesman, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty or Ted in How I Met Your Mother.
  6. Alternatively you might enjoy writing about is the opposite of ordinary. The Dream Woman is a highly romanticised character—the beautiful girl with the true heart who finds love and fulfilment in a world of luxury or bucolic contentment. The handsome hero who rushes into a burning building to rescue his buddy. In short, this character exists in a highly idealised state. It works well for escapist fiction or romance as it provides a wish fulfilment for the audience. Examples: Princess Daisy by Judith Krantz, Noah in The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

All these characters allow you to show the different facets of fascinating personalities.

To create your own fascinating character, you may wish to free write on one of these topics –

  • Write about your own flaws, habits, mistakes—explore the emotions of these
  • Write about the things that delighted you as a child—swimming, play-acting, collecting toy cars or a video game
  • Write about your own career goals and ambitions and the price you’ve paid for going after your dream
  • Write about your views on religion, politics, and sex – all the thorny issues we avoid in real life
  • Write about your perfect day – what would it be like? Use as many of the senses as possible

 by Anthony Ehlers

(If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy Five Ways to Make Description Work in Your Novel and Adding Suspense to Stories)

Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

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Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

Writers Write - Write to communicate

Start here: Three things you need to do at the beginning of your novel

Sometimes I wish a giant arrow would appear above my manuscript and pin-point the correct place to start. Alas, that does not happen.

An inciting moment is the moment of change for your character. It can be positive or negative, but it must be big enough that it forces him, or her, to act and to deal with the situation. This can be as big as a tank driving into the living room or as subtle as a discomforting sentence.

In your opening scene you should do three things:

  1. Orientate the reader: Get your reader orientated quickly. Tell us where we are and what is going on. You can be ambiguous, but do not confuse us. 
  2. Introduce the characters: Who is there? Introduce your protagonist as soon as possible. I want to know what is happening, but most of all I want to know to whom it is happening. 
  3. Show the relevance: Once I know where I am and what is going on you have to keep me interested. You have to make me ask questions. 

In the The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh starts off by setting her protagonist’s bed on fire. What do I learn?

  • Where are we? She is in a group home. 
  • Who is she? She has dreamt of fire for the last eight years. She has been in the foster-care system almost all her life. She is angry and violent. She knows about flowers. 
  • Moment of change: It is her 18th birthday so she must leave the home. 

In Night Film, by Marisha Pessl, our protagonist is running in Central Park at 2am when he sees a beautiful ghost-like woman in a red coat who seems to be following him. He is deeply unhappy and he blames Cordova. What do I learn?

  • Where are we? In Central Park, New York in the early hours of the morning. 
  • Who is he? He is a journalist whose life has fallen apart because of a film director named Cordova. Immediately I want to know who Cordova is. 
  • Moment of change: He is shocked out of his apathy and inertia by this chilling Cordova-like incident. 

Five things you should not include at the beginning:

  1. Back story: You have to weave this in as the story progresses. It is very important to know the details, but it is more important to know what to leave out and where to use it. 
  2. Flashbacks: This is basically back story. Save it for later and use it only if it is really important. 
  3. Description: Weather, long descriptive passages. 
  4. Prologues: Most of the time you do not need a prologue. It must not detract from your opening scene in any way. It can be used to bridge a time gap or if it is a document that is related to the story or if you use a viewpoint that isn’t used again. 
  5. Whatever you do don’t start at the beginning. 

For more examples of inciting moments and information on why you need backstory read my post from last week: The Character Biography.

 by Mia Botha

Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Why you need strong verbs when you write


    Strong verbs improve your writing in three ways. They help you:
    1. Reduce adverbs: Choosing strong verbs helps you to be specific. You should replace an adverb and a verb with a strong verb if you can. It will improve your writing. Don't say: "She held on tightly to the rope." Do say: "She gripped the rope." Don't say: "He looked carefully at the documents." Do say: "He examined the documents."

    2. Avoid the passive voice: Choose specific, active verbs whenever you can. Don't say: 'He was said to be lying by the teacher.' Do say: 'The teacher accused him of lying.'

    3. Eliminate wordiness: Strong verbs help you eliminate wordiness by replacing different forms of the verb 'to be'. They allow you to stop overusing words like 'is', 'was', 'are', and 'were'. Don't say: 'She was the owner of a chain of restaurants.' Do say: 'She owned a chain of restaurants.'

    If you reduce wordiness, choose specific verbs, and use the active voice, readers will be able to understand you more easily. This is what you want because the reason we write is to communicate. 

    Examples of Strong Verbs
    Source for Strong Verbs

    Find out more about our business writing course and our creative writing course by emailing news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    © Amanda Patterson
    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    September 2014 - In Writing


    Course

    Description

    Dates

    Times

    Writers Write

    How to Write a Book

    15-18

    09:00-13:00

    The Plain Language Programme

    Advanced Business Writing

    9-10

    08:30-16:30

    The Social Brand

    How to Write for Social Media

       30

    08:30-16:30


    Event

    Description

    Date

    Time

    The Magician

    Dinner with Raymond E. Feist

       23

    18:30-21:30

    If you want more details on any of these, please email news@writerswrite.co.za

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Magician - Meet Raymond E. Feist

    Join us when we host Raymond E. Feist, the best-selling American fantasy author. 

    Raymond Feist has sold more than 15 million books. He became famous with the Riftwar Saga, which began with Magician. He will be in South Africa to promote Magician's End, the latest book in the series.

    When? 23 September 2014
    Where? Winehouse Restaurant, Ten Bompas Boutique Hotel, 10 Bompas Road, Dunkeld, Johannesburg (GPS)
    What Time? 18:00 for 18:30 - 21:30
    How Much? R350 per person (This includes a three-course meal, an interview with the author, and a book signing. Drinks are for your own account.) Books will be available for purchase at the event.
    To Book? send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za 

    Join the event, Meet Raymond E. Feist, on Facebook

     A Writers Write literary dinner with Amanda Patterson

    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. 

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    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    What does it take to write a book? The five qualities published authors share

    I am often asked what it takes to write a book. Can anyone write a book? What special qualifications do you need to write?

    It’s a good thing to have talent. It’s great if you have an English degree. However, after teaching people how to write for more than 10 years, meeting and interviewing many authors, and writing weekly posts on writing, I think the people who succeed in finishing a book have a number of things in common.

          1.  Self-belief. 
    If most people who want to become writers really examined the success rates of other authors, they would never pick up a pen again. Belief gives you the motivation to do things, even those things you would never attempt if you examine how difficult it really is. Self-belief allows you to ignore statistics and to push forward because you have a dream. However, the writers who finish books and become published also have the ability to see the bigger picture. They are realistic within the self-belief.          
          2.  The ability to learn and grow. 
    Too much self-belief can make you blind to your shortcomings. You can become convinced that your way is the only way. Authors who want to publish know they are creating a product. If you’re writing for an audience, you know that you have to consider what that audience wants. This could mean taking a writing course, doing your own research, or reading books on how to write. If you want to become an artist, you take art classes. If you want to learn how to play a musical instrument, you take music lessons. Why would you believe becoming a writer is any different? Being arrogant about your abilities could lead to many wasted years.
          3.  The ability to pay attention. 
    Writers are readers first. Reading is your first step in learning how to pay attention. Published writers read a lot. Writers are also observers of human nature and human behaviour. The writers who succeed are curious as to why people, including themselves, do the things they do. They want to know what gives people pleasure and pain. They see patterns in people’s lives. They listen to their words and see if their actions follow what they say. They create characters who are real. If you want to create a memorable book, watch and listen. Most of your material is closer than you could ever imagine.
          4.  Perseverance. 
    You have to finish the book. You have to write even when you don’t want to. Authors who succeed generally have a routine. They write at a certain time every day, or they make sure they write a certain number of words each day. These authors also have a plan (usually an outline) that helps them reach the end.
          5.  Obsession
    It is easy enough to write a bad book, but authors who make a living out of writing spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort to get things right. You should care about the final product. This is when being obsessive is a good thing. Every rewrite, every edit, and every stage of your book’s life should be important to you. No mistake, no matter how insignificant, should escape your notice.
    The good thing about these is that you can work on all of them. 

    You can motivate yourself and you can learn how to improve your writing. It is not difficult to read more books and train yourself to observe. If you want it badly enough, you can discipline yourself to persevere and learn how to produce the best book you’re capable of writing.

    I hope this post inspires you to want to finish your book.

    (If you enjoyed this article, you may also enjoy 10 (Amazingly Simple) Tips to Get You Back on The Writing Track and The Author’s Promise - two things every writer should do.)
     
     by Amanda Patterson
    © Amanda Patterson
    Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

    ~~~~~
    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    Five Ways to Make Description Work in Your Novel

    Description is a way to engage the reader’s imagination. It is a tapestry created with words—it can summon vivid images of place and character, strong emotion and become a thread to move the story forward.

    Here are some examples of description at work in a story.

    1. Description in character. When describing a character, look for the little details that give insight into their background, state of mind and lifestyle. For example: In the witness box, Mrs Bennecke shredded a tissue between thick fingers. Her bra didn’t fit properly under her blouse. Her broad face was ruddy from lack of care in the sun—she still lived on the family farm in Reitz—and an implacable grief.
    2. Description in action. In a thriller, you don’t want to slow down to shoehorn in description. Find ways to intensify the tension and the character’s dilemma in the description. For example: Holding her wound, Marli ran towards the hold door, punched in the override code with blood-slick fingers. As it hissed open, she hurled herself from the stranded shuttle.
    3. Description in viewpoint. A description without viewpoint can be as flat as copy in a brochure. When the description is shown through a character’s thoughts, it becomes more authentic. For example: She imagined Richard at his rooms—face pale with fatigue, but a smile creasing his intelligent eyes. Because he loved working with children, he’d take late appointments. Often they got into arguments about children of their own. He was a paediatrician but didn’t want any kids of his own.
    4. Description in emotion. You can name an emotion in a novel, but is better if you illustrate it through description. It creates a picture that shorthands the emotion and makes it more stark for the reader. For example: Nicky slept on the floor of the living room, next to the tiny sleeping bundle on the couch. Claire could breathe thanks to the tracheotomy. But she was only three-years old. That meant care around the clock. Buster, the Labrador, snored at Nicky’s socked feet.
    5. Description in pacing. Description can really ‘pop’ when you shake up your sentence structure and punctuation. By creating a rhythm in a paragraph, it supports and strengthens the description. For example: The night before the TV makeover, Gina’s mind ran riot. Prada purses and pumps. Gucci in every flavour. Stylists, photographers, PR reps—all focused on her. Everything just for … her!

    Let the reader see it, feel it, live it!

    When you write with the senses engaged, with clarity and focus, you will create a visual and engaging language that will hold the reader’s imagination from the first page to the last.

     by Anthony Ehlers

    (If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy The Plot Maker and Setting the Scene and Adding Suspense to Stories)

    Anthony has facilitated courses for Writers Write since 2007. Published both locally and internationally, he was twice a runner-up in the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa short story competition. In 2013, his crime short story was included in Bloody Satisfied, an anthology sponsored by the National Arts Festival SA. As a scriptwriter, he has written three television features. In 2014, his short films were short-listed for the Jameson First Shot competition, as well as the European Independent Film Festival. Follow Anthony on Twitter and Facebook.

    ~~~~~

    Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

    Writers Write - Write to communicate

    The Character Biography – Writing more to write less

    Charles Dickens could get away with starting a story with the birth of his protagonist. J.D. Salinger chose not to start there and called it ‘all that David Copperfield kind of crap’. Now before I am lynched, let me say that I am a huge fan of Charles Dickens, but David Copperfield was published in 1850. Catcher in the Rye, although very advanced for its time, was published in 1945. Today we don’t write like either of these two authors.

    This is 2014. What do we do?

    1. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins tells us simply that it is the day of the reaping. She doesn’t explain it or tell us what it means. 
    2. In The Fault in Our Stars, John Green jumps in by telling us seventeen-year-old Hazel is depressed because she has cancer. She is in a support group almost before we hit page two. 
    3. In Room by Emma Donoghue, Jack wakes up on his fifth birthday. He is in Bed and switches on Lamp and has an interesting conversation with Ma. We know something is up and weird, but Emma strings us along. She tells us nothing. 
    4. In The Good Luck of Right Now, Matthew Quick writes about Bartholomew Neil who is clearing out his deceased mother’s underwear drawer and finds a form letter from Richard Gere. The death of his mother and his one-sided correspondence with Mr Gere takes us on a journey that is at once sad, sweet and enchanting.

    Now, this is not a post about inciting moments although each one is a brilliant example of a moment of action and change. This is in fact a post about character biographies.

    Imagine if I started my post with: To begin my post with the beginning of my post, I record that I wrote (as I have been informed and believe) on a Sunday night at eight o’clock while everyone else was watching the Sunday night movie. (I ain’t no Dickens, that’s for sure.) 

    How do great modern authors create characters so complete that I am interested in them even though I only met them a page ago? They spend time creating characters.

    The biography

    All authors start with an idea. It could be plot first or character first. It doesn’t matter. But, if something happened, it happened to someone. And this is where my character biography begins. I start out with perhaps a paragraph of the things I know about this person. I add details as my first draft progresses.

    I split this list into three (from Writers Write):

    1. The physical: What does he look like? I find a picture on the web or in a magazine and stick it up on the wall. Eye and hair colour. Tall or short, etc. 
    2. The sociological: What were his circumstances growing up? Are appearances important and why? Is he rich or poor? Did his parents love him? Was his father a drunk, or was his mother the chairperson of the PTA, maybe both? Was he a bully?
    3. The psychological: As I write his psychological attributes become clearer. I might start out knowing he was very stubborn or ambitious or perhaps a coward. As I write more, I start figuring out why he is like that. 

    I write all of this down. I reread or rewrite this biography every few thousand words.

    You have to know everything about him. To decide what is important for the story. You have to know more about him that you know (or admit to knowing) about yourself. That is how these great authors fall into a story with seemingly effortless brilliance. It is because they have filled in the back story; they know what is important for the reader and the story.

    Indulge in your Copperfield crap. You need it, but remember that the reader doesn’t - at least not all of it.

    (You might also enjoy The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Memorable Characters and How to make your characters shockingly real.)

     by Mia Botha

    Mia Botha facilitates for Writers Write. She is also a novelist, a ghost writer, and the winner of the Mills&Boon Voice of Africa Competition. When she isn’t writing, she is the mother of two children and the wife of a very lucky man. Follow Mia on Pinterest and Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter

    ~~~~~

      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate

      Commonly confused abbreviations: etc., i.e., e.g.

      The abbreviations: etc., i.e., e.g.

      etc. means ‘continuing in the same way’
      i.e. means ‘that is’
      e.g. means ‘for example’ 

      Writing Tip: Always punctuate these abbreviations within commas. 

      Examples: 
      Buy carrots, oranges, apples, etc., at this shop. 
      We give all clients an early bird discount, i.e., 10%.
      The course includes writing basics, e.g., grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

      Writing Tip: In good English, use 'etc.' as little as possible. It is better to be specific.

      From our business writing course, The Plain Language Programme

       by Amanda Patterson

      Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest and Google+ and Tumblr and Twitter. Amanda is the founder of Writers Write. Her signature courses are Writers WriteThe Plain Language Programme, and The Social Brand

      ~~~~~

      Writers Write offers the best writing courses in South Africa. If you want to learn how to write a book, write for social media, and improve your business writing, send an email to news@writerswrite.co.za for more information.

      Writers Write - Write to communicate