Thursday 27 August 2009

WRITING TIP: Use on-line time wisely

What can an author do to use his/her limited on-line time wisely?

He/she can adopt an on-line strategy based on three questions:

(a) Who do you want to connect with?
(b) What do you want your audience for ?
(c) Where is the best place to connect with them?

Before you commit any time to a social network in an effort to connect with an audience, first make sure the people you want to reach are there.

Click here for the full article by Eoin Purcell on the Writers and Artists website.

About Eoin: Eoin Purcell has worked as a commissioning editor for Mercier Press and Nonsuch Ireland. He contributes columns to The Bookseller magazine and writes a blog at

Thursday 13 August 2009

WRITING TIP: What is a Character Arc?

We're often told that the characters in our novels must grow and change. But how do we plan that growth when we're outlining our story? The easiest way is to design a character arc for each major character.

A basic character arc will look something like this:

1. Emotional Wound: Question: what has damaged the character? Answer: His father abandoned him as a child and he doesn't know how to love anyone.

2. Inner Goal: Question: What unconsciously motivates the hero? Answer: His inner need to be loved; the growth he must undergo through the story is that he must learn how to love someone else before he can believe that he is loved.

3. Character Flaw: Question: What stops the character from reaching his inner goal? Answer: He is unable to trust that someone else will love him enough to stay.

4. Turning Point: Question: What happens to make the hero begin to change? Answer: He meets a woman and falls in love.

5. Black Moment: Question: What makes him believe all is lost? Answer: He sees the woman kiss another man and climb into a car with him and thinks she is abandoning him.

6: Climax: Question: How does the hero take action based on his inner changes (refer point 4). Answer: He decides to ask her for an explanation, where before he would have never spoken to her again.

7. Resolution: Question: How is the conflict resolved in such a way that the character's inner changes have become permanent? Answer: He drives to her flat to speak to her about what he saw. She invites him in to meet her long-lost brother who is the man she was kissing. The hero - relieved that he had not just walked away - shakes the brother's hand and asks her to marry him. They live happily ever after.

For more complicated stories, the character arc becomes more complex. For example, in a tragedy the hero would not experience a "black moment", when everything seems lost but then turns out fine (because of his inner growth has changed his behaviour). Rather, he would experience a moment when everything seems as if it will turn out fine but, in the climax that follows, his fatal flaws (those that he has not been able to overcome) will bring about a tragic resolution.

Drawing up a character arc will help you create more compelling characters who grow and change as your story progresses along the twists and turns of your plot.

You can read more about character arcs here and here and here.

Thursday 6 August 2009


Oops. July has passed with nary a blogpost. I'll blame it on the exceptionally cold winter we've had which, as a warm-blooded South African, I've found intolerable. In fact, the cold filled me with hebetude*. But spring is busy springing if the bird activity and unfurling blossoms are anything to go by. Summer is on its way and hopefully normality will return to my life.

As this is supposed to be my writing blog, let's look at writing news. My husband's two books are well into production. His first publisher's deadline (the co-authored book on tax administration) is 31 August and, despite currently travelling around the country presenting a workshop, he's happy that he'll meet it. His own book (on taxpayer's rights in South Africa) is also jogging along nicely and that should be out early next year. So at least one writer in the family will soon have a book on the shelf.

My own writing has taken a back seat to the many family needs this year. Ah well. Que sera sera. I've had a few more rejections and have decided that I need to revamp my query letter and my synopsis. So, that - now life is warming up and settling down - is my immediate writing goal. Afterwards, it'll be time to leap into the abyss of the blank page and start the mindmap of the new novel which I wanted to begin way back in June. Rather late than never!

Blogging will, sadly, have to remain a fairly low priority, but I will try to be slightly more active than the past few months.

Happy writing all and I hope you've all had a great summer (the Northerner's) and a bearable winter (the Southerner's)!

* hebetude: new word for the day