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Writing tip – How to Foreshadow

The art of foreshadowing is subtle, and yet it’s also a craft that will add depth to your story. Foreshadowing can create atmosphere and cohesion between different parts of your story, by setting up the oncoming events to build expectation and keep your readers invested in the story. Though it is a vital aspect of story crafting, writers may struggle with using it to its full advantage.

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What is foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing prepares the reader, if only subconsciously, for what is to unravel in the story later. It is not out-rightly revealing. The difference is subtlety. Its about hinting, laying bread-crumbs to guide the reader towards the outcome. That way, your readers still gains the element of surprise, but they don’t feel cheated.

One of the most important places to add foreshadowing is undoubtedly the first chapter. Here you should use foreshadowing to ease the transition between the setup and big plot points. It sets the tone for the rest of the novel, and adds clues as to what’s about to transpire. Whether your world has magic, death, or romance. A single sentence, the setting or perhaps even a symbol, will deliberately create dimension within the story.

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This is important for two reasons: Firstly, to satisfy the reader with the payoff by delivering on earlier promises. Meaning, anything set up in Act One, should come about in the Final Act. And secondly, to lead the reader to conclusions about the rest of the story. Meaning, if you introduce two main characters for romance, make sure you deliver on their Happy Ever After or Happy For Now sending.

Remember: its a subtle hint, not an outright telling. You can hint at the theme, reveal the tone of the story through setting, or even have it mentioned through dialogue. For example: If your heroine is about to set off an an epic adventure, having a side character hint at their Character arc, is a clever way of feeding the reader information, without being too overt.

All foreshadowing needs the payoff or promise delivery. So only include pieces that are relevant, and significant to prevent the reader from feeling confused or cheated out of a story line. Foreshadowing prevents coincidental reveals, a sudden or unexpected shift in tone, and outlandish plot twists.

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Any subplots can be delicately foreshadowed in later chapters. These can be hidden in the story (slightly invisible and almost forgettable), so that the reader won’t even pick up on them. These are indirect foreshadowing, such as symbols, or a banal statement, and are usually only realized once the promise has been fulfilled.

Foreshadowing is a skill and usually takes time to understand, and or develop in your writing. Often foreshadowing is added into the story at the revision stage. Once you’ve written the whole story, you can better understand what influences the direction of your story and where to place the hints, and promises, to prevent coincidences. Carefully, precisely and artfully, layering the foreshadowing to give the reader cohesion and satisfaction.

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Do you have any tips on foreshadowing? Perhaps you are still developing the skill in your writing and would like to understand the topic more. Please share your thoughts, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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3 Fun Exercises to Help You Create Irresistible Characters

I would like to introduce you to Desiree Villena. A writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors with the world’s best publishing resources and professionals. In her spare time, Desiree enjoys reading contemporary fiction, writing short stories, and giving (mostly) solicited advice to her fellow writers. You can check out Reedsy at Twitter / Instagram.

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There are two crucial pillars that hold up a good novel: first, there must be a compelling plot, and second, there must be nuanced characters who undergo this journey. Plot goes hand-in-hand with the central conflict and its resolution, so these elements are often intertwined!

Of course, not every story requires an examination of the deepest crevices of a character’s soul — but the complex layers of a protagonist often still bubble to the surface, even when they’re not explicitly explored. Just as a charismatic and thoughtful person charms others, well-developed characters are irresistible to readers, literary agents, and publishers alike.

So how can you craft characters who will feel believable, evoke sympathy, and rope your readers in? There’s no one single way to achieve this, but the three exercises I’ll be sharing with you below can get you thinking about the many facets of a round character.

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1. Let your protagonist win the lottery

This is a common thought experiment when thinking about the question: “What do you want to do with your life?” Before we get distracted by questioning our own raison d’être, let’s consider  how this exercise works.

Assume the prize for hitting the jackpot is hefty — so big that physiological security is no longer a remote  concern for your character. Without having to worry about survival, what would your character do with their money and, more importantly, their time?

What they choose to do has profound implications for their personality, their aspirations, and their skills. If your character decides to use that money to open a pottery shop, they must be somewhat entrepreneurial and industrious. They might be passionate about pottery, or they’re perhaps less aware of social issies than wider society, considering the fact that they didn’t choose to funnel their resources to a charitable cause. This exercise might also flag up certain areas of specialty you have to research, if you want it included in the story.

The decision of how to use this prize also opens up options regarding their interests and background, e.g. whether they’ve studied this art before, or if it was part of their family history or business. In any case, it’s fun to imagine this kind of scenario, since there are so many possibilities available.

You can frame this writing exercise as an interview of the character by a news outlet, or a conversation the character has with a close friend, outlining their plan. And of course, not every story setting has a lottery, so you can tweak the prompt to suit your needs (maybe your character unknowingly dug up a pot of gold) — just to make it feel more realistic, even if you don’t end up including their “lottery plan” in your actual story.

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2. Trap them somewhere alone

In a modern setting, your protagonist might get trapped in a broken elevator — or, if you really want to push your character to the limit, perhaps a crashing plane. In a sci-fi setting, the place could be a lonely and malfunctioning spacecraft (think The Martian). In a medieval setting, it could be a random sinkhole in the middle of an empty forest.

What you want to do in this scenario is the reverse of exercise #1: you want to remove practically all possibilities from your character and see how they react. Are they angry, or are they anxious? Is your character debilitated by the seriousness of the circumstances, or is their brain whirring, trying to find a solution? If they’re working on a course of action, what skills do they have to come up with and realize this plan?

Even if they’re not being uncannily resourceful and clear-headed, you can delve into what’s going on in your protagonist’s mind. Who and what are they thinking of, now that they’re coming dangerously close to death? Are there any regrets? Do they have certain memories that make this situation especially traumatic, or escape more difficult?

If you’re up for a challenge, try weaving in the emotional or psychological entrapments your character feels into your story. Let the physical space be a metaphor for the obstacles your character faces in life. This way you can explore both the mannerisms and inner thoughts of your protagonist, and the internal struggle that builds onto the central conflict of your story.

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3. Create a social media account for your character

Now I know this doesn’t make logical sense in every scenario — 15th-century knights don’t usually stop on their way to battle to post a quick Instagram story — but it’s an entertaining exercise to develop the social life and behaviors of your protagonist. And of course, you don’t have to actually create an account on Facebook or Twitter; just describing it will suffice.

What can you include in this description? Well, anything, really. Is this account used to keep in touch with close friends, or is it for a practical purpose like book marketing? (Meta!) How many friends or followers do they have? Does your character interact a lot, and what kind of content do they share?

Indeed, just by picking a social media platform, you’ve already determined some things about the character. If it’s Facebook, your protagonist might be the eloquent and argumentative type — as opposed to Twitter, where the character limit means Tweets are more concise and oftentimes quippier.

Feel free to experiment with the tone as well. Though this prompt probably gets you thinking about a contemporary setting, if your character’s from another era, you can definitely use the appropriate vocabulary and language style. (You might know of fanfiction social media accounts where the fans roleplay as book characters on Twitter — this is somewhat similar to that.) Here’s your chance to work on the voice of your character.

And that’s the nice thing about exercises like these: they don’t just make you ponder all the details you’d normally include in a character profile, they also let you experiment with your portrayal of your characters in a fun and creative way. Hopefully these exercises give you some inspiration for writing characters who are hard to forget!

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I want to say a massive thank you to Desiree. I’m sure you’ll agree she writes excellent post and that Reedsy is a valuable writing resource. I know I’ll be checking out their posts. Once again, You can follow Reedsy at Twitter / Instagram.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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How to Write A Fantastic First Chapter

The first chapter of a story has a lot to deliver. On top of setting up your main character, and their world, it also has to hook the reader. Get it wrong, and you’ve lost the reader–that’s game over! So to help you get it right, here’s some tips on what you should or shouldn’t do in that all important first chapter.

Setting up your first chapter.

Do – introduce your Main Character. The reader needs a sprinkling of basic details to build a picture of the character. Show them in their ordinary surroundings, living with a flaw (or emotional wound) that impacts their lives in a negative way, ready to take them on their arc.

Dohint at the theme. It might only be a sentence, but it will help set the tone of the story, giving the reader a taste of what’s to come.

Don’t – start with lengthy exposition, world building, flashbacks or dreams. This also includes lengthy internal monologue, while your character stares out the window. It’s super boring. Instead, orient the reader in your MC’s world right from the start.

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Do – keep the scene active. Have your character interact with the world around her. We want to see her/ him running for the bus because they’re late again. Out hunting for food to feed their starving family. Or leaving their own birthday party, because the cute guy hasn’t noticed her, only to bump into him in the courtyard (that’s a scene from one of my novels). Set the pace, set the tone and get the reader inside the character.

Do – Include your characters goals. You’ll want to hint at, or include, the conflict that will prevent your MC from reaching their goal, thus injecting stakes. If you’re following The Three Act Story Structure, then the inciting incident may not appear in the first chapter. But delivering the set up, that will propel your MC to take action and begin their journey, is a skill worth building.

Don’t – bog down your first chapter with side characters. Keep it central to the protagonist. That doesn’t mean you can’t include other characters, that’s not realistic or practical, but limit them so that the reader connects to your MC first. If your story is a romance novel; include the love interest. If it’s a murder mystery; have them stumble across a dead boy. And it’s always fun to hint at or include the antagonist too.

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Do – open the scene with an intriguing, catchy first sentence. This is a skill all writers would love to possess. Read the first page of lots of books, get a feel for what works and what doesn’t… and practice, practise, practice.

Remember, just because were told not to do something, doesn’t mean we have to listen. If you want to open your scene with a flashback, or multiple charters, then go for it. Read lots and write lots, that is the real advice, and the best way to learn your craft.

I’m sure there are many more do’s and don’ts. Do you have any? Tell me friends, what piece of advice would you give for writing a first chapter. You know I love hearing from you, so please leave a comment.

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Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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Novel Writing – The Three Act Story Structure

A quick reference Infographic for all writers, whether you’re a plotter or planster, to help guide you through your hero’s journey. Take a look at the Three Act Structure and see if it suits your story.

There are other methods, which I’ve covered them in another post: Four Ways To Structure A Novel. If you want to know more, check it out.


I hope you enjoyed this fun glance at structuring novels. The options are endless, let your imagination run free and don’t give your hero an easy time. 😉

If you’re interested in further ideas, check out: Six Ways To End Your Story. 

Happy Writing.
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Do you use the Three Act Structure? Or do you have prefer another method? Please share your writing style, know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2020.
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How to Write Compelling Secondary Characters

This week I’ve received a comment about secondary characters, and more specifically, how many characters should support your protagonist? In truth, every story is individual; Game of Thrones notoriously has a large cast of characters, whilst The Martian focuses solely on the plight of the protagonist for the best part of the story.

Therefore the plot holds the key to such questions, a better question to consider would be; how can I create context for the MC struggles? What internal or external circumstances, characters or environment will best serve and/or antagonise my protagonist? How can you help develop your protagonists story arc?

Secondary characters can provide powerful purposes within our stories. They can help to advance the plot in ways the protagonist cannot. They create conflict that stymies the protagonists journey. They can help to deepen the theme through dialogue, backstory and actions. Whilst help to reveal elements of worldbuilding through their individual point of view.

Here is a guide of the types of characters who may accompany your protagonist on their journey.

The sidekick – This character can also be the protagonists friend, or family member. Whilst they accompany the hero on his quest, they may well hinder, create conflict, become their confidant and most importantly add an element of comedy or surprise, just like Ron Wesley in Harry Potter.

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The friend – The nurturing companion who is always available to lend a shoulder to cry on. They help the hero to realise their own path, to be there after conflicts to give them the strength to continue onwards. Hagrid from Harry Potter is a great example.

The mentor – The wise soul who gives council, hints at vital clues whilst offering training and experience to the young apprentice. Remember not to make the story too easy, your mentor should lead the protagonist to the answers without actually telling him how to solve the problems.

The love interest – Create romance and tension within the story by adding an element of romance. It stirs internal conflict driving your protagonist to explore new emotions.  You could raise the stakes by forcing your protagonist to sacrifice something in order to save them. Or if romance is not central to your plot, maybe their love interest is merely a way to round out your character, a way to introduce their backstory and reveal another side to their personality.

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The healer – When your character gets injured, or faces a time of great healing, they will require someone who can aid them. This type of character helps the protagonist recover and strengthen up before they move on with their journey. This flexible character will add a fresh dimension to the story as your protagonist fights to overcome their injury/ illness.

The Herold – This character will call the protagonist into action, starting them on their journey. They give instructions in the beginning, like Gandalf who sets Bilbo Baggins off in The Hobbit. Often the protagonists ignores, rebels, or simply persists the call to action until they’re forced to act.

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The antagonist – Unlike all of the influencer characters the antagonists purpose is to create conflict, to prevent your protagonist from reaching his goals, to stay one step ahead until the climax of the story. Ultimately allowing the protagonist to grow, to improve, to reach a point where they can defeat or overcome the antagonist. They may take form as the bully, the irate boss, the murder your trying to track, or the power crazy queen who needs to be usurp.

The family – Families come in all forms, some supportive and others abusive. Inside each family the dynamic will vary depending on the types of characters involved. You may encounter the herald, the friend, the side kick, the antagonist and a love interest all within one family. We see such dynamic interactions in Hunger games when Katniss sacrifices herself to save her sister.

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Have fun, get creative and play around with these side characters as a way to introduce conflict, obstacles, tension, support and stability.

Tell me, how many characters does your WIP have? And apart from your protagonist, who is your favourite and why? Don’t be shy, share your ideas, you know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by, until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
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Six Superb Ways To End A Novel

The ending of a novel needs to leave the reader satisfied and should reflect the pace and tone of the rest of the story. The truth is, endings are hard. The writer must conclude all subplots and bring clarity and resolution to the conflicts the characters face.

I’m going to share six of the most effective methods for concluding your novel.

 

To be continued…

This method is often used to entice the reader into continuing on with a series. So that the ending creates anticipation instead of resolution. I think this works best when the overarching plot remains and the characters continue onwards with their journey, for example, a looming war.

Warning: Conclude the subplots and character journeys set out for this particular story or the reader will feel cheated.

The full circle ending.

This happens when the story ends where it started and is hinted at in the first chapter.
Either with a retrospective narrator telling/ remembering the tale. For example, in The Hobbit Bilbo Baggins starts the story by reflecting back on his journey and ends the story in the same place after reminiscing about his time with the ring.

Or the last scene can simply take place in the same setting, thus mirroring the first scene.

Warning: Maintain suspense – don’t over hint at the stories outcome.

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Satisfied Ending.

This is my favourite, where all plots are concluded, all answers are answered and the characters have grown, conquered gained a  moral perspective. Typical genres are romance, mysteries and children’s lit.

Remember: Happily-ever-after isn’t the only way to create a satisfactory ending for the reader.

The Twist Ending.

Where the conclusion is a complete surprise catching the reader off guard. The dramatic twist is revealed in the last few pages. It can offer anew insight, shifting the perception of the whole novel by getting the reader to replay the events and come to a different conclusion that was previously implied. Maybe the hero is still alive? Or perhaps something a character believed in, is revealed to be a lie; or visa versa. Maybe the villain is the hero’s father… Luke!

Warning: The ending must be realistic. It must work in tandem with your characters journey, their personality and the elements of the story. It must make sense and steer clear of clichés.

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The Implied Ending?

Life can be messy, and our novel can reflect this. Perhaps you want to leave the reader pondering about the outcome of a plot and the characters. If done well, the story arc should hint at a few possible conclusions and leave the rest to the reader’s imagination.

Warning: This requires balance so as not to leave the reader feeling cheated or confused.

The Crystal Ball Ending.

Here we allow the readers to glimpse into the future of the characters, maybe months or years ahead. The epilogue allows us to see how everything turned out. However, it must maintain the tone and pace of the story and continue to build an emotional connection with the reader.

Warning: This should not resolve the story arc.

Consider some of your favourite endings and what made them memorable for you. This can be done through films, tv series or even a treasured book. So if you’re watching Netflix, take mental notes of what works for you.

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Tell me, what’s your favourite type of ending? You know I love hearing from you.

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.
How to Write a Synopsis Novel Story

How to Write a Synopsis

The thought of writing a synopsis is enough to make dread swirl in our guts. After months of plotting, writing and editing – we’re finally faced with five things that stops us in our tracks.

  • Novel title
  • Pitch/Logline
  • Blurb
  • Synopsis

In this week’s blog, I’ll be breaking down the elements needed for synopsis writing. Hopefully – removing your fear of how to craft one. It’s not hard… honest. It’s simply a different process.

One thing I discovered while writing my first synopsis, is that literary agents and publishers wants the complete story. So don’t leave them hanging with your story. Reveal the climax and ending.

The one page synopsis is intended to communicate to agents and publishers that you have a complete plot and character arc. They’ll be able to identify if the story works as a whole.

EE card Synopsis Writing Novel Craft Story

Tell the story. Keep it simple. I like to skim through my novel jotting down notes of plot points: Action & Emotion. From the notes, I begin to shape my synopsis. The notes highlight the important story elements. Always write your synopsis in 3rd person, even if the novel is 1st person and write in present tense.

Think of this as more of a technical paper, it’s a factual explanation of the events that drive your story. Don’t evoke your writing style and voice.

Set the stage by providing the setting and introduce your main characters (Protagonist and antagonist). Always introduce each characters NAME in full capitals, the first time they’re mentioned. Then include where the story starts and identify the inciting moment. But keep it simple. Use a few well-chosen words to evoke meaning.

  • Person
  • Time/Place
  • Action
  • Consequence

From there we begin to flesh out the details by revealing what the protagonist and antagonist are planning to do. Showing how, why and when are they going to do this. Don’t include side quests, additional characters or plot twists – unless they’re vital in explaining the story arc. There will be practically no backstory or description, it will clutter the synopsis.

Finally, it’s time to reveal how the story ends and how it was achieved. Remember to link it back to the inciting moment.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2018.