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Developing Conflict and Resolution in your stories

Characters are the heart of a story, the plot is its skeleton, but the blood running through its veins is conflict. Without it, your characters have nothing to fight for, no arc will develop, and your plot will wither and die. In this post, we’ll explore the internal and external conflict to resolution elements that could be evoked to create a truly dynamic novel .

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The protagonists traits need to be carefully selected for each story. Their backstory will colour their personality, and mould their goals. It’s important to understand where their character journey starts, so that you can plan for their reactions by understand their limiting beliefs. You should know what they want, and what needs are hidden beneath.  

Within the protagonist is the delicate balance of their life’s story, and before the plots even started, there might be an internal conflict brewing beneath the surface. In other words, the conflict is Person vs Self. Do they struggle with a mental illness? Are they harbouring a deep, dark secret?

Perhaps the conflict is Person vs Society. Is your character desperate to escape the seemingly perfect, yet utterly dull family life. But if they leave to seek fame and fortune, they’ll be shunned by the community they’ve grown up in?

Other types of conflict to consider are: Person vs Paranormal = A spooky ghost story. Person vs Environment = A thrilling adventure where the character has to survive a hostile, unfamiliar environment. Person vs Technology = like the movie Terminator!!

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When we consider these questions, a shadow character will immerge, and from that, we can build a nuanced character using all of their backstory/traits/goals.  Once the conflict has been targeted, make it personal, give an emotional connection to the character, that way the reader will be invested in the resolution too.

Make the conflict specific to your character; creating a league championship with the idea of your hero and villain playing on opposite sides isn’t engaging. But show the reader why the characters believe winning will fulfil an unmet need and you’ve captured their attention.

We could use the same techniques to build our antagonist, possibly, with the intent of creating a character that will purposefully challenge our protagonist, Person vs Person. Perhaps, they both have the same goal, but with very different ways of obtaining it. If the protagonist is socially awkward, a brash and obnoxious antagonist would naturally create a conflict.

Keep creating tension by adding layers of conflict. Every obstacle creates an opportunity for triumph or failure. Keep raising the stakes, build barriers that prevent your protagonist from gaining his goals unless he overcomes the impossible. The pressure of time will ratchet up the pace of your novel. In order for your hero to win, they’ll have to suffer first. And remember to keep the conflict believable for your genre/world/plot.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

I love Person vs Person conflict, it works wonders in the romance genre, but I also use Person vs Society. What’s your preferred conflict method? Share your writing style with me, 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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Hopes and Fears of a writer

As writers, we need self-discipline, perseverance and an unwavering faith in our abilities. However, as writers, we will be plagued with self-doubt, procrastination and writers block. Today we’re looking at some of the difficulties we face and how to combat the negative aspects and stay in alignment with our goals.

Let’s acknowledge some of the draw backs to being a writer. It’s often solitary; in the early days of writing a draft, the plot and our characters become our only companions. We shield ourselves from the awkwardness of admitting out loud that we are writers, to avoid the embarrassment of how we define ourselves. After all, at what point can we truly identify with being a writer, or even an author. When you’ve wrote a book? Maybe when you’ve wrote three books? Or perhaps when you get an agent? Possibly, until you hold the published novel in your hands?  

And so you keep your passion a secret, burrowed away in your fantastical worlds of words. While the fire is hot, your creativity soars and the story oozes onto the page. You feel brave and inspired, and why wouldn’t you, not only have you created conflict and tension for your characters to overcome, but you’ve also crossed those hurdles with them. Every character arc has been meticulously navigated and you’ve fuelled their emotions with your own.

Then we move onto edits; we get feedback and learn to handle criticism. Though it may pinch, you know in your heart the changes will strengthen your manuscript, and so you courageously persevere. Finally, you start submitting your work, but the rejections trickle in.

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Yes, you’re on Twitter and Instagram. And yes you participate in the blogging community. You’re doing all the right things, and yet, the nagging doubts that your not quite good enough seep in. Well-meaning family and friends ask about your novels, they want to know when they can read your book. And honestly, you’d like to know when that will happen too.

This is when the plague sweeps in. What if no one likes mywork? What if I’m never published? What if I write ten books and still feel like a fraud, a complete and utter imposter. What if my dreams never come true?

Take a deep breath my friends, you’re not in this place alone. Reach out to your community and they will respond with kind words of encouragement, because they have also visited this dark place. It will pass. The anxiety will disperse. If you’ve reached this desolate place, then it’s time to take a step back and practice self-love, self-compassion and self-care.

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The traditional writing industry is difficult to break into, and rejection stings. Indie authors juggle an incredible amount of responsibility, constantly striving to grow their business and reach potential readers. And writers battling their first novel have overwhelming new lessons to learn.

Whatever route you’ve taken, it takes guts to be a writer, putting your heart and soul into something for years that no one sees. Who knows what’s next? That’s not the point, look at where you’ve been and all you’ve accomplished. I congratulate you, I validate your struggles, and I’ll be here to celebrate your success.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

How do you deal with the negative side of writing? I’d love to hear your answers because I know how incredibly supportive you are.

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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How to Define Themes in your Novels

Under the surface of every story is a Theme. But what is a Theme? And how do we develop one for our novel? You may have already drafted the novel without much thought to Theme, and that’s fine. This post will help you identify them so that they can be used to strengthen the story during revisions.

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When we think of fairy-tales, we think about morals it’s trying to portray. Theme is similar, as in it’s an underlining message to the reader, expressed through your character’s arc. The plot is what happens in your story, but the Theme is why it happens.

During your character’s journey, certain Themes will keep coming up through their goals, the conflict and then, the resolution. How do they overcome their character flaws? What holds them back from achieving their goals? What are they afraid of, and how do you force them there? How do they differ from the beginning of the story to the end? Their inner transformation may naturally hold the key to any Themes.

The polar opposite of each Theme might be used in a story to add depth and tension. Consider your favourite story and identify some of the conflicting Themes from the infographic below.

Another way to identify Theme is to consider what topics you’re trying to convey, in my Mischief and Mayhem I focus on the abuse of power and redemption. Through our writing, we express our views of the world, even if it’s subconscious at first. What is the prevailing mood/tone of the whole story? What messages have you conveyed about human nature and the world we live in. Do the events leave a sufficient and impressionable imprint upon your protagonist? The answer to your Theme may lie in there.

Of course, there may be many underlying Themes. You need only consider some of your favourite stories to explore and identify Themes. Take Cinderella, I would say the most significant Theme is good vs. evil. However there are also Themes of friendship, Death, and love. Every character’s journey will undoubtedly be complex. One Theme might weave through the entire story, while others only appear in a chapter or a scene.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

What is your favourite Theme to write about? And does this differ from the type of Themes you prefer to read about? You know I love hearing from you, so please share your experiences.

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

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.

Creative Writing Blog Directory          Lorraine Ambers writer and daydream queen - OnToplist.com

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Differences between chapters and scenes

Chapters and scenes play different roles in a novel, and you’d be forgiven if you believed the two were one and the same. But they’re not! Whereas chapters are obvious in a novel, scenes are subtle structural parts. In this weeks post, we’re going to break down the functional elements of scenes and delve into the creative aspects of chapters.

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Chapters are creative decisions put in place to develop pacing, and while they seem to hold an air of structure, really they serve to capture the reader’s intrigue and hook them into your story. This isn’t just employed at the beginning of your Novel but is continuously done at the start and finish of each chapter, to entice your reader to finish one more chapter, then another, until finally, they’ve invested in the story as a whole. For more tips on this read: How To Hook A Reader_from the first sentence.

Novels can be written with as little, or as many chapters as you desire. Long chapters give a sense of leisurely pace, while shorter chapters ramp up the tension. They can even merely contain a single sentence. While some novels break each chapter into a new POV, this is also entirely up to the writer.

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Scenes are made up of structural bones, containing the goal, conflict and subsequent disaster. Followed by the sequel; reaction, dilemma, and decision.

If your new to these concepts read these post, Four Ways To Structure Your Novel and How To Plan Your Protagonist’s Journey, where I explain them more fully.

Each scene is a domino. When set up correctly, scenes create a seamless line of cause and effect that almost effortlessly powers your entire plot.

  • K.M. Weiland

How you fit chapters and scenes into your novel is entirely up to you. A chapter can encompass a full scene, but it does not have to. Once you understand the differences between the two, you can develop the pacing, its hooks, and twists around the structure of the scenes. This may well depend on the needs of your story and the goals of your characters. Maybe you choose to divide the elements of a scene over many chapters.

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While the cycle of chapter breaks reveals the flow of the novel, scene breaks reveal shifts within the story. There are hard and soft breaks to help define those elements.

Hard Breaks: These are usually highlighted by two lines between paragraphs. Alternatively, in a manuscript, it will be represented by a hashtag. But in novels, you may well find a symbol, three asterisks or a long-dash in the centre of the page. These indicate one of the following: A shift in character POV, a large jump in time such as flashbacks, or the introduction of a new setting or scene.

Soft Breaks: These indicate a smaller shift and can be a subtle pacing tool, represented by one space between paragraphs. They are minor shifts in settings or time, and where the scene is continuous with its flow. E.g. the characters move to another setting whilst continuing their conversation.

If you’re confused by the whole confounded mess of scenes vs chapters, my advice is to play around and trust your instinct, you’re probably already on the right track. But mastering a new technique only serves to strengthen your craft. This is the joy of being an artist!

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

How do you use chapters and scenes? Together, or do you like to mix things up? Maybe you’ve never considered it much and prefer to let instinct and creativity rule? Either way, why don’t you 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, 2019.

Lorraine Ambers writer and daydream queen - OnToplist.com    Creative Writing Blog Directory

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Four Ways to Structure a Novel

Every writer has a different process, a different way of creating, and every story is unique in the way it’s told. What all of them have in common are basic structure rules. In this post we’re going to explore four different types of plotting a story structure; it’s then up to you how you use them.

To develop any of these structures it’s important to remember to advance each scene so that the plot and/or character are moving in a forward momentum. You can do this by asking these questions of every scene and/or chapter: How? Who? What? Where? When? And Why? Some other things to consider are what is the Inciting Incident, what kick starts your story? Take a look at one of my earlier posts How to Plan Your Protagonists Journey, where I go into detail about stakes, conflict and their awakening moment.

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The Three Act Structure.

The first act is the setup. It’s roughly a quarter of your novel and reveals the Protagonist in his usual setting, followed by the Inciting Incident, the catalyst that starts everything off and raises the stakes.

The second act is all about confrontation. Taking up fifty percent of your story, the protagonist faces obstacles that raise the tension, promotes the character to challenge himself and his beliefs, pushing them towards their goal. The obstacles will continue to build up until the Climax of Act Two.

The final act is all about resolution. The last quarter of the story will contain the Final Climax. Then the action will begin to descend, obstacles will be overcome leading to the Denouement.


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The Hero’s Journey.

Through this method also known as, the monomyth, the writer plots the protagonist’s path through nine stages, starting in their homeland, venturing out with guidance, facing difficulties, until they win a victory and return home. In this method, the writer employs The Full Circle Ending, which we covered in last weeks post: Six Superb Ways to End a Novel

Introduction to the hero’s world
Call to action
Crossing the threshold
Meet the Mentor
First challenge
Temptation
Dark inner moment
Final battle
Return home

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The Mirror Structure.

This method divides the story in two, the first half consists ever increasing obstacles for the protagonist. And the second half revisits them in reverse order, bringing resolution to the conflicts. Ultimately ending, once again, back where the protagonist originally started.

The complexity of this divide is left entirely up to the writer. Do they set each problem in a different setting, or with a different antagonist for a dramatic flare? Or keep it subtle, only working the conflict and resolutions?

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The Goal to Decision Cycle.

This method can either be used to develop your character arc, or it can be applied to the plotting process. It’s a flexible way to create structure.

Part 1: The cycle begins.

At the beginning of a scene, your character will have a goal they want to achieve.

The conflict will be introduced as an obstacle preventing your character from achieving their goal. Thus they will be faced with an opportunity to grow and develop or they’ll be called to an action.

The outcome will, unfortunately, result in failure. Disaster strikes despite their best efforts.

Part 2: Leading to reaction/ lessons.

The character reacts emotionally, promoting personal growth.

The dilemma is based on what action they should take next. They’ve learned from their failures and they grasp the opportunity to do better next time.

Once they’ve made a decision, the character is then provided with either a new goal or takes new steps in order to achieve their goal.

This whole cycle then starts again, over and over, until the character has arrived at the end of their story.

Author Lorraine Ambers YA fantasy romance

Some writers outline every detail of their novel: The Plotters. Others take a concept and begin moulding the story as it grows around the lives of their characters: The Pansters. And finally, there are the type of writers who like to take the middle road, roughly sketching a structure and leaving the rest to their imagination: The Plansters.

Which type of writer are you? And what methods do you use to structure your novels? Please share your comments, 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.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

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.
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The Power of Perseverance

Passion fills us with a burning desire to create, to manifest, to complete the things that bring us joy. It’s the passion that drives love, allowing us to learn, grow and develop. But what happens when that passion dries up, it no longer fills you with desire because the love has grown cold?

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It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about a business venture, romantic partner or in my case writing a novel, the outcome is still the same… boredom, procrastination and maybe a bit of resentment.

The options are set; do you continue onwards swimming against the tide? Or do you bundle all of your hopes and dreams into a boat and let the water carry it off into the distance?

This is where the Power of Perseverance comes in: It’s not easy, and it’s not a golden moment of clarity and joy. This is the part where we graft for what we once believed in, safe in the knowledge that all the effort we’ve put in is worth something valuable.

Yes, maybe changes are needed to bring it into alignment with who you are today, or how your business works in an ever-evolving world. Maybe that novel won’t get published, maybe we accept that in some way we failed.

But all is not lost. Take a long hard look at the journey you’ve been on, see where all of your past experiences have enabled you to grow.

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My first novel is something I’m incredibly proud of. Unfortunately, it was not picked up by an agent, and I’m fine with that. Why? Because of how much I learned throughout that process. The same applies to my second and third novels, they offer a glimmer of hope. A stepping stone to where one day I will be, whilst allowing me to improve and become great at my craft.

If I dropped my pen and vowed to never write another word, then nothing would ever be achieved.

Here are some great quotes to keep you motivated and help you on your way:

“When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” – Harriet Beecher Stowe.

“Pain is temporary. it may last a minute, an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” – Lance Armstrong.

Stay strong, keep going and rememberI believe in you!

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Do you have a favourite quote based on the theme – Don’t quit? If so, please share it. 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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The Incredible Power of Writing

Writing is an art form, and all art forms have the ability to transform, inspire and motivate. It’s much more than conveying a story because woven into the fabric of a novel is the artist’s soul, a gateway to their innermost secrets, fears, and darkest desires.

Have you ever wondered why writing is good therapy? If a novel can transport the reader into another world, another perspective, can writing heal the reader too?

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Journaling is great therapy, it allows the writer to unload emotions, to delve deeper and discover aspects of themselves that they never knew existed. It’s a private, safe place to share the shadow side of themselves without fear of being reprimanded. It releases stress. There is no right or wrong way; pen to paper, on the laptop, or making notes on your smartphone, whatever works for you. The important part is gaining access to the thoughts that threaten to drown us.

Remember to take care of yourself. If your emotions are overbearing and too powerful to deal with alone, then please seek help from a family member, friend or trained professional.

Instead of journaling, I place a protagonist into a conflict-rich environment and write a story. There I have all the elements in place to seek out what’s holding me back and portray them through the character. Now, it would silly of me to create the main character of myself, and to be honest, I don’t think it would work. But through the well-developed, complex character, I can identify with them. Aspects like, how harrowing their journey is, how justifiable their anger is, and how to show them compassion despite all of their flaws. This is an incredibly satisfying learning tool.

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Writing allows the writer to feel, and it can be tremendously painful, but the consequence of hiding from those emotions is far more traumatic. This is why writers suffering from Complex PTSD, like myself, are encouraged to write.

But what about healing? And what about healing others with our words?

As a reader, I’m most impacted if I identify and connect with the character. I follow their journey with eager expectations, and if the writer has understood my struggles, reflected them back at me, and shown me that I can conquer regardless of my struggles, then I feel empowered, validated and it justifies my pain. Showing me that it’s okay to feel, it’s okay to express myself, it’s okay to be me.

That’s how we heal.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

What benefits do you get from reading and writing? What have you discovered about yourself along the way? Share your experiences, 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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How to Plan your protagonists journey

Throughout everyone’s journey, there are hopes, aspirations, and dreams; and in order for any of those things to come to fruition, certain steps need to be taken to get to the chosen goal. The superficial goal.

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Now here’s the tricky part, the unseen truth behind those desires: What we want, isn’t what we need. That’s because subconsciously, the things we’re hoping to manifest are in fact a band-aid of wishful thinking. The inherent lie we tell ourselves is that when we achieve X, Y or Z somehow we’ll feel better, be whole and be blissfully happy.

But in reality, a better-paid job, a bigger house or faster car will never fill the void we’re trying to escape. This applies to our characters too. Therefore its simply the superficial goal – to figure out what our character needs, we’ll need to delve further and enter the first stage of our character’s arc.

As we begin to align the needs of the character, we come up against conflict and what stands in their path. How will they overcome this, what do they need to learn and how will they adapt? What is their motivation to do this? This, in part, will have a direct correlation to their personality traits, but also the external or internal factors; which is where the plot and the character meets.

Last week I explored the concept of how to hook readers from the first line through curiosity and conflict. Here we play with a similar concept of how to hook readers through character, conflict, and stakes.

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What drives your character to succeed, what’s on the line if they fail and more importantly why should the reader care?

Creating a believable character that the reader can cheer for is the first step, the rest lies in the plot. The intriguing storyline that toys with something similar to this: Conflict, stakes and a failed attempt to solve the outcome, followed by a realization that what they’ve been doing isn’t working, the opportunity to try again and learn from their failures and ultimately their final decision: – Do they Awaken and grow, or remain the same and how does this decision affect the outcome of the story.

For a more in-depth look at these concepts, I recommend visiting the fantastic blog by K.M.Weiland www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

What do you think about this weeks post? Share your thoughts and tips, 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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How to Hook a Reader from the First Sentence.

We all know first impressions count, from the title to the very first sentence. So if you lose the reader at this point, chances are they won’t be coming back again. Whoever said ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ probably was not in the writing industry. The first line needs to be brilliant, presenting something curious, shocking or entertaining, and it must be an example of your best writing.
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Fear not, writing buddies; you’re not alone in editing that all important line for the trillionth time. It’s something most of us struggle with at some point.

Here are some examples of excellent first lines, they hook your attention long enough for you to think, ‘oh, what’s happening here?’ Lets’ take a look, perhaps you’ll recognise a few.

“It took seven years to get the letter right.”

“Blue Sargent had forgotten how many times she’d been told that she would kill her true love.”

“The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle.”

“I remember lying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, surrounded by wolves.”

“I hate having to dress like a man.”

“After a year of slavery in the Salt Mines of Endovier, Celaena Sardothien was accustomed to being escorted everywhere in shackles and at sword-point.”

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So what are the magic ingredients for crafting a great line?

They encourage a sense of curiosity or shock: Why does she have to dress like a man? Why does she have a rusted screw in her ankle? What was so important that it took seven years to write?

They present the reader with conflict: Will she escape slavery? Why does she have to kill her first love and will she get away with it? Will the wolves kill her?

By combining curiosity and conflict you drop the reader straight into the action, where things are about to start happening, getting to the heart of the story as soon as possible.

While it’s tempting to lure the reader in with beautiful descriptions and lengthy prose, you run the risk of losing the reader’s interest before they’ve had a chance to meet your character.

The same might be said for opening with dialogue; the reader hasn’t had a chance to become orientated with the story, let alone become invested in your character. Why should they care what they’re talking about?

Alternatively, opening with inner dialogue gives a deeper perspective, potentially allowing the reader to become accustomed to your MC through their thoughts and actions.

Don’t forget to check out your favourite novel and see if any of their first lines grab your attention.

Author Lorraine Ambers - fantasy romance writer

Thanks for stopping by.

Until next time, Much Love.

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© Author Lorraine Ambers and http://www.lorraineambers.com, 2019.