Let’s Talk Prose!

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Creative Writing Tips

There are many different elements involved in writing prose, and this creative writing tips page is intended to help you with some of the questions you may have. We have touched on some of the bigger subjects in prose such as genres, plot, beginning, middle and end, characters and point of views.

GENRES


Action Adventure:
These types of stories typically need a rough and tumble hero-type character, as this genre is usually known as the flip-side to romance. They are written in a straightforward, linear way and rarely have sub-plots. Main ingredients are a high-action hero facing bad guys by himself with a sense of justice, and a lot of violence.

Fantasy: Usually this genre contains things like magic, imaginary creatures, ancient civilizations, and clear lines between good and evil. Based around character building quests. Most readers of fantasy are pretty open to what an author has to offer, but they don’t like rules being changed mid-read. Set your rules in the beginning and don’t break them. Typically, fantasy stories are built into a series, and most readers expect that.

Horror: Fear. Horror stories all base around this simple element. They venture into the things that scare us and try to offer explanations as to why. They can include things like ghosts, vampires, mythical creatures, demons, ghouls and zombies, or they might touch on things like serial killers, depending on where you want to go. But remember, they focus on what truly scares us psychologically and physically. Good and evil.

Mystery Crime: There needs to be some sort of puzzle that needs solving. A detective, crime, usually a murder. Clues need to be strategically placed throughout the story. In most cases, there will either be an investigator who isn’t a professional, a private eye, or someone in the policing department. There needs to be a certain realistic quality to the story.

Romance: Typically the heroine is bright, headstrong and adventurous. She will almost always be beautiful and brimming with passion for the right man. Some type of tragedy usually will leave her alone and in a perfect position to stumble across a ‘hero’. The story centers around their relationship, obstacles, and undying love.

Science Fiction: Associated with space ships, robots, and aliens. Technology, physics, astronomy, and biology. This is a genre to reach out and explore as most of the readers are looking for something totally out of the norm. This is probably one of the more difficult genres to write in because the of the technical aspects and tough reading group that follows it.

Suspense Thriller: Often told in multiple viewpoints, filtered through the perceptions of more than one character. There are different types of suspense thrillers like, espionage, techno-thrillers, medical thrillers and more. There always needs to be big problems with big consequences. Suspense is the operative word in this genre.

Humour: Is pretty self-explanatory and easily accomplished by finding a topic that will make your readers laugh. There are many different types of humour ranging from political to dark and everything in between. The most popular is probably light, relatable humour. Something that everyone can grasp and understand.

PLOTS


Event Driven
: This type of plot moves the story forward through a sequence of events that keep happening, one after another, outside of the character’ influence. These events change setting, mood, action, tone and character reactions. Probably the most important for this type of plot is that the characters don’t need to go through any drastic changes in attitude, belief, etc. Rather, they need only react to the events, deal with them, or not deal with them, until the final event.

Character Driven: Basically the flip side to event driven. The driving forces for this type of plot are the changes in your characters. Events in these stories change because the characters are making things happen through revenge, sense of adventure, desperation and so forth. This type of plot can be very powerful, leading the readers through well-crafted consequences and actions.

PLOT COMPLICATIONS

Main Character vs His or Herself: This complication focuses on the inner struggles of a protagonist who needs to decide on a path. It’s a moral choice between thing like politics leading to corruption or high ground, sparing or taking a person’s life, adultery and fidelity. It looks into the human psychology and social behaviour

Character vs Character: In this plot complication, it’s two opposing characters against one another. It can be in politics, war, methodology, religion, philosophy, theory and so forth. The clash of the two personalities will be what brings this type of story to life.

Character vs Society: Based around a character who has a different view point from the majority of society. Possibly placing themself in a position to physically oppose the community where he or she lives and works. This character is usually an underdog fighting for a good cause.

Character vs Nature: These are stories where your protagonist attempts the impossible. For example: Surviving the elements, fighting a bear, climbing an unthinkable mountain, living through an earthquake. This type of complication includes anything that pits your character against nature, and the survival therein.

POINT-OF-VIEW

First Person – “I”, “we”, “Our”

This is the point of view where the main character is narrating. It is coming to you straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. You can get into the characters feelings, thoughts, and experiences directly. All of the action is going to be colored by that character’s viewpoint. A young girl is going to look at the world differently from a bitter old man. You end up with a very personal, even intimate experience as a writer.

There are caveats to this narrating perspective. Unless your main character is a telepath, empath or some other -path, you aren’t going to get into what other characters are thinking or feeling. You might describe physical clues that your protagonist picks up on, but that doesn’t mean they are always right.

You also won’t be able to divulge information outside of their experience, unless of course they learned about it later and include it in the telling of the tale.

Other important aspects of this viewpoint include: Who is the protagonist telling the story to? What is the fictional audience? Are they a relative or someone conducting an interview? Is it a diary or journal? Be aware that your narrator might not always be reliable and may omit details that could potentially make them look bad. They might also gloss over certain aspects, and this would likely cloud their opinion of other characters. If your protagonist didn’t like a certain other character growing up, they might not like them ten or twenty years later even though the other character seems like a decent person.

Examples: Sherlock Holmes, I am Legend, The Great Gatsby, Lolita, Memoirs, Autobiographies

Second Person – “You”

Typically not used in mainstream fiction, second person POV is basically turning the reader into the protagonist. It has many of the same problems as first person with the added problem of implying that the reader is the one responsible for the action and is aware of what is going on at all times. It is a very difficult POV to write. I’d recommend staying away, personally.

Examples: Choose Your Own Adventure books, interactive fiction

Third Person Subjective – “He”, “She”

In this POV, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of one or more characters. When they only know the thoughts and feelings of a single character, this is known as a ‘Third Person Limited’ POV. Other characters are presented only externally, though not necessarily always from the main character’s POV. Third person limited grants a writer more freedom than first person, but less than third person omniscient. You still don’t reveal information your main character doesn’t have, and you can jump around a bit as well; person hopping from viewpoint to viewpoint (so long as it is clear to the reader that is what you are doing).

Examples: George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, Harry Potter series, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Third Person Objective

You don’t tell what people are thinking, but you show action and reaction, give clues through body language. Think of this as using a movie camera. The camera shows what is going on, but it cannot tell the story itself.

Examples: Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Hills Like White Elephants’, John Reed’s ‘The Rise of Pancho Villa’

3rd Person Omniscient – “God View”

The narrator sees all and knows all. You aren’t tied down to one character, so you can get into other character’s heads. You have the ability to zoom in for detail or back out for a big picture. This POV can be viewed as the complete opposite of the third person objective POV. Here you can get into the villain’s head and show why they are doing what they are doing, as well as the hero’s.

Examples: Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’

A FEW FINAL WORDS

Once you pick a perspective to write from, don’t jump around. Writing in first person? Stick with it, even if the perspective changes (i.e. Suzie one chapter, Jack the next). Writing in third person limited? Don’t suddenly tell us what Jim the Baker is thinking three towns over.

~Thanks to Matt Gomez for this piece on Point-of-View!


Author Notes

2 Comments for “Let’s Talk Prose!”

says:

Very informative, a good easy to follow reminder of perspective my MS is written in the Omniscient view my experience is that you need good double checked timelines and mapping to get this right. But if you choose Omniscient view and you pull it off it can be the most gloriously rich layered writing ever.

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