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If you think about your favorite books, they’re probably not standalone novels. Many of todays books, especially in fantasy and sci-fi settings, are part of a set. Writing a series, though, can be difficult work. Not only do you need to consider the plot of a single book, but the plot that will connect all of them. This, of course, doesn’t always a…
 
Story would not be the same without multiple characters. You often need a villain and at least one supporting character. In some genres, especially epic fantasy and science fiction, there will be at least a dozen prominent supporting characters. There are even some cases where the supporting characters are almost main characters of their own. It’s …
 
Stories could not exist without some form of character. Especially in the Hero’s Journey, it is the main character who drives the story forward. Readers connect better to the story when it is about the people inside the pages. That’s why one of the first things any author should build is their main character. While some authors don’t plan their cha…
 
Worldbuilding is one of those things that we at Writing Roots (especially Leigh) can talk about for a very, very long time. There is so much that goes into the process of creating the world of a book, even if that book is based in modern Earth. You need to consider things like the history of the place and culture, the languages, and the geography. …
 
One of the most common types of structures, especially in fantasy writing, is the Hero’s Journey. It’s why we’ve talked about it as much as we have over the course of this podcast. As we get further into Preptober, getting ready for National Novel Writing Month, one thing we suggest is to plan out the story you want to write. Yes, even you pantsers…
 
We are one month away from National Novel Writing Month. October, sometimes known in writing circles as Preptober, is the time to start planning for trying to write 50,000 words in one month. Before you can do any writing, you need some kind of idea. Something needs to stir your imagination so you can create wonderful worlds and characters. Leigh, …
 
Whether it’s a dystopian or utopian outlook, humans have been looking towards the future for almost all of history. The reason for painting on cave walls was to teach future generations. The reason we record current events is to make sure those to come know what happened in their past. The thing with the future, though, is that we don’t know what’s…
 
What is a superhero? Do they have to have superpowers of some kind? Did their origins have to be tragic? Are characters superheroes only because they started in comic books? No matter the answers, superheroes have become a massive piece of the storytelling world in recent years. We can largely thank the Marvel Cinematic Universe for that. Even befo…
 
Storytelling has evolved more rapidly in the last 100 years than in the centuries before all because of film. Movies and television have changed the way we consume stories, sped up the process for evolving genres, and given another way for people to share the stories they want to create. Even before books, people were trying to tell story through p…
 
Monster fiction as we know it came into being in the early 1800s. A large volcano erupted in 1816, causing what has become known as the year without a summer. It was during this time that we got some of the best monster fiction creations. It was during that summer that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein as part of a writing contest. Most of the modern…
 
Fairy tales have been one of the go-to ways to teach children about the world for centuries. Though the stories have changed greatly since their origination, we can recognize titles such as Snow White, Thumbelina, and The Little Red Riding Hood. When it comes to the history of storytelling, fairy tales and bedtime stories cannot go ignored. While t…
 
Both William Shakespeare and the invention of the printing press had a major impact on storytelling across the world. This is when stories for entertainment alone became popular – and accessible – for the masses. Books were no longer for the elite and plays were written for the common man as well as royalty. This was also brought in a time where co…
 
There came a time in the history of storytelling, especially around the rise of Christianity in Europe, where story became a way to educate the general populace. However, it started long before Christianity was even established. Back in the times of the Greeks and then Romans, theater was used to teach the common people about the gods and their wor…
 
There was a point in the history of storytelling where the tales began to include a character arc. They also became more about man versus man, rather than man versus monsters. The stories became about overcoming the external foe as well as becoming something better. About starting as the underdog and becoming the hero. One such example is the bibli…
 
Story has been imbedded in human culture since the beginning, even since those prehistoric times before written language. Though we may not have those written records of what stories they told, we do know they were telling them. Prehistoric people showed story in their art on cave walls, in the traditions they passed down from generation to generat…
 
Choose Your Adventure books are a unique way to involve the reader in the storytelling process. Many of you may remember the old Goosebumps “Choose Your Own Adventure” stories, but it’s not a structure reserved for middle grade books anymore. Writing a Choose Your Adventure, or interactive, structure is difficult. For you pantsers out there, it’s e…
 
Serial stories have started to make a comeback in the writing format recently. While it’s always been there in the form of comic books and fiction magazines, the internet has helped this unique structure gain popularity and strength. Many authors have created episodic and serial stories over the centuries. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle published the Sherl…
 
If you’re looking for a unique way to tell a slow burn suspense, consider the reverse story structure. This is all about going backwards in time. The reverse structure isn’t just hitting rewind and watching the whole thing from front to back, but by taking pieces of the story and telling them out of order. Most often it’s happening to the main char…
 
“Story within a story” is a fun framing device for writing your novel in a unique way. The idea behind this structure is that the narrator is actually a character. We get to see what is happening in their life as well as what’s happening in the tale they’re telling. This structure is anything but new. One of the oldest uses is in the 12th century t…
 
A paradigm shift structure is more than a simple plot twist. As the definition states, it’s a fundamental change to the underlying assumptions. One of the most famous uses of this structure is The Sixth Sense, a film by M. Night Shyamalan. In the movie, both the audience and the main character experience a paradigm shift that completely reframes th…
 
Amnesia has been used in storytelling for a very long time. Soap operas and telenovelas use lost memory frequently to ramp up the drama in their stories. You can use it to, and for more than just a subplot in your own story. There are lots of ways to use amnesia. It can be a witness to a crime having to remember what exactly they saw, or a characte…
 
Worldbuilding can apply to all types of writing, but it is essential for speculative fiction. Modern – and even historical – fiction is easy when it comes to worldbuilding. There is an expectation that the readers will know what you mean when you say a small town or big city. They have knowledge of our world already. When you’re showing a world tha…
 
Dialogue can be tricky for authors, especially if you’ve never heard of the idea of beats in dialogue. It can either feel stilted in an attempt to make it grammatically correct, or end up nonsensical with a lack of structure. What goes in the dialogue and what goes around it? What actually needs to be said out loud? These are all things writers wor…
 
Stories generally develop in one of two ways: with a focus on the plot with the characters playing their parts, or a focus on the characters as they navigate the world. In other words, plot-driven or character-driven. Both are valid storytelling techniques and play to the interests of readers in varying genres. Even if you are driven by one, though…
 
A key to unique characters is to develop and maintain character voice. Think of your favorite books. Can you tell who is speaking without needing to read the dialogue tag? If you can, that means that author developed the character voice. Each character should have their own unique way of thinking and speaking within the story. This doesn’t mean you…
 
Narrative flow is important for keeping your reader engaged in the plot. You want to keep driving them forward to the next event or next reveal. There are times, though, when it’s okay to reveal something, then step back in time to explain how you got there. This was a major piece of the Disney movie, Emperor’s New Groove. It was also a narrative s…
 
You’ve probably heard about the trope of Chekov’s Gun. We’ve talked about it here multiple times. The idea behind it is that if there’s something, such as a gun, described in the story then it needs to come into play somehow. It’s the idea of setup and payoff. This can be fairly easy for plotters. Leigh, however, is adamantly not a plotter. This le…
 
The narrative in a story has so much influence on how the story will progress. Most authors are familiar with the broad categories of first person and third person, but there are subtle differences within those broader categories. One of the less-used POVs is first-person omniscient, which comes with its own difficulties. When you choose a narrativ…
 
One major part of the editing process is doing what’s known as developmental edits. These are structural changes to a story. That can be removing scenes or making sure the stage is properly set for the end. As the author, these needed changes can be difficult to see. We get attached to scenes or characters that may have no purpose overall. If you’r…
 
Editors are an invaluable piece of the publishing process. No one should publish without having someone with editing knowledge look at the manuscript. If you think about all of the books with a New York Times Bestselling label, they’ve all been pushed through a meticulous editing process. For new authors – especially self-published authors – that p…
 
There are so many subgenres listed in KDP and other self-publishing sites that it can be more than overwhelming to figure out the right ones. Experienced authors and publishers know the importance of picking the right one, which just increases that pressure. In this extended episode from our archives, we take a closer look at how to figure out your…
 
No matter where you are in your writing journey or what kind of writer you are, there are some things you need to know before you ever put that pen to paper (or fingers to a keyboard). It doesn’t always have to be the plot of the story or a detailed history of the characters. It can simply be the spark of an idea. In this extended episode, we take …
 
No book can become a bestseller without outstanding marketing, and one of the best platforms for marketing in this age is social media. Whether it’s Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or even TikTok, social media is an essential tool for getting the word out about your books. This extended episode takes a closer look at the use of social media and some …
 
One of the most difficult things about working on a first draft is accepting it for what it is: a first draft. Some authors feel a compulsion to edit it constantly before the draft is even completed. Others get discouraged if it’s not shaping up to be exactly like a bestseller right away. As all authors experience, writing takes time. In this exten…
 
You will encounter rules about writing everywhere you turn. We’re taught grammar and structure in school. Teachers demand specific formats, like APA or Chicago. What about fiction writing? Is it necessary to stick rigidly to all of the rules, or do you even have to follow them at all? The real answer for fiction is in balance. Like Captain Barbosa …
 
Welcome to the Extended Archives episodes! Writing Roots is on a temporary hiatus until July. Until then, we’ll be releasing extended versions of episodes from our archives, previously released only on Patreon. Finding the right target audience is a major piece to the process of marketing, especially if you’re self-publishing. It changes how you ma…
 
Villains can make or break a story. Their purpose is intertwined with the hero of the story. But what are their motives? Are they truly evil or are they simply a normal person who believes they’re doing right? Part of the answer depends on what role you need the villain to play, along with the genre of the story. It could be the villain is a contra…
 
Any story can be very different depending on whose point of view is taken during the narrative. The question, then, is whose story do you follow as you write? Do you only follow one character, or use several to help paint the story progression? Both styles present their own unique challenges and carry their own benefits. Ley and Leigh debate the us…
 
New authors often wonder what they should focus on more when building a story. Should they focus on the plot itself, or the characters? What should be built first when first deciding to tackle a story? There are benefits to either way, though each also come with their own pitfalls. Leigh and Ley debate the different aspects of designing a story pri…
 
The idea of story is nebulous. Humans have been telling stories from the dawn of time, even before there was written language. Even still, ideas are constantly being compiled into something new. That leads us to the question of whether there is a finite number of stories. It depends on your perspective. Leigh and Ley discuss the idea of story and w…
 
There is no real wrong answer to whether you should choose first or third person when deciding on the narrative perspective. However, there are some things you should consider as you decide, such as the genre, how much information you need revealed, the main character(s), and the connection you want developed with the reader. In this episode, Leigh…
 
It can seem sometimes that every story has some kind of love interest, even if the story isn’t a romance. After all, it’s a great way to build connections between the characters and the readers. However, some authors argue that romance isn’t necessary unless you intend to write a romance novel. Leigh and Ley debate the virtues and pitfalls of inclu…
 
How many words should be in one novel? There are standard answers for all genres, especially for authors starting out (we’ve discussed as much in prior episodes). Yet there still seems to be an ongoing debate about how rigidly those standards should be followed. Some like to push the limits, writing thousands more words than is recommended. Others …
 
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