5 Tips for Building Your Story World

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Your story world adds a lot to the story, though you may not realize it. It molds your characters, shifts your plot, and gives your story those little details that makes it memorable. Once your story is written, it can be difficult to seamlessly weave in your story world. It’s better to decide where your story takes place before you write and see how it adds to the story.

  1. Is it a real or imaginary place? Both options offer a variety of pros and cons. If you chose a real place, you have the opportunity to introduce your readers to another part of the world. In Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor captures you in the old city of Prague and it’s one of my favorite parts of that wonderful novel. You already have all the details of your setting, you just have to research to find them. However, that means that you have to write by the already set confines of the city. If you write an imaginary place, you get to create whatever you want to fit your plot. However, that means that you have to come up with all the details yourself. In doing this, your story world can be paper thin.
  2. What is the culture? What are the traditions of the culture? What are the popular holidays? What is the traditional and modern fashion? How do people talk? What restaurant does everyone go to for different moods? Where do the popular kids go to hang out? What about the unpopular kids?
  3. What is the history? Did someone famous live here? Did someone infamous live here? Did they have some little part in a war that no one knows about except for the residents of the town? Was something invented there? Did some famous explorer cross through? Are they proud of how little has happened there?
  4. What are they proud of? Do they have a killer milk shake at that little restaurant on the corner? Did a celebrity once stand on that street corner? Was the world’s biggest/smallest/longest/shortest/etc. ___ featured there?
  5. How does your character feel about their location? Does the character love the town as much as the other residents? Is there a bit of grudging pride for what you chose for the above question? Are they afraid to leave it? Can they not wait to get out of there as soon as possible?

What do you use to build your story world?


5 Tips for Breaking Your Writer’s Block

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Writer’s block is a strange thing. Sometimes you can feel it coming as you struggle to finish a scene and other times your writing is fine until suddenly it’s not. Writer’s block is a tricky problem, but nothing you can’t fix.

  1. Work on a different project. Sometimes you are stuck on a current project and you’ve just lost inspiration or motivation. If you switch to another project of yours, the drive for your original project might return.
  2. Write something without any commitment. Sometimes the pressure of writing something perfect and intelligent and funny and interesting and complex and all the expectations you might have for you writing can become too much. Take a step away from your project and just start writing. You don’t have to finish the story if you don’t like it. You don’t have to perfect it. It can be as long or as short as you want. Just write a story. (If you have no idea what to write about, look up story inspiration pictures on Pinterest. You can find my board here.)
  3. Read your old writing. Sometimes looking at your past projects can remind you of how much you’ve grown, and how far you can grow in the future. Seeing all the work you’ve put into writing before can remind you how much you love it. It can also give you some inspiration to incorporate some of your old ideas in with the new.
  4. Take a short break. Sometimes all you need to do is step away for your writing in order for a new idea to come. However, be careful, because a short break can easily stretch into a long one. It’s very easy to find excuses to not write. When planning a break, make sure to also plan when that break ends.
  5. Study your favorite authors. Maybe all you need is inspiration from the greats. Try to write like them. Try writing some fanfiction. In their style of writing, write a new scene with their characters and story world. If that doesn’t work for you, trying changing it up. Write in their style with your current project. Write in your style for their novel. Experiment with your writing.

How do you get out of your writer’s block?

5 Tips for Motivating Yourself While Writing

Most days, you don’t really want to write. You know you should and you know you’ll feel better after you do, but you don’t want to. There’s Netflix and social media and that really good book you just started reading and all the other things that you have to do. Everyone can use a little motivation for writing. Here’s five ways to help yourself want to write.

  1. Try timing your writing. This is my favorite way to get myself to write a lot quickly. I set the timer for five minutes and write as quickly as I can. My goal used to be about 300 words, but with practicing my typing and my writing, I’ve been able to increase my goal to 1000 words. You simply have to write as quickly as you can for five minutes, without pausing the timer to answer your phone or check social media. Five minutes to just write with no interruptions. Understand that the speed writing you use here probably isn’t going to be quality, but you can edit it into perfection later. Just get the words out for now.
  2. Bribe yourself word by word. Sometimes if I simply don’t have the focus for timing my writing, I bribe myself with food. I can have a bit of chocolate after every 100 words. It makes my writing go faster and the words add up quickly. I wouldn’t recommend giving yourself a prize that can easily distract you. Don’t allow yourself five minutes of social media, because that can quickly turn into five hours.
  3. Bribe yourself goal by goal. In case you can’t tell, I’m big on bribing yourself. Instead of giving yourself a little prize for a little goal, give yourself a bigger prize for a big goal. Once you finish a chapter, maybe you can watch that episode you want to. Once you finish all of your outlining, you can finish that book you’ve been reading.
  4. Summarize what you are writing that day. If you are a pantser, it can be intimidating at times to just start writing. Especially if you know it’s an important scene. In informal voice, just figure out what you are going to be writing that day. It can be a few sentences or a few paragraphs. Giving yourself a direction to go can help get you started and make you more eager to write.
  5. Write something with your characters, but not your novel. Instead of writing a scene that is part of your novel, write a story about all of your characters going to a theme park or just hanging out at each others’ houses. You might discover things about your character that you didn’t know and be motivated to combine that into your novel.

What do you use to motivate yourself while writing?

5 Tips For Writing Your Climax

5 Tips by Anne Brees

The climax is one of the most important parts of your story. After building up all of your subplots for the entire novel, your character must finally face everything and do THE THING. Here are a few components you should make sure to include in your climax.

  1. How has your character changed? One of the most important parts of a climax is making sure that your character arc changes. After all your MC should be a dynamic character. (A dynamic character is a character who changes or grows through the story.) Maybe your character finally gains courage to do the thing that she has been avoiding the whole story. Maybe the character finally forgives or understands someone that has hurt her. No matter what it is, your character should be changed, for better or for worse, after your climax.
  2. What is the consequence? Throughout your story, there should be some kind of consequence that is keeping the character from doing THE THING. Maybe she’ll lose or hurt someone that she loves. Maybe she’s afraid of what someone will think or do to her. After the climax, do these consequences fall upon her?
  3. Did she succeed, fail, or somewhere in between? Answer this question in different ways. Does your character think that she succeeded in her goal? Do others characters, her friends and enemies, think that she succeeded? What about a distant bystander?
  4. What happened to your villain? Even if your villain isn’t a person, this question still has to be answered. Once your character does THE THING, how does the villain respond? Is she defeated and dies? Runs away? Plots more revenge? Realizes her actions and apologizes? Your readers will want to know what happens to your villain just as much as your MC.
  5. Are most, if not all, of your subplots wrapped up? Unless you are planning a sequel, make sure that all of your subplots are wrapped up. There’s nothing that frustrates readers more than not getting answers to all of the story questions. Even if you are planning a sequel, it’s still a good idea to get most of the plot threads wrapped up, so that the ending feels like an actual ending.

Writing the climax of the story can be daunting. However, if you break it down and make sure you have all of the components, it should be much easier.

What tricks do you use for writing your climax?

5 Tips For Naming Your Characters

5 Tips by Anne Brees

The name of your character is going to stay with your book the whole way. It’s very important to get it exactly right. Lucky for you, you don’t have to know your characters’ names before you start writing. I have started stories and named my characters @, $, ^, %, and *, just so that I could get on with the story and come back to the hard naming business later. But, once you get to that hard naming business, here are five tips to consider.

  1. Consider the traditions of your story world when it comes to naming. For example, in the Hunger Games, all of the characters from District 12 have nature based names. (Katniss, Primrose, Gale, etc.) If you have a story set in any time period besides our own, don’t chose name from this time period, because chances are they won’t be popular. (Just as Edith and Mabel aren’t still popular today.) Making your names fit the story world is very important, just be careful not to go too overboard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve rolled my eyes at the ridiculous names in some stories.
  2. What is the character’s parents’ pasts and values? Even if you don’t answer this question with in your story, this is a good thing to consider when naming your character. It can add a lot to your character’s background too.  Parents’ lifestyles often affect what they name their child. Sports fans may name their children after their favorite athelete. Music fans may name their children after their favorite artists. What is your character’s parents like?
  3. How does your character feel about their name? Most people have some sort of feeling regarding their names. Once again, even if you never mention it within your story, it can still add a lot to your character building. Do they love it? Hate it? Accept it, but would rather have something different? Is it too different? Too normal? The name you choose shapes the character.
  4. How do others feel about your character’s name? Everyone has their opinions about certain names, based on the people that they’ve met with that name. How do the characters in your story respond when they hear your character’s name? And how does your character respond to their response?
  5. What is the current day connotation of that name? How would your readers respond to this name? Think of any famous or infamous people with this name and how they are viewed. Will it affect the way your character is viewed?
  6. (Bonus) Does your character’s name have a hidden meaning? One of my favorite things to do is to put hidden meaning into my story. Maybe your shy character’s name means bold. Or, maybe the character’s unknown father’s name means father. *cough Vader cough*

Some other website tools that help me choose my characters’ names are Nymblr, Behind the Name, and Random Name Generator.

What tricks do you use to help name your character?

5 Tips for Writing Setting

5 Tips by Anne Brees

Finding the balance for the right amount of setting can be difficult. Too much description and the plot disappears. Too little and you have characters floating through white space. Setting can add a lot to your story, but only when written correctly.

  • Use all five senses. This is a pretty standard tip when it comes to writing setting. That’s because it works. In your day, you notice a lot more things than the ones you see. It’s the same for your character. They notice the overly sweet perfume, the crinkle of fall leaves, the burst of sugar when eating powdered donuts, and the toddler’s laughter.
  • Less is more. When your character enters a setting that is familiar t0 readers, you don’t have to describe the picture. The reader already knows the picture. For example, if your character goes to the beach, don’t describe the waves or sand. The reader knows that these things are there already, so don’t waste more than a sentence. Instead describe the lone sunbather or maybe the hundreds of sunbather. Describe the elderly couples walking along the edge of the water or the loud college boys playing football. Write what your readers don’t know, not what what they already do.
  • Avoid info-dumps. There’s nothing that stops the plot and disconnects the reader like spending paragraphs describing the scenery. The truth is, the reader will probably end up skimming these paragraphs. Instead, incorporate a sentence or two of description every once in a while.
  • Start every new scene with a small description of setting. Within the first paragraphs of a new scene, designate the setting. It doesn’t have to be much, but just a sentence is fine. However, make it a habit to show the setting before you get to far into the action.
  • Describe it through your character’s eyes, not your eyes. Everyone sees the world a little differently, depending on their past experiences. After all, an mechanic and an artist would describe the same thing very differently. Describing the world through your character’s eyes is a great way to make your character come alive and connect more to the reader.

Finding the balance for the right amount of setting can be difficult. Pay attention to the way setting is described in some of your favorite books. In the end it comes down to practice.

What is your favorite setting you’ve written?