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How Do You Know When Your Story is Finished?

Writers know that, in truth, a story is neverfinished, and if given a choice, they would tweak and rewrite ad infinitum. That’s because we’re never satisfied – we can’t help ourselves; we have to keep rewriting until we think it’s perfect. Of course, there must come a point when the story has to finish and reach a point where there is nothing else to write and you have to let it out into the big bad world for others to read.
But how do you know the story really is finished?
The answer is all down to the process of writing. There’s a logical flow to how stories are constructed. It happens in gradual steps, so the finished product comes as part of the last few steps in that process, rather than when you write ‘the end’, because ‘the end’ isn’t the end at all.
This process begins by writing the first draft – the bare bones of the story. New writers believe that’s all it needs. They’ve written the story, so it’s finished. But it’s far from finished – it’s barely written. The first draft is …

Irony and Deception as Literary Devices - Part 2

Part one looked at different types of irony writers can use – a very subtle way of duping or manipulating the reader.Outright deception can also be used to good effect, which is very popular among crime, thriller and mystery writers. There are different types writers can use, but the main ones are misdirection, red herrings and outright lies.
Throughout a story, writers often create deliberate deception. They do so by manipulating reality to mislead their readers to add a different perspective or heighten tension of conflict and to create drama. False clues help to achieve this.
Misdirection is an effective way to direct the reader from what is really happening. This effect is created by a false reality. For instance, writers can deliberately lead the reader into a wrong assumption whereby a character jumps to the wrong conclusion and accuses another character of perpetrating a terrible crime. The reader will most likely also think the same thing, until later in the story when its revea…

Irony and Deception as Literary Devices Part 1

Writers are always looking for ways to layer their stories, to give their writing depth and meaning and provide more than what can be gleaned on the surface. There are plenty of plot devices that help writers to do this; however, two lesser known ones are irony and deception. Irony in fiction occurs when the writer intentionally uses a different meaning to the literal one in order to create a dramatic, comedic or emphatic effect. Such meaning or intention will be clear to the reader, but some or all the characters(s) will not be aware. It’s about creating different layered perspectives. There are three types of irony commonly used in fiction - dramatic, situational and verbal. Writers use dramatic irony for different purposes and effects. It relies on the fact that the reader knows something that the other characters do not. This affects the way the reader reacts to the narrative. Sometimes none of the characters are aware, or it may be just one or two that don’t know what’s about to ha…

How to Plant Clues in Your Story

As writers we strive to write the best story we can. Constructing stories can be difficult and complicated at times, but we do it for our readers. They love nothing more than figuring out stuff for themselves.They like to peel away the layers and look inside the real story. They like to follow clues and they like to guess ‘whodunnit’. Clues are a way of enriching the story and creating a more enjoyable, deeper reading experience.
So, one question that writers often ask is: How do I plant clues in my narrative, and when?
Clues are a way to keep your reader interested because they impart necessary information at key moments throughout the story. They help layer the story and they can be as obvious or as subtle as you want them to be. Some clues may even be hard to spot, and readers miss them first time around, but they’re there, just waiting to be discovered.
They are a way of helping the reader ‘connect the dots’. A clue can be anything – an object, something said in a conversation, a col…

How to avoid Deus Ex Machina

To avoid Deus Ex Machina, (pronounced dayus ex mack-in-a), you first have to understand what it is and what it can do to a story.And when you understand what it is, you can avoid the urge to use it.
Deus Ex Machina literally means ‘God from the Machine’ and has its origins in classic Greek theatre. It’s a literary device that is as welcome as a large dose of adverbs, simply because it absolves the writer of any responsibility – it acts as the hand of God by swooping in to miraculously (and conveniently) save the day (and the story). Unsolvable problems convenient get solved, characters are miraculously saved from peril by unexpected and convenient means and things become contrived.
Writers often resort to deus ex machina when they’ve run out of ideas and don’t know any way to progress, or they’ve got into a situation with their characters that would not be logical or believable, and they can’t readily resolve this. While this may be convenient for the writer, the reality is that it weak…

How to use Background and Foreground

There are all sorts of things that make writing effective. Creating the right balance of background and foreground is one of them, and that starts with knowing what background and foregrounds are.
The background is something all writers are familiar with. It is information that is relevant to the story, but is presented in manageable narrative snippets throughout and slotted into the background of the main story, whereas foreground information has more relevance – it’s information presented in description and narrative that is right at the front of the story; it’s what makes up most of your story.
Background is the story details that the writer shows the reader from time to time, when the time is right, to help layer the story. This includes things like the setting, snippets of a character’s backstory, historical information on the character or a place or something else like a clue. These background details are usually placed within the narrative or sometimes in dialogue and they can al…

How to Use Background and Foreground

There are all sorts of things that make writing effective. Getting the detail right is crucial, and one of the best ways if to create the right balance of background and foreground. Both make those details count. But what exactly is background and foreground? Think of a painting. The main focus is on the subject of the painting and what is going on immediately around that subject. This is the foreground. But away from the main subject, there may also be something in the background – another person or object, bright colours and layers, the kind of things we don’t see right away; things that enhance the whole picture. That’s how background and foreground works. The background is something all writers are familiar with. It’s the type of information that is relevant to the story, but is presented in manageable narrative snippets throughout, so as not to be too intrusive. In other words, certain information stays in the background, yet is always present. Background detail works because the wri…