Writing Advice
- Introduction
- A room of one's own?
- Where do you get your ideas?
- Where do I begin?
- What books do I need?
- How important is research?
- Should I join a writers' circle?
- Literary terms
- Typing it up
- Sending it off
- Penbenders
- Creating characters
- Constructing the story
- Short Fiction


Literary Terms
It’s impossible to write about writing without using basic literary terms – the ones that are used all the time. Literary critics have a whole dictionary of terms that the rest of us are hard-pressed to understand, and I indeed own one such dictionary; it’s quite good fun to read, oddly enough. But the following will get you through any discussion of your work with agents and editors, and make sure you can follow any advice that I have to give.

Anything that your characters are doing, whether its hacking their way through the Amazonian rainforests or blinking.

This needn’t be anyone villainous or antagonistic; it needn’t even be a person. It is whoever or whatever is set against your hero. It could be his wife, boss, son, or simply his circumstances, or his own nature. It can be the mountain he has to climb, literary or figuratively. It is whatever stands between him and his goal.

The outcome of events.

The words that are directly spoken by a character or characters.

The explanation to the reader of something he must know in order to follow the plot. This can be done by narrative, by dialogue, by flashback – by any means that will keep the reader entertained, and unaware that he is being given  information.

I, we, me, myself, us, ourselves.

The main character. The use of the word hero does not imply heroism; the hero can be an abject coward. If he is spectacularly unheroic, or not at all admirable, he is often called an anti-hero.

The non-dialogue text.

The planned arrangement of events in a story.

The events in a story must be seen through someone’s eyes. That can range from an all-seeing, all-knowing invisible narrator who tells the story in the third person, as in ‘Once Upon a Time’ (where, for instance, the narrator knows what both the wolf and Little Red Riding Hood are thinking, and what LRH is doing while the wolf devours her grandmother), to its being narrated in the first person by a character in the novel, when the reader can be told only what the character narrating can see and hear, and the narrator knows only what he himself is thinking. Or it can be virtually anything in between.

The sequence of events that carry the plot. E. M Forster once famously defined the difference between story and plot as ‘“The King died and then the Queen died’ is a story, but the “The King died and then the Queen died of grief” is a plot.”’ In other words, a story is a sequence of events, whereas a plot is a sequence of cause and effect, and in plotting a novel, the writer arranges the events of the story accordingly.

He. They. Him, himself, them, themselves.


Jill McGown
     View the full sitemap
All the text and images in this site are copyrighted to Jill McGown © unless otherwise stated