Why Knowing Your Chosen Genre Results In Better Stories – A Ramble

Although I’ve already talked about this topic with relation to the horror genre, I thought that I’d talk about why knowing your chosen genre is important for all stories. This is mostly because good (or even average) stories in any genre will often use multiple “types” of the same genre in order to add variety to the story and to keep it unpredictable.

In fact, if you look at almost any professionally-published novel, TV show, film etc.. then you will see something like this. It is one of the basic things that separates amateur storytelling from professional-standard storytelling.

For example, although I probably won’t review it properly, I happened to watch a rather amusing vampire-themed comedy film from 2014 called “What We Do In the Shadows” recently. Amongst other things, the types of humour in it include dark comedy, slapstick, farce, visual humour, running jokes, parody, character-based humour, wordplay, humourous contrast, understatement, subverted expectations etc… Because there are multiple types of humour here, the viewer is constantly caught by surprise and the film is a lot funnier than it would be if it had just focused on one type of humour.

Likewise, the modern sci-fi thriller novel (“The Rosewater Insurrection” by Tade Thompson) that I plan to review tomorrow contains several different types of thriller fiction. It is a mixture of a suspense thriller, a political thriller, a tech thriller and an action-thriller story. This mixture of thriller elements means that the reader never really gets tired of any one of them, which keeps the story compelling.

And, as mentioned in earlier articles, horror fiction will often use multiple types of horror in order to constantly catch the reader off-guard and prevent them from getting too used to any one scary thing. An excellent example of this is probably Nick Cutter’s 2015 novel “The Deep“, which uses at least 10-15 different types of horror (eg: psychological horror, paranormal horror, cruel horror, apocalyptic horror, gory horror, scientific horror, body horror etc…) to create the kind of unforgettably terrifying nightmare fuel that might catch even experienced horror readers by surprise.

So, if you want to avoid making your story seem amateurish or boring, then you need to know the genre that you are writing in. You need to know as many different techniques and “versions” of the genre that exist, so that you can include an unpredictable mixture of them in your story that will catch your reader by surprise. Because, if you focus on just one thing (eg: slapstick comedy, gory horror, fast-paced combat etc..), then it will probably get boring for your readers more quickly than you might think.

In computer game terms, this is why linear and almost entirely combat-focused “Serious Sam“/”Painkiller”-style first person shooter games are extremely fun to play… for about an hour or two at a time. Whereas, traditional-style FPS games (like “Doom II”, “Blood”, “Quake” etc..) can be enjoyed for much longer gaming sessions because they include a better variety of things that the player has to do. Instead of just fighting, the player also has to explore, solve basic puzzles, search for hidden items/areas etc… too.

Even if you really love one particular element of a genre, try not to focus on it too much. It might sound counter-intuitive, but you also need to include other stuff in order to prevent the audience from becoming bored or jaded. Think of it like guitar chords in a song or something like that. Even the most basic punk or heavy metal song will probably use at least three different chords. After all, if the guitarist just plays the same chord over and over again, then it will sound monotonous after a while.

So, the more things that you’ve looked at in your favourite genre, the more you will learn about what different types of things you can include in your story. Best of all, if you also look at other genres too, then you can sometimes find things that have something in common with your favourite genre, but haven’t really been used in your favourite genre that often. This results in much more original and interesting stories.

To use another musical example, take a look at the band Rage Of Light. They’re a modern metal band that use some well-known elements of the genre (like a mixture of clean and growled vocals, crunchy distorted guitars etc…). Yet, they have also obviously listened to a lot of trance music too, since their songs also include a lot of melodic electronic elements too. Because trance music is a fast-paced, intense and energetic genre of music, it goes surprisingly well with metal (which is also fast-paced, intense and energetic) whilst also producing something that sounds intriguingly different from most modern metal music.

So, whilst knowing your own genre will result in better stories (since you can use a much better variety of elements), learning a bit about other genres will result in even better ones.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Sneaky Hacks For Writing A Novel If You’re A Short Story Writer

After another traditional-style novel project I was trying to write a couple of weeks before preparing this article failed, I came to the realisation that I was a much stronger writer when it came to short stories than novel-length stories. And, I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has ever found themselves in this situation.

However, novel-length stories are the most popular and widely-read type of fiction out there (seriously, compare the numbers of novels and short story collections on the shelves of an average bookshop). So, there are a lot of reasons to try writing one. But, if you’re at your absolute best when writing snappy, distilled fiction or you absolutely thrive when you can tell a story that takes place on a slightly smaller scale, then how can you write anything novel-length?

Here are a few sneaky hacks that might come in handy.

1) Episodic plots: This is a technique where a seemingly single and linear plot (featuring the same cast of characters) is actually built up from several smaller sub-plots. In other words, a short story collection in disguise. The best way to think about this is like a TV show – whilst each “episode” of the series may contain a different sub-story, there is also a main story arc running in the background.

Of course, you will need to think of a premise that will “work” with several short story-like sub-plots (stories about travelling or about a single location are fairly good) and come up with an interesting group of characters that you won’t mind spending several stories with. The trick to knowing when you have found one of these is when you keep getting lots of sudden ideas for possible “episodes”, to the point where you actually have to decide which ones you want to leave out of your “novel”.

Another advantage of using this technique is that, when done well, it will make your disguised story collection seem a lot more vivid, rich and eventful than a traditional novel since it will have multiple “beginning, middle and end” segments in it when compared to the one that you would find in a traditionally-structured novel.

This approach is kind of like a hybrid of a novel and a short story collection and the best way to understand how to write it is to either watch a few scripted TV series from the 1990s/early-mid 2000s (since this sort of structure was fairly common back then, before streaming and box-sets became ultra-popular) or to read some novels that use a version of this technique. For example, some elements of this structure can be found in Jodi Taylor’s “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?” and in Becky Chambers’ “The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet“.

2) Fix-ups: Although Wikipedia points out that “fix-up” short story collections – involving a framing story linking several unrelated short stories- became popular in the 1950s, the basic idea goes back a lot further than this. In fact, you can even see elements of this structure in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales“, a medieval text about a group of travellers, each of whom tells a tale. It’s a very old way of presenting a short story collection in a novel-like package.

But, although this basic idea can be used in a lot of ways (and is great if you’re better at writing first-person narration too), you still need to pay attention to your framing story. Not only does it have to be interesting and inventive enough to grab the reader’s attention, but it should also make them curious about the short stories (which should, in turn, tell the reader more about the framing story).

A good example of this sort of thing is a novel “World War Z” by Max Brooks. Although it isn’t technically a “fix-up”, it uses the techniques of one in a really cool way. Set after humanity had successfully survived a zombie apocalypse – an intriguingly rare situation in this genre – the framing story follows a UN officer who is interviewing people in order to record the history of the zombie apocalypse (so, each story gives the reader some extra intriguing backstory). The combination of these two things means that, even if you aren’t a fan of short story collections and/or multiple first-person narrators, it is still a really intriguing novel.

3) Side-stories: This tends to work best in the horror, fantasy and science fiction genres, but it can work in any genre if handled well. If you’re planning to write more of a traditional novel, but want to either take a break by writing some short fiction and/or need the enthusiasm that comes from writing a story that can be finished in a relatively short amount of time, then adding a small side-story can be a good way of doing this.

These tend to work best in stories that use third-person narration (and your side-story has to be relevant to your main plot in some way), but cutting away to a totally new character for a fairly self-contained single chapter story can be a great way to add a bit of short storytelling to a novel.

These types of side-stories tend to work best in novels that are set in an intriguing fictional world (hence why they might turn up in a sci-fi or fantasy novel, since they add depth) or for adding an extra sense of scale or menace to a series of frightening events (which is why you’ll find examples of this technique in many zombie novels and/or classic 1970s/80s horror novels like James Herbert’s “The Rats).

Yes, your short side-story needs to be relevant to the main plot and you shouldn’t include too many of them (to avoid confusing the reader), but they can be a great way of sneaking a bit of short story writing into a traditional-style novel.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Game Design Techniques That Writers Can Use

As regular readers of this site know, I’ve been getting back into gaming over the past month or two. And, since I now have the ability to play some more modern indie games than I could on my old computer, I’ve also been thinking a bit more about game design too. In particular, whether there are any game design techniques that might be useful to writers.

So, here are a few game design techniques that might work well in novels or short stories too. However, this article contains some SPOILERS for “Skylar And Plux: Adventure On Clover Island” and “Dex”.

1) False endings: This is an interesting technique that I’ve noticed in two modern indie games – “Skylar And Plux: Adventure On Clover Island” and a game that I’m playing at the moment called “Dex”. Basically, after completing a challenging part of the game, something very similar to an ending cinematic plays – only for the player to suddenly learn that, no, there’s still more of the game to be played.

When done well and paired with some excellent gameplay, this is like an encore at a heavy metal concert – the moment when the band leaves the stage and you sigh and think ‘It was all over so quickly, I miss it‘ only for the band to suddenly leap back into view and play a few of their classics. It’s a really clever way of playing with the audience’s expectations and surprising them with something awesome. Of course, when done badly, it can have the opposite effect (eg: ‘Oh no! Not more!’).

This technique relies on enjoyment and atmosphere. If you want it to work well, then everything before your false ending has to be compelling. It has to be something that the audience actually wants more of. In writing terms, this means interesting characters, an interesting premise and fascinating settings. You also need to tell the kind of unique story that your reader will have a difficult time finding elsewhere, so that your “encore” feels like more of something that the reader had thought that they had lost forever.

More importantly though, everything after your false ending also has to be compelling too. You actually have to have a good reason for including extra story after a climactic moment. This could include the resolution of a sub-plot, an intriguing hook for a sequel (after all, if the main plot has been resolved, then the reader is more likely to forgive a cliffhanger ending) or scenes that have a dramatic emotional impact of some kind of another.

2) Weakness and ingenuity: A week or two before writing this article, I finished playing an extremely terrifying horror game called “Remothered: Tormented Fathers“. Although this game is scary for a lot of reasons, one of the major ones is how it subverts the player’s expectations. After all, most gamers have played literally hundreds of games where the way to deal with a fearsome adversary is to destroy it with weapons. However, in this game, the fearsome adversaries cannot be killed by the player – instead, you can only run, hide or briefly stun them.

By making the player character weaker than the average game character, this game also gains a surprising amount of depth. Instead of mindless fighting, you actually have to think and plan. You have to come up with strategies, take chances and use skills that you’ve learnt from practice. This means that finally getting to the next part of the game feels much more satisfying.

But, what does this have to do with writing? Well, it is an incredibly useful thing to remember when writing thriller stories. In the best thriller novels, the main character will often find themselves in situations where they can’t rely on brute force to save themselves. In other words, they have to use their brain instead of their brawn.

Not only does this break up the monotony of fight scene after fight scene, but it also just feels more satisfying to read for the simple reason that the main character becomes an underdog who stands up to something more powerful than them. Not only that, the audience gets the suspense of confronting an “unwinnable” situation paired with the complex thrill of something like an elaborate heist movie when the main character uses a clever plan to get out of danger. When done well, this can be incredibly gripping.

3) Short can be good: One of the common criticisms levelled at modern indie games, and modern games in general, is that they are too short. The classic example of this is probably “Gone Home“, a modern narrative game that can be completed in about 2-3 hours. Yet, having played “Gone Home”, I can’t really imagine it working well as a longer game.

The game’s poignant story, mysterious house and concentrated shot of 1990s nostalgia work so well because there isn’t really any filler content. Because everything is there for a reason, because a well-designed small location is more interesting than a gigantic empty open world etc… In other words, it’s a quality over quantity thing. Yes, I can see how people might have felt cheated if they bought the game with the expectation of a longer game but, if you know in advance that it’s a short game, then the length makes a lot of sense.

And, in this age of doorstopper-sized novels, this is something to bear in mind. Length isn’t an inherently good thing. I mean, I can think of at least a few good novels I’ve read that would be even better if an editor had trimmed out 50-200 pages. Yes, long stories – like longer games- might be popular, but there’s a lot to be said for putting quality over quantity. For making sure that every page matters, even if there are fewer pages than the audience might expect.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Shock Value And Storytelling Mediums – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about shock value and storytelling mediums today mostly because, early this year (I write these articles quite far in advance), I happened to read a few online articles about a controversial play in London which apparently made an audience member faint. This made me remember when I saw a “shocking” play quite a few years ago.

It was a recreation of several short late 19th/early 20th century Grand Guignol plays that was performed at the 2009 Abertoir film festival. Although it told the kind of melodramatic vintage horror stories that wouldn’t be that scary or shocking in most other mediums, it was about ten times more shocking for the simple reason that the play’s horrors actually appeared to take place in real life. So, this made me think about whether shock value works better in different mediums.

But, whilst mediums that place less distance between the audience and the story (eg: theatre, videogames etc..) can shock the audience slightly more easily than mediums where the audience feels slightly further away from what is happening (eg: film, comics, novels, music etc..), shock value can be achieved in every medium. However, I’d argue that shock value probably has more to do with both the audience and their expectations than the medium itself.

I mean, the Grand Guignol play was shocking for the simple reason that I’d never seen a play in the horror genre before. On the other hand, I’ve seen quite a few horror movies, played several horror computer/video games and read numerous horror novels etc.. so, these things have to be especially shocking in order to elicit this reaction in me. So, what your audience are used to plays quite a large role in how much shock value something has.

On a side note, this is also probably why Raven Gregory’s “Return To Wonderland” was such a shocking horror comic to read. Leaving aside the ultra-gruesome artwork and disturbing storyline, horror comics are nowhere near as common as they apparently were in the genre’s 1940s-50s heyday (before they got censored by the Comics Code and were replaced with superhero comics). So, when I happened to read this comic a decade or so ago, it was a genuine shock because I hadn’t really seen many horror comics – let alone more modern ones- before.

But, the best types of shock value play with audience expectations in interesting ways and this is something that can be done in pretty much any medium. Of course, there many ways to achieve this type of shock value – but the best of these involves leading the audience to expect something mildly “shocking” and then giving them something even more shocking. This works for the simple reason that it makes the audience feel like they are tough or unshockable, only to catch them by surprise later.

So, whilst some mediums have a slightly easier time achieving shock value than others, it can still be achieved in pretty much any medium since it has more to do with the audience than the medium itself.

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Sorry for the short article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂

Two Tips For Writing Stories That Can Compete With The Internet, Games, Phones etc…

Well, I thought that I’d talk about writing stories that can compete with the plethora of other entertainment mediums out there these days. After all, modern readers have a lot more entertainment mediums competing for their time than they did even a couple of decades ago. Whether it is smartphones, TV boxsets, games, social media, the internet in general etc.. There has never been more competition for your reader’s attention.

Still, all hope is not lost. One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed since I got back into reading regularly the best part of a year ago is how some more modern books have adapted to this change when compared to several of the older 20th century novels that I’ve read.

I ended up thinking about this subject because, a few days before writing this article, I bought a vaguely modern refurbished computer (to replace one of my two vintage mid-2000s computers). Needless to say, keeping up with the usual reading schedule has been a bit more of a challenge than I’d expected.

After all, these books now have to compete with “Oh my god! I can watch Youtube videos in HD on this thing!” and “I’ve got over a decade of modern gaming to catch up on! Where do I even start?

So, how can you make your story compete with the distractions of the modern age? Here are two tips:

1) Writing style: Yes, there is a lot to be said for more formal and descriptive writing styles. They add lots of richness, depth, gravitas and atmosphere to stories. They are the equivalent of turning a computer game’s graphics settings up to full. They show language being used to it’s fullest extent and, if written well, can also expand your reader’s vocabulary (since the reader will be introduced to new words that they can understand from the context they are used in).

On the downside, novels that use nothing but formal narration take longer to read and also require more effort to read – which is a problem when compared to the fast effortless entertainment of television, the internet etc…

But, although a more informal, pared-down and “matter of fact” style can be a great way to get people to read when they are beseiged by distractions (I mean, even during the few years I considered myself a “non-reader”, I still read the occasional thriller novel by Lee Child), there are still ways to get some of the benefits of formal styles whilst still writing something that modern readers will find gripping enough to choose over a smartphone or social media site.

Simply put, you need to use a mixture of formal and informal narration. Basically, save your more formal descriptions for the moments when they will have the most impact. For example, Adam Nevill’s 2011 horror novel “The Ritual” contains a fair amount of informal, realistic and “matter of fact” narration but, whenever the story is describing the creepy forest that the characters are trapped in or their feelings of fear, the narration often becomes a bit more formal and/or descriptive. This works really well. The “matter of fact” narration keeps the story moving and the formal segments add atmosphere to it in carefully-controlled doses.

Another good way of doing this is to seamlessly slip a few formal descriptive sentences into a passage of “matter of fact” narration. Formal narration is a lot easier to digest in smaller doses and, if done well, then your reader might not even notice that they’ve read a sentence that is more at home in an older novel.

A good older example of this is Graham Masterton’s 1991 novel “The Hymn“. When I first read this novel as a teenager in the early 2000s, I just thought it was a grippingly cheesy horror thriller novel. When I re-read it a few weeks ago, I was astonished at how many “sophisticated” sentences and descriptions were mixed in with the more “matter of fact” thriller-like narration.

An even better old example is Agatha Christie’s 1941 spy novel “N or M?” – this is written in a mildly formal way, but has enough focus on the plot and enough “informal” (for the time) dialogue and descriptions to keep the story fairly effortless to read.

Just because we’re almost living in the 2020s, it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon formal writing styles altogether. It just means that you need to choose when to use them. In short, the basic underlying narrative of your story should probably be written in a more readable, “matter of fact” kind of way – with more formal descriptions saved for the moments when they will be the most spectacular.

2) Premise: In this age of distractions, having an interesting premise that makes the reader think “I need to read this” is more important than ever. If your story does something interesting, original, strange or new, then there is an added incentive for your reader to look at it instead of their phone, social media feed etc..

In other words, if your reader knows that they are going to find the kind of story that they can’t find on TV, in the cinema or in a videogame, then they are probably going to want to read. Seriously, when coming up with story ideas, curiosity and/or “wouldn’t it be cool if..” are the things that you need to think about.

Some good examples of this are Edgar Cantero’s 2018 novel “Meddling Kids“, which is a Lovecraftian horror parody of “Scooby Doo” set in the 1990s. Then, there’s Rebecca Levene’s 2008 novel “Anno Mortis“, which is about a zombie apocalypse… in ancient Rome.

There’s Jodi Taylor’s “Chronicles Of St. Mary’s” series, which are eccentric sci-fi comedy thriller novels about time travel- basically what “Doctor Who” would be like if it was a late-night BBC3 sitcom. There’s Robert Brockway’s 2015 novel “The Unnoticeables“, which is a story about a group of 1970s punks (and a group of characters in the present day) fighting bizarre otherwordly monsters.

I could go on for a while, but if you want your modern story to compete with all of the other entertainment mediums around these days, then you need an interesting premise. You need the kind of quirky, intriguing “wouldn’t it be cool if..” premise that your reader won’t be able to find in the cinema or on TV.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Reasons Why Great Stories Include Variation

Well, I thought that I’d talk about one of the essential ingredients of a great story – variation. In other words, how great stories will often contain an interesting mixture of different genres, different emotional tones, different levels of formality, types of pacing etc… during different parts of the story.

Variation is an important part of storytelling because, on the most basic level, it prevents the reader from becoming bored. When done well, it prevents your story from becoming predictable or repetitive. However, it is an important part of a good story for so many other reasons too. Here are a few of them.

1) Contrast: To use a visual metaphor, this is a little bit like how a bright light in a painting or photo will look even brighter when placed against a dark background. Because the gap between the lightest and darkest part of the picture is fairly large, the light looks brighter by comparison. And, the same principle is true in fiction too.

For example, S. K. Dunstall’s “Linesman” is a fairly slow-paced sci-fi novel about intergalactic politics. So, on the few occasions that the novel includes thrillingly action-packed scenes, these scenes seem about twice as fast-paced because they are contrasted with lots of slower-paced scenes.

Likewise, Ryu Murakami’s “In The Miso Soup” (SPOILERS ahoy!) is an atmospheric horror novel that mostly relies on things like suspense and atmosphere to unnerve the audience.

As such, when the novel includes a single splatterpunk-style scene of gory horror, this scene is about ten times more shocking because it is so different to the rest of the novel.

So, including variation in your story allows you to place emphasis on certain scenes through the use of contrast. Not only that, a good amount of contrast can also make your story seem more dramatic as a whole too.

2) Progression: Simply put, variation makes your story flow better. Likewise, because the story moves from one genre or emotional tone to another several times, it will have a sense of movement and momentum to it that can give the reader a real feeling of progression.

This also means that your story will feel larger or more detailed too. For example, at the time of writing this article, I’m about halfway through reading a novel called “Lies, Damned Lies, And History” by Jodi Taylor (mild SPOILERS ahead).

In the first half or so of this novel, the story goes from mysterious suspense to comedic sci-fi/historical fiction to a heist thriller to an understated drama to a dramatic thriller. And it feels epic.

Because it crams so many genres into a relatively small space (about 160-170 pages), the first half of this novel feels larger and longer than it actually is. So, when done well, variation allows your reader to feel like they’ve progressed through a longer story than they actually have.

3) Originality: Although there is no such thing as a “100% Original” creative work, the feeling of originality comes from seeing an interesting and distinctive mixture of different things. In other words, originality isn’t about coming up with entirely new things, it is about doing something different with stuff that people already know about.

So, coming up with an inventive way to mix scenes from different genres, to mix different moods etc… can really make your story stand out from the crowd. It will also make your story more memorable too.

A good example of this is probably “Make Me” by Lee Child (again, SPOILERS ahoy!).

For the most part, this novel is a fairly typical suspense-thriller/action-thriller novel with some vaguely ominous background elements. Then, during one of the later parts of the story, the novel suddenly turns into full-on horror fiction. Although there is a fair amount of foreshadowing, this switch to another genre really catches the reader by surprise and means that the novel’s shocking ending is about ten times more memorable than the ending of a typical thriller novel.

So, yes, variation will add originality to your story and/or make it more memorable.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Sneaky Ways To Reduce Reader Frustration

One of the interesting things that I’ve noticed since I got back into reading regularly a few months ago is that I’ve started to notice things like story structure a lot more than I used to. Of course, this also means that I also tend to notice things like flaws, various pet peeves and poor planning/design choices a lot more too.

Still, I’ve also seen stories that contain things that should annoy me but somehow don’t because of clever writing. So, I thought that I’d offer a few tips for how to reduce some of the more common types of story problems.

1) Cliffhangers – Less Is More!: Yes, if you’re writing a continuous series, then a dramatic cliffhanger ending can be a good way to keep your readers excited for the next instalment.

However, from the reader’s perspective, there is nothing more frustrating than reading a dramatic story only for it to suddenly end on a cliffhanger. Not only can it feel disappointing, but it can also feel slightly manipulative too (eg: your readers feel like they’re being forced into reading the next book).

So, how can you include the dramatic suspense of a cliffhanger ending without leaving your readers feeling cheated or manipulated? Well, it is all to do with scale.

Simply put, the best cliffhanger endings I’ve seen (such as in some instalments of Jocelynn Drake’s “Dark Days” series) will often be relatively small in scale, whilst also offering some sense of resolution too.

In other words, the main plot of the novel will be resolved – but the tantalising beginning of another plot will appear in the final chapter. Or, if you want to do something a bit more sophisticated, the main plot of the novel should be resolved, but the background story arc of the series can still be left unresolved.

By keeping the cliffhanger relatively small and/or in the background, the reader still gets the satisfaction of a resolved storyline in addition to an intriguing, but less overbearing, cliffhanger ending.

Likewise, another thing that helps to soften the blow of a cliffhanger ending is good signposting. In other words, label your story as “part one of…” or whatever, so that the reader doesn’t go into the story expecting a full, self-contained story. After all, a lot of cliffhanger-based frustration happens when readers are led to expect a full story, only to suddenly discover that they’ve only got part of a longer story.

2) Perspective changes – Consistency And Signposting!: Usually, there is nothing more jarring and disorientating than stories that switch between multiple first-person narrators or stories that switch between first and third person perspective.

However, the novel I’m reading at the time of writing (“Patient Zero” by Jonathan Maberry) actually manages to handle frequent switches between first and third person perspective reasonably well, in a mostly non-frustrating way.

But, how does Maberry do it? First of all, the title of each chapter includes a small segment that tells you where the events of the chapter take place (which also tells you which character or characters it will involve). Although this might seem like it’s stating the obvious, the fact that the reader doesn’t have to spend the first few paragraphs of each chapter working out what is going on keeps the story flowing reasonably well despite the frequent changes between first and third person narration.

Secondly, and most importantly, the narrative voice in both the first and third person segments of the novel is reasonably consistent too.

In other words, there aren’t huge stylistic changes between the two types of narration. Although this might seem like it would make the story bland, it actually makes it much more readable – for the simple reason that it doesn’t break the “flow” of the story too much. The switches between first and third person narration are reasonably seamless, since the writing style in both is fairly similar.

But, of course, it’s usually a good idea to stick to just using third-person narration if you want to focus on multiple main characters in multiple locations.

3) Slow Pacing – Distinctiveness And Interest!: Not every novel has to be an ultra-fast unputdownable page-turner. Sometimes there are valid reasons for a writer to do things a bit more slowly. And, whilst it goes without saying that slow pacing should only be used when it is actually a necessary part of the story, how can you keep your reader’s attention during the slower parts of your story?

First of all, give them a reason to keep reading! Whether it is an intriguingly strange or mysterious premise, or possibly even a feeling of suspense or curiosity, you need to make sure that your reader has a good reason to keep reading a slower story. In other words, there has to be some kind of dramatic payoff for all of the slow storytelling and/or something to hold the reader’s interest when your story slows to a crawl.

Secondly, make your story distinctive. If you include things like an interesting narrative voice, atmospheric settings, fascinating characters, clever descriptions, a sense of humour etc.. then your readers won’t care too much about the slow pacing for the simple reason that they’ll be too busy enjoying your writing. In other words, if a story is well-written enough, then a slow pace will actually give the reader more time to enjoy the good writing. So, make sure that the slow-paced parts of your story are well-written!

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂