There are plenty of how-to articles, books, and resources available for writers at every stage of the writing process — so many that it can seem overwhelming. One of the most common pieces of advice from any experienced writer is this: read, read, read. And that includes reading books on how to write.
While you can’t learn everything about writing from a book — especially since every writer is different with their own style that doesn’t always have to follow the rules — there are a few titles that will be helpful if you’re struggling to get that scene just right.
After all that hard work, you’re finally finished with your manuscript. You send it off to the prospective publisher of your choosing with fingers crossed and butterflies in your stomach.
Days pass, soon turning into weeks or months, until that fateful email arrives in your inbox. You open it, ready for all your dreams to come true, only to come face to face with:
“We’re sorry, but unfortunately…”
Recently, I came upon this opinion/rant post condemning authors that keep secrets from their readers for shock value and last-minute plot twists, and it got me thinking about what a reader should be allowed to know from the get-go. After looking into it, here are my two cents along with iconic examples.
I thought of Vicious by V. E. Schwab first — a book that makes readers wait for the root of the conflict, leaving them intrigued and flipping through pages. Then, Leigh Bardugo’s ever-famous Six of Crows, which withholds backstory until it becomes plot-relevant. Six of Crows also keeps itself engaging enough that most readers don’t even think about the backstories of the protagonists until they are told them and shocked by it.
My further research came upon an author who also stated that “the reader knows what the POV character knows” and that “personally, I hate it when I read a novel and learn that the author has withheld essential information that the POV character knows.”
Part IV: cardigan 2
Picking up from last week’s article, this will be the final nail to Taylor Swift’s folklore love triangle, from the album of the year that just had its one-year anniversary a few days ago. The ending to cardigan, told from Betty’s perspective, contains some of folklore’s best lyrics and is filled with poetic pieces throughout
Trigger Warning for mentions of sexual assault and explanations of toxic relationships.
The undying question of undying characters — are fantasy age gaps okay? What makes some good, while others questionable? With fantasy being a genre often populated with a mix of mortal characters (the poor, lowly humans) and immortal ones (pretty much everything else you could think of) romantic pairings can get rather suspect. What to do when a vampire is in love with a mortal? What about fair folk falling in (eternal?) love with a human? Does it make a difference if they're a minor? If they've known each other for a long time?
Podcasts are the most adaptive form of writing in the media. At least that’s how I see it. Lately, I’ve been looking much deeper into the commonality of podcasts in everyday media. This weird interest spike made me realize, podcasts are everywhere. Not only that- but because of their adaptive nature, there’s likely a podcast for anything you would want. In my last article, I recommended some True Crime podcasts and nonfiction in forms outside of novels such as documentaries and, well, podcasts. So today I’m focusing on the latter, the exploration of podcasts as a writer.
What is a Subplot?
As you’re writing your story, you may start to notice your plot going in a different direction than you originally planned. Typically, your story is never just about your protagonist taking on a horde of dragons, character A falling in love with character B, the chosen one saving the world, or any other epic journey you’ve conjured up. A subplot is, by definition, a “secondary strand of the plot that is a supporting side story for any story or the main plot” (Wikipedia).
There are often multiple conflicts that your protagonist is trying to deal with. Maybe while the star football player is struggling to get into college, he’s also falling for someone on the team. The princess might be trapped in a tower, but she could also be trying to unravel a royal scheme. Most well-written and well-thought-out plots also come with amazing subplots to keep the story interesting and your readers engaged.
It’s a pretty safe bet that when people read the comics section of the newspaper, they aren’t thinking about the theory behind the art form. They’re looking to see what whacky shenanigans Snoopy and the gang are getting into, and whether Garfield got his lasagna. But using those colorful boxes, artists can manipulate time and space on the page.
I try to be as bold as I can with school-related essays. From comparing countries to selfish men described by Thomas Hobbes to blaming Columbus’ legacy for institutionalized racism, teachers know me to provide the hottest take I can find and cram it into five standard paragraphs. They also know to tell me off when an argument gets too hard to support or too deep for what a class warrants. School often will provide a system for essay management, building, and editing if a student wants it.
Much of the writing I do outside of school doesn’t have that support. So, I have to learn to think critically about my work and understand the nuances of my writing before I show it to anyone.
Part III: cardigan 1
The last track of this trilogy is none other than folklore’s only single — cardigan, written from the point of view of Betty.
This is the second of a four-part series analysing the album folklore by Taylor Swift. Find the first essay here, and the second here.