Those who know me know how much I love reading a good retelling. I’ve always found the idea of cultures shaping around stories and writers bringing them to the present intriguing. So, almost a year ago, I decided that I would do it myself. Recently, I completed my first short story collection. It is a collection of six retellings of my country’s original legends, all set in the same magical world. Through endless evenings of brainstorming, investigating, drafting, and editing (so much editing), I learned a thing or two about retellings that I hope other writers find useful.
Buying stationary, finding textbooks, cleaning up a desk, having scarce time to write… Right, it is back-to-school season again. How can young writers keep developing their craft when there is also a pile of assignments to complete? This is a list of the things I discovered during the past years which helped me fit writing into my schedule without setting aside my responsibilities or mental health.
You know your character from head to toe: eye color, dreams, hobbies—the works. But you don’t have a plot, and you don’t know how they will change. What you need, fellow writer, is a character arc. Read on to discover the six beats you need to nail it.
Let’s get on the same page about character arcs. A character arc is a journey of growth from one internal state to another. These can be positive or negative—think Prince Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender—and a character can have multiple arcs, although typically one is contained in a story. Arcs are important because they show not only that our characters are lifelike and capable of change, but also their agency. Active characters are what we strive for in stories, and that is why the journey is so important.
Writing is subjective. This is in no way an official, objective guide to character arcs, but I hope you’ll consider my observations in your own stories.
One of the first pieces of advice that you will receive when entering the writing community is “show, don’t tell”. But, what exactly do these terms mean? This is a practical guide to showing and telling, which will hopefully help you recognize when to use each one, and how to do so correctly.
If you tell us what is going on in the scene, you use direct descriptions. This means that you write down exactly the character’s feelings, their manners, and the room’s ambiance, among others. Notice that telling often has an abundance of adjectives. Since it is straightforward, it does not leave space for readers to draw their own conclusions. In consequence, when overused, telling can make a piece less engaging. But, if you use it wisely, it will help you make a point clear.