The Emotion Thesaurus: Got Fear? – Guest Post by Angela Ackerman

Ever wondered if your characters are showing their fear the right way? Well, you’re in luck! ‘Cause today I’m incredibly excited to present to you The Emotion Thesaurus entry of FEAR, brought to us from the wonderful and amazing Angela Ackerman!

There just aren’t enough words to describe Angela! Hmm…. let’s see… she’s one-half of the The Bookshelf Muse (which is another must-follow blog for me), she’s incredibly kind, awesome, so much fun to chat and work with, funny, full of all sorts of writerly information… OH! And she’ll do anything for bacon! *grin* And that doesn’t even begin to cover it! (Psst! She’s even brought a goodie for a giveaway with her today! Did I mention she’s awesome?)

So without further ado, please welcome Angela!


Hi everyone! The fantabulous Melinda kindly invited me to her blog and I am ever so happy to hang out here today. I brought with me the entry on FEAR from The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression, because I know how hard it can be to show our character’s intense experiences without always reusing common fear indicators of shivering, shuddering, racing heartbeat, rasping breath and sweating. There’s nothing wrong with using these of course, as long as we apply them in moderation. So, to get your head into brainstorming gear, we’ve created seventy-five emotion entries just like this one below. Enjoy!

DEFINITION: to be afraid of; to expect threat or danger

Face turning ashen, white, pallid
Hair lifting on the nape and arms
Body odor, cold sweats
Clammy hands
Trembling lips and chin
Tendons standing out in the neck, a visible pulse
Elbows pressing into the sides, making one’s body as small as possible
Freezing, feeling rooted to the spot
Rapid blinking
Tight shoulders
Staring but not seeing, eyes shut or crying
Hands jammed into armpits or self-hugging
Breath bursting in and out
Leg muscles tightening, the body ready to run
Looking all around, especially behind
A shrill voice
Lowering the voice to a whisper
Keeping one’s back to a wall or corner
Shaking uncontrollably
Gripping something, knuckles going white
Stiff walking, the knees locking
Beads of sweat on the lip or forehead
Grabbing onto someone
Eyes appearing damp and overly bright
Stuttering and mispronouncing words, tremors in the voice
Jerky movements, squirming
Licking the lips, gulping down water
Sprinting or running
Sweeping a hand across the forehead to get rid of sweat
Gasping and expelling one’s breath as if pained
Uncontrollable whimpering
Pleading, talking to oneself
Flinching at noises

An inability to speak
Shakiness in the limbs
Holding back a scream or cry
Heartbeat racing, nearly exploding
Dizziness, weakness in the legs and knees
A loosening of the bladder
Chest pain
Holding one’s breath, gulping down breaths to stay quiet
A stomach that feels rock hard
Hyper-sensitivity to touch and sound
Adrenaline spikes

Wanting to flee or hide
The sensation of things moving too quickly to process
Images of what-could-be flashing through the mind
Flawed reasoning
Jumping to a course of action without thinking things through
A skewed sense of time

Uncontrollable trembling, fainting
Heart giving out
Panic attacks, phobias
Substance abuse
Withdrawing from others
Tics (a repetitive grimace, a head twitch, talking to oneself)
Resistance to pain from rushing adrenaline

Keeping silent
Denying fear through diversion or topic change
Turning away from the cause of the fear
Attempting to keep one’s voice light
A watery smile that’s forced into place
Masking fear with a reactive emotion (anger or frustration)
False bravado
Over-indulgence in a habit (nail biting, lip biting, scratching the skin raw)
A frozen or shaking smile
A joking tone, but the voice cracks

WRITER’S TIP: Prime readers for an emotional experience by describing the mood of a scene as your character enters it. If your character is antsy, the reader will be too.

As you can see, there are many ways to show a character’s fear, and this list is only a starting point! Think about your character, and what types of expressions will be unique to him or her. This will bring you one step closer to creating fresh body language and really pull the reader into your character’s emotional experience.
PSST! If you would like to see which seventy-five emotions the book covers and find out more about The Emotion Thesaurus, there’s a generous sample on Amazon’s Look Inside feature. Also, we have a free PDF on our blog called Emotion Amplifiers, which offers lists like the one above for fifteen conditions like Attraction, Stress, Hunger, Pain, Exhaustion, etc. These amplifiers can alter a character’s mental and physical state, ensuring bigger emotional reactions. You can find the download button right in the sidebar.


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Angela Ackerman is one half of The Bookshelf Muse blogging duo, and co-author of The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.  Listing the body language, visceral reactions and thoughts associated with seventy-five different emotions, this brainstorming guide is a valuable tool for showing, not telling, emotion.


Melinda here! Okay, so now we all know that when we write to convey the fear in our characters we’re supposed to include smiles, squees, and booty dancin’, right? *snort* Just kidding!!!
My favorite thing about this particular entry – and ALL the entries in The Emotion Thesaurus, actually – is how Angela and Becca captured the smaller nuances a character shows when experiencing an emotion. With fear, it’s the rapid eye blinking and/or eyes appearing damp and overly bright, and dizziness and hyper-sensitivity. They’ve got these emotions down, and those signs I just named may be small, but they are POWERFUL when they’re on the page in a high-tension scene!
And in order to help you bring that power to the page, Angela brought with her a PDF version of The Emotion Thesaurus as a giveaway today! How awesome is that?!?
To enter, all you need to do is complete a little information in the Rafflecopter section below. The giveaway will end tomorrow night at midnight. Be sure you not only get your first entry by leaving a comment, but your additional entries by following The Bookshelf Muse blog, following Angela and/or me on Twitter, adding The Emotion Thesaurus to one of your shelves on Goodreads, and liking The Emotion Thesaurus’s Facebook page.
The winner will be announced on Friday’s This Week in Favs… writing links round-up post!
Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Social Media Sign-Up: Okay, Now What?–Guest post by Tina Moss

Woo hoo! I’m back from an Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson, and my brain is is so stuffed with all kinds of writerly goodness, I just don’t know what I want to start on! *smile*

So while I’m playing catch up from being away, I’m very excited to have one of the first people I met when I began blogging: Tina Moss! Tina is and has always been incredibly helpful, and one of the first people I know I can go to when I’m struggling with a scene or a plot issue. I love, love, love her and I’m so happy that she agreed to come over today and talk to us a little about social media and what happens after you hit that ‘create account’ button.


You signed up for Twitter and Facebook. You tweaked your blog or website design until it is more colorful than a rainbow. You setup your author page on Goodreads. You even dabbled with Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Triberr, etc. Your accounts are linked, activated and ready, but one question remains…now what?


Each social media site offers a slightly different cup of tea.

  • Twitter allows for instant communication with people over a variety of topics.
  • Facebook lets us sort our friends, view their updates, and post all kinds of information.
  • Goodreads lets us interact with a community of readers, both in discussion groups and through reviews.

However, the common thread amongst all of these social media platforms is…interaction.
To help you navigate the murky waters of the social media oceans, here is a list of seven important points to remember for writers interacting on social media venues.
1. Don’t be a self-promo spam bot. If all of your updates, blog posts, tweets, etc, encompass a link to your newest book or a post about your work-in-progress, you’re missing the point. Limit those types of messages. You can certainly put it out there, but if that’s all you put out there, no one will be listening.
2. Don’t beg. Sticking your tongue out and panting only works for dogs. It will not win you bonus points. Likewise begging people to like your page, follow you, or buy your book will not help your cause. As in #1, you can have this some of the time, but if the majority of your feed is begging, you need to change it up.

3. Keep your clothes on. Remember that the internet is a BIG place with lots of prying eyes. Would you take your clothes off in the middle of a public place? No (and I hope the answer is no)? Good, then don’t do it on the web either. Be careful what you share. Privacy is important.
4. Trolls and bullies belong under bridges. Don’t engage in flame wars. You are a writer – either already published or pursuing a career. Maintain a professional demeanor. Don’t yell at reviewers. Don’t respond to negative comments. Be the bigger person. You don’t have to be a pushover, but be respectful. When you can’t engage on a civil level, stay out of it.

5. Give more than you receive. Ever hear the expression, “Do unto other as you’d have them do unto you”? This applies largely in social media. If you want someone to feature you on their blog, blurb your book, like your page, retweet your post, then you’d best be doing these things for others. If you don’t want to help others, don’t expect their help.
6. Form true relationships. Don’t be a follower, be a friend. You cannot do this for everyone as your followers grow, but make the effort to talk to people. If someone messages or tweets you directly, respond to them. Get to know people and allow people to get to know you.
7. Be yourself as long as you’re not a jerk. You can be a ballsy, out-of-the-box, zany writer, but don’t be the person to hate. Chuck Wendig is a great example. He tells it like it is with direct and humorous language. Not everyone will like his style, but he’s honest without being cruel. No one likes the bully, and most people can tell when you’re phony. So get out there, interact and be your best self.
What do you think are the key points for writers engaging in social media? How do you interact on the web?


Tina Moss is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5’1″ Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.


Melinda here! Tina hit every single, important point about social media here. The one point I’d like to reiterate is #5: Give more than you receive. That is my #1 personal rule, and I always strive to give more and be more, and I truly expect nothing back in return. As long as I know I have been there, and am there for my fellow writers, that’s all that matters. When my name is mentioned, I want the following to be said right behind it: “She’s so incredibly sweet, kind and helpful.” That’s something I think we all should strive for in this day and age.
Thank you again to Tina for joining us today! Please leave a comment and take advantage of this chance to ask her anything social media or writing related! She’s a well of incredible information, and like I said, she’s always willing to share!

Mixing Genres? In-Depth Worldbuilding? How to Manage Reader Expectations–Guest Post by Jami Gold

Squee! So, while I’m traveling from to Colorado today to begin an Immersion Class with Margie Lawson, I am totally excited – once again – for another awesome guest post about world-building! And this one comes to us with some insight into mixing genres and reader expectations! This is something I know everyone can relate to and has possibly struggled with at one point or another in their writing career.

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce our guest blogger today, Jami Gold! Jami is one of the very first bloggers I had the pleasure of meeting when I first ventured into to blogosphere/Twitterverse. There are many, many, many amazing things that I can say about Jami, but I shall limit myself to only this: If you are not following her blog – in which a new post is up every Tuesday and Thursday – you should be. I couldn’t tell you how many story-saving, save-the-character, thought-provoking, inspiring, fun posts I’ve had the pleasure of reading and learning from by this amazing author. Her blog is a must-read in my world (as in I pull up her site at 8am every Tuesday and Thursday morning at work. Religiously. Seriously.)! Jami was also recently given the honor as a Writing Hero by The Bookshelf Muse blog (another must-read blog, by the way), and it was well deserved!

I do hope you enjoy her post as much as I do!


Mixing Genres? In-Depth Worldbuilding? How to Manage Reader Expectations
Thanks for having me here, Melinda! Today I want to talk about worldbuilding, genre, and expectations.
When we read a vampire book, we have certain expectations about the rules of the world. At the very least, we expect there’ll be blood involved.
The same goes with werewolf stories (where we expect shape shifting), dragon stories (where we expect flames), and mermaid stories (where we expect tail fins). We also see this in other genres, such as romantic suspense, where we expect a bad guy to chase the characters, or thrillers, where we expect the good guy to save the world from the bad guy.
Some readers have very particular expectations about certain genres or story worlds. If we read a book without the expected elements, we might be disappointed and possibly give the story a bad review.
So how do writers balance coming up with unique stories and yet fulfill reader expectations? And how can writers come up with new worlds or mix genres and still give readers the best understanding of what they’ll find in the story so they’re not dissatisfied?
1: Start with the Right Labels

We can partly head off issues by making sure we’re using the right labels in the description of our story. When we’re dealing with the publishing industry—sending queries to agents or editors—we have to use their labels because they want to know what shelf the story would sit on in a bookstore. These descriptions are very broad: romance, science fiction/fantasy, mystery, fiction, nonfiction.
However, when we’re writing a description blurb for our story (whether for the body of our query/pitch, synopsis, or a back-of-the-book description), we can use whatever labels we want. Our goal should be to give readers a sense of the type of story it is—and possibly, what type of story it’s not.
We want to attract readers who want to read that kind of story. And the first place we can head off disappointment is before the reader ever opens the book, by using the right labels in the description.

2: Use Worldbuilding to Direct Reader Expectations

The other main technique we can use to manage reader expectations is within the story itself. The details we select for our worldbuilding, the aspects we focus on, the “rules” we explain, all help to lead the reader down a path of understanding our unique story world.
Just as Stephenie Meyer convinced her readers that in her world vampires sparkled, we can convince readers that our vampire (werewolf, dragon, mermaid, kidnapper, terrorist, etc.) rules are a bit different from usual as well. The opening line of George Orwell’s 1984 (“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”) told us this world was different from ours. They still had clocks, but they “bonged” thirteen times.
Word choice (one of my opening lines includes the words “hornet’s snuggery”), internalization (thoughts reflecting that the point-of-view character is not human), setting details (starship bridge), etc. can all be used to give readers the heads up that the story world is not the same as the world around them. The story world should be hinted at as soon as possible to anchor the reader. If you’ve seen the movie From Dusk Till Dawn, you know how disconcerting it can be to have the normal world yanked out from under us halfway through the movie.
By using small building blocks of worldbuilding details, we can gradually build up a strong sense of this world for the reader. And even if our story veers left when the reader expected it to veer right, if the new direction makes sense for what the reader knows of this story world, they’ll be more likely to accept it.
A Case Study with a Mixed Genre Story

I’ve been struggling with this issue for my novella. I originally described my story as a dystopian romance with steampunk elements. However, some readers—who love the idea of steampunk—latched onto that aspect and were disappointed by the fact that “steampunk elements” meant the steam engine technology wasn’t the main focus of the story. Also, some readers thought the story premise was too dark for a romance.
Er, yeah, the world the heroine lives in is misogynistic to the extreme with sexual slavery and alluded-to rapes, so those readers have a point. But it has a happily ever after ending. Yay! Um, so how do I get that across?
I’ll probably mess with the description more in the future, but I’m currently thinking of this story as a post-apocalyptic fairytale. Disney has trained us to think of fairytales as colorful and musical, but the original fairytales were often quite dark. I’ve lost count of how many of the Grimm fairytales end with the main characters eaten alive by a wolf and (if they’re lucky) cut out from their stomach. As for the romance aspect, the storyline is quite Cinderella-ish—without the shoes. *smile*
Does that work? I honestly don’t know yet—I didn’t run the idea by anyone before this post. However, I think a description of “post-apocalyptic fairytale” does a better job of capturing the tone of the story. As far as what genre label I’d use in a query, one editor suggested I look at science fiction publishers.
Coming up with the right labels and worldbuilding details isn’t an exact science by any means, but being aware of how our choices influence the expectations of readers can help us experiment until we find the right approach.
Do you write stories that mix genres? Do you struggle with how to describe your stories? Can you think of worldbuilding details you’ve read that helped immerse you into a story world? What hasn’t worked for you? What do you think of “post-apocalyptic fairytale” for a description? What type of story would you expect from that?


After dancing with the Devil in the pale moonlight—and accidentally tripping him—Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas. Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.
Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Goodreads.


Melinda here! Similar to last week’s post on worldbuilding by Teresa Frohock, I had one of those moments where it was like, “Hmm…. well no wonder I got those types of comments back!” Similar to Jami, I had one of those moments where I ‘marketed’ my story as a paranormal romance. But come to find out, it’s not that at all. It’s actually an urban fantasy with romantic elements. And that makes a world of difference! Because when I told someone paranormal romance at first, they then wanted to compare my book, and my main character, to the Sookie Stackhouse books, and that’s not at all what my story’s like, nor my main character. So I had to go back and tell them, “Well, it’s more like A Discovery of Witches meets Black Dagger Brotherhood meets 1984…but with a dragon and a few other creatures.” So now I know how I should classify the story for agents and the publishing world, and what I need to do to ensure I’m not misguiding and possibly disappointing my readers. 😉

I really do hope that you take advantage of this opportunity to pick Jami’s brain! She’s such a watering hole of writerly information!

Your Character is Your Story’s World: Characters Build The World–Guest post by Teresa Frohock

I am so very excited to have Teresa Frohock on the blog today! Not only is she an amazing author and incredibly kind person, we have actually met in person…and she lives less than hour away from me. Just to give you a quick breakdown of our meeting, Teresa stopped by my great-grandmother’s wake back in March to support my great aunt (who she worked with in the library of a local community college). My mother actually told Teresa that I was a writer as well, and thus the writerly conversation began! I asked if she was self-pubbed or traditional, and needless to say, my mother gave me a confused look. It got even funnier when I told Teresa that at the time, I was on my eight-or-so round of edits. Teresa gave me one of those understanding nods – which I totally fell in love with her for – while my mother, God love her, gave up and greeted the next person in the receiving line. *giggle*
But what Teresa said during our first mini conversation night is what intrigued me. When I asked about her book, she said they were waiting on book #2 due to the religious themes in Miserere: An Autumn Tale. Naturally, I wanted to check that one out. Anything that pushes the boundaries of religion is something I’m totally up for because having an open mind is what it’s all about, right? 
AND IT WAS AMAZING. Miserere: An Autumn Tale is dark fantasy at its best! And because of her fearlessness with religion/belief systems AND her incredible Woerld building, I asked her to stop by today and give a quick lesson on both of these topics!

Your Character is Your Story’s World: Characters Build The World

I would like to thank Melinda for having me here today. It’s always such fun to find new blogs and meet new people, especially with someone like Melinda.
Melinda asked me to talk a little about world building and how to use belief systems in your work. World building should move on two levels: the big picture (the culture itself, the history of that particular society, customs, etc.) and the smaller, more intimate picture of how the characters fit into this giant scheme of reality. Rather than replicate the big picture advice that is already out there, I thought I might discuss the smaller picture of character building within the world, primarily because world building and character building are inexorably intertwined.
Your protagonist, for all practical purposes, is your story’s world. Everything revolves around that one individual, and that individual’s actions are usually governed by their environment. When I get ideas for stories, my inspiration begins with a character. Sometimes I have a face and a name, sometimes just a face, but I always begin with the individual, and I construct a character biography.
The character biography is really where I begin world building. I consider the type of relationship that my character had with his/her parents. Then I consider whether that type of relationship is normal for the culture. From there I launch into questions about how the specific character fits within this particular world. For example a few such questions would look like this:

  • Is the protagonist loved, scorned, witty, dull, royal, or poor? Is there a middle class and if so, how did it come into place? Does this individual accept the circumstances of his/her birth within the society’s constructs?
  • What kind of music do people listen to? Does my character like this kind of music?
  • Can everyone read? If so, what kind of books does my character enjoy? What types of literature or art is important to this person?
  • What was the darkest, most horrible thing that ever happened to that individual and by contrast, what was the most wonderful thing that ever happened?
  • What about the character’s moral compass? How do these morals fit in with society as whole?

Lucian was immersed in religion as a child, so having faith and discussions of God were as normal to him as breathing. Rachael and Lindsay were from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries respectively. Neither of them lived in a society immersed in religion, so they approach the concept of God from an entirely different angle. How each of them interprets the events on Woerld will be slightly dissimilar given their respective backgrounds.
As you can see, by answering some of these questions, you bring the more intimate aspects of your world right to your character’s doorstep. I do this for each of my characters. Once I’ve achieved the foundation, then I start fleshing out the big picture by answering questions about the world and society as a whole.
When I constructed Woerld, I relied heavily on the questions posed in Patricia C. Wrede’s excellent series of posts on world building at the SFWA blog (The World; Physical and Historical Features; Magic and Magicians; Peoples and Customs; and Social Organization). The questions in these posts focused me on the big picture that grew from my small foundation. I kept up with everything and maintained a series sheet with dates and character biographies, which of course, leads me back to the characters.
Never lose sight of the fact that the story is about a personal journey of some kind. Let your world enhance your characters and their actions, but don’t let your world building overwhelm the story.
Then be fearless. I think that is the hardest part. If you decide to use an existing religion, take the time to understand the core concepts of that religion. You can’t possibly comprehend what rules to break until you appreciate why those doctrines exist in the first place. Become familiar not just with rituals, but why those rituals exist, and what they mean to the adherents of a particular faith.
And finally, don’t forget to give yourself flexibility too. Stories change, they flow and sometimes take unexpected routes, don’t be afraid to modify details as you go along. Nothing is ever written in stone until you reach these magic words: THE END.



Raised in a small town in North Carolina, Teresa Frohock learned to escape to other worlds through the fiction collection of her local library. Teresa is the author of the dark fantasy, Miserere: An Autumn Tale. She has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying.
You can find out how to contact Teresa on her website.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale 

Exiled exorcist Lucian Negru deserted his lover in Hell in exchange for saving his sister Catarina’s soul, but Catarina doesn’t want salvation. She wants Lucian to help her fulfill her dark covenant with the Fallen Angels by using his power to open the Hell Gates. Catarina intends to lead the Fallen’s hordes out of Hell and into the parallel dimension of Woerld, Heaven’s frontline of defense between Earth and Hell.

When Lucian refuses to help his sister, she imprisons and cripples him, but Lucian learns that Rachael, the lover he betrayed and abandoned in Hell, is dying from a demonic possession. Determined to rescue Rachael from the demon he unleashed on her soul, Lucian flees his sister, but Catarina’s wrath isn’t so easy to escape.

In the end, she will force him once more to choose between losing Rachael or opening the Hell Gates so the Fallen’s hordes may overrun Earth, their last obstacle before reaching Heaven’s Gates.

Miserere: An Autumn Tale is available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Indiebound.


Melinda here!

Okay, so I have to say that when I first read this post, I had one of the biggest ‘A-Ha!’ moments ever! As in, “No wonder that particular character wasn’t working in this story!” I was trying to make this new character – one that popped into my head a few months ago – into this world that I had built up in my head. What I really should’ve done is scrap the world I thought she would’ve lived in and created my world by beginning with the questions Teresa’s listed above. Maybe then I wouldn’t have this knot on my head from pounding it against the wall. ;0)

So how do you approach world building? Do you begin with character or world building? Do you let the world enhance your characters? Does your world building possibly overshadow the characters themselves? Are you flexible? Do you listen to what the story calls for?

Please feel free to ask Teresa any question you’d like! She’ll be available starting on Monday. She’s always uber kind and helpful and more than willing to answer any craft question you throw at her. *smile*

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Top 10 Tips of Writing I Learned from Studying JK Rowling”

Welcome to the final day of The Week of the Writer!

Buy the book here!
When I first ventured into the blogging and twittering (is that a word?) world, S.P. Sipal was one of the first to make me feel welcome – and she’s a NC native like me 🙂
Her posts on Harry Potter For Writers leave me speechless every time, without fail. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s able to dive deep into the world of JK Rowling’s creation, Harry Potter, and use the creator’s methods to teach us all how to be better writers. Almost every one of her posts have made it into the notebook of writing tips I’ve picked up from blogs, and I’m sure there’ll be many more to that will captivate, intimidate, render me speechless, and inspire me to be the best writer I can possibly be. And I don’t think I’ve really thanked her enough for that.
Thank you, S.P. Sipal for breaking down the creation and writing of JK Rowling and using it to teach us all how to be better writers!

I confess.  Over the last ten years, I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with The Boy Who Lived.  I’ve written editorials, posted comments on fan boards, hunted out clues with the rest of the Potterheads, presented my workshop at conferences, started my own blog, and even published a Kindle book — all with the goal of unearthing JK Rowling’s secrets.
But what has been a bit on the obsessive compulsive side for me, is a good thing for you!  Other writers can benefit from my fascination with ferreting out Rowling’s tricks.
So, here for your amusement or edification, not sure which, are the top ten tips I’ve learned from studying JK Rowling’s phenomenally selling series:
10) Plot like you’re Hermione about to face her boggart:
Hermione’s biggest fear was for McGonagall to tell her she’d failed all her exams. And so she always over-studied, ensuring that she was prepared and would never have to face this horror.  J.K. Rowling, Hermione’s real-life doppelganger, has stated that she is a heavy plotter, working out the details of each book before she writes, and having plotted out all seven when she was writing the first.
Now, I’m not saying that pansters are wrong.  Lots of good stuff comes out of free-flowing writing and it can be a great way to get ideas flowing or even write a first draft.  But before you even consider hitting send on a manuscript, at some point along the way you had better let your inner Hermione get hold of your work!
Certain types of books call for more plotting beforehand than others.  Works like Rowling’s with their multiple subplots and intricate trail-of-clues mysteries would be very difficult to write by the seat of your pants.  
So, know your story and play to your skills.  But keep Hermione close at hand when you need to be sure it all makes sense.
9) Quirky gamekeepers can be captivating:
Who couldn’t love Hagrid?  I mean, what’s there not to love about a half-giant who hatches dragons in his fireplace and calls a three-headed monster Fluffy? 
Rowling is universally acknowledged for creating some of the most lovable and fun characters.  Fans just can’t get enough of them! Which is why they create their own fanfiction and demand more and more details from the author.
So, how does Rowling do this? Her techniques for character development are too numerous to detail here, but one way is to create each character with exquisite detail and give each character their own quirky flair.
Pomona Sprout always has dirt beneath her fingers.  Sour and sneaky old Filch has an equally sneaky old cat he adores. The twins create candies that make students vomit. Mr. Weasley, who’s a Muggle-lover, collects electrical cords.
A wizard who collects plugs?  Where does she get these ideas? These rich, interesting details are what make her characters come so alive to the fans. Make sure you’ve fully envisioned your characters, right down to your batty old cat-lady squib neighbor!
8) You’ve got to have a Snape:
And speaking of well-loved characters, there is no character in Potterverse more discussed and dissected than Snape.  Not even Harry.  Harry, the reader knows and understands.  Harry, for the most part, was always on the side of right.  But Snape….
Snape was a mystery, an enigma.  And beyond his mystery, he most definitely was a man of ambiguity.  Because the readers could never pin this gray Potions master down for sure, he captivated their attention.
Have you written a character who flits between your dark and light sides, whose backstory will not be fully revealed until the end, who is in every way an ambiguous anti-hero?
Explore all the depths of your various themes with characters who inhabit all facets of your fabulous shades.  And make sure you’ve got a gray Snape among the bunch!
7) The Dark Lord’s in the Detail:
Through the 3 points we have discussed so far, and those that are yet to come, one of the recurring themes is the level of detail with which Rowling creates her world. I liken it to pregnancy when women are told to make sure every bite counts because every morsel that goes into your mouth contributes to the health of your growing baby.
Likewise with writing, every word you create should provide as powerful an impact as possible. Don’t just toss words around.
Create your characters down to their leather boots that are the size of small dolphins (Hagrid).  Build your worlds right down to the stuffed gnomes on the Christmas tree (courtesy of Fred and George). Plan your plots right down to the loyalties of wands (the Elder Wand).
If you do your job right, you’ll have more details than you can realistically work onto the paper.  You’ll need these excess details fully fleshed in your mind to make decisions as you go along in crafting your story.  The details you choose to insert should be carefully chosen to carry the greatest amount of impact with the least amount of words. Because, like Voldemort, lack of interesting detail is truly a killer!
6) Challenge the reader as if casting your first Patronus:
For Harry, learning to cast the Patronus charm, which protected him from the depressing attack of Dementors, was one of the most challenging skills he had to learn.  But he learned it years before most other witches and wizards ever attempted to.  He learned it because he had to, because the dementors had such a terrible effect upon him.
If you’re writing for young readers, and even if you’re not, challenge them to go beyond their years.  Don’t ever talk down to them.  J.K. Rowling didn’t, and the kids loved her for it.
Can you imagine what a critique partner would have said about Order of the Phoenix? — This will never work.  You can’t expect a ten year old to read a 257,000 word book!
And yet…they gobbled it up and wanted more.
Many of these young readers also latched onto the layers of subtext and social commentary Rowling wove into her work.  She put it there because she believed in children.  She has stated this upfront. She knew they’d get what she was doing.  And they did.
Don’t underestimate your audience.
5) Dive deep, like seeking your treasure in the Black Lake:
Subtext helps.  You don’t have to lay everything on the line when writing a novel, even when writing for children.  As mentioned above, Rowling worked in rich layers of social commentary, clues toward her mysteries, and mythical allusions…all only hinted at above ground, but living like merpeople, rich and full beneath the surface of her work.
Death Eaters linked to the Nazis? Rowling did it.  Lupin ostracized like people who suffer from AIDS? Check. Clues as to who was to die next hidden in their names? Yes, she did. Mythical allusions to Horus, the original Boy Who Lived of ancient Egypt? Most definitely.
Yes, readers were all over this stuff. Even the youngest of fans. It’s what kept them coming back, reading after reading. With each new read, fans could discover a detail, a layer they’d missed the first six times through.
Don’t just write above the lines. Write all the way through them. You CAN do it!
4) Be like Dumbledore — Withhold your backstory until the very end:
J.K. Rowling has said that if you were to put all the multiple drafts of the first chapter of Philosopher’s Stone together, you’d have the whole story from the very beginning.  The fact that she got wise and so judiciously cut out all that backstory from the start is a huge reason as to why her novels became the phenomenal success they did.
Donald Maass, the great literary agent, says “Backstory is called backstory because it belongs in the back of the story.”  J.K. Rowling intuitively aced this lesson.
What would Harry Potter fandom be without the search for what actually happened in Godric’s Hollow? Who was Snape truly loyal to? And how would Harry defeat the greatest dark wizard who had ever lived?
All these questions were dragged out until the end of the series because they all involved backstory which had been withheld until the reader was dying to know.
Don’t dump it all on your first page, your first chapter. Weave in enough backstory to keep your reader from getting confused, but then withhold it until they are begging for the knowledge only you can give.
3) Keep your mysteries hidden, like Pettigrew:
This point is similar to the one above, just not limited to backstory.  What happened to your interest after you discovered who shot J.R. Ewing (if you’re old enough) or Mr. Burns (if you’re not!)? And where did your interest go after Nanny Fine married Mr. Sheffield? Once a mystery is solved or questions answered, the viewer, or reader, quickly loses interest. Wanting to know a secret, to solve a mystery, to answer a question is what keeps the reader glued to the page.
Even if your story is not a genre mystery, it still must contain a lure of some sort to keep the reader hanging on.  Plot these threads and the release of information well, so that the reader must…keep…reading…until the very last Elder Wand owner is revealed!
2) Engage the Reader…like J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling so thoroughly engaged her reader that they brag about how many times they’ve read each book. Not only that, her have birthed several smaller spinoff: fanfiction, fanart, wizard wrock, theme parks (if you can call that small), and of course, we can’t forget the movies.
Why all this action outside her text? Because in almost every aspect of storytelling JKR gave the reader MORE than they were expecting.  More fascinating characters, more complex plots, more mysteries that threaded throughout the series, more fascinating worlds to explore, more intriguing subtext. And each one of these categories invited the reader in to explore and interact with the story. By giving them more, and challenging their abilities, she engaged their interest.
Even outside the book, with her website and interviews, which continue now with Pottermore, JKR never broke form.  Her websites are interactive.  Her interviews were riddled with clues and hinted at mysteries to come.  She alluded to the myths that underlay her series.  All components to make the reader activate themselves in her text.
Do whatever you can to make your story interactive and engage your reader’s interest, and this starts by giving them more than they are expecting.
1) Above all…Have fun like you’re Ron (or the Twins)!
It is evident on every page of each story that JK Rowling was enjoying herself immensely crafting Harry Potter.  She played with her reader from The Boy Who Lived (1st chapter of Philosopher’s Stone) until The Flaw in the Plan (final chapter of Deathly Hallows), and they eagerly joined into her game.
I’m sure there were many down times (especially during the lawsuits) for Jo, but the stories stayed exciting and passionate.  Something like that can only come from an author thoroughly immersed in her world and characters.
Why are you writing if you’re not having fun?  Enjoy yourself!  Take the time to refill your own well so that you will have the water of life to give back into your stories.  Chose your worlds and your people from an imagination full of stories only you can tell and desire passionately to do so.
Then do it with every skill and trick you possess!

Published in fiction and nonfiction through articles, short stories, and a novel, SP Sipal is best known as an analyst of the Harry Potter series. She’s spoken at numerous fan and writer conferences at the national, international, and online level and published articles dissecting the alchemical and Egyptian mythological allusions running through the series.

She continues to discuss with other writers how to improve our writing with Harry Potter as our guide at her blog at Harry Potter for Writers and
accompanying Twitter feed @HP4Writers.  She has recently started a
Pottermore Wiki and Forum for dissecting the newest fun from JK Rowling

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Knowing Why You Write”

Welcome to day #4 in The Week of the Writer! Today’s guest post comes from Lisa Gail Green of Paranormal Point of View.

Lisa is a writer after my own heart. She’s a super-talented writer who has a way of making you think about your writing while offering a unique ‘point of view’ on characters, plot, POV, blogging, and the magic of writing. Her blog is another that I look forward to reading every week!

Thank you Lisa for visiting with us today and sharing why it is that you write!

When Melinda asked me to write about craft, advice or tricks of the trade, I will admit my mind went blank. I know, I know, I kind of do that twice a week anyhow, right? But then I thought: What is the single most important thing? What rises to the top of the list or sums up all the other stuff? And I found an answer!

Knowing why you write what you do.

Yes it sounds pretty darn simple, but it’s not. The answer is probably very complex. If you’d have asked me a week ago, I would have told you it was because I had to. Well, that still holds true. But it’s so much more than that – I need to remember WHY I have to do it. Let me show you my answer and then I’d love to hear yours.

    1. I must remember WHOM I am writing for. I write for children because I remember how important stories were to me growing up. It’s easy to lose sight of who our audience really is, especially when we are wrapped up in craft and querying and such. But I write for children, and those children (albeit the older group) deserve the same kind of wonderful fantasies that I needed and loved at their age. The ones that helped shape my self-concept.
    2. I must remember the feeling of being thunderstruck by an idea. You know the one! Where you are all consumed by the fire in your belly and the ideas are coming so fast and furious that you can’t even remember who you are talking to (hopefully no one important). Agents and publishing contracts don’t matter when you have that feeling. So try to recapture it as often as possible. Believe me it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
    3. I must remember that I am an artist and that creative part of me needs a route to self-expression regardless of my emotional state. I know, it’s a bit psychological, but truly, I am not whole without the self-expression that my writing provides. I need to be true to that and allow myself to let go and not worry about the words I put on the page during a rough draft. I can fix it later.
    4. I must remember that it is important to me to do my best and succeed. This is true. I love learning. I do. I want to know as much as possible about my craft and put it into practice. I want to be professional and present myself and my work the correct way. These things are important to me. They are part of who I am and why I write. I have a goal. I want to be published. Okay, I am published, but I’d like to be a published novelist. I intend, despite the ups and downs in this business, to carry through and persevere until I reach my goal.

So there you have it. These four items describe WHY I write and what I have to remind myself of to truly remember the answer. How about you?

Lisa Green’s publications include numerous short stories and poems, the latest of which are the story IDENTITY CRISIS in the anthology GODS OF JUSTICE from Cliffhanger Books and CURSED in the anthology PLAYTHINGS OF THE GODS available from Drollerie Press. You can find Lisa on Twitter or her blog, Paranormal Point of View. She would definitely have a werewolf for a pet if she weren’t allergic.

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “A Writer’s Life: The Art of Saying No”

It’s day #3 here in The Week of the Writer and I am so excited to introduce everyone to the wonderful and amazingly talented Tina Moss!

Just like the rest of the awesome writers we have on the blog this week, I am proud to be able to call Tina my friend. She is incredibly sweet, super-supportive and offers some of the best writing advice out there in the blogosphere. You can find her at her blog, Tina Moss’ Blog – She Won’t Bite but Her Books Might!, and on Twitter.

Thanks Tina for joining us today and giving us writers one of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard in a long time: “Just Say No!” 🙂

When Melinda asked me to write a guest post for her “Week of the Writer,” I never even considered saying “No”. She is, by far, one of the most amazing and giving writers I’ve had the pleasure to know. So, I was thrilled to say “Yes”! Yet, in today’s post, I’d like to tell you about an instrumental secret that all writer’s need in their toolbox. Are you ready? It’s how to say “No”.

Picture this… It’s 7pm. You’ve had a long arduous day at work, but you slump over to the keyboard to get in your daily word count. Slicing out even this small amount of writing time was nearly impossibly with everything else you had to do. The phone rings. You try to ignore it. You pick up the ling grudgingly and stammer a meager “Hello”. On the other end is…(insert pesky nuisance who won’t let you write loved one)…who asks you to… a) come over right away; b) listen to a problem; c) do anything but write.

Sound familiar? We all have responsibilities of work, family, friends, chores, or that pile of laundry that never goes away. On top of outside bombardment, we have a duty to our writing careers. Being a writer is not “just” writing. Marketing, book promotion, networking, the list goes on and on, but all of it is necessary for a writing career, and yet, none of it is actual writing. Oh, and the number one soul sucker of writing (for me)…social media!

So, how do we get past these endless mountains of everything that blocks our writing time? You guessed it. Learning to say “No”. Ask yourself the following questions…

    1. Does the laundry/vacuuming/dusting/mopping/etc need to be completed this second? Can I spare a fifteen-minute writing jaunt?
    2. Is the latest family or friend drama time sensitive? Will the world implode if I tell my family member or friend that I need to call them back later?
    3. Does that newest blog post need to be complete today?
    4. Do I really need to put up another tweet?
    5. Do I have to go out for lunch or use the whole break to eat?
    6. Will it kill me to ask for help?

If the answers are “No”- and by my oh so subtle questions, I suspect they are – then, you DO have time to write. But, it isn’t easy. Saying “No” can hurt loved one’s feelings or cause you to feel guilty or (fill in the blank). The important part to remember AND to convey to your loved ones is that writing is a serious business. It is NOT something you’re playing at. It is NOT a hobby. If you want to be a writer, then you need to write. The sooner you take this to heart and convey this to friends and family, the easier it will be to say “No”. As Nancy Reagan once said, “Just say no.”

Tina Moss is a writer of urban fantasy, paranormal romance, and historical romance. She lives in NYC with a supportive husband and alpha corgi, though both males hog the bed and refuse to share the covers. When not writing, she enjoys reading across genres, watching cheesy horror flicks, traveling, and karate. As a 5’1″ Shotokan black belt, she firmly believes that fierce things come in small packages.

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “Writing Craft: How Do I Love Thee”

Welcome to Day #2 of The Week of the Writer! Everyone please join me in welcoming Jami Gold to the blog! Her blog is one of the few I look forward to reading each week! She offers great writing advice and presents it in a way that is all her own, causing every writer who stops by her blog to stop and think about their own writing from a different angle.

When I thought of how best to introduce her for today’s post, I quickly discovered I couldn’t do it any better than she could, which is one of the reasons why I love her – in a non-creepy way. But I will say this: I love her sense of humor, the way she approaches writing, and the fact that we have so much more in common than our love for the written word. 🙂 

Thank you Jami for stopping by today and sharing in your love of the craft! And for the reminder that the rules of writing are really more like a guideline! 

“Writing craft” can refer to many different things, the act of writing (drafting), the nitpickiness of editing and grammar, the art of creating sentences that flow, etc. For me, I’ll take “all of the above.”

I’ve never fit into a box very well, so this is nothing new. I’m not quite a plotter or a pantser when it comes to drafting. I’ve written stories that started with strong characters and needed a plot, and other stories that had a strong plot and needed characters. I’ve written stories both chronologically and out of order. In a group of black sheep, I’d be the black sheep among the black sheep.

So when Melinda asked me to share my writing process, I wondered: Do I have a writing process?

I think my answer is that I do whatever works. *smile*

And I’m not trying to be flippant. Some people start as plotters on their first book because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to get all the details right before they dig in. But then for their second book, maybe a character whispers in their ear so loudly they can’t ignore it.

Except maybe they do ignore it. Maybe they’re stuck on being a plotter because that’s what worked for them before, so they tell that character, “I’ll start writing when you give me the plot details.” When the character isn’t interested in hashing it out in advance, the story dies.

Or the reverse might be true. Some people start as pantsers because they’re excited about this new world they’re about to create, and they want to dig in right now, today. But then for their second book, maybe they have an idea for a series, and the convoluted plot threads need to be figured out in advance to make the series work.

Except maybe they don’t figure it out. Maybe they’re stuck on being a pantser because that’s what worked for them before, so they refuse to outline anything for the series’ big picture. Then they write themselves into a corner, and the series dies an early death.

My point is that for much of writing, the rules are more like (in the words of some immortal pirates) guidelines. There’s often no “one right way” to do things.

I know, because I’ve written both from a scene-by-scene outline and from the seat of my pants. I like having ideas for all those turning points the structure people talk about ( is a great resource for structure lessons). But I also like not knowing how a scene is going to play out before I write it.

I love that sense of discovery while I’m writing. When my characters surprise me in a scene, that’s a good sign the plot isn’t cliché. But if I were a strict plotter, I wouldn’t let my characters get away with adding a new subplot. And if I were a strict pantser, I wouldn’t be able to see how to tie events together and I’d have to fix it in revisions. The most important thing to me is whether it works.

So at some point, we have to shut out what others say, and even what our own experience says. Just because something worked for us before, doesn’t mean it will work for every situation. If we keep an open mind about every aspect of writing craft, we never know when we’ll find something that works for us.

If we’ve never been good at grammar, we can keep our eyes out for a new resource to make it clear. If we’ve never been good at editing, we can try a different approach. No matter how miserable our past encounters are with an aspect of writing, it doesn’t mean they’ll always be difficult—as long as we’re willing to learn what might work for us.

If you’re a plotter, do your characters still surprise you with their actions? If you’re a pantser, are you able to see a story’s big picture? Are there some aspects of writing you enjoy more than others? Why do you like some aspects less? Does that change from story to story?

After dancing with the Devil in the pale moonlight—and accidentally  tripping him—Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in making her sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas. Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Find Jami at her blog, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Goodreads.

The Week of the Writer Guest Post: “How to Shake the World”


Welcome to The Week of the Writer!

Please join me in welcoming J.C. Fiske, author of The Renegade Series, to the blog. I’m incredibly happy he was able to join us this week.

In the spirit of The Week of the Writer, he’s chosen to give us a bit of writing advice as well as share a little about his writing process – which reminds me of Stephen King’s ‘boys in the basement’. So, thanks J.C. for visiting with us today and sharing a bit about how you shake the world!  


First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Melinda Collins for giving me the honor of writing for this event! Now, let’s get down to writing about writing.
I think, as the rest of my bunch will tell you, we really have no idea what drives us. Possibly, it may be an undiagnosed mental disorder but even if the mystery were solved, we could never explain what gave us the motivation to sit down on our ass one day and write in the first place. To that I’d ask, why bother explaining anyway? Things that are mysterious are usually beautiful or magical. As soon as things are explained, the magic leaves so I say lets look beyond and just accept.
For those of you who think you could be a writer or want to be, I’ll give you this advice: Don’t you ever, and I mean ever, write what’s popular just to make a name for yourself.
Instead, write about what makes you come alive more than anything. Look at what you’re reading right now and it will give you a hint on where to start. It could be a fantasy book, a young adult series, a crime thriller, etc. Chances are that you probably know a good deal about the genre you’re reading about, which is great, because now you’ll be able to know firsthand what’s been done before and what hasn’t. There is a market for everything out there and whether you choose to self-publish like myself or go the route of an agent, do what you would most enjoy! I love the fact of doing everything on my own and can be a bit of a control freak when it comes to my creative works so I can’t see myself doing anything other than self-publish, but you might be different!
As for what I do to write?
There are many ways to go about this. It is best to find what works best for you. Some people like sitting in a dark room and blaring music while they write. I’m one of these people. I just do better work in the basement. One of my literary professors worked the same way and he told me that only those who work underground can shake the earth with their writing. Neat, huh? Also, in the dark I have less distractions and the music, the louder the better, surrounds me and makes me forget about the outside world for the time being. Luckily I don’t write horror. If you do, I probably wouldn’t recommend this. That is just one way I write but there is another. It’s always good to mix it up and sometimes however, this just doesn’t do it for me because my thoughts keep wandering to my Xbox upstairs. When this happens, I pack up and drive to my local Starbucks and Barnes and Nobles. By doing this, in my head I’ve found the resolve to get my lazy ass out of my house and now that I’m here, it’s time to work! Plus I find that coffee is a great motivator, especially while iced so you can drink it fast. Then, look out world!
Anyway, if you have any questions I’d love to hear from you! I myself write in the area of Young Adult Fantasy and I have my debut novel listed on my blog site,, along with other heartfelt blog entries.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this and best of luck to all of you!

J.C. Fiske is an American author born in Manchester, New Hampshire. He is an avid reader, martial artist, and metal fan. He received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from Southern New Hampshire University in 2008. The first book in his Young Adult Fantasy series, Renegade Rising, was published through Tenacity Books in 2011.

Currently, he resides in New Hampshire and will be putting the final touches on the next book in the Renegade series due out early 2012.

You can order a copy of his book, Renegade Rising, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and follow him on his blog,, and on Twitter.

“The Week of the Writer” is Headin’ This Way!!!

Before we head into today’s post, I need to announce the winners of last week’s book giveaway:

Congratulations go to……..

Jami Gold – MARKED by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast *throws confetti*
Amber West – THE HUNGER GAMES by Suzanne Collins *throws more confetti*

Shoot me an email with your mailing address to MelindaCollins82 (at) hotmail (dot) com and I’ll drop your books in the mail on/by Monday! 🙂

Now…..onto today’s post!

Today is an exceptionally awesome day as I am ‘officially’ announcing that next week is “The Week of the Writer” here on Muse, Rant, Rave!!! *throws even more confetti and dreads cleaning it up*

So….just what is “The Week of the Writer” and why is it so special?

Great question!! *smiles*

“The Week of the Writer” is a week where we celebrate…..

  • The Writer!
  • The Craft!
  • The Process!
  • The Hunger to continuously learn about the craft!
  • Our nature as writers to share what we’ve learned!

And much, much, much more!

Week of the Writer Pic

Beginning on Monday, five fantastically talented writers and bloggers will join us here on Muse, Rant, Rave to share their own love of the craft and sharing with us their own writing process, giving their best advice and/or tips to fellow writers, reminding us why we write, and telling us how to just say no.
Here are the fabulous writers who have joined me in celebrating The Week of the Writer:

Monday: JC Fiske
  J.C. Fiske, author of Renegade Rising: “How to Shake the World”



LGG Picture


S.P. Sipal, of Harry Potter for Writers: “Top 10 Tips of Writing I Learned from Studying JK Rowling”


I will also be joining in on the fun with a post on Monday: “Why and How I Write: 80% Pantser, 20% Plotter, 100% Heart”

Be sure to come back every day next week to join the celebration and share your love of the craft!