On Writing: -ist Characters


So you want to write an –ist character.  Someone who is misogynist or classist or racist or ablest or homophob…ist.  You get the gist.

This is quite easy to do when the character in question is the antagonist, but a lot of people struggle to do this for a protagonist.  As accusations are lobbed at the author, claiming they hold these –ist attitudes or that the book promotes them, the author cries out in vain “but it’s not me, it’s the character!” After seeing this familiar story play out again and again, writers at the start of their book journey may wonder how to avoid that, or if they should write their –ist character at all.

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How to Write Women of Color and Men of Color if you are White.


A colleague of mine was talking to me recently about her misgivings about her capabilities regarding writing Women of Color. She wanted very badly to include several WOC characters in her sci-fantasy series, but she had some concerns about correct portrayal and writing them in a way that wouldn’t instantly piss people off. I told her I would write something about it that might help. So, here we have it: How to write POC without pissing everyone off and doing a horrible job.

In general, it comes down to three things. Research, Persistence and Consideration. Also. for the point of this essay, I am going to use Black women, Native Women and Mixed Race women as they each represent different individual (yet very important) racial struggles that need consideration.

1. Research is by far the most important thing. EVER. For this example, I am going to use black women.

It is important to start by trying your hardest to forget anything you think you know about black women and black female identity. As a white person, anything you would know about them you probably learned from media that is not controlled by or monitored by black women themselves. Meaning that it is likely not a good representation of black women at all. Or maybe you just have a black friend.

Which you should consider in the same way you would a control group for a science experiment.

One or two subjects would not provide conclusive evidence in regards to any hypothesis. Having one or two or even five black friends can’t help you with understanding the complex history of black discourse….

In order to start from scratch, I would first spend some time reading literature written by black women for black women. Learning the way black women have discourse among each other is the first step to understanding their perspective AND emulating their voice. Literature is the genre of media where POC have the most liberty (unlike film) to discuss certain topics or parts of their identity.

Then, I would delve into “complaints”. There are thousands upon thousands of articles where black women complain about their portrayal in media. These complaints are both valid and often eloquently expressed. It is important for you to know, what things black women (WOC) are already so fucking tired of seeing in regards to incorrect or offensive portrayals of themselves. Not only will it help you avoid making the same mistakes as white writers before you (an example of this: Arthur Golden and the hot mess that is Memoirs of a Geisha), But it will also get you upset about certain ways black women (POC women in general) are portrayed, and make you want to write them better. This can improve your writing in that not only will you avoid being offensive, but you now have the chance to be progressive and kick stereotypes out the window! 

Finally, I would take some time to follow some tumblr blogs that are run by the group you’re trying to write. This part of the research can really help because you’ll get a first hand, contemporary dialogue about issues within the specific POC community.  Which leads me to my second topic…

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5 Common Story Problems with Simple Fixes


Our stories are often plagued with these common story problems, but if we don’t know how to fix them, we’ll never improve our writing. It’s important that you remember you don’t need to scrap your novel if you keep having the same issues over and over again. Hopefully this list will help you pinpoint what’s going on and provide ways for you to improve your novel.

Problem: Unmotivated Characters

If you’re having trouble figuring out where your story should go next, the problem could be with unmotivated characters. Characters aren’t in your novel just so you can push them around every once in a while and make them do things. They need to develop over time and keep your story going in the right direction.


Work on your character’s wants, goals, and motivations. You need to figure out what’s driving your character if you want them to do anything. Where do they want to end up? What’s standing in their way? What’s their plan? Who will help them? Think about everything your character will need to do to resolve your novel. Focus on what they want and what motivates their actions and your characters will stop being dull and lifeless.

Problem: Boring First Chapters

A boring first chapter is dangerous because you want to captivate your audience right away. You don’t want to lose readers just because of this, but sometimes it happens.  You should give enough information to keep your readers interested, while also keeping them intrigued enough to figure out what happens next.


Putting emotion into your scenes from the beginning will not only help set the tone, but we’ll get an immediate understanding of your world. The best advice I can give is to construct a scene that helps us best understand your character. If they’re on the run, show us that they’re being chased. If they’re sad and lonely, construct a scene that lets us feel their isolation. You don’t necessarily need to open your book with action, but you do need to introduce the conflict. Think about what your character wants and go from there. Think of your first chapter as an introduction to an essay. You don’t go right into the points immediately, but you set us up for something good.

Problem: Plot Holes

Writers worry about forgetting to include important information in their novel that’s necessary to the plot. If you’re discovering that readers often point out plot holes in your story, maybe it’s time to reevaluate how you plan your novel.


Pre-planning or prewriting your novel often solves any plot hole problems. If you take the time to write out important scenes so you don’t forget them, your story will become stronger. However, if you’re not someone who likes to do so much planning, you can tackle plot holes during the editing phase. Take notes when you’re editing so that you can catch these plot holes and figure out where you can add necessary information. A plot hole does not always mean your novel needs loads of reworking, but it is something you need to take the time to fill in.

Problem: Poor Pacing

Poor pacing can ruin a novel, but luckily it’s something you can tackle head on before you even start writing your story. Good pacing helps add tension to your novel and helps you make sure there’s enough rising and falling action to keep your story interesting.


Planning out your novel ahead of time also helps solve pacing problems. You can create a timeline that helps you keep track and plan out when you want certain things to happen. Read up on story arcs and try to plan out your scenes accordingly. If you’re already done with your novel and you notice poor pacing, try rearranging scenes or spreading out the action.

Problem: Info-Dumping

A very common writing problem is info-dumping. This is when you tell your readers loads of information at a time without showing them anything important. Info-dumps usually occur in first chapters of novels, but they can happen anytime during the course of your story. Info- dumps can drag down your story and bore your readers.


Cut out long paragraphs where you explain what’s going on in your novel and show your readers instead. Avoid over explaining things that can be explained through action. Letting your audience figure things out instead is a much more satisfying reading experience and it lets your readers connect with your characters on a deeper level.

-Kris Noel

The problem that needs to be fixed is not kick all the girls out of YA, it’s teach boys that stories featuring female protagonists or written by female authors also apply to them. Boys fall in love. Boys want to be important. Boys have hopes and fears and dreams and ambitions. What boys also have is a sexist society in which they are belittled for “liking girl stuff.” Male is neutral, female is specific.

I heard someone mention that Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON would be great for boys, but they’d never read it with that cover. Friends, then the problem is NOT with the book. It’s with the society that’s raising that boy. It’s with the community who inculcated that boy with the idea that he can’t read a book with an attractive guy on the cover.

Here’s how we solve the OMG SO MANY GIRLS IN YA problem: quit treating women like secondary appendages. Quit treating women’s art like it’s a niche, novelty creation only for girls. Quit teaching boys to fear the feminine, quit insisting that it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.

Because if I can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and want to grow up to be an archaeologist, there’s no reason at all that a boy shouldn’t be able to read THE DEMON’S LEXICON with its cover on. My friends, sexism doesn’t just hurt women, and our young men’s abysmal rate of attraction to literacy is the proof of it.

If you want to fix the male literary crisis, here’s your solution:

Become a feminist.

The Problem is Not the Books, Saundra Mitchell (via silverstags)

Why my ass twitches when I see these damn “here’s some YA for/featuring boys!” articles floating around. 

(via lindsayetumbls)


5 Books on Writing That Every Writer Should Read

To be a better writer, there are really only things that you need to do: Read, and write. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t read about being a writer, and that having a well-rounded understanding of how writing “works” isn’t beneficial.

These 5 books were all assigned to me as a creative writing undergrad, and all have pieces of wisdom in them that have etched themselves so thoroughly into my brain that I feel like they’re all floating over my head while I’m writing.

I specifically chose these because they aren’t all just saying “here’s how I write, you should do it too”the topics of these books are very diverse!

1. Reading Like A Writer by Francine Prose: Like I said, the best thing you can do to be a better writer is read. But what does that mean? What should you read? Francine Prose (yes, that is her real last name, if you can even believe it!) helps you answer those questions, and shows how looking for certain things while you read and reread can strengthen your own writing. Check it!

2. On Writing by Stephen King: This is the one book on my list that is saying “here’s how I write, you should too”. But Stephen King is basically the most prolific writer ever, so I was happy to listen to his advice. Two points of his really stuck with me: 1. Adverbs are lazy and 2. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a story is put it down for a long timelike, 6 months or a yearand come back to it with eyes so fresh that it’s like you’re editing someone else’s story. I’d be interested to know what points of his sticks with you guys!

3. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott: I posted about this the other day, but this book is like my writing Bible. In fact, a friend of mine who doesn’t even write got to reading it, and he loved it, too. Basically if you’re a human with a goal, this book will help you. And Anne Lamott writes kinda like this wise, kind mother who isn’t afraid to also tell you what’s up. Whereas a lot of other books on writing are about the actual storytelling, I like this book because it’s more about the writer’s “lifestyle”. Go get it now so that we can gush together!

4. The Philosophy of Composition by Edgar Allan Poe: This is actually just an essay, but considering that Poe is often credited with being the inventor of the modern short story, I had to include it on this list. It’s in this essay that Poe famously defined a short story as one that can be told in one sitting. Whereas King’s On Writing is really “zoomed in” on topics like word choice, this essay is a high level, theoretical piece on what a story actually is. You can get it for 99 cents on Kindle, or, even better, read it as part of a collection of all of his stories… ugh, they’re SO good!!!

5. Elements of Style by Strunk & White: I cannot tell you how often I’ve received this little book as a giftfor high school graduation, for college graduation, and for many Christmases and birthdays. But it’s all good because it is kinda essential for a writer to have. Elements of Style is all aboutgasp!grammar. (I should probably give it a read-through again so that I can re-center and remember my grammatical skillz, actually!) Also, there are some cute versions out now that make it seem less snore-fest-yI really want this illustrated copy!

If you read any of these books and post quotes from them on your Tumblr, tag them #yeahwritebooks and I’ll reblog you!

Strengthening Your Character Through Personal Relationships


In most of your stories, your characters will have personal relationships that you’ll need to develop. A great way to strengthen your characters is through their personal relationships, so it’s extremely important that you spend time planning them out. Whether it’s with family, friends or significant others, make sure you put in the work to develop them properly.

Here are some tips on strengthening your characters through personal relationships:

Writing Friends:

Your character’s friendships are important because they will help your protagonist grow and develop and aid them on their journey. If your character has close friends, you’ll need to help your readers understand why they’re friends and what it means to the story. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Think about when your characters became friends. Backstory is important when it comes to writing a long-time friendship, so consider clever ways to share this information with your readers. Don’t just say they’ve been friends forever—let your readers in on the story.
  • Build a believable friendship. Give your readers something to relate to. People become friends for all sorts of reason, but let us know why they’ve stayed friends. Show us how your characters have grown with the help of each other.
  • Understand that friendships change. People change and that can change how friends interact and relate with each other. It’s very possible that your main character will go through some sort of experience that changes the way they relate with their friends. This could sometimes destroy a relationship or strengthen it in some way. Think about how you want  your friendships to build your story.

Writing Family:

Families can be either a source of tension or a source of comfort for your characters—or even both. Deciding what type of relationship you want your character to have with their family is the first step. Here are a few things to focus:

  • Figure out what people make up your character’s family. Does your character have two parents? Any siblings? Do any extended family members live in your character’s home?
  • Think about whether your character’s family offers safety. Does your character feel safe at home? Does the source of conflict in your story come from home? Is the family unit cohesive or are their serious problems? Does your character trust their family?
  • Figure out what your character’s home life is like. Can your characters be themselves around their family?  If your character is at home a lot, do they act like they usually do? Do they have to hide who they are outside their home? Do they keep secrets from their family?

Writing Significant Others/Romantic Relationships:

Figuring out whether or not you want to include a romantic relationship or not really depends on the story you’re telling. If you think it will detract from your main character’s journey, you might decide not to. However, if done right, it won’t weaken your story if you decide to include one. Here are a few tips on doing it right.

  • Focusing on finding a balance. If your novel isn’t romance or erotica, romance shouldn’t be the main focus of your novel. Make sure there’s not too much romance, which means the romance shouldn’t overshadow the main plot.
  • Don’t let romance detract from character development. Your character should still grow and develop in some way and this shouldn’t be done entirely through meeting a love interest. Your character needs to grow on their own, not because they’ve been “saved” by someone mysterious and intriguing.
  • The romance should add something significant to your story. The romance should reveal something about your characters and hopefully make us relate to them a little bit more. If your love story feels unnatural, your readers will know it’s unnecessary and feel disconnected from your story. Only add a romance subplot if it adds something to the overall plot.

-Kris Noel



How many times have you heard yourself, or a writer, complain about writer’s block? I, personally, whine about it a lot. And besides whining, here’s what else I do to start writing. Be warned, some of these may involving writing!

Set a deadline. This is my personal… well, I won’t say favourite, but it works very well for me. I work spectacularly under pressure, and actually get a lot done when things need to be shown to someone. Unfortunately, I refuse to show my novel in progress to anyone, and deadlines I set for myself don’t work, because I change them to suit my laziness. However, it is a good way to both get writing and get feedback! Find a fellow writer friend, give yourselves an hour to write something and then swap!

Make a Pinterest Board for your writing project. Hey, I did say some would involve writing. I’ve done this for my novel, and I find it a good way to reward myself after a large chunk of writing. I use it to collect visual inspiration for costumes and find people to base characters’ physical characteristics off of. Be forewarned though: this can get distracting, and work as much to fuel procrastination as it can to inspire writing.

Use word prompts. Word prompts are a great way to get inspired to write something. It gives you a starting point to use as a springboard, and it’s a great way to experiment with writing. Pick something and run wild with it, you’ll be surprised where you end up!  My favourite prompt sources are: NaNoWordSprints and WriteWorld’s visual, sentence and sound prompts.

Freewriting. This is, again, one of my favourites. Basically, you set yourself a time limit – 5 to 15 minutes is optimal, but 20 is a recommended maximum – and then just write without regard to form, structure, grammar, spelling and anything else that might cause you to pause. It’s an absolutely amazing way to get ideas down. Don’t worry if you’re at a loss in the beginning – write that down! Start with gibberish if that’s what’s in your head. Eventually, your thoughts will come faster than you can write, and you’ll write fluidly. It’s a great way to start writing something. It can always be refined through editing later.

Doodle. Pick up a pen, pencil, marker, quill, knife dipped in your enemy’s blood – your writing instrument of choice, and just let it move of its own accord. You may end up drawing something all artsy and abstract, or you might just have had the perfect idea for the next great fantasy novel. You never know!

Character worksheets. I don’t turn to these unless I have absolutely no clue in hell about what to do with my characters. I prefer the traditional way of discovering my characters as I write the story, but sometimes it really helps when you write about your main character’s favourite ice cream flavour and it gives you the perfect ending for your novel. This is a great bunch right here. And this is one of my favourites. Mind you, you don’t have to fill everything. You can pick something you find intriguing and run with it, or just use it any way you see fit, really. I should warn you though, there’s a good chance you won’t use a lot of the information in character sheets, but it’s a great way to making a well-rounded character, and get inspired to bring something new to your project!

Write. Yes. I know. You’ve probably heard this a thousand and one times, but it really is the most tried and tested method of getting rid of writer’s block. Just put one word after another, just keep writing and you’ll eventually get there. Write songs, write poems, write legends that happened millions of years ago, write gibberish, write a description of the son of the nephew of that minor character. Just. Keep. Writing.

And that’s all folks!

This is what I do. Either that, or, you know, tell people how to fix writer’s block while avoiding my own novel. Ahem.

Good luck, and I really hope this might be of some use to you.

Happy writing!


Celebrating Gay and Lesbian Writers: National LGBT Pride Month

June is LGBT Pride Month, and so we’re here to celebrate LGBT writers and literary magazines.

posted 4 months ago with 131 notes
via:writersrelief source:writersrelief
#LGBT #Queer #Pride Month

Guide: Choosing a Setting for Your Story


Writing Research - The Middle Ages


Middle Ages (or Medieval period), lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: Antiquity, Medieval period, and Modern period. The Medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, the High, and the Late Middle Ages. [1] [2]


Society & Life


Entertainment & Food

Hygiene, Health & Medicine



Justice & Crime


We thought about what to put here, but these ten Native American protagonists speak for themselves. For more fun lists and all things YA lit, visit our website, follow us here and on Twitter, and subscribe to our weekly newsletter!

Likable Villains


We’ve gotten quite a few Asks regarding making a villain or antagonist a likable, sympathetic, or relatable character. So we’re making you a master post. Enjoy.

Sympathetic Characters:

What makes readers feel sympathetic towards a character? 
The best, most genuine way to write a character that people will sympathize with is to take the time and create a round, realistic character with motivations and feelings that are understandable to the audience. Because humans are naturally inclined to feel empathy for each other, they will sympathize with almost anyone who they can see themselves in. If at any point the reader is thinking something like ‘I could see myself feeling or acting this way’, you’ve got them. There is a difference between disagreeing with a characters’ actions and judging them- you want your audience to only disagree (if at all).  


We’ve used ‘villain’ in the title, but it’s probably better to use the term ‘antagonist.’ 

1. a person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent; adversary.
2. the adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama orother literary work: Iago is the antagonist of Othello. 

Actually, an antagonist doesn’t have to be a person, depending on what kind of conflict you are writing. You can have a story without an antagonist, or a story that lacks an overarching antagonist as well. However, for the purposes of this post, when we say ‘antagonist’, we mean any person who engages in a major conflict with the protagonist of the story. 

(Put it together for) Sympathetic Antagonists:

What makes readers feel sympathetic towards the antagonist of a story?

Real people are often hard to pin down as ‘evil’ or ‘good’, rather, they do good or evil things. Though your antagonist might do things that the audience does not agree with, if the reader can understand your character’s motivations, they will have a harder time condemning them altogether. When I say ‘sympathetic’, I don’t mean that the reader has to agree with that character’s actions, or even like them- rather, the sense that the character is not so different from the reader is what makes an antagonist ‘sympathetic’. As C put it, “The reader can SEE that the villain has good qualities, but their actions work against the hero.” 

A few methods:
Backstory: The scary thing about nature vs. nurture thinking is that we still don’t know how much of our actions are influenced by genes, and how much by our environment. Therefore, most people, when presented with an account of how someone was shaped into who they are today by circumstances beyond their control, most readers will think, ‘that could have been me’. 
Logic: While characters that are mentally unhealthy are popular for a villain role these days, I love a villain who has an excellent reason for what s/he’s doing. Take the antagonists behind the scenes in Ender’s Game, Graff and Anderson. They emotionally destroyed many children (including the protagonist), allowed one to die on their watch, and committed xenocide by proxy. But it was their plan to save the world. 
Motivation: People can do things when they are angry, or insecure, or fearful, that they wouldn’t under other conditions. For example, fear makes people irrational. Nearly everyone has experienced this. If you have ever frantically crushed a spider under a book (poor book), then you can sympathize, even just a bit, with someone hurting other people because they are afraid. 

This has been FYCD

C is a bamf.

Further Reading:

'Writing The Bad Guy'

'The Sympathetic Villain'

How To Create An Interesting Bad Guy

'50 greatest villains in literature'

'9 Most Sympathetic Villains'

'Sympathetic Super Villains'

'Wikipedia Sympathetic Villain'

'Writing Sympathetic Villains'

'Creating Sympathetic Villains'

'Character Morality'

A few TV Tropes examples for inspiration: 

Well-Intentioned Extremist

Visionary Villain

Hero Antagonist

Villain Protagonist

Ineffectual Sympathetic

Anti Villian

You guys know about vampires? … You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves. And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?” And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.
— Junot Díaz (x (via feministjewishfangirl)

Shut up and write.

posted 4 months ago with 450 notes
via:writeworld source:writeworld
Anonymous inquired:

Do you know any master list's for writing prompts?