January 6, 2017

Back to Basics

By Morgen Bailey

Are you new to writing or want a refresh? Here are some tools to keep with you as you write, edit, or re-read your masterpiece before you release it out to the world.

1. Show don’t tell
The golden nugget in a writer’s armoury. Readers love characters, and by ‘showing’ what the characters are doing rather than have the narrator ‘tell’ the reader the plot will make the story come alive. If Andy is angry it will seem two-dimensional to tell us how he feels, but have him slam his fist on the table or shout “Get out!” you are showing his emotions.

2. Distinctive dialogue
Dialogue should play a huge part of the story (at least fifty percent), especially in fast-paced thrillers. Historical sagas, for example, will have more description than dialogue but when the characters speak, they should be realistic, although you should cut down on the ‘um’s, ‘erm’s and ‘well’s. Read it (and the description) aloud. Does it sound how you would speak or is it too fully formed? We pause, we interrupt each other. Get a second opinion; ask a friend to role-play the scene’s conversation.

3. Compelling characters
There are three elements to a story: plot, location, and characters. For many writers and readers the most important is character because you can have the most compelling plot, beautiful setting, but if they don’t warm to, or despise, the characters they won’t care what happens to them then they (the readers) are more likely to stop reading. Don’t give them any excuse. Make them want to turn the page to see what happens next. Will Shannon escape the kidnapper? Will Derek find his true love? (Now they would make an interesting story!)

4. Research and accuracy
When writing for a certain era you must do your research to ensure the terminology is accurate. With anything you write, your reader must feel confident that you know what you are talking about, and if you’ve spent the past week, month or year researching the topic don’t be tempted to throw it all in and overload the story to the point where the reader feels you are showing off. There will always be someone out there who knows more about a topic that you, as the writer, and will be only too willing to write to you to tell you where you’ve gone wrong (or leave a one-star review on Amazon sharing their opinions with would-be readers). Once they’ve found an error they will either stop or not believe anything else you’re telling them and lose interest so return the book to their shelf, the library, or the (recycling) bin!

Above all, have fun. Get bored with your writing, this will translate to the story (and even the characters) and therefore the reader. Writing is escapism for you and the person holding your book (or their Kindle), reading the words you’ve slaved over. Regardless of the genre you write, you should educate and enlighten, but most of all entertain.

Morgen Bailey (Morgen with an E) is an author, freelance editor, tutor, reviewer, blogger, and speaker. Former Chair of three writing groups, and H.E. Bates Short Story Competition 2015 Head Judge, RONE and more recently BBC Radio 2 500-word short story competition judge. Morgen can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and many others. Her blog is, email address, and her latest books are ‘After Jessica’, a mystery novella, and ‘Gun’, a collaborative crime novel in which Morgen wrote one of the ten chapters.
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