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anna, 1990, australia, student, aspiring writer, occasional dreamer, eternal cynic, multiple fandom blog, ask me anything

Awesome Sites and Links for Writers


Just about every writer out there has several go-to websites that they use when it comes to their writing. Be it for creativity, writer’s block, to put you in the mood or general writing help. These are mine and I listed them in hopes that you’ll find something that you’ll like or will find something useful for you. I’ve also included some websites that sound interesting.

Spelling & Grammar

  • Grammar Girl — Grammar Girl’s famous Quick and Dirty Tips (delivered via blog or podcast) will help you keep your creative writing error free.
  • The Owl — is Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) it’s a great resource for grammar guides, style tips and other information that can help with your writing, especially academics.
  • Tip of My Tongue — have you ever had trouble of thinking of a specific word that you can’t remember what it is? Well, this site will help you narrow down your thoughts and find that word you’ve been looking for. It can be extremely frustrating when you have to stop writing because you get a stuck on a word, so this should help cut that down. 
  • Free Rice – is a great way to test your vocabulary knowledge. What’s even better about this site is that with every correct answer, they donate 10 grains of rice to the United Nations World Food Program. So, please disable your adblock since they use the ads on the site to generate the money to buy the rice.
  • HyperGrammar — the University of Ottawa offers up a one-stop guide for proper spelling, structure, and punctuation on this site.
  • AutoCrit — the AutoCrit Editing Wizard can check writing for grammar errors, clichés and other no-no’s. It also provides a number of other writing resources as well.
  • Writer’s Digest — learn how to improve your writing, find an agent, and even get published with the help of the varied blogs on this site.
  • Syntaxis — it allows you to test your knowledge of grammar with a ten-question quiz. The questions change every time you take the quiz so users are sure to be challenged each time around. It definitely helps writers know if there’s something that they need to brush up on.
  • Word Frequency Counterthis counter allows you to count the frequency usage of each word in your text.


  • Copyscape — is a free service that you can use to learn if anyone has plagiarized your work. It’s pretty useful for those that want to check for fanfiction plagiarism.
  • Write or Die —  is an application for Windows, Mac and Linux which aims to eliminate writer’s block by providing consequences for procrastination.
  • Written? Kitten! — is just like Write of Die, but it’s a kinder version. They use positive reinforcement, so everytime you reach a goal they reward you with an adorable picture of a kitten.

Information & Data

  • RefDesk — it has an enormous collection of reference materials, searchable databases and other great resources that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s great to use when you need to find something and check your facts.
  • Bib Me — it makes it easy to create citations, build bibliographies and acknowledge other people’s work. This is definitely something that academics will love. It’s basically a bibliography generator that automatically fills in a works cited page in MLA, APA, Chicago or Turbian formats.
  • Internet Public Library — this online library is full of resources that are free for anyone to use, from newspaper and magazine articles to special collections.
  • The Library of Congress — if you’re looking for primary documents and information, the Library of Congress is a great place to start. It has millions of items in its archives, many of which are accessible right from the website.
  • Social Security Administration: Popular Baby Names — is the most accurate list of popular names from 1879 to the present. If your character is from America and you need a name for them, this gives you a accurate list of names, just pick the state or decade that your character is from.
  • WebMD — is a handy medical database loaded with information. It’s not a substitute for a doctor, but can give you a lot of good information on diseases, symptoms, treatments, etc.
  • Google Scholaris an online, freely accessible search engine that lets users look for both physical and digital copies of articles. It searches a wide variety of sources, including academic publishers, universities, and preprint depositories and so on. While Google Scholar does search for print and online scholarly information, it is important to understand that the resource is not a database.
  • The Old Farmer’s Almanac — this classic almanac offers yearly information on astronomical events, weather conditions and forecasts, recipes, and gardening tips.
  • State Health FactsKaiser Family Foundation provides this database, full of health facts on a state-by-state basis that address everything from medicare to women’s health.
  • U.S. Census BureauLearn more about the trends and demographics of America with information drawn from the Census Bureau’s online site.
  • Wikipedia — this shouldn’t be used as your sole source, but it can be a great way to get basic information and find out where to look for additional references.
  • Finding Data on the Internet — a great site that list links that can tell you where you can find the inflation rate, crime statistics, and other data.

Word References

  • RhymeZone — whether you’re writing poetry, songs, or something else entirely, you can get help rhyming words with this site.
  • Acronym Finder — with more than 565,000 human-edited entries, Acronym Finder is the world’s largest and most comprehensive dictionary of acronyms, abbreviations, and initials.
  • — is a unique online encyclopedia that contains everything about symbols, signs, flags and glyphs arranged by categories such as culture, country, religion, and more. 
  • OneLook Reverse Dictionary — is a dictionary that lets you describe a concept and get back a list of words and phrases related to that concept. Your description can be a few words, a sentence, a question, or even just a single word. 
  • The Alternative Dictionaries — is a site that you can look up slang words in all types of languages, including Egyptian Arabic, Cherokee, Cantonese, Norwegian and many, many others.
  • Online Etymology Dictionary — it gives you the history and derivation of any word. Etymologies are not definitions; they’re explanations of what our words meant and how they sounded 600 or 2,000 years ago.
  • MediLexicon — is a comprehensive dictionary of medical, pharmaceutical, biomedical, and health care abbreviations and acronyms.
  • Merriam Webster Online – the online version of the classic dictionary also provides a thesaurus and a medical dictionary.
  • Multilingual Dictionary – that translate whatever you need from 30 different languages with this easy-to-use site.

Writing Software

  • Open Office — why pay for Microsoft products when you can create free documents with Open Office? This open source software provides similar tools to the Microsoft Office Suite, including spreadsheets, a word processor, the ability to create multimedia presentations, and more.
  • LibreOfficeis a free and open source office suite. It was forked from in 2010, which was an open-sourced version of the earlier StarOffice. The LibreOffice suite comprises programs to do word processing, spreadsheets, slideshows, diagrams and drawings, maintain databases, and compose math formula.
  • Scrivener — is not a free program, but it’s certainly a very popular one. It’s great for organizing research, planning drafts, and writing novels, articles, short stories, and even screenplays.
  • OmmWriteris a free simple text processor that gives you a distraction free environment. So you can focus only on your writing without being tempted or distracted by other programs on your computer.
  • Evernoteis a free app for your smartphone and computer that stores everything you could possibly imagine losing track of, like a boarding pass, receipt, article you want to read, to do list, or even a simple typed note. The app works brilliantly, keeping everything in sync between your computer, smartphone, or tablet. It’s definitely a useful app for writers when you have ideas on the go.
  • Storybook — this open source software can make it easier to manage your plotlines, characters, data, and other critical information while penning a novel.
  • Script Frenzy — scriptwriters will appreciate this software. It offers an easy layout that helps outline plots as well as providing storyboard features, index cards, and even sound and photo integration.

Creativity, Fun & Miscellaneous

  • National Novel Writing Month — is one of the most well-known writing challenges in the writing community, National Novel Writing Month pushes you to write 50,000 words in 30 days (for the whole month of November).
  • WritingFix — a fun site that creates writing prompts on the spot. The site currently has several options—prompts for right-brained people, for left-brained people, for kids—and is working to add prompts on classic literature, music and more.
  • Creative Writing Prompts — the site is exactly what it says. They have 100+ and more, of prompts that you can choose from.
  • My Fonts — is the world’s largest collection of fonts. You can even upload an image containing a font that you like, and this tells you what it is.
  • Story Starters — this website offers over one trillion randomly generated story starters for creative writers.
  • The Gutenberg Project — this site is perfect for those who like to read and/or have an ereader. There’s over 33,000 ebooks you can download for free. 
  • The Imagination Prompt Generator  Click through the prompts to generate different ideas in response to questions like “Is there a God?” and “If your tears could speak to you, what would they say?”
  • The Phrase Finder – this handy site helps you hunt down famous phrases, along with their origins. It also offers a phrase thesaurus that can help you create headlines, lyrics, and much more.
  • Storybird – this site allows you to write a picture book. They provided the gorgeous artwork and you create the story for it, or just read the stories that others have created.
  • Language Is a Virus — the automatic prompt generator on this site can provide writers with an endless number of creative writing prompts. Other resources include writing exercises and information on dozens of different authors.

Background Noise/Music

  • SimplyNoise — a free white noise sounds that you can use to drown out everything around you and help you focus on your writing.
  • Rainy Mood — from the same founders of Simply Noise, this website offers the pleasant sound of rain and thunderstorms. There’s a slide volume control, which you can increase the intensity of the noise (gentle shower to heavy storm), thunder mode (often, few, rare), oscillation button, and a sleep timer. 
  • Coffitivity — a site that provides three background noises: Morning Murmur (a gentle hum), Lunchtime Lounge (bustling chatter), and University Undertones (campus cafe). A pause button is provided whenever you need a bladder break, and a sliding volume control to give you the freedom to find the perfect level for your needs and moods. It’s also available as an android app, iOS app, and for Mac desktop.
  • Rainy Cafeit provides background chatter in coffee shops (similar to Coffitivity) AND the sound of rain (similar to Simply Rain). There’s also individual volume and on/off control for each sound category.
  • 8tracksis an internet radio website and everyone can listen for free. Unlike other music oriented social network such as Pandora or Spotify, 8tracks does’t have commercial interruption. Users create free accounts and can either browse the site and listen to other user-created mixes, and/or they can create their own mixes. It’s a perfect place to listen to other writer’s playlist, share yours or find music for specific characters or moods.
Posted 2 days ago on Sep 19th with 2,806 notes
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Stop Calling Me Pastries 1/3

27 skin tones, five descriptions each, no cannibalism required.

 #F5E4DC: Bubble Bath, French Manicure, Martian Clouds, Plaster Pink, Snowbush Rose

#E8D6CA: Antique Pearl, Beige Llama, Rose Marble, Shoreland, Sugar Glider

#EDBFA5: Coral Flower, Fresh Sawdust, Starfish, Sun-Warmed Tile, Westwind Dust

#DBC0B9: Ashes of Roses, Canyon Dusk, Muddy Rose, New Wool, Venice Skyline

#DEAB98: Prairie Dust, Rosestone, Sandpaper, Sunbaked Clay, Warm Sands

#CB9684: Antique Rose, Harness Leather, Rocky Cliff, Rustic Pottery, Space Dust

#C78E70: Cedar Chest, Flame Flicker, Hitching Post, Light Tiger Eye, Potters Clay

#BA7A5F: Copper Coast, Cork Tile, Timeworn Terracotta, Tudor Clay, Weathered Saddle

#785249: Antique Mahogany, Coach Lamp Copper, Cypress Brown, Dark Ruby, Sable Bronze

credits: photos from humanae, hex codes from imagecolorpicker, paint color names from encycolorpedia

Point of View - The Complexities


On Tuesday, we looked at the basics of point of view; but there’s far more to it than simply choosing between 1st, 2nd and 3rd POVs.

The POV choice you make for your story will be based on a number of different factors, and will result in a number of different effects. It’s an important decision to make.

Let’s go back to 1st, 2nd and 3rd viewpoints.

1st Person:

  • Seeing a resurgence in popularity.
  • The usual choice for writing a story in the form of letters or diary entries (epistolary narrative voice).
  • Commonly used in the gothic horror and noir genres.
  • If used as 1st person limited, the reader only sees what the narrating character sees, hears, feels, thinks. They only go where the narrator goes, only sees through their eyes, which can be very limiting.
  • You can use 1st person omnisciently, so that the narrating character can see into the minds of all the characters. This is often used if the narrator is dead, or some kind of deity or supernatural being. You’d have to have a good reason for them to have so much insight.

2nd Person:

  • This is the least popular and most unusual choice for literature, which may alienate some readers.
  • It does bring them into the story, giving them a sense of intimacy to the characters and plot.
  • It can be a hard-sell, however. If you chose to use 2nd person narrative, you would have to have a very specific reason for doing it, and be sure that you can pull it off.

3rd Person:

  • The most common choice and what readers are most used to reading, so there is little or no learning curve.
  • 3rd Person Objective: there is no insight into the heads of any characters, allowing the narrator, and the reader, to view the story neutrally and objectively. More common in journalism, it disconnects the reader from the characters, and would be an unusual choice for fiction.
  • 3rd Person Limited/Subjective: the story is seen through the eyes of one or just a small number of characters. You do not know every character’s thoughts, only those chosen. Allows a wider viewpoint of the story than 1st person, but without opening it up to every single character.
  • 3rd Person Omniscient: the narrator can see into the head of every character. While previously the most popular POV, it is losing favour to a preference for 3rd Person Limited. It can become a little overwhelming for readers who, thrown quickly from head to head, find it difficult to get to know any one character enough to really empathise with them.

Unreliable Narrator:

  • For one reason or another, the narrating character is deemed untrustworthy. They may simply be naive or inexperienced, or they may be bias, or purposefully skewing the facts for their own gain.
  • Usually found in 1st person narrative.
  • They may omit information, either by accident or on purpose, or see things differently to the way anyone else would.
  • Examples of unreliable narrators could include children, characters with mental health issues, characters that are drunk or have drug addictions. It could include characters with amnesia or sensory impairments. It may simply be a character who is very modest and downplays their own part in the story.
  • Their unreliable nature may be evident from the start, or may only come to light further into the book.
  • While it can be used to great effect, it can run the risk of leaving readers feeling angry or frustrated.

Furthermore, you have the choice of past, present or future tense, which all lend themselves to different POVs in different ways.

And even so, this is still a bit of a whistle-stop tour to POV, and there are a lot more things to consider. If you are deciding to use a less common POV, go and read other books using the same one, see how it has been done well, and see how it has been done badly too.

Posted 3 days ago on Sep 17th with 2,326 notes
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Writing Advice Master Post



Hi!  I am Courtney Summers.  I write YA novels.  Since a lot of the questions I get asked on my Tumblr are about writing, I decided to make a master list of the advice posts I’ve made for convenience.  Yay, convenience!  I will update it for as long as I continue to get these types of questions.

Note:  the writing process is such a personal thing.  What works for one writer might not work for another, what works for one writer for one book might not work for them for the next… all of my writing advice is of the ‘your mileage may vary’ variety.  If what I am saying sounds impossible to you, that’s okay!  Listen to your gut!   You will figure out what you need to do. 

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to reach out.  I hope I’ve offered something that’s helped you.

Make Words (Writing Tips)
On Writing for Girls
Doors Won’t Always Open for You
Thoughts on Reader Response to Character Trauma
Thoughts on Reviews
Characters Don’t Have to Be Likable

Don’t know where to begin
Lots of ideas, where to start?
Pinning down your first chapter
Unable to pick and stay on one idea

Worried your idea isn’t original or belongs to someone else
Outlining advice

You know your characters but don’t know what to do with them
Tips on making cardboard characters come to life
Writing unlikable female characters
Tips on writing unlikable characters
How much is too much with unlikable characters
On happy endings
Is it okay to have an unhappy ending?

Writing about things you haven’t experienced
When you start strong and the writing just dies
Staying focused
Dealing with writer’s block
Writing too much of one thing
Getting too attached to your characters, to the detriment of your work
How much action is too much action? (Balancing scenes.)

What font do you use when writing?
How I format my novels
How grammatically correct do novels have to be?
Punctuating Dialogue

How to get as excited about revision as you are about drafting
Can’t stop editing/unable to tell if your novel is ready
Revising an old story
Revision tips
Falling out of love with your work before you’re done
Brief strategy suggestions for major revisions
Should you share your work on Wattpad (or similar sites)?
Can’t stop making big, unexpected changes close to deadline

When you don’t enjoy writing anymore
Everyone says you’re not good enough
Suffering from self doubt/finding self belief

Having and coping with envy
Reading good books makes you feel inadequate as a writer
You’re close to done and convinced you suck

Worried about the people you love reading your work
Tips on managing insecurity
How to deal with negative reviews
Struggling to find inspiration after finishing a project
Just started, already overwhelmed
Dealing with a crippling fear of missing deadlines
When you love the story, but you’re bored of writing it
When you take a break before revising, return and dislike the work
Do you have to suffer emotionally to be an artist?
Can you be too young to take writing seriously?
"Good enough"

Should aspiring writers be nervous if they write in multiple genres
Exploring the next steps
Do you find an editor or an agent first?
Do you submit your first draft to agents? 
Tips on narrowing down your agent search
Tips on querying + deconstructing my query for CRACKED UP TO BE
Advice on querying and what age does/doesn’t have to do with it
More advice on querying and getting published
How to deal with rejections that feel personal
How much do authors make per book?
Choosing a pseudonym
Can you be an author if you have trouble meeting deadlines?
When querying, does it matter if you have won writing contests?
Does age matter?

Tips on writing short stories

Updated August 7th, 2014.

Thank you to readers/writers who have helped me with build this resource with their great questions and everyone who has shared it. I hope it continues to be helpful to writers at all stages of their journeys.

Posted 4 days ago on Sep 16th with 3,024 notes
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S E T T I N G (Image source)

The setting consists of these elements, which you ought to describe through the course of the story. It is up to you, however, to decide how necessary it is to do so and why.

  • Which element is more important right now? Why? The most common answer is because it plays an impact on the story, so you should give it a higher priority in that particular moment. Overall we should get a feeling however brief of each or most of them.
  • Why are settings important at all? Because the story is happening somewhere. Even if it’s happening in a void or in the middle of a nothingness, you could describe it. It helps making your story more memorable and your writing more vivid. 
  • How much should you describe? Again, there isn’t a rule. It is up to you. You’d not spend a page describing a room that plays no interesting or important part in the story, would you? If you do it, you’ll make the readers believe it is more important than it actually is, or bore them out. During the first draft you can spend as much as you want pointing out details of the environment and the space but know that during revision, they could and will get cut out if they’re not relevant whatsoever.
  • The relationship between world-building and the settings: they’re directly related. If you’re creating a new world you’ll have to work through a lot of describing, and that has to do with—you guessed it—the environment. The space, time and temperature. All of these have to do with the world you’re creating if they’re different from what we normally see or if they’re not.
  • Let’s say it, describing things is oftentimes quite fun and a great way to practice vocabulary and your use of metaphors and similes to show and not tell in a powerful way. 

The following links provide great advice on both settings and world building and I recommend checking them out.


Posted 4 days ago on Sep 16th with 4,949 notes
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Useful Writing Websites


I compiled most of the writing websites I’ve mentioned on my blog into one post. I find a lot of these sites useful, so hopefully they can help you out!

Imagination Prompt Generator: This give you a one-sentence writing prompt that will help you come up with ideas. I think it also allows you to set a ten minute timer for each prompt.

Wridea: I really like this site because you can write down simple ideas that you can organize later and put into a bigger project. You can share these ideas or the site will help you randomly match ideas. It’s great for brainstorming and building a fully formed outline.

List of Unusual Words — Here’s a site you can browse through that gives you a list of unusual words for every letting in the alphabet. If you’re looking to switch up your vocab, or looking to develop a way a character speaks, this is a good reference.

Picometer — Here’s a writing progress meter that can be embedded on your site or blog. There’s also the Writertopia meter that shows word count/current mood. 

Cut Up Machine: This website takes whatever words you typed or pasted into the box and rearranges your sentences. It’s not practical for writing a novel, but it might help with poetry OR coming up with ideas. Experiment with it and see what you can come up with.

Orion’s Arm: This is a great website to use if you want to research worldbuilding or if you have science questions. There are tons of resources you can use.

Word Frequency Counter: If you’re finding that you’re using the same words over and over again, this website should help. You’ll be able to count the frequency usage of each word in your text. This should help you switch up the words you’re using and understand where the problem might be.

Phrase Frequency Counter: This is same site explained above, but it counts the phrases you’re using.

My Writing Nook: This allows you to write or jot down ideas wherever you are. You don’t need to have your laptop in order to access it, so it might help you during this time. You can write as long as you have your phone.

Writer: The Internet Typewriter - This site lets you write, save, share, and/or convert your writing online. I tried it out and it’s pretty cool. It saves for you and is a great way to brainstorm or plan out some ideas.

The Forge - The Forge is a fantasy, creature, spell, and location name generator. It’s awesome.

One Word: This site gives you one word to write about for 60 seconds. This should help you get started with your own writing and will work as a writing prompt to get you warmed up. It’s a great way to get yourself motivated.

Confusing Words:  On this site you can search through confusing words that often stump many writers. It’s not a huge reference, but it should help you with some writing/grammar issues.

Cliché Finder: This site allows you to enter parts of your writing and it will search for clichés. If you find that you’re using the same phrases over and over again, this will help a lot. I haven’t messed around with it too much, but it looks useful.

Hand Written Fonts: If you’re looking for great hand written fonts, this is a great reference. All of them are pretty awesome.

Tip of My Tongue — you know when you’re trying to think of a specific word, but you just can’t remember what it is? This site will help you narrow down your thoughts and find that word you’ve been looking for. It can be extremely frustrating when you have to stop writing because you get a stuck on a word, so this should help cut that down. 

-Kris Noel

Posted 4 days ago on Sep 16th with 19,226 notes
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Kurt Vonnegut: 16 Rules For Writing Fiction

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

9. Find a subject you care aboutand which you in your heart feel others should care about.

10. Do not ramble.

11. Keep it simple. Simplicity of language is not only reputable, but perhaps even sacred.

12. Have guts to cut. Your rule might be this: If a sentence, no matter how excellent, does not illuminate your subject in some new and useful way, scratch it out.

13. Sound like yourself. The writing style which is most natural for you is bound to echo the speech you heard when a child.

14. Say what you mean. You should avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.

15. Pity the readers. Our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists.

16. You choose. The most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

Posted 5 days ago on Sep 15th with 25,575 notes
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Anonymous asked: I'm having a hard time writing my personal statement. What are some tips you have on how to write a good personal statement? Thanks!


My Tips:

  • Write many, many drafts. Write them on different topics. Rewrite the same drafts several times.
  • Have people read them. Take them to school counselors, advisers, and staff members who are on scholarship committees, even if you’re not applying for their scholarship.
  • Show that you have passion for whatever you plan on doing.
  • Don’t actually use the word “passion”.
  • Don’t use purple prose.
  • No one cares about your beloved high school teacher who inspired you to do blah blah blah. Everyone has heard this story. Whoever reads your essay will roll their eyes because they’ve probably read hundreds more like it. Write about something specific to you.
  • For you English/Literature majors: No one cares if you’ve been reading/writing since you were a kid. That’s true for pretty much every English/Lit major.
  • Keep it short. If they give you a maximum of one thousand words, that does not mean they want to read one thousand words. Keep it around one page or less.
  • Don’t use quotes from other people. This is all about you, not what someone else said.
  • Don’t put all of your achievements in a list.
  • I’ve heard at least three college professors complain about essays that start with “in modern society today” or “in our society today” or “in the world we live in today”. They’re cliche and they’re redundant. Of course modern society is today. That’s why it’s modern.
  • Make sure whatever you write about is relevant to the question for the personal statement or relevant to your reason for applying to whatever you’re applying to.
  • Show that you have long term goals and that whatever you’re applying for now will help you in the future.
  • Stick to one topic.
  • Back up your claims. Anyone can say they are ambitious. You have to show that you are ambitious for it to hold any weight in a personal statement.
  • Whenever you mention an academic or extracurricular achievement, talk about how it has helped you and how it is relevant. Winning a major spelling bee is irrelevant if you’re applying for nursing school unless you’re able to use that fact to show that you have excellent memory, which is valuable in many fields.
  • Don’t try to be funny.
  • Talk about what you hope to learn.


Posted 5 days ago on Sep 15th with 969 notes
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Setting Effective Writing Goals | Grauwelt | Young Adult

Posted 5 days ago on Sep 15th with 290 notes
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Character Motivation and Consistency:  

So lets take a moment to talk about character consistency.  This is something that I find a lot of people have a hard time with and a lot of it has to do with the actual development of the character in itself.  When making a character, we pick out traits and experiences that define our character.  All of these things including flaws and talents are important but something that people tend to forget with picking out a character is what their motivation is.  

Author Orson Scott Card reminds us “We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life.  In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.”

Why is Knowing Motivation Important in Writing?:

This essentially, explains to us why characters act the way they do.  Choices are determined by the motivation of the character.  They are a guide in the choices they make because where they want to go or what they want determines what choices they are going to make.  Very very VERY seldom does anyone make a choice at random. By knowing your characters primary motivation, the choices that they make will remain consistent (Even if they are not the ‘right’ choices.  

Basic External and Internal Motivations:  

Bold-face is obverse aspect (stuff in parens = goals, effects, or other association)

  • Survival/safety; Fear of the world (food, water, escape from danger)
  • Physical comfort; gluttony (shelter, warmth, good food, health)
  • Pleasure; hedonism (sex, great food, culture, games)
  • Dominance; tyranny (power, social standing, competition, respect)
  • Acquisitiveness; greed (wealth, materialism, collecting, excellence)
  • Curiosity; voyeurism (learning, searching, investigating)
  • Mastery; perfectionism (excellence, conquest, discipline, achievement)
  • Reproduction; profligacy (children, creativity, family-building)


  • Autonomy; isolation (self-sufficiency, freedom, non-confinement)
  • Affiliation; conformity (security, cooperation, loyalty, clan)
  • Love; lust/ownership (connection, passion, sex, mirroring, approval, giving)
  • Revenge; justice (righting wrongs, recognition of grievance, vengeance)
  • Guilt; denial of guilt (responsibility, shame, punishment, redemption, forgiveness)
  • Identity; self-centeredness (self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-protection)
  • Surcease; conflict avoidance (peace, escape from anxiety, death)
  • Spirituality; fetishism (religion, transcendence, transformation)
  • Growth; decay, aging (learning, maturation, wisdom)
  • Ambition; insecurity/anxiety (fear of failure, inferiority, stress)
  • Vindication; rationalization (success, proving self, apology)

The Difference in between a Goal and Motivation:

The goal is like the flower… the motivation is the roots.

The goal is the outward manifestation of the motivation. It is concrete, measurable, and specific. 
You don’t know when you’ve fulfilled the motivation: “I want success” isn’t measurable– what’s success?  But you know when you’ve achieved a goal:  ”I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list–” That’s measurable. You’ll know when you reach it.

Just keep in mind that while the goal is the external manifestation of the motivation, the connection is not always a straight or clear one.  You can have a goal that is destructive and against your true motivation– “looking for love in all the wrong places” is an example. 
Or you can have a laudatory goal for a selfish or twisted motivation– “I want to be first in my class to show my father up!”

Motivation is the past; Goal is the future; Conflict is the present.

Distinguish between MOTIVATION and ACTION:

Remember that motivation exists to inspire the character to make choices and take actions.  If you’ve been told your protagonist is “too passive”, it’s likely what’s lacking is motivation that leads to action. 

Every action, however small, should be motivated.  If the motivation is obvious, then you might not have to show it (we assume that she’s running from that tiger for survival). 

Compare the external (obvious) motivation to the goal and/or actions.  If they don’t match, an internal motivation is probably in force. What hidden desire or fear is influencing actions? 
An alternative reason for motivation/action mismatch: You’re trying to make an original character act in stereotypical ways.

And keep this in mind: 
Heroism and villainy are in the action, not the motivation.  Heroes do heroic things, they don’t just intend to do them.  And villains do bad things even if they have the best of intentions.

Taking all of these things into account, here are three exercises that I found a while back and use to help figure out character motivations:

1. Real People as a template: 

Make a list of 5 people you know really well. Beside each, make notes about how they:

  1. react to stress
  2. experience happiness,
  3. treat other people.

After that, list what motivates each of these behaviors. Try to be as factual as possible, drawing from things you know; for things you’re unsure of, use common sense to hypothesize.

A person might make it their goal to treat others with respect because of religious beliefs, or maybe because they were disrespected in the past. Someone might react poorly to stressful situations because they have a deep-seated fear of failure, stemming from a past experience.

2. Characters from Literature:

List 5 characters from literature and what motivated their actions throughout their respective stories.

For example, Shakespeare’sHamlet. His thoughts are motivated by revenge (because his uncle secretly killed his father), along with anger, sadness and confusion (because his mother married his uncle so soon after his father’s death).

Add to this a host of other factors, and you have a well-developed character you can understand.

3. Self reflection: 

Write paragraphs to describe

  1.  your most frightening experience
  2.  your happiest experience,
  3. your most stressful experience, and how you reacted to each situation.

After, list all the factors that motivated your behavior. How is your personality shaped by your motivations?

During the story (Or role play) it is important to remember these character motivations when your character makes choices.  That is really what this is about; identifying the motivations that make your character act the way that they do.  

During the plot, motivations may change, and should actually shift for the character to develop, but never all at once and never out of the blue.  Still the back story that drives your characters motivations will always be part of them.  

For instance; I write a character whose past has made her a survivalist but over the course of a year she shifts to protection of the family that she has developed.  However this took a full year to happen and her motivation of survival was never put on the back burner.  Instead it just expanded to protection of the group and not just herself.  Her fear of lose over this new family is what really drives her.

And there you have it: Keeping your character consistent through their motivation.

Posted 1 week ago on Sep 11th with 3,700 notes
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