Wednesday, 24 December 2014

What Are Your New Year Resolutions for Writing?

The brand new year of 2015 will soon be upon us, hopefully full of good fortune and health. It's also  good time to set yourself some writing targets for the year ahead, this will help you stay motivated and give you something to strive for.

Of course we all wish to be a bestselling author, but no one is born that way. We all have to start off at the beginning which means starting off with realistic goals that should be achievable with hard work and dedication. Remember you should start with small goals and then if you achieve them early on, you can always set yourself some more.

To help you on your way, make sure your resolutions are SMART

SPECIFIC - Be clear on what your goals are
MEASUREABLE - Ensure that you can quantitatively measure your progress
ATTAINABLE - Start small with goals you're confident you can achieve
REALISTIC -  Pick goals that are within your reach
TIME-RELATED - Give yourself a reasonable time limit. If you fancy it you could also set yourself 5 year goals as well as yearly goals, or even monthly goals.

Here are some following writing resolutions to help inspire you

  • Write at least 3,000 words per month
  • Practise your creative writing for at least half an hour a day
  • Write a short story per month
  • Enter at least one short story competition per month, and or enter a short story for magazine publication per month
  • Read at least one book per month
  • Write a rough first draft of your novel

Saturday, 20 December 2014

How Can Symbolism Advance Your Writing?

What is Symbolism in fiction?

Symbolism simply means the using of symbols to demonstrates an idea or concept that is not easily communicated with just words.

Symbols used can be anything from, literally symbols, objects, a particular word, colour or phrase, such as a cliche.

It is a tool by which the writer can subtly suggest what may happen next without giving it away.

For example describing a full moon in your story, can subconsciously give off the impression that something out of the ordinary is about to happen. This is because a full moon is associated with many occult creatures such as werewolves and it is supposed to be a magical time in the moon's cycle. Not to mention the effect of setting your story at night.

Interestingly colours can also be used to represent a character or concept. Traditionally black represents evil and white represents purity whilst the use of multi-colours represents happiness.

Symbolism can add significant depth to fiction by transforming it from a good story to a fantastic one that teaches us something about the universe we live in, such as love never dies.

How can Symbolism be used in fiction?

  • Clever word use in descriptions can build up a certain mood and atmosphere which is relevant to the main plot - such as an appearance of a full moon as described above.
  • Can be used to more easily demonstrate emotional feelings - her heart was cracking. This phrase is telling us she was so full of despair that her actual heart was breaking. Of course it's not referring to her physical heart, but we all understand what it means to have your heart broken.
  • Can represent many ideas and concepts through clever word use without waffling on and boring your reader - symbolism can help your work to be concise and tight.

It takes skill and practise to be able to effectively use symbolism to advance your writing, probably a skill that many writers fail to master, but it's worth persevering with if you want your fiction to have depth and be really meaningful.

A Sprinkling of Good Fortune

Last Friday I received an email that every aspiring writer hopes for - one of my short stories had been accepted by a magazine.

I was thrilled and couldn't believe it that someone out there likes my work. This is my first short story to be published and I hope it's not the last.

You can read my first published story in Sanitarium Magazine, issue 28, which is out now.

You can buy a copy here

For those who haven't heard of Sanitarium before it is a monthly magazine that specialises in horror fiction, and also publishes articles and interviews. It's a great little read and well worth checking out.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Should You Research Short Fiction Markets Before You Submit Short Stories?

So if you're reading this you've probably decided to take the plunge and have a go at submitting your short stories for publications in magazines, anthologies and competitions, and why not? It's the greatest feeling when finally one of your stories gets accepted, especially when you get to see it in print.

Once you start looking for magazines in your genre you'll realise there's a multitude of magazines out there to submit your work to. Fortunately unlike submitting stories into competitions there's no entry fee. Sounds easy right?

But how can you know which magazines are more likely to accept your work. Once you've sent off your submission you may be faced with a lengthy wait of six months. That's six months of wondering whether they've even received your work, of wondering whether they like it. It's six months of not being able to enter it in anything until you hear back. Yes, it can be a long process.

I like to think that submitting stories to magazines is a game of numbers, if you have a decent amount of stories that are of a high quality and you keep submitting them, then eventually someone out there will like one of them.

How to increase your chances of being published?

But there is a way of reducing your odds, and this is to carefully research your market. There are a number of ways you can do this. You can make a list of magazines to submit to and buy a previous issue so you can get a feel for the magazine. If you have a facebook or twitter account you can like their facebook pages to receive updates from them.

Buying previous issues may seem expensive intiatially but you'll get a sense of what the fiction editors are looking for when they read submissions. If your low on funds you can target one magazine a month, or invest in an anthology if the magazine publishes one. This is also a great way to fund small start up magazines, remember the more magazines that writers buy the longer they will stay in business for us to apply to them.

How to spot what magazines are looking for?

Try and see if there are similarities between the successful stories in your chosen magazines and spot what their house style is. What are the type of stories they prefer?

Here's a few pointers to get you going

  • What's their average word count?
  • Are they written in 1st of 3rd person?
  • Are their stories mostly dialogue or narrative?
  • Are the stories uplifting or tragic?

So in a nutshell it is a very good idea to research your intended short fiction market. A great piece of advice I received the other day was that writing short stories and novels are purely a creative process that the author does for pleasure. It is completely different to writing short stories and novels with the intention to publish them, it is a business process.

You could greatly improve your chances of publication by trying to write a short story specifically for a magazine and the way to do this is through diligent research.

If you want to make money from having your stories published think of it as a business. If you want to be published there's no point writing stories that are not in demand.

And remember; don't give up, don't give in.

For more information on magazines that accept dark fiction, fantasy, science fiction and horror  stories, there is an extensive , regularly updated list on my homepage which you can access here

Thursday, 11 December 2014

What's an Antagonist?

The antagonist is the character that plays a big part in the life of the protagonist. In case you're not sure the protagonist is what's known as the main character in any novel short story etc. The plot will evolve around them and they're usually the hero of the story that the reader most strongly identifies with.

How does the antagonist relate to the protagonist?

Therefore the antagonist is the character that in some way has conflict with the protagonist. The antagonist will make life difficult for the protagonist, maybe on purpose or by accident. The antagonist is often referred to as the baddie but an antagonist is not exclusively the baddie, they just have to oppose the protagonist in some way.

Though the antagonist does not have to be a single character, they can also be a group of characters such as an evil force, or race of people in conflict with the protagonist.

How important is an antagonist to a story?

All stories need both a protagonist and it's corresponding antagonist as all plots require conflict and its subsequent resolution. And what better source of conflict than from other people, it's something everyone has been through and can relate to.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Most Overused Fantasy Cliches to Avoid

If you're new to writing short stories in speculative fiction and want your work to be published bear in mind that most agents, editors and slush pile readers are looking for ORIGINAL fiction and ideas.

So although your head might be brimming with great plots and ideas, are they as original as you think they are?

If sometimes a whole story or an idea comes to your head in the blink of an eye it may be because it is a cliché that has been written many times before. You may have read it before without realising.

In this post we're going to take a look at the top overused fantasy clichés that everyone is bored of. So if you want to write stories that may get published or win in competitions, it's best to avoid these.

Top Fantasy clichés to avoid

  1.  The protagonist or hero is an orphan
This is a classic technique used to make the reader sympathise with the character and make them more likeable, everyone loves an under-dog. This is also a convenient way of building up suspense as to whether their parents are really dead, their parents are someone with great powers, or evil. Another cliché closely related to this one is that the protagonists father is actually the evil wizard they are in battle with, think Star Wars.

     2. The Prophecy

The prophecy that always, always, involves the protagonist even though it isn't revealed to the end, is a very tired an over-used cliché. It's boring and predictable as in the case with these sorts of stories, the prophecy is always fulfilled so the ending is known well in advance.

     3.  An evil wizard

This cliché is closely followed by the subsequent appearance of a good wizard and they are usually pitted against one another, but at one time used to be good friends. The wizard is evil for no other reason than he just is, and almost usually wants to control the world for an unspecified reason.

    4.  A quest for an object such as ring, sword, book that can either save or destroy the world

Ultimately it is always found by the hero and peace and tranquillity is thus returned.

   5. The appearance of any stereotypical fantasy creature such as dragons, trolls, goblins, elves and unicorns

This has been done so many times and each character is always the same. Dragons are wild and unpredictable, trolls are mean and fierce, goblins live underground and hoard riches, elves live for ever and are really clever and wise, and unicorns run around being unicorns.

   6.  Witches are always ugly and evil and fairies are always small beautiful kind and good

There's another cliché associated with this one, and that is that evil characters are ugly and hideous whilst the good characters are beautiful and fair and they always tend to be women who are judged solely on their looks.

Witches in stories that are always portrayed as evil is just so overdone and a very archaic attitude towards wise women and women that are powerful. It's the 21st century. Likewise fairies that are portrayed as small  creatures who love nothing more than singing and being whimsical are also boring and dull.

   7.  Whole races such as werewolves and vampires that have been able to exist without discovery amongst humans since the dawn of time

I'm sure  that if these creatures really did exist we would have noticed them by now.
How would we not notice a whole race of predatory people living with us?

 8. A poor base born boy falls in love with a beautiful princess/ high born that is way out of his league but yet always ends up marrying him

Romance in fantasy can be really dull, especially if it involves the above cliché. Too predictable and dull.

9. An object of great power

This could be a book or a magic crystal that causes war and chaos, and always briefly falls into the wrong hands before being returned to it's rightful owner and incorporates the other cliché, that is a quest to find object and return it.

10. The chosen one

This cliché is also closely related to the prophecy cliché and the chosen one  is always the protagonist of the story. So boring I can't even be bothered to write about it.

11. Good vs Evil, Black magic vs White magic

This is so boring, the world is not simply black or white, what about the colours and the grey parts inbetween? There are very few people that can be wholly evil or good. Everyone has good and bad attributes. To be only good or evil suggests flat 2d characters that will never seem real enough.

So there you have it, the list of the most annoying and overused fantasy clichés.

Though I do feel I should add that in very rare cases clichés can still make a good book, think Harry Potter, almost every fantasy clichés is in there but they're brilliant books. As with The Lord of the rings, but Tolkien doesn't count as he's one of the creators of fantasy fiction.
If you can think of any more and believe me there are hundreds please feel free to add them in the comments.

About the Author

S.J.Budd is a writer of all things weird and creepy. Previously her tales have been featured on Deandman's Tome,  Sanitarium Magazine, Dark Gothic Resurrected, Liquid Imagination, Aphotic Realm, Aurora Wolf, Aphelion, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Danse Macabre, Shadows at the Door, Inner Sins, Bewildering Stories, Siren's Call and many more.
She lives at  and  @sjbuddj 
Spells and Persuasions, her debut collection of short stories of horror and dark fantasy is available now in paperback and kindle from Amazon

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Deathless by Catherynne.M.Valente

Who is Catherynne.M.Valente?

Catherynne M Valente is a lesser known author that has been receiving a lot of attention lately and I'm always on the look out for discovering new favourite authors.

 For some reason I thought Catherynne M Valente would be an older woman of about sixty due to her impressive array of published fiction but when I checked out her website I was shocked to see how young she was.

Alongside her novels she has published various works of poetry and her short stories have been published in the likes of Lamplight Magazine which are featured on the Magazines page, if you're interested in submitting work to them.

The titles of her other works sound really intriuging such as;

  • The Habitation of the Blessed
  • This Is My Letter to the World
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
  • Yume No Hon: The book of Dreams
  • Palimpsest
  • The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden and In the Cities of Coin and Spice
  • Under in the Mere
  • The Labyrinth
  • The Grass-Cutting Sword

Deathless, by Catherynne M. Valente

I chose Deathless as it sounds unusual, this is an author who knows how to think up great and enticing book titles.

Deathless  mixes Russian folklore with dark magic set against a backdrop of Russia in the early 20th century. On first impressions it reads like a slightly macabre fairy tale. It retains a child like tone but is for adults. The prose is poetic and beautiful, it comes as no surprise from reading this that she is also an accomplished poet.

The story centres around Marya Morevna. She reminds me of Alice Lidell, from Alice in Wonderland who blindly chases the white rabbit, or in this case, Kochei down the rabbit hole. She is no ordinary girl, she wants to see the world naked. She has caught a glimpse of what lies beneath the normal everyday world and wants to understand magic and the mysteries of life. She will do whatever it takes to possess this arcane knowledge.

Marya thinks she is living in a blessed fairytale where she is the beautiful princess but soon realises she has been plunged into a savage nightmare.

At some points it seemed rambling but I really respect the author to have the courage to really stand out and write something that is utterly unique. This books feels like it is inventing a new genre and so in places it comes across as a bit experimental. But it's so different that you can't help but continue reading.

The world in which Marya finds herself in her own repeating fairytale and must struggle to break the pattern lest she meet a grisly end. The character of Marya hardens to suit her noew world and casts off her girl hood to become a wolf like creature. She learns magic, sees the naked world, yet still she wants more. She wants to have all that Koschei can give, she wants him to make her deathless. She has become as savage as her Koschei and yearns to be his equal rather than his posession.

Koschei's relationship is intruging it is no normal love affair. Their relationship is built upon power struggles, lust and dominion. There's no sentimentality here which is a refreshing change.

I found this a really riveting read, for me it was a hard book to review as it's just so different to anything I've ever read before. It's a very complex book that is very hard to summarise in a few paragraphs and I think the less I say about it the better it will be for those who haven't read it.

Reading group questions.

  • What are the major themes of this book?
  • How far do you agree with the statement on love and marriage on page 215
  • How is the theme of war expressed in this book?
  • How does Ivan contrast to Koschei?
  • How does the communist movement affect the story and characters? Would it have been different if set in a capitalist world?

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Pushing my imagination to its limits.

I've decided to try something new to try and help with my creative writing. Writing on demand.

One of my favourite websites, fantasyfaction who run a monthly themed writing competition which is free to enter.

By the way if you're not familiar with this website, it's well worth a look. Its the perfect site if you're a fantasy lover and the site features loads of book reviews, news articles as well as really handy in depth articles on writing in the fantasy genre.

I'm quite blessed in the sense that I often pick up inspiration for new stories from my everyday life, but I thought it might be a good idea to try and write a short story specifically for a themed competition.

Who knows I might win (unlikely) but it will be good fun and will only increase my output of work.

This month's theme is religion and to be honest I don't know how to approach it. I'm not a religious person and it's not a subject that dominates my writing, but hey its fantasy, so I could make one up!

The great thing about this monthly competition is that you can read all the other entries. This way you can see how others approach the subject, read some great stories and hopefully learn loads in the process.

That's why I love fantasy fiction and there are no limits to your imagination and you can create alternative but plausible realities.

So here goes...

If you'd like to have a go at this competition, here's the link.  The closing date is January 1st 2015

Good luck.

How to create conflict?

What is conflict?

Conflict is an essential ingredient to any plot regardless of genre. It's easier to look at conflict in relation to the other basic ingredients for a foundation plot line.

What are the utmost basic plot requirements?

A plot needs,at least two characters, one should be a protagonist and the other the antagonist. 


Because almost every problem that affects us is caused by someone else. How many times have you felt the urge to disappear off to a desert island and get away from everything and everyone. 

Conflict between two characters will be something that every reader will instantly identify with. Who hasn't gone through life without having a single argument or falling out with someone else?

Should conflict be resolved?

Absolutely, even if you are writing a series of novels. For example in the Harry Potter series, poor Harry Potter experiences a lot of conflicts which he resolves in each book. However  the overriding conflict between Harry and he who shall not be named does not resolve itself until the penultimate instalment.

So yes conflict must always be resolved in the end to provide a satisfying conclusion and a return to the normal status quo. 

Though conflict must not be easily resolved or else it is not really conflict. There should be many obstacles and set backs in the way of the protagonist who is trying to resolve the conflict that end up blocking their way.

How can conflict be resolved?

Conflict can be resolved in three different ways

  1. A hero comes to save the protagonist. This is often seen in fairy tales and can be seen as a disappointing end to your story unless the hero has suffered their own conflict.
  2. The protagonist searches deep inside themselves to find an inner strength and determination to overcome their conflict. They may also use skills which are developed during the story and locate resources. Think Harry Potter!
  3. A classic showdown between a goodie and a baddie.

Why causality is important to a plot?

What is causality?

In fiction causality is a chain reaction that occurs between events in your plot. It makes one event cause another.

A example of causality is when a character sets out to seek revenge against someone that has done them wrong. If this character had not been wronged they would have no need to seek revenge.

What happens when causality is omitted from a plot?

If there is no causality in your plot then your story is simply a stream of unrelated events that occur one after the other. 

An example of this is:

A man walks down a street, he sees a cat, there is a car crash, he goes home, the end.

Without causality in a plot it is merely a stream of consciousness. There will be no point to the plot.
Your characters do not grow and learn. There are no truths realised, and no change has occurred.

What's the purpose of a plot?

Remember a plot is a complete cycle. In very rough terms there should be a beginning, a middle and an ending. This cycle should be satisfying upon completion such as the answering of questions, the realisation of truth. Maybe your readers will be given the chance to learn something about the world they live in, something new they can make sense of such as human nature. 

What's the difference between Mystery and Suspense?

In a previous post we've discussed how to create a gripping story by raising questions. Now we will go further into this and explore the two main types of questions that should be raised in your story.

How to create Mystery and Suspense?

Mystery and Suspense can be created by the raising of questions in your work. There should be at least one really big question included at the very beginning which will need to be answered. This is what will keep your reader motivated to read on until the end.

When decided to choose what questions you will raise, it is very important to realise that you must be able to answer them in a way that will leave your reader satisfied. If you don't they will feel cheated.

What is mystery?

Mystery is defined by an event, occurrence or phenomenon that is impossible to explain or understand.

In fiction, the genres that are based on mystery are thrillers, ghost stories,detective stories, murder mysteries, whodunnits.

These genres all have one thing in common in that they all look backwards in time to find the answer to the mysterious question.

A classic example of a mystery is where a person has been killed and the protagonist must find out who the killer was before someone gets harmed. The reader is engaged in a puzzle they too want to know who the killer is.

What is suspense?

Suspense is defined as a state of feeling, excited, anxious and or uncertainty about an event. It is about sitting on the edge of seat during a film. It is the suspense element in books that prevent you from putting them down. You just have to know what happens next even if it means staying up all night to read when you have work early next morning.

In fiction the genres that are based on suspense are mainly thrillers which incorporate a wide variety of genres.

In suspense the questions that are raised look forwards into the future for their answers, your reader will be desperate to know what will happen next.

A classic example of suspense could be where the hero must race against time to retrieve a powerful object before it falls into the wrong hands.

Can mystery and suspense be combined?

Of course you can include elements of both in your story to really hold the reader's attention. Maybe your protagonist needs to solve a mystery in order to combat the suspense.

For example your protagonist is trying to solve an unexplained murder in order to save someone who has been kidnapped, possibly by the killer.

If you'd like to read more articles on how to improve your writing, grammar and punctuation please click here

How to Write a Gripping Story?

How to keep your readers attention?

What's the magic behind a book or short story that is completely impossible to put down? Every once in a while we all come across one that will have you staying up all night just so you can know what happens at the end.

How do these authors do it? How do they keep you reading, even against your will?

The answer is simple but the mechanism is harder to put in motion. To keep your readers entertained in your book you need to raise a very big question at the beginning that will motivate your reader to continue past the first page of your story.

How to raise questions in your story?

If your killer question is good enough people will read until the end to find the answer. This will keep their attention sustained throughout your story and they will happily plough through your book to get to the end.

How to raise questions when writing a novel?

If you're writing a novel, you will need to raise your killer question in the first chapter, and you will also need to raise smaller questions throughout your novel in each chapter.

You must be careful when doing this as all questions will need to be answered or else your readers will feel cheated especially if they have gotten to the end to find their questions have not been answered satisfactorily.

It is also important to raise questions and not immediately answer them so that you can build up tension and create a gripping story. You could even make your reader work for the answers by leaving hints and clues which they can use to guess what will be the answer.

The big question should only be answered at the end of your story and will form the finale of your novel.

How to raise questions when writing a short story?

Again you will need to raise a pretty big question right at the beginning of your story, as soon as you can. The process of raising questions in a short story is very similar to raising them in a novel, except on a much smaller scale. 

In a short story your questions should be closely focused upon your protagonist, aka, main character.

Raise questions throughout but do answer them!

It's vitally important to answer all your questions sufficiently by the end or else your story would not have been worthwhile to read. Your readers will feel cheated and betrayed if they are left hanging.

Friday, 5 December 2014

What's a run on sentence?

A run-on sentence consists of two sentences that should have been separated with a punctuation mark.

How to avoid a run on sentence?

The mermaid was very wet she had been swimming for hours in an endless ocean of deep blue water.

This in incorrect. Instead you could write

The mermaid was very wet. She had been swimming for hours in an endless ocean of deep blue water.


The mermaid was very wet, as she had been swimming for hours in an endless ocean of deep blue water.

Or even

The mermaid was very wet; she had been swimming for hours in an endless ocean of deep blue water.

A run-on sentence is grammatically incorrect

Run-on sentences will make your work look clumsy and rambling. So make sure you proofread for these mistakes.

For more handy tips on improving your grammar and punctuation click here to view many more articles.

How to avoid pleonasm in your writing?

What's pleonasm?

Despite its name this is actually a fairly simple concept. Pleonasm simply refers to the use of unnecessary or redundant words in a sentence. Avoiding pleonasm in your work will make it flow better and be more concise.

The wizard himself had cast the spell.

In this sentence the word himself is unnecessary.

The ogre with his very own eyes had seen the pretty princess approaching.

You can check for these by proofreading your work.

For more handy hints on how to improve your writing, grammar and punctuation click here to be taken to homepage.

How long should a paragraph be?

What's the perfect length of a paragraph?

This can be a hard thing to get right. If they're too long you could risk discouraging people from reading your work and if they're too short it could imply your work is of a low quality and not properly thought out.

Unfortunately there's no set length on how long a paragraph must be, but there are guidelines.

What is the purpose of a paragraph?

The point of a paragraph in both fiction and non-fiction is to introduce a single idea or point. The first sentence of a paragraph should introduce the idea or point, the following sentences in that paragraph should explain or discuss the point or idea. This helps to keep your work concise and to the point.

When you introduce another point or idea you then start off with a new paragraph.

To view more articles on improving your writing, grammar and punctuation click here

Monday, 1 December 2014

The secrets to writing great horror

How to write in the horror genre? 

Horror is a genre that can be hard to get right, but when it's done well it has fantastic results. The bottom line is people love to be scared, and what better way than through a safe medium such as reading or watching a scary movie?

How can horror scare readers?

What is it that people are most afraid of? What keeps them awake at night and invades their dreams churning them into nightmares?

People are all afraid of the unknown. We fear what we can't understand. Fear touches us all on a daily basis. What's that strange noise coming from downstairs in the middle of the night? What's going to happen to me once I die? What will happen if I don't pay my bills on time?

Keep this in mind when you write. If you tell your readers what is happening in your story, you will put their minds at rest. Never do this is, your writing horror. Keep them in the dark, quite literally, and keep them scared.

The golden rule of writing: show don't tell.

This is a classic rule and is applicable for any genre. By showing your story instead of telling you can use your readers' imaginations to your advantage. In horror it's our imaginations that can set us off on a cycle of self perpetuating fear. Let your readers' minds race with what could happen next.

Create a picture in their minds that's not too restrictive on their imagination and remember to take advantages of the five senses we all possess. Don't forget this, we do much more than just see. Help set off the five senses of sight, sounds, smell, taste and touch.

How to create a scary character?

You don't need to write exclusively about vampires or monsters to scare people. Over the years these creatures have been tamed in literature. It seems to be every teenage girls dream to fall in love with a brooding but sexy Vampire. You can create a scary character from anything. Stephen King terrified millions by writing about an evil clown in It.

What are the three major themes in horror fiction?

The genre of horror comes down to three essential intertwining themes of fear, hope and tragedy, in that particular order too. You can easily heighten these themes for maximum impact by giving them a liberal sunk in suspense.

What's the basic formula for a great horror story?

Event, fear, hope ,suspense, tragedy.

It's that simple. For more tips on how to create a plot click here.

How do you create fear?

Fear can be created by actions by the protagonist and subsequent fear of the consequences for the protagonist upon committing that action. This action could be your protagonist returning to their home alone on a dark evening to find their house has been broken into. That's scary enough for anyone to come home to, no one likes coming home to a dark house. In this scenario you can quickly create a sense of fear by  instead of having your protagonist sensibly wait outside  their home and call the police you can allow your protagonist to enter the dark house alone unarmed. This will scare your reader as they don't know what's inside the house waiting. By doing this, you create fear of consequence as you just know they won't be alone in the dark.

Why you need hope in a horror story?

Hope is an important element of a horror story. It is needed to contrast against the other themes of fear and tragedy. This will alleviate your readers' anxieties before completely elevating them again to even higher levels.

You need to briefly introduce hope for your protagonist before squashing it and thus removing all hope. You can do this by offering your protagonist a way out of their horrific predicsment but for some reason they do not take it.

How to create suspense in a horror story?

You'll need to create suspense quickly in your horror story and sustain it throughout. This atmosphere of fear and tension is most often caused by introducing lovable but flawed characters and having them make bad decisions, such as being too trusting, not realising their date is an axe murderer,  being too naïve to sense they are in terrible danger, or being too kind and helping out a complete stranger who turns out to be a vampire/serial killer etc.

How to create tragedy in a horror story?

You need to ensure your character is easily lovable, that your readers can easily and quickly identify with them and then make terrible things happen to them.

Horror stories do not have happy endings.

Don't tell your readers how to feel.

But above all when writing horror don't tell your readers that they should be scared, and also at what points they should be scared.

All you need to do is spark their imginations and fears and they'll do the rest. Everyone of us is highly imaginative so let their minds take over.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

How to write a cover letter?

Writing cover letters when submitting short stories isn't as hard as you think. A lot of inexperienced writers wrongly assume that your cover letter needs to describe your submission.

What's the purpose of a cover letter?

Try to consider that the process of submitting short stories for journals magazines or competitions is the literary equivalent of applying for a job.

The purpose of attaching a cover letter is to very briefly introduce yourself in a professional way, but always check the submission guidelines of the publication you are applying to, as many have their own strict criteria.

A checklist for writing a top cover letter

  • Always try to address your cover letter to a specific person, usually the fiction editor. Their name can be easily found out by checking their website. If you can't find their name, make it addressable to a colleague so it will show you at least tried. Your cover letter will be forwarded to the correct person.
  • Include your name, address and contact details at the top of the letter,rather like a cover letter you would include when sending out CVs.
  • Keep it short and sweet. Never take up more than a page.
  • Introduce yourself briefly and keep it short.
  • Always include relevant literary achievements such as previous publications or wins in story competitions.
  • Thank the recipient for considering your work.
  • End your letter formally.
Always make sure your grammar and punctuation is correct!

Example of a cover letter

Excellent Writer
5 Great story street
Dear John Smith,
Please find enclosed my short story "The best story ever."
I live in Storyshire and work as a dentist.
I really enjoy reading your publication Great Story Magazine and am hopeful you will enjoy reading my story.
Thank you for your consideration.
Excellent Writer
There you have it, that's all there is to it.

Monday, 24 November 2014

How to correctly use an apostrophe?

What's an apostrophe?

An apostrophe is used to either contract words or to illustrate possession within a sentence.

What are the functions of an apostrophe?

  • To indicate a word contraction
  • To indicate possession

How to use an apostrophe in word contraction?

An apostrophe is used in a sentence when one or more letters have been removed from a word.

Do not = Don't

Have not = Haven't

It is = It's

Who is = Who's

Take care not to overuse apostrophes and remember that they should not be used in academic work.

How to use an apostrophe to indicate possession?

Apostrophes to show possession are often over used, and is a common mistake to make.

If it is a singular noun, proper noun or common noun that does the possessing this is indicated by - 's

Tom's magical cat was amazing.

The castle's walls were beginning to crumble.

Cornwall's pixies were notorious for littering.

If using an apostrophe to indicate possession by a plural noun ending in S, the apostrophe is placed after the S.

The mouse was constantly nibbling on the wizards' books.

If the plural noun does not end in an S the apostrophe can be placed before an S.

The book's binding were being destroyed by the mouse.

How to use a hyphen correctly?

What is a hyphen?

The use of a hyphen is often overlooked but when used properly can give your work a more professional feel. Hyphens are used when combining words in a sentence.

What are the functions of a hyphen?

  • To combine the word self with a noun
  • To illustrate adjectives that are formed by combining words

How to use a hyphen to combine the word self with a noun?

This is really simple.



How to use a hyphen to illustrate adjectives that are formed by combining words?

The pedlar was a nik-nak man.

He was a new-age wizard.

How to use a semicolon?

A semicolon is an often misused piece of punctuation but is very simple to use. Take care not to over use a semicolon in your work.

What are the functions of a semicolon within a sentence?

  • To help organise a complicated list
  • To separate two closely related  independent clauses

How to use a semicolon to organise a complicated list?

A semicolon should be used in a sentence to organise complicated lists when one or more of the items contains commas.

The witches and wizards at the conference had come from Scotland, Wales; Cardiff, Ireland; Dublin, and Cornwall.


The witches and wizards at the conference had come from Scotland, Wales, Cardiff, Ireland, Dublin and Cornwall.

How to use a semicolon to narrow the gap between two closely related independent clauses?

The semicolon is used to separate two independent clauses but also to show that the two clauses are related to one another.

Ethel rarely used her broomstick; she was afraid of flying.

To use a semicolon in this way the two clauses must be independent of one another.

How to use a colon?

The colon like the comma is a commonly misused piece of punctuation that is usually confused with the semicolon. Quite often it is overused, a colon should only be used sparingly.

What are the functions of a colon?

  • To introduce a list within a sentence
  • To introduce an idea within a sentence
  • To introduce quoted material within a sentence

How to use a colon to introduce a list within a sentence

A colon can be used to introduce a list of series of items. The first item in the list that appears after a colon does not need to be capitalised, unless it is a proper noun. When using a colon the clause that precedes it must make sense with its corresponding list.

Frodo had packed everything he needed: food, drink, maps and sunglasses.

The clause, Frodo had packed everything he needed, makes sense on its own and so a colon  can be introduced after it.

Avoid using a colon to introduce a list when it directly follows a verb or preposition.

I need: dragon's blood, fairy smiles and pixie dust.

Instead you should write

I will need the following: dragon's blood, fairy smiles and pixie dust.

How to use a colon to introduce an idea within a sentence

Two independent clauses can be linked together by a colon if the second clause explains, illustrates, paraphrases or expands on the first independent clause.

He got what he deserved: eternal damnation.

As with using a colon to introduce a list within a sentence the first clause of the sentence when introducing an idea should also be a stand alone clause.

How to use a colon to introduce quoted material within a sentence

A colon can be used after a clause to introduce quoted material.

The witch reminded her apprentice from the famous quote in the book of shadows: 'Harm ye none, do what thy will.'

What's a comma splice? How can they be avoided?

The comma is often misused, and a comma splice is one of the most common mistakes made. A comma splice is when a comma is wrongly used to separate two independent clauses There are many simple methods that can be used to avoid this mistake.

The unicorn liked the fairy, she was kind.

The two clauses in the above sentence are independent and can form stand alone sentences. They do not need to be connected by a comma.

The unicorn liked the fairy. She was kind.

The above method of separating two independent clauses using a full stop is the simplest, but there are other ways to do it.

A semi colon can be used, but take care to not overuse them in your work.

The unicorn liked the fairy; she was kind.

A semi colon shows that the two independent clauses are linked.

A conjunction can be used to connect two independent clauses.

The unicorn likes the fairy as she is nice.

How to use a comma correctly and avoid common comma mistakes

How to use a comma?

Most people wrongly assume that the comma is a simple piece of punctuation. The comma is extraordinarily complex.  This is because it has many different functions which have been listed below.

The biggest misuse of comma is that many writers believe that a comma should be inserted in every pause and tend to overuse commas in their work. Don't get caught out.

Writers wrongly assume a comma is just a pause. It is so much more than that.

What are the main functions of a comma?

  • To separate adjectives within a sentence
  • To separate introductory elements within a sentence
  • To separate contrasting clauses within a sentence
  • To separate dates and years, towns and counties within a sentence
  • To separate parenthetical elements within a sentence
  • To separate direct speech or quote elements within a sentence
  • To separate a list of three or more items within a sentence
  • To separate two independent clauses within a sentence

How to use a correctly use a comma to separate adjectives within a sentence

A comma is used to separate adjectives within a sentence, the last two are joined by and, or, nor.

The troll was stinky, mean and anti-social.

However sometimes a comma is not needed if the words and or or cannot be placed between the adjectives.

The little blue tardis was actually very big on the inside.

In this sentence a comma is not needed, as you wouldn't write, The little and blue tardis was actually very big on the inside.

A comma should be used to separate two interchangeable adjectives.

The unicorn is a strong, powerful creature.

The unicorn is a powerful strong creature.

How to use a comma to separate introductory elements within a sentence

As the sun finally set in the west, the vampires began to rise once more.

The introductory element is As the sun finally set in the west. If the introductory element is very short, three words or less, a comma can be emitted.

It was dark when the vampires came out.

In this sentence the introductory element was It was dark and is short enough to not need a comma.

However if the introductory element modifies the meaning of a sentence a comma should be used.

Unfortunately, the princess was actually a man.

In this sentence the introductory element of the sentence unfortunately indicates it is a problem that the princess is a man.

How to use a comma to separate contrasting clauses within a sentence

The enchanted castle was beautiful, but completely impractical.

The mermaid was beautiful, but stank of fish.

In the above sentences which are both composed of two contrasting clauses a comma is used to separate them as the clauses would not make sense as stand alone sentences.

How to use a comma to separate dates and years, and towns and counties within a sentence

The ogre lived in Ogreville, Ogreland.

The witch was born on June 6, 1666.

How to use a comma to separate parenthetical elements within a sentence

A parenthetical element, or an aside, is simply a clause that can be removed from a sentence without altering its meaning. A comma is then used to open and close a parenthetical element.

The wicked witch of the west, who is actually quite nice once you get to know her, rides on a tattered broomstick.

In this sentence the parenthetical element is who is actually quite nice once you get to know her can easily be removed from the sentence to create a shorter sentence whose meaning is not altered.

The wicked witch of the west rides on a tattered broomstick.

How to use a comma to separate direct speech or quote elements within a sentence

"I'm going to turn you into a newt," the witch teased.

However a comma is not always needed if the punctuation is ended by a punctuation mark. Note that the words used after the piece of direct speech do not need a capital letter. To use one is a very common writing mistake.

"Give me the ring Frodo!" snarled Gollum.

How to use a comma to separate a list of three or more items within a sentence

The magic potion contained dragons blood, unicorn tears, pixie dust and gin.

The giant's favourite foods were chargrilled man, roasted elephant and jelly and ice cream.

Note how a comma has been omitted from jelly and ice cream, this has been done to illustrate that jelly and ice cream is one meal and not two. This is a known as the Oxford comma.


How to use a comma to separate two independent clauses within a sentence

 A comma should be used to separate two independent clauses within a sentence by appearing before a co-ordinating conjunction. The comma does not appear after the co-ordinating conjunction.

Examples of co-ordinating conjunctions include: and, but, or, so, yet, nor.

The mermaid was a great swimmer, but she couldn't walk.

The mermaid was a great swimmer, and She couldn't walk are two independent clauses, they can form stand alone sentences separately but can be separated by a comma and a co-ordinating conjunction to form a sentence of two independent clauses.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Citadel by Kate Mosse

Citadel by Kate Mosse

Kate Mosse is a brilliant writer who brings the past to life. I love historical fiction, especially when blended with supernatural elements. Who isn't intrigued by the past events that have helped shape our world today? I've read Kate Mosse's previous books in this trilogy, Labyrinth and Sepulchre as well as The Winter Ghosts, so I knew I'd be in for a treat.

The setting of the novel is in Carcassonne, the south of France during the second world war. Straight away Citadel is strikingly rich and vivid in detail but not bogged down with endless information dumps and soon you're transported to the author's world of war time France. Kate Mosse is a master of conjuring imagery. She can paint a thousand pictures with one word.

The pace is quick and there are many intriguing characters with their own secret pasts and hidden agendas. It's an exhilarating read and hard to put down.

As you continue to read you really feel with the main characters and identify with their individual dramas and hardships. Sometimes it can be an uncomfortable read as although they are not real the events and situations they endured during Nazi occupation were very real.

I actually found this book really scary at times, Authie was a particularly terrifying character, and at times it made for uncomfortable, but riveting reading. I stayed up until 3 am to finish reading it as I just had to know what happened in the end. I think the reason why it seemed so terrifying is that this novel seemed so real. It was based on the second world war and it really resonated with me, as although fictional there would have been real people, like Authie operating in power and also people like Sandrine who were fighting them.

I found this book just really got to me. I too felt the sense of constantly being watched and even as a reader you can feel trapped at times like the characters were. Sometimes I felt like I needed to take a breather this book is just so intense.

To sum up, this is a great book, it's action packed, moving and thrilling to say the least. I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Book club questions for Citadel, by Kate Mosse

  • Would Sandrine have become involved with the resistance if she hadn't met Antoine?
  • Is Lucie selfish or naive? When she exposed Sandrine in order to learn where Max was, was that deliberate or did she not realise the implications? When trying to gain access to the camp where Max was being held, she came across as very calculated, but at other times she seems unaware of what's really happening around her.
  • How does the war affect  Sandrine and Raoul's relationship? Would they have fallen for each other had they met under different circumstances.
  • If Marriane's and Sandrine's parents had been alive, would either have the sisters become involved with the resistance movement? Or would their parents have joined the cause along side them?
  • How do you feel about the ending of the book? Do you find it controversial?
P.s there are more reading group questions within the novel as well as additional information about the locations featured in Citadel.

How to Write an Author's Bio?

What's an author's bio?

So recently I have been very busy re - evaluating my current library of short stories to send them off into the world. I've decided to change tactics slightly and as well as entering numerous short story competitions, I'm having a go at submitting some of them to magazines and journals for publication.

For the third time today, I've been asked to include a brief author's bio.

The prospect of writing one fills me with dread. I've never been very good at selling myself. I have no idea how to write an author's bio or what a really good one looks like. 

Suddenly I feel so less sure of myself. As a writer I haven't really achieved anything, I haven't won any competitions or ever been published. I can hardly call myself a writer. I have no literary achievements to actually include, other than the obligatory - I love writing. But then what writer doesn't? I feel silly for even thinking of putting it in.

I looked up some of my favourite authors to see what theirs were like and it was full of prestigious accolades and of course published works that have gone on to become international best sellers.

But I've been doing a lot of reading on the web and trawled through many articles to find out the best tips to share with you. I've realised that it's a good idea to have two author bios.

How to write an author's bio?

Here's what your main author bio should include. You can get inspiration from other writers by looking at other bio's on the jacket sleeves of books. That is what you're aiming for.

  • Your author's bio should be around 250 words. Keep it short and simple. If you can make it funny. You want people to relate to you and be interested.
  • Always write in the third person. I'm not sure why this is, but everyone says so!
  • Make yourself sound as interesting as possible. You need to stand out from the crowd, particularly if you want to get the attention from the people at the top such as agents and publishers.
  • Write about your professional life even if it's nothing to do with writing. Try and  make your job sound as interesting as possible. If you sound interesting as an author then people will assume your writing will also be interesting.
  • Give background information about yourself, such as where you are from, your education. This is so people can relate to you and get an idea of who you are. It's up to you how personal you want to be, but be careful.
  • Include any unusual hobbies or interests.
  • Obviously mention if you have anything published, or won a competition. I'm not going to waste time but arguing why this bit is important!
Your second author bio which can be used for submissions for magazines and anthologies as well as query letters and should be around 50 words long, about two sentences. Personally for this one I would just include where you're from and something quirky about yourself. But again if you have literary achievements, just use those, they'll speak volumes!

How to sell yourself as a writer?

Don't think for one minute that your author bio isn't important. Your readers may not care too much who you are they just want a good story, but any potential literary agents, publishers or editors will be. This is your key opportunity to market your work. You need to think of yourself as a viable brand that could be easily marketed, because that's what they  are looking for.

Related posts

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

What are prepositions?

What are prepositions?

A preposition is simply a word within a sentence that indicates either a location or relationship between a noun and other parts of a sentence.

The cat was hiding behind the curtain.

In this sentence the preposition was behind. The noun was cat, or object of the preposition.

The object of the preposition is the noun or pronoun that is associated with the preposition.

In most sentences the preposition will usually goes before its corresponding noun or pronoun, but they can go afterwards.

Where did the evil witch go?

In this sentence the preposition go, is after it's corresponding noun witch.

How to use prepositions correctly

There are a few prepositions that need to be used with care.

Like, is a preposition that means similar, or similar to, and should be followed by either a noun, pronoun or noun phrase, not a subject or verb. It's best to avoid using like with a verb.

You smell like a rotten toad.

Rotten toad is the noun phrase associated with the preposition.

It's best to avoid using like with a verb.

You smell like a rotten toad does.

To correctly use a preposition when comparing a subject and verb you can use the following words; as, as if, or the way.

You smell as rotten as a toad does.

You smell as if you're a rotten toad.

You smell the way a rotten toad does.

Words to avoid when using a preposition in an sentence

Another easy mistake to avoid making when using a preposition in a sentence is not to use a preposition in place of have.

The mermaid should have done it.


The mermaid should of done .

When using the preposition from, avoid using different than.

Don't write

The witch is different than the wizard.

Instead use

The witch is different from the wizard.

Avoid using in, rather than into when conveying motion in a sentence.

Don't write

I looked in the enchanted mirror.

Instead write

I looked into the enchanted mirror.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What are adjectives and adverbs?

What's an adjective?

Adjectives are words that we use to describe a noun or pronoun. Without adjectives sentences would be very dull. You can use adjectives before and after a noun or pronoun.

There was a vicious storm.

Here the adjective is vicious it is describing the storm which is the noun in the sentence.

The storm was vicious.

The adjective is vicious and can be used after the noun storm.

The three forms of an adjective, and how to correctly use them

Adjectives come in three forms; positive, comparative and superlative.

Let's use wise, as an example to explain what these different forms are.

In it's normal form, the positive degree, we would simply use wise.

The wizard was wise.

If we were to use wise in its comparative degree which is as straightforward as the term suggests we would use wiser.

The wizard was wiser.

To use the adjective wise in its superlative degree, we would use wisest.

The wizard was the wisest.

What's an adverb?

Adverbs are words employed to modify a verb, adjective or other adverbs.

The cat walked slowly.

The adverb is slowly, it is describing how the cat was walking. It described further the verb which was walked.

The cat was particularly ruthless. 

Here the adverb particularly is describing the adjective ruthless.

The cat walked very slowly.

The adverb phrase very slowly, describes the verb walked.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

How to use who, that and which correctly in a sentence.

It is often the simple mistakes that writers make that can cost us dearly. When short stories and/or manuscripts are submitted into competitions or sent to literary agents, magazines and publishers, it will be the little mistakes that will expose you as an unprofessional, inexperienced, amateur author.

To use who, that and which correctly you'll need to remember the following;

Who and sometimes that refer to people in a sentence.

That and which refers to groups or things in a sentence.

Gandalf is the wizard who is mighty and powerful.

Who is correct as it refers to Gandalf who is a person.

It was the army of Orcs that caused an awful mess.

That is correct as it refers to a group of Orcs.

That is used in a sentence to introduce an essential clause. An essential clause adds vital information to a sentence.

I do not trust that Orc who is mean.

That is correctly used as it introduces the essential clause of the Orc being mean, which is why he can't be trusted.

Which is used to introduce a nonessential clause within a sentence. A nonessential clause adds additional information to enhance a sentence.

I liked Gandalf's firework display, which was breath taking.

The fact that Gandalf's firework display was breath taking was not an essential clause of a sentence and therefore which is correct. The essential clause was I liked Gandalf's firework display.

Related posts on grammar

Tips for writers

Book reviews

The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Dead until dark by Charlaine Harris

Friday, 14 November 2014

How to correctly use Whoever and Whomever

As I have said before in a previous post it is often the simple mistakes that writers make that can cost us dearly. When short stories and/or manuscripts are submitted into competitions or sent to literary agents, magazines and publishers, it will be the little mistakes that will expose you as an unprofessional, inexperienced, amateur author.

There's a very simple method that you can use to determine whether whoever or whomever is correct.

He = whoever, and him = whomever

Whoever broke the spell?

He broke the spell and therefore who is correct.

Whomever broke the spell was a hero

The spell was broken by him and therefore whomever is correct.

Who or whom?

How to use who and whom correctly

It is often the simple mistakes that writers make that can cost us dearly. When short stories and/or manuscripts are submitted into competitions or sent to literary agents, magazines and publishers, it will be the little mistakes that will expose you as an unprofessional, inexperienced, amateur author.

There's a very simple method that you can use to determine whether who or whom is correct.

He = who and him = whom

Who killed the princess?

He killed the princess, so who is correct.

It was whom?

It was him, so whom is correct.

Related posts on grammar use

What are compound nouns, common nouns and proper nouns?

What are linking verbs, phrasal verbs and helping verbs?

What's a subject and an infinitive within a sentence?

What is a subject -verb agreement?

Tips for writers

How to construct a basic a basic story plot

Top writing tips for new authors

How to stay focused as a new writer

Manuscript presentation

Book reviews

Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

What's a pronoun?

Related articles on Grammar

What are compound nouns, common nouns and proper nouns?

What are linking verbs, phrasal verbs and helping verbs?

What's a subject and an infinitive within a sentence?

What's a subject- verb agreement?

If you're unsure of what a noun is you can brush up on one of the previous posts above.

What's a pronoun?

A pronoun is simply a word used instead of a noun. Here are some examples of pronouns ; I, me, you, he, she, it, that, they, each, who, somebody.
There are three types of pronouns. These are subject pronouns, object pronouns and possessive pronouns.
A subject pronoun is used when a pronoun is the subject of the sentence.
I know my name.
In this sentence I is the pronoun.
Examples of subject pronouns include; he, she, you, they.
Examples of object pronouns include; him, her, me, them, us.
Examples of possessive pronouns include; his, hers, theirs.

How to use pronouns correctly

Pronouns can be singular or plural depending on the subject within the sentence.
Singular pronouns such as; I, he, she, everyone, anyone nobody require a singular verb such as is.

Pronouns and apostrophes

Possessive pronouns such as yours, his, hers, its, ours and theirs, do not need apostrophes. This is a very common mistake in writing.
Apostrophes need only be used when there is a contraction such as;
it is, it's
there is, there's
who is, who has, who's


How to correctly use a reflexive pronoun

A reflexive pronoun is a pronoun that ends in -selves, or -self
Myself, yourself, himself, herself
Ourselves, themselves, themselves
Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object of the verb in a sentence refer to the same person.
I hurt myself.
In this sentence the reflexive pronoun is myself, the object of the verb is hurt.

Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris

This book is one of a series of  American novels set in a small town Lousiana about a girl Sookie Stackhouse who can read minds. It is these books that the popular television series True blood, is based on. I haven't seen this program but thought this was worth giving a go as no one would base a television series on a book that wasn't great.

I'm a big fan of Anne Rice, the undisputed queen of the vampire genre, as well as the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer, and have long held a deep fascination with Vampires. These wonderful immortal beings that have lived through the ages and been there first hand. I for one would love to be able to step back in time and these creatures have seen it all. I find vampires interesting because they are always trying to blend in with humans and are desperate to fit in despite being so different, something we all feel from time to time.

There's also the juxtaposition of being savage beasts whilst also capable of emotions such as love and friendship. It seems that despite their supernatural gifts and abilities they still fight to hold on to what they had when they were human.

This book is quite different to other vampire novels I have read as in this they are not a secret race hiding out amongst the crowd. They are a newly legalised class of people and are interestingly seen as an underclass rather than the traditional stereotype of predators. In fact in this story it is the human girl that initially saves the handsome vampire and not the other way around.

Sookie Stackhouse the books main character also has supernatural powers of her own. She can read minds, but in the books alternative reality this is seen as a  major disability.

Throughout the novel there is a tension building up throughout which simmers nicely. Though I found I couldn't really relate to Sookie's character. Whilst reading I couldn't quite decide whether she was incredibly stupid or brave. I love vampire stories but I find it hard to comprehend that a living human could find a dead person attractive and subsequently fall in love, especially when your beau could easily kill you.

In the end I decided that she was stupid. I couldn't understand why she didn't want to do anything with her life when she had a lot going for herself. She has an amazing gift of being able to read minds yet constantly refers to it as a disability. She lives in a dead end town, working a dead end job and has very few friends. Sookie doesn't seem happy with her life but doesn't seem to realise she can do something about it.

This book is a good light hearted read and at times quite deliciously trashy. It's been categorised as Horror but I would firmly class this as romance, bordering on chick lit, a genre that I have no appreciation for at all.

Compared to other authors such as Anne Rice this is light and fluffy and would probably appeal more to young adults and teens. If you like your vampires to be scary and undomesticated this might not be to your liking.

Questions for discussing Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris

  • Why does Sookie not want to utilise her powers as a mind reader? Could she use them to get a great job? Could she use them to do good?
  • Is Sookie as naïve as Bill suggests?
  • It the book it is suggested that fang bangers on some level want to die and suffer. Do you think Sookie felt the same? She couldn't date, fall in love and live a normal life due to her gift. Did she therefore want to experience danger as a remedy to her dull life? Was she looking for an escape from monotony, even if it meant death?

Previous book reviews

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Tips for writers

The lost art of writing short stories

How to develop a basic story plot

How to stay focused when starting out as a new writer

How to improve grammar and punctuation

What are compound nouns, common nouns and proper nouns?

What are linking verbs, phrasal verbs and helping verbs?

What's a subject and an infinitive within a sentence?

What is a subject verb agreement?