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Common Writing Terms Defined (Pt.1)

Updated: Sep 11, 2021

Pantser - If you fly by the seat of your pants, creating and writing without a plan, you’re likely a pantser. These writers rarely evaluate writing methods or plan story structure.

Stephen King ( Stephen King / yes, I reference him often) is a famous Panster, as are many other successful writers.

Pantsing is a quick way to get into the writing process and a great method for jumpstarting your process and getting those creative juices flowing.

Plotter - (aka Planner) If you meticulously plan and outline your story or spend a large amount of time charting out plotlines, devising characters, and worldbuilding before beginning the writing process, you fall into the plotter category.

There are numerous bestselling published authors who use this method. If writing is a new experience to you, writing as a plotter can give you a good sense of how planning can prepare you before you dive in. J.K. Rowling is a plotter. Harry Potter Series

*Note – There is no right or wrong method. Use what works for you, but don’t be afraid to experiment, either. Personally, I combine both methods. I do a brief outline on paper to keep my thoughts straights, then I simply go for it! (Being a hybrid of sorts, I suppose you can say my way is named, “Plantser.”) And, I’m certain I am not alone in doing this crossover method.

ARC – Allow me to start off with a link to my blog post written specifically about ARCs. Both what they are and how to write one.

In short, the story arc—also called a narrative arc or plot—is subjective in the respect of steps. Some writers prefer the 8-step method, while others use 5-steps.

*Note- There are many other methods out there, but most are simply offshoots of the 5 or 8 step plans listed below.

The basic guideline all successful novels follow. An example of the 8 step method:
1. Stasis
2. Trigger
3. The quest
4. Surprise
5. Critical choice
6. Climax
7. Reversal
8. Resolution

For comparison, here is the 5 step method:
1. Exposition (aka Stasis)
2. Rising action
3. Climax
4. Falling action
5. Resolution

In short, this technique simply combines a few of the 8 steps into 1. To find out if that is helpful or not, please view the link provided above.

Protagonist - The protagonist of a story is usually the main character (MC), the hero or heroine. The protagonist is opposed by an antagonist. (Think good vs. evil plot.)

Style – There are two ways to look at this word/definition. One means the following:
Syntax – Sentence structure: the emphasis, pauses, word order and general style of writing typical sentences.
Word choice – Cussing or not, using more complex words versus simpler ones, etc. Word choice helps readers understand the perspective of the narration.
Tone – Think of tone like the writer’s attitude toward a subject matter. If they dislike it, the tone may appear short and negative. While it could be upbeat and positive for something they care about.
Mood – The mood is more a feeling a reader can take away through the writing. The mood can be altered through the use of tone, word choice, and other literary devices.

Next, there are four main types of writing: expository, descriptive, persuasive, and narrative. Each of these writing styles is used for a specific purpose. It’s possible to use more than one style in a story.

Expository writing is one of the most common types. You’re trying to explain a concept, or impart information. This style does not include the author’s opinions and focuses on accepted facts, including statistics or other evidence. Examples are: How-to books, news, and recipes.

Descriptive writing is often found in fiction. However, it will make appearances in nonfiction, as well. (Travel guides and memoirs.) This style paints a picture in words of a person, place, or thing. The writer is merely describing things as they are. Journal writing, fiction novels, and poetry fall into this category.

Persuasive writing is usually found in academic papers. Writers try to convince the audience of a position or belief. This style contains the author’s opinions and biases mixed with justifications and reasons as evidence of the correctness of their position. Recommendation letters, editorial newspaper work and advertising fall into this category.

Narrative writing is used for most longer writing, whether fiction or nonfiction. Writers are not just trying to impart information, they are constructing and sharing a story, complete with characters, conflict, and settings. Sagas and short stories are fine examples of this style.

POV – There are the four primary POV (Point of View) types in fiction:
First person - Think of first person as— ‘I’ am telling the story. The character speaking/narrating is in the story, relating his or her experiences directly. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, is written in first person, as is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Second person - This view is told to you. This POV, though still good to know, is common for non-fiction. Though, it has its place in fiction as well. See, The Broken Earth Trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The Broken Earth Trilogy

Third person, limited- This is the most common point of view in modern fiction. It deals with ‘he’ or ‘she,’ and the narrator is outside the story, relating the character’s experiences. The Harry Potter series is told from this view. Harry Potter Series

Third person, omniscient – Here, the narrator is still using the ‘he’ and ‘she’ from above, but now they have total access to each thought and experience of all characters in the story. Lord of the Flies by William Golding is an example.

How does one use proper pronouns for these styles? Good question! Thankfully, it’s easy to follow.

- First person – I, Me, My
- Second person – You, Your
- Third person (either style) Her/ His, and, She/He
One common mistake some writers unknowingly make is to drift from one POV to another during the creation process. In other words, their story may start something like this:

‘The street was dimly light. I squinted to focus through the thick night closing in about me.’

But, within the next two chapters, the lines become: (Still talking about the same story and MC.)

‘She ran with all her might as the beast pursued her down the alley. Soon, the pair reached a dead end and (MC’s name here) knew she was trapped.’

Can you see how the story went from the MC speaking about herself (I, me) to the narrator taking over and telling what was happening to the MC? (She/Her)

Keep in mind there are many pitfalls associated with each style. But, that will be another blog post, since it will take pages simply to speak on that subject. Stay tuned and watch for it!

*Remember this article is only meant to touch upon certain terms you will hear during your writing progression. This is no way meant to be a deep dive into each one. Feel free to contact us with any questions.

Until next time, keep writing.


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