10 Tips on How to Write a Protagonist

 

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A protagonist is the central character of a story. Unlike side characters, the hero influences the story the heaviest. Because the hero holds the plot together, developing a solid character is vital.

Below, I’ll discuss some tips on how to write a protagonist; things that should assist you with your hero’s development. These are guidelines, as the majority of the hero’s creation comes from the author.

How to Write a Protagonist

When learning how to write a protagonist, there are several things to keep in mind. How each parameter lines up can influence both the protagonist and the plot.

1. Gender

This is one of the more prominent points when you write a protagonist, as the POV can change considerably with the hero’s gender. I read an enlightening series of forum posts that discusses male and female characters. You can check this and this for additional information.

Stay true to your character’s quirks and personality. Don’t let traditional stereotypes interrupt that creative flow. If you hit a roadblock, ask a reader of the opposite sex. Often, he or she can add some insights to your character design.

2. Race

Whether your hero is Caucasian, African, or some fictional alien race, have that racial background define who they are and their ordeals. Maybe a particular breed of space elves are hated in society, or they lack a specific trait that humans take for granted.

3. Height, Weight, Body Mass

Maybe your hero is a short, fat dwarf or a lanky human. How they appear to other characters can influence how the hero comes off. Perhaps a tall protagonist looks formidable and therefore commands respect.

Maybe give your hero some facial scars, a distinguishing feature that sets them apart. Make them unique, as the main character should be.

4. Secrets

Any reader enjoys secrets; even better are secrets within secrets. What I mean is, wrap your main character in mystery. Give them an enigmatic past and don’t give out the answers too quickly.

Have your secrets evolve as the hero progresses through the plot. This evokes intrigue and helps pull the reader in.

5. Character Flaws

“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

Tension is fundamental on how to write a protagonist. Incorporate conflict into your characters, whether in their backstory, gender, race, or physical limitations. You can also give them technical flaws, like the inability to perform a skill or a specific action.

Giving them too many perks and too little flaws result in a bland, uninteresting hero. You want to challenge your hero, not make them a god; nor do you want them to fail in their quest.

6. Attributes

As in video games, especially RPGs or tabletops like D&D, a character in a story has a given set of attributes. These parameters define what the actor is good at, what he or she may fail at, and perhaps unique modifiers that make the character stand out from other characters.

First, define what kind of a character, or class, the actor is. Take your stereotypical warrior: they—usually—have high strength and resilience to trauma. Warriors may not specialize in other fields of ability like magic or stealth, but they have their toolbox of skills to make up for it.

Characters like the warrior fit a niche in a company of heroes, whereas others party members address their shortcomings. Having one character do all the work often comes off as lazy and boring. Give your characters a challenge that pushes them to their limits.

7. The Hero’s Journey

The hero should be someone who struggles through the impossible. The protagonist should suffer but persevere. This is a reflection of the journey we all go through—the Hero’s Journey.

It is vital when writing a protagonist that the hero is relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with the hero. Plot out your story using the Acts found in the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell did an excellent job in his novel, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I highly recommend this book.

8. Antagonist

An antagonist complements the protagonist, forming a wholesome plot. The villain often provides the tension and challenge to the hero. In traditional works, the antagonist is a reflection of the hero with exacerbated personality flaws. It could also be a father figure.

9. Leveling Up

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As a character progresses through a story, they level up or gain additional attributes. With games, the hero adds new parameters to their character sheet. In a novel, leveling up is more subtle. The author may demonstrate this as a character acquiring a new artifact/weapon for study, graduating from school, or finishing a spellbook.

The development of new experience enriches the character’s worldview and the way they handle problems. A rookie fighter may view a few brigands with horror, while a veteran would display confidence.

This system of progression enhances characters and leaves a player or reader with a greater sense of appreciation by the end of the story. Typically, characters begin with little to no experience and graduate to seasoned fighters by the end of the plot.

10. Tropes

If you’re still struggling with how to write a protagonist, check out TV Tropes here to browse a list of familiar character tropes. That may give you some idea of what you’d prefer in your character.

As an example, the farmer hero trope is heavily used in fantasy settings, but it still works. My main hero of Ethereal Seals starts out as a half-dragon farm girl who trains into a knight by the end of the story, yet she fails at some tasks that others take for granted.

There are endless variations to this trope alone, and putting your original spin on it will help it stand out.

Conclusion

Learning how to write a protagonist can be a complicated process. There are certain factors to keep in mind, like gender, race, body proportions, and flaws. Tropes provide a convenient starting point for character creation. Remember to challenge your hero—introduce some tension.

I hope this article has provided a good idea of the thought and time put into a character. For more information, please check out the provided links throughout the page.

Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude. 🙂


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POV in Prose

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POV (point of view) in prose is a vital storytelling element; it even finds a place in nonfiction articles. It is like the camera of the reader. Imagine looking through the eyes of one person for the entire story. Maybe it switches to another character as the story progresses.

This article will give an introduction to perspectives, the different types of perspectives, how to use them, and the attributes associated. If you’re a new or aspiring writer, mastering POV is crucial—and this article is for you.

—First-person—

In nature, we are all born in first person perspective. Even as you read this article, your brain absorbs it from a first-person perspective. I, me, my, we, ours—these pronouns define the first-person viewpoint.

Don’t be afraid to explore the character’s inner universe. Stick to one character’s perspective per scene, if possible. Show the character’s emotions, why they do what they do. First-person is also popular in articles, as it adds anonymous credit to the author when needed, without specifying who.

Examples of First-person

I woke to the strident calls of my alarm clock, the morning rays stinging my eyes. My heart pounded in my ears, my neck wet with sweat.

Flashes of my previous day returned. I was back with my friends. We had finished our activities at school. Then, we saw it, the one thing a highschooler wishes he would never see.

Attributes of First-person

  • The narrator becomes the character
  • Creates an emotional and intimate experience with the reader
  • Makes prose more objective
  • The plural of first-person is “we,” the singular is “I”
  • ‘We’ or “our’ is an anonymous way to strengthen formality in articles

—Second-person—

You are reading this article. I am talking to you or you all in second-person. This is second-person POV. The narrator, instead of jumping inside the character’s head, dictates to the protagonist what is happening. In this way, the actor “hears” the narrator rather than becoming one and the same.

Second-person is often used in emails, tutorials, and other dictatorial pieces. The narrator brings the reader into the story and encourages them to engage in the plot or prose rather than from the remote standpoint of a character. In this way, second-person is more intimate than first-person.

Attributes of Second-person

  • Dictatorial POV in prose, more often used in the present tense
  • The reader is in the story rather than inside a character’s mind
  • The pronoun “you” can be singular or plural; can also use “you all
  • More intimate and emotional with the reader than first-person
  • Excellent for tutorials, certain novels, and articles
  • Perspective strictly limited to the reader
  • Works poorly in research papers or dissertations

Examples of Second-person

You wake to the strident calls of your alarm clock, the morning rays stinging the eyes. Your heart drums in the ears, neck wet with sweat.

Flashes of the previous day return. You were back with classmates. You all had finished school activities. Then, you saw it, the one thing highschoolers wish they would never see.

—Third-person—

This perspective pops up in many kinds of novels, particularly romance or fantasy. The narrator refers to characters by their name or as “he,” “she,” or “it.” Third-person finds popularity in news reporting and business writing, whereas the prose stays objective and accurate to a report or statistical paper.

There are a few types of third-person perspective, as it’s one of the more complex perspectives.

Third-person Limited

With this perspective, the reader is a separate entity from the characters. The narrator tells the story from the perspective of a single character.

Third-person Multiple

Third-person Multiple opens additional information that Limited cannot convey. Multiple character perspectives are included, rather than just one.

Third-person Omniscient

The narrator acts as god and reports any and every thought or development between characters. This is perhaps the most difficult POV in prose, as it includes a large amount of detail and multi-tasking, otherwise known as “head-hopping.” Omniscient is a powerful perspective that can shorten prose and travel anywhere in a character’s history, but it can also be overwhelming for the reader if done wrong.

If you use this perspective, watch out for data dumps that slog the pace or may confuse the reader.

Third-person Objective

This perspective comes from a neutral perspective as if the reader is an invisible spectator at the scene. The reader—separate from the characters—watches the scene play out. Descriptors that describe internal emotions are to be avoided here.

Third-person Subjective

Subjective perspective can use internal dialogue strictly through the words of the narrator. In subjective, the narrator takes a larger role in telling the story, rather than letting the characters do all the work. This creates distance between readers and the characters but may improve pacing.

Attributes of Third-person

  • Places the reader in spectator mode, watching characters
  • Offers a variety of perspectives to suit the narrative
  • May provide a higher volume of information for the reader
  • Less intimate than first-person or second-person
  • Easier to confuse multiple third-POVs

To maintain a proper perspective in third-person, always ask yourself what character holds the camera. Maintain that perspective and avoid ‘head-hopping’ where possible.

Examples of Third-person

Tom woke to the strident calls of his alarm clock, the morning rays stinging his eyes. Tom’s heart pounded, his neck wet with sweat.

Flashes of his previous day returned. Tom was back with friends. They had finished their activities at school. Then, Tom saw it, the one thing a highschooler wishes he would never see.

—Final Remarks on POV in Prose—

There are many types of POV in prose. Selecting the proper perspective can alter the narrative drasticallyand favorably if done right.

Questions to Ask Yourself

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so feel free to include your own questions as needed.

  1. How does the story relate with the perspective of the characters? The reader?
  2. What do I (the author) feel about watching the characters from a particular viewpoint?
  3. What emotions or traits should be presented in the story? What POV best suits this objective?
  4. What should readers feel as they progress through the book?
  5. How should readers connect with the characters?
  6. Is there an underlying message associated with the perspective chosen?

Conclusion

I hope this article has provided you with a good introduction about POV in prose and how to select one appropriate for your prose. Knowing your characters and how they relate to the storyand to your audienceis the gist of it.

Thank you for reading. See the provided links below for further reading. Love and gratitude. 🙂


Hit that follow button below to stay in touch with this blog’s updates. I’m looking for beta readers for my new book, Ethereal Seals: Dragonsword. You can look for its listing here, it has a green gem on the cover. Thanks.

—Sources and Further Reading—

https://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-first-person-pov

https://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/first-second-and-third-person

https://writingcommons.org/collaborate/common-comments/point-of-view/522-avoid-second-person-point-of-view-

https://www.scribophile.com/academy/using-third-person-multiple-pov

https://www.thoughtco.com/third-person-point-of-view-1692547

http://www.thebeginningwriter.com/2012/03/look-at-different-types-of-point-of.html

Writing a Good Query Letter

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When it comes to writing, some writers dread the querying process. Unlike a manuscript, query letters are business. Similar to writing a cover letter for a job interview, this is your first impression to an agent or editor, so you need to make it count.

This article will talk about drafting a query letter and some helpful tips. Take these pointers with a grain of salt—they’re guidelines only, but I’ve found them useful.

Layout for Writing a Query Letter

Contact Information

Include any contact information before your first paragraph near the top of the page, right justified. This helps the recipient contact you if they need further information. It also breaks the ice—so to speak—and shows that you offer a professional medium of trust.

Personal websites are a big plus; these give the recipient an idea of what you’re capable of. Below your personal info include the agent’s information, left justified.

Salutations

Give a proper business greeting to the recipient. Use his or her last name with the suffix Mr. or Ms. respectively.  If you don’t know the name, use sir or madam instead—not recommended as it creates a less formal feel.

First Paragraph

Your beginning, like any book, should catch the reader’s interest. Show the recipient why they should continue reading when they have a hundred others letters to peruse. Use a hook to grab their attention. Stand out from the crowd. Mention the recipient’s credentials, information posted on their websites, or anything that shows you’ve done your homework and are serious about working with them.

Use your first paragraph creatively. Begin with some background that connects yourself to the agent. Illustrate your talents, achievements, and ordeals. Even flaws or setbacks can be spun positively. Usually, the first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the query letter. This can make or break your letter’s review.

If you don’t have a tangible connection to the recipient, skip into the action of your book.

Second Paragraph

Early on should be a brief summary of your book. Say a few things that help it stand out from ‘oh another fantasy fiction with swords, elves, and horses.’ Explain general plot ideas and the main characters, their conflicts, and so forth. Mention the premise, genre, audience, and word count.

“The main objective of a query is simple: Make the agent care enough about your protagonist and your plot that she wants to read more.” —source

Third Paragraph

Include any bio or additional credentials that help argue your cause. Keep it short and detailed.

Here’s an earlier article I wrote on novel length to help.

Final Paragraph

Conclude the letter by thanking the recipient for their time. Describe a few more positive features about your book to wrap up. Mention that you can send the first chapter if they’re interested. Sign off short and sweet.

Tips for Writing a Query Letter

A Good Fit

Before you query, make sure the recipient is appropriate for your querying needs. Explain why you are querying an agent, what makes you and the agent a good fit.

Readability

Use short sentences and paragraphs if able. This helps with readability, allowing the recipient a quick look at what you have to offer out of the hundreds of other query letters. Use simple vocabulary, don’t try to be impressive with complicated wording.

Submission Guidelines

Follow whatever requirements or recommendations the agent has on their webpage. Every agent prefers different criteria for submission.

Length

Some writers can fit everything in three paragraphs, but it’s not recommended to do it in less than three. The bulk of the letter should be about your story. Anything more than a page may be daunting to a recipient. Aim for three to five paragraphs.

Font

This is debatable. I use a standard 12 pt. New Roman. Some recipients may prefer New Courier or some other font. If you can’t find the recipient’s preference online, go with a font that is readable and distinct. Don’t use any color text. Keep it simple.

Grammar

This goes without saying if you’re a writer. However, I’ve seen many writers flub the rules when it comes to a query letter.

Look for mistakes like dangling participles or run on sentences. Even a small typo can turn an agent away. I use Word and Grammarly to double check my work. A proofreader wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Tone

A query letter is a business letter. Don’t get carried away with your personal background or your story’s description. Keep the formality. Avoid contractions for a more formal feel.

Credentials

Mention anything you have published, any degrees or significant achievements. Avoid details that fluff you up or make you seem unrealistic. Compare your story to another more notable example if it will help.

“In essence, a query letter is a marketing page that talks up your book, without overselling it. You must walk a very fine line between selling your manuscript without coming across like the parent who knows his kid is the best player on the bench.” —source

Conclusion

Writing a query letter can be daunting. While there is no set formula for a query letter, the guidelines above should aid in the process. Here’s a brief overview for those who want a synopsis.

Overview

  • Include contact information and the recipient’s info
  • Keep it formal with Mr. or Ms. and avoid contractions
  • Use a hook in the beginning
  • Describe why your story matters and offer to send in the first chapter
  • Keep the length to one page, 12 font is ideal
  • Check grammar and tone suited for business letters
  • Adhere to submission guidelines
  • Connect with the recipient

Perseverance

Most of all, stay positive. There’s a good chance the recipient will reject or even fail to reply to your submission. Don’t lose heart! Remember that tens of thousands of others are in the same situation.

 

I hope this article has assisted you with your query letter needs. For additional information see the affiliated links below. Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude. 🙂

Additional Sources

https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-write-the-perfect-query-letter

https://nybookeditors.com/2015/12/how-to-write-a-darn-good-query-letter/

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/successful-queries

https://blog.reedsy.com/how-to-write-a-query-letter/


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Dangling Participles

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Another revisit to a past post, this article describes how to improve one’s prose via dangling participles. I will define this term and how best to use it in written work, whether in essays or novels.

It can be tricky to spot at first, but addressing dangling participles adds clarity to a sentence, providing information that the reader may not have. Let’s begin with a basic definition of all the terms.

Definitions

Participles

Participles are challenging to define, but generally speaking, they are a word similar to both an adjective and a verb.

Take the phrase polish for example. You can say: it’s time to polish the wardrobe. This uses the vocab as a verb. If you say: the polished wardrobe, then the verb acts as an adjective, describing the wardrobe.

Other examples of participles may attach an -ed or an -ing to the end of the verb to create the past or present participle, respectively. This is the crux of what a participle is. They have other uses too as with verb tenses, but that is beyond the scope of this article.

Participle Phrase

When you have a group of words with a participle in it, it’s called a participle phrase (PP). Consider these examples:

Running up the hill, Pepper heard the churning waterfall.

Taking a breather, Tarie considered the canyon that yawned in the distance.

The underlined words are the PP. Notice how they modify the second half of the sentence, using run and take as the base verbs for Pepper and Tarie. Here’s one more example:

Calming herself, Pepper felt the mindful void.

Notice the proximity of the participle phrase to the modified subject: Pepper. The noun doesn’t have to be adjacent, but it helps clarify what the participle phrase modifies.

Dangling Participle

A dangling participle occurs when the subject modified is unclear, leaving a dangling impression or meaning to the sentence. Here’s an example:

Running up the hill, the waterfall churned noisily for Pepper.

Taking a breather, the canyon yawned in the distance in front of Tarie.

In these examples, it sounds like the waterfall and canyon are modified. The correct identifier doesn’t follow, even if the author thinks it does. Implied modifications are never wise in prose.

Always bring the proper noun/subject closer to the participle phrase, like sticking them together with glue. That said, you can call this process glue participles, or glue parts, to help remember how to address dangling participles. 🙂

Here and here are more examples and exercises for those of you who are curious.

Exceptions

Comedy

As with most mechanics in the English language, there are exceptions. Sometimes an author may desire a dangling participle for the sake of comedy (most dangling participles read hilariously).

Steering Prose

A dangling participle can also—albeit crudely—keep a sentence or even a paragraph centered on a specific item. First, read the article as an unfamiliar reader would. Examine how the paragraph influences the reader’s perspective.

When done correctly, a writer can manipulate a reader’s viewpoint in creative ways. This can lead to interesting prose that may build up to a particular point later on.

Conclusion

Whatever the reason for using a dangling participle, make sure the audience understands the rationale behind using one.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Reread over your prose and dissect the usage of a dangling participle. Here are some questions to help:

  1. What is the participle—the modifier—in the sentence?
  2. What is the subject of the modification?
  3. Is the subject close to the participle for clarification?
  4. What is the objective of the dangling participle—if it exists—in this sentence?
  5. Can I do without it?
  6. Are there any other options available?

Develop a solid understanding of the sentence first before you rewrite or change the prose. Don’t speed through it. The mind takes time to analyze the layers that constitute English writing.

Rules Are Meant to be Broken?

Nine times out of ten, a dangling participle won’t be the best choice; but you’re the author of your own story or world so you can choose and define how prose should flow.

Mainstream professionals may not agree, but as long as your audience comprehends the reason behind a dangling participle, it should read okay—I say that lightly. Yet there’s always that one way to make it work. I’m certainly not a master of it.

I hope this article has helped you with any questions concerning dangling participles and the other vocabulary associated therein. Happy writing and thank you for reading!

Another mention to all you NaNoWriMo writers—a job well done. Sadly, I was too busy to engage this year. I’m hoping to attempt NaNoWriMo next November. Until then, there’s plenty to read, write, and research. Cheers. 🙂


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Book Length and Word Count

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I decided to revisit this old article and dress it up a bit. Take the word count example lists with a grain of salt. They are averages. Anyway, onto the meat and potatoes of this article.


The length of a book can be a vital factor in its success. It may not appear to be at first, but there is a formula followed by countless writers and publishers. Depending on the target audience, genre, and book type, the word count in a book can vary.

That said, there are always outliers—books that have done well outside of word count brackets—so these guidelines are best loosely followed.

Book Length Guidelines

Although there is no fixed word count, there are generally recognized guidelines depending on their genre and audience.

Audience

Younger audiences have smaller attention spans and therefore cater to short, fast-paced book length. Adults are more tolerable with longer manuscripts. Likewise, YA (young adult) will—usually—be less than the book length for a more mature audience.

Age group Examples:

  • Poetry: 5 to 3k
  • Picture Book: 400 to 800
  • Play: 1k to 32k
  • Middle Grade: 25k to 40k
  • Young Adult: 50k to 80k

Genres

Book genres, of course, play a considerable role in word count.  Science fiction and fantasy works tend toward a high word count since the writer develops a fictional world.

Historical fiction, Young Adult, Westerners, and Mysteries tend towards a lower end of the spectrum—of course, there are always exceptions.

Genre group examples:

  • Romance: 40,000 to 100,000 words
  • Mystery/Thriller/Horror: 70,000 to 90,000
  • Horror: 80,000 to 100,000
  • Historical: 90,000 to 100,000
  • Sci-fi/Fanasty: 90,000 to 130,000

General Book Types

Depending on the type of book you intend to write, word count plays another significant factor. Flash fiction and short stories are, of course, brief. A novella—for those who don’t know—is a short novel with a compact story; ideal for a quick read.

Book type examples:

  • Flash Fiction: 300 to 1,500 words
  • Short Story: 1,500 to 30,000
  • Novellas: 30,000 to 50,000
  • Novels: 50,000 to 100,000

The Endgame

Legacies

Ultimately, these listings are a guide, not necessarily a strict rulebook. You can have your long epic fantasy and do well with it. However, for new writers, it is best to start small and work your way up. A book length that is simple and sweet reads best.

Once one’s legacy is built, a writer can gamble a little more. Agents and publishers can reference this track record and this increases the chance the book gets published regardless of word count or even prose finesse. If you have enough avid fans who will buy the book, publishers will overlook certain shortcomings, since they know the books will rake in profits regardless.

For this reason, some authors start small in self-publishing like Michael J. Sullivan before they hit the goldmine.

Quantity Versus Quality

Another thing to remember is that quantity alone does not a good book make.  You have to earn your manuscript, one word at a time. If a document is 150,000 words long but fills its pages with redundant vocabulary, it won’t read well.

Adverbs and excessive prose often slog writing; an attempt by the writer to look professional. As a general rule of thumb, the shorter the word/phrase is, the better. The simpler a manuscript is, the more people can read it, and the more can enjoy it.

Word Impact

Each word in a manuscript should contribute to the book in at least one of the following ways:

  • Character progression
  • Plot development
  • Environmental immersion

There are exceptions, but if you find a word that doesn’t fit one of these criteria, it can usually be removed. You don’t want to be overly descriptive either.

Half of the fun comes from the reader’s imagination; give half and let the reader form the rest. This stimulates the reader’s mind, bringing with it a sense of fulfillment. Remember, a book is as much of a journey for the writer as it is for the reader.

Conclusion

Wrapup

The length of a book is up to the writer, depending on his or her goals and ambitions. Identifying core variables like the audience, genre, and book type are essential to the process.

A writer must first do the research, just as a builder must first draw out blueprints for a house—and research the terrain. Each brick of a manuscript’s foundation should be carefully placed with meaning. If you do this, your house of stories will last against the elements of agents, publishers, and readers alike.

A Final Note

Happy writing and have a great Thanksgiving! Also, one last shoutout to all you NaNoWriMo writers. Great work—keep it up! 😀

For those who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, you can check out the community page here for more information. The website also has an archive of helpful pointers for writers.

Thank you for reading. 🙂


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Essentials for SEO Article Writers

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This is a revised article of an older version on this forum. Additional and updated material should provide a better guide to SEO articles.  As always, any suggestions or feedback is appreciated.

Regardless, this article is for those who have some idea about blogging and digital articles.

Introduction to SEO Articles

Articles are attractive specimens for the presentation of information. In our age of information, the internet is rife with these nifty critters. Surprisingly, few fully understand it, but I will address that here.

While the method of writing an article is solely up to the author, there are some guidelines to understand. These pointers should improve searchability and make the lives of both reader and writer convenient.

SEO Articles—What Are They?

The Definition of SEO

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is a convenient and lucrative way for a brand to advertise itself. Usually, through search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or Duckduckgo, an article with good SEO will appear higher on the listings.

This feature encourages viewers to visit the article’s page. As a result, the page gets higher views and ratings. With increased scores, search engines rank the page higher, leading to more visits.

In other words, the SEO is like the pitch given to the search engine. Better pitches get better hits. Here is an idea:

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Types of SEO Pages

There are many types of web pages with SEO. Here are some to consider:

  • Product review pages: designed for the retail of goods and services
  • Blog posts (like this one): a flexible—and popular—way to engage an audience
  • News articles: essentially a digital newspaper or magazine
  • Guides and pointers: instructions on ‘how to’ something
  • Vlogs: pages that—unlike blogs—focus more on video and visual presentation; text transcripts work in this scenario
  • Glossaries: lists or dictionaries that viewers can reference

How to Write SEO Articles

Preparation for SEO Writing

Before you write that excellent SEO article, you must plan out what you intend to publish to the world. Ask yourself the following:

  • What idea is worth pitching?
  • What is the objective of this article? What are the keywords?
  • How does one present said idea efficiently?
  • What type of audience should the article target?
  • How long should the article be?

Define Your Goals

Keep it simple, but detailed enough that it satisfies what readers need. For example, on a product review page, the prose should be alluring and informative. Use supplementary blogs and pages to add to your testimony.

Google, in particular, ranks articles higher if other blogs and pages link to it. This suggests trust. If you link to one person’s blog, they—or someone else—may return the favor. Forming a web of digital blogging networks is an excellent start.

Keywords and key phrases

Identify what your article is about with a few core words. Let this be the crux of the article, what drives it. Include it in the title, intro paragraph, and ending paragraph. Distribute the keywords throughout the section in an informative way.

Do not go overboard. This may seem sloppy and unappealing (the keywords should be around .5% to 1.5% of the words, for most articles). This will boost the quality of your SEO and attract more readers.

Develop a spreadsheet first, detailing the data about keywords and potential competition. A simple Excel or Google spreadsheet works well enough. You can also use AdWord to help with the analytics of it all.

Remember, research, double check, and research again. The level of research you pour into an article will illustrate itself through length, clarity, uniqueness, and readability. Perfection is an impossibility, of course, but it is a solid ambition.

Audience

It is essential to know your viewer base before article construction. Different age and ethnic groups react differently to content. Research can help you identify the right audience group.

Depending on your reader base, the prose and complexity of the article should scale appropriately. For example, younger viewers prefer faster, more visual content. Older readers may prefer a more traditional or slower presentation.

If you’re writing for a very generalized audience and are unsure, use the average reading level for the country (around 8th grade). Here is an excellent program you can ‘copypasta’ your work into for analysis. It is also suitable for word counting and frequency— a fantastic SEO writing tool.

Headers

On that note of selecting an audience, there are ways to improve readability. For starters, master the usage of headers. Headers come with tags H1 through H6. H1 is the largest and most important. Use the header tags as you would a filing cabinet.

Here is an example:

H1 Header {the title}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

->H2 Header {main section of the article}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

—>H3 Header {minor section}

Notice how the headers nest within each other in an organized manner. The H1 header contains the H2 and H3 sections—the H2 only the H3. An organized routine like this can greatly improve readability in an article.

Headers are also an opportunity to insert keywords into your article, for the sake of SEO. Search engines rank keywords in headers higher than in paragraphs. Headers summarize and offer hints to what a paragraph contains.

The words in a header should be unique and tailored towards the article’s objectives (which you hopefully outlined enough, before writing). If not, do not worry, it will come with practice and dedication.

Scale, Intro, and Outro Paragraphs

Most articles drift between 500 and 3000 words. Items longer than this some people won’t have the time to read. Instead, they will examine the first and last few paragraphs to get a general synopsis of the article.

Search engines tend to favor articles around the 1500 to 2000 word count. This implies abundance and value. Determine what word density is best for your blogging or company needs. Some writers do better on less.

Limit your paragraphs to three lines or less, if possible. The average attention span is low for readers in our busy modern society. Most readers prefer to get to the juicy tidbits of the article, rather than slog through paragraphs.

Highlight Important Points

It helps to highlight vital pieces in an article. Highlighting with headers, italics, or bold can help skimmers detect the juicy information in your article. Keywords also help, as some readers may use a find tool to locate a specific vocabulary.

This practice provides the reader with more flexibility, as those who are pressed for time can extract crucial parts readily, while others can choose to read the whole document at their leisure.

Catchy title

This should be a no-brainer for most writers. The title should be unique, snagging the reader’s interest, while not long enough to sound daunting. The title should match the information you present, giving the reader a snapshot of what to expect.

Make it a point to remember this point, as people absorb scientific articles differently than subjective ones. A simple blog update versus a lengthy report is like comparing apples and oranges. They will each attract their own unique viewer base.

Lists and bullet points

Readers love organized records, and bullet points should improve SEO.  Lists are easier to comprehend and take less time to digest. Make sure your listings are informative and straightforward. Your readers will appreciate it.

When you construct a list, capitalize only the first letter in a list item. Forgo periods at the end of the sentence, unless the listing is lengthy. Keep it short and sweet. If you find another method that works better, great, keep at it.

Coffee

Last, but not least, be sure to have that cup of coffee ready. I’m joking, of course (well maybe), but you should make whichever adjustments you feel necessary for a working environment.

Some people function better in an organized office, for example. Others find that classical music helps focus—whatever gets you going.

Conclusion

SEO articles are a curious breed of digital beasts. While difficult to understand at first, they can significantly improve the hits an article receives—this is no guarantee, of course. Persistence is important.

Becoming adept at SEO content takes time. Be patient with yourself. Take breaks from writing if you need to (I’ve done all-nighters before so I can relate). SEO articles are still a relatively new phenomenon in our digital age.

Regardless, learning the basics of SEO is essential to any digital writer. I hope this humble blog post has shown the significance of SEO—how to get started. For more information, visit the hyperlinks below.

And don’t forget the coffee. You’ll need it. 😉

Thank you for reading and good luck.

Love and gratitude to my viewers—click that follow button if you want updates. Thanks. 🙂

Additional SEO Writing Sources

SEO Copywriting and Search Engine Optimization

SEO for Dummies

SEO Beginner’s Guide

Secrets to Professional SEO Writing

Additional SEO Software Tools:

BuzzSumo—quick searches on a keyword for relevant social media threads

Moz—another keyword research tool

SEMrush—keyword rankings; fast and easy to use

WordCounter—keyword density, word counting, and more

Grammarly—grammar, readability, and overall sentence structure

 

A quick look at en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens

dashes

 

Hey, welcome back for another installation in my writing advice articles. 😎

As an amateur writer, I often wondered how dashes and hyphens functioned. At first, I assumed they joined words together. It wasn’t until I delved into the matter that I realized there are multiple variants of these critters, each with a specialized function in writing. Let’s take a look at each in turn.

Hyphens

The function of hyphens is to connect two or more words that are related, usually pairs that work as one word; e.g., two-headed, half-human, semi-conscious, long-term, up-to-date, free-for-all.

The hyphen serves as the glue that welds the pairing vocabulary, forming a compound phrase. This works for nouns, verbs, and adjectives. You can also use hyphens to punctuate character stuttering.

Never use a hyphen in place of an en dash or em dash. We’ll discuss that more below. Be on the lookout for closed or open compounds, as these do not need a hyphen.

Hyphen Examples

Closed: typewriter, skyscraper, notebook, fireman.

Open: lounge chair, living room, real estate.

Quite often a compound modifier is hyphenated if it comes before a noun it modifies, but not after.  The reason is for added clarity on what’s being modified. For example:

Incorrect: Let’s head to that run down church.

Correct: Let’s head to that run-down church.

Other examples for hyphen usage are:

  • With the vocabulary low/highlow-income, high-interest.
  • With fractions: one-third, one-half, one-tenth.
  • With prefixes ex, self, all: ex-wife, self-employed, all-powerful.
  • With numbers: second-century, third-floor, thirty-minute, ninety-four, fifty-one, one hundred and fifty-five.

Mastering hyphens can be tricky. I encourage my readers to check out that Grammarly article I linked above for more examples on when to use this symbol.

En dash

An en dash(–) is longer than a hyphen(-), but shorter than an em dash(—). While simpler than hyphens, en dashes find less use in modern writing.

The function of this critter is to establish a range, whether by numbers, distance, or parties of a spectrum such as in a versus debate or business partnership.

En Dash Examples

  • Number range: 1050 hours, 30006000 days, 15–30 people.
  • Distance range: ChicagoNew York flight, EarthMoon voyage.
  • Opposing parties: ClintonGore debate, RightLeft convention.
  • Partnership: RalphHeath Company, JonesMary Inc.

Em dash

Here’s where the fun starts. An em dash(—) is a versatile symbol. This tool separates phrases and clauses in a sentence. They are similar to commas, parenthesis, and semicolons.

Em dashes symbolize a pause in a thoughtlike I did here—, perhaps informally, while parenthesis is more formal. You could take a regular sentence and insert a pair of em dashes somewhere betwixt as in the sentence above.

Otherwise, for a single break, use only one em dash—to avoid confusion of course. Em dashes can also substitute for colonsor used in a list.

Em Dash Examples

  • An em dash is a break in written thoughtuseful for fixing incomplete sentences.
  • Two em dashes are an insertion for additional information that could be—depending on the writer’s situationexcluded.
  • An em dash can be substituted for a comma, colon, semicolon, parenthesis, bullet point, and much more.

Again, I advise my readers to check out the hyperlinked articles above for more examples. Em dashesat firstseem confusing, but once mastered, the versatility of this tool cannot be underestimated.

Personally, I enjoy using it a lot more than I did a few years ago. That said, using more than two em dashesfor the sake of clarityin a sentence is not recommended. Some people represent em dashes with spaces, others with three hyphens joined. Whatever method you use, be sure to let the reader know.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article helped with whatever creative projects you harbor. Love and gratitude. 😀


Want to stay in touch with the blog’s updates and other nifty tidbits? Hit that follow button below. Thanks!

 

Editing and revising: concision, precision, and other goodies

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Yay for Snoopy—I mean, hey, welcome back. It’s been a while, but I’ve got another post to share. 😎

This article is a revisit on improving conciseness in prose, or rather, an updated variant of it (I mentioned it briefly in one of my earlier posts).

Concision work typically comes after the initial draft during the editing passes, so don’t worry about it too much when you draft the story.

What is Concision in Prose?

Definition

Conciseness and precision are essential to good prose. Minimizing words used, trading weak vocabulary for a single stronger word, eliminating redundancy; these are but a few of the processes involved with concision.

Why Bother with Concision?

Not only will a manuscript read smoother and faster (your readers will thank you), entire pages may animate in unimaginable ways.

Fortunately, there are a handful of nifty techniques to help. Although the result may not be crispy clean, you can bet a lot of unnecessary and nasty vocabulary are gone.

“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.” ~The Elements of Style, by Strunk and White

That said, we’re all human beings, so perfection is only an ambition that drives our efforts (and I doubt this article is optimized). Anyway, let’s cover some of those concision techniques.

Techniques

Wordiness

When editing your work, look for ways to shorten a phrase or set of vocabulary. Sometimes you can convert a few words into a single one. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:

  • a number of → many/some
  • at the present time → now/at present
  • despite the fact that → although
  • on a daily basis → daily
  • he was going → he went (passive voice correction)

Notice how a single word or two can substitute for a whole phrase. Passive Voice (which I covered here) always violates the concision of prose, but there are exceptions for this. I encourage you to examine the hyperlink for more information.

Invisible words

Certain words appear ‘invisible’ to the reader’s eye. Words such as ‘said,’ ‘the,’ or ‘and’ are fillers that won’t particularly grab the reader’s attention. Their purpose is to bridge the gap between words that do matter.

Regardless, if used in excess, they can cause friction in the rhythm of prose. Mix up the frequency or remove them entirely.

These tools can hold significance in dialogue when using tags to denote the speaker. Sometimes you can get away with no labels at all for ideal concision.

Descriptors and Pacing

While there are invisible words and prose symbols that serve some purpose, sometimes a writer can use a stronger one to enhance a sentence.

You can trim down excess adverbs and adjectives into shorter, stronger versions. Often this involves a little ingenuity to mold the phrases to the tense of your written piece. Consider these scenarios:

He ran to the store quickly. → He sprinted to the store.

Marle cried loudly. → Marle bawled.

The Kraken roared ferociously. → The Kraken screeched.

He was very tired. → He was exhausted.

The use of a stronger descriptor can better highlight the action or details. Sometimes a writer will ignore this rule to highlight a particular phrase or slow the story’s tempo. It’s up to you to decide how and when to manipulate pace for the reader’s benefit.

Long paragraphs slow the pace of writing and may come off as daunting to a reader (like this one—eep!). While seldom large sections serve a function, overuse forces slower prose tempo and gives writing an unfavorable taste. Action paragraphs need to be quick and to the point. Short sentences add to the jarring sensation of battle, increasing the depth of the reader’s experience.

Descriptive paragraphs are longer, slower, and more robust, similar to how human perception slows when we study or observe. Not surprisingly, scientific papers are often sluggish and detailed.

Redundant words

With concision and precision, a writer can delete an entire word without substitution, thereby strengthening a sentence or phrase. Some words are unnecessary, and you’re better off excluding them. Here are a few to watch out for:

Irregardless, obviously, very, almost, just, essentially, basically, totally, seriously, honestly, and actually.

Naturally, in dialogue, there are exceptions. Reread a sentence a few times and feel out the flavor of the words. Take your time with it and savor every morsel. Writers sometimes use these words in clever ways to better demonstrate a character’s speech habits.

Contractions in dialogue are another easy way to sharpen your manuscript, so don’t feel afraid to use them.

From my experience, contractions rarely appear in narration for a more formal tone. Some characters may purposely speak without contractions for that flair of formality. Again, it’s up to the writer to decide how to present it.

Conclusion

Writing with concision is essential to good prose. It allows for a smoother and more readable script. There are some techniques to help with the process, such as reducing redundant or wordy vocabulary, shortening paragraphs, and using stronger verbs.

Thank you for reading, and I hope this article helped with whatever creative projects you harbor. Love and gratitude. 😀


Want to stay in touch with the blog’s updates and other nifty tidbits? Hit that follow button below. Thanks!

Here’s a bonus: www.wordcounter.net. This website is a nifty piece of software you can use to sharpen your prose. Have fun!

 

[Guest Post] Spirituality and Magic in Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Gods and magic in SFF. Come on and check out this cool guest post I composed. Cheers. 🙂

Richie Billing

I’m delighted to introduce Ed White, writer of creative and visionary fiction, who’s contributing to the blog this week with an insightful post on a significant subject in SFF: spirituality and religion. Enjoy!


The Gods and Goddesses of myth, legend and fairy tale represent archetypes, real potencies and potentialities deep within the psyche, which, when allowed to flower permit us to be more fully human.

Margot Adler

In the realm of sci-fi/fantasy, gods are a curious breed. They represent something abstract—an idea or avatar beyond the reaches of mortal minds. This disconnect from the divine serves as a source of intrigue for the reader, and a subtle impetus for protagonists as they strive towards what no mortal has ever achieved.

Religion also plays a significant role in real-life. Gods and goddesses exist in every culture and region of the world, and there are hundreds of them. The power of…

View original post 949 more words

What is a Mary Sue?

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“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

DrosselmeyerPrincess Tutu

 

You’ve likely heard of this term before–I’m sure it’s been written about to death, but here’s my take. A Mary Sue is a female fictional character given a plethora of boons without many (or any) flaws. They come off as flat characters without much potential for growth. A Mary Sue (or Gary Stu for the male counterpart) are often author pets, and the plot or other actors may bend around the needs and wants of a Sue. A figure of this caliber is often unrealistic, as most humans are flawed, and this makes relating to a Sue or Stu difficult.  It is vital in fiction to create a character relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with a fictional hero. Here is an excellent article on Mary Sue traits.

You can garner interest within a character by giving a flaw or two. It could be a personality shortcoming like a short temper or a technical inability to perform an action. Whatever it is, have your characters struggle with it throughout the plot. Give depth to your characters’ flaws and weave it into their evolution. Don’t overburden your characters with defects. Otherwise, they may come off as incompetent actors who can’t move the plot at all.

Here’s a website for testing a character for Mary Sue traits. There are many other types of tests available, but here’s the first I found on a Google search.

While it’s okay if your character has some of these Sue qualities, try to keep the amount moderate. Some authors believe that Mary Sues can have a role in a story. While this can be true for side characters, your main actors should be the most interesting ones; if a Mary Sue serves a purpose for the protagonists or the plot, then it should be fine as long as it’s done correctly.

Here are some ways to add depth to a character:

  1. Play against traditional norms. Give your protagonist a unique quality that sets them apart, but doesn’t raise them up on a pedestal.
  2. Seed secrets within secrets. Utilize thoughts or dreams to evoke intimacy within a reader.
  3. Even if your characters are incompetent, give them agency. Have them act upon the plot and move mountains, figuratively or literally.
  4. Switch narratives. Have multiples main characters each with their own perspective. This adds depth to the plot and its actors. It may even sharpen one of your conflicts.
  5. Have protagonists relate to other characters and build trust gradually. This goes with the above tip, but trust does not happen quickly, sometimes not at all. If you find your protagonist garners a lot of respect and admiration from other actors for little to no reason, you may want to reconsider.

All in all, a Mary Sue can seem subjective to some, but there are hard guidelines to follow that help an author avoid this character pitfall. Be sure to get the opinion of multiple types of readers with different perspectives to ensure your character is as it should be.

Thank you for reading. Love and gratitude to my readers! 🙂