Genre: Thriller

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Thrillers remain one of the highest selling genres in the world, but they’re also the most likely to be given away. Either to a friend, to a charity shop and just left behind in a hotel room. Thankfully, because they’re so popular, it makes identifying their conventions easy.

1. Take any situation and keep asking ‘what if?’

Honestly, this was the number one piece of advice I was given when I learnt about them at university. But even if I hadn’t, when you read any thrillers, the protagonist is put into a situation and it keeps getting worse until eventually, it reaches a climax. Good or bad, that depends on the writer.

2. Make plenty of obstacles for the protagonist (including time)

Creating obstacles keeps the protagonist from reaching the end goal quickly and makes the end all the more worthwhile. We’re more likely to root for the protagonist when they’ve had everything thrown at them and they still end up on top.

Time is an incredible motivator for anyone. If you give people time pressured deadlines, they freak out and try to do the best job they can, but they don’t think things through properly and make mistakes. In an extreme situation, which thrillers are set in, time acts as an antagonist just as much as the actual antagonist. The antagonist might set a time limit on how long they have to do a task, and the protagonist will react. Probably quite badly.

3. Personal stakes

In every thriller ever, there is always a person at stake. A loved one. A person they hold dear. Their life is now threatened thanks to the protagonist, whether the antagonist actively hurts the loved one or not. Regardless, it gives the protagonist their main motivation for doing all these insane tasks just to get to their loved one and make sure they’re safe.

Or, in some cases, it might be loved ones.

4. Know your ending

There is nothing more frustrating than reading a great story, filled with compelling obstacles and shocking plot twists, and reaching the end only for it to be anti-climatic. You can’t make the ending too predictable nor easy. If the rest of the story has been tough, you need a fight at the end. Like in a video game where the protagonist battles the Final Boss. The fight is difficult, but when you beat them, you feel a sense of accomplishment at beating such a hard enemy. Make the ending the same for the story. Don’t make it a quick and easy end, unless you can execute it properly.

5. Plant early, pay off later

The phrase means plant information early on that’s pivotal to the story and watch it pay off later.

For example, say you were given a key early on in the story and you carried it round for the entire story. When you reach a locked door at the end of the story, this key will pay off. But if you randomly found a key at the end and unlocked the door, it would feel like you were cheating your way out of an impossible scenario because they happened to find the key.

Every thriller will have most of these genre conventions, if not all of them. The genre conventions make the story so compelling, you don’t want to put it down. It remains one of the best selling genres because it’s well executed and, pun intended, thrilling.

Have I missed any genre conventions from thrillers?

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Edinburgh Fringe

Last year, I desperately wanted to go to Edinburgh Fringe but I was in Ireland for the majority of it and I had basically no money to get up there, find a place to stay and pay for shows. However, this year I told mum I wouldn’t go on any holidays for the entirety of August because I didn’t know when I wanted to go and for how long.

The main reason I’ve wanted to go for the past year or so is because it’s the biggest event for UK a cappella groups. Since my second year of university, I’ve been obsessed with a cappella* and I’ll go to shows, regardless of whether I have money or not. The shows are typically cheap and so worth the money. Naturally, I wanted to see as many a cappella groups as I could over the one weekend I’ve booked.

*More so than when I found out about it via Glee, and when I found Pentatonix by accident (and consequently went to their concert – twice)

I picked a weekend and the rest followed. I managed to stay in a nice flat a decent distance away and I booked a flight because I wasn’t wasting valuable time travelling up by train from London, then I found and booked all the a cappella shows I could that wouldn’t clash. I also went to a show I’d heard a lot about and a Harry Potter parody (how could I not?) as well as a free improv show.

All in all, I must’ve walked and ran about 500 miles (couldn’t resist) up and down the hills just trying to get to the shows on time. I barely made them all, even with plenty of time to arrive. Oops? Let’s just say, navigating a city you’ve never been to before when you have no idea where to go and literally 5-10 mins to get to a show isn’t fun or easy!

What I Saw:

The Scopes

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Unfortunately, I had to leave their set early so I could make another show on time, but since I’d seen the set a week before, I didn’t miss too much. I love how they incorporate colours into their set since their name derives from Kaleidoscope, and how they go between serious and fun. Doug in particular is brilliant at making you feel welcome, making jazzy sounds and putting on a fake Scottish accent (which wasn’t too bad). The soloists were all perfectly chosen too.

Bristol Suspensions

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I barely made their show on time despite leaving the previous show early. I got lost trying to find the place. A common theme throughout my Edinburgh Fringe experience.

Since I’d seen their set a week ago, I knew what songs to expect. However, I forgot they had a narrative their set revolved around. They chose Love Actually but changed it to Love Aca-tually and it was genius and so inventive. They had a few songs that, while I watched, I was wondering how they’d fit it into their narrative, but they managed to do so seamlessly. The Eurovision winning song and Dan being Dan as an omniscient narrator (and one last appearance in his wig for a song) made the whole set. Honestly, it was great.

Voldemort And The Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody

If you left this show thinking about how inaccurate this was, this wasn’t the show for you.

Considering how much they packed into an hour, it was very well done. A few catchy songs and some hilarious jokes, the plot and characterisation was good for what it was. It was a lovely, light-hearted parody.

Semi-Toned

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Their show focused on these university students wondering what they’d do once university is over and dealing with their a cappella group being shut down by the university because they got bad grades and/or they weren’t taking their degree seriously. Something all a cappella groups, or anyone heavily invested in a society/sport, face, and something all students face at some point in their degree.

Not only did the set hit home hard, it was also wonderfully crafted. I loved how they incorporated the songs, especially with this one insecure student who felt like he didn’t belong which, honestly, is how I feel 99% of the time. Their songs and choreo is just incredible. I love watching them perform because it’s so synchronised and just… yes.

Choir Of Man

I’d heard about this show through the UK a cappella community, so I figured, since I’m here, I might as well go and see it. I’m so glad I did!

Set in a pub with an Irish narrator, describing each of the men in the choir (hence why it’s called Choir Of Man) felt so intimate and inviting. It felt like we were being introduced to a local pub and all the men who frequently go there, especially when they interjected their descriptions with perfectly picked songs. Brilliant voices and musical talent from them all. Naturally, since we were in Scotland, the Scottish man sang 500 Miles, which was very well done. I had such a great time watching it, and I’d highly recommend you going to watch it.

Improv Shows

 

My friend from school happened to be up for an improv show he was doing, but when it was on, I would already be flying back home. I mentioned to him I’d love to see an improv show before I left, and he invited me to a free show, so naturally I went. As fate would have it, the guest act had pulled out so my friend stepped in with his friend.

Improv is honestly brilliant. It’s so weird and random and you’re never sure what you’ll get, but it has to be one of the best things I watched. There were two acts. Up The Antics did a little skit set in a cowshed after someone’s suggestion, which took quite an odd direction but I loved every moment of it. Real Positive Poles (i.e. my friend’s group, except it was only two of them) decided to do an episode of The Twilight Zone based around the ‘Groundhog Day’ idea. Again, brilliantly done. It was like groundhog day, only it was little differences that changed each time. It was just hilarious to watch.

Out Of The Blue

Semi-Toned made a joke that a cappella attracts a certain type of person and Out Of The Blue not only owns it, but they’ve perfected it. They know how to put on a light-hearted, feel good show for all. Cheesy songs and cheesy choreo, but it works in engaging the audience and making us all feel good.


Considering the theme for Edinburgh Fringe was ‘Into The Unknown’, I was very much thrown into the unknown, but I gotta say, the unknown was such a great experience. Wild, for sure, but great. Even despite how I barely made all the shows and literally ran (or walked, depending) up and down hills to get to them. Overnight definitely wasn’t long enough, so next year, I’m staying longer. I wish I could’ve seen more a cappella groups, improv, musicals or theatre stuff, but I just didn’t have time.

I’d definitely recommend anyone going up to Edinburgh Fringe, even if it is just for a weekend visit. Although, I’d personally say stay three days rather than literally overnight, because you miss out otherwise (depending what you wanna see).

Genre

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Genre is an interesting topic to discuss because genre fiction is sometimes deemed lesser than literary fiction. Although, funnily enough, literary fiction is a genre in itself. Genre has set conventions the story should follow, or not if you’re creating a parody/spoof, creating a hybrid of multiple genres or you want to create something original by breaking some of the conventions.

Genre convention is the most important element when it comes to genre fiction because they act as a set of guidelines for leading the story and usually the audience can identify what genre the story is by the genre conventions used. The author might then be associated with a set genre. But the book will certainly be marketed towards a specific genre and the reader will then be able to find what they’re searching for on websites or in bookshops.

Genres can then be broken down into sub genres. This is especially prevalent in films and TV shows. Comedy is the broader genre, but it can be broken down into different types of comedy, such as slapstick or dark humour. However, in writing, the books will typically be marketed towards the wider genre rather than the niche genre, unless you market yourself or you write fanfiction (which, technically, is a genre in itself too).

Before you write a story, you’ve probably already given the genre some thought. It’s usually the first thought most writers have. Or one of the first anyway. You’ve probably already read plenty in that genre, or just taken a liking to it, and you probably know what the genre conventions are, whether consciously or not. Writing can become quite easy from there because it gives you a helpful framework to work from while you come up with a plot.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to follow all the genre conventions. It’s a good start, but perhaps you disagree with some of the conventions or you want to put a spin on the genre conventions. By all means, go ahead. It might make your story more interesting.

This is such a vague blog post, but I want to do separate blog posts for each genre and break down what genre conventions you’ll find in each genre.

Which genre is your favourite? Which genre would you like me to write about?

Choosing The Type Of Writing For You

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As a writer, you might not know about the different types of writing or which type suits you best. I’ve decided to include a wide variety of types of writing so you can experiment and see which one suits you.

1. Blogging

Blogging is a really good way at developing your writing style because it’s your personal space to write about what you want, how you want, when you want. If you want to create a blog post everyday, there’s nothing stopping you. If you want to post about music videos, there’s nobody stopping you. Or perhaps you’d prefer to cover more political posts. Or perhaps lifestyle blogging is more your forté. Whatever you want to blog, you totally can.

At hers and Carrie’s joint book signing, Louise Pentland, aka Sprinkleofglitter, suggested blogging as the first venture into writing because it’s personal to you and what you want to write about, and because nobody really knows about your blog, you don’t feel the pressure of having to stick to a schedule or writing about specific things. You have the freedom to do as you please.

2. Novels

My forté.

Novels are, by definition, a fictional story of a specific number of words. Although, there isn’t a universal set number of words so aim for 40,000 words and you can classify your fictional story as a novel. Or go by NaNoWriMo’s definition of 50,000 words. Either works.

A novel is great because you can develop a story arc with a few characters and see where their journey takes you. However, writing a novel is time consuming and requires a fair amount of perseverance. But you won’t be alone if all you do is procrastinate instead and constantly question if what you’re writing is good enough, because 99% of writers will join you in their highly caffeinated state.

A novel is so worthwhile though if you can make it to the end. Whether you’re the type of writer who adores their characters and bashes anyone who dares criticises them or you’re the type of writer to continually crush them because you secretly love playing god, trust me, it’s so worthwhile when you can write ‘to be continued’ or ‘the end’, knowing you made it through this marathon of a self inflicted task. Then you either continue the story or you start a new one and the whole process begins again.

3. Short Stories

If novels are too daunting or time consuming or you just simply don’t have enough plot, you can write a short story. Again, with no set number of words, aim for about 10,000 words and you can classify that fictional story into a short story. Although, short stories do have many other names for them, such as a ficlet or a drabble, and they can vary by length. Hell, even a 6 word story counts, technically, as a short story.

Honestly, sometimes writing short stories is easier. You have the characters and you have the story arc, but you don’t have to write as much and undergo the time consuming writing process (as fun as it can be… sometimes). You could just write a few scenes for the character and we, the reader, only see portions of their story. Or you could give us one scene that might be quite long but tells us enough about the character.

4. Autobiography / Memoir

An autobiography/memoir is incredibly personal because it’s about your life. But depending how much you write, and in what order, determines whether it’s classed as an autobiography or a memoir.

An autobiography is defined as writing about your life chronologically, from birth to now (but you don’t have to go into detail about every part of your life, just the key parts).

A memoir is defined as writing about sections of your life in a random order and they’ll typically have an ongoing theme throughout, linking each part together.

Autobiographies/memoirs are good for assessing your life and uncovering aspects to yourself you’d either brushed aside as not important or as too traumatic, and it helps offer your perspective to others. For example, if you’ve gone through a difficult time, writing it down and then sharing it with your loved ones might help them understand what exactly happened and they might sympathise with you about it. Or, if you’ve been in a unique situation, it can be good to offer your perspective and your experience with this situation.

5. Essays

Academic essays are probably what first sprung to mind when you saw the word essays. However, you can write personal essays too which typically centre round a specific point, usually to change your perspective on something. From celebrities and their wrongdoings to the general mistakes of society, a personal essay can be about anything, but it should definitely have a point that you make clear at the end.

But it wouldn’t be fair of me to mention personal essays and not academic essays. Knowing how to write an essay is crucial for basically your entire school life (unfortunately). You’ll be graded and judged based on how you critically analyse information given to you, or how to have a well balanced debate but come to an ultimate conclusion. It’s an important skill to have, especially if you enter essay writing competitions.

6. Poetry

Personally, I can’t tell you too much about poetry because I was always told ‘anything can be poetry’ and then I’d write something and they’d tell me ‘this isn’t poetry’. Another one of those contradicting statements writing seem to be full of.

Poetry can be any length and written any way you like. There are plenty of poetry styles to try, from sonnets to haikus to sestinas. But poetry is about imagery and rhythm, as I’m now finding out. The line can break wherever you want, but it should make sense with the flow of the poem. For example, I counted out how many beats per line I wanted when I wrote a poem about a ballerina, and shockingly, that has been the only poem any of my lecturers liked.

Because I lack the knowledge to write an entire paragraph about it, I assume the rules apply to song lyrics. If you can perfect poetry, I’d imagine song lyrics can’t be much different from that. But if I’m wrong, please do tell me.

7. Scripts / Monologues

Although monologues (and duologues) are performed following a script, they tend to be a long speech aimed at voicing mental thoughts or addressing an audience/character.

A script follows the characters with their story arc, except scripts are dramatised. Whether as a theatre production or as a TV program/film, scripts are instructions for the actors/actresses to follow as they create the visual end production. Or, if they do a radio play or do voice acting, they create an audio end production. Regardless, they should follow the dialogue as written (but it doesn’t always mean they will) and the stage directions for what they’re physically supposed to do in the scene.

8. Journalism

Journalism is obtaining some information and converting it into entertaining and/or easy to read news, depending on the company you work for. You need to cover the basics using the 4 Ws and 1 H method, and fleshing it out with other facts or provide context. Sometimes, journalists incorporate in their opinions, or they’ll tell the story in a biased way so the reader will be swayed to their way of thinking.

This isn’t something I’m encouraging with the other types but I implore you to learn how to identify what is real news and what is fake news, because otherwise fake/sensationalised news will continue to rise and it leads to misconceptions and potentially abusive situations.

9. Content Creation

Content creation is writing blog posts, social media posts, marketing emails and/or text for websites, which is usually aimed at a specific audience and might feature technical language, depending how niche the company is. It’s designed to bring recognition to your company/client.

But content creation also goes into knowing what you’re posting when and seeing the impact your content has on your audience because otherwise, you’ll wasting valuable money on nothing.

10. Other Writing Types

Diaries, journals, letters, speeches, eulogies. The list could potentially get long with all the other writing types that exist. I’d encourage you to look into them all, especially the ones I mentioned above, and give each one a try. You’ll soon find what works for you and what doesn’t.


Finding the right writing type for you can be a time consuming process, or it can be a wonderful discovery. Whichever writing type suits you, keep at it. You never know what you might create.

What writing type did I leave out, if I did? Which is your favourite(s)?

Writing Elements: Themes

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While writing about different writing elements, I realise I never mentioned themes. Perhaps because the theme is so imbedded in the planning stage that I never really thought of it as a separate stage. However, I should still mention it because writers might not think about it and it’s good to do so.

A theme is an underlying moral or message you want your reader to get from the story. There can be multiple themes, which can have equal significance or have one prominent theme with a few less prominent themes. It depends on the story.

For example, Harry Potter has a few themes. Good vs. evil, death and the power of love and friendship are all vital to the story and are used consistently throughout. The reader leaves the series with these values ingrained in them. Research has even been done on the lasting influence the Harry Potter books have had on people and studies have found they’re more empathetic and stand up against ‘evil’ in reality (i.e. bullying, racism, powerful political leaders).

Thinking what themes you want to include can be fairly easy since they’ll probably be based on your own morals and values. But incorporating the themes into the story in an organic way can be quite difficult, depending what genre you’re writing for. If you’re writing a children’s story, you want the moral to be obvious for them to pick up on, especially when they’re older and more able to acknowledge morals than when they’re younger. But beyond that, you have to show it subtly, otherwise people feel like you’re preaching to them or imposing viewpoints on them.

My advice would be to read your favourite stories again (or take a look in other formats that tell a story – TV shows, films, games, etc.) and try to pick out the main themes they use, then see how they incorporate them in. Does a character mention the theme? Is it used as a line in the story that sums up exactly what the theme is? Or, more than likely, is it hidden in the background yet you somehow pick up on it anyway?

How do you incorporate your themes into your story? Or if you haven’t yet, how will you in the future?