Metaphors and Similes

Metaphors beat similes.

Similes go like “teeth like a wolf “. It paints a bit of a picture but doesn’t pack the same punch as metaphors do. Metaphor version: “wolf teeth”

Simple past tense

Positively formulated simple past sentences have the deepest emotional impact.

Worst writing: The bullet hadn’t missed its target.
This sentence is horrible. It’s complex to process and lacks emotional punch.

Corrected to positive form: The bullet had hit its target.
Easier to process, but still lacks impact.

Corrected to simple past tense: The bullet hit its target.
Yep. That hits the spot.

Distancing Language

His mind raced.

The word ‘his’ reminds the reader that this isn’t happening to him, it’s happening to someone else. Sometimes distancing language is appropriate, for example when the character is experiencing something that the reader wouldn’t want to experience (e.g. torture). Most of the time however, you aim for immersion.

Thoughts whirled into panic.


Be as specific as you possibly can by picking the telling details.

Vague: food / move / weapon
Generic: sandwich / walk / gun
Specific: BLT mustard sandwich / meander / granddad’s sawed-off shotgun 

If you’re wondering what the telling detail is, just ask yourself how you would tell apart this particular item from other items of the same kind. For example, a kitchen. Every kitchen has a fridge, but what’s particular about Sally’s kitchen? Her fridge is bright pink with white polka dots. It’s not inside a random house along a random street, it’s in the green cabin by the fork of Emmasto Road.

Warning: don’t get too specific too late. The reader is torn out of the dream when he needs to correct the way he imagined the story while he read it. Give the details up front.

Active Voice

Generally Active Voice is preferred

•If the subject performs the action of the verb, we call the verb “active.”
•If the subject receives the action of the verb, we call the verb “passive.”
•A verb that is neither active nor passive is a linking verb, a form of the verb “to be.”

Passive: The cup was flung across the table by John.
Active: John flung the cup across the table.

sometimes passive voice is appropriate, for example when the ‘doer’ of the action isn’t known.

“The money was stolen.”

Dynamic Verbs

Even for non-moving inanimate objects.

The couch has two pillows. Two pillows rest on the couch.
The house is stands at the top of the hill.
The vines crept up the side of the house.

When a character walks or grabs (etc) something, be as specific as you can about the manner in which this is done.

She walked quietly tiptoed across the room.
She grabbed snatched it.
He hit pommelled her.

Sensory Writing

Click here for the full article on sensory writing

Concrete Nouns

Using concrete words that your reader can picture.

Concrete words are words that immediately bring a mental image to mind. Apple. Tree. Dog. Table. All these things are immediately imagined, which bring your fictional world to life in the mind of your reader.

Abstract words like ‘freedom’ or ‘picturesque’ do not.

Pay special attention to doors

Doors are mental barriers. If you cross the threshold, you enter the danger zone. taking a moment, linger on the door and give a hint of trouble. Describe the sound of the door closing behind the protagonist, to emphasis his inability to turn back.  Rules of the game:

– Each doors must look and sound differently for this trick to be effective while repeatedly applied.

– Keep the implied promise of suspense. Something exciting should happen after entering the room.