Exploring the Top 10 Writerly Terms
In a world where words are strung together into intriguing tales of heart-pounding adventure, soul-enlightening love, or instinct screaming mysteries, there exists a creative breed with a language all their own. Behold the writer, the one who tames the sentences into entrancing stories the captivate readers everywhere!
*end Movie Phone Voice*
My writing career started well after my reading career was in full swing, so imagine my surprise when I discovered an entire new language existed to discuss my fantastical musings. The most interesting thing about this new dialect was the fact there were specific terms for story parts that, as a reader, I instinctually understood, but didn’t know carried an actual name.
Now, some of these are no-brainers, things we picked up from our English courses, but hopefully I can offer some help for the next time you corner your favorite author and lure them into a conversation with a luscious cup of joe.
- Word count, or WC – When writers gather and discuss the progress of their current project, the term “word count” enters the fray. Readers measure a story by pages. Claims of “I flew through those first two hundred pages!” bring on competing urges of writers to grin widely or flinch. The first urge is easily understood—the story has well and truly caught the reader into our wily web. To understand the second urge of wincing in pain, you must understand that those 200 pages consisted of roughly 50,000 words. 50,000 words that might have taken the author close to a month or more to craft. This translates to anywhere from 1500-2000 words per day, depending on the writer’s personal goal. To convert to pages, that’s 6 to 8 pages a day. For a reader to zip through our carefully crafted word art with such enthusiasm bring us both creative joy and creative pain. Although I think most writers would agree with me, we can live with the pain, so long as you read the last 200 pages too.
- Novella vs. Short Story – In the writing world word counts gather into their own clichés, and when those word counts are reduced you find the Novella and Short Story groups. Attend any reader or writer conference and you’ll hear statements like, “The Grand-Pooh Bah of publishing houses says they are looking for 85K Romantic Suspense,” or “They want my Urban Fantasy, but said I needed to knock of 15K from my 120K count.” While there are no etched in stone rules about word counts in conjunction with genres, there are some unspoken rules most writers learn over time. First, a novel consists of a word count higher than 40K. As your word count slims down, you move from Novel to Novellas, whose words gather at a trim 18K-40K. Short Stories are the long-legged gazelles of fiction and take on a mind blowing range of 500 to 18K. Those closer to the 500 mark call themselves Flash Fiction. Again, these numbers fluctuate depending on who’s in the conversation, but I’m here to give you a rough starting point for your conversational safety.
- HEA – Happily Ever After. This acronym was introduced to me at my first writers’ conference. Up until that point, I stuck to my solitary confinement of libraries and fluorescent-lit rooms as I crafted my first Novel without the benefit of a critique group. During the conference there was much discussion around story crafting, and one of the many acronyms flying about was HEA. You would think this would be obvious, but my worlds are populated by fantastical beings, treachery, and reluctant heroes/heroines. The conference I attended was heavy into the hearts and flowers of romance. I actually had to ask for the definition. You see, writers understand we craft stories as escape vehicles for our readers. At the end of the escape run, we want our readers to disembark happy and content that all is right in the world they are leaving behind, hence ensuring your stories have an HEA.
- Plot vs. Sub-plot – Every good story connects with readers on multiple levels, and to achieve this a writer must use subtle crafting tools. Most readers get that each story contains a plot—a story-telling plan that gets the main character from point A to point C in such a way that the same character is forever changed when they land at the extraction point C. Yet, writers understand that in order for their characters to make such a drastic transition, they must undergo more trials and tribulations than meets the eye, hence the use of sub-plots. These are the story lines that wrap their talons into your imagination and linger long after you’ve finished the book. These subtle underlying stories determine why the character reacts the way they do, why they make the decisions they do that may or may not lead to further angst and self-realization. Sub-plots had a depth to your characters until you are sure you past the battle-worn hero on your way to coffee this morning.
- Story Arc – This is a close relative of Plot, but not so close as to warrant a personal loan without interest. This term is the blueprint of every story ever told. It is a generalization of story elements that must exist to guarantee your reader won’t give up half way through your masterpiece in frustration of not getting their escapism fix. At its most primal level, the Story Arc consists of an inciting incident, an obstacle that must be defeated, the midpoint, which leads into the climax that slides into the dénouement. No matter your Plot, it must work in tandem with your Story Arc or disaster is sure to follow.
- Head hopping – This is the bane of existence for both writers and readers. Writers must decide which character tells the story, this is choosing a POV (Point of View). Once a writer makes that POV choice, they must share the story from that character’s eyes and emotional investment. Unfortunately, we sometimes get caught up in things and shift from one character’s POV to another because what’s happening on the page is better served from another character’s POV. This results in Head hopping, and if done incorrectly a reader will suffer from whiplash as they are torn from one character’s POV to another without warning.
- MC or Protag – This may seem straight forward, but this particular bugger goes by many names-Main Character (MC), Hero (H), Heroine (He), Protagonist (Protag), Lead Character (Lead). Whatever name they go by, they are the one character every writer is hoping their readers will personally connect to. This is the character who must still be standing in the end. They are the one we invest our time with because without them, major parts of the story fall apart. In some stories, you may find there is more than one on the board. Regardless, they are the foil to the darker side of the writer’s imagination, which leads us to…
- The Big Bad or Antag – This is the character who stands opposite of your MC, they are the Meanest of the Mean, the Villain, the Big Bad, the Antagonist. They will be the bane of your MC’s existence, the one manipulating your MC’s emotions and for while, readers will believe that they will win. They are the nightmare the MC must rise above, something they don’t get until…
- The Black Moment – That point in the story where your MC feels all is lost and there is no reason to continue fighting forward. They can’t see the light, only the darkness crafted by the wily Big Bad. In each story they pen writers bleed for this moment. Consider it our form of personal therapy, but I can guarantee there is nothing pretty or poetic about this point in our stories. It’s brutal, it leaves us drained and wondering why we put ourselves through it. Only when the HEA arrives do we admit the agony was worth it.
- Synopsis – Say this word near any writer and they will react like the Wicked Witch of the East, hands over our ears as we screech, “Noooo! I’m melting!” A synopsis is a writer’s version of torture requested by the harsh taskmasters known as editors and publishing houses. A synopsis is paring your beautifully crafted story into 1-2 pages (500-1500 WC) while maintaining a creative, unique voice and capturing all the major players and pivotal points of your story. Basically a writer is asked to tell their 90K story in 1000 words. Do you see the inherent challenge here? We took 90K to tell the story right, and you want it in 1000? *pulling up big girl panties with a deep breath* Right then, I’ll get right on that.
And there you have it, the Top 10 Writerly Terms. Feel free to use at will during your next writer run-in.
Jami Gray is the award winning, multi-published author of the Urban Fantasy series, The Kyn Kronicles, and the Paranormal Romantic Suspense series, PSY-IV Teams. Surrounded by Star Wars obsessed males and two female labs moonlighting as the Fur Minxes, she escapes by playing with the voices in her head.
Her latest release is TOUCHED BY FATE, the second of her PSY-IV Teams.
TOUCHED BY FATE, PSY-IV Teams #2
Trusting him with her secrets is dangerous.
As a specialized consultant for the Department of Defense, Risia Lacoste understands the bargaining chip of a well-kept secret. When her current assignment threatens to unearth her deeply buried skeletons, she’s forced into a high-stakes game of lies and loyalty where even her ability to foresee the future can’t predict the winner.
Trusting him with her heart could be fatal.
Darkness lies under the skin of every man, and PSY-IV Team operative and touch empath, Tag Gunderson, has the demons to prove it. Scarred by betrayal and disillusionment, he’s not Risia’s top pick for a partner in the game, but he’s all she’s got.
As the game draws them deeper into a pit of intrigue and their list of enemies grow, will Risia trust Tag with more than her secrets or will his demons destroy them both?
Touched by Fate: Bk 2 of PSY-IV Teams Buy Links:
MuseIt Up Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/coming-soon/touched-by-fate-detail
If you want to hunt her down, she can be found lurking around the following cyber locations:
Amazon Author Page: http://amzn.com/e/B006HU3HJI