Writing Secrets: Don’t write about the war

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

I am approached all the time by people who tell me they’re keen to write a book, and when I ask what it’s about, they say … the Indian uprising of 1857, or the Irish troubles, or the Great War…

My first words are always: “Great, but that’s the setting, not the story. Who are your characters and what happens to them?”

Put the idea of the great struggle/war/rebellion book out of your mind. If that’s what you set out to do, your story will be as stiff as the soldiers with which you decorate your book. It’ll have no heart, and no humanity.

No-one’s that interested in grand events. We’re interested in people. If those people are affected by grand events, we want to know how it changes them, and their lives.

Don’t set out to write the story of a war. Write about a person. Think about who they are, what they want and what they have to face. Then track what happens to them. How do they act, and react, to events which overtake them?

The war is backdrop. It also places obstacles in the way of your character, and what she hopes and longs for. That’s where your story lies. And it’ll be a story which is far more universal than that one time and place.

Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: We’re all no more than muddles. Hooray!

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  • Caroline

    I am richly motivated by Richard’s Monday postings and I’m confident that the Venice retreat offers a serious headstand for my writing career. I haven’t taken any courses yet since I am yet to rate my writing and know which training level is appropriate. Writing for decades may not make one a pro unless you get professional reviews but I think it doesn’t mean you are a complete amateur either so knowing your level, I feel, is a critical part in writing.

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