It's a Writer Thing

Whether or not you write well, write bravely.

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Anonymous asked: Hello! Um, how would someone, like me, go about creating magic spells? Not like the spells in the book Eragon, which are based off a language in the book itself but more like Harry Potter sort of spells. Just I just wing it or is there a sacred art to coming up with spells?


Hello! You don’t have to wing it at all; you can put as much - or as little - thought into your spells as you like.

The spells in the Harry Potter books are all words and phrases derived from classical languages (mostly Latin):

Confundo. Closely derived from the word ‘confound’ which can mean ‘to cause confusion’ (NB: the ‘u’ and the ‘o’ of ‘confound’ have been switched around to create the word ‘Confundo’.).

Protego. Can be translated as ‘protect’ from Latin to English.

Engorgio. ‘Engorge’ means to swell something with blood, water or other fluids.

Even when J.K. Rowling isn’t using true Latin words, she manipulates English words to ‘sound’ Latin or linguistically archaic.

I’m going to put ideas under three headers: Verbal CommandsAction Commands and Additional Items. I believe a combination of all these is a decent start to creating your own spells, but you are certainly allowed to focus on one or the other if you’d like.

Verbal Commands

Most spells require some kind of chant, title or mantra to activate the power’s potential. Here are some things to consider when creating verbal commands.


As stated before, there is a sound to the spells in Harry Potter: Expecto PatronumWingardium LeviosaSectumsempraReparoAlohomora. The spells are either one word or two and the influence of classical languages is apparent.

Really think about what you want to call your spells and what kind of emotion you want to evoke with them. You don’t have to make the words/phrases outlandish or as a totally new language. You can take inspiration from languages in the world around us and invent them as you need to, providing you do so respectfully and within reason.

Naming Convention

So, ‘each spell is three words’, ‘each spell must include an element’ or, ‘each spell must rhyme’.

Whilst they’re not ‘spells’ per se, the best examples I have to explain this are the techniques from the NARUTO series. Generally (although there are exceptions), most all of the techniques are followed by ‘no jutsu’ which means ‘art of..’. For example, Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (Art of the Shadow Clone) or Kuchiyose no Jutsu (Art of Summoning).

That’s a very basic look at it. There are then further commands and additions to the techniques, such as with the summoning art:

  • Kuchiyose… Kirikiri Mai! (Summoning… Whirlwind Dance)

…or should the art rely solely on one element release:

  • Fūton: Kazekiri no Jutsu (Wind release: Wind Cutter Technique)

Just as J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter spells are restricted to one single word, or two word phrases, the commands in NARUTO follow a consistent pattern and word order, which among other things, contributes to the technique’s success.

A word of note: this example is not here to encourage you to put all of your spells into Japanese…! Remember, in Japanese, the commands are as literal as they sound in English (so, for example, Sabaku Kyū is Sand Binding Coffin). The general point is, these ‘spells’ (or rather, techniques) have naming conventions which you can take inspiration from to make up your own verbal commands.


So, presumably, these spells will be ineffective or bring the wrong kind of result if not pronounced in the correct way, for example, Hermione stressing, ‘It’s Levi-ohh-s-ah, not Levi-oh-s-arr’ (and Harry saying diagonally instead of Diagon Alley, heheh).

Generally, setting limits is a good way to know how much play space you have. Here are some things you can consider when coming up with limits to verbal commands:

  • Pronunciation;
  • Order of words;
  • Speed/pace of speech;
  • Tone of words, etc…

Action Commands

It’s not all about shouting the right lines; magical characters, or characters with special abilities often have specific movements or actions to contribute to their technique’s success.


So in Harry Potter, the wand acts as an instrument to channel magical powers. The way I see it is… it refines and controls all of that magical potential to keep it constrained and usable.

A particularly unskilled witch or wizard may struggle to conjure spells without a wand, and when a broken wand is used, either the spell doesn’t work or it works in the wrong way.

Do your spells require an implement to focus the magic/energy being used? Ask yourself:

  1. What is it called?
  2. What does it look like?
  3. What materials make up the implement?
  4. How important is it to the spell’s success?
  5. Are all of the implements identical, or unique to the user?
  6. How is the implement wielded?
  7. What size is it?
  8. What are its limitations?


Wand movement is an important part of spell casting in Harry Potter. Moving the wand too abruptly or lazily has an impact on how successful the spell will be.

Comparatively, in NARUTO, characters often perform hand seals as a way of measuring out the amount of chakra they need to perform the technique. It’s a general rule that skilled shinobi are able to use fewer hand seals to create the same effect as they have a greater power.

What kind of movements/stances must your characters adopt to safely perform a spell? What kind of movements/stances give them the best advantages in battle?

Additional Items

Potions, talismans, plants, magical objects… what other kind of things do your magical characters use in order to create/concoct spells?

There are all sorts of items and weird things rumoured to have been used by witches for the act of spell-casting. This is another thing you can consider when thinking up spells; the words or names associated with these things can be good material to work with when coming up with incantations.

Phew. That’s about it. I think I might have included things you didn’t ask for, as I wanted to cover all avenues… but I really hope this helps…!

Best of luck, Anon!


Filed under Spells magic magic system Writer Resources World building

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Anonymous asked: I have a couple of questions. Is the "Troubled Genius" trope problematic? If it is, how do I go about writing such a character without sounding like I am romanticizing (I hope it's the right word) the "troubled" aspect? Thank you.


How it’s written can be cliche and it can be an issue, but the trope by itself is not inherently bad. Here are some common (and possibly troublesome) traits I see with this trope:

  • The Genius is an Arrogant Jerk: And everyone lets them get away with it because their jerkiness is blamed on their genius. A lot of writers who create a Troubled Genius make them rude, selfish, and nosy. These characters do not respect personal boundaries and are often condescending to other people. This wouldn’t be a problem, if the authors handled it in a different way. Jerk geniuses are never called out on their behavior and the author writes it as something desirable, funny, cool, or intelligent. That is a problem. Abusive and invasive behavior is not a symptom of intelligence.
  • Never Fit In: This isn’t really a social problem, but it’s kind of cliche. Many troubled geniuses do not have friends, were always a little odd as a child, are loners, and were bullied as children. While skipping grades or being ahead intellectually can definitely affect a child’s ability to make and keep friends, they can still have relationships and they do not have to be bullied to be a troubled genius. Give your character some friends or something if you want to make them a bit different from other characters in this trope.
  • Genius is a Curse: The Trouble Genius’s intellect always causes conflict for them. Why not something else? Why is their intellect always the reason for X, Y, Z? Characters are more than their intelligence and your character should have internal conflicts that do not relate to their intelligence as well, just like everyone else. When a character’s intelligence is painted as a curse or a burden and as the only internal conflict your character faces, that character starts to become two-dimensional.
  • Math and Science: These characters are usually geniuses in math and science. You can be considered a genius in many fields, from history to acting to painting.
  • Male: They are always male.

To romanticize something is to take something undesirable and make it seem desirable or beautiful. Show the troubled part as it truly is. If your character deals with mental illness, don’t show it as something that makes them smarter or more desirable. Show all the bad things that come with it. Show it realistically. The same goes for any other type of conflict, whether it’s internal or external. Make it realistic and don’t leave out the bad stuff and show that actions (if your character fits in the first point made above) have consequences.

Filed under Genius troubled genius tropes archetypes cliches smart character development

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Anonymous asked: im trying to write a character who is a leader of a group. they are no nonsense and refuse to take orders from others. they can be smug is some situations but I dont know how to write them without them seeming like they dont care because they do care, they just have a tough love sort of way of doing it.


With tough-love characters, it’s difficult for those at the receiving end of their treatment to see that their way of doing things might stem from affection. Here are some tips on how to show their more caring side:

Subtle Gestures

We’re not all the type to openly show affection, but you’d be hard-pressed to find somebody incapable of showing any at all.

For some characters, it’s much more discreet. They may only give into their more affectionate side when they believe they’re alone or away from those who might judge them for their softer qualities.

Things like stroking a child’s hair once - and only when - its asleep, singing to a baby if they think they’re the only ones who can hear, petting or spoiling animals/pets in secret, or being unable to leave someone in need, no matter how much of a struggle it is for them to swallow their pride and show that glimmer of emotion that they perceive as weakness.

Taking the Fall

Some characters struggle under difficult circumstances for specific reasons and, as such, are unable to allow the main character to see anything but their cruelest side.

Or maybe they’re just unable to hide years of pain and hardship, and take it all out on the wrong people.

One thing is for sure though: your character can commit at least one totally unselfish act, proving that their heart was in the right place after all.

Knowing Better

When you’ve been through a difficult situation, it can be hard to watch somebody else go through exactly the same thing. If they’re in a position to control it, your character might try to actively bend the fate of those they care about, to prevent them from making similar mistakes.

Of course, it all comes out one way or another, and we see all along that they were merely trying to help and weren’t controlling for the fun of it.

Parental Guidance

Your character holds a lot of responsibility and they may have had to learn the hard way that leadership is not always sunshine and rainbows. Sometimes you have to say no every once in a while and crack down on the discipline, or everything falls apart.

It doesn’t mean they’re always strict, however. Maybe on a rare occasion, your character loosens up and either explains (verbally, or through a gesture/flashback) their tough-love approach, or shows a side in secret to just one or two others, that they usually keep well under wraps.

For the record, it’s perfectly okay for your main character to misjudge another’s character only to later amend their view. It’s good character development for everything to unravel. If everything is clear from the beginning, then there’s not much for us to learn, so don’t be afraid to show your leader’s harsher side and share all of the good at a later date.

I hope this helps, Anon.

- enlee

Filed under Leaders leader position authority body language Smug tough love writer reference

3,937 notes

Everything We Know About…Editing!



Are you tackling a writing project that isn’t a brand-spanking new novel during Camp NaNoWriMo? Good news! We’re compiling lists of everything we know about nonfiction, editing, and scripts. We revisit editing while it’s fresh in our minds from the “Now What?” Months below:

You get to the part of the novel where you think to yourself, “what now? How can I make it even better?” Well, that’s a sign for the best part to happen—the editing and revision process! Here are resources that can help you edit those inconsistent story lines and cut out those awkward scenes.

The Joys of Editing

The Steps to Editing and Revision

Keep These In Mind When You Edit

As long as you have these resources, you’re well on your way to building an awesome book.

— Wendy

(via characterandwritinghelp)

Filed under Editing revising editor Writer Resources

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Music Block Playlists


asked: I struggle with finding the right music to listen to when I write… Are there playlists that match certain moods and themes for writers?

Well, here is a set of playlists geared toward writers:

And we’ve created a few playlists with our Music Blocks. Here’s the list so far:

And here’s the full playlist of posted Music Blocks.

We’re still working on growing and organizing our playlists, and we will probably add more as time goes on, but maybe these could suit your purposes for the time being!

If that doesn’t work, there’s always the “playlist" tag on Tumblr!

Thanks for your question!


(via the-writers-stashbox)

Filed under Music prompt inspiration

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Autopsies for Writers

How to make the most of your first attempts at writing.

I have this secret. There is this folder on my computer. Actually it is a folder hidden in a folder, hidden inside another folder, but regardless of how far I try to hide it, I know it is there. 

It lurks, it smells. It rots in quiet resignation in the bowels of my hard drive. No, it is not an illegal snuff film collection. It contains the carcasses of my unfinished novels. Characters that died mid-sentence, settings that dissolved into nothingness, stories that fizzled out and plots that got me trapped. 

So dramatic, isn’t it? Why don’t I delete it? 

I keep this file of decaying words for a reason. I have learned so much from these novels. Even though I failed them they taught me something. I went through this folder again a while ago, looking for the reasons I never finished them.

What have I learnt from my literary autopsies?

Filed under Writing advice

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Anonymous asked: How can I write a setting with primitive guns in it that doesn't completely make swords, bows, and arrows obsolete? I know historically early firearms existed in conjunction with these weapons for most of the middle ages. However, I cn't find many resources that show the advantages or disadvantages of one over the other, or how firearms were used in battle along side these other weapons.


If one side has guns, they’ll probably win. I asked my brother and he says it depends on what the gun is being used for, if it’s a close range gun then they could run alongside swords very easily, like a bayonet 

Primitive guns could work alongside other weapons as primitive guns took a long time to reload so bows would be quicker so both could be used. Swords might be better close range because if you’ve only got one shot and three opponents it’s going to be hard to win.

Personally I would weigh up the pros and cons of each weapon, decide what you want your army or force to be made up of- do some people have different weapons to the others?

Primitive Weapons 

History of firearms

European Firearms

Keep reading up on it and then work out which would be advantageous for what. Decide on how primitive your guns are, and then research battles in that era.

Hope this helps!


Primitive guns also sucked. So if you’re right at the early age of guns, do a lot of research on late medieval firearms and stick with that.

Filed under Guns weapons writer ref

3,283 notes


Hello, writerly friends!

I got a bunch of questions asking for advice on revision/editing (of which I have plenty) so I thought I would make a TOP 5! The above are my top 5 tips for revising/editing your book. I believe there are plenty of awesome resources out there for editing, but I wanted to talk about a few things that are seldom mentioned!

I hope you all find this post helpful~ ♥︎

If any of you has any more writerly questions, send them my way! And if you want your daily dose of writer positivity and prompts, make sure to follow my blog:!

(via maxkirin)

Filed under Revision revise writing advice

325 notes


Savannah asked:

Hi. I’m writing a militaristic spy against the government and I was wanting to know what simply HAS to be in it. Like what is psychologically done to create a spy or what kind of spy work should there is. I don’t want this to be a James Bond lets shoot and blow stuff up, so I’m 100% trying to approach this realistically.

Hello there, Savannah! Let me first thank you for your continued support, it really does mean the world to me~ ♥︎

Now, as for your question(s) I absolutely get where you are coming from. Ironically, this is the funny thing about Spies (and any sort of shady underworld themes). You can do research, but can one really trust that? And even so— how successful can it be? After all, what are the odds that all Spies are trained the same way? Not very high if you ask me.

Unfortunately, this is one of those situations in which ‘realism’ is more a burden than anything else. Spies in the ‘real’ world are not as we perceive them in fiction— or maybe they are, this is the funny thing. There is no way to know for certain. After all, the best Spy Network should be entirely unknown to us, right?

I think that the way to approach this is to create *your* own Spy Network. I mean it. There is no way to get it ‘wrong’ since Spies in our culture might as well be supernatural creatures. Thus, you have the freedom to create *your* own version of Spies— the trick here is to make it authentic (or, bluntly put, it has to make sense).

Really, when people say something is ‘realistic’ it simply boils down to them being able to ‘understand it’ and ‘agreeing that it could happen.’ This is why some disaster movies really affect people, because it shows them how probable something is— no matter how silly it may seem from the surface.

Keeping that in mind, let’s look over how ‘PROBABLE’ we can make your Spy Network, okay?

First you need the founder(s). Who made this Spy Network? What is the purpose of it? Is there disagreement amongst the founders? What do they disagree on? Is killing civilians okay? What about torture? Now, what do they all agree on? What are values of this organization? Spy Networks are some of the best-run businesses, because the last thing they want is their own people launching a hostile take-over. This is why power needs to be split carefully. Who runs the show? Who makes the choices? Is there a council, or a single mastermind?

Remember, a spy network is about CONTROL. This can be done in many ways (one of which is shooting things and blowing this up, of course). Control can be obtained through Information (using blackmail as leverage), Terror (using violence as leverage), and Resources (using supply and demand as leverage).

If a country is growing too strong, you can find out what the lead officials do behind closed doors, and blackmail them. You can steal their money— or worse, their cache of weapons. And, of course, you can just have a sniper blow the brains of the Señor Presidente on national television.

Control. It’s all about control.

Now, what goes into the training of one such Spy? That will depend on your Spy Network. What you need to keep in mind that the Network is looking for people they can’t buy (because otherwise the enemy may end up offering more money), or people who disagree with their morals (again, hostile takeovers are bad for Spy Networks). This is why the ‘training’ is really nothing more that a systematic way to weed out everyone who is not fit for the task. Ask yourself what your Spy Network needs, what they want, and then put yourself in their shoes.

“How can we weed out the weak and the unfit?”

There is an interesting story about a secret service trainee who was asked to shoot his own wife in order to pass the next test. They locked both in a room and gave him a gun. (Spoilers: the gun had nothing but blanks, but neither wife nor agent knew that. Also, no, he did not pass the test). Is this brutal? Is this bad? Maybe, but you can’t say that test wouldn’t guarantee a soldier willing to do anything for your cause c;

Remember. It’s all about control— control over your minions, your foes, and the entire populace.

I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have any more questions~ ♥︎ I had tons of fun answering this!

Thank you for the question, Savannah! And doubly-thank you for pledging to my Patreon page! Thank you for directly supporting me, my books, and the awesome posts that you see on this blog everyday~ ♥︎

Interested in becoming a Patron? Head over to my Patreon Page where you will find information on the sweet perks that can be yours from as little as $1 dollar a month, least of which is my gratitude! ♥︎

Filed under Spies espionage Writer Resources

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1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernaural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
Father Knox’s ten rules for writing a mystery, 1929. (The racist one is taken out)

(Source: the-right-writing, via clevergirlhelps)

Filed under Crime mystery quote Writing tips

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I want to write out character questions, test scenes, monologues and all that to test out the character/strengthen their voice/learn more about them, but I feel like it’s a waste of resources if I don’t end up using it. You see my dilemma?

Filed under writer problems