4574 Clement Street, Atlanta, Georgia 30303 info@catherineshaffer.com 404-507-0653

Author Archive: Catherine Shaffer

Answering readers’ Questions

Even though I am a fictional writer I get asked some of the oddest questions by my readers, everything from my inspiration for some of my articles down to suggestions for taking care of their pets. I must have given away a little too much information in my books, or my readers confuse some of my characters with my real life. So today I’ve decided to have some fun and reply to some of the questions that have been asked of me. I haven’t mentioned any names, but maybe sometimes a location. Hopefully your questions have been answered and if not, I do apologise but I picked these at random and in no particular order. Deepening on how this goes I may be obligated to write a second one in the future. I hope you enjoy the article.

Where did I find my early inspiration?

When I was younger my parents introduced me to a host of books and authors at exactly the right age. I developed what I like to call the Matilda complex. I read dozens of books a year as I grew up. From this was both my inspiration and motivation as I wanted to create these incredible worlds that my favourite authors did and entertain kids just like me as much as they did. I remember thinking of how smart you must be to create an entire fantasy world. Then one day I began to do the same and I realised it’s not the difficult part, but writing it is, as you explore this new world more and more.

How to maintain a clean work space:

As a write, it is a pretty difficult task to do, I have books and papers strewn around my house. I constantly lose drafts and discover them weeks later. By then I’ve already moved on to a new project, sometimes its fun, but often times it is a huge pain which I have to overcome every few weeks by giving the house a good once over. Though I have a friend who uses livermore janitorial cleaning for her office space, I prefer to do it myself. She swears that if it is more than a home, then get in the professionals, the time and cost are easily saved by the work that these people put in the cleaning you work space for you. I am no expert but with how often I have to clean my own home I am very tempted to bring in the professionals myself.

questions and answers

Is it easy to write?

Yes and no. It took me a long time to develop my voice and my own style of writing. For years I thought I was being unique and individual, then I noticed how similar my work and many other writers was. We just read so much of each other we mimed each other’s work and it led to people not seeing any difference. When I developed my own voice, then it became much easier for me.

I hoped you like reading some of my replies to your questions.

A Beginner’s Guide on How to Write Fiction

People who say that writing is something that can’t be taught is talking nonsense. You can’t spoonfeed people with inspiration and imagination, but writing is something that can be taught just like other skills such as baking.

Sure, some people may be born with a natural talent in writing, but this doesn’t mean that they are the only ones who can write good works of fiction. Anyone can learn how to write a good story, and this article will guide you on how to write fiction.

  • Read, read, and read!

Before you write your own fictional story, it is recommended that you read other writers’ stories first. As the famous writer William Faulkner said, “Read, read, read. Read everything—trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.”

By reading the works of famous and even not-so famous authors, you will be able to enhance your vocabulary, learn new styles and techniques, hone your imagination, creativity, and critical thinking, as well as improve your overall writing skills.

  • Decide on the format and genre of your fictional story.

Carefully decide on what type of fictional story would you want to write—whether you want to write a short story, a novel, or a series of novels for instance. Moreover, you should also consider the type of genre such as sci-fi, romance, fantasy, or a combination of various genres.

  • Create an outline of your story.

Once you’ve decided on the format and genre, it is now time to develop an outline for your work of fiction. Decide on the setting, plot, and the characters, including their unique personalities and flaws. Think and take down notes of what you want to happen for each chapter and where your characters will come in.

You don’t necessarily have to write down an extremely detailed outline because there is a fairly good chance that you will deviate from the outline that you originally created as you go through the writing process. The purpose of the outline is just to serve as a guide or map that will help you develop your story.

  • Start writing.

Now it’s time to put your story down on paper. You can write your ideas with a pen and paper, typewriter, or a computer—whatever suits you. Just write everything down with guidance from your outline and fix errors later.

  • Reread your work and revise.

Don’t expect to get everything right the first time. Even the best writers make several revisions with their work. So reread everything you’ve written, read it aloud if you want, and proofread your work until it comes out the way you want it to.

One of the most difficult parts of writing is knowing where and how to start. I hope this article helped you understand the writing process much better and encourages you to push through with this endeavour. You may find things complicated at first, but let this serve as a challenge for you to practice more and be better at this craft.

Defining Fictional Writing

Fictional writing is a form of non-factual writing, and can be regarded as the opposite of non-fiction, which describes real facts and events. Some popular examples of fictional books and stories include Alice in Wonderland, The Little Prince, and Lord of the Rings.

Writing fiction can be performed in a wide variety of approaches and may come in different forms depending on your own style and preferences. It can also fall in various genres such as romance, fantasy, and thriller.

Fiction Writers

Fiction writers are talented and creative people who craft interesting stories that prompt readers to use their imagination and critical thinking to learn new ideas, concepts, perspectives, and truths. Hence, works of fiction can definitely transform people’s lives.

The Fictional Writing Process

Although storytelling may seem like an easy task, it actually takes a long time for fiction writers to weave that perfect plot and develop fascinating made-up characters. Moreover, contrary to common belief, even fictional writing requires a significant amount of research. This is the reason you may often find fictional stories to be densely packed with great ideas and information.

Fictional pieces may come in various lengths—it can be as long as Dumas’ Count of Monte Cristo or as short as the stories by O. Henry. If you are planning to write fiction, it can be beneficial to determine the length of the story that you want to tell at the very beginning.

By doing so, you will have a better idea of how much room you have in terms of developing your plot and will help you decide on the most suitable type of approach to take. Have a clear mindset on whether you want to write a fantasy story set in the medieval times and packed with amazing journeys and battles for instance, or just a story with a non-complex plot. If you decide to do the latter, you may want to go for a short story. However, for the other one with a complicated plot, a novel or several novels may be more appropriate.

Final Thoughts

Fictional writing allows writers to create a whole new different world and set of characters that are purely based on their imagination and creativity. With fictional writing, nothing is impossible—you can create anything that your mind can come up with.

Fictional Writing 101: How to Make Your Characters Believable

Believable characters can make a lasting impact to readers and make a story much better. Unless your characters are believable and relatable, your audience will not find your work interesting. So how do you actually breathe life into your fictional characters? Here are some tips in creating believable characters.

  1. Observe different people.

By observing different kinds of people, you will have some ideas for the personalities and traits that you can integrate into your character. Take note of how people speak, behave, do their mannerisms, stutter, express themselves, and what verbal fillers they use. From these observations, you can choose which ones to incorporate—in short, imitate real people to make your characters seem real.

  1. Play with their personalities and characteristics.

If you want to make your characters realistic, you should never categorize them into purely “black” or “white”. By this I mean you should not make your protagonists all good, and your antagonists absolutely evil. Make them multidimensional—add layers into their personality. This is what will make them more appealing and bring a significant impact to your audience.

Play with their personalities—make them complex individuals and even add what seems like contradictions. For instance, your evil antagonist who beats the crap out of people and can kill mercilessly is extremely affectionate with animals.

On the other hand, your main protagonists must also have weaknesses and faults. Let them fail and allow the villains to win occasionally. This will stir up your readers’ minds and emotions. Moreover, this will also make your story less predictable and much more interesting.

  1. Establish individuality.

Just like in real life, people are different from one another. With this, if you want to make your characters realistic and recognizable, establish individuality and uniqueness. This will make your characters more alive.

Make sure that they are very different from one another—they have distinct voices, varying points of view, as well as beliefs and principles. For example, if one of your characters is a crackhead teenager and another one is a respected middle-aged professor, but the two thinks the same and have the same manner of speaking, you are definitely doing it wrong. If necessary, don’t hesitate to make multiple revisions to ensure this.

Making your characters believable and interesting may seem like a challenging task at first. However, by performing the strategies I shared in this article, you will surely be able to do this much easier and more effectively. Always keep in mind that no matter how awesome your idea for your plot is, you won’t be able to execute it properly without great characters. Furthermore, your readers won’t stay interested if the characters are not multidimensional and believable.

Here’s How Fictional Writing Can Be Beneficial

writing fiction

I’ve heard some people say that fictional stories aren’t significant to the society, and that being a fiction writer is a career that is not worth pursuing. They say that storytelling and fictional writing are not beneficial to your life and your future. If you also hear these things and you are somehow being dissuaded from your dream of becoming a fiction writer, let this article serve as an encouragement for you.

Below are some of the ways by which fictional writing can be beneficial and worthy of pursuing.

  1. Fiction stories can make a significant difference in your life.

Despite being a work of fiction, stories can inspire, motivate, inform, as well as trigger emotions and actions. Hence, this type of literature can touch and make a huge difference in your life and the lives of other people.

Through effective writing and made-up characters, people will learn that there are some things in life that are worth fighting for or believing in for instance. Just as fictional stories can make a difference, so do the writers who create them.

If you want to make a difference in this world, fictional writing can serve as a clear shot at this objective. So it is your dream to write and tell interesting stories? That’s good. Don’t let go of that desire; and trust me, your story will make a difference.

  1. Fiction can teach valuable life lessons.

Fictional stories can be one of your best teachers—about people and their cultures, about the concept of right and wrong, or about life in general. Again, this doesn’t only apply to you as the author, but to your readers as well.

The thing about writing is that the skills and knowledge that you acquire through fictional writing and making use of your imagination can be applied to many other aspects of your life. For instance, mastering the art of writing fiction can help you communicate more effectively and craft better essays or other forms of writing.

  1. It widens people’s imagination and promotes critical thinking.

When you take fictional writing seriously, you will find yourself exploring various subjects and carefully pondering on things that you haven’t put much attention into in the past. Things such as philosophy, beliefs, the way people relate to each other, as well as logic are now more interesting than before. In addition, using your imagination frequently can broaden it, and allow you to practice your ability to create.

In other words, writing fiction challenges you to think outside the box and thoroughly consider concepts on a much deeper level—a good mental workout.

  1. Writing reveals truth.

Fictional writing is an interesting way of communicating truths to readers of all ages. The thing about fiction is that it shows or portrays a truth in such an effective way that other ways fail to do so because it puts that “truth” in a whole new light.

Through fictional writing, ideas and concepts can be painted in a unique picture that invokes creative and critical thinking from its audience; thereby, making it a powerful tool for revealing truths.

  1. Fictional stories can add perspective for the writer and the audience.

Perhaps, one of the most important benefits that you can obtain from writing and reading fiction is the fact that you can acquire a fresh perspective about life and the world. Who would’ve thought that made-up characters in a made-up world going through made-up circumstances can give us incredible insights? And I think that’s the beauty of it all.

As you write and read more fictional stories, you will be able to understand the complexities of life better, and be able to appreciate the simpler aspects too. Furthermore, as a writer, fictional writing can give you new perspectives about your own self that you’ve never known before. Therefore, it transforms you into a better person with a more open mind.

Final Thoughts

Fictional writing is an activity that allows you to create—create new worlds, characters, and events. It allows you to express yourself freely. Furthermore, fictional writing or writing in general can give you a purpose in life. So don’t ever think that pursuing your passion for writing is a waste of your life. Just dream, write, and don’t stop!

Top Tips in Writing Fiction

writing fiction

If you are planning to write fiction for the first time and find the task overwhelming, getting some tips from more experienced writers may do the trick. In this article, I will give you some useful pieces of advice on fictional writing to help you get started.

Know your audience.

By identifying for whom are you writing your fictional story for and trying to understand them, you’ll definitely be able to write a better story. Accept the fact that not everyone will appreciate your work, and keep in mind that what you should focus on is to appeal to your target audience.

Identify the demographics of your target audience such as their age group and gender to be able to discern what elements should be added into your fictional story for it to become more interesting.

Develop realistic characters.

Perfect characters are boring. Make them realistic and relatable for your characters to appeal to your readers. Develop interesting personalities, give them phobias, and add flaws.

Moreover, as your story progresses, make sure that your characters evolve. Just as how real people change with each event in their life, your fictional characters must also undergo this development process.

Put your characters in certain circumstances that will force them to make a difficult decision, and decide when they should make the right choice or the wrong one. Keep in mind that if your characters are not developing and they are just static, they would not make a huge impact on your readers.

Try to stick to your main plot.

One of the most common mistakes made by fiction writers is that they get too caught up with the subplots that do not actually help with the development of the characters and the story itself.

Try to focus and stick to your main plot. However, if you decide to include subplots that will spice up your piece, ensure that they are all connected to the main plot, have a real impact on your characters’ evolution, and support your story’s progression.

Allow the events to play out.

Don’t try to wrap up each event too quickly, almost like you’re rushing to get to the end. Most often in real life, you don’t get to a certain goal that easily. Hence, you should let every circumstance to play out. By doing this, you will also be able to keep your readers hooked with your work and encourage them to keep reading. An additional advice is to add nice cliffhangers at the end of your chapters.

Develop powerful conflicts in different parts of your story.

The conflicts in the story are what make people excited and interested with what happens next. Naturally, if there is a conflict, you will get excited about what the outcome will be and how this will affect the characters. Hence, a weak conflict will just leave your characters where they were at the beginning of the story and will not give them room to grow.

As a beginner, you may feel that fictional writing is a daunting task. However, by reading and practicing constantly, you will surely get the hang of it. Before you know it, you’ve already produced various fictional stories. Trust me, fictional writing is a rewarding endeavour that is definitely worth pursuing. So don’t ever stop and strive to become a great writer—you’ll get there!

5 tips to help you write a good novel

Many people think that writing fiction is easy. But in reality, writing fiction is a form of art. You need lots of practice and patience to write a good fiction. If you really want to write fiction then here are some tips that can help you improve your writing.

Begin your story with action

You should start your novel with an action. This grabs the attention of the readers. However, you have to make sure that the action is important to the story. It should take you to the main character. You can start with tension also; for example, the main character is searching for something or trying hard to protect someone, etc.

Use the five senses

You should apply senses other than sight and sound. You should try to go even beyond these senses. You should use body language when narrating your story. This will give depth to your story.

Use your IQ well

Most of the readers are very well educated, so you should use your IQ well when writing a story. You should not think customers to be not intelligent and tone down your book for audiences of lower intellectual ability. People are smarter now. So, you should be smart in your writing as well. You shouldn’t overexplain things thinking that the readers won’t understand.

Make them laugh and cry

You should get your readers emotionally involved. You should write in a way so that the readers laugh and cry reading the story. The reader should be able to get inside the story and really feel it.

End every chapter carefully

You should end every chapter unanswered or on the verge of some action so that the reader feels the urge to read the next chapter. So, the ending of your chapters must be interesting.

You should understand your audience well. Then you should write for the vast audience who will accept your story. You should use these tips when writing. there are various online resources available where you can get more tips on writing a novel.

4 major differences between fiction and non-fiction writing

In simple terms, fiction is something imaginary and non-fiction is something that’s true. In non-fiction writing, real people and real places are involved. On the other hand, in fiction stories, everything is from the writer’s imagination. Here are some major differences between the two types of writing.

Fiction is made up, non-fiction is fact

Fiction stories are all made up. All the characters and places come from the authors’ imagination. Non-fiction writing, on the other hand, is fact-based and informative. Fiction books are written for entertaining readers and the non-fiction books are written to give more knowledge to the readers. Examples of fictions are novels, short stories, etc. History books, autobiography, etc. are non-fictions.

Fiction is more elaborate

In fiction, the writer can go along with his or her imagination without any limit. They can elaborate on a plot or character as far as their imagination goes. In non-fiction, the writer has to be straight forward. There is no scope for any imagination. It is actually reallocation of facts.

Fiction can be interpreted in different ways

The story that is written by a fictional writer can be interpreted in various ways by the audience. But non-fiction writings are simple and direct. They can have only one interpretation.

Non-fiction writing needs references

In non-fiction writing, you may need to give references for your writing and include quotes to the story. This is needed to make your story or writing more credible. But in fiction writing, no such references are required.

These are the differences between fiction and non-fiction writing that you must remember. You should simply remember that fiction is imaginative and non-fiction is true. Fiction writing is fun to read and non-fiction writing is informative. So, next time when you read a book, you will be able to tell easily whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.

3 reasons you should read fiction books

Academic reading is important to do well on your exam, but you shouldn’t overlook the importance of reading fiction books. Many parents discourage their children from reading fiction books as they think it’s waste of time. But in reality, fiction books can benefit people in many ways.

It opens up your mind

Fiction is the author’s imagination. It also opens up the readers’ mind. You will read about different characters, places, and stories. You will become more creative. You will easily be able to come up with new ideas and have different perspectives about things.  Your cognitive function can improve by reading fiction books.

It makes you more compassionate

By reading fiction, people usually get swept away by the story. They start to get deeply involved with the character and they start to characterize with the main character. They go through various emotional experiences. Reading fiction will make you more compassionate.

Improves vocabulary

When you read lots of books your vocabulary improves. You will notice that your writing style has improved as well. The more you read books, the more your writing skills will improve. You will be able to express yourself better with new words.

Reading fiction develops your mind and writing skills. You will be able to perform better in your academic lessons and professional life as well. So, it is important to develop the habit of reading fictions in children. They will grow to become better performers in their lives.

How to Kick the Sugar Habit

There’s been a good bit of health news floating lately around suggesting that sugar is worse for us than we thought, such as a study finding a relationship between sugar consumption on a population level and type II diabetes, independent of other factors like obesity. As a result, a lot of people I know have been experimenting with lower sugar or no-sugar diets. I think it’s a great thing, but it’s so hard to do. Obstacles range from the ubiquity of sugar in processed food to deep emotional attachments to certain foods. I thought I’d share some tips from my experience that have helped me get sugar (mostly) out of my diet. I’m not perfect. I have calculated indulgences, and also just plain fall off the wagon some times. But I do feel in control, and I have a new perspective that there’s a strange sense of obligation that goes with consuming sugary foods that I am now free of. So here are some things that have helped me, and some things I wish I’d known earlier in the process.

1. For the first month or two, it helps to go completely cold turkey and be a real nazi about it. No sugar at all, not even trace sugar. It helps reset your taste buds, and, more importantly, forces you to confront all of your problematic foods and triggers all at once when you are in a strong psychological position of being in a honeymoon phase with the whole thing. Read the label on everything. You’re going to be shocked and disappointed when some of your favorite foods turn out to contain sugar for no apparent reason. It’s fine to throw them out, or maybe donate them to a food bank, to get them out of your face. Once your palate has adjusted, these foods are going to taste weird to you, anyway.

kick the sugar habit

2. Tell all of your friends and family that you’re not eating any sugar. People are pretty supportive about it. That will help immediately with what you imagine are awkward social situations where someone has made you a delicious turtle fudge brownie cheesecake and will be plunged into suicidal depression if you don’t eat it. (Wishful thinking, it turns out. No one gives a crap if you don’t eat the goodies. It’s just more for them.)

3. Don’t use artificial sweeteners. In my opinion, this does nothing to change your craving for sweets, and you’re becoming part of an uncontrolled long term experiment on the long term effect of chemical sweeteners on human health.

4. Find tasty alternatives for some of your favorite sweet treats or meals. For example, instead of brown sugar, I top my steel cut oats with mashed banana. And a really quality cheese with crackers is a pretty satisfying substitute for a number of otherwise sugary snacks. Cheese, whole grain crackers, and nuts by the handful have become daily snacks at my house. Unsweetened iced tea is my go-to drink at restaurants.

5. If you feel deprived or have major cravings at first, that is normal, and it will pass.

6. Resign yourself to give up on a short list of items that can’t be replicated without sugar of some sort. I’m talking about stuff like ketchup and barbecue sauce. I order my burgers with mayo and green olives.

7. Eat before problematic occasions, or bring your own sugar-free snack. For example, I spend one or two evenings a week writing in coffee shops, and at first felt rather deprived not to have a treat from the pastry case. So I started bringing a piece of fruit. After the first couple of times, I was no longer bothered by cravings. You sort of have to tackle these situations one-by-one until the trigger for eating sweets fades and there are many triggers.

8. Don’t force this on family or friends. Of course sugary sweets are bad for us, but people are complex and maybe your family member or friend needs their daily cupcake for now to get through something else. It’s also really hard to focus on more than one self-improvement project at once, so while they may agree and approve of what you’re doing, it could be a while before they find a place in their own lives for it.

9. Don’t enable your family and friends if it is going to be a problem for you. There’s a surprising amount of guilt that can happen if you don’t bake cookies for your family or offer a dessert with Sunday dinner. Get over it. Your family members, even the kids, can handle their own sugar supply. So don’t let their “needs” for sugary foods undermine what you need to do for your health. (If you are ok with making desserts without ever tasting them, that is great. You are a stronger person than I.) If you are accustomed to showing your love with food, try to stifle that impulse. Having had a couple of people in my life with that particular fetish, it’s actually really f—ing annoying. Cut it out!

10. Once you’ve gotten through your sugar nazi phase, decide what indulgences are “worth it” for you. I know someone who has no indulgences ever. She has type II diabetes, and can’t afford to have even an occasional sweet treat. For myself, I will have a dessert or treat if it is really “worth it.” It has to be more than a store-bought cake with crisco frosting or a jello salad at a pot luck. For example, if I’m at a restaurant that is reputed to have the world’s best tiramisu, yes, I am going to order the tiramisu and enjoy it. This happens maybe once a month.

11. If you are going to indulge, go big. There are two reasons. One is that it makes it special if you have a really spectacular treat and really fill up on it after long periods of virtuous abstinence. Another reason is that a large indulgence is unlikely to lead to a slippery slope where you are back to mainstream sugar consumption. If you treat yourself with a teaspoon of honey in your coffee, all that will happen is you’ll want it again tomorrow. If you treat yourself with a huge hot fudge sundae, it will be an awesome transcendent experience and you’re going to feel like crap the next day, too. It’s not likely you’re going to fall into a hot fudge sundae habit accidentally. In fact, you may never want one again!

12. Don’t worry too much if you fall off the wagon. This isn’t alcoholism. You don’t have to confess or start your sobriety clock over again. Nothing bad is going to immediately happen. You can start again the next day with no penalty.

13. Challenge yourself to get through the next holiday or big social occasion with no sugar. It’s hard the first time you do it, but once you get through it’s very freeing and empowering. After you’ve done this a couple of times, you’ll have a clearer head to decide whether a special occasion merits an indulgence, or if it’s just a same-crap-different-year situation. Easter is coming. Can you get through Easter without any sugar? You can do it!

Good luck!