Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation. This blog post contains generic information about archetypes.

Archetypes work like symbols in your writing. They are unconscious triggers for your readers. Use them as touches of details.

Print this document and use it when crafting poems (or even prose, since an archetype could be a guiding symbol for story and for nonfiction).

Archetypes assist you with crafting your writing, much as we discussed at the Three Unities post, on August. 25.

Archetype Notes


Newbie Writer: Epic Writer Journey

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith is the next part of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.) In the 9/5 post, I started with my FIRST and SECOND guidance based on her first paragraph of her email, offered in an abridged version as the 9/1 post.

My response has four major sections. Here’s the THIRD. (And I probably should have divided this one–it is close to 1,000 words, but every part is so connected to the whole body that it is a crime to slash and dissect.)


Plotting can be difficult.

No, I am not talking about the process (plotter / pantster / puzzler.

I am talking about NOVEL STRUCTURE.

And finding a novel structure that works for you will be your own Epic Writer Journey.

About 15 years ago I discovered Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey (you can pick up a new or used copy, both relatively inexpensively) $4.00 at this site

Vogler’s work is based on Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey”. Here is an explanatory LINK ~

Frankly—and I am totally serious—the character arc of the Hero’s Journey is what the Beats formula and everything else is based upon.

I found that this story arc offers the best “plotting” method for me. I view this structure as both literal and figurative and make it mesh with other writing elements that I have learned. This is what I now use.

When I explore other structures now (see 7/15 blog), I see their weaknesses based on this Hero’s Journey as well as where those structures actually follow this rather than inventing something new.

The glory of the 12-Stage Writer’s Journey is that it fits every genre out there. That’s because it is “mythic” in that it follows the story structures our human brains are conditioned to accept after thousands of years of stories. I will admit that I constantly encounter people I consider “hide-bound writers” who say tat it doesn’t work. I think they are blind.

All I know about the 12-Stage Writer’s Journey is that I can apply it to Jane Austen’s novels and films, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Dorothy Sayers, Georgette Heyer, virtually anything on current and past fiction bestseller lists, Finding Nemo, Shrek, Up, Last of the Mohicans (film with Daniel Day Lewis), anything action-adventure, anything romantic, anything mystery and suspense. I might have to view the stages “figuratively”, but it does work.

Here it is in brief.

1] Ordinary World – present the character in daily life. This is to show how the character will change through the course of the book. My struggle is to keep this stage extremely short!

This step meshes with writing advice from ages ago about “starting at the first moment things are no longer normal,” meaning that the character encounters something that changes the ordinary progression of life.

Of course, we have to show the character in that ordinary progression before we explode it.

2] Call to Adventure – this is the event that starts the conflict.

3] Refusal of the Call – Most people don’t want to change their life. They try to return to things as they were. This stage shows that attempt as well as how the change cannot be stopped. More action. More angst.

4] Meeting with the Mentor – this can be a friend or an actual wise person. I once had a taxi driver speak the words of wisdom to the protagonist. This can be the character thinking words of wisdom while on a phone call to a sister or brother who tries to convince them not to go down a path. The mentor’s advice doesn’t have to be followed.

5] Crossing the First Threshold – whatever event occurs here, the protagonist cannot return to the Ordinary World from this point. Pure action or pure internal revelation.

6] Tests, Allies, and Enemies – this seems like a single short stage. Nope. It can turn into a series of chapters. This will form the bulk of the middle third of your novel. You can drop back and add in a new mentor or two, cross another threshold then restart the TAE as many times as you need. It’s up to you.

7] Approach to the Inmost Cave – nearing the crisis point. The bad part is coming. The angst in deciding to risk everything to achieve the goal is all that matters here.

8] The Ordeal, the Dark Moment, the crisis point. It’s about the 65-75% point of the story.

9] The Reward – the moment when the protagonist realizes that yes, this journey is changing, is life-threatening or emotionally threatening. BUT—and it is a powerful BUT—the reward makes all the hardships mentally and emotionally and physically worth everything.

10] The Road Back – things are settling, but hardships still occur.

11] The Resurrection – Evil resurrects and nearly kills the protagonist (either nearly killing a relationship or nearly killing the dream or nearly killing the person). AND the protagonist resurrects (relationship / dream / healing of the physical body somehow).

12] Return with the Elixir – which is pretty much self-explanatory.

Next Up

So, that’s the third part of my response to the first paragraph from that second email from the newbie writer. On the 25th will be the fourth part of my response, and October will follow with my answers to her specific questions (see the 9/1 post for her email).

If you have more questions about this 12-stage arc of the Hero’s Journey, Christopher Vogler’s book is a quick and easy read. Campbell’s hero’s journey itself is 17 stages and is found in his The Hero has a 1,000 Faces, which he should have considered his doctoral dissertation—but the man didn’t pursue such titles.

Smart man.

In my book Discovering Your Plot, I go into great detail about the purpose and necessary requirements for each of the 12 stages. For example, I break the Tests / Allies / Enemies stage into three explanations. You can find DiscPlot at this LINK

Come back on 9/25 for the FOURTH part, on REVISION.

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Creating Emphasis

For poetry lovers, we have a series of blogs, Poetry Lessons, guest-hosted by M.A. Lee of Writers Ink Books. Visit our page on every 5th  (5th, 15th, and 25th) to see which poem has inspired a lesson in thinking and writing.

Writers Ink is on a much-needed vacation. This blog post is the first and very rough draft on Emphasis, part of the Repetitions chapter in Discovering Sentence Craft. 

Poets will find Discovering Sentence Craft very helpful in improving their craft at the words and phrases and sentence levels. (The previous blog on the Three Unities is an example of the whole-concept craft.) Find DiscSentCraft here. 

Creating Emphasis ~ More than the Subject Position

Fun with words?

Yes, it’s possible. And practical. Especially practice-able when we want to create emphasis. (Yes, “practicable” is a word. It means “able to put into practice”, which is what we do in our writing with literary and rhetorical devices.)

Easiest is simple repetition.

“And the highwayman came riding–riding–riding / Up to the old inn-door.” (Noyes, “The Highwayman”)

Pick a key word, and it becomes the key element.

Be careful, though, for repetition becomes a key gimmick, as we know from reading “The Highwayman”: “A red-coat troop came marching—marching—marching”. From mid-point on, the repetition is too much.

Play with Incremental Repetition.

An increment is a small amount. Incremental Repetition is a small change at the next repeat of the word or phrase.

Again, from “The Highwayman”: “And they shot him down on the highway / Down like a dog on the highway.”

The slight change miraculously adds strength.

For a clever version of incremental repetition, check out Judy Collins’ version of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, (We also covered Mitchell’s song on April 15. You can head back there to read our analysis.)

Grow for Emphasis.

Once we start considering how repetition increase emphasis, we encounter a clever Greek word auxesis, which means “growth” or “increase”, but is really a fancy way to say climactic ordering.

In Robinson Jeffers’ translation of Euripides’ Medea, our main character contemplates the murders of those who have wronged her: “Grind. Crush. Burn.” She, of course, chooses the last method, the one most painful and enduring. No quick deaths for Medea.

“Both Sides Now” uses auxesis to present ascending significance. The first stanzas discuss clouds (innocent, childlike naïveté), the next discuss love (the focus of our teens and twenties), and the last discuss life (maturity in considering our world).

We can take power away by descending in importance. Remember the lesson of the trolls? Removing power can be a useful technique. [The lesson of the trolls is also in DiscSentCraft, part of chapter on “Sequentials”.)

Work in Threes.

Once is not remarkable. Twice seems coincidence. Thrice is serendipity.

Look above at how many times threes are used. In “The Highwayman” who is “riding — riding — riding.” In Mitchell’s three stanzas and three life progressions. In Medea’s contemplation of three methods of death, each more torturous than the one before.

And watch for all the repetition by threes that are coming up as examples.

Set the Right Pace.

We can slow down the speed of our repetition and auxesis by adding conjunctions: “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace from day to day” (Macbeth’s famous speech by Shakespeare). This is called a polysyndeton.

We speed up by removing conjunctions: “Out, out, brief candle” is the asyndeton from the same speech by Macbeth.

Front and Back.

Repetition can occur at the beginning of a series of sentences, which creates an anaphora:

From Winston Churchill’s June 1940 speech: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight … in the air, we shall defend our island … we shall fight on the beaches … we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Opposite to the anaphora is the epistrophe.

From Sam’l Beckett: “Where now? Who now? When now?” (The Unnamable)

From Shakespeare’s J.Caesar: “Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak; for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended.” (Brutus)

This example comes from Jeffers’ Medea: “They were full of cold pride, they ruled all this country–they are down in the ashes, crying like dogs, cowering in the ashes, in their own ashes.”

Keep a light touch.

Don’t overwork the repetition. With a light touch, its simple occurrence creates power on the page.

Use it to remind of elements of character. This is often called a character tag.

Use it to develop setting with a quick glance or a lingering view >> setting tag.

Crime scene images. Events in a mano-y-mano battle. Workings of a spell. Effects of a kiss.

Repetition creates emphasis.

Newbie Writer: Live and Learn

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Advice to Newbies ~ Live and Learn

Herewith, the beginning of my response to a Newbie Writer’s concerns. (See the 9/1 post to read her second email. Names are changed to protect the innocent.)

The opening paragraphs to her second email were so long and so jammed with unspoken questions that I’ve broken my response into several parts for ease of understanding.

Response to Paragraph I, Part A

I will try to answer your questions. Please remember that everything is my opinion. For example, for years I tried, seriously tried, to follow what everyone in the major markets said about story development and character revelations and more. As I worked through that advice, trying to apply it and failing because it clogged up all creativity, I gradually found what worked for me and what did not. You will discover this as well. It’s a matter of practice.


The writer that I mentioned in my previous email, Dean Wesley Smith has written over 100 novels for traditional and indie markets.

He says now that he is happiest in indie and that his current series, Cold Poker Gang, up to 11 books, would have been rejected by traditional publishers because it doesn’t “match” to what the rest of the writing world is doing—but the series is selling and making him great money. I guess that shows that the writing world understands about the reading world.

Here is his take on Traditional Publishing vs. Indie Publishing.

DWSmith uses something that he calls “Writing Into the Dark”, an inexpensive book that you may want to check out. It reinforced what I believe about my own creativity and writing style. You define yourself as a pantster—you may find yourself in this method already.

One thing to remember is that every story is different, and I alter my writing process every time I sit down to write—sometimes twice during the course of one book. For example, I may launch totally into the dark, plot and follow that plot then abandon it, then plot briefly and pants a lot, then end with plotting. The next book may be completely pantsting. The next may be heavily plotted then abandoned—even as I keep the plot in mind. For whatever method you choose, the ONLY thing that matters is that your ideas AND words are flowing. If they aren’t, switch it up.


I find that Save the Cat and the Snowflake method and much more so very artificial. I find the “literary” (as in “what is taught about literature” in colleges/universities and high schools [having taught in both], such as Freytag’s Pyramid (simple story structure) and complex story structure (exposition / conflict / complications / crisis / reversals / climax / resolution / denouement) as artificial.

You read, don’t you? You watch films, don’t you? You have been around storytelling since you were a small child, haven’t you? Well, this means that successful story-telling is already part of you. You know the story you want to tell. Better to let it flow out in the way that you ant to (especially during your first version of the story—which I call the rough and other people call the first draft) than to impose artificial constraints on your story.

Next Up

Yep, I am holding off on the rest of my response to her email because this one is already over 600 words. My answers continue throughout September AND October before she and I have our next pop back and forth of concerns and advice.

If you have immediate questions about plotting and characters, you can always try my two guidebooks Discovering Plot and Discovering Characters

Newbie Writer ~ The 2nd Email

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

What’s Up with the Newbie Writer posts? Here. Head back to July 1 to get the context.  Or read on, because I explain below — but if you want to back up and read everything, great! Just back your way through these blog posts because everything is also here.

So, I answered that first email. Guess what? I got ….


Back on July 1, I shared that a newbie writer had reached out for information about my mistakes when I first started publishing. Originally, the question came up in a discussion board for a national writers group to which I belong (Sisters In Crime, Guppies chapter … which is for Newbies). I was one of several who answered the original question with just a quick comment that we all make mistakes and that was the glory of the Guppies chapter, sharing what we know with others.

The newbie writer privately messaged me about my mistakes, so I shared my seven mistakes then gave three mistakes that I didn’t make (Notta Mistakes) to create 10 bits of advice. (I always deal in round numbers, you see.)

Now that a couple of months have passed since the original post, I am offering those 10 bits of advice as blog posts for this website. Because ~ hey, why not?

All through July I shared those 7 Newbie Writer Mistakes, then in August I shared the 3 major Newbie Notta Mistakes.

After giving this newbie writer these answers, she popped a 2nd email, a much more involved email. I’m sharing it here—names changed to protect the innocent, abridged (with ellipsis …) to focus specifically on her concerns—and I’ll answer her second set of questions and concerns through September and likely into October since she had a lot of concerns, and I’m too much of a teacher not to try to smooth those over.

So, here’s her email to give context to the next blogs in this series.


The Newbie Writes:

Your message has helped me more than you could imagine! I was feeling pretty bummed yesterday after another author had looked over my editorial synopsis and was trying to help me find the beats of the novel.

(For all of you who don’t know what beats are, here’s a great explanation of the Beats process. )

Mostly, she (the other author) matched up the first three and then the novel would have to change significantly from there to fit into the 15-beat structure. I had been encouraged to read Save the Cat and the entire time I was reading it I kept feeling like the questions it was asking didn’t apply to my novel. I am definitely a pantster (although I realize I create scenes in my head that get strung together before I write, which is some minimal form of plotting, I guess?) and I am anxious about any of these story structure ideas that seem too rigid or formulaic. I also recognize that it can be hard to kill your work but I truly feel like I am capable of a balanced approach to this. The hardest thing for me is not knowing what to do next in the revision process of how to do it.

I am mostly an eclectic reader too, but my biggest realization is that I don’t often read novels that are in the genre I am writing (which I think is best described as romantic suspense)… . I honestly do not want to give up the crime aspect of my writing, but I feel like I also need to connect with some romance authors to get their perspectives. Except, I did read a craft book on romance and beats and disliked it more than STC. I understand how story structure came about, how it leads to a compelling read, etc., I just don’t agree with what feels like prescriptive premises… .

I haven’t gotten as far as blurb writing … [and] I am also curious about critique groups and finding veteran novelists… .

A Few Questions

1] What does self-publishing mean to you? I have a suspicion that there is a spectrum for self-publishing and I am trying to decide where I want to be and the work it will involve: promotion, hiring people to look at the MS first, etc. I have a local friend who is a romance author and she self-publishes and she said hiring for a cover designer is a good idea.

2] Do you have revision advice from when you were pulling together your first MS written in scenes (or any others). I have a coherent, continuous manuscript but it is 200,000 words. I have been advised to cut it in half and that is where I am struggling to know what to do next. I think I can see a few scenes that can be pulled, a few that can be shortened, and possibly ONE thread that could be pulled or changed to make it shorter. I want to go in and find where all the story action starts and stops in each scene and cut those out (I tend to write it ALL because that’s the way I think—I am always wondering what happened when a scene stops an exciting point of dialogue—I want to know the boring stuff like how did they get out of the situation? So I write that). I am unsure of just how much that would cut down my book, but I feel like it is a worthwhile approach to take.

3] When you say let Beta readers read the finished MS—at what point in finishing? Right now I have one who has read the entire first draft (that had some minor line editing done to the first ¼ of the book) and another who read the first half of the book before I finished it. I guess I am just wondering how much revision work to put in before sending it to a reader. Many people have suggested that 200,000 words is too much to send to a Beta reader… . My mom was the Beta reader who read the entire thing. She has made a lot of notes for me, and we’ve talked through some of it and I think it was helpful, but I am not sure if I could find someone outside of a friend or family member to read the terrible first draft!

4] A question I like to ask authors: what writing advice did you ignore? Was ignoring it to your benefit or not? ….

Thanks for your initial response about self-publishing! I have gone deeper with some of these questions so if you don’t have the time to reply, that is okay.

And she signed off.

I took the time to reply honestly and candidly, always pointing out that this is IMO. I didn’t originally answer with the idea to turn the answers into a blog series >> but hey! Here it all is, through this month and the next and the next. Whoo!

Next Up

So, September starts my first answers based on her first paragraph above. Yeah, took me a while to get through that one paragraph. It’s loaded with problems and unspoken questions.

Good teacher that I am–I mean, was–I analyzed so I could explain.

For the rest of September, we’re on the 5ths (5 / 15 / 25). Join us.

Newbie Notta Mistake #3

Want to stay three steps ahead of the other newbie writers starting on the epic journey into writerly wonderland?

Read Newbie Notta Mistakes #3, #2, and #1.

#3 is below!

Newbie Notta Mistake #3 :: Learn As You Live

It’s a series on Advice to Newbie Writers. This will last a while. Enjoy.

Keep learning and practicing your craft. Even after 30 years of teaching literature (high school and college), even with advanced degrees in English and composition, even after over five years of pursuing self-publishing, even after over 25 published books—I am still learning.

New information keeps me fresh.

Practicing that new information >> that stretches my skills and builds improvement.

Also, no one will ever know everything there is to know about writing. But we can try.

I have three courses to take this year: two on the craft of writing, one on marketing. I am learning a lot.

I’m still trying—just like a doctor practicing medicine. The only difference is—I might speak with authority, but I will freely admit that I have more to learn.

Think a doc will say that?

Promotion ~ Groan.

Well, if you don’t want to take a course (which can be $150.00 to $300.00), you can spend a lot less by reading books about the craft of writing and cover by Deranged Doctor Design for Writers Ink Booksmarketing.

So (you did know there would be a So, didn’t you?) >> In 2019, I wrote the Discovering Set for Writers. Check them out at the link to the online distributor:

<< That’s it!

Discovering Your Novel

Discovering Characters

Discovering Your Plot

Discovering Your Author Brand

Discovering Sentence Craft

Then, as if I didn’t have enough to do, I bundled characters / plot / author brand / sentence craft together as Discovering Your Writing (you can save money by buying the bundle). Here’s a trailer and the buy link.

These five books (four in a bundle) are a full education in the craft of story telling and starting promotions for your books.

GINORMOUS BOOK … so right now it’s only available in electronic form `cause … well, at the start of this year, when I would have scheduled with the cover designer, people talked about a paper shortage.

Anyway~ Enjoy.

Next Up

Hark back to the July 1 blog, and you’ll see that questions from a newbie writer inspired this whole blog series.

On September 1, we’ll share the second email that she sent (names changed to protect the innocent, of course).

All through September and October and maybe into November, we’ll share our answers to her second round of questions. On the 5ths, of course (5 / 15 / 25 ~ only July was odd.).

~ M.A. Lee