World Building: Guest Post by JM Sullivan


Hi guys! My name is JM Sullivan, and I am the author of Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles. When Becca asked me to chat with you this month, I was so excited to oblige, and then she told me she wanted some tips on World-Building.

<insert video-tape screech>

Ok, so maybe my reaction wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it did give me pause. See, world-building is TOUGH. There are so many different parts to creating an elaborate world that it can seem daunting to even the most skilled writers.

But here’s the thing: without solid world-building, your story has no legs to stand on. Whether you’re working with fairy tales, science-fiction, horror, or even contemporary, the world you place your characters in has a huge impact on the events and ultimately, the ‘believeability’ of your story. You can have a killer cast of characters, but if your setting doesn’t fit, your reader won’t be able to slip into the tale you’ve so carefully crafted.

So, how can you make sure you’ve built a world readers want to get lost in? While it is a craft that definitely requires practice and finesse, a few simple steps will get you started on some very solid footing. Just remember your ABCs!

The ABCs of World Building

1. Atmosphere: First, you need to consider the atmosphere of the world you’re crafting. And NO, I don’t mean the mixture of gases that surround the planet your characters inhabit (although, if you write Sci-Fi, that may actually be a valid point to consider). Think about your favorite restaurant or hangout. What do you love about it? Is it the music they play, the lighting, or the vibes you get from the people who frequent it? All that makes up the atmosphere. Your world has an atmosphere too! When you picture the world your characters are in, what do you see? What kind of vibes are you hoping to give your reader? Odds are, if you’re writing a dark story, you aren’t going to want to paint a world filled with sunshine and rainbows. Similarly, the setting of a light-hearted contemporary shouldn’t make your readers want to cringe. A tip I find helpful is creating a soundtrack for my book. I think of the ‘feel’ I want to accomplish and find songs that help me picture it. For example, my Alice playlist was filled with dark, harsh beats and tones by the likes of Halsey, Melanie Martinez, and the Twenty-One Pilots. My Peter soundtrack has a Sci-Fi feel with lots of electronica and techno beats. It helped me to picture the world better in my head and paint it more clearly on the page. What is it you are seeing? How can you make your reader ‘see’ the same thing? Take a second and see how answering these question helps solidify your setting.

* What does it look like? If you were to take a picture of the scene, what would you see?

* What’s the climate/environment like? Is it hot, cold, neutral temperature? Are there seasons, or heavy weather?

* What are the people like? Is it a friendly community, or are they more cutthroat? Is there a reason they act like this?

* What kind of government is there? Is it neat and orderly? Chaos? Somewhere in between? What does that look like?

* How does it sound? Are your characters more likely to hear laughing or crying? Screaming? Is there a predominant accent or many different tongues? How about an anthem that moves the story? What sounds do you associate with your setting and how can you translate them into words?

2. Background: Ok. So you’ve got your picture. You know what you see, what your characters see, and hopefully what your reader is seeing. Now take a second to figure out how your world got that way. Understanding the background to your story can give you a solid foundation to help explain the WHYS of your world building. Sure, you could say that in your world cats have mutated and now everyone rides their pet Persians to work (I mean, you’re the author, it’s your prerogative), but unless your reader understands why, they are bound to have questions. And too many questions will jar them from your story. Picture the world you’ve dreamt up. Now figure out WHY it looks that way. We all know the saying that Rome wasn’t built in a day—what happened in all of the days that made it the fantastic empire it became? The same goes for your world. Think about what happened in the past to make it the way it is for your characters NOW.

* What is the history of your world?

* Have war or religion been a part of your world’s history? What impact have they had on the land? On the country? On individual people?

* What advancements have they made? Are they on the breaking edge of science and technology, or are their lifestyles more primitive?

* Are there any significant historical events that your reader needs to be aware of?


3. Characters: Alright. We’re almost done! You’ve got your picture painted, and know how it got that way. Now, you need to know how your characters fit in. Think about the players in your story and imagine them in their natural habitat. How do they REACT to the world they are in? If they are in a dystopian setting, are they only concerned with survival, or are they trying to make it better? Knowing what your character’s feeling are towards the situation they’ve put in will make it easier for you to portray those same emotions to your readers.

* What is your character’s attitude towards the world? Do they embrace it or want to change it?

* How has the world impacted your character? Has it affected their personality or viewpoints in any way?

* Is your character’s viewpoint towards the world drastically different than other characters? If so, why? What makes them feel so strongly about it?


It may seem like world-building is an insurmountable task, but in all likelihood you’ve probably considered some, if not all of these aspects of setting. The hard part is putting it together. But, if you remember your ABCs and consider Atmosphere, Background, and Character, you can build a complex setting around your characters that seamlessly draws your readers into an engrossing and believable world they never want to leave.


About JM Sullivan:
J.M. Sullivan is a Science Teacher by day, and an author by night. Although known to dabble in adulting, J.M. is a big kid at heart who still believes in true love, magic, and most of all, the power of coffee. If you would like to connect for a healthy dose of sparkle and positivity, you can find her on Twitter or Instagram @_JM_Sullivan.

 Author Links:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook



Be sure to check out JM’s new debut novel!

Book Synopsis:


Ever since the outbreak of the Plague, life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll, it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure, will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumor about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

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Amanda Gernentz Hanson’s Top 10 Writing Tips to Create an Amazing Character


Amanda Gernentz Hanson, the author of Something Beautiful, shares with us how she creates her awesome characters. Check out her great writing tips!

Top 10 Writing Tips to Create an Amazing Character

Here’s the thing about writing compelling characters—they are complicated, and messy, and (generally) human. Character creation needs to be well-rounded and consistent in order to work in a story, which is definitely the hardest part. I am a plotter—I can’t fly by the seat of my pants when I’m writing. Therefore, my characters are often mapped out ahead of time, from start to finish. Here’s a general map of how I create characters when I’m writing:

1. Pick a great character name.

I don’t know if all writers feel this way, but I put a lot of stock in names. I do research. I try to plot out family trees. Sometimes, like in the case of Cordelia, one of the main characters in Something Beautiful, I look to other written works, including mythology and Shakespeare. Names mean something, and I think they require a good deal of thought.

2. Consider the family.

A person’s family influences them. It’s as easy as that. You can argue nature versus nurture all you want, but your family shapes you. I always take a character’s family into account, and I usually try to include the family in the story, as well.

3. Plot out the past.

Every story starts somewhere, but what happened before? The past is another thing that shapes how the character ends up. You don’t necessarily need to be explicit with the reader about everything that happened in the past, but know it. Know your character’s beginnings.

4. What’s the relationship status?

Again, this isn’t crucial to the text itself, but know the character’s relationship status. This will help determine what the character’s demeanor might be, who and what is motivating the character, and what the character’s desires might be. Do you have to mention this explicitly? Of course not. But it helps to know the intentions, even if they’re only your intentions.

5. Who are the character’s friends?

Much like the relationship status, a character’s friends are important when it comes to shaping the character. Who would Rory be without Lane, or Blair without Serena, or Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily without each other?

6. What is unique about the appearance?

Now. Hear me out. I don’t always describe my characters appearances in depth because I don’t think it always matters. But each character usually has a defining feature. In Something Beautiful, for example, Declan has green eyes, and Cordelia has colored streaks in her hair. In one of my WIPs, a character has a lime-green snapback that she wears to parties. There’s always something, and that helps define the character.

7. What are the hobbies?

What does the character do for fun? I like thinking about how varied people are in real life, and I try to pick one defining hobby for each of my characters. Declan plays soccer and does musical theater. Cordelia writes. Other characters have ran, and played field hockey, and been avid readers. There’s always something. Find the something that makes them who they are.

8. How does this character fit into the plot?

At this point, you should have a pretty good idea of what your character looks like, what they do, who they’re with, and where they’ve been. Now you have to make sure each character fits into the narrative of the story. It’s very rare that characters exist without a purpose—remember that.

9. What is unique about the character that will drive the plot forward?

Building on that note, how does the character fit into the plot in a way that drives it forward? Every character, every scene, every single part of the book should drive the plot forward—that’s always the point. Do if you’re going to create a great character, remember to use them wisely.

10. Remember everyone has flaws.

Here is something that I love about the characters I write—they’re always flawed people. Don’t even get me started on Declan and Cordelia—flawed to the extreme, they are. But that’s what I love about writing. I am a flawed person. Every person I know has flaws. That’s what makes us unique. It’s what makes us human. That’s what makes us interesting, and that’s what’s important for characters.

Are these tips the end-all be-all of advice for writing characters? Of course not! This is just how I map out characters when I’m writing. I hope this was helpful to you!

Happy writing (and reading)!

About the Author:

Amanda Gernentz Hanson has been writing stories since the third grade, when she turned in a five-page story about talking dogs to a local youth arts contest. She is an instructional designer by day and an everything else by night. Amanda is a proud Latina who earned her Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Hope College and her Master’s degree in Technical Communication from Minnesota State University. You can find her on the internet at and, and on Twitter and Instagram @amandamariegh. If you see her in the wild, she probably has a book in her purse.

Be sure to check out her awesome debut novel, available now from amazon for $5.99!

Book Summary:

Cordelia and Declan have been best friends since they were three years old. By the time they hit middle school, Cordelia—Cord, to Declan—is already feeling the blackness in her life as depression takes hold. Their mutual attraction to each other leads to a serious high school relationship, one with their foundation of friendship at the forefront. Cordelia seems to have her mental health under control. All appears to be well.

However, when Declan starts to accept his own fluid sexuality, it sets something in motion in their lives that is both beautiful and tragic as they learn to love each other for who they are.

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Writer Secrets from Jessie Rosen

DEAD RINGER: Writer Secrets


Hi, book lovers!

If you told my high school self that I would someday write an entire novel, I would have laughed my frizzy-haired head off.

Writing was always my dream, but the beast that is a book seemed impossible before I had a strong handle on how to tackle 300+ pages…and survive. DEAD RINGER is officially the longest project of my entire career, and I am somehow still in one piece. In fact, I’m already at work on another.

Here are my 7 Secret Strategies for combating all the woes of life as a long-form writer.

  1. Develop a routine based on your existing routine.

Morning person? Write first thing in the a.m. Night owl? Type all night long. Much of finding your mojo as a writer has to do with knowing your MO as a person. I get my best work done in the morning, so I write from 8:00 a.m. until noon every single day. That’s the other part of developing a routine—doing it over and over and over again until it becomes comfortable. Writing is a muscle, so think of it like going to the gym. The more you go, the less it hurts.

  1. Set a word count every day and hit it.

All hail the crappy first draft! The best thing you can do for your finished product is get a first draft of it done quickly. Writing is rewriting, so there will be many more drafts. When I get hung up, it’s because I’m trying to make every single sentence perfect instead of focusing on getting my word count done so I can move on to the next stage.

  1. When writer’s block hits, don’t panic. Pivot.

I don’t like to use the term “block” when talking about a hiccup in my flow because it feels so severe. I’m not blocked; I’m just a little cloudy. Instead of freaking out (my former philosophy), I stop writing in the prose of the book and start writing to myself. It comes out looking something like this: Yo. This part is really hard but remember what you’re trying to say is simple: Laura is frustrated with Charlie. Why is she frustrated? You know why. It’s because x, y, z.

I know this seems so strange, but this no-writing writing actually helps me remember that I know my road map and I’m just having trouble finding the right words. In a worst-case scenario, I leave some notes in the manuscript and come back to them another day. It’s not a finished word count, but at least I’ve made some progress.  For more on this check out a blog post I wrote on the topic.

  1. Outline, outline, outline

This should probably be item number one. I know that some writers prefer plunging to plotting, but even when I employ that tactic I still create an outline of what I’ve written. In a 300+ page document, you need a map of where plot and character development is located. When an editor returns notes, you need to know where to begin making adjustments. Your outline is that full picture of the book, and it is critical.

  1. Don’t wait to ask for feedback

It might seem like there’s nothing scarier than receiving notes, but there’s actually nothing more frustrating than finding out you have major issues to resolve once an entire draft is done! I bring people into the process early (my outline helps) so I’m certain that I’m tracking problems and progress along the way. Somehow a lot of little notes are easier to handle than one massive dump.

  1. End each day with a plan for the next

When I was writing the first draft of DEAD RINGER, I spent thirty minutes every night making notes about what I was going to tackle writing the next day. This wasn’t actual drafting of the manuscript, just a bulleted list of notes about what would happen in the next chapter. I felt so much better arriving at a new blank page the next day knowing that I had a plan.

  1. Celebrate along the way

Writing a novel is a massive, massive task. Why wait to celebrate until the very end? I treated myself to little prizes along the way as rewards for finishing small chunks, and I gave myself big gifts after turning in 100-page installments to my editor. There were many hard days, but I gave myself lots to look forward to. That way, I had little tunnels with bright lights all throughout the process.

For more on the things that got me through, check out this blog post.

Trust me—if I can do this, you can do this! Stay focused. Make your writing your priority. And remember what the great Jimmy Dugan (aka Tom Hanks) from A League of Their Own said, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it.”

Good luck!

-Jessie Rosen


Read DEAD RINGER and take a look at Jessie’s finished product! Buy it on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or direct from the Full Fathom Five Digital store (direct purchases give Jessie more royalties!).


Purchase Links:
Amazon | iBooks | B&N Nook | Kobo | FFF Store

About the Author:


Jessie Rosen is a writer, producer, and performer. She grew up in New Jersey, attended Boston College in Massachusetts, and began her writing career in New York. Her live storytelling series Sunday Night Sex Talkhas received national attention. She was named one of “The 25 Best Bloggers, 2013 Edition” by TIME magazine for her blog 20-Nothings, which was also named in “The 100 Best Websites for Women” and “The Top 10 Best Websites for Millennial Women” in 2013 by Forbes.

Rosen is the oldest of four girls, which gives her a special window into the minds of teenagers. She now lives in Los Angeles, where she’s working on film and television projects, as well as her next novel.

Visit her website,

Encourage a Writer

Have you had a story you desperately wanted to write but couldn’t? Are you lacking inspiration? Do you sit at your desk, ready to write away the story bursting inside of you and all you end up doing is stare at a blank screen? If this is you, then you are suffering from the dreadful Writer’s Block. Something every author faces at one point or another. One thing I absolutely love about authors is when they post encouraging writing tips to other inspiring authors. Julie Kagawa does this almost daily on her Facebook page.  Here is a list of inspiring quotes , taken from Julie’s facebook page, to help get those wheels turning!

Writing tip for the day: If you’re agonizing whether or not to start a book, just get started. Ideas will come, just write. – Julie Kagawa, author

Turn off your inner editor when writing the 1st draft. Perfectionism will kill creativity. First drafts are supposed to be messy, so write with joyful abandon. – Julie Kagawa, author

How do books get written? One word at a time. – Julie Kagawa, author

I have 3 methods for handling writer’s block. Method #1: skip the scene you’re stuck on. Come back to it when the book is done. You’ll know the story much better, then. – Julie Kagawa, author

Dealing with writer’s block method #2: Talk to someone about it, a critique partner perhaps. I use my husband for this. Get a new perspective, from someone who knows your writing. They might have a good idea to get you unstuck. – Julie Kagawa, author

Dealing with writer’s block method #3: Plow through it. Put down whatever comes to mind, even if its bad. You can always go back to fix it when the book is done. Don’t dwell on it. Just get through the scene and move on. – Julie Kagawa, author

Write the story you’d want to read. Not the one that’s popular now, or the one that everyone else wants to read. Trends fail, and the world moves on. Write the book YOU want. – Julie Kagawa, author

If you’ve ever looked at your writing and thought “this is such crap,” every writer ever has been there. Every writer ever has thought that at some point. Keep writing. – Julie Kagawa, author

Why write? Because it is your story. No one else can tell it but you. – Julie Kagawa, author

Some will hate your writing. Some will love it. Its okay, we’re all different. Write for the ones who love it. – Julie Kagawa, author

To read more encouraging tips for authors, check out Encourage a Writer on Facebook!

About Julie Kagawa (From Website):


Julie Kagawa, the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey and Blood of Eden series was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel.
When not swimming for her life, Julie immersed herself in books, often to the chagrin of her schoolteachers, who would find she hid novels behind her Math textbooks during class. Her love of reading led her to pen some very dark and gruesome stories, complete with colored illustrations, to shock her hapless teachers. The gory tales faded with time (okay, at least the illustrations did), but the passion for writing remained, long after she graduated and was supposed to get a
real job.

To pay the rent, Julie worked in different bookstores over the years, but discovered the managers frowned upon her reading the books she was supposed to be shelving. So she turned to her other passion: training animals. She worked as a professional dog trainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full time.

Julie now lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where the frequency of shark attacks are at an all time low. She lives with her husband, an obnoxious cat, an Australian Shepherd who is too smart for his own good, and a hyper-active Papillion.

Author Links:
Facebook | Twitter | Website | Goodreads

Character Studies (16 Villain Archetypes)

Welcome to the Author’s Handbook! These posts are dedicated to helping all aspiring authors out there with archetypes, fictional tips, and questions to help you brainstorm your worlds. I hope you all find these posts helpful and a great source for your writing needs. Enjoy!

What drives your villain? What creates them? Why are they against your hero? Explore these basic descriptions to help you explore the world of Villains. 

The TRAITOR: the double agent, betrays those who trust them most. No one suspects the evil that lurks in his/her heart. Despite supportive smiles and sympathetic ears, they plot the destruction of his/her friends or allies. Never turn your back on them — they mean you harm.

The TYRANT: the bullying despot, the tyrant wants power at any price. Wants to ruthlessly conquer all he/she surveys, crushing their enemies beneath their feet. People are but pawns to him/her, and he/she holds all the power pieces. Hesitate before getting in this one’s way – they’ll think nothing of destroying you.

The BASTARD: the dispossessed son or daughter that burns with resentment. He/she can’t have what they want, so they lash out to hurt those around them. Their deeds are often for effect and wants to provoke action in others. He/She proudly announces their rebellious dealings. Don’t be fooled by their youthful demeanor – they’re a bundle of hate.

The DEVIL: the charming fiend that gives people what he/she thinks they deserve. Charisma allows them to lure his/her victims to their own destruction. His/Her ability to discover the moral weaknesses in others serves him/her well. Close your ears to their cajolery – they’ll tempt you to disaster.

The OUTCAST: the lonely outsider that wants desperately to belong. Tortured and unforgiving, they have been set off from others, and usually for a good cause. He/She craves redemption, but is willing to gain it by sacrificing others. Waste no sympathy on them – they’ll have none for you.

The TERRORIST: the dark knight, he/she serves a warped code of honor. Self-righteous, they believe in their own virtue, and judges all around them by a strict set of laws. The end will always justify the nefarious means, and no conventional morality will give them pause. Don’t try to appeal to his/her sense of justice – theirs will not resemble yours.

The EVIL GENIUS: the malevolent mastermind, he/she loves to show off their superior intelligence. Intellectual inferiors are contemptible to him/her and that includes just about everyone. Elaborate puzzles and experiments are their trademark. Don’t let them pull your strings – the game is always rigged in their favor.

The SADIST: the savage predator that enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Violence and psychological brutality are games to this person; and they play those games with daring and skill. Run, don’t walk, away from this sadist – they’ll tear out your heart, and laugh while doing it.

The BITCH: the abusive autocrat, she or he lies, cheats, and steals their way to the top. Her/His climb to success has left many a heel mark on the backs of others. She/He doesn’t care about the peons around her/him – only the achievement of their dreams matter. Forget expecting a helping hand from her/him – they don’t help anyone but themselves.

The LUNATIC: the unbalanced madwoman/madman that draws others into their crazy environment. The drum to which she/he marches misses many a beat, but to them, it is the rest of the world that is out of step. Don’t even try to understand a lunatics logic – it is unfathomable.

The BLACK WIDOW: the beguiling siren, she lures victims into her web. She goes after anyone who has something she wants, and she wants a lot. But she does her best to make the victim want to be deceived. An expert at seduction of every variety, she uses her charms to get her way. Don’t be fooled by her claims of love – it’s all a lie. Don’t be fooled, either, that this only pertains to women.

The BACKSTABBER: the two-faced friend that delights in duping the unsuspecting. Their sympathetic smiles enable them to learn their victims’ secrets, which she/he then uses to feather her/his nest. Their seemingly helpful advice is just the thing to hinder. Put no faith in the backstabber – they’ll betray you every time.

The PARASITE: the poisonous vine that collaborates for their own comfort. She/He goes along with any atrocity, so long as her/his own security is assured. They see themselves as a victim who had no choice, and blames others for their crimes. Expect no mercy from them – she/he won’t lift a finger to save anyone but themselves.

The SCHEMER: the lethal plotter that devises the ruin of others. Like a cat with a mouse, he/she plays with lives. Elaborate plans, intricate schemes; nothing pleases them more than to trap the unwary. Watch out for their complex designs – he/she means you no good.

The FANATIC: the uncompromising extremist that does wrong in the name of good. He/She justifies their actions by their intent, and merely shrugs their shoulders at collateral damage. Anyone not an ally is an enemy, and therefore, fair game. Give up any hope of showing them the error of their ways – they firmly believe you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

The MATRIARCH: the motherly oppressor, she smothers her loved ones. She knows what’s best and will do all in her power to controls the lives of those who surround her – all for their own good. A classic enabler, she sees no fault with her darlings, unless they don’t follow her dictates. Don’t be lured into her family nest – you’ll never get out alive.