Writer’s Corner: Ten writing terms explained…

It seems the publishing industry of late has created its own special version of slang. Here’s my quick guide for understanding the most common buzzwords of our internal lingo…

1. HEA

Happily Ever After. For definition see any Disney movie. Ever.

2. HFN

Happy For Now. (Used for sequels a lot. For example the ending of The Hunger Games Book 1 is a HFN ending as are the endings of the first six Harry Potter books).

3. Purple Prose

To quote wikipedia, Purple Prose is “ written prose that is so extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself.” In other-words, bits that sound like you are trying too hard. Apparently we can blame a Roman poet named Horace for the odd term.

 4. Dialogue Tags

You’ll hear a lot of debate on these. They are words like “said”, “explained”, “answered” that follow the pronoun that follows speech. Current thinking says rule of thumb is to use “said” as much as possible. Not sure I entirely agree.

5. Literary Fiction

In a nutshell, books that are about the writing. I always find the line here a bit blurry. It’s a very subjective matter. Even though most books are written very well, literary fiction has so called ‘literary merit’ that the others don’t. If you are unsure if you work is literary or not, chances are it’s not.

6. Commercial Fiction

Self explanatory. Basically all the fiction books that don’t fit in the above category.

7. Children’s v. Teenage v. Y.A. v. N.A. fiction

Maybe I’ve just been snoozing until recently, but I’ve only fallen across the term ‘new adult’ (NA) in the last couple of years. But it is the final transition in the ‘junior’ fiction ranks. Children’s is traditionally up to about age 12. Teenage is well… teenagers. Young adult (for me anyway) has always been that 18-21 bracket. And now new adult exists to bridge that final gap between YA to Adult. Sort of 21-25. Uni student reading. Normally featuring a protagonist aged between 18-25.

8. Exposition

Disney loves a good exposition song. Do you wanna build a snowman anybody? In short, it is dialogue or narrative that explains or provides information to a reader that is necessary for them to understand the plot.

9. Infodump

Too much of the above at one go. Clare does this all the time in her Mortal Instruments series and its a common error of first timers. Information should be spread evenly to avoid the dreaded infodump.

10. Head-hopping

Not a sport practised by Lafou in Beauty and the Beast but actually a term that refers to the narrative within a chapter. It means that the point of view of the narrative moves from character to character, using multiple visions in one sequence. It can be confusing and frustrating for a reader so advice is to use with caution. Someone who does this very well is Larsson at the end of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.