The Fire In Fiction


fictionAs I start to write a new novel, I ask myself: Who is at the center of my novel? Is he/she a hero, or a villain?

In The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass, says: “Every protagonist can be a hero, even from the opening pages. That quality is essential if readers are to tag along with your main character for hundreds of pages.”

I hadn’t thought of making any of my protagonists heroes, just characters showing us how they deal with and learn from their difficult life experiences. Maass also says, “you need only find in your human being what is strong, and in your strong human what is real. Even greatness can be signaled from the onset.”

That sounds good, but I wondered how do you find your protagonist’s strength?

Step one: It depends on how you created him/her! Depending on the personality they have, you can find any kind of strength, even something small. Ex. Caring about someone, a longing for hope or change.

Step two: Provide a way for that strength to be demonstrated within your protagonist’s first five pages.

Step three: Revise your character’s introduction to your readers so they feel this story is worth their time, that it will greatly stir and impact your readers and stay with them.

It has taken me a while to determine my protagonists strength, but I think I’m getting closer to showing it in the first five pages.

Have you had success with finding and showing your protagonist’s strength in the first five pages? Any tips you wish to share?





Two years ago, I moved from the South of England, where I spent most of my working life and returned to my roots in Cumbria. I chose to live between the villages of Windermere and Bowness (the nearest settlement to the lake), because I thought the locality was perfect for my cats. They love it, and so do I. The only problem is the quality of the displacement activities.

When I should be writing, I’m out enjoying. So what makes it so great?

There are loads of reasons, but I’ll confine myself to five.

  1. The Lakes                                                                                                                    Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and I can see it from my window. I can take part in The Great North Swim and the Chill Swim without leaving town. The Lake District has a lively open water swimming community and access to lakes, tarns and rivers. Windermere is great for sailing, although it’s probably one of the most crowded lakes. There is nothing better than spending a summer day out on the water, when there is a light breeze and you know there will be ice cream later.                                                                                                                                                        003     
  2. The Weather                                                                                                 Windermere weather is interesting. When the sun shines, everything is good, the hills are pretty, the gardens stunning and everyone smiles. When the rain is torrential, the hills are hidden, the gardens sulk and there is little evidence that humans exist in the town. Last year we had floods, and many people are still not back in their homes afterwards. The whole area smelled very strange and on the Saturday night of the flood, Bowness on Windermere looked like an alien planet. We’ve been talking about it ever since.
  3. Tourists                                                                                                                                  I love tourists. They are on holiday so they look happy. While those of us on our way to work are stressed, tired and preoccupied, the tourists smile. Even in the rain. They come by car, on the train or in coachloads. Because of them, we have great restaurants, wine bars, cafés, cinemas and theatres and during the summer, Windermere is filled with faces from China, the Middle East and the US.   People watching is a huge pleasure.                                                                                                           tourists
  4. Culture                                                                                                                                Tourists come for the culture as well as the scenery. The Lake District has theatres, it has art galleries, it has theatre groups and music. It has a history of literature, from William Wordsworth to Beatrix Potter. It has a strong community of writers and artists. Many of the towns host art festivals, and in a month’s time there will be ‘The Festival of Yarns’ in which everyone is invited to write a play to be performed during the week. This year there will be 60 new plays. I describe myself as a writer, but in this festival I’m an actor.
  5. Sheep                                                                                                                                   My mother claimed that sheep were the only topic of discussion on the local radio stations, but I think she was exaggerating. We do have a lot of sheep though, in a huge number of varieties. We have several ‘woolfests’, where every aspect of wool production, from the birth of lambs to the creation of designer clothing, is displayed. If you are enthusiastic about crafts, then the Cumbrian Woolfests are the place to be.                                       20160409_121534
    There are amazing things to be found in most places, and I’d love to hear what is exciting about your home – and encourage you to visit the English Lake District.

Editing: Adjectives

Every writer has his/her crutches. Don’t believe me? Go back and read some of your earliest writing. (You just cringed at the thought, didn’t you?)


Since I’m in the middle of painful edits, I’m going to be totally transparent about my biggest crutch/Achilles heel/bane of my existence.


-words that modify nouns & pronouns; a descriptive word-

Why is this a problem? Because adjectives can WEAKEN your writing. Use too many and they work against each other to take away from the imagery you’re creating and pull your reader from the story. A big no-no.

ex. The ugly, long, dirty, dingy, yellow curtains kept the cheerful, blinding, hot sun out of the gloomy, chilly, dusty room.

Say it out loud. It’s an awkward mouthful that overwhelms rather than painting a clear image. Here is a much better example.

ex. The dirty, yellow curtains kept the sun out of the cold room.

The adjective “dirty” tells us the curtains are dingy and ugly, it also tells us the room is dusty. The fact that there are curtains on the window shows us that the room is probably gloomy. The sun doesn’t need descriptors to tell us that its hot, blinding, or cheerful. These are things we infer just from knowing the sun is shining behind the curtains. All those extra adjectives simply cluttered our sentence.

I’ve learned that adjectives are like a king-sized Hershey bar sitting on my counter, luring me closer, begging me to eat all of it at once. I know that if I do, I’ll probably gain 5 poiunds as well as really irritate my 9-year-old son for whom I bought the treat. Simply put, it’s a really bad idea. Using too many adjectives leads to lazy writing, which makes your manuscript “heavy” in the metaphorical sense. *sigh* My MS and I are going on a diet.

Editing funny comic

I’m walking away from that candy bar and getting back to my editing. There’s always more adjectives to delete. In the mean time, leave a comment sharing your worst crutch. I’d love to know I’m not the only one out there who’s willing to expose my imperfections!

2015-2016 Author photo

Sabrina A. Fish is the author of three Shine novellas, Lost Haven, Road to Nowhere and The Gilded Cage. Owner of a thriving Oklahoma trophy company, she collects interesting names to use in her writing from lists of award recipients. She’s been married to a wonderful man for 10 years and has been mommy to a beautiful little boy for 9 of those. You can learn more about Sabrina at or find her on Twitter @SabrinaAFish, and Instagram @SabrinaAFish, on Goodreads, and Facebook /AuthorSabrinaAFish

Just Do it – Become a Writer


I’ve always wanted to write – to be a writer.

Eighteen months ago I resigned from my job as a Structural Biologist in Cambridge, to move to the North of England and study for an MA in Creative Writing. This felt like a huge life-changing decision, as I sold my house, packed up my worldly goods and set out, together with my three cats, on the long drive north. My friends thought I was insane, although the word they used was ‘brave’.

3 cats

What made me do it?

I needed a change; a new challenge.

When I joined the company I worked for, it was a small start-up biotech and I was one of the first employees. I’d left a secure job for the excitement of being involved at the beginning, but none of us knew whether we would still be employed after the six months of seed funding ran out. The work was demanding and varied, with new deadlines every day. Fifteen years later, the company was successful and secure, but the pace had slowed, and the demands of the job were different. I began to get restless.

I took singing lessons, art lessons, developed interests in long distance running and open water swimming, but none of these things satisfied me.

I’d been writing for a while, had managed to have a few short stories and poems published, and my first novel had been accepted by a small US publishing company (It was fantasy romance). After careful consideration of my options, I applied for, and was accepted at Lancaster University to study for a full-time campus MA.

I decided to live in Windermere, in the English Lake District, mainly because I thought the  cats would like it, but also because of its literary history – William Wordsworth, John Ruskin, Beatrix Potter all lived here – and found a house on top of a hill.


The year of the MA was absolutely inspiring. I met a group of exciting fellow writers from all over the world, was taught by brilliant lecturers, who were also poets, novelists and short story writers, and had the time to explore different forms of writing.

During the course I completed a science fiction novel, set in a dystopian future, had my second fantasy novel accepted for publication and wrote a variety of short stories. I learned to edit and give constructive criticism to my colleagues. It was a fantastic year, and I have never regretted my decision.

My new challenge is to make my writing pay (or to find another job, and my boss told me I’d never work again at my age) in a time of rapidly evolving markets and technology.

If I was presumptuous enough to give advice to anyone, I’d tell them to go for it. Think of ways you can make your dream work. Move towards it, slowly if necessary. I realized, looking back, that that was what I had been doing for years, with the short stories, the writing courses, the local workshop groups and the first attempt at a novel.

Just Do It.

sailing on windermere2grad2

I’m the blonde one with the unsteady mortarboard.

Anne Cleasby lives in the English Lake District and writes fantasy romance under the pseudonym Annalisa Carr

She can be found at