What You Can Learn About Titles from “Black Mirror”


Ideally, a title is what initially draws a reader to pick up your book. Sometimes, though, it can put potential readers off entirely.

A title has to be catchy, intriguing and capture the essence of your story as much as possible with just a handful of words.

A bland, misleading or boring title isn’t going to get you any more readers.

Black Mirror is a huge TV show right now and whether you’re a fan, you’ve simply not watched it, or you saw the first episode of the first series and noped out, you’ve definitely heard of it.

Each episode in itself is unique, unconnected and utterly brilliant (okay, minus a few from the newest series). They all have titles that don’t make it apparent what the episode will be about, and usually don’t even make sense until after you’ve watched the show.

However, what amazes me at its brilliance is the title of the whole show – Black Mirror.

In my opinion, it’s one of the best-named TV series ever.

At its most basic level, it literally means the black mirror you see when your phone or tablet screen is locked. This is because the show is primarily about technology.

It’s also the mirror we see ourselves in the most often. It is the way we now view ourselves – and it’s not light and optimistic, it’s just black and dark.

When you switch your phone off, what you see is the caught-off-guard version of yourself that you truly are. Not the Instagram-pretty version or the Facebook-interesting version or the Twitter-funny version. The real you.

Technology is the way we choose to reflect who we are, and when you think about it, is that a positive thing? Or are we reflecting a fake version of our lives, selecting only the best bits, creating an unhealthy competition within society to be the most perfect and Instagram-worthy version of ourselves?

The show itself is sci-fi, or speculative fiction, but each episode is a reflection of society as a whole, normally a hyperbole of how we use technology now, or an exaggeration of the problems technology is presenting to us and the complicated ethics behind it, or a prediction of where it will lead within the coming years and the issues that could have.

The whole show is a black mirror pointed at society, showing us the harsh reality of the way we live our lives using technology. It shows us all the dark bits we pretend not to see, and holds it up to our face so we can’t help but to face the truth.

I honestly think it is so clever that the more you think about the title, the more meanings it has. This is the level of genius detail we should all aim for when we’re looking to name our work.

And, bonus round, I can give you an example of what not to do.

The Maze Runner: The Death Cure.

The death cure? Really? Who approved this generic, boring, inane name? I have a few ideas for better names:

The Final Cure

The Cure for Death

The End of Death

The End of Days

The End of Creativity as We Know It.


Whatever – any of the above would have worked better. And what we got is The Death Cure. There’s no mystery or intrigue or double meaning in that.

When you’re looking to name your work, just remember that it is how the words after the cover are going to be judged and represented. Make it count.

So, my final point is, be a Black Mirror – not a Death Cure.


Getting in the routine of writing


It’s not exactly an inspiring word. When you think of writing, you think of creativity and inspiration and free-flowing ideas – not routine.

But you need it.

Whether you’re a morning person and you can get up a little bit earlier, or an evening person and you don’t mind going to sleep later than normal – you need to find a time either weekly or ideally, daily, where you set aside some dedicated time to write.

Another way to help with getting in this mindset is having a space for writing – a desk, a room, a library, somewhere you can go and know that it’s time to get your head down and start penning your next novel.

Writing isn’t about feeling amazingly inspired all of the time, each time you write a few words. It’s about getting words down on a page, whether you think they’re up to the standard you’d like or not. That’s the purpose of editing.

You type away to your heart’s content to get all of the ideas and words and dialogue and plot onto the page – that’s the fun bit, even when it doesn’t feel like it. Because then, when that bit is done, you need to edit and transform that crap into something structured and meaningful.

And that is not fun.

You’ll be wishing you were back to writing again because no writer ever dreamed of being an editor. It’s just one of the necessary evils to getting your work finished. It feels like getting your favourite piece of artwork and slashing it all over and then trying to piece it together again with your eyes closed hoping it will turn out okay.

But it will turn out okay.

And before you know it, your boring routine will have spawned a piece of writing that will make you feel prouder than you ever have before.

So what are you waiting for?

Get writing!

How to find your voice

Gut instinct.

Gut instinct plays a big part in any kind of writing. You need to know, when you’re writing, the difference between self-doubt telling you that the words on the page are terrible and a waste of time, and actual gut instinct telling you that something isn’t working.

This is really important for what I’m about to tell you, because although there are ways of discovering how you can find your voice, ultimately you just need to do what feels right. No amount of advice can force you to find your voice, or can create one for you, but there are paths you can follow to aid your own discovery of voice.

What feels right?

Try out different styles of writing. Experimental, traditional, descriptive, mostly dialogue. What do you enjoy most? (PS. If you enjoy writing dialogue more than anything else – have you considered scriptwriting?)

This can include various genres, following or breaking their conventions, and past, present and future tenses. Also first, second and third person – for reference, the difference between writing as “I”, “you” and “they”.

What feels right when you write like this?

What do you enjoy?

Before writing a story, you need to read some. This helps form your opinions on writing, you learn from what you enjoy and from what you dislike.

Try books from different countries, genres, aimed at children and adults and women and men, various styles, and mainstream top ten best sellers as well as obscure and old finds from second hand book shops. Broaden your literary horizons.

Maybe you don’t feel you’ve found your voice yet because you’ve been writing the wrong kind of story? I always think that if you’re enthusiastic about something in the first place, you’re bound to do better at it from the start.

What do you want to write?

This is where all of your previous research comes into play.

Think about the story you want to write, and logically what fits with that. What genre does it fall under, and therefore what vocabulary should you be using? Consider audience and how you should write for the people you want reading what you’ve written. Would it work if it was written from the protagonist’s point of view, a few points of view, or a god-like omnipresent character? Also consider tense: do you want the fast pace of present tense, or the traditional past tense.

Do you like writing in first person present tense, like Suzanne Collins for The Hunger Games? This adds suspense, and an immediacy to your story.

Do you like writing in third person, all knowing narrator style, like Lemony Snicket for A Series of Unfortunate Events? This style is comedic, unique, and flexible in what kind of information you can reveal and when.

Logically, these can make sense. creatively, you might want to do the exact opposite of what is expected of you in order to create a unique and interesting story.

Again, do what feels right! Trust your gut instinct. Trust. Your. Gut. Instict.

As a writer and editor, it’s the best tool at your disposal. Use it well.

The Secret to Writing a Great Story


If you Google “purpose”, you will see other people have done the same: what is the meaning of purpose in English, purpose in the bible, what is the plural of purpose, what is the purpose of marriage (not procreation, if you were interested), the list goes on. Unfortunately Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour also appears, because Google’s censoring filters for offensive content aren’t perfect.

Purpose is a big issue in most aspects of life. As humans, it’s an innate goal to find our own purpose on Earth. The main question we ask of life itself is, “why are we here?”

Purpose in story writing

Before anything gets too philosophical I want to state this is relevant to story writing, because if stories are anything, they are to question:

  • What makes us human
  • Shared experiences of being human (even if those experiences are extraordinary, like fighting dragons or learning magic)
  • What makes us alike and what makes us individual
  • What it means to be human

Much like real people, the characters in our stories must also question these things via the story they are in, or the story itself should in whatever form that happens.

How to write with purpose

Anything without a purpose is pointless and doesn’t tend to last long – people, ideas, inventions, characters.

Every writer is well versed in the old advice, “Every scene should be to build character or progress plot.” But I’d argue even if a scene doesn’t do this, if it does progress a character to their ultimate goal, then it has purpose. If you think a scene is important, if you can give it an important reason why it’s there, then it can stay. A scene that is in just to make you sound clever, or just to sound pretty, probably shouldn’t exist.

But you’re the writer and you have final say, remember that.

Proactive, not reactive, characters

Boring story: Your characters have loads of things happen to them, they react, plot advances.

Great story: Your characters make decisions, whether good, questionable or bad, and deal with the consequences of those actions.

Things happening to your characters passively is not interesting. Even if their decisions aren’t always the selfless, angelic actions you’d expect a saint to make it creates a better story. Making questionable choices, bad decisions, lapses in judgement and being flawed characters – that’s what is interesting.

The point is that active characters are more interesting to read about and.

Final thoughts

Really interrogate your work when you’re planning it, when you’re writing it, and finally when you’re editing it. Make sure you know what the reason each scene, each conversation, each decision is in your story and whether it is worthy of being there. Your gut instinct will help greatly with this, too. Allow your characters to make decisions that drive the story, even questionable ones, and you’ll find yourself with a better plot and more interesting characters.

In conclusion, much like your beloved characters, every action you make should also be towards your ultimate goal – of being a successful writer.

The One Biggest  Misconception People Have About Writers

Hi everyone!

Just a short, motivational post originally from my Instagram page that I wanted to share about misconceptions about writing.  

I think people believe writing a novel is just a combination of having creative ability and a couple of spare minutes to write it. In fact it’s weeks, months, years of honing your ability and then drafting, preparing, planning, writing, editing, THEN finding an editor, trying to get published, hoping it will do well, then rinse and repeat for future books. 

But I know if your willing to put the work in, you can do it! We don’t need luck, we have talent and determination! 

Let’s do this!

Happy writing!

J x

Writing Prompt of the Week #7

Hi everyone!

This week’s writing prompt is going to be a bit different to previous posts. I think it’s time to switch up our process, and instead of creating new ideas we develop already blossoming ones. 

I’m guessing you’re here because you’re a writer. You have a story you want to tell, but either you’re stuck and wanting to diverge for a while, or you’re planning and experimenting, or you’ve just finished your piece and your letting loose a little. 

Whoever you are, whyever you’re here, grab your pen and paper or laptop depending on how old school you are and let’s get started…

Develop current characters

If you have a piece you’re planning or working on right now, either pick one of your main characters – your protagonist is a good place to start – or a character you feel is underdeveloped. 

Now write them a setting that is so different to the one you’ve put them in for your main story, or an extreme situation. Some examples can be:

  • Outer space being chased by aliens
  • Battling lions in an ancient Roman gladiatorial fight to the death
  • Sailing the high seas during a mighty storm
  • Fist to fist fighting on top of a thirty storey building 
  • In a job interview for President
  • In a supermarket when a celebrity comes over to ask for help

Take your pick! Or make up your own. Just make sure your character and you are uncomfortable and see where it takes you. 

Why do it?

An excersize like this really helps you to understand the mind of your characters. Most writers realise that characters have a tendency to develop their own thoughts and feelings and decide for themselves exactly how their story should go. 

You need a 3D character for this to work. If your character is a stranger to you, you won’t be able to decide what would actually happen in those extreme circumstances. If you have a fully fleshed out character then they’ll basically do the writing for you. In your main story your plot might dictate your characters’ actions but this helps to shape them properly and establish them fully in your mind. 

Let me know how you get on!

Happy writing!

J x