Anonymous asked: "Would it be violating copyright laws if I use a quote from another book on my novel? Like, I'm hoping to use a quote from The Island of Dr. Moreau. One character would be saying it to the protagonist but they'd be saying where it's from. Would it be against copyright?"

The Island of Dr. Moreau falls into the public domain in the U.S.A. As such, you can quote it to your heart’s content, especially in this case because you are crediting the source. 

Stanford University Libraries’ Website on Copyright & Fair Use: Public Domain Trouble Spots:

If you copy from a public domain writing, do you have to credit the author? The United States Supreme Court has answered, “No,” holding that there is no legal requirement to provide any attribution when public domain works are copied and placed into new works. (Dastar Corp. v. 20th Century Fox Film Corp., 123 S.Ct. 2041 (2003).)

However, just because there is no legal requirement to give credit to the creators of public domain works, doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it. When copying works from the public domain, be careful to avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism occurs when someone poses as the originator of words he did not write, ideas he did not conceive, or facts he did not discover. Although you cannot be sued for plagiarizing a public domain work, doing so can result in serious professional and personal penalties. For example, in the case of college professors and journalists, it may result in termination; for students, it could lead to expulsion; if done by well-known historians, it can result in public humiliation.

There you have it! 

Find the full text of The Island of Doctor Moreau by H. G. Wells on

Thanks for your question!


Thank you for your question, lunabeck!

I’d spend some time figuring out what changes will be made to this character over the course of the story and why these changes are made. Where along the plotline of the story does your character acquire some of these changes you’re talking about? Why do these changes occur? What was your character like before the changes?

Examples? You betcha!

Example One:

So let’s say that your character (let’s call her Tara) feels a certain way about this guy Bert at the end of the story. She likes him. Cool. Did Tara always like Bert? Is it a worthy plot point to make her not like Bert at some time before the end of the story? If so, what changed her mind?

Perhaps Tara met Bert at the beginning of the story and they totally started off on the wrong foot. Maybe Bert insulted Tara’s friend. Maybe Bert had had a few too many Long Island Iced Teas and acted foolishly. Fair enough. It happens to the best of us. Over the course of the story, Tara has to grow to like Bert, though, right? Because at the end of the story, she likes him, and we know that going in. So what changes?

Bert could get a kitten. Everyone likes kittens. Then maybe Bert helps Tara move. That’s always endearing. Maybe Bert apologizes to Tara for insulting her friend, and Tara realizes that she’s been super hard on Bert for months over some tiny thing. Maybe this interaction puts Tara into an introspective mood, and she finally understands how judgemental she can be toward strangers because of her own fear of inadequacy. Then she and Bert move forward as equals in their friendship. Roll Credits.

The point is that Tara doesn’t always have to have liked Bert. It might actually be more interesting if they don’t start off as besties, you know? Tension between characters is conflict, and conflict drives stories. Maybe play around with what changing relationships might do for Tara’s character arc. If she likes Bert when she didn’t before, how has that changed her emotionally? How would such a change affect her reactions to events in the beginning of the story versus the end of the story?

Example Two:

Maybe Tara moonwalks her way through the story as a kind, generous person and an epic dancer. That’s fantastic (and definitely fun to have at parties), but it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if Tara starts off sort of dull and rude? And she can’t dance. Lame. 

Basically, what if Beginning-of-the-Book Tara and End-of-the-Book Tara are exact opposites? How could you make that a thing?

What events would have to occur in the story to change Tara from rude and dull to kind and generous, from a non-dancer to an epic dancer? 

Maybe she starts going to therapy to figure out how to transform her critical eye into a force for good instead of evil. Instead of valuing the short-lived high that comes from commenting on other people’s shortcomings, Tara could teach herself to use that critical eye to identify problems and her considerable intellect to work with others on creating solutions. Boom. Rudeness into kind generosity. 

Now, a change like this could take the whole story to evolve properly. This isn’t a one-trip-to-the-therapist change; this is a life-altering choice Tara has to make. It needs space. It needs time.

What about the dancing, you ask? Well, have her take lessons. (That sort of takes care of the dullness, too. Everyone needs a hobby!) Maybe dance class is where she meets Bert!

(These are, of course, extreme examples. Most character arcs are slightly more nuanced than this.)

If you’ve already got a character that is, in your mind, a finished project, it’s worthwhile to spend some time slowly unbraiding that character. Where do they seem weakest in terms of personality? How can you exploit these flaws in the beginning of the story? What personal or external struggles would cause even a subtle change in their personality?

At the end of the story, Tara, your character, is still human. If, say, Tara went from being incredibly ungrateful to counting her blessings, it is very rarely so drastic a change. Those are the kind of changes you really only see in articles about character development because they make for the clearest examples. They seem forced, inhuman even. It is more likely that if Tara starts off the story being incredibly ungrateful, she will still struggle with being ungrateful at the end of the story, if only internally. After all, the only type of finished person is a dead person. 

So if you have an end-of-the-book character in your mind and you’re trying to chart her journey, and maybe she has a habit of taking things for granted, or struggles with it a little, you can trace this character trait back to when it was at its worst and start there. You might even think about mapping out Tara’s development. Creating a map might help you visualize your character’s development vs. the story’s progression if that is where your trouble lies. It might help with timing and syncing up development with events in the story with each step of the character arc.

Essentially what you’re doing with character arcs is throwing rocks (story events) at a wall (the character) over a given period of time (the story). The rocks chip the paint. They crack the moulding. They dent the drywall. Eventually, if the rock is big enough or you throw enough little rocks at one spot on the wall, you’ll make a hole. At that point, the wall is changed forever. Even patching the hole won’t be perfect, and a patch can’t ever undo the fact that there was once a hole.

To reverse-engineer a character arc, figure out the chips and cracks and holes in the wall of your character, then find rocks that seem to match and decide how to throw them. 

Thanks again for your question!

-C and Hannah (theroadpavedwithwords)

Anonymous said: Sorry to bother you, but I can’t get a useful answer out of search engines, and wasn’t really sure how to find it in your FAQ or Toolbox since it’s a bit of an odd and controversial topic. How can I make the reader love a character in a small amount of time? I want them to be sad and understand the other characters’ pain when the subject opts to be euthanized.

Hey there! Thanks for your question!

I don’t believe that we’ve written anything as of yet on creating a likeable character, but you might check out these posts from our fellow Tumblr writing help bloggers!

As you can see, quite a bit has been written on the subject. And that’s just from Tumblr!

Happy hunting!


Anonymous asked: "Hi, I was wondering if you have a master list for punctuation marks and their use?"

Maybe not, but we do have a respectably-sized tag for it (which you can find in the Toolbox under the Language heading)!

Thank you for your message!


Anonymous asked: "Hi! I don't know if this has been asked already, but do you know good reference materials or tips on writing sensual scenes?"

Should be some good stuff in the “sex scene" tag!

For future reference, you can find our “sex scene" tag in our Toolbox under the Resources heading. 

Thanks for your question!


Anonymous asked: "Is the mun named C okay today? Their tone is coming off a little.... off, I suppose."

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, I guess. It seems I have it out for some of the ‘nons today, doesn’t it?

Welp, I apologize for the snark, guys. I hope the responses are still of some use!


Anonymous asked: "I'm writing a novel set in a fictional setting, and the majority of the characters are POC. How do I describe, say, an Indian character when there is no India?"

If there is no India, there is no Indian character.

Just to clarify, using someone’s nationality to describe their appearance isn’t effective. These women are all from India:






Would you say they all look the same? Can you point out to me which physical characteristics they have in common that the word “Indian” might describe? Me neither.

If it were me, I would just describe what they look like and leave nationality out of it altogether. Describe their apparent gender and age, their skin, their face shape, their nose and lips and teeth and eyes; their hair, their hands, their height and weight, their clothing and adornment. Maybe you think of a picture of them in your head and describe that, or else find a person or a few people who look sort of like your character and describe them. Sometimes it helps to have a reference. Maybe your reference is someone from India, but that doesn’t necessarily make that character’s appearance “Indian.”

Thanks for your question, and I hope this helps!


EDIT: Here, have the Wikipedia page for Historical definitions of races in India. That might be helpful. 

Anonymous asked: Do you have any tips on describing an overweight poc? 

(This answer is under a read more for reasons of foul language and general snarkiness. If you’d rather not see C get sassy, do not click the read more link. Thanks. -C)

Read More

asked: I struggle with finding the right music to listen to when I write… Are there playlists that match certain moods and themes for writers?

Well, here is a set of playlists geared toward writers:

There are also these blogs:

And we’ve created a few playlists with our Music Blocks. Here’s the list so far:

And here’s the full playlist of posted Music Blocks.

We’re still working on growing and organizing our playlists, and we will probably add more as time goes on, but maybe these could suit your purposes for the time being!

If that doesn’t work, there’s always the “playlist" tag on Tumblr!

Thanks for your question!


ihavesoiledit asked: I’m writing a post-zombie apocalypse story and I want to use a call girl as one of the main characters. Any idea how to write one properly?

I’m not sure there is one “proper” way to write a prostitute. Prostitutes come from all walks of life and become prostitutes for many, many different reasons. Sex acts vary between prostitutes (for example, some specialize in fetishes). There are also a wide variety of ways to handle things like payment and safety. Time period and location make a huge difference in this profession as well.

I just feel like your question is very vague, but I hope you’ll narrow down your research a bit until your questions can become more specific. Once you’ve done that, you could try to find a few prostitutes (or former prostitutes) to interview about their experiences. I’ve never been a call girl, but maybe some of WriteWorld’s fellow writers might be able to help you out. Anyone?

This subject struck my fancy, so I did some poking about on the internet. Here is some information on prostitution for you:

Random (and maybe interesting) links:


Reddit IAmAs:

Anyway, I hope this helps. Be sure to do your own research away from the internet as well. Interview current and/or former prostitutes. Read books (here’s a book list from GoodReads titled “Sex Worker Memoirs”) and articles about prostitution. And always remember that prostitutes are people just like you are a person. There is more to them than their profession just like there is more to you than your writing. Their profession is a part of their personal history and their human experience, but it is not the only thing about them worth knowing. So it goes with prostitutes, and so it goes with your character. 

Thanks for your question!