The Elements of a Great Story — Setting

This month we’re taking a ‘for the writers’ spin on our theme and talking about what makes a story great. I’ve been tasked with world building, which is something I love!

Worldbuilding is the term we use to describe the creation of an imaginary setting.

Creating worlds that feel as though you’ve stepped right inside them is a tricky talent that will turn a good story into a great story. Let’s think about some books that fit into the ‘great’ category and examine their settings in terms of beleviability;

  • Harry Potter. I know, I know, I use JK Rowling as an example all the time, but honestly she’s one of the best storytellers out there. The magic world in which her characters live is so well rounded that many, many muggles have tried to run through the column on London station marked 9 3/4. Heck, I’m still waiting for my Hogwarts letter!
  • The Lunar Chronicles. This futuristic world of magic and science is so realistic I wonder if it’s actually a glimpse into the future. If Prince Kai will someday reign over the Eastern Commonwealth, if we’ll colonize the moon, if cyborgs … who am I kidding? We’re only a sneeze away from real, live, breathing cyborgs right now!
  • The Mortal Instruments. A world hidden within our own that holds magic, paranormal creatures, and other beings who keep us safe. Like the other two worlds mentioned, I wonder if I just drew the right rune on my arm … would everything pop into focus? Is the old church in my neighbourhood really an institute? If I dive down to the very bottom of a clear mountain pool will I find a gateway into the seelie court?

Image result for shadowhunters seelie court gif

All three of these series contain amazing worldbuilding. Let’s take a look at what they have in common.

  • They’re immensely detailed.
  • Those details are woven through every aspect of every character and every aspect of every scene. Think Luna’s fear of nargals. Think ‘moving’ photographs in newspapers. Think feasts that appear out of thin air. Think moving staircases and plants that screech when uprooted. Think language choices unique to the world. Think wumping willows and rooms of requirement. Think extracted memories and listening devices shaped like ears. Think Harry Potter. All of these things, no matter how large or small, add up to create one amazingly unique, almost realistic world.
  • The places in these books feel so real they become like another character in the story. Hogwarts. The Rampion. Alicante. All settings, but if I asked you to describe characteristics or even a personality-type feel to these settings I bet you could.
  • In great stories the reader doesn’t feel like they’re trudging through paragraphs of description to find the plot. The setting (world) is slotted into the story so seamlessly the reader doesn’t notice it’s there.


Image result for luna nargles quote

Setting is an essential part of any great story. Together with great characters, solid (and invisible) world building is what makes readers keep coming back to a series. It’s what makes us wish fictional worlds were real (or hope they’re not :P).

I’ve shared a few of my favourite bookish worlds. Which ones do you love?


Stacey Nash writes Aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus. Her Collective Series is YA trilogy about a girl who discovers secret sci-fi technology and the organisation who suppress it. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places:, instagram, twitter, facebook.

Chill, connect, cool it — advice for emerging authors


This month we’re talking about things we wish we knew when we first started out on our authoring journey. Some might see it as us dishing out advice for new writers. Whichever way you spin July’s topic here’s my top three things I’d tell younger me, you know if I had a time machine:


Chill, it’s just a first draft.

Spewing words onto the screen is perfect even if those words aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter how well a story is written when we first write it. That initial draft is all about getting the story out. About telling it to ourself as the author, so we know who the characters are, what the plot is, and how everything comes together. No first draft is perfect and that’s okay! You can spend years going over that opening chapter trying to perfect it, but you know what? All that time is wasted because you’ll be so hung up on crafting wonderful words that you’re likely to never write the two most magical words ever, THE END.

Connect, it’s not a one man show.

Writing can be a lonely business, but it doesn’t have to, nor should it be that way. Books are a bit like children and that age old saying which goes with them; it takes a village to raise a child. Well, I believe it takes more than just one person to write a good book.

Go, grab your favourite book written by a big-5 best-selling author and turn to the acknowledgements. I can guarantee in the list of people that author thanks are other authors. These are usually the people who have supported him/her during the writing process. Many of us here at AO&R are critique partners, beta readers, and plotting soundboards for each other. Reach out, because finding the right writing mates is important.

Cool it, there’s no rush to submit.

Most writers think they have the best story, the best concept, a totally unique idea. And many do!! But rushing off to submit can do more harm than good. You see, most agents and publishers will only look at your work once, so don’t waste that opportunity on work that isn’t your best. There’s no need be concerned that you need to sub before X conference or Y date or Z holiday, or that you have to get in before someone else sells a similar story. Make sure that you submit the best possible product you can. That it’s been through multiple rounds of edits, it’s been read and critiqued by someone who knows about writing and is brutally honest, and that’s it’s been proofread. Of course the opposite can be said too, don’t over think it. You don’t want to hold onto that thing forever.


What about you, fellow writers, is there one burning piece of advice you’d give to your former self?


Stacey Nash writes Aussie YA / NA. Her Oxley College Saga is a series of romances based in the fictional Oxley College on a university campus. Her Collective Series is YA trilogy about a girl who discovers secret sci-fi technology and the organisation who suppress it. To find out more about Stacey’s books or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places:, instagram, twitter, facebook.






5 tips for a memorable villain

This month at Aussie Owned and Read, we’re talking about the bad guys of the story–the villains.

When it comes to writing villains, it can be easy to fall into some bad habits. Here are my top tips for creating a worthy opponent to your fabulous lead character:

  1. Give the villain strong motivation: Why is your bad character a bad character? Sure, you could fall into the all-too-easy “because he/she is just evil”, but how realistic is that? There are true psychopaths in life, but truly memorable villains tend to have reasons for their bad behaviour. Did they suffer during their childhood? Perhaps they don’t have a support network and have battled mental health? Or perhaps again, they’re not really a bad person, simply someone who wants something that puts them at direct odds with your protagonist? Whatever the reason, make it clear to help enhance your villain as a character and make him or her a real person/creature.
  2. Give him or her at least one redeeming quality: Just like your villain should have a reason for his or her bad-assery, he or she should also have at least one redeeming quality. How many people do you know without at least one positive personality trait? Whether you only give us a glimpse of this or you show the quality in its full glory, this can make your villain not just lifelike, but possibly the tiniest bit likeable, creating a very memorable villain indeed.

    Faceless man in hood on the rooftop

    Is your villain a real person or just a shadow in the dark? Photo:

  3. Avoid the villain reveal: We’ve all seen it. It’s the climax of the story. The bad guy has the good guy trapped, tied up in rope, and he’s about to slit our hero’s throat! Calamity! The end is in sight!
    And what better thing to do when you have the hero completely in your clutches, ready to die a slow and painful death, than launch into a monologue, explaining your motivation to date and exactly why you did what you did? This is a cliched action performed by many villains, and outside of scenes in Inspector Gadget (where they also use the infamous “I’ll get you next time, Gadget” line) I don’t think it flies. It’s not realistic. And not only that, but there’s no motivation for the villain to tell the hero all that information, making the villain less life-like and therefore less scary in a time when you want him to appear all powerful and ferocious.
  4. Offer up a worthy opponent: Is the villain in your story all powerful, the strongest man in the universe–but a bit low in brainpower? Often, we can get carried away creating a heap of braun to combat our good guys and leaving our villains lacking in one major department–mental strength. This doesn’t just apply to villains involved in a physical showdown with our hero–whether your bad guy is a land developer with cold, hard cash to your hero’s tree hugger, or an opponent vying for a job at the same company, fighting your hero by dismantling his or her computer and leaving her stranded at the copy machine, you want to make sure your villain has the smarts to help create believable and truly deep drama.
    Yes, some villains are perhaps unintelligent, bumbling idiots. Yes, these sort of people do exist in real life. Do they make a worthy opponent for your fabulous lead character, however? And are they helping to create the maximum amount of tension between your hero and themselves by giving readers the notion that perhaps they could win? I don’t think so.
  5. Bring the villain into your home: Bringing your villain into the “safe” place of the hero can up the tension and raise the stakes. This can work in multiple ways: you can physically bring the villain into your hero’s home ground, or you can take someone close to your hero and turn them into the antagonist. This is particularly useful in contemporary reads. Think of things like the child putting the mother in the nursing home; the parents telling the child they can’t run riot in the rain late at night; a loved one not believing the hero when he or she tells about the fantastical thing he or she has seen. Having someone close to your hero display villainous traits or become a villain by offering an opposing viewpoint he or she feels passionately about can sometimes result in the most tension-filled novel of all.


Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads that make you feel, as well as an editor of fiction. You can get in touch with her via her website or Facebook.

Three romance-writing lessons

In honour of Valentine’s Day, we’re talking all things love here at Aussie Owned and Read. So I thought I’d look at three lessons in writing romance we can all take from a relatively unknown playwright I grew up with, one Mr Walt Disney.

  1. Sometimes, you need a knight-level romantic gesture. Now, let’s get one thing straight. I’m very pro women saving themselves. I’m not exactly at bra-burning level of feminism, but I sure as hell don’t believe in waiting around for a knight in shining armour to ride in on his horse to save me or my fictional princesses (although give me a few glasses of wine and I’ll karaoke to the contrary if I Need A Hero comes on).
    However, what I do think works well in fiction is a grand gesture from a leading man toward the leading lady, or vice versa, or a leading lady to another leading lady, or a leading man to another leading man (just not a leading man to a leading dog. Because bestiality and no).
    But I digress! Romantic gestures. They rock. Sure, in Sleeping Beauty it might mean fighting through a thorny garden and slaying a dragon to deliver true love’s first kiss–but in a modern-day romance, it could be Heath Ledger singing “I Love You Baby” on the grandstand at the high school in Ten Things I Hate About You. It’s all relative to the story’s scale. Either way, a romantic gesture, whether from the hero to the heroine or vice versa, is a great fictional tool.sleeping-beauty
  2. Love can come in unlikely packages. Whether you’re talking Beauty & the Beast or even to a certain extent Cinderella,  delivering love in a place we wouldn’t traditionally expect it is a great tool that can be used in writing romance today. The reason this works is because not only can it surprise the reader, it also follows something we all know to be true–to a certain extent, opposites attract. At the very least, they make for strong conflict, which creates great scope for some tension-filled scenes (and the potential for a follow-on best-selling movie. Fifty Shades, anyone?).
  3. True love is 4 reals. In Disney movies, the hero and the heroine always end up kicking arse. True love conquers all, baby–there’s nothing it can’t do!
    beauty-and-the-beastI think, when writing fiction today, that’s something we can take on board, too. Sure, there are some HFN endings in which perhaps the hero or the heroine passes away, which obviously implies that it doesn’t quite conquer all (or certainly not death)–but in those novels, invariably we have true love existing or the impact of a hero/heroine dying wouldn’t hurt us as much as it does. If the person passing away was just some guy or gal the leading man or woman was a little close to but didn’t really love, would we care so much when they left us for a walk on the fictional rainbow bridge? No.
    In real life, many people either have found their true love, or are searching for him or her–while we don’t mind reading about the kind-of-almost-maybe loves, what gets readers truly invested, particularly romance readers, is knowing that the love they’re watching unfold is true love. The Big Love. The all-consuming, everlasting love.
    That’s why I think having “true love”, Disney-style, is a great fictional tool we writers can all employ.

Lauren K. McKellar is the author of romance reads to make you feel. Her latest new adult contemporary romance, with lots of true love and a truck-load of love in unlikely places, is on sale now for $0.99. Get your buy links for Seeking Faith now via her website here or find out more info over on her Facebook page.

Beyond beginnings …

It seems fitting that our topic for January is beginnings. 2017 brings with it many changes and hopes after a particularly unusual and tough year for many.

As for me, I’m hoping that with the new year I will carve for myself a fresh beginning with my writing. You see, I had a tough time with it during 2016. With three kids, four after school activities, three separate schools, two P&C committees, and only one me it was a rather time-poor year. And as a writer who thrives off the total immersion method I found myself unable to pen new words. Basically I just couldn’t get my head in the story. The same with reading. I found myself reading the same pages over and over again, unable to move forward because there was never enough time or head space for imagination.

Yet, beginnings are the one thing I didn’t struggle with. Whatever sucked up my creativity seems not to have affected my ability to pen first chapters. I have a grand total of five beginnings that are so darn intriguing (no modesty here) that I’m determined to make them full stories this year.


Getting past Chapter One can be a chore.


So what is the trick of getting beyond the beginning?

  • Stick to it: don’t allow yourself to be sidetracked by shiny new ideas. Write them down then come back to story number 1.
  • Plot it: If you’re having trouble finishing a story, plan out where it’s going next. In fact, plan it all the way to the end.
  • Make time: If, like me, you’re strapped for time get up half an hour earlier, stay up half an hour later, write in your lunch break. Whatever it is you need to do to snag a few minutes of writing time, do it.
  • Don’t edit: you heard me. Don’t read yesterday’s words before writing new ones. That chews up valuable writing time and makes it impossible to move forward to new words.

Let’s hope that 2017 is a productive writing year!

I plan on sticking to these golden rules to finish my stories. Do you have any tips for getting beyond the beginning?

Happy writing!


Stacey NashStacey Nash is going to write lots of great words this year. To find out more about the great words she’s already had published or to connect with her on social media (where she tries to be engaging), check out these places:, instagram, twitter, facebook.





The Month of Love: James


To celebrate the Month of Love, Aussie Owned & Read are giving our followers exclusive content! It may be a love letter between characters, a special date, or a scene you’ve never read before.

Today, Katie Hamstead is giving an exclusive alternate perspective of Deceptive Cadence. With the Cadence Duology told through Cadence’s eyes, this scene is through James’. This is the moment he realized he loved her.

Deceptive Cadence

Twelfth grade. Man, the years have gone fast. Scanning the classroom, I took in the other kids in my grade. Some I’d been with for years, some I’d never talked to, and others I’d become close to over the last year.

Having physics first thing on Monday could be the ultimate form of torture through boredom. But Cadence was across the hall, starting her biology class. After the swimming carnival last week, I’d need to watch out for her. Something was up, and I had a feeling I knew what. Becca was up to something.

Movement in the corner of my eye caught my attention. In the hallway, Cadence stood, smiling in at me. I glanced at my teacher, who was busy helping some other students, and  I headed out the door. One of the perks of being a senior; leaving without needing permission.

Cadence grinned as she took my hand and we headed out of the science corridor. I loved when she got in these playful moods. She was usually such a stickler for the rules when it came to classes and school. I was pretty sure it was because she didn’t want to disappoint her dad.

“James,” she whispered as we slipped around a corner. “Bio first thing Monday sucks.”

I grinned, touching her soft cheek. Everything about Cadence was so soft. “Yeah, I was thinking the same thing about Physics. Wanna make out to break the monotony?”

She shrugged. “Yeah, I guess.”


I planted my lips firmly against hers. Her lips, true to form, were so soft, and tasted like her favorite strawberry chap-stick. I slid my fingers into her hair, again, which was so soft, and placed my other hand in the dip of her back. I pulled her closer, holding her tight. If I could, I’d never let this girl go. Sometimes I wished we were in the same grade so I could go to classes with her.

“Mr. Gordon.”

Cadence shoved me off with a gasp at the vice principal’s voice. His timing sucked balls. “Hey, Mr. T.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be somewhere?” He folded his arms over his pale blue business shirt and tipped his head toward the building.

“I’m good right here.”

“James.” Cadence turned bright red and pushed out of my arms. Stupid vice principal ruined everything.

“Get back to class, both of you.”

Cadence muttered something about the bathroom and disappeared in the direction of the girls’ toilets. I watched her go, and edged after her.

“James.” Mr. Turnball stepped in front of me. “You should probably keep that kind of behavior off the school grounds.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not like I’m smoking or drinking, sir.”

“Yes, I am glad you stopped doing those things, but let’s keep this winning streak up, eh?”

“Fine,” I grumbled and turned back toward the labs.

In class, I couldn’t stop thinking about Cadence. I shut my eyes, remembering the summer together, her skin turning brown under the sun on the beach or at the pool, the late night making out in our backyards to the sounds of cicadas. I’d never had a more perfect summer, and it was all because of her.

It was weird, feeling the way I did. The girls I’d been with in the past were just fun, fleeting, and lacked any meaning to me. But Cadence was more than all of that. I trusted her more than I’d ever trusted anyone, and the way she looked at me sometimes, with those big, dark blue eyes, man, I was a goner.

As I headed out to my next class, I glanced in at her. She grinned and hurried out to meet me. “What’s up next?”

“P.E.,” I answered, taking in her bright face. I knew there were girls around that were just as pretty as her, but there was something about her, something about the way she smiled, the familiarity of the freckles across her nose, that made her outshine everyone else.

“What’s up with you?” she asked, elbowing me in the ribs. “You’re unusually quiet. Turnball give you a lecture?”

“Nah.” I brushed her hair back over her shoulder. “I’m having trouble waking up. I think I may have fallen asleep in class.”

“I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“Brat.” I flicked her ear and she laughed.

And right at that moment, as she smiled up at me, it hit me. I was in love with Cadence. Like for real in love. Not just yeah, she’s my awesome, hot girlfriend, but I could see myself with her forever. I never wanted to live without her.

I gave her a long kiss as she tried to leave me to go to her own class, and she pushed me away with a giggle. “You’re so out of it today. I’ll see ya after class.”

She waved as she turned toward the main building and I stood watching her go. I’m in love with her, and it’s the best feeling in the world. I might have been only seventeen, but I knew. The realization came without fanfare or fireworks, or any crazy explosive moment, but I knew Cadence was it. I’d never love anyone else the way I loved her.


Katie Teller

Katie Teller is a writer of NA fiction. Her debut, Kiya: Hope of the Pharaoh, has sold more than 50,000 copies. You can find out more about Katie, the Kiya trilogy, and her other books on twitterfacebook or at her own blog.

Love from another POV: Sebastian kisses Kath


Aussie_Vday PinkTo celebrate the Month of Love, Aussie Owned & Read are giving our followers exclusive content! It may be a love letter between characters, a special date, or a scene you’ve never read before.

Today, Beck Nicholas is giving you the first kiss in her contemporary YA FAKE from Sebastian’s point of view (rather than Kath’s). (I didn’t want to spoil anything from my next contemporary available from Harlequin Teen Aus: WHAT I SAW which releases in a few days.)


Beck Nicholas - book cover.jpg

Seventeen-year-old Kath McKenny has a date to the end-of-term party with her since-forever crush. He publicly messaged her to confirm, but there’s been a recent status update: he’s taking the new girl, Lana, instead. After being thoroughly humiliated in front of half the school, best friend Chay talks Kath into revenge: a scheme to create the perfect — and very fake — online guy for Lana. Once she falls for him, they’ll show her what it’s like to get brutally dumped.

Everything is going to plan until Kath starts spending more-than-just-friends time with the other new kid in town — Lana’s dreamy older brother, Sebastian. She tries to put an end to her prank, but it’s taken on an unstoppable momentum of its own, with very real consequences.
As her plotting begins to unravel, so do the people Kath thought she knew:
Her mother has a secret online life. Her father has a whole new family. Her best friend is barely recognisable. Her boyfriend has a disturbing hidden past. And her enemy is more familiar than she knew.


 I might as well be wearing a ‘loser’ sign across my forehead. How many times am I going to mess it up with this girl?

Here I am, sitting in a deserted playground with the moonlight doing its romantic best, next to Kath, who I can’t stop thinking about, and all I can do is remember the fact that I was here on the weekend. With Poppy. With my daughter.

Kath doesn’t know she exists and I can’t bring myself to tell her.

It’s so damn complicated.

I swing. Push off like the child I wished I could be. And as I move, I relax. It’s like Kath’s enthusiasm, her wonder, is contagious. Higher and higher until I’m out of breath.

Slowly, we drift to a stop. Once I’m on my feet, I reach out to help her stand. She hesitates and some of the doubts I’m trying so hard to ignore threaten to resurface. Doubts about the insanity of me pretending to be an ordinary teenage boy out with an adorable girl who he likes very much.

But then she touches me and all I can think about is kissing her at last.

She stumbles and lands in my arms, her silly wig nearly comes off but on her it’s cute. I pull her closer, unable to resist any longer.

But I need to tell her the truth first. ‘Let me explain,’ I whisper.

I brush the hair off her face as an excuse to touch her.

‘No,’ she says. ‘Don’t.’ She presses closer. ‘I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to think.’

Her hands on my chest make arguing impossible. I cup her cheek. ‘What do you want?’

She kisses my hand sending electricity through me. And then the other.

I’m drawn closer still so I’m only millimetres away from the lips I can’t resist. I sigh, giving in. Our lips touch. I kiss her softly, gently, not wanting to scare her off.

But then she meets me halfway, urgent and it’s enough to drive a guy crazy. Our noses bump and we grin at the same time. I let go, tangling my hands in her hair. Kissing her now like I’ve wanted to every time we’ve been together.

Her knees buckle but I hold her against me. I would carry her anywhere. She’s so soft and sweet and I have wanted this so bad. More than anything.

The thought is a cold shower.

I can’t lose my head.

I have responsibilities.

Pulling back, I try to ignore the flash of hurt on her face. I run my hand through my hair so I don’t reach for her again. ‘I should take you home.’



beck nicholas_ bec sampson


I always wanted to write. I’ve worked as a lab assistant, a pizza delivery driver and a high school teacher but I always pursued my first dream of creating stories. Now, I live with my family near Adelaide, halfway between the city and the sea, and am lucky to spend my days (and nights) writing young adult fiction.