Genre tips

Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Journal Genre

A to Z Challenge asks bloggers to post every day except Sundays during the month of April on a thematic topic–nothing else. This year, I’ll be covering writing genres.

Today’s genre:

atoz-jJournal (Diary or Epistolary) Genre


Telling a story through diary or journal entries, letters, digital messages, or another type of personal document.

Tipsa to z

  1. It gets the reader directly into the character’s head and it provides a built-in framework for plot.
  2. It immediately justifies the question, “Why does this book exist?” Because it’s my story. Here, I’m telling it.
  3. It’s difficult to add backstory. Do so carefully.
  4. It’s also difficult to add setting. Make sure this blends into the journal-er’s thoughts.
  5. Suspense too can be challenging. Why would the writer not put everything in her/his journal? Why keep a secret from herself?
  6. Be careful of your author voice. It must sound like a journal.
  7. You can’t write the blow-by-blow that sometimes clarifies action in other genres. No one would write that way in a journal.
  8. Be aware: The writer can be an unreliable narrator. S/he is writing details as she is aware of them–at a point in time. This–of course–changes with time.

Popular Books

  1. Adrian Mole series by Susan Townsend
  2. The Bridgett Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding
  3. Carrie by Stephen King
  4. Color Purple by Alice Walker
  5. Diary of a Madman by Nikolai Gogol
  6. Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
  7. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  8. The Flowers of Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  9. Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
  10. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  11. The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
  12. Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Click for complete list of genres

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, and the thriller, To Hunt a Sub. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. The sequel to To Hunt a Sub, Twenty-four Days, is scheduled for May 2017. Click to follow its progress.

51 thoughts on “Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Journal Genre

  1. Pingback: #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Journalism | WordDreams...

  2. Pingback: Today’s #AtoZChallenge: Genres–Juvenile | WordDreams...

  3. As much as I love journaling… I may want to experiment with this genre, just for fun 🙂 I also love Epistolary novels for the same reason: they provide the opportunity for the reader to become intimate with the main character.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Story by journal would be extremely difficult. So many entries are little more that bullet points or buzzwords, designed only to trigger the journalists memory, not anyone else’s. What a skill to be able to pull that one off! 🙂

    My “theme” – A Thirty-Word Story, revealing one word of the story each day of the challenge.
    #AtoZChallenge The Letter K

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jacqui, again I’m surprised how many books on your list I’ve read. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a journal-style book by Paul Torday is an exceptional book, written entirely in letters, memos, news articles, emails, lists, and diary entries. The film adaptation was well done but there were significant differences – not so much Hollywoodized as made a bit more accessible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I understand that. If I kept a journal, it would be to record personal thoughts I wanted to work through. No way I want the world to read those.

      On the other hand, today’s kids might be fine with putting it all out on FB or Twitter.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve always loved books in journal format, though it has to be done well, and for the right reasons. A great example of how NOT to write books in journal form is the late fraud “Dr.” Beatrice Sparks, the true author of books like Go Ask Alice, It Happened to Nancy, Annie’s Baby, and Empty Inside. All those books read like stories told in a deliberately plotted structure, instead of realistic journals that just happen to involve dramatic events. There are also many other issues with her writing style!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It seems an easy genre to write to, everybody has done journaling exercises in school right? But it’s probably one of the most difficult.

    On a different note, read 6/12ths of today’s list, am surprised! 🙂 – Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones both super examples. Another favourite one is Letters to a fainthearted Feminist’ by Jill Tweedie.


    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Jacqui – I hate to say it I haven’t read any of those books you mention – my literary skills don’t add up to much … but I should read them – the Colour Purple I’ve been wanting to read for a while – I never saw the film … interesting on the approach which I’d never taken into account … cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that’s a great idea. I’m not a fan of the entire journal thing (though I am reading “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” which is all journal–thank you, Shari, for the loan), but those short pieces are quite effective.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Jacqui, finally got enough signal to open one of your posts and how fortuitous to be the one on journals – I love these! Great tips and the last one of the unreliable narrator can give a book a terrific twist. It was fun to read through your list and reacquaint myself with so many I’ve read.The Adrian Mole series were a childhood favourite and later read my son’s Wimpy Kid books. The Color Purple was mind-blowing and I’d never read anything like it then and ahh…poor Werther, Goethe is just a wonderful writer and the poor man had such a complex writing under, what Goethe felt, Schiller’s shadow.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So nice to hear from you. You know I worry when I don’t hear from a friend for a while. It drives my kids nuts. I haunt their FB pages just to know they’re still out there.

      I’m impressed how well-read you are. I haven’t read most of those you mentioned. I went through a phase where I concentrated on classics, but it must have been non-journal classics.

      Liked by 1 person

What do you think? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.