I am pleased to announce that I will be writing a series of articles for Southern Writers Magazine in 2020 and 2021. The series is entitled Changing the World with Your Writing. As authors, we have the choice of writing material purely for entertainment purposes, or we can up the ante and write books that include profound meaning, not only for the present-day but well into the future.


Sir Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, recently posed this question to businesses: how is your business changing the world? As I pondered this, I realized that for authors, the question is: how is your writing changing the world?


A book’s lifespan can far outlive an author’s mortality, especially with the invention of ebooks. When you consider the books you have read, there is a chance that at least half are by authors that have long since passed. From Shakespeare to Dickens, Robert B. Parker to Stieg Larsson, their books continue to resonate with new generations of readers—and yours should, too.


Below are some of the ways authors can go from average to great in writing books that stand the test of time. Each of these subjects will be discussed in detail in Southern Writers Magazine in upcoming issues, including tips and techniques.

Consider using historical backdrops, especially with circumstances that tend to repeat throughout history, such as war, migration, or natural disasters.

Select character conflicts with which the vast majority can identify. It can be a parent losing a child, a lost love, financial disaster, medical challenges, or a natural disaster that leads to the reader pondering what they might do under those circumstances.

Take your characters to greater depths, tightening the noose as far as you can. Their climb upward will be all the more inspiring.

Take your characters to greater heights, depicting how power, fame, or wealth can impact a person for good or evil.

Find your roots. Ancestry websites are some of the most popular on the Internet, and more people are traveling to their ancestral homes. Your story may resonate with millions, even if it is a fictionalized account.

Use your settings to educate readers. Geography determines a character’s destiny; a character emerging from Main Street USA will have vastly different experiences from one in war-torn Syria, poverty-stricken Niger, or the streets of Paris.

Inspire inventions and innovation. Science fiction authors have inspired everything from artificial limbs to robots and journeys to outer space, but any other genre can include a character that is an inventor, a scientist, researcher, or back yard tinkerer.

Incorporate your passion. If you are passionate about child welfare, animal rescue, homelessness, climate change, migration, plastics in our oceans, or any other social cause, you can incorporate it into your writing. It might be a major or minor character facing any of those challenges or someone that helps to rescue one less fortunate.

How to begin:


  1. One or more of the suggestions above may have piqued your interest or inspired you. Make a note of those that did.
  2. Consider the story you want to write. How can it be enhanced by adding one or more of these suggestions?
  3. What published works incorporate any of the suggestions you would like to implement? Study those works to determine how the author weaved the story around those additional elements.


Be sure to subscribe to Southern Writers Magazine for detailed articles designed to take your story from a simple one to a great one. January-February issue tackles the first in this series, on adding historical elements to your work.

p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 24 books ranging from historical to suspense. She details how she conducts historical research from the Internet to traveling the world in her most recent release, April in the Back of Beyond. Her most popular books, Songbirds are Free and River Passage, are creative nonfiction about her ancestors’ roles in migrating west in America while many of her suspense incorporate Ireland, her ancestral home, including Checkmate: Clans and Castles.

All images printed with permission.