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Up-Lit (What It Is And How To Write It)

June 21st, 2019

Something exciting is happening that’s got writers and publishers talking! Readers are slowly moving away from popular bloodthirsty books, to reading stories that are more empathetic, optimistic and comforting.

One reason for this change is that people are looking for kindness in the world; especially now that the world is portrayed as hard, stressful and negative. People want to read something that calms their mind and generates feelings of love. But not love in the romantic sense.

Termed as Up-Lit (Uplifting Literature) in the writing community – this form of writing is different to Romantic-Comedy or Chick-Lit books. Predominantly because the Up-Lit author is able to create believable storylines with strong recognisable characters. Characters with personality traits that appeal to both male and female readers.

The protagonist doesn’t have to be likeable; they can be unreliable, unusual or even unfriendly. They are generally vulnerable or troubled in some way; and throughout the narrative, their personality will be revealed as well as the obstacles they have to overcome.

As the story moves forward, the author must create a strong emotive response, making their readers laugh, cry and cheer on the character/s. However, the story must be balanced. Too much negativity and readers get bored, too much sentimentality and the story becomes saccharine.

The Protagonist usually finds help for their afflictions or troubles from unexpected sources. A relative, a stranger, their bus driver or the wider community.

The ending does not have to be the happily ever after, though the main character needs to have overcome part if not all of their difficulties.

A skilled Up-Lit author can get their readers to believe that by making some of the changes they read about, the reader can improve their own lives or the lives of others around them.

Although Up-Lit is trending now, it’s not a new concept. Written about thirty-seven years ago, Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption is a good example of Up-Lit, as is his story The Green Mile – John Coffey may have ended up dying, but ultimately it was his choice.

Fast forward to 2009 and you may recall Swedish Author Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. Hands up who didn’t laugh and cry over that one?

More recent publications include Gail Honeyman’s book Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Libby Page’s The Lido and Vicky Zimmerman’s The Woman Who Wanted More.

In my own short story, Mirella’s Umbrella, I wanted to explore the impact of death on a younger sibling, I wanted my readers to feel the emotion, but I didn’t want to make grief the overriding emotion. Mirella’s solution to moving forward came from both finding a hobby and an unexpected piece of advice from someone she least expected.

If you would like to try writing Up-Lit then consider writing in the first-person form, choose what your character needs to overcome (e.g. fear, addiction, illness), decide who will help them and why. Then end their journey on an uplifting note.


Amanda Davies, from Neyland, has loved reading and writing since early childhood. With several health issues that slowed her physically Amanda was able to explore and express words creatively to make sense of her world.

As an adult writing became a way to unwind from work. When she is not found in the garden writing, she is in the greenhouses growing fresh food for her and the family.

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