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20 of the Most Instructive Quotes About Writing

I’ve been really into writing quotes lately. Many of the posts I write are inspired by great things I read from other authors, so I decided to go on a hunt through my archives and find twenty of my favorite instructive quotes about writing. There’s so much wisdom to be found in our fellow writers. […]

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5 Ways Writers (Try to) Fake Their Way to Good Storytelling

Last week, I found a meme on Pinterest that showed someone dispensing two different soft drinks into the same cardboard cup. One of the drink buttons was labeled “Feeling stressed out when writing” and the other was labeled “Feeling stressed out when you haven’t written.” It’s funny because it’s true. The writing life is constantly […]

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Critique: 8 Quick Tips for Show, Don’t Tell

The key to immersive story experiences is convincing readers they’re right there with characters. They’re smelling the ash in the air, tasting the rain, feeling the churning gut, seeing all the same colors, hearing all the same notes. When narrative writing accomplishes that level of verisimilitude, it has the ability to move readers beyond their […]

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Helping Authors Become Artists

In view of this site’s title, it’s not surprising people often ask, “What’s the difference between a writer and an author?” Usually, I admit it’s a cheeky sophistry, since there is no true distinction, save for the common connotation that an “author” is somehow more professional. A writer is just someone who scribbles; an author […]

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How to Use Your Outline When Writing Your First Draft

Outlining your novel is one thing. But then, whether you prefer to outline with minimalism, maximalism, or hindsight (aka, in revisions), a surprisingly easy stumbling block can be that of figuring out how to use your outline in the first draft. Recently, I received an email from Matt Powers, which made me realize that, out […]

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What Is the Relationship Between Plot and Theme?

Sometimes plot and theme are confused as being basically the same thing. Other times, they’re viewed as so distinct they don’t even belong in the same discussion. So which is it? First questions first: is plot basically the same thing as theme? To some degree, the answer is yes. Or, at least, intuitive phrasing often […]

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5 Ways to Use Theme to Create Character Arc (and Vice Versa)

What’s the easiest way to find your story’s theme—and make it stick? Although any discussion of theme is multi-faceted, one of the best ways to approach this complex topic is through the realization that you can use theme to create character arc—and vice versa. When asked to explain what a particular story is about, some […]

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4 Pacing Tricks to Keep Readers’ Attention

Part 21 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel Stories live or die on their pacing. Great characters and concepts are the heartbeat of good fiction, but even the greatest can struggle to keep readers’ attention if the pacing is off. Pacing is a lot like tone. It varies depending on the type […]

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How to Find Your Thematic Principle

There are words I think of as “infinite words.” These are words that express more, in their essence, than we can ever quite seem to explain. They’re the words of poetry. Indeed, many are complete poems all in a single word. For me, one of those words is “theme.” Theme is one of those endlessly […]

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Plot, Character, and Theme: The Greatest Love Triangle in Fiction

Once upon a time, Character fell in love with Plot. Right from the start, it was a stormy relationship. There was passion, there was romance, there were epic stakes. And conflict? Puh-lenty. Sometimes they were pretty sure they couldn’t live with each other a moment longer. Sometimes they tried to give each other up altogether. […]