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Critique: 10 Ways to Write Excellent Dialogue

For many people, dialogue is the heartbeat of fiction. As arguably the only true form of “showing” in written fiction, it offers an inexhaustible source of energy for dramatizing characters, catalyzing conflict, and enhancing every available opportunity for entertainment. That’s why it’s so important to take full of advantage of dialogue, and that’s why we’re […]

STORIES THAT MATTER

Writing’s Secret Formula: How to Write Stories That Matter

“Writing is magic,” notes Stephen King, the most prolific author in history, “as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.” I concur, so much so that it is the featured quote on my website. But is it magic? Is writing so […]

character's inner conflict

Creating Your Character’s Inner Conflict: Want vs. Need

Man vs. Self—it’s the most archetypal of all stories. This is because all stories are ultimately rooted in the primal and personal struggle of a character’s inner conflict. As individuals, our conflicts with others or the world itself are almost inevitably either reflections or projections of our inner conflicts—our cognitive dissonances, our conflicting wants and […]

How to Use a “Truth Chart” to Figure Out Your Character’s Arc

“How do I figure out my character’s arc?” This is a question I receive commonly—and with good reason. Not only is your character’s arc central to all your other story choices—plot and theme foremost among them—character arc can also seem like one of the most daunting parts of story. Mostly this is because of its […]

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How to Tell if Your Story Has Too Much Plot, Not Enough Character

Can a story have too much plot? It might surprise you (especially if you’re a regular reader of the site), but the answer is absolutely, yes. Implicit in the question of too much plot is the idea that a story should have more of something else. Usually that something else is character. This is where we […]

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How to Evoke Reader Emotions With “Surprisingness”

Have you ever read a book for a second, third, even tenth time—just to experience the emotion the story evokes? Clearly the elements of the story aren’t a surprise. You know exactly what to expect. If so, you were benefiting from an author who knew how to evoke reader emotions. Literary agent Donald Maass says […]

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Learn 5 Types of Character Arc at a Glance: The 3 Negative Arcs (Part 2 of 2)

Stories are about change. Sometimes that change is positive, driven by hopeful or even heroic people. But sometimes that change is negative, driven by humanity’s darkest urges and blindnesses. Both stories are necessary, which is why we’re rounding out our two-part series with a beat-by-beat look at the three Negative Arcs—the Disillusionment Arc, the Fall […]

types of character arc heroic arcs

Learn 5 Types of Character Arc at a Glance: The 2 Heroic Arcs (Part 1 of 2)

There are only two or three human stories, but they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they never happened.–Willa Cather The many different approaches to story theory break down the number of “human stories” into different categories. Perhaps there are just two—comedy and tragedy. Perhaps there are Vonnegut’s eight “shapes.” Today, I’m going […]

thematic metaphor

How to Make Your Plot a Powerful Thematic Metaphor

Your thematic metaphor is the unifying idea that emerges as the meaning behind your characters’ adventures in their story world. Once you have identified your story’s thematic principle, the real work begins. How will you seamlessly join theme to plot? Masterful authors create stories that, on their surfaces, may seem to be entirely plot—and yet […]

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Publisher Rocket: What Is It? And How Can It Help You Sell Books?

There are two great questions faced by every writer. One is How do I write a great book? And the other is How do I get people to buy it?  Inherent in both answers is a lot of demystification, dedication, discipline, and hard work. Most of the discussions on this site are in answer to the first […]