Is the Thesaurus Your Friend?

5 Pros and Cons of Using the Thesaurus

Writers are surprisingly divided over the value of using the thesaurus. Some consider it their secret weapon; others regard it as a crutch. So which is it? Stephen King’s opinion, from his 1988 essay “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully—in Ten Minutes” is now well known: Any word you have to hunt for […]

Use All 5 Senses to Bring Your Setting to Life

Use All 5 Senses to Bring Your Setting to Life

Unlike movies, which are inherently visual and auditory, your written fiction depends solely on your power of description to evoke reaction of the senses from your readers and bring your setting to life. This is tricky business, since you want to bring the scene to life, but you don’t want to bore readers with lengthy explanations. So […]

Should Stories Be Soapboxes?

Should Stories Offer Messages?

Should stories offer messages? Common wisdom insists fiction is meant to entertain, not preach. The novel isn’t a soapbox for religious, political, social, or philosophical views. If you try to use it as such, you’re likely to sacrifice your stories and alienate your readers. And yet, ironically enough, many of the world’s greatest and most […]

Here’s the Right Way to Use Symbolism in Your Story

The right way to use symbolism in stories is more difficult to learn than you might think. In large part, this is because well-done symbols should be almost invisible within the framework of the story. Those that aren’t invisible often feel heavy-handed or even clichéd (such as the inevitable use of the American flag as a […]

Why No Writer Knows What He’s Doing

Learn to Embrace Your Writing Ignorance

I’ve been telling stories since I was two years old. I’ve been writing stories since I was twelve. I have four published novels (and two more scheduled) to my name. I know enough about the craft to write this blog, numerous guest posts, a podcast, and eight writing how-to books and counting. Sounds like I’ve really […]

Info Dumps Don't Belong in Dialogue

Info Dumps Don’t Belong in Dialogue

Dialogue is such a handy little technique that we sometimes try to force it to carry more of a load than it should. One of the loads dialogue should never have to bear is the weight of info dumps. When characters start telling each other things they already know, just to keep the poor ignorant […]

Change Is Key to Powerful Character Arcs

Create Powerful Character Arcs in 6 Steps

The secret to a memorable character isn’t so much creating a strong personality as it is creating a strong character arc. You can come up with the most entertaining, marvelous characters imaginable, but unless you also give them powerful character arcs, their stories will lack depth and power. Character arcs are fundamentally about change. You can […]

If You Know Your Character's Goal, You Can Rivet Your Readers' Attention

If You Know Your Character’s Goal, You Can Rivet Your Readers’ Attention

Today, I’m posting over on AuthorCulture, with the post “Do You Know What Your Character’s Goal Is?” Here’s an excerpt: Without question, the driving force of fiction is conflict, and the only way to create conflict is to create a character who wants something he can’t immediately have. This takes many different forms, everything from a bereaved […]

Who Said What? - Identifying Dialogue Speakers

Who Said What? – Identifying Dialogue Speakers

Dialogue is one of the most interesting and useful parts of any story. As readers, we all love a witty conversation, but what we don’t love is when we have no idea which character is saying what. Why Failing in Identifying Dialogue Speakers Is Sure to Give Readers a Headache Having just finished a memoir in […]

Maximize Your Story’s Inciting Event

5 Ways to Maximize Your Story’s Inciting Event

The Inciting Event is the moment your character’s world is forever changed. It knocks over the first domino in the line of dominoes that forms your plot. It sets off an irrevocable chain reaction that will eventually lead your character to the maelstrom of your Climax. So how do you go about creating an Inciting […]