I Just Figured Out What All My Favorite Stories Have in Common—and It Blew My Mind

I Just Figured Out What All My Favorite Stories Have in Common—and It Blew My Mind

This week’s video talks about the secret ingredient that can take even mediocre ideas and turn them into your readers’ favorite stories, worthy of five stars.  Video Transcript: For those of you who follow my book reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, you may have noticed I hardly ever give five-star reviews. I read over […]

In Medias Res: How to Do It and How Not to

This week’s video discusses, not only how to avoid the potential pitfalls of in medias res, but how to take full advantage of its awesomeness. Video Transcript: Nowadays, it’s kind of hard to be a writer and not know about—or at least have heard of—in medias res. This, of course, is the Latin term for […]

4 Big Pitfalls in Story Openings

Today, I’m guest posting on Jane Friedman’s blog, with a post on “4 Big Pitfalls in Story Openings.” Here’s an excerpt: Plant an irresistible hook. Give readers a reason to care about what happens to the characters. Introduce overall tone (satiric, dramatic, etc.). Introduce setting (time and place), conflict, and theme. The beginning of a story is […]

Why Story Beginnings and Endings Must Be Linked

The ending of your story is a loooong way away from the beginning. Tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of words is an extraordinary journey. Contemplating the ending from the vantage point of the beginning is like looking up at the top of Mt. Everest and imagining yourself—in all your windblown, frostbitten glory—standing […]

10 Questions Your Readers Shouldn’t Have to Ask

The most important thing an author can present in the beginning of any scene is a question that will hook readers into needing to know the answer. The second most important thing is making certain that question isn’t the wrong question. You want readers asking concrete questions. Who stole the Statue of Liberty? How is Westley going […]

How to Tell if Your Story Begins Too Soon

Authors are always being warned not to begin their stories too soon. The idea of beginning in medias res—or “in the middle of things”—is popular these days because it plunges readers into the plot right away without dragging them through pages of backstory or setup. But at the same time, you must give readers enough […]

Hook Readers With a Sneak Peek

This week’s video discusses how to hook readers with a “flashforward” at the beginning of your novel, similar to the one Edna Ferber used in Show Boat. Video Transcript: As many followers of my website probably already know, I am not a big fan of prologues or other gimmicky framing techniques for the beginning of […]

How Much Should You Explain in a Story’s Beginning?

One of the trickiest parts of any story is the beginning. And one of the trickiest parts of a story’s beginning is figuring out how to balance the need to keep the story moving forward with the need to explain lots of important background details to the reader. This is a balance that will be […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Character Overload

When dealing with large casts of characters—or even just scenes that require the rapid-fire introduction of more than two or three characters—readers sometimes find themselves in grave danger of “character overload.” The common wisdom is that there’s no such thing as too many good characters. But, in fact, too many characters can become way too […]

Should You Put Dream Sequences in Your Story?

It’s generally accepted that agents and editors dislike seeing dream sequences in your story. This is because a story opening that features a dream is a story opening that almost always fails to present a strong hook, character, setting, conflict, or frame. Although there are certainly exceptions to this rule, your wisest move is generally […]