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. Three hundred pages or 100,000 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 there with your hands on your […]

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 reader’s asking concrete questions. Who stole the Statue of Liberty? How is Westley going to […]

How to Tell if Your Story Begins Too Soon

This week’s video talks about a few of the problems and warning signs when a story begins too soon. Video Transcript: 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 […]

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 […]

5 Elements of a Riveting Opening Line

The opening line of your book is your first (and possibly last) opportunity to grab your reader’s attention and give them a reason to read your story. That’s a gargantuan job for a single sentence. But if we break down excellent opening lines, we discover a number of interesting things. One of the most surprising […]