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 […]

Why the Human Element Is All-Important to the Beginning of Your Story

The beginning of your story is a checklist of must-have elements. One of those elements is providing readers with an immediate personal connection to the characters. In some stories, this can be difficult, since complicated plots and settings often demand the author lay down a foundation before exploring the human side of the characters. But […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Opening Lines That Lie to Readers

Your opening line may be bristling with energy, danger, and barbed fishhooks designed to reel in readers, but if the paragraph that follows pulls the old switcheroo, readers are more likely to be irritated than impressed. Let’s take a look at an example of a lying opening line: Jeanette rounded the bend in the mountain […]

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Why Opening With a Characteristic Moment Is So Important

One of your first scene’s most important jobs is introducing the main character as someone readers will find worth their time. This is best accomplished by opening with the protagonist in a “characteristic moment.” The characteristic moment will either put leading characters in a situation that shows them performing an action that will figure prominently […]

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Use a Question to Create an Unforgettable Opening Chapter

Creating an opening chapter that hooks readers into your story is the trick you have to master in every one of your stories. But once you know the secret of a good opening chapter, it’s not so tricky. The single most important element in convincing a reader to continue reading past your first page is […]

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Do You Need a Prologue? One Way to Tell

Do you need a prologue? This question confronts authors in every story they write. Unfortunately, in large part because authors don’t always understand the true function of prologues (and epilogues), the answer often results in unnecessary padding. So can how can you tell when you need a prologue in your story? And when don’t you need […]