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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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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 […]

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6 Requirements for Writing Better Character Goals

Quick. Tell me what your characters want. Maybe you have an immediate answer. Maybe your protagonist wants to save the world, survive, or live happily ever after. While those are all legit goals that have powered hundreds of good stories, what I’m talking about is what your characters want. I’m talking about the one thing your […]

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5 Ways to Use Theme to Create Character Arc (and Vice Versa)

What’s the easiest way to find your story’s theme—and make it stick? Although any discussion of theme is multi-faceted, one of the best ways to approach this complex topic is through the realization that you can use theme to create character arc—and vice versa. When asked to explain what a particular story is about, some […]

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How to Write Emotion: An Experimental Study

Not too many years ago, I thought an accurately portrayed scene naturally caused readers to experience the emotions that the characters would logically feel in such situations. Not true! As Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi explain in The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, we must take our innate skills of observation and […]

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7 Things Your Character Is Hiding

Being able to write realistic, consistent, multi-dimensional characters is vital to gaining reader interest. Doing so first requires we know a lot about who our characters are—you know, the obvious stuff: positive and negative traits, behavioral habits, desires, goals, and the like. But it’s not always the obvious parts of characterization that create the most […]

writing large casts of characters

The 10 Rules of Writing Large Casts of Characters

Large casts of characters are the thing these days. Rowling, Martin, and Marvel—just to name a few newsworthy examples—victoriously (and sometimes not-so-victoriously) throw casts of hundreds at screen and paper. Understandably, writers rush to emulate—both because, on a head level, this seems like the obvious path to success, and because, on a heart level, we […]

Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters2

5 Ways to Use the Enneagram to Write Better Characters

The Enneagram. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you’ve even used the Enneagram to write better characters. Like Myers-Briggs, Socionics, and the Four Temperaments, the Enneagram is one of many systems within the study of personality theory. These systems are designed to identify the patterns found in the different ways we approach various aspects of […]

Use Plot, Character, and Theme in Every Scene

How to Intertwine Plot, Character, and Theme in Every Scene

If plot, character, and theme are the foundational underpinnings of story itself, then they must be present in every scene as well, right? But that gets tricky. How can you make sure these elements are doing their job in every scene? And if they’re not present in every scene, does that necessarily mean the scene is […]