Hot Tip for Character Relationships: The Relationship IS a Character

Character relationships are at the heart of most stories. Few protagonists successfully exist in a vacuum. Most will be contextualized by their supporting cast. More than that, the relationships between characters are often the single most interesting and entertaining element in any story. When asking me about my own fiction, people sometimes wonder where I […]

How to Discover What Your Character Fears

At the root of all character motivations are a handful of deeply primal drivers. Love and hate, desire and fear. Fear is a big one. As the appointed protector of our survival, fear undergirds many of our reasons and motives in life. Therefore, understanding what your character fears can offer significant insights into your story and […]

A New Way to Think About the Lie the Character Believes

One of the simplest entry points to understanding how story works is the Lie the Character Believes. It is the fulcrum of any character arc or thematic discussion within a story. It’s also the gasoline in the engine of a character’s inner conflict—and, by extension, it can either power the outer conflict or at least […]

What Does Your Character Want? Desire vs. Plot Goal vs. Moral Intention vs. Need

We often hear “conflict is story.” What does that mean? If we walk it back, we see that conflict is driven by opposition. That opposition stands between the characters and something they want. Therefore, we could just as easily say “desire is story.” But that isn’t always simple to figure out either, particularly since story […]

What’s the Difference? Your Character’s Ghost vs. Wound vs. Lie vs. Weakness

One of the major keys to engineering characters who can create reader-favorite moments is understanding your characters’ weaknesses. But those weaknesses seem to be known, in writer terminology, by a dizzying array of names, including “ghost,” “wound,” and “lie.” What’s the difference? And which goes where in the story, and how do they each operate […]

5 Ways to Use Your Character’s Shadows to Power Your Story

Complex characters mirror real-life humans in their contradictions of inner light and dark. As writers, it is our job to create these contrasts in ways that become cohesive and thematically meaningful. One of the simplest—and most effective—ways to do this is to explore shadow theory. In last week’s post, we talked about the concept of […]

How to Create Insanely Complex Characters Using “Shadow Theory”

Complex characters are the beating heart of good fiction. The simplest and most effective ways to engineer this complexity is to create contrast, and one of the most intuitive tools a writer can use for identifying which contrasting elements are organic to any given character or story situation is… shadow theory. The “shadow” is a […]

Have You Chosen the Right POV Character for Your Story?

Note: After all the excitement of launching my new book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs last month, I’m giving myself a little break this week from the usual post and podcast. Instead, I am sharing a fast tip that I hope you will enjoy and find useful! I will be back next week with a brand new […]

How Archetypes Changed My Life and My Writing

Story and life are inextricably linked. To write better stories, we study life. And to live better lives, we study stories. There are many obvious reasons why this is so. Stories, after all, are meant to be relatively accurate reflections of life. However, the more I study story theory, the deeper the rabbit hole seems […]

Top 14 Tips and Tools for Creating Unique Character Voices

Voice in fiction is crucial—but also elusive. First, writers must consider their own authorial voices, then the story’s specific narrative voice, and last but certainly not least character voices. In fact, if you’re writing fiction, the most important voices on the page technically aren’t yours, but your characters’. All of ’em. And they all need […]