How to Use Archetypes in a Series

One of the most common questions I receive is how to use archetypes in a series. The short answer is: however you want! Archetypes are endlessly adaptable. However, there are several important considerations to keep in mind. Most have to do with understanding the shape of the story you’re going to be telling over the […]

Announcing Archetypal Character Guided Meditations! (+Giveaway)

All this summer, I have been working hard on a secret project that combines two of my favorite things: archetypes and guided meditation. Today, I’m thrilled to announce I am releasing six Archetypal Character Guided Meditations! Based on the six transformational character arcs that I shared in my book Writing Archetypal Character Arcs, these meditations […]

What Are Antagonistic Proxies? And How Can They Help Your Story?

Understanding how story works means stripping it down to the basic mechanics that undergird storyform itself. At its simplest, story is protagonist versus antagonist. However, it’s important to understand the definitions. Although we most commonly (and usefully) think of protagonist and antagonist as vibrant, three-dimensional personalities, the functional reality is a bit simpler. Protagonist is […]

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┬ámany 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 […]