How to Show the Passage of Time in Your Novel

The passage of time is one thing all stories have in common. In some stories, such as “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, maybe only a few minutes pass. In some novels, such as James Michener’s Centennial, decades pass. In some books, we may even see millennia go by. But no matter how much time […]

Are You Giving Readers the Tools to Understand Your Story?

One of the reasons story beginnings are so tricky is the sheer volume of information the author has to share with readers, just to make sure readers understand what’s going on. This grows all the more true when your story is presenting unusual or unexpected characters or settings. The trick is sharing the information without […]

The Value of Good Customer Service

This  post is by Carrie Spencer. Hi all! My name is Carrie and I’m a customer-service-aholic. Yes, I just made that word up. I’ve been in the restaurant business for twenty-two years as a bartender, a waitress, and a manager—occasionally all at the same time. In order to be successful in the restaurant business, you […]

Don’t Even Think About Using First-Person Unless…

First-person is a popular narrative perspective, among both authors and readers, since it allows the narrating character to directly address readers by funneling the entire story through the narrator’s head, using the pronoun “I”—as in, “I went dragon slaying that fateful day”—versus the third-person pronouns—as in, “she went dragon slaying that fateful day.” First-person POVs […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Too Much Explanation

Readers have needs. Authors are supposed to fulfill those needs. One of those needs is knowing what’s going on in a story, so naturally the author’s response is to explain what’s going on. So far, so good, right? Well, that depends. Explanations, in whatever form (narrative, dialogue, or action), are essential to any story. But […]

How to Choose the Right Words for Your Story’s Tone

Words are the link between the ethereal realm of our imaginations and the concrete reality of our books. So it’s no surprise that our choice of words is the single most important factor in our presentation of our stories. It’s also one of the toughest, since there are millions of words for us to choose […]

Should You Ever Use Unusual Narrative Forms?

When readers open a book, they usually know what they’re going to be getting. First- or third-person narrative voices, told in the past tense, in a linear timeline, are the most common narrative forms. Readers are familiar with these forms and comfortable with them, and, because these forms allow a nice blend of flexibility and […]

How to Create Subtext by Letting Your Readers Fill in the Blanks

As I discussed in a recent post (“Why Your Reader Is Your Co-Writer”), the best authors understand how to sketch their stories with just enough detail to let readers see the scene, while still leaving room for readers to fill in the blanks. The trick for how to create subtext with just the right balance […]

Waiter! There’s a Smphurphle in My Fantasy Novel: Do's and Don'ts of Made-Up Words

Waiter! There’s a Smphurphle in My Fantasy Novel: Do’s and Don’ts of Made-Up Words

One of the joys writing fantasy is the necessity of creating made-up names for your unique worlds, races, creatures, and technology. However, even the best of fantasy writers occasionally take this to a worrisome extreme when they start slapping made-up names on things that really aren’t so fantastical after all. In Alchemy With Words (edited […]

The Simplest Trick for Avoiding Info Dumps

Sometimes authors are faced with the necessity of avoiding info dumps while feeding the reader large chunks of information via internal narrative. The problem, of course, is that, faced with pages of straight narrative in solid blocks of text, readers often grow restless. Vital as the information may be, readers want to get back to […]