8 Ways to Avoid Cardboard Characters (and Plot Contrivances While You’re At It)

“The plot was contrived, and the characters were cardboard.” Ouch. That’s about as bad as it can get when it comes to negative story reviews. It’s also perhaps one of the most common complaints audiences have about stories. Certainly, it’s one that irritates me the most! Here’s the thing though: cardboard characters often cause plot contrivances—and […]

Deepening Your Story’s Theme With the Thematic Square

How can you deepen your story’s theme? This is a question most writers find themselves asking at one point or another. And there are many answers. As an inherently abstract concept, theme can be approached from many different directions—and still feel hard to get at. But as one of the most important factors in creating […]

14 Tips for Dealing With the Passage of Time in a Story

The passage of time in a story is, in some ways, what fiction is all about. But for most authors in most stories, the passage of time won’t necessarily be an explicit consideration. If I asked you right now how much time passes in your latest story, would you know off the top of your […]

6 Ways to Craft Spectacular Set-Piece Scenes

What are set-piece scenes? They’re the big ones. They’re the scenes that define your story, not just in terms of plot mechanics, but particularly in terms of scope and impact. These are the scenes your audience will remember when they think about your story. They’re the scenes they’ll remember even when they’ve forgotten everything else about […]

3 Questions to Make Sure You Aren’t Missing Out on Important Scenes

For one reason or another, it can sometimes be tempting to avoid writing certain important scenes. Issues that are difficult emotionally or that we have to expend extra effort to research properly may be issues we’d just as soon write our way around. But doing so is usually a fast and easy way to frustrate […]

Conflict in Fiction: What It Really Is and Why It’s Important to Plot

Conflict is one of the central engines of story. We’ve all heard it: no conflict, no story. On the surface, that makes total sense. But I find there can be a lot of confusion around the word “conflict.” What is conflict in fiction really? What is its purpose? What does it look like in a […]

The Two Halves of the First Plot Point

The First Plot Point is one of the most important turning points within the entire structure of story. As with all of the major structural beats, the idea of a “turning point” offers the inherent concept of two halves: turning away from one thing/state into another thing/state. The First Plot Point is often referred to […]

6 Questions to Help You Avoid Repetitive Scenes

It takes a lot of scenes to make a novel. Not only do we need enough scenes to progress the plot and get the characters from Point A to Point B, we also need to reach a certain word count so the book can be a novel. (Or the movie can be a movie. Ya […]

The Main Reason Your Story’s Premise Is Important

Your story’s premise is the foundation of your work. This is true for the shaping of the story itself, and it is also true from a marketing perspective. For both writers and readers, the premise is the reason we become interested in a story. Even when you don’t know your premise until late in the […]

4 Questions to Prevent Plot Holes

How peachy would the writing life be if we didn’t have to prevent plot holes. Just imagine—you could write anything you wanted to, and every single thing would make sense. No need to worry about the fact that your two awesome scenes actually don’t make sense side by side. They get to be in the […]