How to Pull Off a Plot Twist

Note: This is the last week in my vacation from the usual post and podcast. Today, I am sharing another fast tip that I hope you will enjoy and find useful! I will be back next week with a brand new two-part series about how you can use the Enneagram to strengthen your story’s character […]

7 Tips for How to Add Complexity to Your Story

So you want to add complexity to your story. Most authors do. Complexity just sounds so… sophisticated. It sounds like one of those novels or films that are taken apart and analyzed by really smart critics and professors. It sounds like taking your story to the next level. And in some ways, it is. Complex […]

Is Your Story Too Complicated? Here Are 9 Signs

Calling a story “complex” is a high compliment. But what is complexity? How can we learn how to write stories that are complex—without skidding across that narrow dividing line into complicated? What’s the difference between a complex story and a complicated story? And is your story too complicated? This a topic I’ve spent quite some […]

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 […]