Why Your Stakes Shouldn’t Be Too High

This week’s video cautions against raising stakes beyond the scope and established conflict of your story. Video Transcript: What’s one of the first things any novelist learns? Raise the stakes, right? Think of the worst possible thing that could happen to your character, then make it worse. Losing his job—eh, that’s not so bad. So maybe, after he […]

How to Keep Your Fight Scenes Interesting

This week’s video talks about the pitfalls of writing fight scenes in the age of blockbuster movies, as well as some tips for keeping the action tense and engaging. Video Transcript: If you’re like me you like nothing better than a good fictional fight scene. Aerial dogfights. Lightsaber duels. Gunfights at high noon. It’s all good. But […]

When Not to Show the Action

This week’s video uses an example from Jim Butcher’s fantasy Academ’s Fury to illustrate how to avoid unneeded action scenes. Video Transcript: Action is given a lot of emphasis these days. It can manifest differently according to the needs of the genre in general and the story in particular, but the necessity for it never changes. However, within all this […]

Why Your Story’s Conflict Isn’t Working

Conflict is the life’s blood of fiction. Conflict means something’s happening. Conflict brings change. And there’s also the little matter of human nature’s voyeuristic fascination with other people’s confrontations. “No conflict, no story” is a rule of fiction familiar to even the noobiest of noob writers. We’re told to pack in the conflict. Make sure there’s conflict on every page. When […]

Is Your Scene Break a Lying, Cheating Fraud?

This week’s video describes a fabulously gripping scene break hook that actually does more harm than good. Video Transcript: Any author worth his salt knows the scene break is dangerous ground. Any time you give readers an inkling of an excuse to set down your story, you’re in peril of losing them altogether. Who knows what fascinating stuff […]

5 Ways You’re Preventing Readers From Suspending Disbelief

Unlike non-fiction or memoir, the whole point of fiction is that it isn’t true. Or rather, that’s half the point. The other half is that this untruth is constructed in the pattern of truth, in order to shine a light on the reality of our lives. As Pablo Picasso said, “Art is the lie that tells the truth.” Readers […]

6 Ways to Pull Off Dual Timelines in Your Novel

Some stories are so complicated they require not just one, but two timelines to tell everything. Often, this is the result of an intricate and integral backstory, such as we might find in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood or Ann Brashares’s My Name Is Memory. The pitfalls of this are obvious, since you’re risking reader confusion […]

Does Your Story Need Subplots?

This week’s video analyzes the purpose and necessity of subplots. Does your story have too many or not enough? Video Transcript: We’re always hearing about subplots. But what exactly are they? And does your story really need them? In a nutshell, a subplot is just a miniature plot that features a sideline story. If your […]

Here Are Five Great Ways to Pace Your Story

Here Are Five Great Ways to Pace Your Story

Pacing is like a dam. It allows the writer to control just how fast or how slow the plot flows through the riverbed of the story. Understanding how to operate that dam is one of the most important tasks an author has to learn. Without this skill, we end up writing stories that variously lack […]

Character and Plot – One and The Same Thing?

Plot is character, and character is plot, because as soon as a character takes a meaningful action, his action is driving your plot (whether you like it or not). Conversely, as soon as an event happens which elicits a meaningful reaction from your character, then his true character begins developing in the eyes of the […]