Use This Subplot to Bring Depth to Plot-Driven Stories

Subplots are surprisingly misunderstood. Primarily, this is because the best subplots are always natural offshoots of the plot itself. They’re so integral to the plot that they’re basically inextricable from it. Let me start with a basic definition of the subplot: The subplot is a thematically related exploration of a minor part of the protagonist’s […]

Is Your Story’s Pacing Moving Too Fast?

Stakes are important in any story. In some genres, readers want to feel a sense of desperation and urgency on the characters’ behalf. One of the best ways to ramp up that feeling is to tighten the story’s timeline and speed up events. Your characters have to disarm a ticking bomb? How much more exciting […]

What's the Difference Between Conflict and Tension?

What’s the Difference Between Conflict and Tension?

What is the difference between conflict and tension? I sometimes use the two terms interchangeably, not so much because they’re the same thing (they’re not) but because they’re kissing cousins that fulfill similar functions within the story. Conflict indicates a defined obstruction between the character and the goal. Two people arguing. Two armies fighting. Or […]

Pour on the Conflict!

As we continue with our series about what I learned while writing my fantasy novel Dreamlander, I’d like to devote today’s post to the all-important subject of conflict. I love action stories, so most of my novels lean in that direction. Dreamlander is no different. It features large-scale Renaissance-esque battles among other things. But the truth is […]

Are You Skimming Your Story’s Potential?

It’s not enough to write a story that just covers its bases. By that I mean a story that essentially works—it’s properly structured, the prose is professional, and it possesses all the working pieces (plot, character, etc.). You can check all the boxes on your story checklist and still end up with a story that […]

Why Your Story Stakes Shouldn’t Be Too High

What’s one of the first things any novelist learns? Raise the stakes, right? You’re supposed to 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 loses his job, his daughter gets kidnapped. But that’s still not the […]

How to Keep Your Fight Scenes Interesting

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 this type of scene can be surprisingly difficult to write. How to keep your fight scenes interesting? The first problem, of course, is getting all your facts straight—because the […]

When Not to Show the Action in a Story

Action is given a lot of emphasis these days. It can manifest differently according to the needs of genre and the individual story, but the necessity for it never changes. However, within all this emphasis put upon showing action instead of telling it, we can sometimes lose sight of the fact that there are moments […]

The Most Crucial Ingredient for Solid Story Conflict

Conflict is the life’s blood of fiction. Conflict means something is 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 […]

Is Your Scene Break a Lying, Cheating Fraud?

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 they may find to keep them from returning? Chocolate pudding? That latest rerun of I Love Lucy? A good ol’ snooze? Whatever […]