What Are Antagonistic Proxies? And How Can They Help Your Story?

Understanding how story works means stripping it down to the basic mechanics that undergird storyform itself. At its simplest, story is protagonist versus antagonist. However, it’s important to understand the definitions. Although we most commonly (and usefully) think of protagonist and antagonist as vibrant, three-dimensional personalities, the functional reality is a bit simpler. Protagonist is […]

Where Should You Start Plotting Your Story?

Where should you start plotting your story? Why, at the beginning of course! Except… when it comes to fiction, it’s not always that simple, is it? One of the key principles of story theory is “the ending is in the beginning.” What this means is that any consideration of how best to begin a story […]

Hot Tip for Character Relationships: The Relationship IS a Character

Character relationships are at the heart of most stories. Few protagonists successfully exist in a vacuum. Most will be contextualized by their supporting cast. More than that, the relationships between characters are often the single most interesting and entertaining element in any story. When asking me about my own fiction, people sometimes wonder where I […]

How to Rediscover the Joy of Writing

It’s something of an irony that most of us come to writing because we love it—and, yet, it’s actually really freaking hard. Only somewhat tongue in cheek, I will often advise that if “you can not be a writer, then don’t.” And yet it is abundantly clear that more humans than not┬áneed to write. (And […]

What Are Plot Devices? (Why You Should Be Cautious)

What are plot devices? Basically, they’re exactly what they sound like: events that maneuver the plot in particular directions. All stories are built on plot devices. In truth, everything that happens in a story is a plot device. Story structure beats are plot devices. Character arc beats are plot devices. Plot devices are the little […]

How to Write Interesting Happy Scenes? 6 Tips

With so much emphasis in fiction writing put upon the importance of conflict, a seemingly apt question is, “How can you write interesting happy scenes?” This was the question recently posed to me by Elena Singleterry, who wrote: If possible, I would like to ask a question about writing a happy scene. In my book, […]

8 Different Types of Scenes

Any story will require many different types of scenes. Some of this variety will come from content (romance vs. action vs. humor vs. tragedy). However, much of the variety in types of scenes will arise from the needs of pacing. Authors can find great value in understanding some of the different types of scenes, so […]

How to Discover What Your Character Fears

At the root of all character motivations are a handful of deeply primal drivers. Love and hate, desire and fear. Fear is a big one. As the appointed protector of our survival, fear undergirds┬ámany of our reasons and motives in life. Therefore, understanding what your character fears can offer significant insights into your story and […]

A New Way to Think About the Lie the Character Believes

One of the simplest entry points to understanding how story works is the Lie the Character Believes. It is the fulcrum of any character arc or thematic discussion within a story. It’s also the gasoline in the engine of a character’s inner conflict—and, by extension, it can either power the outer conflict or at least […]

What Does Your Character Want? Desire vs. Plot Goal vs. Moral Intention vs. Need

We often hear “conflict is story.” What does that mean? If we walk it back, we see that conflict is driven by opposition. That opposition stands between the characters and something they want. Therefore, we could just as easily say “desire is story.” But that isn’t always simple to figure out either, particularly since story […]