catharsis and the written word

Catharsis and the Written Word

Pop quiz! Anybody gone through one of those days when you just want to throw the telephone into the toilet, crawl under the bed, and solace yourself with chocolate and Kleenex? Or maybe you know the kind of day (or week, or month, or year) I’m talking about, but your chosen response involves throwing large […]

major role of minor characters

The Major Role of Minor Characters

Minor characters can make or break a story just as surely as can a protagonist. I’ve been thinking lately of two decidedly minor characters in two of my works-in-progress. Although both impact the plot in crucial ways, neither is irreplaceable or deserving of more than a handful of scenes. But both of them taught me […]

The World View of Christian Fiction

Every book you read is a tractate on the world view of the author. In some stories, the author’s viewpoint is immediately discernible; perhaps the book’s premise was even based on a view the author passionately wanted to share, such as Charles Dickens’s frequent crusades against the injustices of Victorian England (Oliver Twist, Bleak House, […]

The Do's and Don'ts of Internal Monologue

The Do’s and Don’ts of Internal Monologue

Internal monologue is one of the many necessary ingredients used to concoct a complete, well-rounded story. Unfortunately, it’s all too often one of the most abused and overused ingredients. I just finished reading a historical fantasy—which included storms, swordfights, treachery, true love, and all kinds of swashbuckling—that made every promise of delivering a jolly good tale. But […]

what the movies can teach you about setting

One Thing the Movies Can Teach You About Setting

Often, setting is so integral to a story that it becomes a character in itself. Fantasy, science fiction, and historical stories all demand detailed and precise settings. Most mysteries will demand at least one scene set in a police station or morgue. Many thrillers and suspense stories have found great success by confining their boundaries […]

when not to skip the prologue

When Not to Skip the Prologue

If you read last week’s post, “Skip the Prologue,” you’ve hopefully seen some of the reasons prologues are often a bad idea. Even prologues that escape being boring information dumps tend to delve into the dangerous waters of distancing a reader from the main story. Having invested their interest and emotion in a prologue, a […]

Skip the Prologue!

Writers have an ongoing love affair with the prologue. You know, that chapter before a chapter inserted at the beginning of a book, intended to fill the reader in on important need-to-know info, so that he and the writer will be on the same page when they dive into the “real” beginning of the story. […]

Blogging Like a Writer

All right, pop quiz! Everybody, listen up, ‘cuz this promises to be important. Someone, please tell me what a blog is. (Yeah, I know, I should have warned you it’d be easy.) Next question: Who writes blogs? (That one’s little harder, you say? All right, I’ll tell you the answer.) Writers. Writers write blogs. (Ta-da! […]

dostoyevsky and the art of in medias res

Dostoevsky and the Art of In Medias Res

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short novel The Gambler never reached the popularity and renown of his other works (Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and Notes From Underground, most notably), but it deserves a spotlight of its own for several reasons. The most notable reason is undeniably its stunning and incisive portrayal of gambling addiction. Dostoevsky, who […]

what dickens can teach us about complex characters

What Dickens Can Teach Us About Complex Characters

In Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens’s final completed novel, he presents for us one of his most comprehensive and well-rounded tales. Herein is all the darkness of Hard Times, the cynicism of Martin Chuzzlewit, but also the optimism and hopefulness of David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby. G.K. Chesterton wrote of Our Mutual Friend that it […]