the all-important link between theme and character progression

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression

Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst. Theme is arguably the single most […]

How a Writing Warm-Up Routine Can Help You Write Better

Writers are, in a sense, athletes. We hurdle the high walls of writer’s block, we tackle mountains of research, we sprint through rapid-fire action scenes, and sometimes we even manage to hit a home run or two. So what makes us think that, unlike physical athletes, we can force our brains into action without taking […]

Should You Keep Your Writing a Secret?

I spent most of 2006 preparing to write a story about an apparently amnesiac young woman who is rescued by three very disparate friends during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Almost from the very beginning, this tale of mistaken identity, murder, and disappearing royalty had me bursting with excitement. I couldn’t wait to begin writing. […]

Character: The Most Important Part of Your Story’s Beginning

If all of writing was as difficult as the first 50 pages, I probably would have wimped out years ago and found myself a new vocation. (Something easy and safe—like being a Walmart greeter or maybe the collector of the quarters from Laundromat machines.) Despite the fact that I already know every plot turn that […]

The Importance of Art

Is Art Important to the World?

What is art? Why is this seemingly random act of creation found in every society? Why is it cherished, lauded, idolized? Is art important? For me, as someone who dares claim the lofty title of “artist,” that last question rings the loudest. Why is my writing important? Or perhaps more truthfully phrased: Is it important? […]

How I Edit Fiction

No two writers write in the same way. But even fewer writers edit in the same way. We all wield our red (or blue) pens (or pencils), hacking flabby words and injecting strong verbs and nouns in their places. We all share the end goal of a crisp, clean, beautiful final draft. And we all pull […]

how to write wildly original stories

How to Write Wildly Original Stories

Ideas swarm from the writer’s brain like bees from a hive. At any given moment, most of us have snippets of inspiration floating around in the netherworld between our conscious and unconscious. Some of those ideas we develop, some we abandon; some will turn out to be gold, some will be trash. We’ll probably never […]

kill the big fat ugly modifier

Kill the Big, Fat, Ugly Modifier!

Among writers, one of the ever-quotable Mark Twain’s most quoted witticisms is the succinct bit of advice found in Pudd’nhead Wilson: As to the Adjective: When in doubt, strike it out. Ah, adjectives! What writer hasn’t had a joyous fling or two with that most seductive of all parts of speech? In an effort to […]

why writers should have a god complex

Why Writers (Should) Have a God Complex

“You come upon the person the author put there. … beside the small running river where a boy is weeping and no one comes… and you have to watch without saying anything he can hear. …”—Marie Howe Every author is the god of his own little world. No story is the same; each is a […]

100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character

How well do you know your characters? Like the back of my hand, you say? Do you know the color of your hero’s eyes? Do you know where the bad guy went to college? Do you know your heroine’s most embarrassing moment? Can you rattle off a list of your main character’s idiosyncrasies? Typical expressions? […]