Why Doubt Is the Key to Flat Character Arcs

Flat Character Arcs create some of the most exciting and powerful stories. Most of the time, when people think of “character arc,” they’re likely to think of Positive Change Arcs, in which the protagonist himself undergoes an empowering personal change. Flat Arcs, by contrast, are about a protagonist who does not personally change, but who […]

The Only Reason You Should Write A Female Protagonist

Why We Need More Thematically-Pertinent Female Protagonists

It’s become a mantra now: “We need more female protagonists.” But I say: No. Uhh…. what? No. I say stop already with this crazily simplistic demand for “female protagonists.” Because it’s so totally not working. The problem, as is so often the case, is that authors, producers, and directors, who are either feeling pressured to […]

7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists

7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists

Thematically-pertinent antagonists are the lynchpin that holds together any successful story. You can write delicious protagonists, snappy dialogue, riveting conflict, and deep themes—and still, your story can fail simply because the antagonist was taken for granted as a leering, two-dimensional bad guy. We’ve talked before about how (somewhat non-intuitively) the character who provides the entire foundation for […]

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

Conflict is one of those terms frequently used as a catch-all for compelling storytelling, when it’s really just one aspect of what makes a strong story. We use it even though we really mean the scene needs a clearer goal, or more tension, or a better character arc, but saying “this scene needs more conflict” […]

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book

4 Questions You Should Never Ask About Your Book

“No such thing as a stupid question.” Sounds good, right? Sounds like, “Yay! Let’s be inquisitive and creative and learn stuff!” But here’s the problem: there is such a thing as a stupid question, and the bigger problem is that stupid questions are not just missed opportunities, they are actually counter-productive to curiosity, creativity, and learning. […]

Multiple Narrators? How to Choose the Right POV

If you’re writing a multiple point of view novel—whether you’ve got two POV characters or an ensemble cast of POVs—it’s critical you know how to choose the right POV character’s perspective for each scene in your story. This may seem like a no-brainer, something that happens instinctively as you write, but I often see stories […]

4 Ways to Write a Thought-Provoking Mentor Character

Part 16 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel Good stories rise and fall based on their minor characters. You can write an amazing protagonist, but if he isn’t supported by an equally amazing cast, the story will fail to fully develop the protagonist himself, fail to flesh out the thematic premise, and, […]

10 Steps to Perfecting Your Writing Style

“I always have a point of view. It may not be right, but it’s my own.”—Baz Luhrmann Four years ago, I watched Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby on the big cinema screen. As the film ended after 143 minutes, a long silence settled over the auditorium. It was a silence I had never experienced before, almost a […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes (Flat Plots)

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 61: 5 Types of Clunky Dialogue

When you write excellent dialogue, you will simultaneously sharpen the rest of your narrative tools. When you write clunky dialogue, however, it’s unlikely readers will be able to engage with the story on any level. Happily, dialogue is usually one of the most enjoyable and intuitive parts of writing narrative fiction. We all do dialogue […]

How to Write Your Characters' Actions with Clarity

How to Write Your Characters’ Actions with Clarity

Have you ever tried to watch an old film? Not a digitally remastered edition or a corrected copy, but a genuinely old film, silent and sepia-toned. Some frames are misplaced or backwards. Some aren’t there at all. You can follow the action well enough, filling in the gaps where they appear—but that doesn’t mean you […]