5 Tips for Creating Believable Fictional Languages

Gone are the days when you could speak gibberish in a movie or a novel—think Princess Leia’s scene negotiating with Jabba the Hutt in Return of the Jedi—and pass it off as obscure, exotic fictional languages. Today, when your characters speak fictional languages, your audience expects these languages to sound real, with natural-sounding vocabulary and […]

5 Tips for Organizing Subplots

Imagine you walk into a candy shop, but what you discover inside, instead of candy, is display after display of subplots. Enough to make any writer’s mouth water, right? Writers love the idea of subplots. They’re rich, juicy, complex, and full of opportunities for taking your story to the next level. But organizing subplots, or […]

5 Things You Can Read While I'm On Vacation

5 Things You Can Read While I’m On Vacation

Whoops! I’m not here today. I’m off partying someplace exotic. Or… actually not. But I am enjoying a ten-day vacation while visiting family! While I’m gone, I hope you get lots of writing done. But if you want to take a break and read something, check out the following five links for inspiration and fun. […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 62: Head-Hopping POV

You know you’ve moved beyond recreational storytelling to serious writing the moment you discover you’re hopelessly confused about POV. Other than perhaps show vs. tell, no fundamental principle of fiction dogs writers more than creating a solid narrative—which often begins by understanding how to avoid head-hopping. It happens to all of us: we energetically send […]

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 […]