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My Top Books of 2017

My Top Books of 2017

When you’re a writer, stories are life. You can’t create them without ingesting them. That’s why Stephen King famously said: If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. That’s why this annual look back at my top books of 2017 is always one […]

How to Write Funny

Part 17 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel If you ask me, the trifecta of must-have story elements are: relationships, action, and humor. Of the three, arguably the most difficult is learning how to write funny. You can’t fake humor. It either works or it doesn’t. This might prompt some writers to […]

5 (Not-So-Little) Additions to the Great Novel-Writing Checklist

5 (Not-So-Little) Additions to the Great Novel-Writing Checklist

Learning how to write a successful novel is largely a matter of memorizing and mentally tracking the vast number of “parts” that make a story run. Honestly, this alone is sometimes the hardest part of the entire job. There’s a lot to remember—which is why, today, we’re going to look at the second part of our […]

Preparing for NaNoWriMo: Your Guide to Outlining Success

Forget turkeys and football. NaNoWriMo—or National Novel Writing Month—has turned November into  “da Writing Month.” But as so many authors have learned over the years, the best way to be successful in November is to start preparing for NaNoWriMo in October (aka Preptober). If you’re going to have a decent shot at writing 50k good words […]

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 […]

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 […]

Boyhood Movie

Boyhood

Movie: Directed by Richard Linklater. Notes: Yeah, the notes come first on this one, just because the following breakdown needs context. People sometimes complain that the problem with story structure is that it is just arbitrarily imposed on any narrative. In this particular case, it’s completely true. I have identified beats that could possibly fit […]

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, […]