Why Cool Character Traits (Just for the Sake of Cool) Are Not Cool

Why Cool Character Traits (Just for the Sake of Cool) Are Not Cool

We’re all looking for high-concept ideas for our stories and character traits these days. You need to come up with something unique that’s going to make your story stand out on the bookshelf. Plus, who among us doesn’t like a little extra “cool” in our stories–just because? But hold up right there. “Cool” for the sake of cool […]

The #1 Problem With Backstory (and Its Simple Fix)

The #1 Problem With Backstory (and Its Simple Fix)

There’s a problem with backstory? Among writers that’s a rhetorical question. We all know there are lots of potential problems with backstory—everything from where to put it in the story to how much of it we should even be sharing with readers in the first place. But before you can start worrying about any of […]

Find Out if Your Prologue Is Destroying Your Story’s Subtext

Find Out if Your Prologue Is Destroying Your Story’s Subtext

You hear it all the time: prologues are evil. (And writers everywhere commence howling.) Now I’ll grant that “evil” is a slight exaggeration. We might call them “dangerous” instead, except that word is pretty ironic, since one of the chief reasons a prologue is so dangerous is because it allows authors to play it waaaaay yonder […]

Give Me 3 Minutes and I’ll Give You a Better (and Darker) Backstory

This week’s video shows you how to approach a dark character backstory fearlessly—and make your story all the better for it. Video Transcript: Here’s something sad I’ve noticed about many writers—myself included: we talk a good talk about character backstory, but we don’t always back that up with a good walk. Mostly, what I mean […]

The Only Rule About Backstory That Matters

The Only Rule About Backstory That Matters

This week’s video learn how to write backstory that matters to your story and entrances readers with its possibilities. Video Transcript: I get a lot of questions about backstory: How much should you include? Where should you put in your book? When should you put it? And these are all really good questions. Backstory is […]

John Ford on Creating Vivid Characters With Minimum Effort

John Ford on Creating Marvelous Characters With Minimum Effort

This week’s video shows how a little subtext can make vivid characters out of your entire cast. Video Transcript: A few weeks ago, we talked about how we do not want ciphers in our stories. We want fully fleshed-out, rounded, dimensional characters—people who feel real enough that maybe we could see them in the coffee […]

How to Use Backstory to Keep Readers Reading

How to Use Backstory to Keep Readers Reading

Today, I’m guest posting over on Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog, with the post  “How to Use Backstory to Keep Readers Reading.” Here’s an excerpt: Backstory is a weapon. And just like any weapon, it can end up doing more harm than good to those who wield it without proper experience and care. But in the hands of […]

Keeping Secrets How to Make Your Book Un-Put-Down-able

Keeping Secrets: How to Make Your Book Un-Put-Down-able

Did you know there’s only one (count it: one!) reason readers read? This reason manifests in many different ways. One reader might call it a search for knowledge. Another might call it a desire to be swept away to unfamiliar worlds. Others might say they’re after adrenaline or maybe romance. But what those reasons all […]

creating stunning character arcs your character's ghost

Creating Stunning Character Arcs, Pt. 4: Your Character’s Ghost

What is your character’s ghost, and how does it affect his character arc? Once you’ve figured out the Lie Your Character Believes, as well as Thing He Wants and the Thing He Needs, the next question you need to ask yourself is: Why does the character believe the Lie in the first place? To find […]

Why Your Antagonist Needs a Mushy Moment

Why Your Antagonist Needs a Mushy Moment

When it comes to writing our antagonist, we face a dichotomy: we want them to be bad, but we also want them to be three-dimensional, faceted human beings. In short, we want to create bad guys who aren’t all bad, bad guys whom readers will still be able to find a spark of sympathy for, […]