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

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

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, […]

Improve Your Character Instantly: Just Add a Ghost

I’m taking this week off for some family time, and that means we’ll be spending the next couple of posts digging through the archives. Enjoy! This week’s video talks about how giving your character a haunting backstory can instantly up the stakes and make him a more interesting personality. Video Transcript: When we’re exploring our characters and […]

Is Your Novel's Backstory Big Enough?

Is Your Novel’s Backstory Big Enough?

With all the superhero movies these days, we are seeing a lot of origin stories. And I gotta say: I love that. I love origin stories, not just because they’re a fun glimpse into the beginning stages of a familiar character, but mostly because they’re stories with psychological ramifications. They’re stories about becoming, about making choices. […]

6 Ways to Pull Off Dual Timelines in Your Novel

Some stories are so complicated they require not just one, but dual timelines to tell everything. Often, this is the result of an intricate and integral backstory, such as we might find in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood or Ann Brashares’s My Name Is Memory, which switch back and forth from a “present-day” […]