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?

This week’s video encourages writers not to skimp on important (and fun) backstory. Video Transcript: With all the superhero movies going around these days, there are 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 […]

6 Ways to Pull Off Dual Timelines in Your Novel

Some stories are so complicated they require not just one, but two 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. The pitfalls of this are obvious, since you’re risking reader confusion […]

When Not to Tell Your Character’s Backstory

This week’s video compares two movie adaptations of The Scarlet Pimpernel to discover how we can best convey our characters’ backstories. Video Transcript: In other recent posts, we’ve discussed the value of backstory, even to the point of writing your backstory as your story when it’s the more interesting of the two. But, generally speaking, that’s going to be […]

When Your Backstory Becomes Your Story

This week’s video offers several options for dealing with a large and fascinating backstory.  But before we dive into the post, let me invite you to stop over at Roz Morris’s blog My Memories of a Future Life. For the last few months, she’s been hosting the fascinating series Undercover Soundtrack, in which authors reveal […]

How Much Should You Explain in a Story’s Beginning?

One of the trickiest parts of any story is the beginning. And one of the trickiest parts of a story’s beginning is figuring out how to balance the need to keep the story moving forward with the need to explain lots of important background details to the reader. This is a balance that will be […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes: Nothing Happening in Your Scene

What happens next? is the question we all want to inspire (in breathless tones) from our readers. But in order for something to happen next, something has to happen to begin with. At first glance, that’s a no-brainer, but it’s actually ridiculously easy to write scene after scene in which one big fat stinking hunk […]


Discover the Perfect Place to Insert Backstory

How is an author to know the perfect place to insert backstory? Sooner or later, most authors feel constrained by the technique of opening a story in medias res, when we know readers won’t fully comprehend events unless we’ve first given them an understanding of the important backstory that preceded the opening. But by the […]

The 4 Most Common Mistakes Fiction Editors See

Wouldn’t it be great if nobody ever needed an editor? If all of our stories and novels appeared in readers’ minds just as beautifully and vividly and succinctly they do in our own? Wouldn’t it be great if the story we think we’ve told were, in fact, the story we’ve told? There are more aspiring […]

walk-on character

Making the Most of Walk-On Characters

Walk-on characters are often the neglected heroes of fiction. If the protagonist didn’t have other people with whom to interact, most stories would quickly fall apart. So, whenever the need arises, we stick in a taxi driver or a receptionist or a bum on the corner. Often, these unnamed characters fulfill the needs of the […]