Characters: Likability Is Overrated

Characters: Likability Is Overrated

Writers want readers to love their characters. We want them to connect with the men and women who inhabit our stories. We want them to empathize so strongly that they are moved to laughter and to tears right along with these imaginary people we’ve created. So, naturally, we want our characters to be as likable […]

The 5 Secrets of Grabbing Your Readers' Emotions

The 5 Secrets of Grabbing Your Readers’ Emotions

Want to know the secrets of grabbing your readers’ emotions? For starters, let’s pretend I’m your reader–‘cuz I’m a hard sell. I’m not a very emotional person. Even when I feel deeply about something, it takes a lot to move me to tears. I can count on my fingers the stories that have made me […]

4 Ways to Make Readers Instantly Loathe Your Character Descriptions

4 Ways to Make Readers Instantly Loathe Your Character Descriptions

Fiction once began with the face, with the act of observation of the faces of others. Does it still? It’s arguable. I can imagine a skeptic wondering what difference it makes whether writers describe faces or not. Does anything of importance really hang in the balance? Who cares? Does it make any difference to the […]

Outlining Your Novel The 5-Step Gameplan

Outline Your Novel: The 5-Step Game Plan

Generally speaking, writers fall into two different categories: outliners and non-outliners (or, as my critique partner Linda Yezak has dubbed them, “seat-of-the-pantsters”). I’m an outliner. Mostly, I outline because I’m lazy. I hate rewriting; I hate watching my burst of pride and relief at the end of a novel dissipate in a realization of a hole-riddled […]

5 Important Considerations for Naming Your Characters

My parents chose their children’s names according the meanings. They named me Kathryn in hopes its meaning, “pure,” would bear fruit in my life. (Of course, they also gave me a middle name that means “bitter,” so I’m still trying to figure out the ramifications of that… Pure bitter just doesn’t have quite the same […]

the three must-have story elements action humor and relationships

3 Must-Have Story Elements: Humor, Action, and Relationships

Allow me to be radical for a moment, and reduce the art of fiction to three basic story elements. Take a gander at your bookshelf, maybe even pull a couple titles, and see if you can’t pick out the common threads. (Presumably, your personal library of favorites doesn’t contain any shoddy writing or weak themes, blatant […]

the all-important link between theme and character progression

The All-Important Link Between Theme and Character Progression

Theme is a slippery concept. The prevailing wisdom among writers is that if you apply any deliberate force to your theme, you’ll end up with a heavy-handed Aesop’s fable. On the other hand, a story without a theme is shallow escapism at best and an unrealistic flop at worst. Theme is arguably the single most […]

Character: The Most Important Part of Your Story’s Beginning

If all of writing was as difficult as the first 50 pages, I probably would have wimped out years ago and found myself a new vocation. (Something easy and safe—like being a Walmart greeter or maybe the collector of the quarters from Laundromat machines.) Despite the fact that I already know every plot turn that […]

why writers should have a god complex

Why Writers (Should) Have a God Complex

“You come upon the person the author put there. … beside the small running river where a boy is weeping and no one comes… and you have to watch without saying anything he can hear. …”—Marie Howe Every author is the god of his own little world. No story is the same; each is a […]

100+ Questions to Help You Interview Your Character

How well do you know your characters? Like the back of my hand, you say? Do you know the color of your hero’s eyes? Do you know where the bad guy went to college? Do you know your heroine’s most embarrassing moment? Can you rattle off a list of your main character’s idiosyncrasies? Typical expressions? […]