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? […]

major role of minor characters

The Major Role of Minor Characters

Minor characters can make or break a story just as surely as can a protagonist. I’ve been thinking lately of two decidedly minor characters in two of my works-in-progress. Although both impact the plot in crucial ways, neither is irreplaceable or deserving of more than a handful of scenes. But both of them taught me […]

The Do's and Don'ts of Internal Monologue

The Do’s and Don’ts of Internal Monologue

Internal monologue is one of the many necessary ingredients used to concoct a complete, well-rounded story. Unfortunately, it’s all too often one of the most abused and overused ingredients. I just finished reading a historical fantasy—which included storms, swordfights, treachery, true love, and all kinds of swashbuckling—that made every promise of delivering a jolly good tale. But […]

what dickens can teach us about complex characters

What Dickens Can Teach Us About Complex Characters

In Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens’s final completed novel, he presents for us one of his most comprehensive and well-rounded tales. Herein is all the darkness of Hard Times, the cynicism of Martin Chuzzlewit, but also the optimism and hopefulness of David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby. G.K. Chesterton wrote of Our Mutual Friend that it […]