9 Ways to Approach Relationship Dynamics in Fiction

Creating an amazing supporting cast that can offer important relationship dynamics in fiction will also help develop your protagonist. This isn’t just because great supporting characters will add color, drama, and nuance to your story in their own right. It’s also because every supporting character in your story has the ability to bring out new […]

Conflict in Fiction: What It Really Is and Why It’s Important to Plot

Conflict is one of the central engines of story. We’ve all heard it: no conflict, no story. On the surface, that makes total sense. But I find there can be a lot of confusion around the word “conflict.” What is conflict in fiction really? What is its purpose? What does it look like in a […]

How to Make Your Character’s Choices More Difficult

One of the best things about conflict is that it pushes your characters to act. In every scene, your characters are making choices—big ones and small ones and thereby steering their fate. Some decisions will be obvious and require little to no thought, but others will be muddier, with no clear “better” option, generating inner […]

7 Frequently Asked Writing Questions

7 Frequently Asked Writing Questions

The amazing thing about being a writer is that you get to be part of a writing community. Especially now, in the Internet age, you have access not just to the writings of the great minds who have gone before, but also to the shared wisdom, common sense, commiseration, and encouragement of all your contemporaries. If […]

7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists

7 Ways to Write Thematically-Pertinent Antagonists

Thematically-pertinent antagonists are the lynchpin that holds together any successful story. You can write delicious protagonists, snappy dialogue, riveting conflict, and deep themes—and still, your story can fail simply because the antagonist was taken for granted as a leering, two-dimensional bad guy. We’ve talked before about how (somewhat non-intuitively) the character who provides the entire foundation for […]

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

How to Create Meaningful Obstacles Via Conflict

Conflict is one of those terms frequently used as a catch-all for compelling storytelling, when it’s really just one aspect of what makes a strong story. We use it even though we really mean the scene needs a clearer goal, or more tension, or a better character arc, but saying “this scene needs more conflict” […]

5 Tips for Writing a Likable “Righteous” Character

It ain’t easy being green, but sometimes it’s even harder being good. When you think of great characters in books and movies, those who pop to mind are often people of moral complexity: youngsters coming of age in a complicated world, antiheroes haunted by their own dark natures, wounded souls fighting not to succumb to […]

what does it mean / to move the PLOT?

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 59: Overly Complex Plots

Complex plots? Good. Overly complex plots? Not so good. Complex plots are the stuff of literary mastery. They can take a story beyond a single dimension into an intricate exploration of life. Dickens, Mann, Eliot, and so many more literary luminaries show us how to do it right. But do it wrong, and what we […]

Move the Plot2

What Does It Mean to Move the Plot?

“Move the plot, move the plot—everything in your story must move your plot!!!” So rail all writing professors. Meanwhile, the writers themselves just want to bang their heads against their keyboards in desperate frustration. “Okay, yes, fine, great—I want to move the plot. But what does that even meeeeaaannnn?!?!?!?!” (Enough interrobangs, for you?) (No?) (Okay, sorry: […]

An Easy Way To Notch Up Your Scene Conflict

An Easy Way to Notch Up Your Scene Conflict

Scene conflict is what keeps your story running, chapter after chapter, page after page. Conflict is the heart of each scene, and each of those scenes is one of the dozens of tiny engines keeping your plot moving forward—and your readers glued to the page. It’s helpful to think of scene conflict as not so much […]