3 Ways to Test Your Story’s Emotional Stakes

Part 14 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel You can do almost everything right in a story, and it will not matter. Acing your story structure, constructing a solid thematic premise, and punching your card on every important character-arc beat will not matter—if you don’t also nail the emotional stakes. The craft of storytelling […]

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 55

Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 54: Story Events That Don’t Move the Plot

One of your chief jobs as a writer is to come up with story events—stuff that happens in your story. Coming up with these exciting elements is likely why you started writing in the first place. Like C.S. Lewis, you were zapped with the electrifying image of a faun carrying packages and an umbrella through the snow—and […]

The Nanowrimo Guide to Outlining (How to Find the Heart of Your Story)

3 Steps to Find the Heart of Your Story (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 3)

Most of the time when you start figuring out how to outline a story, you know one of two things about that story. Either you know the skeleton of your story (its premise or plot), or you know the heart of your story. But it’s not enough to have just one. You gotta have both. On its surface, […]

How to Choose the Right Antagonist for Your Story

Part 12 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel What’s the secret of how to choose the right antagonist for your story? If you’re thinking it’s probably a little more complicated than simply making him a “bad” guy who’s out to get your protagonist, you’re definitely on the right track. In fact, how to choose […]

Powerful Themes in Captain American Winter Soldier

Is This the Single Best Way to Write Powerful Themes?

Part 9 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel The longer I study stories, the more convinced I am that the one single thing that sets apart the great stories from the meh ones is theme. What this means, of course, is that figuring out how to write powerful themes is possibly the most […]

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Most Common Writing Mistakes, Pt. 52: Stagnant Story Conflict

What’s so hard about story conflict? You throw your protagonist and your antagonist onto the page–insta-conflict! Right? Actually, not so fast. Turns out creating a fascinating story world in which dwells a fascinating hero and an evil villain is not enough, in itself, to create integral and interesting story conflict. I’ve read quite a few unfortunate […]

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How to Write the Perfect Plot (in 2 Easy Steps)

How do you create a story? You start writing and stuff starts happening. Right? True enough that’s how you write a story, but it is not, in fact, how to write the perfect plot. That takes a little more forethought and effort. When we first start out as writers, we tend to have this belief that telling […]

How to Control Reader Reactions to Character Sins

How to Control Reader Reactions to Character Sins

Your protagonist just messed up. Big time. We’re talking unforgivable sins here. Now, these sins are totally necessary to your plot. There’s no way you can write them out of the story just because they’re dark. But… here’s the rub. What if you’ve pushed your readers too far? What if they can’t stomach your character anymore […]

How To Know It's Time To Write The End

How to Know When to Write The End

I wrote my first book when I was fourteen–and I had no idea when to write The End. I printed the manuscript in December 1999 (just in case Y2K crashed the world and I lost my beautiful story). This was a great accomplishment, of course. I’d just finished writing a book. Except, it turned out, I wasn’t […]

In the Heart of the Sea Cillian Murphy Chris Hemsworth Benjamin Walker

Plot Isn’t Story

What is story? Is it a beginning, middle, and end? Is it, by any chance, a plot? Of course, it is. But only in the same sense that a cake is flour and eggs. By Itself, Plot Isn’t Story A plot, all by itself, does not a story make. You can stick characters onto your […]