surroundings

How to Choose the Right Antagonist for Any Type of Story

Here’s how to choose the right antagonist for your story. You know “If I Didn’t Have You”—that song John Goodman and Billy Crystal belt out at the end of Monsters, Inc.? It’s this total bromance duet about the undying friendship of our two favorite monsters. But pretty much every lyric in there could also be […]

5 Questions for Choosing a Protagonist Who Represents Your Story’s Theme

Choosing a protagonist is often more of an event than a process. Writers sometimes feel more like the protagonist chooses them than the other way around. While most of us heed our first instinct to simply chase after this character to see where he goes, it’s important that at some point we analyze the soundness […]

Ant-Man and the Wasp Big

4 Ways to Choose a Better Theme for Your Book

Part 20 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel Writers often have a complicated relationship with theme. We love it. It loves us back. But reaching a harmonious happily-ever-after with theme sometimes turns into as much of a soap opera as a long-running CW drama. Just writing a story that has a theme is […]

Why Doubt Is the Key to Flat Character Arcs

Flat Character Arcs create some of the most exciting and powerful stories. Most of the time, when people think of “character arc,” they’re likely to think of Positive Change Arcs, in which the protagonist himself undergoes an empowering personal change. Flat Arcs, by contrast, are about a protagonist who does not personally change, but who […]

The Only Reason You Should Write A Female Protagonist

Why We Need More Thematically-Pertinent Female Protagonists

It’s become a mantra now: “We need more female protagonists.” But I say: No. Uhh…. what? No. I say stop already with this crazily simplistic demand for “female protagonists.” Because it’s so totally not working. The problem, as is so often the case, is that authors, producers, and directors, who are either feeling pressured to […]

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 Take Advantage of Your 4 Most Important Characters

How to Take Advantage of Your 4 Most Important Characters

Your story may or may not have a cast of a thousand, but even if it does, 996 of those characters are going to be primarily background. They provide the context for the four most important characters in a story. Who are these characters? 1. Your protagonist (of course). 2. The antagonist. 3. The reflection. 4. The […]

3 Ways to Choose the Right Protagonist

3 Ways to Choose the Right Protagonist

Ever had a minor character steal the show and run away with your story? This scenario has its good points and its bad points (usually, it means a great minor character and a problematic plot), and it always leads writers right back to the all-important question of how to choose the right protagonist from the get-go. […]

3 Things to Do if Your Antagonist Is Taking Over Your Story

Next to your protagonist, your antagonist is the single most important character in your story. But beware, lest you discover your antagonist is taking over your story. What does this look like? Why might it happen? And how can you guard against it? Glad you asked. Antagonists are fascinating people. The reasons why people choose […]

The Nanowrimo Guide to Outlining (How to Put Your Story Pieces Together)

3 Tips for Weaving Together Your Story’s Pieces (How to Outline for NaNoWriMo, Pt. 6)

Figuring out how to outline a novel is not a linear process. Particularly in the early brainstorming stages, outlining is not a simple progression from Step A to Step B. Your brain is going to be bouncing all over the place: Step A makes you realize something about Step Z, which makes you realize something about […]