Don’t Stress Out!

I’m writing a little series of tips about writer’s block. One form of writer’s block comes from being stressed. This is almost always a temporary condition, and there are ways to work around it, but much depends on the source of your stress. Let’s say for example that you have set aside your Saturday mornings

The Heart of Your Story

I was asked to read a screenplay several years ago. It opened with two minutes during which it explained what a common household device was, showing how it was made in a factory. Then for three more minutes it had characters eating breakfast, talking about their cultural heritage. I began to wonder when the story


The Writer's Peak Workshop in Provo, Utah is NEXT WEEK! And it's not too late to register. You can learn more about the workshop and register here. It is a 2-day workshop that will help you learn to write more effortlessly. There is a myth among the general public that the greatest writers are born

Writing Stories that Transform Readers, Part 2

Two weeks ago, I mentioned that I was going to write a series about how the best stories don’t just entertain readers, they also transform them, helping them to grow intellectually and emotionally. The story takes the reader through a vicarious journey, where the reader’s identity merges with that of a protagonist, so the reader

Wearing Your Cape

When we were little kids, the world seemed full of endless possibilities. My mom told me that I could grow up to be a president or a fighter pilot or anything that I wanted. Since all of my superheroes wore capes—Superman, Batman, Zorro—all I had to do was wrap a towel over my shoulders, and

Developing Charisma

Over the past three decades I’ve helped a number of writers reach the point where they’ve become international bestsellers, and I’ve spotted a trend. Most bestsellers attract an audience in part because they are charismatic. But what does charismatic mean? Some people think that in order to be charismatic you need to be physically beautiful,

On the Power of Literature to Transform Others

Stories can do a lot of things. We use them often to entertain others, sometimes to elevate mood, but sometimes we use them to teach and transform. Indeed, if a story is merely entertaining, if it doesn’t have some deeper meaning, then I often feel that it is a bit lightweight. When judging stories for

The Loneliness Problem

I often look for similarities in great stories to see what works. One aspect that I see very often is that powerful stories resolve “the loneliness problem.” Normally, we are never told that our protagonist is lonely, but it’s there in the background: Scrooge is miserly old man in a musty house. Harry Potter has

Into the Swamp

Very often I like to think of the writing worlds as a swamp—a big swamp infested with crocodiles and quicksand and rattlesnakes, and deep in the heart of the swamp is buried treasure. And of course the new author is like an intrepid explorer, foraying into that swamp with a single purpose, to retrieve the

Fixating on a Story

Remember when you were young and your mother or father read a favorite story to you over and over? Or do you recall that one book or movie that you wanted to read or watch again and again? Most people have a few all-time favorites. As a toddler, for me it was “Jack and the