Writing Powerful Scenes, Part 2: Beginning with Character

Historically, a “scene” was a set on a play. It consisted of the setting in which a dramatic exchange took place. It’s not a coincidence that “scene” and “seen” sound exactly alike. But as novelists, we don’t necessarily have the same kinds of “scenes” that occur in a play. A scene could, for example, consist […]

Understand and Implement Voice

In writing, voice happens at three levels: the author, the narrator, and the characters each have their own voices. While many editors and readers openly state they are hooked and reeled into a story by a strong voice, many writers struggle to understand let alone implement voice. Despite voice often being regarded as elusive, and […]

A Guide to Critiquing a Story

How should we critique someone’s writing? Frequently authors ask if I have a form that I use to help me critique a story.  Given the large number of things that I look at in a story, any form that I might use would simply be too long to be workable.  Yet it makes sense to […]

Tightening Your Focus

Tighten the focus of a novel

Tell the story from that person’s point of view. This is especially true if you have multiple protagonists, because it means that you will need to characterize those people by showing just how differently they relate to the world. Seeing the word through their eyes and being immersed in how that character thinks and feels, requires tightening your focus. 

What’s the Real Motive?

When you’re creating a well-rounded character, one of the great secrets behind understanding the character comes from understanding the character’s secret, often hidden motives. Understanding a character comes from understanding why they act the way that they do. Time and again, I find authors who sort of cheat themselves. As they create a character and […]

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 […]

The Man Who Learned Better

It has been said that there are only a few types of stories—the “boy meets girl,” “the hero journey,” etc. One of the most popular types is “the man who learned better.” It’s a story about character growth and change, and indeed some would argue that in every kind of fiction, character growth is an […]

Checklist for Writing your Story

When I used to write for competitions, I would make lists of ways that judges might look at my work in order to grade it. For example, some judges might look for an ending that brought them to tears, while another might be more interested in an intellectual feast. A couple of you asked what […]

How Bad is Your Antihero?

Lately I’ve had several people ask for tips on how to write antiheroes. So my first question is, “How ‘bad’ is your antihero?” An antihero is a character without traditional heroic qualities, but they may have heroic qualities in their own right. He or she is the kind of person who knows how to kick […]