Seductions and Promises

The sweetest thing writers can hear is that our readers missed their bedtime because they couldn’t put our book down. The words on the page seduce the reader to continue flipping and it’s obvious this engagement begins at the story’s opening and continues. So the question I’m exploring today is what openings do we need […]

<strong>How Burnout Made Me a Better Author</strong>

Burnout. Few words spark such dread among writers. Avoiding it, surviving it, and recovering from it are each the focus of many articles, blogs, podcasts, books, and conference classes. Still, most of us have or will find ourselves grappling with it. This struggle resembles a hiker who has fallen off an unforeseen cliff and now […]

How to Fix Flat, Two-Dimensional Characters

When people say that a character is “flat” or “two-dimensional,” they’re typically just saying that the character isn’t interesting. And uninteresting characters are a plague on a story. Let’s look at a few techniques to make characters interesting, round, and three-dimensional. Desires, Wants, and Emptiness Nothing brings a character to life faster than a deep […]

Haunting Your Character with a Ghost (or Wound)

In storytelling, a character’s ghost is a past, significant (and often traumatic) event that shaped his worldview in a thematic way. It prepares the character arc and works as a motivator. Choose the appropriate ghost for your character and learn how to reveal it to the audience. It’s finally the month of Halloween! And if […]

The Secret Ingredients for Writing Theme

Typewriter flowers

Many people in the writing community caution against writing with a theme in mind. They argue that if you do, your story will feel contrived, or worse, preachy. But this is only true if you don’t know what you are doing. And for many writers, unfortunately, that is exactly the case. Setting, characters, and plot […]

Pinch Points That Reveal the Opposition in Your Fiction

woman reading book

You may have heard of pinch points. Or not. I’d guess that most fiction writers have no clue what they are or why they’re so important. What the heck are pinch points? Do you need them? Where do they go in a novel, and what’s their purpose? I don’t know if you’re like me, but […]

Writing Great Action Scenes

gun aiming

At a conference some time ago I was on a panel with some fellow thriller writers. During the Q & A, we got this question from the floor: How can I learn to write a good action scene? I answered first. I told the questioner that it’s what happens inside the character that’s the key, […]

Understand and Implement Voice

woman voice talk sing stage

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 […]

The Price of Magic

Magic price

When writing in speculative genres, it’s important to consider the cost of magic. Everything in life has a cost. It’s a law so universally understood that we feel it in our bones. Yet when we deal with fiction, some writers forget to consider the high price of magic. The renowned author Nancy Kress noted that […]

A Guide to Critiquing a Story

writing group critique

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 […]