Tag Archives: writing techniques

The Unquiet Mind of the Protagonist

I’ve just read something like 25 beginnings of stories, most of which were for a literary contest, but then there are a few books I’ve bought or have out on loan from my library, a couple of draft manuscripts for friends, and some online journals I try to keep up with on a regular basis. Twenty-five openings, designed to plunge the reader not just into the plot, but the whole world of the characters; 25 attempts to get me to identify with who those characters are, so much so that I won’t be able to do anything else in my life until I’ve consumed the whole tale.

tree bark with mt. st. helens in the backgroundMany of these 25 were great, balancing exposition, character introductions, the tone of the piece, and the basic conflict. Yet many  more missed the mark. Read More…

Five Ways to Trick Yourself into Finishing Your Novel

jelly beans all lined up in containersSometimes writing resembles the proverbial love affair: an idea catches one’s attention, and then it’s all one can think about, which leads to a series of heart flutters while one ponders a first attempt at flirtation. And then oh, the emotions are mutual, excitement builds, intimacies achieved, which leads to a swell of reality. Things are not as they were first envisioned. Characters have weaknesses which they drip around the room like melted wax. If one’s stores of patience are thin, the relationship ends almost before it really began.

Everyone has an unfinished novel. Read More…

Character Believability Using POV

It’s a common statement about stories—the conflict is the story. Sure, conflict is the center of a story’s universe, in that it pulls all of the elements together and is the thing around which those elements revolve. And yet it’s what the characters do in response to that conflict that keeps us reading. After all, the audience can’t identify with the conflict itself—they identify with how one or more of the actors reacts to the conflict. If those characters aren’t fully envisioned on the page, there isn’t enough for the reader to latch onto, and writers run the risk of breaking a cardinal rule: The story must be believable.

And not just the story, but the people in the story itself. Rookies build two-dimensional characters. Good writers get readers to buy the people in their novels (or short stories, which is harder because of the smaller scope). Read More…

Writing back story

Everyone loves a good character. The converse is also true. Weak, two-dimensional characters kill a story because what hooks most of us is our interest in the personalities depicted by the writer. After all, we’re writing, usually, about conflict between people, and most stories end by showing how someone changed from the start of the tale. Thus readers are looking for people who feel real, with whom we can identify or about whom we can feel superior, especially in the case of comedy. Read More…

Diagramming Isn’t Just for Nuns Anymore

A joke I’ve told over the years is that I have a 1950s education because I went to Catholic school in the 70s and they were twenty years behind. But it remains true that I learned penmanship using the Palmer method and I was forced to diagram my sentences as a means of mastering grammar and syntax. I’m sure I would have learned the difference between a complex and a compound sentence without diagramming, but hey, I had the additional instruction in seeing how words make patterns, and looking back, I appreciate the sisters’ determination even if it meant a lot of embarrassment in front of a chalkboard.

Before everyone rolls their eyes and runs off lest I carry on about sentence diagramming, know that it isn’t the focus of this post. Yippee! Actually, I want to talk about flow diagrams for novel writing. Read More…

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