Conflict in Story: Character versus Self

This post is a reprint from a few years ago, shared again to help you nail the opposition in your story.

Traditionally, there are four general types of opposition at the heart of a story. While our protagonist might face multiple kinds of opposition, the primary one will usually fall into man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, or man vs. self (and of course you can replace man with woman, or robot, or alien).

In story structure, there are key scenes in which the opposition rears its/his/her ugly head and “pinches” the protagonist—hence why these are called “pinch points.”

Two specific pinch points occur in traditional story structure, the first one falling between the 25% mark (turning point #2) and the midpoint (turning point #3) and the second one around the 67% mark (before the Dark Night of the Soul moment).

The purpose of the first pinch point is generally to introduce the opposition to the reader. The second pinch point reveals the full force of the opposition. Continue Reading…

The Intersection of Voice and Deep POV

When writers talk about “voice,” they are usually referring to an author’s style of writing. Agents use this definition too. I’ve written about this before, as I feel this designation is off, and often confusing.

In this age of writing in deep POV—meaning, each scene in fiction is coming “through” a particular character, in that every word of the scene is her thoughts, observations, sensory experiences, and opinions. Since that’s the case, that means the entire scene has to be in that character’s “voice,” not the author’s.

This is a huge problem I see in most of the manuscripts I edit and critique. The author’s writing style supercedes the indivual POV characters’ voices such that they all sound the same, use the same vocabulary and syntax, and, essentially come across as clones of one another. Which wouldn’t be a problem if the premise of their novel was about a group of clones. But I haven’t seen that premise cross my desk yet.

What this means is, if you have three POV characters in your novel, the scenes for each one need to read and feel quite different from the other. I should be able to randomly open up a novel I’ve just read (now familiar with the characters) and easily tell, without reading the name, whose POV the scene is in.

Continue Reading…

Crafting a Compelling Story Premise

UPCOMING: I’m doing a workshop on crafting a terrific premise on January 11, 2-4 p.m. Pacific Time (it will be recorded, so you can watch it later if you can’t attend). Space is limited, so be sure to enroll ASAP. And bring your premise statement to share and get feedback on it! 

Below is a reprint of a post I wrote a few years back, published again here to help you understand what a premise is and why it’s so important to come up with one that is fresh and compelling!

Most writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of the book. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I recently did a fifty-page critique on a novel (which wasn’t the author’s first novel either) that had fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What was the stated premise? Basically, it told of a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing. Continue Reading…

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