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3-Act Structure – Is It Really a Must?

You may have heard about the 3-act structure. It’s a thing. Especially with screenplays.

But if you are writing a novel or novella, do you really have to stick to a 3-act structure? Just what is it, and how can you determine if that structure is just what your story needs?

Writers shouldn’t arbitrarily adopt a structure just because everyone assumes it’s required. Guess what? It’s not.

Continue Reading…

What Story Hooks Are All About

If you’ve been writing fiction awhile, you’ve probably heard the term “hook.” What is a hook all about anyway?

It’s a line that snags your reader and pulls them into the story. Often someone flipping through your book or looking at the first page online at will just read the first few lines.

Having a great opening line to your story is important. Some readers (including agents and publishers) won’t read more than the first paragraph of a novel if the “hook” isn’t catching them.

In a workshop I took years ago with literary agent Donald Maass, we all shared first lines and got feedback on the hook. It turned out a great hook is harder than it looks. Maass noted that sometime the hook will entail the whole first paragraph, with a strong, engaging line acting like an exclamation mark to drive home the opening thought.

That’s why it’s a good thing to spend time thinking about the opening to your story and honing that hook. Continue Reading…

The Intersection of Premise and Protagonist

UPCOMING: I’m doing a second workshop on crafting a terrific premise on February 21, 2-4 p.m. Pacific Time (it will be recorded, so you can watch it later if you can’t attend). Veteran literary agent Steve Laube will listen to your pitches and give some feedback and advice. Space is limited, so be sure to enroll ASAP. And bring your premise statement to share, and get tips on how to improve it! 

Your premise and your protagonist go hand in hand. We’ve been looking at premise lately, and if you’ve been reading these posts (and if you attended last month’s premise Zoom session), you know how crucial it is to have a unique, strong premise.

A premise is not just a situation; it’s about how your protagonist is going to deal with it.

I can be in a bad situation, but I may do nothing about it. I’d be a very boring protagonist. Your protagonist shouldn’t be passive, reactive. She needs to be assertive and proactive. She might not be that way at the start of your story, but the inciting incident that occurs early on should spark a need and/or desire to do something about that situation.

Your protagonist needs to be just the right person to deal with the situation at hand. But so must all your other characters.

Your genre may inform some of the requisite characteristics of your cast of characters, but even within the bounds of genre you can still develop fresh, unique characters. Your readers deserve those elements of originality, so spend time on your characters and resist the default mode (stereotypes). And really, what’s more important is your premise. Continue Reading…

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