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Deconstructing Best Sellers in Your Niche Genre

I’ve been studying thrillers because I’m about to write a thriller series. Even though I’ve written a couple of novels with thriller elements, I want to nail this genre. I want my novels in this series to fit right up there with best-selling authors.

And that has involved a lot of work. I spent a bunch of money flying to NY to attend Thrillerfest (and I’m so glad I did!). I took a masters class, and all-day ATF workshop (the highlight of the week!), I met with and shmoozed with best-selling authors. I listened to panel discussions. And so much more.

In addition, I’ve been doing hours of research online. I’ve made phone appointments to talk with experts (FBI, ATF, park rangers, lightning experts, etc.). I am heading up to Seattle to scout locations and meet with local ATF special agents and park rangers in Mt. Rainier.

Yes, I take my writing seriously, and that means I do my homework. Before I wrote my latest novel in my Western series, I went to Wyoming to get a feel for Laramie, the state penitentiary, and the environs. I also went to many museums, dug into newspaper archives, and read passages from books that I couldn’t check out and had been written decades ago that shed light on the 1870s (the decade in which my series is set). Continue Reading…

Choosing Settings with the Highest EQ

Whether setting is a huge element in your story because of your premise or not, you can make setting powerful and impacting by choosing each place carefully.

For each scene, consider your high moment and the plot point you are going to reveal. The setting should be determined by the high point of the scene. Stop and think what main plot point or character insight you are going to center on in a scene.

What’s a high moment? Think about the purpose of your scene. Why are you writing it? What key plot development are you planning to show? Your scenes need to be crafted so that the action builds in the scene to this key moment, which comes at the end.

Consider the dynamics and conflict of the characters in that scene and ask: Where can I put these characters to generate the most conflict (inner and outer) and the strongest emotional quotient?

How do you want her to change in this scene? Think of the perfect setting to create or influence that change. Continue Reading…

How to Choose Setting with a Purpose

Settings in fiction are often in the background—literally. Characters are talking and doing things, but readers get merely a glimpse of setting.

A character enters a building in some unidentified place (town, countryside, the Moon?) and goes into a room that has no description whatsoever.

The character walks outside, and there is no notice of weather or time of day or season. The reader can’t see the neighborhood or the environment.

Face it: if a writer doesn’t care much about setting, the reader won’t either.

Is that a problem? Maybe not for some readers. But most people will agree that the task of a fiction writer is to immerse her readers into her story. And story is setting. Characters have to be somewhere while they are talking, thinking, and behaving. Continue Reading…

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