Archive - Novel Structure RSS Feed

The Crucial First Page of Your Novel

My latest craft book in The Writer’s Toolbox series just released. Here is a preview excerpt from First Pages of Best Sellers: What Works, What Doesn’t, and Why:

Most authors know that the first pages of a novel are the most crucial and carry the weightiest burden in their entire book. The opening scene must convey so many things that often the author will have to rewrite it numerous times to get it right.

But the first page is especially crucial to get right.

Why? Because if readers don’t get engaged in the story right away, they’ll stop reading. I’ve heard literary agents say that if the first paragraph doesn’t grab them, they move on to the next submission. That puts a tremendous burden on writers to bring their best effort to the table.

When you’re a best-selling author with a following, your fans might be forgiving enough to bear with you through some slow or less-than-masterful pages to see how your novel unfolds. And we’ll see a number of first pages by best-selling authors that appear to be carelessly thrown together, perhaps based on that confidence that their loyal readers will be lenient with their judgement. Continue Reading…

How to Effectively “Tell” Emotions in Fiction

This post originally, drawn from material in my Emotional Mastery course, ran on Larry Brooks’s blog in the summer. Reprinted here for your edification!

Many amateur writers ineffectively tell or name what a character’s emotions are. That’s often because they haven’t learned masterful ways to get the emotion across.

Telling an emotion doesn’t make readers feel or experience the emotion. It often creates more problems: the writing gets burdened with lists of emotions, and in the writer’s attempt to push harder in the hope of conveying emotion, she overdoes it. Adding to that, she might throw in all those body sensations for good measure, cramming the prose with so much “emotion” that the only thing readers feel is irritation.

Yet, there may be times when telling emotion is masterfully done. You can find plenty of excellent novels in which characters name the emotions they’re feeling. Continue Reading…

Entice Your Readers with “Surprisingness”

This post originally ran on Helping Writers to Become Authors in August, 2019.

Have you ever read a book for a second, third, even tenth time—all to experience the emotion the story evokes? Clearly the elements of the story aren’t a surprise. You know exactly what to expect.

Literary agent Donald Maass says that emotions are most effectively evoked by trickery—when readers aren’t noticing we are manipulating them. He says “Artful fiction surprises readers with their own feelings.”

I can honestly say that, as a reader, the best novels do just that. They evoke such emotions from me—unexpected emotions—that I am stunned by my own reactions.

This doesn’t mean a writer’s key objective with any novel is to accomplish this at every turn. This is a masterful thing to do, but we writers want to evoke emotion throughout our novels—big, small, expected, and unexpected. Even when we know what emotion is being stirred in us, when we see what’s coming, it doesn’t reduce the impact. Continue Reading…

Page 1 of 5212345»102030...Last »