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The Important Role Secondary Characters Play

Every character in a fictional story needs to play a role, whether a strong antagonist standing in the way of your hero or a waiter bringing a check. But each character must be placed purposefully and strategically, all to move a riviting plot along.

We all need a supporting cast in our novels. Secondary characters have to be in there, unless your book is about a guy stuck on a deserted island the entire time. But even in that instance, an animal or even a volleyball (sorry, had to put that in there from Cast Away) can play the role of a secondary character.

There are plenty of great movies where even the hero is an animal (The Incredible Journey is one that comes to mind) or something not human. but whether your secondary characters are human, feline, canine, or bovine, they need to be fully human in their characteristics (well, maybe cats can getting away with just saying no).

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Story Structure and the Essential Outline

I do a lot of scene outlines for writers. And I’ve written a lot of blog posts on the topic. Working on your story at the outline level gives you a bird’s-eye view of your plot. And that’s super helpful. Even if you just start with a few sentences to describe what happens in each scene and the purpose of the scene will take you far.

I use index cards for plotting and have done so on the last ten or more novels. I love jotting down scene ideas on a card, sticking it in my stack of scene ideas, and eventually laying them all out on the floor or my kitchen table and putting them in order.

Of course the order is determined by specific story structure! If you don’t know anything about story structure, now’s the time to learn! You need to know where specific plot elements go, such as your inciting incident, twists, pinch points, midpoint, dark night moment … and more. And you need to know what happens in those scenes.

Something that will help you a lot in getting story structure under your belt is my online video course The 10 Key Scenes That Frame Up Your Novel. In addition to getting to watch a lot of fun movie clips (get the popcorn!), you will clearly see what these scenes are all about so you can ensure you have them in your story.

Whether you are writing a movie, a novel or novella, or a play, you need to understand this structure. Yes, genre will come into play here. You need to know your genre and genre markers. But structure is structure. Continue Reading…

How to Add a “Secret” Ingredient to Your Story Premise

Your story premise needs to be compelling if you want to entice readers and keep them reading your book. Premise is more than a situation your character finds herself in. It’s all about what she does in response.

Before you get too far in writing any story, it’s important to take the time to craft a super premise, one that is unique and intriguing and has a great hook.

What’s a hook? you may ask. Opening lines are hooks, but we’re talking about your premise. The hook is that unique element that offers mystery and surprise. And that leads me to the topic of this post: surprise.

Mysteries, by definition, all have surprise in their story hook. The best mysteries confound readers and lead them to believe one character did the crime. But at the climax … surprise! It was someone you least expected. This genre centers on surprise to be successful. Continue Reading…

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