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How Novelists Can Say More with Less

Less is more. More impacting. More riveting. More intriguing. Throughout history, marriages have failed and wars have been won or lost over a mere word or two. Jesus said, “Let your yes mean yes and your no mean no.” Simply stated, as was his style.

I often share with my clients something my eleventh-grade English teacher used to spout frequently: “Say what you mean. Don’t say what you don’t mean.”

The best way to say what you mean is to use only the words you need—the most appropriate words for your context—and discard the rest. Think of the pages of your novel as expensive real estate. Writers who want to write well should aim to be as picky about the words they string together as the foods they eat or the clothes they wear. Pickier.

Bogging Down Your Writing Is a Bad Thing

Your novel’s pacing will be greatly affected by word choice. If you bog down your sentences with unnecessary words, your scenes will drag. In addition, using boring, flat, or weak verbs and adjectives will make the reading dull, no matter how exciting your plot might be.

Take a look at this Before passage and see if you can spot some of the problems. Then read my revision and compare. Continue Reading…

The Character Arc in Six Specific Stages

Here’s a post I wrote for Writers Helping Writers some months back that I’d like to share with you.

As a writer, you’re probably familiar with the term “character arc,” but what does a character arc entail? How do you structure this arc? And what informs the way your character changes, from the start of your story to the end?

While all characters in a novel can have arcs, it’s the protagonist whose change should be the most significant. Depending on genre and plot, your hero’s change might be subtle or life-altering. A suspense thriller or cozy mystery may show little character growth by the end, when the bad guy is caught or the mystery solved, whereas a thoughtful women’s fiction novel or relational drama may showcase monumental change.

But, in all stories, arcs are about change or transformation. And the stories with strong arcs show a character starting in what Hollywood movie consultant Michael Hauge calls identity or persona.

What makes for a great persona is a character who has suffered in his past and has developed a coping mechanism over time. This is his face he presents to the world that keeps buried his pain, fear, or hurt. Continue Reading…

Essential Character Tips for Fiction Writers

 Today’s guest post is by Beth Barany.

No matter if you’re a plot-driven or character-driven writer, your characters need to feel real so that your readers can connect with and care about them.

If you’re pressed for time or just want to get to the essentials, I recommend these three essential characters tips. By no means are these tips exhaustive. I cover many more brainstorming tools for character and for plot in our newest book for writers, Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, from which this article is adapted.

Tip #1: What Does Your Main Character Want?

What does your character want?

Stories are built on characters and their journey to get what they want. Your job to put obstacles in the character’s way so he can’t easily obtain what he wants. (Otherwise there would be no story.) Continue Reading…

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