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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…

Getting the Big Picture Across in Your Scenes

Today’s post is a reprint from one I published two years ago. It bears repeating!

Writing scenes can be daunting, but, as with all novel components, it just takes time and effort to learn how to become a master scene crafter. The first step is getting the big picture of a scene.

What do I mean by that? Instead of thinking about the minute details you want to put in a scene, you first want to step back and consider a few things.

The Point

Each scene in your novel should be moving the plot forward. Each scene should reveal some new information, but not just anything—the information needs to help move the plot forward. The bottom line? Every scene must have a point to it or it shouldn’t be in your novel.

If you’ve been following my blog for some time, or you’ve read my writing craft books in The Writer’s Toolbox series, you’ve heard me spout this. When brainstorming your scene ideas, it’s crucial that you first consider the point of your scene. Continue Reading…

Nailing Your One-Sentence Story Concept

I’m launching my new online video course this month, so we’ve been taking a look at key elements novelists need to nail in order to construct a solid story. Whether you “pants it” or plot (see my recent post on that), your story concept has to be terrific to be worth not only your time (writing it) but also your reader’s time (reading it).

How can you expect anyone to devote ten or more of their precious hours to reading your novel if the concept is blah? Not a nice thing to subject anyone to. I, for my part, don’t want to waste anyone’s time, and I certainly don’t want my novels used to help put people to sleep (I’ve watched that malaise befall my husband many a night, but, thankfully, never when reading my novels).

I’m going to pull from a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago, when I was first gathering material for my upcoming (now published and very popular) book Layer Your Novel. I’m hoping you’ll see the value of taking the time to work on your story concept to ensure it’s a terrific one.

Be sure to check out my online course, too, if you want to master novel structure. Layering, starting with the ten key scenes, is the ticket. Believe me, I’ve seen many a novelist use this method to great success (and I hear a lot of praise for it week in and week out). Continue Reading…

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