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The First Thing You Should Know about Your Protagonist before You Start Writing

Most fiction writers know that character is at the heart of a story. Whether you are writing short or long fiction, you need terrific characters.

But what’s in a character? And how much do you need to know about your characters before you start writing?

The depth of detail you develop for your characters may vary. It stands to reason that you aren’t going to put as much work into crafting minor characters as you would major ones. And the most important character—your protagonist—should have the most depth.

How deep should you go? That’s a good question. Some writers spend months working on a character: her looks, her history, her family, her issues. But often the details a writer works up are trivial details. Continue Reading…

8 Steps to a Perfect Scene

I’m sharing a guest post I wrote some months back for Jerry Jenkins (Here’s the link to the original post, if you’d like to check it out and read some of the comments). Few fiction writers consider the actual process of writing a scene, and I’ve never found anything written on this topic that breaks down the process into steps. So I hope you benefit from this!

If you’ve attempted writing a novel, you know how complex the process is. Writers have to not only come up with a great premise and engaging characters, along with high stakes, and themes, and meaningful conflict that pushes the protagonist toward his visible goal for the story, they also have to master the crafting of the scene.

Writing a perfect scene is a whole lot harder than some people think. Many writers, sitting down to work on their novel for the day, spend a moment or two thinking up some idea for a scene that will fit nicely in their story. Little regard is given to the overall purpose of that scene or in choosing setting and developments that will advance and complicate the plot in an impacting way.

While a checklist is helpful in analyzing the components and structure of a scene, it doesn’t address the process. Continue Reading…

Why Identifying Your Reading Audience Age Is Crucial

You’re writing an intense novel about vampires. You’re exploring deep themes of family loyalty and courage. You believe adult readers will love this high-action somewhat violent novel.

But your protagonist is an eight-year-old boy who is struggling to deal with his new life in this not-so-brave new world.

This is a big problem.

And it’s similar to what I see week after week as I critique novels by aspiring writers.

I get that you have a killer idea and you’ve worked hard to come up with a great, compelling plot with lots of action and twists and complications. But before you began, did you even consider who your target audience might be? Continue Reading…