novel & fiction

Dilemma: The Source of Our Story

Dilemma: The Source of Your Story

At the heart of every story lies a dilemma. It is not a question of whether or not your protagonist has a dilemma, but rather, how effectively it has been explored. By exploring your protagonist’s...
Writing the Forbidden

Writing the Forbidden

“Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are so ingrained in our society we rarely stop to think about it. I can write anything I want – dark fiendish plots without fear. I can criticize the FBI...
Backstory

Backstory

“The past is prologue.” – William Shakespeare When we are stuck, it is inevitably because some part of our backstory is unclear. Backstory refers to what happened before our story...
Humor in Tragedy

Humor in Tragedy

(Image from Life is Beautiful, 1997) If you’re going to write a tragedy, infuse your story with humor. Humor pulls us towards the characters and makes us care. It also ensures that your ending will...
Conflating Characters

Conflating Characters

Sometimes we’ve written characters that don’t belong in our story because their function is redundant. Conflict might arise that don’t add anything new to the story. In fact, the conflict might...
The Great American Novel

The Great American Novel

Every American writer secretly dreams of writing the “Great American Novel.” What would that look like? It’s a book that captures the zeitgeist, that taps into something intrinsic to our national...
Reframe the Protagonist's Goal

Reframing Your Protagonist’s Goal

“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by...
How to Become a First-Time Author

How to Become a First-Time Author

The journey to becoming a first-time author is different for everyone. For me, it involved letting go of the idea that I’d ever get published. I know this sounds counter-intuitive. The temptation to...
How to Write Your First Novel

How to Write Your First Novel

Writing your first book might actually be fun. I’m serious. I know you’re terrified. It’s a scary thing to do. But, at the risk of sounding like I was raised on a Portland commune, that fear is just...
Opportunities in Self-Publishing

Opportunities in Self-Publishing

  The goal of every first-time novelist or memoirist is to see their book between covers. The paradox is that when we make this goal more important than the story, we tend to find ourselves...
The Theme of the Story

The Theme of the Story

  Shakespearean plays begin with the chorus telling us what we are about to see. They don’t tell us the whole plot but rather provide a context for the events that are about to follow. That is...
Overcoming Writer's Block

Overcoming Writer’s Block

It’s not just first-time writers that get stuck. Every writer, except Stephen King, experiences writer’s block. Writer’s block is often an absence of information. The information can be related to...
What is My Title?

What is My Title?

Those scant few words on the cover of our book or screenplay can be the most labor-intensive work of our entire manuscript. Coming up with a good title can be a bitch. We may have a working title, a...

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