Monday, September 16, 2019

The Secret to Showing (Not Telling)--Part One

"Show! Don't Tell."

It's one of the most oft-uttered phrases in writing history. I've heard it. I've said it. But what does it actually mean to "show," and how do we know when we're "telling"?

Secret #1 lies in the verbs we use.

"Showing sentences" use the active voice.

"Telling sentences" use the passive voice.

A passive construction often contains the following formula: "to be" + past participle (or the "ed" verb).

For example: 

     The movie has been watched by the friends over a dozen times. (passive construction)

     The painting was completed by Charlotte. (passive construction

How could we fix these to make them active? By re-arranging the words so that the person or thing is doing the action (not having the action done to them).

     The friends watched the movie more than a dozen times. (active construction)

     Charlotte completed the painting. (active construction)

How do we locate passive sentences in our writing?

First, we should isolate the sentence. Then, we need to determine what's happening in the sentence and decide if an action is taking place. If so, we need to decide if the action is being done to the person or thing, or if the person/thing is doing the action. If the sentence is passive, then it's just a matter of rearranging the subject and verb. 

Is every "be" or "have" sentence passive? No. It depends on how the verb is being used in the sentence, so don't think every am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have, has, had needs to be cut from a manuscript. Some of them are important and even necessary.

Just pay careful attention to the action taking place in your sentence. The more "active" the sentence is, the closer you are to "showing."

Be Brilliant!


Monday, September 9, 2019

On Unpredictability

At the end of your novel, all of the various conflicts (inner and outer) and plot points will come to a head and (hopefully) resolve themselves in a satisfying way. 

This is our job as writers, after all, and what the reader expects when he or she takes on one of our stories.

It's important, however, that the plot stays unpredictable up until the final pages. Success doesn't come easily in the real world, and as much as we'd like to keep our characters safe, it shouldn't come easily in our fictional worlds, either. 

Keep the reader guessing until the very last moment; the longer it appears your main character will fail, the more invested the reader will be. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, September 2, 2019

On Plot Deviations

Whether you're weaving subplots into your fiction, setting up a problem, or incorporating backstory to provide context, the main plot line of your story should never be too far away.

Your main plot line is what drives the story forward, and any deviation from that line has the potential to stall your reader. And while it seems like the opposite would occur--moving away from the story would build tension and entice the reader to keep reading to find out what's going to happen--when the story shifts, moving away from the key tension, you're giving your reader the perfect opportunity to insert the bookmark, fold the page, change screens, set your book aside.

No matter the "extras" you're weaving into your story, make sure the main line is never more than a scene away. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, August 26, 2019

Character-Driven Stories

In the character-driven story (as opposed to plot-driven), the character's wants, needs, and actions drive the plot. The "outside force" has little impact--it's the main character who is plodding along, propelling the story forward (or backward, or whatever direction his actions take him). 

The journey of the character-driven story often involves self-discovery, which (ideally) leads to transformation. At the end of the story, the character is not the same person he was in chapter one. 

The plot-driven story, of course, benefits from inner conflict and change, but for the character-driven story, this change is what will save the character as he "saves the world." In this way, the inner conflict is just as important as (or more important than) the outer conflict, and the tension surrounding this change is what will compel readers to keep turning pages.

Be Brilliant!



Monday, August 19, 2019

On Creating Problems

Problems that are easy to solve are also easy to forget.

The problems we present in our stories should grow. They should twist and turn. The layers should run deep--really deep.  

Why? The deeper the problem, the more satisfying the ending once the situation is resolved. 

And remember: a "problem" that can be cleared up with a single conversation isn't really a problem. 

I love a good Hallmark movie more than anyone, but I do get kind of miffed when a love interest sees something he or she misinterprets then just leaves town without having a real conversation with the person they're walking away from. I can forgive them because I know we're working toward a happy ending, but I like my conflicts a bit more complex than that.

Yes, Parker was lying to Jaden in Cross My Heart. Could he have cleared everything up with a single conversation? Sure. But he had a reason to lie that was bigger than anyone expected, and when he and Jaden finally had that conversation, she wasn't easy to forgive him--too much had gone wrong.

There was more than a simple misunderstanding at play, and that's why Cross My Heart is (still) my bestselling book. 

The point? 

Create big problems for your characters. Make those problems as thorny as you can. Don't be afraid to push the limits. 

Figure out the worst thing that could possibly happen, then make it worse.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, August 12, 2019

On Tragedy

Sometimes I wrestle with the content of my stories. 

There's so much sadness in the world. Why would I want to contribute to this with my own tales of loss and violence and abuse? 

There's Genesis, of course, dealing with this otherworldly war that she's been dragged into. Some of her friends return; some don't. Jaden ends up in her own crossfire situation, which forces her to question everything she knows about the guy she loves. Fallon's stepfather is violent and unpredictable. Summer struggles with her memory of a single night that changed her entire life--how can she grieve the loss of her best friend when she doesn't even know what happened to her? And even in my Christmas novella, Olivia's mom is in the middle of a cancer battle. Next Christmas could be very different for all of them.

Meanwhile, the guys (men, really, because most of my love interests edge toward the 18+ side) who love them or are learning to love them stand by--sometimes helpless, sometimes not. . . .

The fact is: there's at least one part in each of my stories where everything reaches peak point of heartbreak (sometimes after a series of heartbreaks). 

And sure, maybe I should be writing happier stories (escapism, anyone?) and not trying to make my readers cry all the time, but in truth there *is* tragedy in the world--it's all around us--and often we have very little control over both what happens and the aftermath. Still, it's in these moments that we gain clarity and perspective. 

It's when our world is crashing down around us that we tend to rethink and reassess--strip our life down to its most basic meaning. In these moments we decide what matters most, and that's when big changes happen. 

An unexpected tragedy shows that there is a larger world at work in your novel. It lifts the characters out of themselves, proving that destiny is, in fact, a thing, and it's as much a part of your story world as it is in the current world in which we live.

And what is reading if not practice for the real world? 

If our characters can survive a tragedy, so can we. 

So maybe the tears are worthwhile, after all.

*passes you tissues, keeps on writing*

Be Brilliant!


Monday, July 29, 2019

On Values

Good humor
Spirit of adventure

These are examples of core values. 

What are core values?

Core values are fundamental beliefs or guiding principles. They dictate our behavior and help us determine what’s right and what’s wrong.

I like to think I’m a passionate and motivated person--that I persevere even when the world around me goes dark. I consider myself reliable and committed, especially when it comes to my writing life. These are my core values.

But our characters should have core values, as well.


Because readers want to be able to relate to and look up to a hero character, and a character with positive core values is more likely to resonate with them.

Even with his (or her) flaws, a main character should be someone worth following—someone worth saving—and the simple reason is because it’s much easier to raise the stakes in a novel where the reader doesn’t actually want the character to die (or see anything bad happen to him/her).

In fiction, the stakes matter, and when your character has principles, it’s easier to put those principles to the test. The stronger those principles, the more the reader will want to see the character succeed.

Some of these core values will stem from the character’s religion, his society, and/or the rules he’s required to live by. Others will come from what the character has experienced and how he or she has grown over time. Values can be fluid, and their intensity can vary from one situation to the next.

To discover your character’s core values, it helps to begin with a list (easily searchable online). Next, brainstorm some events from their past. What successes have they had? What excites them? What has made or makes them angry? What code of conduct are they living by?

Finally, what values are associated with these things?

Brainstorming and applying three to five potential values for your character(s) will help make them unique, and a strong code of behavior (even though your character isn’t perfect) will help raise his or her worthiness. 

And when a character is worth saving, it’s worth it to readers to keep turning those pages.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, July 22, 2019

Keeping it Real (Enough to be Believable)

Even though fiction is, by definition, a story that describes imaginary events, places, and people, and, anecdotally, the writer is only limited by his imagination, the story still has to be believable.

This means that the rules within the story (no matter the genre) have to make sense.

If we're going to believe that every year a group of tributes competes against each other in a match to the death, this has to sound reasonable based on what we know about the story world, as this type of competition set in modern Western civilization would seem implausible. 

This means that an author has a lot of work to do.

A reader begins to care about a character when they feel the events could happen to them, and the more you deviate from the rules of the time and place with which they are most familiar, the sharper your world-building skills need to be. 

If you world-build correctly, you probably won't include half of what you know about your time and place and its history within your novel, but it's still important that you know it.  

Be Brilliant!


Monday, July 15, 2019

What Makes a Good Story?

A good story is made up of:

1. A time or place the reader can lose themselves in.

2. An unforgettable character--someone who is real to them; someone they can relate to.

3. A memorable/extraordinary event.

The best stories contain characters with which we identify, experiences that impact us in visceral ways, and messages that change the way we see the world.

This makes "storyteller" one of the most powerful positions on the planet--a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, July 8, 2019

Four Things I've Learned

1. Don't write what you know about; write what you care about, because if you don't care, why should anyone else?

2. We live in the age of Google and Wikipedia--anything you don't know, you can research. Do the research, then let your imagination fill in the blanks.

3. Write what you enjoy reading, because if you enjoy reading it, you should enjoy (to some degree) writing it, and this will show up in your storytelling, making it more likely readers will connect with you.

4. No author is universally loved. Find the people who love you and write for them. 

(And always) Be Brilliant! 


Monday, July 1, 2019

On Reasons

For everything, there is a reason.

--Not in life, necessarily--but, when writing fiction, there had better be a clear rationale for why your character said what he said or did what she did.

Actions and reactions should be linked from page one all the way to three hundred and one. Each scene and/or event should logically progress from one to the next.

Dig deep, and know your character's "why" (even if he or she doesn't know it at the time.) 

In novels, things don't happen "just because." 

There has to be a reason.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, June 24, 2019


In fiction, neutrality is B-O-R-I-N-G.

Readers want to feel something, and if there's no emotional weight involved in what's taking place on the page, the reader (sadly) won't be affected.

Man: "I made plans with my mother on Saturday. Do you and the kids want to tag along?"

Woman: "Whatever you want."


Man: "I made plans with my mother on Saturday. Do you and the kids want to tag along?"

Woman: "Absolutely not. I told you last time that I was never stepping foot in that house again."

In truth, reality is often "Whatever you want," but exciting fiction is not neutral; it's a determined "yes" and a firm "no." A "whatever you want" or the appearance of a neutral position would only work if something is happening behind the scenes to make this character pretend to be agreeable; even then, the reader will understand that "whatever you want" is still a firm "no."

So give your characters opinions and desires. Put them at odds with the supporting cast. Start those fights. Raise those stakes.

Above all: Be Brilliant!


Monday, June 17, 2019

On Expectations

What is your character hoping will happen?

Is this clearly expressed on the page?

In a 300-page novel, there will be any number of choices for your main character to make, the results of which will comprise the plot of your story.

If we don't know what your character expects to happen or is wishing for, how will we know she's getting what she wants? How will we know when her hopes have been dashed?

Expressing our character's desires is a great way to raise the stakes in our stories.

Missing the 8 o'clock train out of the city isn't a big deal if one is coming along at 8:30 . . . unless your character has been given an ultimatum and has to be at her spouse's boss's home for a dinner party at 8:30 or he's leaving her for good.

If we don't know that, despite getting off work late (again) and getting stuck in city traffic (again), she's desperate to make that train, we're (as the reader) unlikely to feel the appropriate amount of pressure.

On the flip side, the character's actions and reactions would be very different if she was looking for a reason not to make that train.

Use your character's desires to keep your readers invested, and make sure her expectations are clearly stated so we know if she's progressing or facing setbacks. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, June 10, 2019

First Person Narrators

Novels narrated in the first person are super fascinating to read because they make for a very immersive experience since we are, in effect, inside the storyteller's head.

Writing a first-person narrator, however, can be tricky, since two different narrators witnessing the exact same event would give us two (sometimes very) different stories.

As a result, it's a limited and nuanced perspective (some might even say it's "self-centered").

With first-person narrators, opinions/viewpoints affect everything. Everything the character tells us has some kind of meaning (otherwise, why would they say or think it?). The details included are the ones the narrator feels are most important, and this adds a new depth to the story being told (especially if the reader is unsure if the narrator is trustworthy). 

What kind of information is being presented? How is it being presented? What is the character leaving out and why? How do the other characters feel about this? The first person narrator, after all, can't tell us what others are thinking and feeling. They can infer, but there's never any certainty. 

Think about the story you want to tell, then imagine putting on a pair of glasses with blue-tinted lenses (representing your narrator's point of view). Once the glasses are on, everything you see will be affected in some way. The sky would still be blue, but a deeper shade. The trees that had green leaves would now have a prussian tone. Sand might be powder blue. It's still the sky and trees and sand, but the lens affects how it appears according to the narrator's thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

Your Story

Your Story According to Gary (or Rose or Emma)

If you're going to tackle the first person narrator, remember to put on those color-tinted glasses. It isn't about how you feel or your reactions, but how your narrator feels and reacts.

(It goes without saying that this requires knowing a lot about who your narrator is before you ever begin writing.)

Be Brilliant!


Monday, June 3, 2019

Five Ways to Ruin Your Story

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about what we can do right in our writing (or how to make what's not working work again).

But what about the flipside?

Whether you're writing page one or three hundred and one, here are five easy ways to ruin your story: 

1. There's no clear protagonist.

On page one we have Bob and Betty and Mildred and Flo. Bob is pissed at Mildred and she and Flo are icing out Betty, and then Ricky comes along and decks Bob for no reason at all, and Oh My God I have no idea who I'm supposed to pay attention to or even root for in this situation.

It's okay to start your story in the middle of the action; it's not okay to throw tons of information at your reader at once. If people are yelling and tossing punches on page one, it needs to be made absolutely clear that Ricky is the hero of this tale.   

2. The protagonist doesn't have a goal.

We know we should be paying attention to Ricky, but we have no clue what it is that he wants (except to punch Bob in the face). Maybe he doesn't even know . . . though wanting to know is, in fact, a goal. . . . but I digress. It should be very clear within the first few pages not only who your protagonist is, but what he's working toward. This, of course, can change as the narrative progresses, but readers subconsciously pick up a book with the resolution in mind. How will we know the story has ended if we don't know when Ricky has accomplished what he set out to do or even what, exactly, he wants to accomplish?    

3. There's no inner conflict.

Sure, Ricky is great at throwing punches, and he clearly hates Bob, but if he's the same person on page three hundred as he was on page one, then the reader is likely to feel cheated. Along with an outer conflict, there should be an inner conflict. After a litany of fight scenes, a story where Ricky hangs up his boxing gloves and turns to meditation to control his anger might be a journey worth following.  

4. The plot doesn't align with the goal.

We know about Ricky and his beef with Bob. We know he's intent on bringing Bob down. We know he has anger management issues he's trying to deal with. Now the plot (or the scenes that follow) needs to show a realistic progression from where Ricky is at present to who he's going to become. If you lose sight of the story question, the reader will be left scratching his or her head, wondering what shopping for leeks at the grocery store has to do with anything. (The answer? Nothing. Leave it out.)  

5. The character isn't believably attached to the goal.

Ricky says he wants to stop fighting with Bob, but he's made zero progress and we're moving into the final chapter of the story. Are we sure that's what he wanted? You know I love a good plot twist, but even these need to feel inevitable.

No protagonist, no goal, no conflict, irrelevant commentary, no attachment to the ultimate outcome. . . . These are five of the best ways to ruin your story for the reader. . . . 

Unless, of course, you write esoteric literary fiction. 

In that case, #$%! the rules.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, May 27, 2019

First Pages: A Checklist

For this post, I'd like you to grab the first page of whatever story you're currently working on.

Just the first page.

Go on. I'll wait here.


Got it?

Read it.

All done?

Now answer the following questions based on this single page.

1) Is it clear who is telling this story, or who the story is about?
2) Is something happening?
3) Is there a conflict present in what's happening?
4) Is something clearly at stake for this character?

If the answer to any of these is "no," revise accordingly until that "no" becomes a "yes."

Your first page is important. It's the foundation for reader interest (that is, it determines if the reader will continue reading).

The traditional rule of thumb says that if you haven't grabbed the editor's attention in the first five pages of your manuscript, they'll likely pass. Why take the risk?

Set the stage on page one for everything that will follow, giving your reader no choice but to keep reading all the way to The End.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, May 20, 2019

Story Deconstructed

What is a story?

According to Lisa Cron, "a story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result."

Broken down: a story is how what happens [plot] affects someone [protagonist] who is trying to achieve a difficult goal [story question], and how he or she changes because of it.

I've written about the story question before.

The takeaway here, though, is that a story isn't just something that happens, or something that happens to someone, or even something dramatic that happens to someone. More structure is required if the reader is going to close your book with a sigh of satisfaction.

But there's a formula, and if you can keep these key elements in mind, you'll be in a better position to write a successful story.

Story = plot + protagonist + resolved question/problem.

For further reading on this, I highly recommend Cron's Wired for Story.

Be Brilliant!


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

On Failure

I love this idea from Brene Brown (which Liz Gilbert echoes) about trying and failing creatively. 

The old adage is:

What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?

The question that should be asked is: 

What's worth doing, even if you fail?

"The only unique contribution we will make 
in this world will be born of creativity."

~Brene Brown~

Monday, May 6, 2019

In Full Disclosure

Warning: Honesty Ahead

Release weeks stress me out. 

Promotion stresses me out. 

Tweeting "buy my books!" stresses me out. 

Why? It feels too much like a whistle in a hurricane. A shout into the void. There's so much *white noise* that I don't even know where to begin to make myself stand out in the crowd. 

I get that it's a necessary part of #indie authoring, but I hate begging. I feel like I'm bothering people. (Buy! Share! Re-Tweet! Review!) I feel like *that* author, and I don't want to be. I also don't have the marketing budget or audience to gain any kind of traction in such a saturated marketplace, though I'm *so* thankful for the few cheerleaders I do have and can always count on to help spread the word. 

In full disclosure, this is what my indie career looks like (according to Amazon, at least):

this image is not available


I miss August 2012 the most, where I sold over 4,500 units . . . but some things in this world are just beyond my control.

What do I have control of?


So . . . I wasn't quite sure where I wanted to go after ALL I NEVER WANTED.

I've slowly come to realize that I'm not as passionate about YA literature today as I was in the past, and I wondered if this meant it was time to spread my wings and try something new. 

I still don't know, actually. 

But I do know that on Friday I opened up a file on a story I'd plotted a couple of years ago. I know the characters, the setting, what's going to happen--it's all there laid out for me.

I just went in to take a look, but I saw in one document that I'd already written a first line.

The wheels began turning, and almost immediately I had a first paragraph. Then I had a first page. 

I don't quite recognize this voice. It's still me, but different. More grown up, maybe? 

I don't know. I don't know how this book is going to turn out or where it's going to fit into the market or if I should even care about the market at all. 

I'm writing again.

And it feels so, so good.

At the end of the day, I love what I do--it still brings me joy. Sure, my audience isn't as big today as it was in the past. The truth is that I might have "peaked" with CROSS MY HEART. But there are a few of you out there, and you've not hesitated to tell me that my stories still bring you joy (and move you to tears). 

A small difference, but a difference nonetheless.

Someone out there, when asked who their favorite author is, just might say "Katie Klein."

And, in this industry, it seems selfish to ask for anything more than that.

Be Brilliant!


Monday, April 29, 2019

It's Release Week!

Well, thanks to a delay at Amazon and a weekend internet outage, release "day" has officially become Release Week!

Yes! All I Never Wanted is LIVE and ON SALE (the $.99 Amazon price tag is temporary, so get it while you can)! 

Here are the buy links for the various outlets:

Also, in honor of this hot new release, Rise (last year's book) is FREE on Amazon and Kobo for a limited time (and $.99 on Nook).

What can you do to help?

Well, if you've read it, reviews are definitely helpful right now, since they encourage other people who might not be familiar with my stories to take a chance:

As always, Klein's beauty is in the unpredictable ending which delivered the justice this story and the characters deserved. . . . Katie Klein KNOWS how to do romance. –★★★★ Michelle (Goodreads)

Retweeting/Sharing my posts is also a nice way to spread the word! Make sure you're following me on FB and/or Twitter.

Also, if you're on Goodreads, feel free to add it to your "To Read" list.

Tweets and Facebook posts help, too, so don't be shy about telling your friends (and be sure to tag me in any posts so I can send you all the *thank you's* and *hearts*).

ALL I NEVER WANTED (@katiekleinbooks) is now available! (And, at #99c the lowest price it’s going to be.) Trent ♥ Summer #yalit #romance #kindlebargain #bookbuzz #whattoread


Promo wears me out, y'all. 

I have one last ridiculously busy grading week, and then I can slowly ease into summer. I'm already itching to start something new--if there's anything I've learned in the last 10+ years, it's that I can't not write for very long. It's just not a good look for me. :P

Be Brilliant!


Monday, April 22, 2019

Just Showing my Work!

So . . . I'm about to release All I Never Wanted

The cover has been revealed, the synopsis is posted, the bookstore links are in progress, and, if you're on my newsletter list, you just received the first five chapters to peruse. :P

Now that I'm in the home stretch, I thought I'd share some screenshots of a few of the things I see on my end when I'm working on a project. 

First, I work in Scrivener, which is an absolute Godsend (i.e. I highly recommend it). 

Here's my screenshot of the Prologue:

And here are some of the final stats for this particular project:

Here's part of the "Bible" I use to keep my characters and locations straight:

It's so easy to forget the name of a character or the name of a shop or town, so as soon as I write something new into the story, a note immediately goes into my "Bible."

This is what I love most about Scrivener: everything I need to write the story is in one convenient location. 

Even my characters:

Be Brilliant!


Monday, April 15, 2019

Coming v. Soon!

What happens when a boy from a privileged, upper-middle-class family falls for a girl in a rehabilitation facility accused of murdering her best friend?

In a world of mansions, expensive prep schools, and elite colleges, where money means favors and the right price will buy a ticket into or out of just about any situation, Trent Moreau is living easy. 

Drugs, parties, breaking and entering, traffic violations, property damage . . . it’s nothing for Trent’s father to swoop in and buy his son’s way out of trouble. Only this time, he and his brother have gone too far.

After ruining one of his father’s executive gatherings, Crewe is sent to rehab, and Trent is forced to live on campus (and on a budget) under the watchful eye of a roommate who reports back to (and is likely getting paid by) Trent’s father.

When he’s caught tampering with files at Crewe’s facility, Trent is assigned (more) community service hours to be fulfilled by spending time with seventeen-year-old Summer Evans, resident psychopath. 

The previous year, Summer’s best friend was found dead in her backyard swimming pool. Summer, the only known witness, remembers nothing about that night. Because foul play was suspected and she was a minor, Summer and her family agreed to rehab in lieu of a prison sentence.  

But the more time Trent spends with Summer, and the more he learns about the events surrounding her friend’s mysterious death, the less sense it all makes. 

What if Summer isn’t guilty at all?

What if she’s innocent, and he can prove it?

As Trent quietly falls for the extraordinary artist, his investigation is going to take a dramatic turn, sending him spiraling deeper into the egotism and entitlement edging his own privileged lifestyle. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Flat Characters vs. Round Characters

What's the difference between flat and round characters?

A flat character will have a fixed set of (usually predictable) traits. None of these are likely to drive or create any real conflicts within the story. 

Round characters are more complex and have traits that often conflict with one another. 

An old man can be both a miser with his time and affection, but generous financially to the charities he supports. 
The mother can be frivolous with her money, but responsible when it comes to her career or children. 
The teenager may not speak to his parents, but will willingly offer his friends advice/help whenever they ask. 

The best characters are rife with contradictions.

There's nothing inherently wrong with incorporating a flat character into your story, but they don't deserve center stage or even a strong supporting role. 

Keep them strictly to the background. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, April 8, 2019

Just Start

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

I'll say it ad nauseam.

Don't wait until you're inspired to write. 

You're more likely to find inspiration once you sit down at the computer or open that notebook and put the pen to the page or fingers to the keyboard than you are maneuvering blindly about, waiting for that perfect "lightning" sentence or word or idea.

Don't wait for "the mood."

There is no mood. The mood doesn't exist.

(But if there is a "mood," again, you certainly won't find it until you sit down and begin to work.)

Put your current mood to work.

Don't know what to write? 

Start with a prompt. Start with a character. Start with a setting. Start with a list of words that you love. Start with "I don't know what to write." Fill the page if you must.

Just start.

Be Brilliant!


Thursday, April 4, 2019

Plot and Character

According to Josip Novakovich (Fiction Writer's Workshop), plot can grow out of character, but character doesn't necessarily grow out of plot.

Stock characters, for instance--let's use a detective as our example--don't always change as the plot thickens around them, as they grow closer to solving the murder. In the next book with a new case to solve, the detective is likely to be the same dependable gentleman he was before. If he's part of a series, then these books could be read in any order and very little information would be lost in the process.

A well-rounded character acting in unpredictable ways, however, will naturally drive the plot, as the decisions he makes cause new things to happen. If done correctly he will, at times, become his own contradiction. This is what makes him intriguing. 

There's nothing wrong with writing a story with a stock character--a character doesn't have to change to be worth reading--but it helps to know before you begin what you're trying to accomplish with your tale, and which kind of character will best serve your story's purpose. 

Be Brilliant!


Monday, April 1, 2019

On Making Time

I love what Dorothea Brande (Becoming a Writer) says about making time for Art:

"There is almost no wage slave so driven that he cannot snatch a quarter of an hour from a busy day if he is in earnest about it."

But Katie, Brande wrote this the early 1930s! Of course there was time to create. They didn't have television or Netflix or the internet. They didn't drive their kids to and from practices every night of the week. They didn't have news and information tossed at them from every angle from one day to the next.

Yes, dear reader, this is true, but Brande's generation dealt with its own struggles, and the point here is that if we have something worth saying (or writing) or something worth making or something worth inventing, then it's up to us to be good stewards of our time.

We can all find an extra 30 minutes in our day--it's probably just a matter of turning off Pinterest or Facebook and staying away from Netflix for a while, or even waking up a few minutes early. 

What it comes down to is our priorities. We make time for what matters most to us. If that priority is Netflix, then we should own it without lamenting there's "no time" to write down the story that's swimming in our heads.

Be Brilliant (especially when it comes to your time)!


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Setting the (Story) Stage

Many readers prefer the fast pace of dialogue and action (the exciting parts of a novel) as opposed to information about the setting.

(In truth, this is why I was unable to finish Lord of the Rings. Sacrilege, I know.)

On the other hand, there are readers who love those milieus--pages and pages of vivid, detailed descriptions. I think sci-fi, fantasy, and historical writers are the most adept at creating worlds and drawing the reader into the characters' space.

If you're not creating a new world but writing about the world we're currently in, it can be tempting to gloss over the details and ask the reader to fill in the blanks (which, as readers, we're pretty good at doing, actually).

Still, our environments directly affect who we (and our characters) are, and if we're going to fully explore those characters, a strong sense of place is mandatory. 

Don't think, however, that you have to present every aspect of the "where" and the "when" upfront. 

Drop little hints along the way. Intersperse the details between the dialogue and action. Use the surroundings to tell us more about the character.

Give us that "establishing shot." Let us know where we are, what time of day (or night!) it is, give us a clear view of where your current action is set, and remember to always point out the surprising. 

Do this between the action and dialogue, and you won't be at risk of losing the reader to those long, flowery passages of description that tend to remove us from the story.

And, as always . . . 

Be Brilliant!