Write stronger stories!
Write great protagonists!
Tips organized by topic
Read about me
Editing Services
Read Testimonials

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

7 Things I Wish I'd Known as a Beginning Writer

I wish I'd known so many things as a beginning fiction writer. . . . 

Recently, I was teaching and mentoring at the Storymakers Conference, and I got into a conversation with a fellow editor and writer about such things, and I've sort of been thinking about them off and on ever since. Thus, this post. But I'll keep this intro brief. . . . 

Here are seven things I wish I'd known when attempting to write my first novel.

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

What is a Character Tag? Definition, Purpose, and Examples

A character tag is a word, phrase, description, trait, or concept repeatedly associated with a specific character.

Purpose of Character Tags in Fiction

There are several purposes for character tags:

  1. Tags help define a character, making him more distinct, more individualized from other characters in the story.
  2. Tags work as identifiers--they make it easier for the audience to quickly identify a character.
  3. Tags help with recall. When used appropriately, a character tag allows the reader to immediately recall the character, his traits, personality, and mannerisms.

Character tags can be particularly useful for flat characters and characters with small roles, who are often only defined by a few features, but tags can also be useful for round characters and characters with major roles.

They're especially important when working with a large cast of characters, because they allow the audience to easily keep track of who is who. 

But in order to better understand them, let's look at some examples.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Understanding Act Structure in Stories

In storytelling structure, people use the term “act” rather broadly and vaguely. Most in the writing community break stories down into three acts: beginning, middle, and end. But if you asked many writers what an act actually is, they would probably give you blank stares. 

Despite acts being key structural units in stories, they don’t get a lot of attention. 

And when they do, they are often treated simply as containers to fill with beats from a beat sheet.

Luckily, the basics of acts aren’t too hard to grasp, if you already know the basics of structure.

And once you grasp acts, your whole story will have not only better structure, but better pacing and better direction.

So let’s unpack the act.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Dealing with Self-Doubt as a Writer

Dealing with self-doubt can be an important skill to learn as a writer. While doubt often feels like a negative experience, it's actually arguably a natural, healthy one. Once you properly understand doubt, the trick is to keep it from becoming toxically unbalanced.

Quite a while ago at this point, a follower asked me a question that related to self-doubt. 

Now, I'm certainly not a psychologist or a therapist or anything like that. But I've certainly been plagued by self-doubt as much as probably any writer--and when I was starting out, likely even more.

I definitely don't know everything on the subject, and if you are dealing with legit trauma, you'll probably want to go to a professional. 

With that said, I think my views on it may be useful to some people. (They are also useful for me to revisit.) And I know there will be some people who disagree with what I say--and that's okay. No one has to agree with me on everything.

But maybe you will learn something new.

Because we all deal with self-doubt on occasion. 

And if you are a person who literally never experiences self-doubt, while many would likely envy you, I personally would be a little worried for you, for reasons that will make sense by the end of this article.

You see, contrary to what our culture seems to want us to believe, experiencing some form of self-doubt is a natural--and I'd even argue--healthy thing.

It only truly becomes a problem when it is so unbalanced, that it becomes toxic, that you let it stop you from doing anything, from living the life of your dreams.

If you can't tell yet . . . my take on this topic will likely be atypical.

But I do think it will be helpful.

First, however, I want to lay out some important groundwork. . . .

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Testing Fate: A Closer Look at Person vs. Fate Conflict

Conflict is key to writing great stories. And while writers may categorize conflict differently, I categorize conflict into eight types:

Person vs. Self 

Person vs. Person 

Person vs. Nature 

Person vs. Society 

Person vs. God 

Person vs. Fate 

Person vs. the Supernatural 

Person vs. Technology 

In today’s modern times, the Person vs. God conflict often gets left off lists or is combined with or even replaced by the Person vs. Fate conflict. But because fate conflicts don’t necessarily have gods, and god conflicts don’t necessarily include fate, I put them in separate categories.

Out of all the conflict types, Person vs. Fate is often the most misunderstood.

Monday, February 13, 2023

How to Write Strong Character Relationships: Tips, Arcs, Plot, Structure

Writing strong character relationships is critical for any author to master. Nearly every story, in nearly every genre, will feature a relationship for a plotline--whether that relationship is for the primary, secondary, tertiary, or quaternary plot, and whether that relationship is positive or negative, for allies, friends, love interests, coworkers, rivals, enemies, or what have you. 

Set up the relationship dynamics right in your story, and any relationship will be easier to write.

Authors often use relationship plotlines because they fit exactly between the external plot and the internal plot. They aren't as broad and far-reaching as the external plot, but they aren't as deep or personal as the internal plot. This makes them a perfect fit to add dimension to any story.

Hello, everyone! I'm officially finishing up my relationship series (for now) with an overview of what we've covered. This page will work well to refresh you on the topic and help you find and recall any info you may need to come back to later. I hope this journey has been helpful to you, and I hope this page will help anyone new here, looking for a guide to writing relationships.

Please note for below: "Character A" and "Character B" may refer to either character in the relationship.

Monday, January 30, 2023

Structuring Relationship Arcs & Plots in a Series

Structuring relationship arcs and plots throughout a series can sometimes feel a little nebulous and daunting. Plenty of writers have messed up such attempts. Luckily, plenty of others get them right, and so can you. Just like everything else in this relationship arc and plot series though, there is . . . a lot of room for variation. Nonetheless, this article will give you foundational guidelines to help you get it right in your series.

Hello, everyone! I thought I was basically done with my relationship articles, but I have been asked a couple of times how to handle relationship arcs and plotlines in a series. Well, in some ways, it is similar to how you handle character arcs in a series, which means . . .  there is more than one way to do it.

Monday, January 23, 2023

BIG NEWS: My Online Writing Course!

So, I've been working on a secret project: a live, online writing course. Yay! ðŸŽ‰ I'm teaming up with My Story Doctor to bring forth a nearly 30-hour class all about developing solid content for stories. And now? It's open for enrollment.

The Triarchy Method of Story: A New Writing Course by September C. Fawkes

The Triarchy Method will help you craft your best book by focusing on what matters most: The “bones” of story. This content-focused course will help you brainstorm better and more relevant material, evaluate what ideas most belong in your story (preventing you from writing hundreds of pages that need to be scrapped), and craft a page-turning plot with compelling characters that sticks with readers long after they’ve closed the book (. . . and hopefully leads them to preorder your next book). The Triarchy Method will illuminate your way to a stronger, solid story.

But only under one condition: You must do the work.

Whether you are in the brainstorming stage, writing stage, or revising stage, and whether you prefer to pants or plan your first draft, strong bones lead to strong stories. So, what are the bones? I call them “The Triarchy of Story,” and they are as follows:


Character is represented by the rib cage—it houses the heart of story. It’s how the audience gains emotional experience from the narrative, through (to some degree) empathy.


Plot is represented by the backbone—it holds the story upright and together. It’s the curvature that makes up the narrative arc, the spine that runs from beginning to end.


Theme is represented by the skull—it hosts the intellect of story. It’s how the audience gleans meaning that sticks with them long after the narrative is over. It’s why the story matters.

While some stories and genres may (rightfully) emphasize one bone over the others, it’s the progression of these elements that turns ideas into stories

And if any of this sounds a little familiar to you, it's because I've talked about the triarchy on here before--as the "trinity of storytelling" (but, ya know "bones" and "trinity" don't really work the greatest for branding and marketing, for obvious reasons ✝️🙃).

Nearly every scene, every chapter in your story should be progressing one of these three things. If it’s not, it’s likely filler (even if cleverly disguised filler (painful, I know)). Ideally, the majority of scenes in most stories will actually be progressing all three simultaneously. Don’t worry—I will be digging deep into each element to help you unbury your own story’s bones to accomplish this.

We will be focusing on core principles of each.

For characters, we will talk about your protagonist’s internal wants and backstory, the four basic types of arcs, how to build a balanced cast and make characters complex. We will also talk about agency, archetypes, relationships, and more.

For plot, we will cover the importance of goals, how to pick the right antagonistic forces, how to make conflicts meaningful, and why stakes are critical to keep the pages turning. We will also cover how to create a sense of progress and setbacks, escalate costs, craft turning points, write reveals and twists, and more.

For theme, we will discuss its often misunderstood components, and how to show them effectively through the story. We will also discuss how to replicate the human experience so that your reader comes away wiser, better, and more intelligent—with the story sticking to them long after The End.

We will always keep in mind these are principles, not laws, so there is room for variation (which we will talk about).

Of course, though, simply having a rib cage, backbone, and skull isn’t usually enough—you need to organize them into a coherent structure. They need to be arranged into their proper places, so they look “human” to other humans (i.e. like a “story” to other humans).

This is where structure comes in.

After digging up the bones, we’ll structure them in a way that is familiar and understandable to the audience.

We will structure not only the plot, but the character cast and theme as well. We will cover basic story structure, scene structure, act structure, and narrative arc beats.

Near the end of the course, we will workshop one of your scenes in class. And your final assignment will be to turn in a guided outline of your story for feedback.

Ideally, once the bones are strong and in place, your story will be—more or less—writing itself.

Not only can The Triarchy Method help you with your current story, but it can help you with all future stories.

I’ll give you the tools, you bring the dream—roll up your sleeves for some digging, because together we’re gonna make your story bone-solid.


This is a live, online course that will be limited to 10 students.

Classes will be every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 pm Mountain Time (8:30 pm EST), starting March 7th and ending on May 25th. If you miss a class, there will be links to the recordings and material so that you can review them later.

Nearly every lesson includes a developmental assignment, which I will give basic feedback on.

Also, if you desire, you can be added to a brainstorming/writing group or partnership to meet with outside of class.

For a full description and details, go here.


I love sharing my enthusiasm for writing, and I think it's no secret I like thoroughly dissecting the craft. I also enjoy teaching. So this will be an exciting new venture. If you've been following me for a while, you'll likely notice the course covers some familiar concepts I've talked about on my blog. I'm excited to dig deep into those concepts and cover new ones, while also explaining how they all connect (which is certainly too difficult and massive to fit into a single blog post (or blog series)).

Whether you register or not, thanks for being here and sharing this special milestone with me--it's kind of a big deal to me. (I'd also appreciate it if you spread the word ðŸ˜‰) May all your writing dreams come true🙏

- September C. Fawkes

Monday, January 9, 2023

Structuring Your Relationship Plotline, Part 2: Key Beats


Beat sheets are valuable tools for structuring and writing a story. They can be just as valuable when structuring and writing a relationship arc. In reality, I could write up a beat sheet for each relationship arc. Today, I've decided to go over the key beats, in the order they most frequently appear (which usually applies to positive change relationships). 

In my previous article, I laid out a foundational approach to structuring your relationship plotlines. That will likely be more useful to you in structuring your relationship arc, than following these beats in the presented order. Once you understand the foundational principles, you can successfully manipulate any beat sheet to suit what you are writing. This is why I titled this post "key beats" and not "beat sheet." There are plenty of relationship plotlines that don't adhere to these exact beats or this exact order.

Nonetheless, knowing what is most common can help you discern how to handle yours. Your relationship plotline can follow this exactly, or you can vary it (which I'll talk about more at the end). 

So far, we have covered relationship arcs, relationship plots, and the foundational approach to relationship structure. Let's finish this up with the common key beats.

In this ongoing relationship series, I intentionally picked relationship arcs that appear quite different from each other, to show variation. For this reason, I'll be using Monsters Inc. as a main ongoing example below, while simply referencing some beats in my other ongoing examples; Monsters Inc. follows these beats, in this order, exactly. (Many of my other examples, do not.)

(Note for below: "Character A" and "Character B" can be either character in the relationship.)