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Monday, May 29, 2017

Are Your Conflicts Significant?

Every once in a while, I hear writers talk about the importance of writing about significant conflicts. And they're right. Stories need to have significant conflicts to be interesting. Often the promise of significant conflicts is where tension comes from. Significant conflicts are particularly important in the opening page or pages of your story.

Significant conflict does not necessarily mean an extreme conflict, and this is where I see people get confused. We are often told that something extreme needs to happen in the opening to get the reader's attention, like a bomb going off. While stories can open this way, they don't have too. While those conflicts are significant, they aren't the only kinds of significant conflicts.

I have seen plenty of story openings with insignificant conflicts. This might be something like the protagonist being out of toothpaste or a cat being bored. Sure, there is a conflict of some sort, but it's insignificant. Who really wants to read ongoing paragraphs about a character being out of toothpaste and how inconvenient that is? It's little better than having no conflict.

Monday, May 22, 2017

How to Outline When Starting a Story

Last week I started talking about outlining, specifically focusing on story structure and what to outline. You can visit that post here.

Usually when people talk about outlining, they are either referring to what to outline or how to outline. So today, I'll be talking about different ideas on how to outline.

One thing that I probably should have mentioned last time that I'll mention today is that much of outlining stems from brainstorming, so if you are having a difficult time writing down an outline, it may be because you haven't brainstormed enough. Some writers brainstorm and do an outline simultaneously. So if you are having trouble, ask yourself if you have brainstormed enough.

Monday, May 15, 2017

What to Outline When Starting a Story

Anonymous asked: Hi, I visit your tumblr frequently. Creative writing is my passion and I am learning a lot reading your posts. I have also read books about screenplay (and the book by Lisa Cron about how our brain works). I love writing fantasy young adult novels but for me it's hard to outline. Could you give me some tips? :-) (Forgive me for my grammar errors. English is not my first. language) :-) Thank you so much. When you publish your novel, I will love to read it :D 

Hi anonymous,

Well, talking about outlining can be a little tricky because just as people write differently, people outline differently. For creative writing, there aren't a lot of rules for how you outline. Some writers don't outline at all. They simple start writing and find their story as they go. Personally, I'm a big outliner, but I also leave myself some room in case I come up with better idea along the way.

Now, for some, when they talk about outlining, they simply mean planning things out ahead of time, and how and what to plan, but others mean the actual physical process of outlining (physically writing down and organizing their outline), so I'll try to talk about both.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Complex Characters and the Power of Contradiction

Hi everyone, this week I'm over at Writers Helping Writers, talking about how to make complex characters by giving them contradictions. Here is a preview:

You’ve likely seen countless posts and resources related to creating great characters, but almost all of them seem to be lacking in one aspect I’ve found to be perhaps the most powerful: giving your characters contradictions.

Some might read this and say, “Huh? Isn’t that inconsistent characterization? Or undefined characterization?”

The contradictions I’m talking about aren’t continuity errors or mistakes. They can relate to internal conflicts, but they are not internal conflicts. If you don’t like the term “contradiction,” many of the things I’m about to talk about also work as “contrasts.”

When writers are given methods to create characters, the approaches often include giving the character strengths and weaknesses, likeable attributes, a unique appearance, and a nice backstory, or a secret or fear. These are all wonderful and useful things. But how do you make your character more complex? More interesting?

The answer lies in giving them some sort of contradiction. Let’s look at some examples of characters and the contradiction or contrasts surrounding them.

Read the rest Writers Helping Writers

Monday, May 1, 2017

Why Being Boring is Awesome

In his advice book for creatives (Steal like an Artist), Austin Kleon has a chapter titled, "Be Boring."

"Be boring," Kleon says. "It's the only way anything gets done."

"I'm a boring guy," he goes on, "with a nine-to-five job in a quiet neighborhood with his wife and his dog."

Like Kleon, I'm a boring person. I do the exact same thing every day or every week. I haven't been on a trip that wasn't writing related in years. I almost never miss a day of work. Saturday mornings I work on my blog and every Sunday I go to church. It's a good thing I'm a Hufflepuff, because I have the tenacity of a rock.

But things get done. (And money gets saved.)

Once in a while, I get messages from people online that go something like this: