Showing posts from December, 2008

Happy Holidays!

The Story Sensei blog is taking a break from Christmas to New Year's. Have a great holiday season!

Getting to know your characters better

This article I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Knowing Your Characters Some Tips for Getting Into Your Character’s Story Here are some ways to know your character more deeply, which might solve plot or story problems as you write your novel.
 Many times, when a writer has hit a wall when writing their novel, it could be that the writer just doesn’t know the character well enough. It doesn’t take much to hinder the creative process. Even not knowing a character’s preference for vanilla or chocolate ice cream can cramp the flow of words. Not knowing more major things like the character’s deep core values behind their motivations can be equally deadly to a novel’s progress. So whether the writer is someone who plots the story before he/she writes or who just goes at it, exercises for getting to know the character can be done either before or during a novel’s creation. Utilize Character Charts There are several good character charts available on the internet these day

Setting the stage

There are some stories I've read where the author didn't introduce the setting very well, and I felt like I was dropped into a black pit with two people talking in the dark (or, at best, surrounded by fog or fuzzy light). Ever feel like that? Other times, the author opens with SO MUCH SETTING DETAIL I'm bored silly before the end of page one. You can avoid both of those scenarios. This is especially important for historical and fantasy/speculative fiction writers who need to introduce an entirely new world for the reader within the first few pages without sounding like a travel guide and without confusing the reader. (I think the only exceptions are Regency and possibly medieval writers whose genres are so rampantly published these days and whose time periods are limited to a few years in history. They can introduce the setting with a date and place or a few words and the loyal reader will know exactly when and where they are. For example: “Lord Montgomery entered

The Career Novelist by Donald Maass

You can download the ebook FREE from Donald Maass's website: The Career Novelist “Packed full of fine analysis, solid advice, and thoughtful reflection on the state of contemporary publishing. It’s further distinguished by more common sense than any book of its type that I have ever read. A treasure.” — Dean Koontz, author of Intensity “ indispensable volume for all libraries, and for anyone interested in learning about the world of publishing...” — Ed Gorman, Mystery Scene

Effective Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction, but I'm very careful to make sure my brainstorming time isn't just time wasted daydreaming. This article I wrote originally appeared on Suite101. Effective Brainstorming How to Make the Most of Collecting Ideas Brainstorming all aspects of a story can be made more effective and efficient with these simple tips. Brainstorming is one of the most powerful tools in a writer’s arsenal. A writer can brainstorm all aspects of a novel, from large scale to small scale. A writer can brainstorm high level element like theme and premise. A writer can also brainstorm mid level story elements like character personality, external goals, backstory, career. Also story setting, possible villains, etc. A lesser known but equally powerful use for brainstorming is for very small scale elements like a character’s goal for a particular scene, possible character decisions in a scene, variety of conflict or obstacles in a scen

Building a blog, part 7

Read part 6 here Blog Content, continued Focus on your blog readers. Your blog might be about you, but to build a blog readership, you have to think about what you can give to your blog readers. People visit a blog because of what they get out of it. What do people get out of your blog? Hopefully you’re entertaining. Get some feedback. Figure out which are your most popular posts—and why they’re popular. Can you write more like them? What are your more unpopular posts? Why were they unpopular? Are your blog posts all about you, or do you have things that might be interesting or informative to your readers? Remember to post things that your readers would want to read. Are your blog posts mostly information with very little about yourself? Add some personality to your blog posts. Building a blog readership will take time. Don’t be discouraged and don’t have expectations too high for your blog traffic. All blogs take time to build. Just keep blogging consistently, and also do a few thing

Building a blog, part 6

Read part 5 here Blog Content, continued Blog about personal themes. Think about any personal themes you might have. They can be deep or shallow—but everyone has personal themes. So blog about them. For example, my personal themes are: (a) Asiana because I grew up with a lot of things that are new and different to my blog readers (b) humor because I’m naturally rather irreverent and like funny stuff (c) Christian fiction because I’m an avid reader (d) knitting because I’ve gone gaga over my new hobby (e) my dog because I don’t have children Cheryl Wyatt has themes of both military related things and also funny embarrassing moments for herself (her “Blush and Cringe” posts are hilarious!). Sharon Hinck has a theme of encouragement, so she blogs short encouraging devotionals rather frequently. ChristianFictionQueen blogs not only about Christian fiction but also on BBC movies and miniseries, and also on musicals and other CDs. Look at your own personal themes and build on them. Go wit

The top five things to look for when revising your rough draft

I'm over at Danica Favorite's blog with my list of The top five things to look for when revising your rough draft .

Comfort reading

My friend forwarded me this really inspiring post on Murderati, which is both encouraging and energizing for writers: Comfort reading by Toni McGee Causey

Building a blog, part 5

Read part 4 here Blog Content, continued Post about your hobbies. Most of us pursue hobbies that lots of other people around the world pursue also. So post about it on your blog. This is a great way to add some personal touches to your blog posts, and it also draws people to your blog who have the same interests as you do. Pull in all the things you’re interested in. Anything can make a blog post—your current knitting project, your garden’s first tomato, your spin class’s new instructor, etc. This adds points of interest to your blog and also helps create a community between yourself and your blog readers. Post about current events. Blogs that post about talked-about items tend to get lots of traffic from people Googling those items. If you have something to say about some news or popular item, then blog about it. It doesn’t have to be current news events—it can be anything people are talking about. World events or fashion, politics or cooking. Anything. For example, when the seventh H

Building a blog, part 4

Read part 3 here Blog Content If your blog logistics are all correct (see previous posts), it’s the content on your blog that keeps people coming back. Return visitors are very good. Here are some tips for creating great content for your blog. Be personal. Blog readers like to hear about personal stuff about you. Anything you’re comfortable sharing. A blog that’s purely theme or product related can be boring. Successful blogs have both information and some personal touches. For example, in Stephanie Quilao’s Back in Skinny Jeans blog, she blogs mostly about health issues, body image encouragement, and comments on health and fashion related news on the web. However, Steph also blogs about her own personal struggles with weight loss and body image, making her posts personal as well as informative. Her writing style is also funny and entertaining. Be safe. The flip side of including personal information on your blog is to also be very careful about what you post. Do not post things that