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Over the last decade, I graduated from high school, got a bachelor’s in writing, earned an MFA in fiction, and began my career as a copywriter. In that time, I grew a lot as a writer — so I thought I’d share the lessons that helped me most along the way. How does one from … Continue reading 10 lessons from a decade of writing
Readers love to see a character grow. To see them learn something, realize their goals, or overcome a deepfelt pain, misbelief, or fear. But how do you track that growth effectively over the course of a story? My preferred method is outlining their character journey in four steps: Establish the Struggle: Convey your character’s core emotional … Continue reading Show character growth with this 4 step outline
I’ve encountered a lot of writing feedback over the years. Feedback that’s good, bad, or cocktail of both — from the 15 workshops I joined in college (including my time in the MFA) to my current experiences as a copywriter. I’ve also learned how to get the most out of all that feedback. So this … Continue reading 6 types of writing feedback and what to do with each
Your hero is out of time. They stand alone, with one arm limp and bleeding at their side, and the other shielding their eyes from a blinding light — the villain’s final spell. It spills from the sky, like fiery entrails from a pale gut, and plummets toward the earth. If your hero fails here, … Continue reading There’s more to raising narrative stakes than making big explosions
Good figurative writing is electrifying. It adds beauty and depth to your prose in a way literal language struggles to match. But the challenge of good figurative language is that it doesn’t come from your head — it comes from your gut. You don’t sit there and systematically craft metaphors by analyzing and connecting two … Continue reading How to craft good figurative writing according to Dead Poets Society
As a teenager, I used to drink deep from the well of plot twists. From movies and anime, to comics and novels – I loved nothing more than a reality shattering twist. It’s why my favorite author was Ted Dekker, whose book bios always promised “adrenaline-laced stories with unexpected plot twists.” I ate. It. UP. And … Continue reading How to write a plot twist: 3 Questions to Ask
A baby sleeps in a bundle of blankets on the step of number four, Private Drive. He has black hair, and on his forehead is a lightning bolt scar. Rain falls upon the streets of Derry, Maine – and in the darkness of a gurgling storm drain, there lurks a clown with a white-painted face … Continue reading Unforgettable: How to write imagery your readers will always remember
As writers, we want our work to hold weight — for our characters’ actions, emotions, and desires to resonate with and impact our readers. But how do we make that happen? The most helpful advice, in my experience, has been to: Make the internal become external, and Make the external become internal. Let’s talk about … Continue reading Two ways to add emotional weight to your stories
The best metaphor (and cautionary tale) I’ve read about how to keep readers immersed in a story came from a book on poetry — Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual. Recalling a childhood vacation on the Wisconsin River, Kooser writes: I do vividly remember going for a ride in an excursion boat that had … Continue reading “Dropping sunglasses” — and how to keep readers immersed in a story
Mood: The immediate (and temporary) emotions of your character. A feeling of joy after kissing the girl they like; frustration after a busy day working a summer job at the fair; despair after somebody eats the last Oreo. Situation: The plot and relationship contexts of your character. The apprehension they feel with a friend in the weeks … Continue reading Your character is driven by 3 emotional motives. See?
These are challenging times. The coronavirus (COVID-19) has turned into a global pandemic. Our schools, restaurants, and cities are shutting down. Many of us are self-isolating. And you’d think, with all this time alone, we’d finally be able to get some writing done. But it hasn’t been easy, has it? In fact, it’s been harder … Continue reading COVID-19: A Writer’s Guide to Self-Care
The year is 1905, and the scene is a Dublin bazaar, just after nightfall. The large hall is cast in shadows. Most of the vendors are closed — the silence broken only by murmured voices, the clatter and scrape of coins being counted on a tray, and the footsteps of a boy, walking through the … Continue reading Creating character arcs with Joyce’s epiphany
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