antagonist

Building a Theme through Character Arcs

April 3, 2014 Writing Stuff
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We normally create stories where the point—the theme—is in line with our worldview. But it’s not unusual for our characters to hold opposite beliefs, even our protagonists. At least to start. And their story journey is often where our theme lies.

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How to Make Turning Points Drive Arcs and Themes

February 11, 2014 Writing Stuff
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Last week, we looked at turning points from the perspective of beat sheets—how to identify them and ensure they’re changing the direction of the story enough to deserve their name. But turning points affect the story in other ways too. Turning points aren’t just about plot twists. (In fact, plot twists come with a warning.) […]

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Using Conflict to Understand Our Characters

November 19, 2013 Writing Stuff
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All stories need conflict. As agent Donald Maass says, we need tension on every page. But that doesn’t mean our characters should come to fisticuffs on a regular basis. Instead, conflict refers to whatever stands between our characters and what they want. Why does it take them 300 or so pages to reach their goals or […]

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How to Avoid a Sagging Middle in Our Stories

October 29, 2013 Writing Stuff
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The middle act of our story isn’t about adding page count to drag out the tension and make the story novel-length. And the middle isn’t a delaying tactic before we get to the “good stuff.” Instead, the middle of our story should be the “meat” of the story. Without setting up the obstacles here, any solution in the final act will seem too easy and won’t be as satisfying.

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Help for Writers in the WHW Amazing Race!

October 22, 2013 Writing Stuff
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Remember when I mentioned last week that The Bookshelf Muse had become Writers Helping Writers? And how the phenomenal Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi behind the site had two new books coming out this week: The Positive Trait Thesaurus and The Negative Trait Thesaurus? And how they were going to have a great kickoff for […]

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How to Use Character Flaws to Develop a Plot

April 16, 2013 Writing Stuff
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Last time, we talked about using our characters’ strengths to develop their flaws. But I didn’t get a chance to talk about how we could figure out the matching flaw for a character strength. Many of you are probably familiar with the Myers Briggs test, a well-known test that labels people with a four-letter abbreviation for […]

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The Thin Line between Character Strengths and Flaws

April 11, 2013 Writing Stuff
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Last time I asked you to share your superpower, that trait—useful or not—that makes you unique. Everyone shared some great stories, although none of us had skills that would land us on Cracked.com’s “Real People with Mind-Blowing Mutant Superpowers” list. *eyes the superpowers that made the list* Maybe that’s a good thing. At the end […]

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Are Your Characters Based on Real People?

September 6, 2012 Writing Stuff
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One of the stereotypical author interview questions is “Are any of your characters based on real people?” And I’m always struck when an author answers “Yes.” Usually, they’ll even share that so-and-so was based on such-and-such person. Sometimes they’ve based a character on a friend or family member. Sometimes they’ve based a character on an […]

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How “The Amazing Spider-Man” Rocks Subtext

July 10, 2012 Writing Stuff
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Subtext? In a comic book movie? Really, Jami? Yes, really. Now, I’m not calling The Amazing Spider-Man groundbreakingly genius or anything, but it’s an, er, amazingly good movie character-wise compared to… Oh, say, the Green Lantern. If you remember from my Green Lantern posts about how how not to write plot or characters, I freely admit I’m a genre-loving […]

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The Ultimate Guide to Pitch Writing

June 5, 2012 Writing Stuff
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As we head into “writing conference” season, I thought I’d revisit my post about how to write a pitch.  This post originally ran several months ago, but the information never gets old.  (In fact, I’ve used this to help myself write pitches lately.) Pitches fall into many categories, from loglines and elevator pitches to queries […]

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