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Plot Obstacles: Too Easy, Too Difficult, or Just Right?

Hurdle obstacle with text: The Right Obstacles for Our Story

Our characters have to overcome many problems throughout our plot, but changing the obstacles doesn’t always fix story problems. Sure, sometimes an obstacle doesn’t fit the story, but too often, the obstacle itself isn’t broken—but the storytelling around the obstacle.

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May 12, 2016

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What’s the Difference between Plot and Story?

Man walking through a desert with text: How is Plot Different from Story?

When we first start off as writers, if someone asks us about our story, we might launch into an overview of our story’s plot. It’s easy to think the plot is what our story is about. But with few exceptions, story isn’t the same as plot.

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May 3, 2016

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Subtext: Creating Layered Characters

Reflections on a water surface with text: Getting Under the Surface of Our Characters

I’ve written many times about how much I love subtext, the stuff that happens between the lines. Subtext lurks in many aspects of our stories and helps immerse readers and add realism and tension. In addition, subtext can help us build layered characters.

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April 21, 2016

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Story Conflict: Villains vs. Antagonists

Man sitting in a dark room with text: Does Every Story Need a Villain?

Conflict is one of those words we all think we understand, but the writing-world meaning doesn’t have the same connotation as the non-writing meaning. Yet it’s only after understanding conflict that we’ll see the difference between antagonists and villains in storytelling.

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March 1, 2016

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Character Likability and Subtext

Layers in red rock with text: Add Layers to Non-POV Characters

How are villains, character likability, subtext, and point-of-view all related? In many stories, our antagonist is a non-POV character, and for non-POV characters, my previous tips about likability will be limited to subtext. So even though we might not be trying to make our villain likable, we might struggle to make them layered.

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September 17, 2015

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Story Climax: Forcing Characters to Move Forward

One arrow pointed in an opposite direction with text: How to Make Our Characters Move Forward

Whatever happens in the Climax is often the reason we decided to write the story back when it was just a twinkle in our muse’s eye. But just before the beat of the Climax, our character experienced the Black Moment/Crisis, where they gave up. How do we get them to recommit to the story goals?

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April 30, 2015

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How to Place Turning Points on a Beat Sheet

Pile of all kinds of money with text: How to Translate Our Story into Any Beat Sheet

Is a Catalyst the same thing as an Inciting Incident? (Answer: Yes.) How do I know? It’s not because there’s a secret cheat sheet with translations for every beat sheet term. *smile* If we know the functions beats fulfill in a story, we’ll always know where a story event belongs on a beat sheet.

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February 5, 2015

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How to Create Characters Worth Reading

Close of an eye with an intense stare with text: How to Make a Character Compelling

There’s no shortage of blog posts about what makes characters likable to readers. Yet readers still read and enjoy stories with unlikable characters. Why? Let’s take a look at what options we have for creating characters that compel readers to keep turning pages.

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January 27, 2015

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Balancing Conflict in Romance Stories

Surfboarder balancing on a wave with text: Balancing Conflict in Romance

One of my commenters asked a great question last week that gets to the heart of the balancing game we have to play when writing romance. The characters have to be perfect enough for each other to make a believable couple, but there also has to be enough conflict between them to sustain a story.

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January 22, 2015

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What Makes a Story’s Black Moment a Black Moment?

Black-and-white image of cemetery cross with text: What Creates a Black Moment?

The Black Moment is usually one of the most emotional sections of the story, so it can be difficult to pull together. If we read stories (or watch movies), we’ve seen this beat play out endless times, so we probably understand the plot point more than we may think. But let’s take a closer look and see if we can learn something new.

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December 16, 2014

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