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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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Why No Advice Is Perfect: Character Emotions

View of sun through broken window with text: Why No Advice Is Perfect

There’s never going to be a ‘one size fits all’ guideline for any aspect of writing. Every story is different, so some advice doesn’t apply to us. What’s right for one genre might not be right for another genre. Ditto for the point of view of the story. Or the characters. Or the plot.

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September 30, 2014

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Blogiversary Winners & a New Worksheet!

Gift box with text: A Gift for...You! Story Development & Revision Worksheet

I can’t make everyone a winner in my Blogiversary contest, but I can give everyone a gift by releasing a new worksheet. Yay! A couple of my readers asked me to take a look a John Truby’s work and see if I could come up with a worksheet based on his teachings.

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July 10, 2014

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What’s the Perfect Job for Our Characters?

Employee Only sign with text: Finding the Perfect Job (for Our Characters)

If we write our story well, every aspect of the story will contribute to the overall picture and create an impression for the reader. There aren’t any unimportant details in a well-written story. And that means the careers for our characters shouldn’t be an afterthought either.

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April 29, 2014

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Building a Theme through Character Arcs

Chalkboard with text: Theme: What Lesson Have You Learned?

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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April 3, 2014

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How to Make Turning Points Drive Arcs and Themes

Road curving through trees with text: Turning Points Drive a Story

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 […]

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February 11, 2014

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Using Conflict to Understand Our Characters

Man screaming with text: Characters & Conflict

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 […]

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November 19, 2013

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Help for Writers in the WHW Amazing Race!

Rusted out car in the desert with text: Need Help? Check Out Writers Helping Writers

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 […]

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October 22, 2013

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