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Backstory: When Is It Necessary?

Man holding picture of the back of his head with text: When Should We Reveal Backstory?

We often think about the purpose of backstory in terms of “what do readers need to know?” But with that perspective, it’s too easy to include too much backstory. Instead, we might be better off if we think about backstory from the perspective of what the story needs.

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September 13, 2016

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Character Arc Development: Is There a Best Approach?

Person's shadow on the beach with text: Developing a Character's Arc

There are almost an infinite number of ways we can develop our story. As long as we end up with a finished book, our process works. And just like the variety found in the overall writing processes we might use, we have many options for how to come up with our protagonist’s arc as well.

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August 18, 2016

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How to Weave Story Elements and Avoid Info Dumps

Garbage can with text: No Info Dumps Allowed

Our stories consist of many elements—from backstory to dialogue—that each contribute to our story. Yet we can overdo those elements with an information dump. How can we include the different elements while making sure we don’t cross over into Info Dump Land? Let’s talk options…

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March 10, 2016

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Tangents and Subplots: When Do They Work?

Shopping cart in the woods with text: Is This Scene Out of Place?

My Elements of a Scene Checklist helps us identify whether a scene is truly necessary and contributing to our story by making sure it fulfills a story purpose. The same judgment criteria can apply to subplots as well. Let’s take a look at how can we make sure our tangents and subplots are adding to the story and not acting as a distraction.

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August 25, 2015

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First Pages: Tips to Avoid Cliches and Weak Writing

Blank book open to first page with text: What's on Your First Page?

Many stories “strike out” with readers in the first chapter. So our opening pages are just as critical to sales as our book cover, title, back-cover blurb, etc. Let’s take a closer look at cliches to avoid and tips to make those pages work for us.

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September 18, 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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What Do Your Characters Falsely Believe?

Text: How Are Your Characters (big red letters) WRONG!

Last year, I wrote a series of posts about a fabulous presentation by Michael Hauge on “Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories.” But the teachings I picked up from the presentation went far beyond being applicable only to romance. Blogger extraordinaire Janice Hardy was in the workshop with me, and […]

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September 26, 2013

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How to Use Character Flaws to Develop a Plot

Rusted and stained brick wall with text: Flaws Create a Better Story

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 […]

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April 16, 2013

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Ask Jami: Editing Tips–Tightening Scenes

Tight hand squeezing a red foam heart

In my post last week asking if we can have too much voice, some great questions came up in the comments.  I decided to turn them into “Ask Jami” blog posts rather than bury the answers in the comment string. Earlier, I shared ideas on how to use color-coding to check if […]

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March 1, 2012

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