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Should Our Protagonist Be in the First Scene?

A face hidden by a hoodie with text: When Should Readers Meet the Protagonist?

Most stories open with the protagonist on page one, but every once in a while, our story seems to work best if we start with another character. If we understand why the protagonist usually works best as the point-of-view character for the first page, we might be able to remake those exceptions into stronger openings.

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February 17, 2015

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You Have a Superpower—Use It!

Wooden figures holding hands with text: Are You Using Your Superpower?

This is a crazy and chaotic time of year for many of us, and this stressful time of year can also bring out the worst in people. Luckily, we all have a superpower. We have the power to make someone else’s day better. Or at the very least, we have the power to provide a bright spot in their otherwise crappy day.

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December 23, 2014

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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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Cause and Effect: Understanding Story Flow

Waterfall with text: Don't Mess with Story Flow

In the real world, the cause of something happens before the effect. But in writing, we can put words into any order we want, which might leave the reader confused. If they have to reverse events in their head, they’re probably no longer immersed in our story. Not good.

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October 9, 2014

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Building a Character Arc: Start at the End

Train tracks ending on a beach with text: Want a Strong Arc? Start at The End

As I mentioned with the worksheet I shared last week, it’s often easier to work backward when we’re framing our story. At the very least, knowing the ending often makes it easier to see our character’s arc.

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July 17, 2014

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6 Steps to Balance Your Editing: Plot vs. Characters

Balance with a gold ball and a silver ball with text: Finding the Balance in Revisions

After we’ve finished drafting our story and the warm fuzzies of that accomplishment have faded, it’s time to buckle down for the next step: revising. Many of us aren’t sure where to start with revisions, even when we know something is wrong with a story. When I help authors edit […]

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June 17, 2014

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When Should We Skip a Scene in Our Story?

Boulder in a river with text: Every Scene Needs Obstacles

Every story beat or turning point scene—when events affect the main story question, conflict, or goal—needs to be included in a story. But what about non-turning-point scenes? How can we tell when to include them and when we can skip ahead?

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May 8, 2014

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What Makes a Story Event a “Turning Point”?

Wood plank balanced on an old pier post with text: How to Recognize a Turning Point

Between questions on Facebook and some of my editing clients, I’ve had several conversations lately about story turning points: what they are, what they mean, and how to recognize them. As writers, we all need to understand turning points. If we plot or plan our story in advance, we need […]

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February 4, 2014

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How to Strengthen Emotions in Our Writing

Dumbbell with text: Stronger Emotions Strengthen Our Writing

Last time, we discussed ways to use The Emotion Thesaurus to avoid problems like telling instead of showing, head-hopping away from the point-of-view character, and clichéd writing. The fourth issue we touched on was avoiding flat or unemotional writing. This last one is a bigger issue than can be summed up in […]

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December 12, 2013

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