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The Danger of Political Correctness for Diverse Books

Magnetic desk toy with various colors of human figures with text: We Need Diverse Ideas

Diverse books are important—not simply for the sake of diversity—but so that by sheer number of representations, any one type of character isn’t limited to a stereotype. The truth is that we are all diverse. No one stereotypical character will ever represent us, no matter our color, nationality, or background.

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June 3, 2014

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How Can We Show a Character’s Internal Journey?

Trees growing over road with text: Our Character's Internal Journey

I’m a big fan of Michael Hauge’s approach to characters. His insights helped me figure out how to match a character’s internal journey to the external plot. This is often tricky, though, so let’s go deeper into how characters change.

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May 15, 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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Can Genre Fiction Be “Art”?

Piet Mondrian's "Composition with Red Blue Yellow" with text: Can Genre Fiction Be "Art"?

We have a hard time defining literary fiction. Society gives us assumptions on the relative value of genre vs. literary fiction, but those assumptions miss the point. Assigning value judgments to the labels “literary” and “genre” doesn’t make sense because preferences are subjective opinions and there’s no “better” or “worse.”

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April 17, 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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How to Make Characters Vulnerable to Readers

A turtle in the middle of a road with text: Are Your Characters Vulnerable?

Most tips for creating sympathetic characters point out that our characters need flaws. And that’s very true. But it can be a real trick to show flaws for characters who bottle up their emotions in an attempt to hide their weaknesses. While very common, that defense mechanism can leave very […]

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November 7, 2013

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The Thin Line between Character Strengths and Flaws

A yin-yang style wave with text: When Is a Character Strength a Flaw?

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 […]

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April 11, 2013

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Michael Hauge’s Workshop: An Antidote to “Love at First Sight”

Close up of eye and text "Love at First Sight? Or Lazy Writing?"

By far, the best workshop I attended at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Annual Conference was Michael Hauge‘s presentation, “Using Inner Conflict to Create Powerful Love Stories.” Unlike every other workshop, Michael gave his presentation twice. I attended on the second day and the room was standing-room-only packed. The first day was likely […]

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August 9, 2012

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What Stories *Won’t* You Write?

Square piece of road pavement painted with "STOP" in the middle of the woods

In my last post, we talked about voice and how we tend to write the same types of characters, premises, and themes over and over.  That’s not a bad thing.  Those stories resonate with us as writers. Similarly, there are stories we would never write.  Stories might be so against our internal grain […]

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April 17, 2012

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