How to Write Better Stories

better stories

A few insights to help you write better stories.

You know that feeling you get when you read a novel and become completely lost in it? You can’t put it down, so you lose track of time. When you finally finish, you wish it would just keep going.

Isn’t that the kind of story you want to write?

Over the past year, I’ve read only a few books that I couldn’t put down. Unfortunately, several of the books I started to read didn’t keep my interest past the first few chapters. There was a time when I forced myself to finish every book I started, no matter how boring it was. But I don’t have time for that anymore. My book pile is big and my reading list is long, so if I’m not compelled by the time the second act gets underway, I move on and find something more intriguing.

As a reader, I’m on a perpetual quest for better stories. What does that mean for writers?  Read more

Stock and Cloned Characters in Storytelling

stock characters

Are you using stock characters in your stories?

I was recently reading a novel, and a few chapters in, I realized I had mixed up two of the main characters. In fact, I had been reading them as if they were a single character. I’m a pretty sharp reader, and this has never happened before, so I tried to determine why I’d made the mistake. Was I tired? Hungry? Not paying attention?

I went back and reviewed the text and noticed that these two characters were indistinct. They were so alike that without carefully noting which one was acting in any given scene, it was impossible to differentiate them from each other. They were essentially the same character. Even their names sounded alike.

This got me to thinking about the importance of building a cast of characters who are unique and distinct from each other instead of a cast of stock characters who are mere clones of one another.  Read more

Fiction Writing Exercises: Step Out of Your Shoes

fiction writing exercises

Step out of your shoes with these fiction writing exercises.

I recently shared a writing exercise that encouraged you to get into a character’s head. Today’s exercise asks you to go a step further and explore characters and ideas that are your polar opposites.

One of the most exciting and challenging aspects of being a writer is creating characters. It is an opportunity to step outside of your own reality and take on a completely different persona. Unless you’re an actor, an undercover agent, or just plain crazy, you don’t get many chances in life to do that. Read more

Writing Resources for Naming Your Characters

writing resources

Have you ever read one of those epic fantasy novels in which the magical characters can gain total control over any living being simply by discovering their real and true name? I’ve read about ten of those novels.

What do you think is more perplexing, the fact that authors continue to use this rule of magic (even though it’s tired and ready to be retired) or the astounding number of unique names that writers come up with for all the characters in these stories? Read more

Getting Into Character: Fiction Writing Exercises

character fiction writing exercises

Fiction writing exercises for developing characters.

Writers are not actors, but sometimes we need to get into character.

To truly understand the nature of a character, a writer must step into that character’s shoes. You can use character sketches and descriptions while you’re creating a character, but the character will remain two dimensional until you can get into the character’s head and understand what makes them tick. Read more

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Your Gang

101 creative writing exercises - your gang

From 101 Creative Writing Exercises: Your Gang.

Today’s writing exercise comes from my book, 101 Creative Writing Exercises, which takes you on an adventure through the world of writing. You’ll explore different forms and genres while learning practical writing techniques. You’ll also get plenty of writing experience and ideas for publishable projects.

Each chapter focuses on a different form or writing concept: freewriting, journaling, memoirs, fiction, storytelling, form poetry, free verse, characters, dialogue, creativity, and writing articles and blogs are all covered.

Today, we’ll take a peek at “Chapter 3: People and Characters” with an exercise called “Your Gang.” Enjoy! Read more

Creative Writing Prompts for Sci-Fi & Fantasy Lovers

creative writing prompts

Fantastical creative writing prompts.

Today’s post includes a selection of prompts from my book, 1200 Creative Writing Prompts. Enjoy!

In the world of creative writing, we’ve only begun tapping the possibilities in speculative fiction, a genre that includes science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, supernatural, horror, and superhero stories, as well as anything that ventures beyond known reality.

Speculative fiction is an under-recognized genre: academia and literary elitists traditionally haven’t given it much credence, although it has been gaining acclaim in recent years.

But the genre’s fans are rabid. In fact, you won’t find a more dedicated group of readers anywhere else, which makes reading and writing speculative fiction a delight.

Plus, it’s a lot of fun to step outside of reality and see just what your imagination can do. Read more

Plot vs. Character in Storytelling

fiction writing plot and character

Fiction writing: plot vs. character.

Have you ever struggled with a story idea only to give up because it seems like every plot has already been done? Maybe you focus on character development to make up for a weak or formulaic plot.

Or maybe you focus on plot, only to end up with characters that feel flat, stereotypical, or unsympathetic. But your plot is riveting, and that makes up for lackluster characters.

Some stories are plot-driven: they take us through twists and turns that keep readers glued to a story. Others are character-driven: readers keep turning the pages because they’ve become attached to the characters and need to find out what happens to them. But some of the best stories strike a balance between a compelling plot and intriguing characters. Read more

Writing Resources: Wired for Story

wired for story

Are you wired for storytelling?

Are you a storyteller? Do you want to be? Then I suggest you pick up a copy of Wired for Story, ASAP.

This is easily the best book on writing fiction that I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. The book takes a fresh approach and tackles fiction writing from a scientific perspective. Thus the subtitle: “The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence.”

Before all you left-brained creatives bristle at the word science, know this: the book is completely accessible. It doesn’t confuse you with complex scientific jargon. Instead, it uses simple examples (mostly told as stories) to demonstrate the science behind story. Read more

Fiction Writing Exercises for Stimulating Creativity

fiction writing exercises

Stimulate your creativity with these fiction writing exercises.

Do you ever feel like the story you’re writing is bland? Like it needs to be spiced up? Or maybe you want to write a story but you’re fresh out of ideas.

Fiction writing exercises are perfect for toning your storytelling muscles. They can also provide you with a wealth of ideas for writing projects.

Today’s fiction writing exercises are designed to stimulate creativity and get you thinking about storytelling from fresh angles. Read more