Tag Archives: creation of character

Writing the Story When You Don’t Know How it Ends

1488888_1451583625061900_1369983364_nI am one of those writers who never know how their stories end. I start a story that has interesting characters and then, after following them along to end, I am often surprised. I like writing that way; there is a certain element of adventure in it.

I know many writers who have a great story in their heads but because they don’t have an ending, they never write it. Isn’t that silly? If there is a higher being and he/she created the world, I like to think that’s how they did it too…they created the Universe and now they just sit back and watch wondering where it will all end. The reason? Because that’s what the creators of worlds do.

When you figure out your ending before you write your story you tend to write your story towards that end and in doing so you cheat yourself and your characters. It’s kind of like seeing the drawer filled with junk before you put the junk in the drawer…how do you know it will fit? The truth is, you make it fit and if there is something that doesn’t fit, you throw it out…in story telling that is a really bad thing.

When you write to an end you are literally making your story “fit” into your preconceived notion of what the story is. You aren’t allowing your characters to develop the story, you are forcing it and your readers can tell when a story is forced. For instance, let’s say you have a story about Doug and in the end of your story Doug dies. What if Doug might have met just the right girl and then she was able to go to medical school and save Doug? We would never know because you already killed Doug. Poor Doug has his life and the end of it already mapped out. Not to mention that Doug will never really take any chances in your story because, why should he…he’s gonna die anyways.

Can you see what I am saying here? Writing the end first takes away from the rest of your story and it ends it before your characters can even get started. I’m not saying that it’s bad to have an idea where you think the story may end; what I am saying is don’t force it into that ending. If you are writing a truly good story, it will write itself and if you’re lucky, where it ends will surprise you too.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Got Demons? Use Those Suckers!

1450137_724402270920430_674666324_nAll writers have demons…let’s face it, they are part of the reason we write in the first place. Whether or not those demons are good or bad is purely an individual thing. Some of us try and drink them away others resort to sitting in dark corners cussing at them. I say….use em!

I have always found a place in my writing for my demons. For instance, I am leery of the dark and a smidgen claustrophobic so I have characters in some of my books who are working through those same demons. I know that I am not the only writer who does this. Stephen King has an obvious fear of clowns and Dean Koontz has issues with the possibility of time travel and the bad it can cause. I can point out dozens of writers who use their demons. It’s great therapy too.

There is another reason to use your own demons in your writing…because characters need their own demons to make them more believable and help readers connect to the brokenness that is inside us all. You know your demons better than anyone else so why not share them with some of your characters? Keep in mind you can’t share them with ALL of your characters because that would be redundant but you can share them with a select few and that will help your character development.

 We all have those things that haunt us for whatever reason. We are all, after all, damaged in some way. But rather than pine over not being the perfect person and therefore the perfect writer, realize that those very flaws that you are touting as a bad thing are actually a very good thing for the writer. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t seek therapy if you have visions of murdering your annoying neighbor with a ball-peen hammer but for the most part use your demons. Share those flaws!

© The Writer’s Advice, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Are you Over Thinking Your Writing?

1012837_740539185973405_359533633_nWe all do it. We are working on a story…tolling along…when we suddenly realize that we are thinking about our story 24 hours a day. While taking a shower, while driving, while in conversations with other people…hell you are even lying in bed, wide wake running through character traits. How do you know when it is all too much?

The answer is, when all you can think about is your story or if your child is on fire after trying to make bacon and you find yourself trying to figure out just the right description for what the fire looks like as it fries him/her…you are way too obsessed with your manuscript. Writing is supposed to be fun and if you are obsessed the writing is no longer fun…it’s work and work sucks.

I do a number of things when I realize that I am obsessing about a story. I can usually tell when I am over thinking it all when I begin to go over and over the same line or scene rewriting it 50 or more times because it just-doesn’t-sound-right. I know that you all just want to finish the damn book but I have heard stories of writers who over think too much and end up not publishing a thing. At some point you have to more on and stop trying to polish a hole in the page.

So how do you stop over thinking? Here are some ideas…feel free to add more in the comments section.

  1. Put down the pen mam’ and step away from the desk – Breaks are essential to any good writing. While it feels like we could just sit and do it forever, we really shouldn’t. Take a break.
  2. Put it away for a while – Put that manuscript on a time out. Stick it in a drawer for a predetermined amount of time and then come back to it. Sometimes, like good wine – it just needs to breathe.
  3. Read to a friend – This often works for me. I grab the part I am stuck on and run to my favorite reader and biggest fan…my spouse. Trust me, if it sounds like bird poop, they will tell me.
  4. Retype the previous 4 pages – I have tried this and if actually worked. Sometimes as writers we simply loose our rhythm. Rewriting will run us right up to where we are stuck and hopefully over the hump.
  5. Put a bullet in it – I know that this is extreme but I have been working on manuscripts that just were never going to get finished because I have either lost my passion for the story or it just wasn’t meant to be. It’s okay once in a while to just file a manuscript in the round file marked crap-I-shouldn’t-have-started-in-the-first-place.

These are just a few suggestions; I know that other writers also have ideas. The thing to remember is that every writer has this problem. The thing to figure out is are you going to let it stop you all together or can you simply move on?

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on December 23, 2022 in Healthy Writers, Writing, Writing Tools


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Weather Outside is Frightful….Use That!

Caught in the StormI don’t know about you but here in the Pacific Northwest the weather has gotten positively scary. We got down to 23 degrees this morning! Now I know for some of you I sound like a wuss but that is darn cold here and I am staying in the house. As I sat writing this morning however I realized something else about the cold weather…it made great fodder for a short story!

This is the time of the year when the weather will chase a lot of us indoors and that’s okay as long as you don’t waste the time. The colder weather is a great time to be a captive audience to your craft…heck…what else are you gonna do? I decided this morning that I was going to insert the cold outside into my writing. I realized that tend to write about weather I know…weather I am comfortable with. Looking outside this morning I realized that the cold weather adds an element to my stories that they have never had before…the element of OMG its cold.

Using the weather allowed me to totally change up my story. There are a lot of things that happen in the colder weather that wouldn’t in the summer weather. The cold makes it harder for my detective to solve his/her case, it makes it tougher for my killer to bury the body and it challenges that serial killer who has to go out into the cold to look for victims. And what if my main character, good or bad, has never had to deal with the cold at all? Now there is a monkey wrench worth exploring.

My point is the colder weather is full of ideas and challenges for your characters. Many writers don’t really think about environment or weather or if they do it is a secondary consideration. What if you made it a first consideration? Take your main character and drop him in the snow or the wind or the ice. How much fun could you have with that???

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on December 5, 2022 in Character Studies, Writing


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No Seriously, I’m being Honest

ExplicitlyHonestReviewsBanner_zps44fd87a4These days honesty is a rare thing. We have media telling us stories with slants, we have politicians telling us crap like we are all gullible and we have writers who say they are writing a true story but in essence are still just fiction writers. So how important is it to be honest as a writer? In my opinion, honesty is everything…keep in mind I said honesty…which is not necessarily the truth. Here, let me explain…

To be honest as a writer means to be honest in your writing. Even a fiction writer has to be honest in their work even though their story is totally made up. You see, your work has to be honest in that, it is the best you have to offer and it is as real as you can get. Even fiction stories have to have an element of honesty. If you don’t personally believe in your story, your readers will pick up on it. Case in point…James Frey.

James Frey could have totally gotten away with writing a fiction work and telling everyone it was the truth. It wasn’t his story that got him caught, it was the fact that, in the end, he didn’t believe it either and it showed through. Now I am not advocating that you write a “true story” and then pass it off as such but I am saying that every story has to have an element of truth to it and you, as its creator, have to believe it. An “honest” writer pours their heart into their writing, fiction or not, so that the reader believes. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was not a “true” story but by the time they are finished reading it, most readers believe that it is possible that there is a magical place called Narnia; that was the point after all.

Putting honesty into your work is easy and it is essential to any great story. If you want your readers to enjoy your writing you have to convince them that anything is possible. Remember that your audience is primed for the truth because they get so little of it in the real world these days.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on December 2, 2022 in Writing, Writing Tools


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Give Your Characters Some Character

3D-Character-DesignHave you ever met someone who seemed…well…cardboardish? You know what I’m talking about, stiff, boring and if they weren’t standing upright you would swear they might not have a pulse. What do you usually do when these folks are around? You leave right? You need to think about that when you are creating your characters.

Despite what non-writers will tell you our characters are real people. They have to be or the whole story isn’t believable. You characters have to ring true and the only way for that to happen is to make them as “real” as possible and to do that you have to give your characters some character.

People are not one-dimensional. In fact most of us have some sort of split personality. I know that I am different with my peers than I am my spouse and my children know an entirely different side of me. This is not to say that all of these personalities don’t bleed together; they do but if I am honest I have many, many sides. People are complicated because there are so many sides to each of us. Your characters have to have this aspect of being as well. Your main character, for instance, has to have “things” that make him/her your main character. They have to be strong and resourceful. They also have to be interesting.

So what can you do to give your characters more character? You can….

  • ·         Give him/her a backstory – Everyone needs history to work off of. Our history is what shapes us.
  • ·         Make sure the personality fits the name – Bob will never be a super hero but Mika will. Think about what you name your characters; it’s important.
  • ·         Give him/her issues – We all have them…those things that we drag around with us. Emotional baggage is very helpful when defining your characters. There has to be a reason why they do what they do.
  • ·         Give him/her a physical trait – When describing folks to other folks we often hear things like, ‘she has a limp’ or ‘he has sleepy looking eyes’. “Real” people often have something that makes them stand out from others. Make your characters memorable by giving them a physical trait that makes them unique.

These are just a few things that you can do to give your characters character. Remember that you want readers to like your characters, relate to them or downright hate them…strong emotional reaction is a good thing. So write a more memorable story by making sure that your characters are as real as it gets.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Write it Raw

writing-in-the-rawWe writers can take ourselves way too seriously. One of the most frustrating things as a young writer is to have those “seasoned” writers in your face touting the rules like they were the 10 commandments from the big guy himself. Yes there are some rules that you need not to break i.e. use commas and such but there are others that can be broken like the way you use tense and point of view. One of the worst “rules” ever; go over each thing you write at the end of the day. Here’s the really cool thing about being a writer…we “create” things, even the rules and when we create we get raw; trust me; you can’t do that if you are editing as you write.

When I am working on a book I always write through the first draft without my internal editor. I ignore spelling, tense rules and all that crap that the editing process is supposed to involve. The first go round is to just write the darn story down. Have you ever woken from a dream and thought to yourself, “I need to write that down before I lose it”…writing should be viewed the same way during the first draft stage. You have to get the story down and then go back and on your re-read decide what needs to be changed or dumped. I find that if I don’t do this I lose a lot of the “passion” I had for a story. Just like that dream, if you don’t get it down, you just might lose it.

Stories are emotional vessels for both the writer and the reader. It is a way to convey a piece of the world that either didn’t exist before or to share how that story is seen through your eyes. Emotion is here and now, it’s raw and bold…it is not edited and forced which is what you will do if you try to both write and edit the first time around. Have you ever told a story, verbally, and had your audience on the edge of their seats and then later tried to retell the story only to discover that it doesn’t sound the same? That’s because you are merely repeating the story the second time around; you were creating it the first time around.

So stop trying to edit as you go, it makes about as much sense as combing you hair after each snip of the barber’s scissors; it wastes time and there is no way you can envision the whole story if you are picking it apart as you go. Get it down, get it raw and then go back and put clothes on it.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on November 11, 2022 in Editing, Writing, Writing Tools


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My Chance to be The Leading Man


There are some perks to being a writer. For instance, I can kill off people I don’t like or who slight me. I can live anywhere in the world and the plane ticket doesn’t cost me a cent. I can be an expert at any number of things including cool stuff like bomb disposal and international spy. I can be good at anything I put my pen to…AND I can be the lead in any story I choose.

I think that we writers are lucky because we get to create worlds at will. I can sit down at my desk and create a whole world where the possibilities are endless. Sure I need to make those worlds believable because I don’t want to lose my readers but with just the right amount of detail, I can make the reader believe just about anything.

I think of writing as sort of a therapy most days. If you read my books (and I think everyone should) your will discover that, over the years, I have worked out quite a few things through the pen and paper. I have dealt with child abuse, bad marriages and relationships, death, my feelings of insecurity and even redecorating my office, all through stories. I have also dealt with not having been one of the pretty people in the world.

In high school I was the clown. I was the one who made everyone laugh and so I was accepted into just about every group of people that populated the school yard. One thing I was not however was the charming, always-know-what-to-say, good-looking guy that the girls fawned over. I was charming enough but I was also “funny” and you know what happens to the funny folks, they are forever stuck in the “friend zone” when it comes to dating. That was me…always the friend never the one with filled Saturday nights; being a writer changed all that for me though and now…well…folks think I’m pretty cool both within my stories and in the real world.

Writing can be a lonely occupation but it is also what you make of it. Writing should open up the world to you in such a way that you don’t have to feel like the wallflower any more. You can get the girl and so much more. So I said all of that to say this…realize that writing has it’s perks and that no other job in the world can make you feel like you can have it all with the exception of writing. Use the story pages to work out your life…it’s okay…working things out gives your writing that human element that draws readers into your story. Don’t be scared to pour your emotion onto the page…use that emotion, wield it like a sword fighting your way off the wall at the school dance to become the leading guy. It’s one of the perks after all…it’s your story and it can go anywhere you want it too.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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1383997_10153354398325207_557417490_nMy mom is almost 70 years old. For most of her life there were no computers, e-mail, Facebook or any of the other technical advances that our generation was born into. When someone needed to get ahold of you they called the “house phone” and hopefully your brother or sister was not on the phone at the time or the caller would get a busy signal and have to “wait” until the phone was free. (Don’t think for a second that “call waiting” changed that because we all learned to ignore the beeping in our ear when someone else tried to call in) And when someone needed to have an actual conversation they had to actually meet face to face for lack of texting, blogging or IM-ing. For folks like my mom technology is both good and bad for all sorts of reasons.

When Mom discovered e-mail and Facebooking she waded into it with the caution of a bomb disposal team. She started by texting “hi” and waiting for a response and then she graduated on to actual sentences. Now, she over texts, meaning that often, while having a conversation with her, she will actually talk over me by texting before I can answer her first question.  But perhaps the most annoying thing that my Mom does, and no one can seem to make her stop, is messaging in all caps.

I don’t know what it is about my Mom’s generation but they all text in caps at some point. Does my Mom realize that it makes me feel like she is yelling at me? She probably doesn’t. Does she realize that texting in caps conveys a tone? Nope, I’m pretty sure she doesn’t get that either…but I do and therein lay the point of this column. As writers we have to watch our tone.

We can convey a “tone” with the way we write. My Mom does with her all caps but writers do it also in various ways. Tone can be found in the way a character speaks or in the actions he/she takes. Often times we can change a characters tone and never even realize it until someone else points it out. My spouse and I have a long running conversation going on about the “tone” I often take with our kids…I say things like, “that’s not what I mean” or “they misunderstand” a lot when if I just listened to my spouse I would realize that often what I say comes out in a tone that does not convey my true emotion. This can easily happen within your writing too.

So remember…when you are building those characters or giving them dialog watch your (or rather their) tone within the story. You don’t want your characters or your story misunderstood.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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Over Thinking It


Have you ever written something only to go back over it like 900 times and rewrite it every way imaginable? I do it all the time. I have been known to even do it when writing something as simple as a list or a note for my daughters’ school. One of the reasons why is because, as a writer, I don’t want other people to read something I have written and say to themselves, “This guy is a writer…really?” Another reason is because I have a compulsion to make everything I write as clear as possible; no misunderstandings here. Perhaps the most important reason though is because I over think absolutely everything…including my writing.

Over thinking our work is a condition that is an ailment within the writing community. Like any disease it invades writing groups across the nation and makes us all question our work and then rework it until it is a fraction of the idea we began with. It can start with something as simple as a character and a single trait. Does Bill really walk with a limp? Why should I give him a limp? What if he has to run later? What if he dies all because I gave him a stupid limp? Do you see what has happened there? My obsession over Bill’s limp has stopped all story flow. I could feasibly spend hours, even days, on Bill’s limp.

Over thinking your story can keep you from ever finishing it at all. It is for this reason that many seasoned writers will tell you to write your first draft completely through before even really “thinking” about the story at all. I think this is great advice but it does not stop the possibility of over thinking; it just delays it. Now you have your finished first draft but if you are an over thinker you will just do it on the first edit. The key to not over thinking is to not do it at all.

Let’s call it what it is…over thinking is the byproduct of low writing self-esteem.  Those of us who over think are not actually over thinking the story but instead we are over thinking ourselves. We need to recognize what is happening in order to correct it. We are not actually questioning the story but our own ability to write the story. It is not unusual to self-doubt as a writer…it is a lonely way to work and often times we don’t get positive feedback and when that happens it is easy for our minds to run amuck. You have to stay on top of how you are feeling about your writing and if need be, you must do all you can to boost your self-confidence. I have a friend who I can call if I am going through it. We boost each other out of the mire of self-doubt. I know that if I don’t deal with it, the story I am working on will never get finished.

So find a friend, be aware of what is really going on and fight self-doubt head-on. If you don’t you will never finish your story and all you will end up with is a guy with a limp and nowhere to go.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


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