Tag Archives: plot

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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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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THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN HERE! When You Have Too Many Characters


Creating characters is fun. I know that personally there are times when I get all excited because the writing is really flowing and I start over creating characters. Over creating? Yep, I start over crowding my story and you can no longer truly see the story, much like the train in the photo above.

Sometimes a story can appear to require a lot of people to support it. We have all read that epic novel that has a gazillion characters in it and seems to work well but the truth is those are rare. A story that can carry all those characters has to be epic and long and, well, extraordinary; most of us don’t do extraordinary on a regular basis. So what is a writer to do when they are pecking along on the keyboard and suddenly realize that there are way too many people in their story?

-          Decide who the story revolves around – The first thing a writer needs to do when they discover an overabundance of characters is determine who the story is about. It sounds easy enough however sometimes it can be tricky. Your main character is the center of your writing universe. Determine who that is; it’s key to figuring out who you need.

-          Cut all the fluff – We all tend to add in characters that really don’t have anything important to do in the story. I once added a woman into one of mine just because the character sounded cool. Turns out she was a character for a whole different story.

-          Create your main character’s universe – This is where mapping software is cool. Center your main character and then branch out all the character’s connections. You will end up with the universe of your story.

These are just a few suggestions, I’m sure that some of you have more. The bottom line is that if your story is crowded it will be tough for your readers to see the actual story. Extra characters are a distraction for both you as a writer and for your reader. If you cut the characters correctly what you will end up with is a full-bodied story with characters who feel like they belong.

© 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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And then….Suddenly…A Giant Earthworm Consumed Him….

What do you do when your story escapes from itself? You know what I mean…you are writing along…creating the perfect characters…it’s a love story…no…it’s a thriller with a love story and then, suddenly…out of nowhere…there’s a  hippie in tights stepping out of a time machine, Twinkie in one hand and a light saber in the other….oh my Lord…it’s Darth Vader – The Stoner Years!

Okay…maybe it’s not that bad for you (and perhaps I should lay off the Bailey’s late at night) but sometimes our stories run away with themselves and get the book equivalent of a sex change…it started out as a romance but now it’s a thriller with a pinch of Sci Fi…..

Sometimes we can’t control our stories…sometimes they have a mind of their own and have to go down a different path. Here’s the thing…a lot of writers screw things up for themselves by fighting this very natural aspect of our craft. If you are writing your story right…you should be following it along not controlling it like a rabid mother-in-law. The story needs to tell itself and if it decides to go left instead of right….then for Pete’s Sake, let it go!

My very best stories are one’s in which the ending surprises even me. The new story I have out, “Project Stowaway” was just like that. By the time I got to the end of the story the person I thought was doing all the killing wasn’t.  I must have sat in awe for an hour after finishing that story…but it was really cool.

So if you are writing along and your story heads a different direction, don’t force it back in line…follow it and see what it does. I think that if you do, you will be amazed.

© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 13, 2022 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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Rewriting Stories – It’s about the 12 Disciples BUT they are Skirt Chasing Zombie Hunters

Writer’s Note: This is Thursday’s article…yes I am behind…

Admittedly, I enjoyed the recent movie that made Abe Lincoln a zombie hunter. I also thought the Jane Austin books melding historical fiction and zombies were hilarious. But now….it’s going too far. Writers everywhere are taking historically good fiction and mucking it up with zombies, aliens and the like.

There are all kinds of writers and I bow to each and every one of them except for one particular kind…the lazy writer. In my humble opinion, (and it is my opinion) if you are thinking of rewriting a loved piece of fiction only throwing in a zombie or a vampire…unless you have a very different spin on it…DON’T DO IT! You are just being lazy.

I have a friend (and I use that term loosely in this case) who wants to rewrite the “To Kill a Mockingbird” making the main character a wizard. When he told me that over coffee one afternoon all I could think to say was, “That’s retarded”. He went away mad that I couldn’t see his vision and I went home to mull over the fact that, as writers, we have gotten lazy about finding the story.

While it can be tough finding a new way to spin a subject, if you discover yourself looking for an easy way out…you need to rethink your career choices. Writing is tough but coming up with new ideas for stories can be even tougher over time. The true meddle of a writer is sometimes found in the fact that they can see story where ever they go. I never look at an already written piece and say, how can I muck that up with something bizarre. We have to, at some point, have more respect for the original piece.

So take those old standards and throw in a demon or vampire if you must but know that we all realize that this isn’t your story. It’s the same as sewing a cuff on a shirt and calling it your design….ummmm…not really.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 Plot, Revision, Writing


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Writing the Story with a Different Perspective OR Find a New Crowd to hang out with

Writer’s Note: Here is Saturday’s actual column….the earlier one was Fridays….

A good writer sees the world through different eyes every time they look at it. A great writer uses that different perspective to color their world and the worlds they create.   —Me, 2012

The above quote is so very true. How many times have you been working on a story and suddenly, for no reason at all, all story production inside your head ceases. The little muses, (mine all look like a cross between gnomes and hobbits…short moody fellows) throw down their pens and go on strike. It happens to me all the time but recently I have begun to understand why it happens at all….I am stuck on one perspective.

When you are writing and creating a world with characters you have to pay mind to exactly what it is that you are doing; you are creating a world….you are putting people that you know inside a world that you create and you are, if you are doing it right, allowing them to tell you what they see. Here’s the rub though…if you don’t create those characters with the idea in mind that they are different people with different perspectives, your story will hit a wall. I have read stories by writers who’s characters are one dimensional…folks who all see the same story in the same way…BORING……. When you write a truly good story you have to populate it with difference. Difference of opinion, different morals, and different personalities and, for Pete’s Sake, different perspectives; it is the only way to round the story out.

We are not one dimensional people. We see our world through many eyes if we are paying attention. Me for instance…I see the world through the eyes of a writer, the eyes of a spouse, the eyes of a parent, the eyes of a disenchanted 40 something who wishes the world was all puppies and full kegs of beer….all of those things bring me a different perspective on the world around me…your characters have to be written in the same way.

Take some time today to go over the story that you are currently working on and pay mind to the perspectives of your characters…do they all agree with each other, do they all drive red Hondas, do they all like cold pizza and reruns of Castle? (I know I do) If you answered yes to these questions rethink your story. You are hanging out with the boring crowd….write new characters that showcase your story from different vantage points….trust me…if you do, your story will begin a life of its own.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask: Where the Hell Am I?

Now there’s a question you never want your reader to be asking themselves in more than one chapter of your book. I mean, it’s okay if you purposely lose a character and take the reader along for the ride but if it is a question that your reader is posing to themselves time and time again…maybe the writer is the one who’s lost.

I bring this up because I started reading a science fiction book that my son suggested and within the first 50 pages I found myself asking that question a lot…it got kind of annoying. Now keep in mind, my love of science fiction is limited to Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and the Bio of a Space Pirate series. (If it’s amusing I am there robots or not) So I kept giving it more pages because, well, I wasn’t sure if that was how it was meant to read. I didn’t want to be a book snob and decide that the book was beneath me just because I was “getting” the author. But, alas by page 50 I found myself scratching my head and looking for the nearest exit sign. (When you find yourself offering to do the dishes instead of read…the book has lost the battle)

When I read I want to be led along on the story. I want the author to be that unseen guide like a ghost in a campfire story beckoning…over here, (insert spooky voice) over here… I don’t want to read several pages and then have to double back to figure out where I missed my turn. (My spouse says I do enough of that in real life) I want to be at least clear enough to follow along. Too many authors get tangled up in parts of their story and forget that they are being followed by the reader. Like my dad when he is in front of you and someone turns on country music…suddenly you find yourself having to put the pedal through the floor to keep up because he’s driving to George Strait…it is not a pleasant experience. I have had to call more than once and ask him where the crap he went. He giggles, says sorry and doubles back to get me; as a writer you don’t get the luxury of doubling back to pick up your reader, once they are lost, they are lost for good.

Here’s the thing folks…we have a responsibility when we invite the reader in to at least be a good host (hostess) and not lose them along the way. Make sure that your story is fluid enough for the reader to follow along so that they can enjoy it rather than trying to piece it together. The last thing you want to leave your reader with is the urge for a map, a compass, a stiff drink and new author.

Writer’s Note: This is the first in a series of pieces entitled, Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 September 28, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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But….it…….Won’t……End………..Oh Just Bury it Already….

Question - How many times should a writer take a stab at the same story? Answer – If the Department of Forestry calls and says it has to start charging you for trees…it’s time to stop. OR if you can’t find your desk for all the wads of paper overflowing from the waste can.

I know a lot of writers who get stuck on the same story. Hell, I have a few of these myself. One of my stories I have been trying to write for over 15 years and I have still not managed to finish it. I keep trying because my spouse keeps telling me that they would like to know how it ends. (by the way, allowing your significant other to read something that is not finished…bad idea) The truth is I’d like to know how it ends too, but I’m stuck…for some reason the story refuses to march on, no matter what I try. The question I have to ask myself now is, should I keep trying or should I give that particular story a proper burial…you know, move on? Maybe…but I will probably tuck it away in a drawer somewhere because…truth be told…I just can’t let that one go.

We all have these stories, the stubborn ones, the ones we just know will be a GREAT novel…if only we could finish it. The truth is, for most of us, there are always stories that start out as a great idea or concept only to fall flat because we either wait too long to finish it or try and force the ending. (or any number of other reasons, flat characters, never ending plot line…etc.) As a writer, you can’t pine over these stories…you have to let them go. If you don’t let them go, or at least put them away, you will never write the next story.

You will have a lot of stories walk through your life and, sadly, you just can’t write them all. I like to believe that if a story falls flat or refuses to end, it’s because someone else is supposed to write that story…and there is another story out there waiting for me to pen it. I think that’s just the way the writing universe works. So if you have a story that refuses to move on, get it some counseling…i.e. talk to a writer friend about it…and if the counseling doesn’t work, know when to let go. It’s better to trunk a story that is half written than to allow it to hold all your future stories hostage. I know you love the little guy but let em go…’s best for both of you.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 June 19, 2023 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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A Clean Kill

If you must kill someone off in a novel please, please…I beg you…do it right. I know that to normal people this may sound like a strange request but let’s face it, we aren’t normal…we are writers.

I write mystery thrillers more than anything else. I dabble in other genres but when it comes to writing the stories I truly enjoy, I like the ones where I get to kill something. With that in mind, I am appealing to all those would-be, as well as the actual, mystery, horror, thriller writers out there to be careful when they kill someone off. I have read far too many books where a person is killed and it just comes off as ridiculous. There are rules to killing someone.

Rule #1 – Make sure that your victim deserves to die. Now when I say that, it doesn’t just mean the bad guys; this applies to the good guys too. If you go around killing folks for no reason, you’ll bore your reader. Make sure that there is motivation – good or bad – to killing a person off.

Rule #2 – Research your method of killing. If you kill a person off and your method is all wrong you will lose your readers. You have to research killing just like any other part of your novel. There are some great books out there to help like the “Scene of the Crime” series. Let’s face it, if you blow a guy up, the least you can do is get it right.

Rule #3 – At least try and get away with it. If you leave a lot of clues around at the scene of the crime, your reader will think you are lame. How many of you have sat in front of a television watching a crime show screaming at the screen…”REALLY?!” I know I have. Don’t make it too easy, that’s boring.

Rule #4 – Decomp is important. You only need to watch an episode of “Bones” to see that decomp is really important. If you are gonna kill someone and then let the body sit…make sure you understand decomposition. There are things that happen at different stages and, to be honest, decomp can really make your story much more interesting. Use it.

Rule #5 – Kick the ballistics – For the love of Pete, get the ballistics right. If your victim is shot with a shotgun, your killer didn’t have to have good aim. If your victim was shot with a sniper rifle, it makes no sense that they would have been shot at close range. Choose your weapon carefully…it matters in the story.

These are just a few of the rules that apply to killing someone within a story. Common sense is the very first thing you should employ followed closely by research. It’s important because your readers are bombarded by crime and killing on television and today, television producers go a long way to make things as accurate as they can raising the bar for those of us with pen in hand. So kill characters off if you must but make sure it is accurate. No one likes a lame murder.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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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To Learn or not to Learn – What a Ridiculous Question

There is one major mistake that many writers make that is totally avoidable…they stop learning. The question of taking a writing course, class or workshop is an easy one. If you can, take the course.

Writing isn’t like other jobs. Our choice of endeavors requires constant learning. We have to stay on top of the industry in order to see what types of stories and methods are working. Right now, the formats for writers are changing faster than the seasons and if you want to get on board, you have to understand terms like, self-publishing, e-books and uploading. The reader is also a fickle beast so a writer also needs to understand the constant changing market.

Many established writers will tell you that workshops are important and, they are. These are a great way to make connections and learn the latest from your peers. Writing courses are good too, but require some research since, these days, everyone is a writing teacher. Personally, I am always on the lookout for a good course that can offer an easier way to do some of the old standards like outlining and plot dissection.

Even if you think that you have the structure of writing down, courses can offer you that personal connection with other writers who may be able to offer advice. Writers are unique and often develop their own ways of doing things. I have picked up all sorts of great ideas from my writing friends.

So if you are asking yourself if you should take that local writing course, the answer is yes. Trust me, if you get to a point where no one can tell you anything new about your craft…you are doing something wrong.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. 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 February 17, 2023 in Plot, Structure, Writing


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