As writers, we love exploring the internal struggles that shape our characters. During formative moments, emotional turmoil may need to take center stage, as with Thomas in Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes. Usually this scene happens near the story’s middle, when everything—including the protagonist—seems to be falling apart. Turning points deserve emphasis; otherwise the deep change in the character’s arc will seem artificial or glossed over.
How to Introduce a Large Cast of Characters without Confusing Readers
Some books make me feel like I’m Bilbo Baggins, unsuspectingly opening my door to a heap of dwarves tumbling across the threshold. Characters, titles, relationships, and family dynamics zig-zag past my eyes, creating a buzz in my mind as I stumble through crowded scenes. I’ve heard enough names to fill a genealogy, and I’m only on page two.
Why Children’s Fiction Writers Need to Provide Readers with Good Role Models
Kids’ minds are like clay. Everything they see and experience leaves a mark, and for better or for worse, the impression is difficult to remove later. I don’t recall much from my childhood, except the characters who took me on grand adventures. However, a startling amount of elementary and middle-grade fiction promotes damaging ideas—you know, the whole “parents are the worst, kids are smarter than adults, rebellion is cool” schtick. Because stories influence how children perceive the world, we should be especially careful when crafting entertainment aimed at them.
How to Keep Side Characters from Stealing the Show
From Dr. Watson to Samwise Gamgee to Jane Bennet, no beloved classic would be as engaging without side characters. They’re the protagonists of untold stories that thrive between the lines. But have beta readers ever confessed that they kept reading your manuscript only to see what happened to a side character? Although the protagonist was present, she fell flat beside her quirkier companion.
3 Truths to Remember When Crafting Child Characters
Imagine that, for twenty-four hours, you’re limited to the use of half your vocabulary, your awareness of interpersonal subtext dims, and all your skills and strengths revert back to level one. On top of that, you shrink to the height of a hobbit. Carrying out your normal routine would be frustrating, wouldn’t it? But you would still have nearly the same internal experience. Your needs and desires wouldn’t disappear, only your ability to express and achieve those goals.
Lemony Snicket’s 3 Keys to Memorable Villains
Who is the best literary villain of all time? Various people would argue that Dracula, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Voldemort, and Sherlock’s rival, Professor Moriarty, are top contenders. But, for me, the answer is clearly Count Olaf from A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Is Your Protagonist Succeeding Too Easily?
When you’re crafting a story, believability is paramount. The quality of your prose, the relatability of your characters, and the intensity of your conflicts won’t hold readers’ attention if they can’t accept the sequence of events as representing their own reality. Can you identify the supervillain who’s notorious for thwarting that goal? Her name is Mary Sue.
5 Cringeworthy Mistakes to Avoid in Christian Fiction
Although Christian readers enjoy consuming material from authors who share their faith, some of it can be difficult to digest. Maybe a turning point in the protagonist’s arc fails to evoke any emotion, or the attraction between two characters involves awkward prolonged glances and tingles. How can people who understand God’s design for life and the sin that tainted it botch those portrayals so badly?
The Secret to Writing Depressed (but Not Hopeless) Characters
In the past, Christian publishers shied away from the topic of mental illness. And when a book did broach it, sometimes the advice dismissed the condition as unreal, perpetrated myths, or failed to provide the needed support and encouragement. Thankfully, Christian publishers have become more open to addressing gritty issues, and several releases over the last couple decades have touched on mental illness—including Sara Ella’s Coral, the center of our 2022 summer book study.
3 Ways to Craft Magical Retellings That Are More Than Fairy Tales
Writing is hard. Life is harder. It’s full of tragedies, grueling work, annoyances, setbacks, frustrations, and disappointments. Nothing at all like a fairy tale. Yet fairy tale retellings have become increasingly popular over the last several years—from Gail Carson Levine’s Ella Enchanted to Marissa Meyer’s Cinder to Kara Swanson’s Dust. But what is the value of this subgenre besides marketability, and how does it relate to real-world issues?