We’ve all had heart-pounding experiences alongside fictional characters. We held our breath when Ethan Hunt made a last-ditch attempt to stop an explosion in Mission Impossible, pored over Pride and Prejudice for hours to discover one family’s future, and perched on the edges of our seats when Thanos, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man faced off in Avengers: Endgame. But why do these scenes capture us, and how can we replicate the effect in our own stories?
Story Embers Social Media Manager & Staff Writer
A long time ago on a hill not so far away, Gabrielle Pollack fell in love. Not with ice cream or cats (though those things are never far from her side) but with storytelling. Since then, she’s been glued to a keyboard and is always in the midst of a writing project, whether a story, blog post, or book. She was a reader before becoming a writer, however, and believes paradise should include thick novels, hot cocoa, a warm fire, and “Do Not Disturb” signs. Her favorite stories include Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn saga and Nadine Brandes’s Out of Time trilogy.
As those who know her will confess, Gabby is a whole lot of weirdness packed into one INFP. Sharp objects, storms, and trees are her friends, along with stubborn characters and, on occasion, actual people. When she’s not writing, she’s shooting arrows through thickets and subsequently missing her target, jamming on the piano, and pushing her cat off her keyboard. She hopes to infuse her fiction with honesty, victory, and hope, and create stories that grip readers from the first page to the last. Her other goals include saving the world and mastering a strange concept called adulthood. You can hang out with her on Instagram and Facebook.
Plot twists can be both the most marvelous and mysterious elements of a story. As readers, sudden reveals urge us to turn the page. As writers, we scratch our heads, unsure how to artfully conceal information to expose later. We foresee a thousand ways the plot twist might fail. What if readers are more confused than surprised?
A blank page unleashes an infinite amount of plots, scenes, and characters that beg us to outline their existence in ink. But, if we can’t channel our influx of ideas, the excitement of starting a new project will quickly dissipate. Instead, we’ll be overwhelmed and unable to tell any story at all. A surplus of inspiration can cripple a writer’s sanity as much as a shortage.
Authors are notorious for inflicting pain upon their characters. In our defense, how else would we propel the plot if our characters didn’t brave the gauntlet?
Books are meant to be read, but boring, skippable scenes defy this purpose. If readers are skimming pages like the advertisement section of a newspaper, the story isn’t fulfilling its design.
Have you ever wished you could skip to publication? Waiting can be discouraging, especially when a dream is involved. Writers at all stages have felt that their stories would never appear in a bookstore.
Sometimes characters come to us in pieces. A whisper of dialogue, a murmur of a dream, or even a feeling can ignite a glimmer of inspiration that demands to become a person. But a character is more than a rushed scribble inside our notebooks.
Somewhere along the road, every fiction writer will be asked to participate in a critique. It’s practically a guarantee. Whether we’re new to critiquing or are already teamed up with an epic partner (who should probably read this article too), we should aim to provide the best feedback possible.
Arron didn’t believe in panicking. The threat of imminent loss brought fear, but few would dare steal from him or his team. But there were some. And that knowledge, combined with the fact that his brother hadn’t yet returned, made his stomach coil.
Short stories remained cloaked in mystery for years. I hadn’t the slightest idea how to write one, let alone imbue theme into it. I stumbled in the dark, creating tales and hoping themes would magically appear.