The methods for planning a novel are endless: character questionnaires, structure templates, prewriting, outlining. Some writers fall into the camp of plotters, where warm-up work is second nature and vital to racking up a word count. But how are those of us who approach the process by the seat of our pants supposed to write amazing stories?
Former Story Embers Article Writer
Maddie Morrow grew up with her mom reading to her and her dad telling stories about cowboys hunting Bigfoot. The combination sparked her love of writing early, and she’s been lost in her notebooks ever since. Aside from writing, she enjoys loud music, good horses, and hardcover books. She lives on a farm in Nebraska with her husband and children. Her Gaslamp novella, Red as Blood, won the 2018 Snow White retelling contest hosted by Rooglewood Press, and it released in December 2018 with the Five Poisoned Apples collection.
You’re curled up in a comfy chair, happily reading, when a male character murmurs, “Oh Sally, you’re so beautiful. The thought of another day without you makes my sun go dark and the stars burn out in despair.” Or a supposedly sweet and docile female remarks, “Our neighbor sure has a sick truck. I’d like to trick my ride out like that.”
You’ve finished a manuscript and polished it until it can’t shine any brighter. Now you need to begin the task you’ve anxiously been awaiting: writing a query letter. A quick Google search pulls up dozens of articles on the topic and how to excel at it. But some of the content is contradictory. How do you figure out whose advice is accurate?
The cinnamon roll. A smol bean. We invent all kinds of affectionate nicknames for the cuddly teddy-bear characters we adore. But what about characters who have a few prickles? Or are downright cold? As writers, we strive to create characters readers will root for. Otherwise our books won’t stay open for long. But not every story requires a happy-go-lucky Olaf. Sometimes a story needs an emotionally detached Elsa. But how do we endear aloof characters to readers? If we tinker with four areas, we can warm these characters up just enough that readers won’t get frostbitten.
“What’s your plan?” As graduation looms closer, high schoolers get sick of hearing this question from friends, relatives, and strangers. Career decisions are daunting for anyone—and even more complicated for teens who want to shove words across the page 24-7. The hard truth is that writing won’t be profitable from the get-go, so adults tell aspiring young authors that they need to be more realistic.
Antagonists and villains are often used interchangeably. But they’re not identical. Though they’re both defined as an opponent, that’s where the similarities end. A villain is deliberately and personally invested in thwarting the hero’s cause. An antagonist, however, is just doing his job, trying to survive, or pursuing a goal that happens to clash with the hero’s.
“Gah! This book gave me all the feels.” We love when a story leaves a lasting impression, and we hope our own writing garners a similar response. Emotions have such a huge influence on our relationships, choices, and habits. And our society is obsessed with learning about the human psyche. Kids are introduced to gender identity and taught emotional awareness at increasingly younger ages.
Smoke rises around me, steals my breath, and I can’t see. The life I’ve built is caving in; with bleeding lungs I let You in.
Characters need flaws to humanize them. When we try to follow this advice, sometimes we populate our stories with characters who are perfect except for one glaring issue, such as selfishness or insecurity. But how many of us have a single weakness?
Research can be a hassle. Still, most of us writers agree that we need to understand the facts to portray different places and times authentically. But sometimes we’re so focused on wars and revolutions, architecture, and major landmarks that we forget the smaller details.