Novel Writing, Writing Prompts

Freewriting practice: Name your protagonist’s internal villain

In a recent blog post on writing villains, The Write Practice’s Joe Bunting says that in every story, “there is always only one internal villain… whether it is fear, lust for power, or control.” This, of course, got me to thinking about my own protagonist in one of my current works in progress. I decided to do a freewrite on this topic and share it with you.

My freewrite: Who is M’s internal villain?

She just wants to go somewhere and lead an adventure. She doesn’t seem to care where she goes, which allows her to be led by evil people to places that she doesn’t want to be. She is so afraid of being ordinary and being stuck where she is that she jumps at any opportunity to be someplace and someone different.

My protagonist could use a little Katy Perry in her.

One of the problems that I seem to be having with my protagonists in this and with Valley of the Bees is the fact that neither of them seem to have any agency. They both allow themselves to be victims of plot. I can’t decide if this is good or bad. I feel like it’s something that my protagonists need to overcome. But at the same time, I’ve been taught that characters who just allow themselves to be carried along by the plot are the weak superheroes of weak stories. Am I writing weak stories? Continue reading “Freewriting practice: Name your protagonist’s internal villain”

NaNoWriMo, Novel Writing

Get to know your characters a little better

Yesterday we had some fun with our trashy romance novel characters. Today we will get to know them on a somewhat deeper level (okay, maybe not too deep. Just one level deeper than yesterday.)

Embed from Getty Images

So, you have figured out what your two main characters don’t like about each other on first impression. Now let’s think about how you can develop these two opposing characters into people who might believably come to like one another later in the novel. Maybe the slick lawyer secretly loves dogs and has a pregnant pooch back home in NYC that she’s worried sick about. Perhaps the grumpy cowboy is secretly writing a business plan that will turn his failing family ranch into an organic vegetable farm that will supply several high-brow restaurants in the nearest big city. Continue reading “Get to know your characters a little better”

Novel Writing

It’s okay to write a crappy chapter once in a while

English: A variety of computer mice built from...
Saved by the mouse. No, not that kind of mouse. | English: A variety of computer mice built from 1986 to 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The other day, I wrote a terrible chapter. I had reached the “All hope is lost lull” in the final quarter of my current project. It was time to write a chapter in which my protagonist loses all hope of escaping her hopeless situation. She was trapped in a cellar, with no way out. I wrote a couple of pages of her chasing a mouse around the cellar and counting her food supply. But it was really boring. Nothing was happening.

I pushed through it. I had shown my protagonist losing hope, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that absolutely nothing had “happened” in the chapter. It was about as crappy as a chapter can get. But I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I let it stand and went about my business. Continue reading “It’s okay to write a crappy chapter once in a while”

Novel Writing

Narrowing my focus: Choosing a niche and a time frame for my story

Novels in a Polish bookstore
How do you decide which shelf your book will finally end up on at your local book store? | Novels in a Polish bookstore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I began writing my current novel almost one full year ago, I have often struggled with determining which genre my story falls into. My thesis adviser pushed me (a lot!) in the direction of Young Adult (YA,) but it just never felt right to me. Although my protagonist is seventeen years old at the outset of the novel, the story will unfold over the course of several years and will include a failed marriage and other “adult” themes that rule out the possibility of selling this novel to a YA audience.

Another element I am struggling with is my time line. Exactly how many years should my protagonist be married to her jerk husband before she escapes? I need her to stick it out for at least a few years. But then, how do I write her through those years and get to the next big event without boring my reader?

This morning, I was reading a blog post by David Fernandez of DLFWriting titled, Becoming a Storyteller: New Adult, or, Wizards and Vampires and Sex! Oh My! that gave me one of those Aha! moments where everything suddenly becomes so clear. In this post, Fernandez discusses the growth of New Adult (NA) fiction, which is aimed at the previously ignored age group of 18 – 25 year olds. Continue reading “Narrowing my focus: Choosing a niche and a time frame for my story”

Character Building, Memoir

Character building: I just got a BRILLIANT idea (I think)

mother memory book
This is one of two memory books I am filling out for my sons. Each books asks tons of questions about the mother’s life.

I’ve always been obsessed with these memory books that are designed for parents and grandparents to fill out and leave for their progeny to remember them by. When I was a teen, I bought grandmother versions for each of my grandmas. Both of my grandmas totally filled their books out and left me all sorts of memories of them that I will treasure forever. I am lucky enough to still have my maternal grandmother, but my paternal grandmother has been gone for seven years now. I feel so close to her when I can open her book and read her handwriting.

I bought the parent versions for each of my parents a long time ago, but I don’t know if they’ve ever started to answer the questions inside. Maybe they’re still too young to worry much about whether or not they’ll be remembered when they’re gone. Continue reading “Character building: I just got a BRILLIANT idea (I think)”

Novel Writing

The stages of tragedy: Drak’s story

stages of tragedy
My tragic story arc is based on the stages outlined by Liz Bureman in a recent blog post titled, “The 7 Basic Plots: Tragedy.”

I am still pretty much stuck on my novel at the moment, so I decided it was time to try some writing exercises. For today’s exercise, I wrote a tragedy arc for one of my main antagonists, King Mentor Drak. This arc is based on a recent blog post by Liz Bureman over at The Write Practice.

Drak’s story begins long before the start of my current novel and will eventually be covered in the prequel I am planning to write next. (M’s grandmothers, Elde and Fayne, will be the protagonists in the prequel.) Here’s a bit of Drak’s story as I have laid it out using Bureman’s tragedy arc.

Anticipation Stage

“The tragic hero gets it into his or her head that something is missing, and they want it. This might be power, fame, a specific love interest, or something else, but the protagonist has their motivation for the disaster dominoes that are about to fall.” Continue reading “The stages of tragedy: Drak’s story”

Novel Writing, Thesis

After all, it is the weekend.

A 6-year-old and a cat
Life seems so simple when you’re a 6-year-old and a cat.

My six-year-old paid me a visit this morning as I lay in bed considering which part of my creative thesis I should focus my efforts on today.

Do I work on the POV shifts I don’t completely understand and try to muddle my way through filtering my entire story strictly through my protagonist’s POV?


Is it more important to focus on the much-needed world-building? My fantasy novel so far takes place in a jumbled mix of worlds that I don’t completely understand myself. It’s no small wonder my first reading left my thesis advisor feeling confused. Continue reading “After all, it is the weekend.”

Novel Writing

Two characters walk into a bar

Edit Ruthlessly
Don’t let that editor on your shoulder stop you from putting your story on the page. | Edit Ruthlessly (Photo credit: Dan Patterson)

Is your story stuck? You’re trying to hack out that next scene, but all you can seem to do is, well, hack at it? Put the pen down. Back away slowly. It’s time to stop writing your story and start doing some free writing. This morning, I was sharing with a writer friend some advice that I’ve heard from my professor on more than one occasion, and I think this advice is worth sharing.

Here’s what you do: pick a minor character and try to get into that character’s voice. Pretend like that character is sitting at a bar telling the bartender about what is happening in the story… look at the story from a new perspective. Don’t worry about whether or not the character can tell the story well, just let him or her have his say. Also, don’t worry about writing complete sentences or stopping to fix typos. Simply sit down, tell that editor that’s sitting on your shoulder to be quiet for a while, and start writing whatever comes to mind. Continue reading “Two characters walk into a bar”

Novel Writing

Minor characters have major impact on story


Artwork of the main characters.
No matter how awesome your main characters are, your minor characters can give you a completely different perspective on the story. | Artwork of the main characters. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is your story making you angry? Maybe you’ve written several chapters, and each of them alone seem like a great start, but you’re having a hard time getting them to work together as a whole. What do you do when you hit these rough patches that make you feel like you will never be able to make your novel “work?”

One strategy I suggest to help you get over that rough patch is to take yourself out of the “official” story for a while, have a couple of glasses of wine (or a couple of beers,) and sit and do some free writes looking at the story from the point of view of the most minor character in the novel. Continue reading “Minor characters have major impact on story”