Creative Writing

Learn how to organize, plan and create your most engaging and compelling life story with the creative writing skills of bestselling fiction authors.

  • Point of View and Character Development,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions

    Karma and Character Development

    Karma’s a bitch!” We hear that all the time. Somebody does something good, they get good karma. Something bad happens to someone, it’s because they have bad karma. It’s justice, retribution and balancing the scales of right and wrong.   Right?   Wrong!   Karma is commonly understood to mean our actions, words or deeds and their outcomes. But I believe that this interpretation is specious. Karma’s more profound than that.   Believers in spirituality come a little closer. For them, karma refers to the spiritual circle of cause and effect, often called the “Principle of Karma”, wherein intent and actions of an individual (cause) influence the future of that…

  • Productivity,  Structure and Plotting

    What Were You Thinking???

    More often than not, when writers start writing about a subject, we have no clue what it is we plan to say.    “I write to find out what I think.” ― Stephen King   “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.” — Joan Didion Sure, we can put together an outline that gives us a rough roadmap, but until we actually sit down and start the ideation process, we can’t possibly know what our thoughts are until we have them on the page or screen in front of us. Only…

  • Creative Writing,  Point of View and Character Development

    Emotional Significance

    or — How to Manipulate Your Reader’s Feelings Over many decades of reading, I’ve come to realize that one of the most powerful things a writer can do to keep a reader glued to the page is to create a deep yearning to be in the story and experience the emotions that the story’s characters feel.    Running like an underground river beneath the needs and desires of the characters we create is the reader’s need for something only the character’s experience can provide. We read in order to become a part of the story world, to escape the everyday and immerse ourselves in an environment that satisfies something we…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Coincidence

    Deus Ex Machina Last week’s post pointed out that little coincidental changes can alter the entire trajectory of a story. But at what point does coincidence become “deus ex machina” — defined by the Oxford dictionary as, “an unexpected power or event saving a seemingly hopeless situation, especially as a contrived plot device in a play or novel”?   The key here is the word “contrived”. Last week, I said, “Our lives hinge on these coincidences.”   But herein lies a problem for writers. We can’t use them. We can’t dump a convenient coincidence into our story whenever we need something to change. We can’t simply insert a character or…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Change It Up!

    This article comes out of a conversation I had with a writer who couldn’t decide what should go into two related scenes:   Dor: I’ve got two scenes fighting with each other. So not nice! Bev: What’s the key point in each scene? How can you differentiate the scenes to accentuate the point? Dor: It’s a sequence of two scenes as a big storm is about to hit. So I’m mostly combing for timeline consistency. Two characters, one makes a suggestion and the other resists. Then in the second scene (a few beats later in the time line) the other character takes the bait and goes overboard with the suggestion.…

  • Creative Writing,  Organization and Research,  Point of View and Character Development,  Structure and Plotting,  Training, Lessons

    Cause and Effect

    One of the most effective ways to create a compelling plotline with a strong narrative drive is to make sure your cause and effect chain remains unbroken.   What do I mean by the cause and effect chain?   In stories, as in life, things happen because other things happen. If you fall down, you skin your knee. Your knee would not be injured if you hadn’t fallen down. That’s cause and effect.   In stories, cause and effect are a kind of glue that holds your story together. Without it, your story is merely a collection of random incidents and your reader eventually becomes bored because things happen for…

  • Creative Writing,  Memoirs,  Training, Lessons

    Repeat After Me…

    The Power of Focus in Writing Too much repetition is bad, except when it’s not. Too much detail is bad, except when it’s not.   So, what do I mean by that?   Often, we weaken our writing by repeating words and phrases without being consciously aware that we’re doing so, but the proper use of repetition can help strengthen our writing, give it more impact and make it more memorable.    The same is true for unnecessarily detailed descriptions. There’s a time and place for both of these techniques when we use them to focus our readers’ attention on something in the narrative.   In our brain, we have…

  • Creative Writing,  Structure and Plotting,  Theme, Purpose and Outcome,  Training, Lessons

    Think Big, But Write Small

    There’s an overall shape to a book-length story that we’ve come to expect — certain elements fall into certain places at certain times during the course of the story, and we’ve learned, even if subconsciously, to anticipate this underlying structure.     Everything in a story is connected. Think of your book as a fractal. This may help you stay on track with the multitude of ideas and abstract concepts that go into a book that’s as introspective as a memoir.   Six Elements 1. Story — A memoir is a story built around one main idea, theme or point.    2. Chapters — Within a story, there may be…

  • Creative Writing,  Organization and Research,  Structure and Plotting

    Fish-heads and Hooks

    What’s a fish-head and what does it have to do with writing?   I heard this term from an author friend who heard it from her first writing teacher, forty years ago. This teacher used the metaphor of a fish-head to warn her students about a common situation that happens when a writer’s in the earliest stages of creating a story.    She said writers often begin writing a scene, thinking it’s the start, but it’s not in fact, the true beginning of the story. Instead, the fish-head is the scene or scenes that the writer needs to write first, to begin bringing the story into focus. You have to…

  • Point of View and Character Development,  Thoughts, Opinions and Philosophical Discussions

    Lying to Yourself — Self-Integrity 101

    “This above all: to thine own self be true,And it must follow, as the night the day,Thou canst not then be false to any man.” — William Shakespeare, “Hamlet” Self-integrity What does it mean?    Is it the meaning of the Shakespeare quote above, or does it mean something more, something deeper?   Perhaps it’s our conscience, speaking to us in the “still, small voice” about right and wrong. Perhaps it’s our core values telling us about our most profound self-identity. Or perhaps it’s a limiting belief, attempting to keep us safe in trying times or confusing circumstances.   Or maybe it’s a lot simpler than any of those. Maybe…