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Devil in the Details

Best Practices for Writing and Formatting Dialogue Jackie Dana Ah, the humble dialogue tag. They are some of the most powerful tools in your author toolbox, helping your reader visualize a scene and who’s speaking, and often conveying subtle action. But despite their value in a story, they’re best when they’re not even noticed. Many […]

 A Guide to Cover Revitalization Eryka Parker The terms of independent publishing are ever-evolving as authors constantly seek ways to expand their readership. To secure shelf space among competitive titles in the marketplace, authors can benefit from exploring ways to rejuvenate their backlist catalog in order to boost sales.  Although we’re cautioned against judging a […]

Does Your Story’s Main Character Have Enough Agency? Paul Austin Ardoin In one episode of the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, several of the characters get disappointed after they realize the hero of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones, does nothing to affect the outcome of the story. Though they love the movie, […]

Exploring the History Behind Three Common English Sayings As writers, we love to play with words. We twirl them around on our tongues and pop them out in various ways. Sometimes we cajole; other times we inspire or inform. We create jokes to entertain or puns that bring on groans. Occasionally, we use phrases we […]

Re-examining the Golden Rule of Fiction As authors, the adage to “show, not tell” has been etched into our minds by well-meaning teachers from grade school to university. It’s for good reason. Showing detail rather than explaining things outright invites the reader to step into your story world and experience a character’s actions and emotions […]

Sol Stein once said, “The function of suspense is to put the reader in danger of an overfull bladder.”  When suspense is properly implemented in a story, the reader is taken by the hand and led to great peaks and thrown off mercilessly, only to have them scurry up the next hill for you to […]

Writing Realistic Stories about Siblings The author Leo Tolstoy famously wrote in his book Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” I would change this to add that, whether happy or unhappy, all children are unique in their own way—but for children who grow up in […]

Should You Write a Transgender Character If You Don’t Identify the Same Way? In 2017, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (https://ccbc.education.wisc.edu) included LGBTQ+ content in its diversity data collection for the first time. Of the approximately 3,700 books it received that year, only 136 had significant LGBTQ+ content. Of this, four books had a trans […]

Why Authors in Every Genre Need to Consider Their Characters’ Names Carefully A character’s name can often make or break a book. How well would Lord of the Rings have gone over if it had followed Legolas, Gandalf, Aragorn, Gimli, Boromir, and their hobbit companions Bob and Doug McHobbit? Tolkien’s editor might have had opinions. […]

I opened the revisions file from my editor on my latest work in progress and was surprised by the number one item on her list. “The protagonist is launching a business!” she wrote. “Why isn’t she working on her website, having business cards made, handing out flyers—anything?” I was slightly insulted. Of course, my character […]

Whether your manuscript is an epic saga or spans the length of an hour, it’s easy to get lost in your own world and lose track of time. You enter the flow excited, sunlight shining through the window, and emerge hours later, exhausted and in the dark. In the real world, cues like the change […]

So you want to include a character in your story that’s part of a culture you’re unfamiliar with or who knows a language you cannot speak. From a diversity standpoint, it’s an important endeavor. But what can you do as a writer to ensure that it’s a realistic portrayal that enriches the narrative instead of […]

Add Flavor to Your Fiction with These Techniques for Writing about Food Jenn Mitchell Adam and Eve had their fateful apple. Tales of the Old West had chuck wagons. The Jetsons had food pellets. No matter what genre you’re writing in, if your story contains living beings and plays out over more than a day […]

Angie Martin When it comes to choosing a location for a novel, short story, or script, many authors stick with what they know. Stephen King’s novels typically stay in Maine. Hailing from Kansas City, Missouri, Gillian Flynn’s three novels take place in the rural Midwest. Anne Rice is well known for her exotic paranormal tales, […]

Let’s face it: Kids are a lot of work. No one would argue that point in the real world—no one who’s spent time around them, anyhow. And little ones can be just as much of a handful on the page. Especially when it comes to dialogue, making young characters believable can leave a thin margin […]

Texas: It Really Is Like a Whole Other Country When you think of Texas, a few images might come to mind: cowboys, hot prairies with dusty tumbleweeds, herds of cattle, chuck wagons, horses everywhere, and maybe the Alamo. As with every American state, these are typical stereotypes with roots in reality. And sure, you’ll find […]

“Your eyes touch me physically.” —“The Warrior,” performed by Scandal, written by Holly Knight and Nick Gilder Oh, the amazing wandering body parts. The absolute horror inflicted upon readers as eyes fly, hands inch around, and hearts roam the world. The term “wandering body parts” refers to the sentences in which body parts seem to […]

Valerie Steel begins her study The Corset: A Cultural History claiming, “The corset is probably the most controversial garment in the entire history of fashion.” Considering its reputation as oppressive, torturous, and downright dangerous, it’s hard to argue.  High time, then, we unknotted fact from fiction when it comes to this complex garment. As with […]

In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.—Law & Order. In a gamut of literary genres including Mystery, Police Procedural, Legal Thriller, and Prison Literature, the readers are represented by […]

As authors, we put our characters through a variety of dangerous situations and often end up with some injured or ill. When we do this in a modern world, that character may encounter Emergency Medical Services (EMS) teams in their community. These highly trained medical professionals are seldom noticed by anyone until they’re needed. Then […]

People get sick or injured all the time and seek medical care in a doctor’s office or hospital emergency room setting. When story characters encounter these situations, realism will lend believability to the story, even in contemporary fantasy settings. Getting the details right keeps the reader engaged with the story and turning the page. You […]

Using Feng Shui to Frame Your Magic System Sine Mairi MacDougall Magic systems can be one of the most fun parts of world building. Readers also obsess over this part of fantasy. They are looking for clearly laid-out rules, so many authors base their fantasies off known systems. This gives readers something familiar, allowing them […]

For those in the Northern Hemisphere, Jack Frost has settled in once again. And just like many uninvited holiday visitors tend to do this time of year, he’s probably going to overstay his welcome. Thankfully, winter weather can be the perfect excuse to put the kettle on, cozy up by the fire, and immerse yourself […]

How and why to put equine misconceptions out to pasture Few things transcend genres quite like horses. Historical novels incorporate them to set scenes or develop characters. They can be favorite modes of transportation on quests. Even their alien or hybrid cousins appear in Sci-Fi stories. Horses can be a driving force—both figuratively and literally—in […]

Our characters often need weapons to carry out plot lines, but how does an author accurately portray the use or description of a gun when their experience may be limited? To help avoid the pitfalls of starting from zero with firearms knowledge, this article will tackle some basics. Types of Firearms First on the menu […]

You’ve written a rollicking good story set in eighteenth-century France, and now you want to add some killer details. It’s time to immerse yourself in research. Turn back time All historical novels begin with the promise that the author will subtly connect the “Then” to the “Now” so the reader can suspend disbelief throughout. To […]

A guide to determining travel time in your stories An old scene ends. A new scene begins. And if the characters now find themselves in a different place, readers will usually just assume that time has passed and distances have been traversed. But how far apart are places in the story? How long does it […]

When a movie adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches was released in October 2020, viewers weren’t just upset by a change to the story; they were offended.  In the film, the Grand High Witch, whose fingernails resembled cat claws in the book, had hands with only two fingers and a thumb, or split hands, a […]

Alfred Hitchcock famously said, “I think everyone enjoys a nice murder, provided he is not the victim.” In reality, there is no such thing as a nice murder or a perfect murder but, in writing, there can be the “right” murder. The death that best suits the victim’s or killer’s character, situation, motives, and place […]

You’ve decided that violence is the answer! In your story, that is, but now what? What makes a good fight? There are a lot of things to consider for your scene to come across as authentic and credible to your audience. There’s a reason choreographers map out fights to be filmed; to fight is to […]

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