Simple Tricks for Deepening Your Characters Part 1: Let Character Goals Do All the Work

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we can get to the end of a drafted novel and realize that something is off about our characters. They may feel distant, or like they only fill generic roles–the “love interest,” or the “best friend.” This can be hard to identify as a writer, because to us, the characters are alive, leaping and living in our minds. But we can detect symptoms of it when our readers don’t seem as invested in the story as we are, or when we have a hard time feeling what our characters would do next.

This is a common problem. As writers, when we start putting together stories, we can actually find it helpful to grab a stock character. Using that stock character as a filler can free us up to explore a piece of plot or worldbuilding that we are more excited about. However, if we never go back to fill out those characters with personal motives, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, it can actually trip up that plot we are so excited about, and keep our readers locked outside of our world. Even with fantastic action or ambiance, a reader can’t truly enter a story until they’ve empathized with our characters.

Continue reading “Simple Tricks for Deepening Your Characters Part 1: Let Character Goals Do All the Work”

Translating Warmth

She is fox-eared
and soft-haired,
a creature curled
within my lap.

He is human-hearted
a fetus curled
within my womb.

And I become an in-between,
a place
where same
and different

A warmth within my lap.
A warmth within my womb.

And my soul
the unexpected
of their unique

Each Mind

Each mind, so strange,
Each a different kind of light
bio-luminescence and

to the landscape of
this homogonized view
that we terribly,
“every one.”

Anxiety with a Side of Meditation

My skull
is a bowl
full of
scrabbling , fighting, biting bugs.

I catch one end and shake it hard,
but only a worm slips out
while spiders
and scorpions
hiss and cling.


To my brain.

I take a ragged breath.
Another breath.
“‘Breathe,’ she said, ‘Just breathe,'” she said . . .
she said . . .
My hand clamps against the trembling skull
as if to silence
the endless,

My skull booms with another

More than Half

I am a half-moon,
a Medusa.

I am half-beauty, half-terror.
half-shining, half-dark,


But like the moon,
I hold
both halves.

I see the sunshine
beside the snakes
and find my wholeness
through patience

with halves.

Outlining Methods Part 3: The Promise of Plot Points

In part one and two of this series, we’ve explored methods of finding and capturing inspiration as you build an outline or refocus your draft. This final step is simply putting that inspiration together into concrete events that you can anticipate and work towards. Whether you are a plotter or a pantser, this step is a fantastic way to maintain your drive and vision as you begin drafting. Continue reading “Outlining Methods Part 3: The Promise of Plot Points”

Her mother was just a sketch of fading white. “Please,” Soal said, putting her free hand out. “Come.”

“But I failed,” her mother whispered.

Soal shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “I cannot know,” she choked out. “I do not know what you are. But I do know that you are the one who first showed me that I was . . . unwhole.” She reached her hand out further. ”You are the one who taught me my name.” Her hand slid through her mother’s ghostly hand. “You are still someone to me.”

Continue reading “Pausing Soal: Letting Book-Making also Be Soul-Making”

Outlining Methods Part 2: Finding Both Your “Big” and “Little” Story

In my last post, I showed how outlining is an important tool for plotters and pantsers alike, and explored my first outlining method: Capturing Inspiration. Immersive images and music can help you remember what made you love this book idea, even when you’re in the trenches of drafting. Now, let’s move on to the next two components. While Pinterest and playlists bring the “feel” of a book, these next two components bring to life what makes a book truly worth writing. Continue reading “Outlining Methods Part 2: Finding Both Your “Big” and “Little” Story”

Outlining Methods Part 1: The Myth of Plotter Vs. Pantser, and What That Means for Your Next Book

It took me some time to claim my love of outlining. I had a close friend whose greatest epiphany was that she was a pantser (a writer who finds her greatest creativity when she skips the outline and goes straight to writing). Hearing her whoop with each outline she tossed overboard convinced me that outlining was a creativity-draining force of evil. Imagine my surprise when, years later, I had my friend’s same epiphany–except backwards. I realized I found my greatest creativity by starting with an outline. I was a plotter.

Continue reading “Outlining Methods Part 1: The Myth of Plotter Vs. Pantser, and What That Means for Your Next Book”

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