Believable Character Development

By Shelley Widhalm

Writers typically start with a theme, plot, or character to get into their novel. Still, major and minor characters need some scaffolding, whatever the launching point.

An agriworld in the Mirgoshir system in the Star Wars universe, for those of you with less time than others.
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Believable Characters: The Commandments of Dramatis Personae

By Brian Kaufman

You might already be scanning ahead to read my Ten Commandments. Don’t. This isn’t about what I think. It’s about prodding you to define how you think about your characters (and, by extension, your understanding of human nature).

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Sticky Words, Slow Reading

By David E. Sharp

Singing the national anthem before a big event is an honor. And vocalists take it seriously. But do you ever feel they take it too seriously? You’ve heard it. Talented singers want to make their mark. They imbue so much flourish into the Star-Spangled Banner the melody gets lost. Too much embellishment ruins the song.

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Poetry Primer: Crafting And Editing

By Shelley Widhalm

When I told one of my writer friends I was editing a poetry collection I assembled, he said, “I didn’t know you could edit poetry.”

You sure can, but first, to get something to edit, let’s think of poem creation, capturing an experience, thought, or moment in tempo, color, sound, and movement.

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The Paradox of Fiction

By Brian Kaufman

Years ago, I came home from work to find my wife fussing in front of the refrigerator. I asked what was wrong, and she told me that the quart of milk she’d just purchased was missing. In cases like this, I’d learned to speak to my five-year-old daughter first.

Tiger was often behind such misadventures. My wife and I went to Tiger’s room and asked her if she might know where the missing milk was. The flushed, not-so-innocent face gave us our answer. She knelt down beside her bed, pulled back the covers, and there was the milk.

She’d filled her Barbie swimming pool with it.

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Calamity Is The Touchstone of A Brave Mind

By Katie Lewis

That’s what my fortune cookie said when I cracked it open. Like most people, when we got fortune cookies, I was expecting to laugh. Maybe even twist the fortune with a certain prepositional phrase. Instead, a message sits on my desk, a daily reminder of how far I’ve come in the last 19 months.

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When Pants Ruin Everything.

By David E. Sharp

Plotters or pantsers. Or plantsers. Writers tend toward one camp or another. Plotters create structured outlines and fill them in. Pantsers start with an idea and throw themselves into the thick of things, trusting the story to guide them to its natural conclusion. My colleague, Katie Lewis, added the additional category of plantsers.

Asking for and giving directions - Let's Learn English

Actual pants or the wearing thereof are optional in all instances.

I like the stability of plotting. I enjoy marking the plot points of classic story structures like The Hero’s Journey or Save the Cat. These tried-and-true methods synch with our innate understanding of the story and make a narrative accessible to readers. This method offers scaffolding for our storytelling process while still offering plenty of opportunity for creativity

I often start out with every intention of outlining my course. The idea of order and planning appeals to me. I never make it to the end, though.

As soon as I begin filling the outline in with dialogue and narrative, everything derails. Characters start making erratic choices that snowball into real complications for me. Because I couldn’t foresee a West Side Story-style dance brawl breaking out in chapter 6, my upcoming plot points are null and void. I rethink my outline, make adjustments, and try to get back on track. Then chapter 7 erupts in a karaoke interrogation scene that wrecks things all over again.

So, why not switch styles? Can I own my pantsing tendencies and stop worrying about the outline altogether? Nope. That never works for me either. I sit in front of a computer screen and watch the cursor blink on a blank document. My creative mind goes on strike.

Me: Think of something extraordinary!
My Brain: Eleven.
Me: Eleven what?
My Brain: …Numbers.

Fantastic. That’s a bestseller in the works. Thanks for nothing ol’ gray matter!

I need the plotting, so my creative side has something to undermine. But as soon as I have a blueprint, I must concede that nothing will follow it. It’s not plotting. It’s not pantsing. It’s train-wrecking! And it works for me.

But I know I can’t be the only one. How many other train-wreckers are out there? Or have you fallen into a writing routine that follows none of these methods? Whatever you use, the end goal is to get one word after another until your story is told. If you need to go off the rails to make it happen, then do it.

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Inciting Incidents versus Triggering Incidents (And A Lot of In Between)

By Shelley Widhalm

A novel can be structured in three or more acts or 15 beats (see Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!® – The Language of Storytelling). Or in some other forms, whether you story map or wing it. What I find confusing is the difference between inciting incidents and triggering incidents.

Water bursts in the air to encourage children to play at The Foundry in Loveland. The burst is similar to the inciting incident that gets a story going, just like water games and sports.
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Best Laid Planst

By Katie Lewis

To outline, or not to outline, that is the question. We’ve all heard varying degrees of advice in favor of one way or the other. Some writers feel outlining is vital, while others swear they are more productive using the flow. And yet I am here to declare a third party, the middle, the betwixt, or the midmost.

Illustration of one person making a single list of steps, and another making a wild, messy drawing of multiple paths
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