“You must want to enough. Enough to take all the rejections, enough to pay the price of disappointment and discouragement while you are learning. Like any other artist you must learn your craft—then you can add all the genius you like.”
—Phyllis A. Whitney

3 Tricks to Build Suspense and Engage Your Readers

3 Tricks to Build Suspense and Engage Readers

I am addicted to novels I can’t put down, to TV shows I can’t just watch one episode of, to short stories I have to finish, and to movies that keep me guessing until the very end.

I love stories that grip me and demand my attention. I am on an unending hunt for them and for the suspense they make me feel.

As a writer, these are the types of stories I hope to create—stories that pull the reader to the edge of his seat and keep him there until the last page.

Let’s take a look at three tools you can use in your stories to build suspense and keep your readers engaged.

3 Romantic Scenes for Romance Novels and More

3 Romantic Scenes for Romance Novels and More

Every year romance tops the list of the most widely read genres. From Edward and Bella to Harry and Sally to Romeo and Juliette, most of the greatest stories ever told have at their center two people discovering their feelings for one another.

We love tales of characters fighting to find a connection, but before we can flush out a fiery story filled with heat and tension, we need to understand what kind of spark our characters are experiencing.

I’ve experienced three different forms of romantic feeling: infatuation, lust, and love. Each is its own unique kind of fire. When we write romantic relationships between characters, it’s important we know which of these three types of burn they are experiencing.

4 Tips to Find Your Thoughtful Spot and Get Inspired

Inspiration: 4 Tips to Find Your Thoughtful Spot and Get Inspired

Ever sit and stare at the page, unsure what to write? It happens to me at least once a week. You sit down to write and draw a complete blank.

Panic sets in. You worry, “Will I ever think of anything worth writing again.” Your mind screams, “Has the well run dry? Is the journey over? Woe is me; the world is coming to an end!”

Then, I take a deep breath and go to my Thoughtful Spot.

5 Steps to Write Characters that Change

We know our characters must change. From the first word to the last, if our main character isn’t different, then we haven’t written a story people will connect with.

But writing believable character change can be hard. Change doesn’t just happen. It’s not enough to simply flip a switch and make our protagonists different from one scene to the next. Our characters need to evolve slowly.

In today’s post, I’m sharing a system of thinking that helps me build characters that experience believable and realistic change.

How to Build Memorable Monsters

Monster: How to Build Memorable Monsters

They lurk in dark corners of our houses when everyone else is asleep. We see their shadows at the other end of that abandoned alley where the street lamps are broken. They watch us in the woods, close enough to feel but still hidden by the gloom.

I’m talking about monsters. The kind that go bump in the night and leave a chill running up our spines.

When we build terrifying monsters into our stories, they will ingrain themselves in our readers’ minds, making our stories unforgettable.

6 Key Scenes to Write a Terrifying Villain

6 Key Scenes to Write Terrifying Villains

Without the White Witch, Aslan is just a recluse lion. Without Moriarty, Sherlock is just a know-it-all in a weird hat. Without the Joker, Batman is just a rich dude with anger issues and too much time on his hands.

Our villains make our heroes. Without them, our heroes can’t shine. That’s why it’s important to give our villains scenes where they can wow us with their quirks and scare us with their ferocity.

How to Write What You Know

Emotion: How to Write What You Know

When I first started writing, I was advised to “write what you know.” While the advice was well intended, it left me sad because I don’t know much, and what I do know isn’t exciting enough to build fiction with.

Then, one day, it started to click for me. While I may not be a dragon-slaying knight or a criminal-catching detective, the emotions I experience on a daily basis can be used to bring those worlds to life.

The Secret to Bringing Your Characters to Life

The Secret to Characterization: Bringing Characters to Life

It’s Atticus Finch giving advice to Scout that shows us he is a man of empathy and compassion. It’s Frank Underwood banging his class ring on the table that reminds us he is in command. It’s Holden Caulfield using phrases like “vomity” and “grow up” that helps us remember that he is an adolescent.

Using indirect characterization can make our heroes and villains leap from the page and come to life in our readers’ minds. Showing our readers who our characters are through indirect characterization allows our readers to draw their own conclusions about our characters, intensifying our readers’ engagement with our stories.

How to Write Dialogue Without Using Adverbs

How to Write Dialogue Without Using Adverbs

It made a generation fall in love with Gilmore Girls, and almost destroyed Star Wars Episodes 1, 2, and 3. Dialogue can make or break a story. When it is good, we are joyfully entangled in it. When it is bad, the story can be painful to read.

To spice it up, we will often turn to descriptors—adjectives and adverbs the convey the emotion we hope the reader will hear. But these “ly” words can break a reader’s flow, making our story feel disjointed.

Never fear! There is hope! If we start with a good foundation and sprinkle some action, we can write dialogue that sings. Here are three steps to crafting vivid, believable dialogue.

How to Write a Lead Paragraph that Wins Readers’ Attention

How to Write a Lead Paragraph That Wins Readers' Attention

You’ve spent countless hours pondering the plot, creating the characters’ voices, and building the perfect twist at the end that will leave readers speechless. Once everything is as good as you can make it, you publish your writing and wait. . . .

But no one reads your masterpiece.

Unfortunately, in our content-saturated age, if you don’t grab people by the throat, pull them in close, and yell, “Pay attention to me!” with your first paragraph, they won’t stick around to read the amazing story you’ve crafted. Here’s how to write an opening paragraph that will draw your readers in and keep them reading to the end.