Journey On

Y’all.

The writing journey is a long, arduous process fraught with snares and many, many hours of tears. Blood, sweat, and tears. The writer sits at a keyboard for hours and pours out her heart and soul into a series of stories. She gives her everything to make them come alive.

And she doesn’t even know if anyone will want to read them.

Some days it can seem like no one out there cares at all. Like no one will ever like your writing. Or read one of your books and say “I want to write like that one day.” Or internet stalk every blog post or interview you’ve ever done. It can be hard to believe that’s even a possibility.

Some days you write until your fingers hurt and that troublesome bug bite on your wrist itches like crazy, just so you can look over what you put down on paper and know that those two characters may be fighting now, but they’re going to be crazy happy together later.

Some days it’s drudgery to type each letter, to put them in a line and form a word, and to put words in a line to form sentences, and to put sentences in a line to form paragraphs. You don’t feel it, but you know you have to keep pressing on.

All for the sake of a story.

You see, writers do one very important thing day in and day out. We write.

Rainer Maria Rilke said it so beautifully in “Letters to a Young Poet”

“If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing . . . then you are a writer.”

Dreams can become reality, but the journey is a huge part of that. If you don’t press through, how are you going to know just how close to your life goals you were? You don’t know when that wall will give out and someone will show your work to just the right person. You only see a little bit in front of yourself.

Never. Give. Up.

Three words that will always follow me when I sit down to write and when I have to search for paper to write down that stellar new idea. Someone once asked what the most important thing is for a writer, and in one word I decisively answered. Perseverance.

Do you have it?

You’ve seen the Lego Movie, right? Or at least heard of it, I’m sure. Who hasn’t heard someone belting out “EVERYTHING IS AWESOME!!!”?

I ask because I’m here today to explain how Emmet is really a fantastically written character. Why, you ask? Let’s take a look at him.

Emmet is the perfect cookie-cutter citizen. He’s one of those clique-y, politically correct fit-ins. He says all the right things, wears all the right things, “likes” all the right things. His life is pretty perfect, at least to him, because he’s oblivious that everyone around can barely see him for his lack of originality.

In other words, Emmet’s little world doesn’t need help. Or, at least, he doesn’t think he needs help. This is how every work of fiction should start out. Your character believes their world is perfect. They’re content. They know what they want in life. Heck, they may even be in a successful relationship.

But is their life actually perfect?

Let’s find out.

One day, Emmet accidentally stumbles into a deep, deep ravine behind his workplace. This is only the first road bump. The second rude awakening comes when he wakes up in an interrogation room. He learns the no one remembers him. They all think he’s boring. Nothing special.

And that’s what characters are, until they go on their journal. Nothing special.

Emmet goes on this epic adventure, where he learns that he CAN do things. He CAN be special, if he puts his mind to it. Then, in an instant, his entire new world shatters.

Most of the time, in a book or movie, this point comes. Since the character is just starting to find themselves — REALLY find who they truly are — it only takes a slight shake to kill their dreams. In Emmet’s case, it’s fourteen little words thrown at him like a ton of bricks.

“As unspecial as I am, you are a thousand-billion times more unspecial than me.”

And you know what? Emmet believes it. Why? Because he’s doubted himself all along, and he’s just been waiting for someone to confirm his suspicions. He isn’t special, he’s just a nobody.

Most characters doubt themselves until the moment they’re put to the test, in Emmet’s case the moment he realizes he has to sacrifice himself for his friends to live.

Your characters should always have this epiphany moment, where they realize what’s most important to them. This is what makes them who they’re becoming. This is the moment of truth. And it almost always makes them even more awesome than they were to begin with.

So, you see, Emmet is a really well written character. His characterization shows us how to build a character up and tear them down in just the right way to make them who they’re meant to be.

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So, what have you learned from Emmet’s journey?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

When a Project Ambushes You…

Recently, I was quite thoroughly and inexplicably ambushed by a project of epic proportions.

What is this project, you ask?

Well, apparently, I’m now writing a musical.  I can’t give you all the details, because it’s still a very early work in progress, but I can say that I never expected myself to write a musical. Even less so did I expect to be ambushed by a project I wasn’t even sure I wanted.

That brings me to the theme of today’s blog post.

What I like to call an “ambush” project is any project that springs to life seemingly on its own. You wake up, and WHAM! it hits you like an anvil over the head. (That just hurts like the dickens!)

These can, and most of the time (with me anyway) do turn out to be some of the greatest things you’ll ever write. Why is that?

Because it already has a life of its own.

The one thing we strive to do as writers is to bring a story to life so vividly that people never question whether the characters are real or not. They are.

If something abushes you, with dialogue and actions just spilling onto the page, you should embrace it! It has taken on a life of its own and flown off on its own. All you have to do is watch and record.

Honestly, sometimes it’s easier if a project ambushes you, because that’s less work to do for the first draft, but don’t get me wrong! Just because the first draft ambushes you and flops itself onto the page, don’t think you won’t have to edit.

If anything, you’ll end up editing more and being even more cautious, because you care about it more. Because it’s GOOD. There’s no shame in letting a project jump onto a page in a matter of 30 to 60 days. Heaven knows I’ve done it a number of times! Just make sure, in the end, you give it the attention and loving correction it needs to turn it into a masterpiece. A true bestseller.

Because being ambushed isn’t bad when you’re a writer.

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When was the last time an entire storyline or dialogue or book just came to you? Has that ever happened?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Making Emotions Real

“Sometimes, the saddest parts aren’t where the character is crying. Sometimes, the saddest parts come from when they’re trying not to cry.”

This quote has changed the way I write.

I realized, after reading it fifteen times and pondering on it for a long while, that whoever came up with this is absolutely correct.

I mean, come on! Have you ever been reading a book, going along and enjoying it, and then you realize there’s this one character who is constantly bawling? (Guilty as charged, I have so yelled at a character for crying too much before.)

If you take a minute to look at real people, you’ll find that (more often than not) they don’t want other people to see them cry. And, therefore, they hold back the tears and set up their “I’m okay” facade. Just watch people around you every once in a while.

We’ve talked about how people have “tells” before. Well, people have what I call “emotion tells”. Like a tick that could be a quivering chin if they let it. Some people’s noses turn red when they’re trying not to cry. (I know a few.)

People are emotional by nature, but many also have a pride issue. For some reason, society has told us that crying make you look weak, and therefore most people don’t want to give in to their natural emotions. Because they think it will make them look weak.

Recently, I was writing a story where a character blames herself for stuff that keeps happening to both her and other people. Because of issues in her past, she also has abandonment issues.

Sounds like it could go really mushy really fast, with lots of tears and “don’t goes”, right?

Wrong.

I’m telling you, I actually cried writing her most recent scene. A scene in which someone she loves says they’re leaving. How did she handle it? Not with begging.

She stoicly, listlessly stood there and listened to him tell her he was leaving. She even let him yell at her. All the while, she watched the floor and distracted herself so she didn’t cry. Because she wanted to. Badly. He left, she shut herself in her room. Then, and only then, did she allow herself to let go and let it all out.

And you know what? Because she had been holding it in, and the tension had been building around it, it made the entire scene that much more powerful. That much more moving. Enough to move a reader (and writer) to tears over this character.

Do you want to hear a reader say, “Oh my gosh, I loved your book so much! It made me cry!”? Then maybe you should consider employing the method of hold it in until it has to get out.

If people are all fundamentally similar, doesn’t that mean your characters wouldn’t want to gush all over other characters? If your characters are real, why would they spill their guts with no reasonable motivation to do so?

Ponder that this week.

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I wanna hear about the first book that EVER made you cry. Or why you haven’t ever cried at a book. Ready? Set. GO!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

What I’ve Learned from NaNoWriMo (Weeks 1 & 2)

Fourteen days in. Fourteen. Whole. Days.

Amazingly, I’ve only missed writing on ONE day so far. Usually I’m doing pretty horribly by now. That still leaves me with almost 2,000 words to make up. Joy.

Anyway, on to what I’ve learned from NaNoWriMo this year. Going on the last two weeks alone, I have learned one very important thing as I’ve worked my way from 0 words to almost 23,000. And that one thing is this:

Push through the pain!

I say this because, even though 1,667 words a day doesn’t sound like TOOOOO many, I’ve been having a really hard time getting that many out. Usually, I hit around 1,100 and the words dry up. My mind goes blank. I have no idea where the story is going next.

And that, my creatives, is where I have had to learn to push through the pain.

Those last 600 words can be terrifying and excruciating, but it hasn’t failed yet to be the best part of everything I’ve written. When you finally push through that wall that stands before you, you find jewels on the other side. A secret letter, an unexpected in jury. A love you didn’t know existed for your character. An amazing best friend.

Though it is so difficult to think past writer’s block, I’m learning!

Sometimes it’s easier than other. Sometimes I have to use a writing prompt (and, yes, that’s okay!) Sometimes I have to sit and ask myself “what could go wrong here?” and then write it down. (This is how I end up with things like helicopter chases. Who knew?!)

So, even if you’ve hit that wall. That writer’s block craziness! Just push through the pain and find the treasure on the other side. It will be worth it in the end.

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Do you love your stories? I’m sure I would too! This week, I’d love to hear either A) your summary, or B) Your first page of a recent story. I can’t wait!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Why I LOVE NaNoWriMo

Okay, I admit, this is not one of my typical posts. And yet it is, in a way. Whatever, it’s confusing, moving on.

I’ve read both good and bad things about NaNoWriMo. Some people say it’s a horrible idea to try to write a complete novel in only 30 days. Others say it’s the ONLY way to write a novel. Some hesitant, on-the-fence people say they can see it either way.

I think NaNoWriMo rocks.

Why?

Because it’s actually a really good idea, and there are multiple reasons why.

Reason 1: Writing a novel in 30 days is the best thing that ever happened to me.

And why is that, you ask? Because I stopped second-guessing myself. I stopped over-analyzing. I stopped telling myself that there was “no way” I’d ever write something good enough. I just wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

Because I had to write so many words per day and had so few days to write it all down, my inner editor shut up and let my creative genius shine through. My first NaNoWriMo was 2014, and that novel – the one that came out of my creative side, not my formula side – is still one of the best pieces of work I’ve ever done.

Reason 2: Writing a novel in 30 days stretched all my creative muscles.

The first five (or so) days were awesome. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Finished a few chapters. And then it happened. I got stuck. Suddenly, I had no idea where the plot was headed. I had no idea what happened next. I was only about 5,000 words in. No! I couldn’t fail! This couldn’t be happening!

Needless to say, I didn’t have weeks to ponder and work through my writer’s block. I had hours. Maybe.

So I did what any self-respecting novelist would do.

I freaked out. I ate half a pan of cookies. And some chocolate. And a couple caramels. I paced my room for a while.

And then I sat back down at my computer, re-read the last few sentences, and pushed on. It was painful, not knowing where the story would go next. And some characters died in the process. But I did it. I stretched that creative muscle and overcame writer’s block in record time. And, as much as I loved them, I see now those character deaths were necessary to progress the plot.

Reason 3: NaNoWriMo is just plain fun!

Who cares if anyone else ever reads your NaNo Novel? The journey from blank page to 50,000+ words is FUN!

Whether it’s hanging out with the Word Sprinters on Twitter, joining a virtual write in on Youtube (via Google hangouts), or actually meeting up with fellow WriMo’s in your area, it’s nice to know that there’s an entire community of writers around the globe backing you up.

If for nothing else, join the NaNo community for one month and get some advice from writers around the world. You never know if they’ll have a different perspective on writing that you’ve never thought of before. It could be the best experience of your life. But you’ll never know unless you try.

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So… Are you planning on joining NaNoWriMo this year? Why or why not?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Learn the Language

What’s the first thing you do when you visit or move to a foreign country?

You learn the language.

And not just the spoken language. You learn the gestures that are permissible or impermissible. You take time to learn how their bartering system works. You learn what the people from the country love to do and what they’re not so fond of. You learn every aspect of the language they speak from the inside out.

“But, Megan, what does this have to do with writing?”

Good question. And one I’m here to answer.

When people leap into their preferred book or movie writing genre (fantasy, sci-fi, action/adventure, etc.), most of them don’t take time to learn the language. It’s the ones that do take that time who excel in what they’ve set out to do.

“What do you mean by ‘learn the language’?”

What do I mean? I mean that each genre has a language you should be learning.

Do a study for me, just to humor me. Pick up a Science Fiction book or movie and really listen to what they’re saying. You’ll probably hear a lot about lasers, teleportation, spaceships, and other fun stuff. Now pick up an Action/Adventure. Bullets, car chases, knives, and stalkers.

If you look at each genre, through multiple stories, you will find that each has its own set of rules and its own language to learn. People who read or watch those genres all the time have an innate ability to speak that language fluently, and without really thinking about it.

If you’re going to write a specific genre, I suggest you pick up a book or movie and start learning the language before you take one step further. Fans will know if you really speak their language or not, and if you don’t (I hate to say it) they’ll put down your stuff and call you a fake.

Just like any other language, the genre languages are more easily learned when you immerse yourself in them. When I sit down to write an Action/Adventure, I make sure I’ve spent weeks reading that genre and watching all my favorite action movies. The more time I spend immersing myself in those things, the better my writing becomes. Why? Because I’ve learned the language.

Don’t jump into writing a fantasy novel when you’ve been on a steady romance-only diet. (Just an example, exchange any two genres in there.) What you put in is what will come out when you sit down to write. Please, please, please do the world a favor and immerse yourself in the language. Learn it until you can’t possibly speak anything else. Until the syntax and sentence structure are fused into your bones. Trust me, your readers and I will thank you later.

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Your genre and your favorite story therewithin (book or movie). I want to know!!!

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

Kill the Bird

“Kill the bird.”

Okay, I totally realize that must seem like really strange advice to those of your reading this, because you have no point of reference for it. (“Kill the… bird? Why are we killing animals? What kind of sick sadist are you?”) But, trust me, it’s pretty genius. Just go with me on this, I’ll explain.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the little things in books. You know, the chair the character is sitting in or the mug she pulled from her cabinet. Little things.

Forget the big things for a while with me. Put aside the characters, the major settings, the plot holes, and even the main theme. Got it? Good. Now lean a little closer and study that little thing. Like a prop on a movie set. Pick it up, turn it around. Examine every little part of it.

“What does this have to do with killing a bird?!”

Shh. Calm down. Keep studying that little prop. Notice that crack on the side of the glass. Yeah, and what does it really say right there? Good. You’re doing great.

NOW I will explain what any of this has to do with a bird.

Like those things you were just examining, a pet is a “little thing” in a book. Like a prop. They’re there, but they don’t always show up as a major character.

For instance: I’ve been writing a story with a writer friend, and in this story there is a minor character that is a bird.

(A BIRD! I get it! Wait… what? You killed the bird?! Talk about a spoiler!)

Wait. Hey, hold on. You’re getting waaaay ahead of me here. Back up a tick.

In this story, there is a bird. Said bird is the pet of one of two main characters. Over the course of this story, we’ve grown very attached to this bird. VERY attached. To the point that, when bandits attacked and the bird went missing, both of us were very distraught because we honestly hadn’t anticipated this and had no idea what happened to the bird. Was it dead? Was it okay? Had it pecked its attackers to death?

If you’re still jumping ahead of me, you’ll see where I’m going with this. If you are with me, congratulations! Now I can tell you what the very important lesson is in this blog post.

We’re worried about the bird.

Whaaa…? (cue minion confusion face)

Let me repeat. We. Are worried. About the BIRD.

Remember when I said the bird wasn’t even that big of a character? Turns out, it didn’t have to be. For whatever reason, people (bless ’em) have the tendency to overlook the big things and pay attention to the small ones.

When we messed with that one little, tiny piece of the story, things exploded. (Not literally, but that would have been cool).

The two main characters bonded over a lost pet. It set up a great scene for the bird’s owner to have some introspection time and created a host of opportunities for metaphorical situations.

Again, for some reason, people are weird. Kill a character? Pfft, they’ve seen it before. No biggie, there are always ways to replace them or bring them back. Kill a pet or smash a small object? They go into overtime worrying (and some crying).

Are you looking for a way to make your writing more impactful? To rip out their hearts and dance on their graves while they weep uncontrollably over your book? (It sounds more maniacal than it actually is). If so, kill the bird. People quickly get attached to animals, pets especially. And what could be more evil than a villain who can kill an innocent animal and not feel an ounce of remorse?

I feel like I should end by saying that after a long and terrible ordeal (with lots of agitation and tears on all the writers’ parts), the bird is fine. She’ll live and life will go on. (AKA: no animals were harmed in the making of this blog post).

So… How are you going to make an impact? What can you do to “kill the bird”?

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I want to hear your stories about the small details!!! Whether you read it or wrote it, let me know what small detail changed to make you cry in a story you love.

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You.

4 Lessons About Writing From “Hoodwinked!”

For those of you who are now wondering what in the world “Hoodwinked!” is, I will explain. “Hoodwinked!” is not only fun to say, (go on, try it!) but is also an animated movie from the early 2000s. The premise? To learn the “true” story of Little Red Riding Hood, a tale distorted by time. (Let it be noted that I know a lot of people who don’t like this movie, but I happen to think it’s pretty awesome and will continue to like it despite protests.)

There are tons of lessons we can learn from fairytales themselves, but that’s a blog post for another time. In this case, we’re taking lessons from the movie loosely based on the fairytale. They are completely different. So…

#1 – No Character is an Island Unto Himself

It’s true folks, this movie made me sit up and see the light on that point! No character exists in his own little bubble. All their lives interconnect, even when they don’t realize it.

There are several characters in “Hoodwinked!” who, at the beginning, seem random and unessential. Until you start to figure out the story behind the story. Suddenly, you realize these characters aren’t random and they are very essential to understanding what’s going on in the Forest. They bring with them a depth the story wouldn’t have had if they had been left out.

So don’t underestimate those characters that just happen to show up for a brief scene. What if they’ve crossed paths with your hero or villain (or both!) in the past? What if they know more than they’re telling? Think about how their life connects with the other characters’ lives, then see what depth your story has just developed.

#2 – Nothing Should Ever Be As It Seems

“Hoodwinked!” has one major writing advantage to other kids’ movies. Nothing turns out like it seems.

That crazed axe murderer? Not a crazed axe murderer at all. Granny floating through the clouds? Logical explanation. A seemingly random avalanche? Not random at all.

When writing, we should remember that people make assumptions, and those assumptions are usually very wrong. Don’t let your characters figure things out too quickly. Let them assume what they just saw was something completely different than what it actually was. It makes for conflict, and conflict makes for a great story.

#3 – Villains Aren’t Always Cut-And-Dried, Sometimes They’re Cunning

I won’t give the spoiler on this one, but the villain isn’t who you think it is. He’s unassuming. He’s a friend. But, behind the scenes, he’s orchestrating everything to make it look like someone else did it.

Villains don’t always seek the attention. Sometimes they’re villainous because they DON’T want the attention. They want someone else to take the fall so they can pick up the pieces and make a profit. Think outside the box when it comes to villains. Let them be someone you don’t think a villain normally is. Surprise us by twisting the story around until the REAL villain jumps out and says, “You didn’t see that coming?”

#4 – Keith Is Not A Scary Name

“…And Keith… get a scarier name. Really, who’s going to be afraid of a guy named Keith? ‘Ooh, I’m so scared, it’s… Keith.’ ‘Everybody look out, here comes… Keith’.”

The longer you think about it, the more you realize he’s right. Keith is just not a scary name. Friendly, maybe, and totally hero-sidekick-available. But not scary. Because of this movie I now realize I can never name a villain… Keith. This is a very important lesson, folks. Be sure to give your villain a scary name like Gunter or Nash or Vadislev. Not… Keith.

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Have you seen this movie and will you fangirl with me? BONUS QUESTION: Can you spot the Marvel Cinematic Universe reference in this post?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You!

The Power of Prose

Words are magical.

I mean, think about it. With a simple turn of phrase, we can make people see exactly who, what, or where we want them to. With one carefully placed word, we can turn a sentence from sweet to creepy or vice versa. There isn’t much that our words CAN’T do.

I know, better than most, that this puts a huge weight of responsibility on our shoulders. What if we choose the wrong word? What if the word we pick isn’t strong enough? What if we fail to make it come across as we see it in our head?

All valid questions.

The answer is: we never know if we’ll have the desired effect until we let others see our work.

I know, it’s a Debbie Downer. But, the good news is that there are things we can do to make sure we get our point across exactly as we want it to come across. Let me ‘splain.

For those of you who write Suspense or Thrillers, you’ll want to know how to heighten suspense in your scenes. Thankfully, I have a pretty good idea how Suspense works, so here’s my number one suggestion to create the suspenseful scene you’re looking for. Ready?

Use short sentences.

That’s it. The shorter the sentence, the more clipped the feel of the scene. And don’t just use short sentences in your narrative, throw some into your dialogue as well. Fragments are welcome in a suspense scene, because it inherently tells your reader that something is terribly wrong. (Despite what people think, anyone who paid attention in English during middle school subconsciously knows their grammar.)

For those of you who write Romance (or any sub-genre thereunder), you’ll probably want to know how to show your readers how sweet one or the other person is without being super cheesy. So, my number one advice:

Use body language.

“In my writing? Really?”

Yes. Really. Over half of the ways people express how they’re really feeling is in their body language. Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a habit of reaching to push the girl’s hair behind her ear? Anything like that can add loads of layers to a scene and, ultimately, a story. This is one of those instances where “Show, Don’t Tell” comes in really handy. Don’t tell your readers he likes her. Show them by his actions. Just like real people.

So, you romance writers, go plug in your favorite Rom-Com and take notes on how he shows he loves her.

For those of you who write Historical, you’ll want to know how to keep your facts straight.

Google.

There is nothing better. Oh, and for heaven’s sake, please find out if the words you choose for them to speak were actually spoken in your time period. Please. I’m begging you. It’s a pet peeve of mine.

For those of you who write Fantasy…

Okay, I’m sorry, I’ve got nothing for you. It’s all in your head. As I am not a fantasy writer, I can’t give advice on the subject, except to say pay attention to your plot holes.

So, advice for the day, pay close attention to your genre and READ, READ, READ!!!

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What genre do you write and what’s your favorite part about it?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

It was good to have you as a visitor today! Please drop by again, or become family by following the Write Knowledge. Thank You