Character or plot…?

A lot of us go with plot…after all aren’t the things that happen in a story, the plot turns, twists and pursuits, why we read or watch a film in the first place?  Sounds legit.


We get some back story on a character, especially the hero or villain.

Then tumblers fall into place, wheels start to spin, and the chase is on.

To get more granular… we now are starting to get why the character does what they do, why they respond to events the way they do, and the more we watch and read, the more we see that this character will not stop short of the ultimate act that the story requires.

This person ultimately defines the meaning of everything else in the novel.  It’s not the plot that reigns in the protagonist; it’s the other way around. (Hat tip to Lisa Cron’s Book Story Genius for this insight).

So sure, develop the plot, the structure, the three acts, etc.  But the characters…they will take your plot and run with it…treat them with respect.





It’s not so much the doing…

or even the finishing, or even the flow in the middle.

All of these require one thing, they won’t occur without it…


Feeling a lack of motive? No drive or inspiration?

Guess what…   nobody does.

Until they start.

You can sit in a turbocharged vehicle all day, but until you turn the key nothing happens. You are sitting there, pretending.

Turn the key, get it started, tell me how you feel then.

Even if it’s just a “pretend start” as a defense mechanism…once you really do start…

…it’s real.





Look Behind You….

This has become the working title of the sequel to Run for the Money.  Originally I had Go for the Dough as sort of a follow on title but it doesn’t ring true- doesn’t come off the tongue quite the way I want it to.

A working title is important, even if you end up using something else…you need a theme to write to, an image, a poster for what’s in your head to get out on the screen.  In a later post I’ll put up the cover image I’m using – I keep this image up in the corner of the monitor as I write, and it centers me, I find myself looking at it from time to time as a guidepost.

The pros tell us to have a one sentence theme that is the driver of your story taped to your monitor….sometimes, there’s nothing like a picture of what’s in your head to make you peck the keyboard a little longer.



Aerobic writing, and a challenge…

First, no- we’re not going to talk about writing while riding in spin class, nor dictating into your phone while running.

The premise is framed by this question:  Have you ever finished at the gym, showered, dressed, and said to yourself, “I wish I hadn’t done that.”?  My challenge is to find somebody who says yes.

Hasn’t happened.

Second question, (and you know where this is going) Have you ever finished a session of writing and said “I wish I hadn’t done that.”?


Now stay with me…

The 2 activities mentioned above, exercising and pursuing your creative passion, are the 2 hardest things to start yet the most satisfying when you’ve finished – even if the workout or the writing is mediocre at best.

Your brain will do anything it can to keep you in your comfort zone, your excuses will have the most rational thoughts behind them and sound perfectly legitimate to the part of your consciousness whose sole job is to protect you.

Recognize this for what it is, a defense mechanism against something you don’t need protection from.  Like all of the best things in life, the pursuit of that post-exercise endorphin rush or post-writing fist pump after an idea that popped in your head…

they come with a price.

Pay it.


It’s not the writing that is so hard…

it’s the “getting ready” to write that slices through you.  The prep, the mental workup, the rationalization of doing other things – the flipping through the last “Get that novel written” book you’ve read.  The clicking on sights that promise you relief from the madness – and… nothing on paper.

Think about how many emails you send a week, how many facebook posts or tweets or whatever that you compose on a regular basis.  How many words are you really writing?  1000 a week, a day?

It’s not that you’re unable to do this, it’s that you’re doing it where it isn’t getting you where you want to be.

You know what to do, do it instead of getting ready to do it.

Now go show yourself what you’re made of.



The scariest moment in writing is…

just before you start.

It’s like jumping in cold water or getting ready to speak in public.

But…once you get rolling, it morphs into something you can’t find anywhere else.

It gives you a shot of dopamine, your mojo,  your flow and your drive.

Too many people wait for those feeling to come so they can have inspiration to start.

If you’ve read any of my other posts you know exactly what comes next…

The motivation comes after you begin.

Just start…the rest flows from there.



I always know the ending…that’s where I start.

Toni Morrison.

Is that the answer?  Is it enough to inspire you to great and prolific prose?

Possibly, but more importantly…

That is what works for Toni.  Your job is to find what works for you.  A magic bullet has never been found to replace just starting in.

Try several beginnings, endings, reread your ending and use it to come up with another beginning.  Change the location, invent a new character that opens a new subplot, put your antagonist in a speeding vehicle, take your secondary female character and make her the reason your protagonist misses work 2 days a week.

Get the idea?  Your story, make it what we’re looking for.  Play with it, work it.

Now go do it.



Somebody’s got to get in trouble, or…

no one wants to read it.

Conflict my friends.

Rising conflict.  Stakes…then higher stakes.

Dilemmas, paradoxes, no escape from the dangers.

Go see a thriller or read one.  If you’re breathlessly gripping your seat or turning the pages it’s because the author has raised the stakes.  He or she has given someone you care about and thrown them to the wolves.

Your story is a moving train, the speed of it is up to you…in my mind the faster that train is headed for the precipice the more I want to read.

Keep asking yourself as you develop the plot: “Okay, what’s the worst thing that could happen now?”

Then… ask it again.

Write it out, then ask it again.

Pursue this until you…the writer…are breathlessly writing those pages.  This is what your reader is asking of you.

Give it to ’em.