According to literary agent Donald Maass, a protagonist is defined as the subject of a story, whereas a hero is someone with extraordinary qualities. Here, Dustin Grinnell offers examples of such extraordinary heroes and dissects what it takes to write them.
You can write a great character sketch, a moving love scene, a thrilling chase, even a heart-clutching murder—but a good story needs more than those elements. It needs plot movement—articulated by pivot points.
Not all practice makes perfect. A writer who works in isolation will not improve significantly over time. Leveling up requires stepping outside of your comfort zone. Here's how your can do that through peer critique of your work.
If you’re one of the millions of individuals who want to write a book “someday,” you may be struggling to turn that someday into today. Similarly, running might be that “impossible” thing and now I consider myself a runner. Here are 4 things writers can learn from running.
In Iowa Writers’ Workshop–graduate James Han Mattson’s acclaimed first novel, The Lost Prayers of Ricky Graves, the cyber-bullying of a gay teen leads to a multi-victim shooting. Here, he discusses related topics, including LGBTQ literature and writing about gun violence.
The author of three novels for young adults, Ashley Hope Pérez’s most recent work, Out of Darkness, has received national acclaim. Here she discusses the representation of latinx literature in the discussion of global lit.
As a writing critique group member, you walk a hair-thin line between appropriate ruthlessness and inappropriate intrusiveness. So how do you know where the boundaries are before you stumble into them? Here are nine mistakes it’s never okay to make.
Some writers struggle in transitioning from one type of writing to another, but Nicholas Meyer has conquered many forms. Learn Meyer’s cross-format storytelling processes and what encouraged him to write his memoir, The View From the Bridge: Memories of Star Trek and a Life in Hollywood.
Writing imitations of work that you admire is a great way to stretch your writing skills and improve your mastery of writing techniques. Here's an example of how it's done using Tana French's In the Woods.
Many artists have encountered the advice to "imitate the masters." Aspiring composers generally study, practice and perform pieces by others before attempting to write their own concertos, for example, and visual artists often attempt to recreate museum pieces in their own sketchbooks. This practice of imitation makes a great writing exercise...
The Buried Giant, Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2015 foray into Arthurian-inspired fantasy, is not the first book you would think of as a suspenseful novel. But Jane K. Cleland's principles of building suspense with memory loss explain how the device heightens tensions in novels like this one.
The success of NBC's The Good Place relies on its flawed but lovable characters, charming humor and, especially, its game-changing twists. Here are some hands-on lessons you can learn from the show’s terrific writing.
Laura Oles discusses her considerations for transforming her favorite weekend getaway, Port Aransas, Tex., into a setting for her mystery novel.
Is there a magic formula you can use to consistently come up with great story ideas for your books? Tim Knox offers up one idea.
Books with multiple points of view can yank readers out of the story or make readers feel detached from the main character. Here’s what you can do to keep readers turning the pages.
Learn about two writing techniques inspired by screenwriters that you can employ when writing opening scenes for novels.
Richard Alther wrote his latest novel from the perspective of a woman. Here, he shares his observations on writing from the opposite gender's point of view.
We like to think and talk a great deal about protagonists and antagonists, and that’s not a bad way to look at things, exactly. But it’s vital to realize that those two terms are purely a matter of perspective.
The arrangement of a narrative is often singular in its focus: It details the peaks and valleys, dips and pivots, of a single story. But a single story needn’t be such a direct thrust. Imagine the metaphor of a roller coaster, but now weave in another roller coaster—perhaps even two rides...
“In the three decades since I discovered The Hero with a Thousand Faces, it has continued to fascinate and inspire me. Joseph Campbell peers through centuries and shows us that we are all connected by a basic need to hear stories and understand ourselves. As a book, it is wonderful to...
I found my voice as a writer rather late in my writing life. I spent about twenty years trying to write fiction. I had read fiction voraciously as a boy and young man, but had largely stopped reading it by the time I decided to try writing it. It was a...
The following is an excerpt from WD Books’ new release, Writing Voice: The Complete Guide to Creating a Presence on the Page & Engaging Readers. It originally appeared in Writing With Quiet Hands by Paula Munier. As an agent, I get very excited when I find a writer with a great...
The best beginnings are based on strong story ideas that immediately set the book apart from all others of its ilk. If you have a bad feeling that your story idea is not compelling or unique enough to hook agents or editors, much less readers, then this post is just for...
The new world of self-publishing options calls to mind the golden age of the pulp magazines. During that era, roughly 1920–1950, writers could earn decent money pounding out stories and novellas for a penny a word. Later, the 1950s boom in mass-market paperbacks provided another source of lettuce for the enterprising...