Creating Conflict

Last week I posted about tension and "death stakes". This week I'll broaden the conversation to discuss conflict, in the most general terms. Once again, I'll also invoke one of my favorite writers, James Scott Bell, and his craft book CONFLICT AND SUSPENSE. He states that a successful novel is "the emotionally satisfying account of how a character deals with imminent death." You've got a … [Read more...]

Tension!

Tension is essential in stories that will resonate with readers. As a reader, you know the feeling - staying up way past your bedtime because you can't put that book down. This post is a short introduction to crafting tension that will have your readers hanging on every word. Rule number 1: story is conflict. This is the only rule. Conflict pits your main character against any number of … [Read more...]

Newest Catchphrase: Write Up!

I spent the past weekend at the New York SCBWI conference and, as always, it was enlightening and energizing. But what struck me was a message that I heard repeated a number of times from various speakers - editors, agents, and authors - and it was "write up!" "Write up" means writing up for children, not down. It means writing complex stories with rich vocabulary. It means challenging readers … [Read more...]

For Writers: On Voice and Tone

Editors and agents often say that they sign an author because of the excellent/compelling "voice" of the work in question. What does this mean, and how do you accomplish it? First, some definitions... Tone: the "atmosphere" of a narrative, generated by using diction (word choice) and syntax (sentence structure). Specific genres are characterized by their tones (think western, noir, romance, … [Read more...]