4 Basic Story Building Blocks: Stories About Character #WriterWednesday

Let’s talk about my favorite kind of story—the character-driven story.

A story that puts emphasis on your main character is a story that focuses on a person attempting to change their role in life. A character’s “role” is their relationships with other people in the book and the world that you have built for them. The story begins at a point where the main character has come to realize (either consciously or unconsciously) that there is something missing or intolerable about their everyday life and sets out to change that. The story ends when that character either finds a new role or willingly returns to the old one. The latter choice would be kinda sad but either way, a character center story fines your hero in some state of discontent at the beginning and we read to find out how they overcome it.

This sounds dreadful, right? Why would we want to read a story about this malcontent?

Well, to put it simply, stories about happy people are kinda boring. Your character can begin the story in a seeming state of contentment, but there must be something that they wants, some central problem that speaks to a deep longing, or dissatisfaction with the course of their life. A central problem is A central problem is a damaging belief or inner conflict that the protagonist must face in order to achieve their goal. This problem, whether consciously or unconsciously, prevents the hero from living their best life.

Needless to say, character-driven stories require the most character development.

You, the author, bear the responsibility of knowing this character’s history, goals, motivations, and intentions to make them feel real, believable, and relatable.

It’s important to note, however, that not all of the people in a character-driven story need to be fully realized. The protagonist and supporting roles that play an important part in their development should get the same treatment.

As a romance author, character-driven stories are my favorite kind of stories to write.

With so many tropes, themes, and archetypes, character development is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd. But honestly, if you’re anything like me, you’ll just enjoy crafting characters with so many delicious flaws, wounds, and backstory that you can use to torture them all the way to their happily ever after!

Do you want to craft characters that are unique, but relatable? Grab your copy of The Basic Character Creation Workbook today!

Add heading copy

I’m just going to come out and say it… #NaNoWriMo

I’m not great at NaNoWriMo.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve competed three times and won twice. Last year, I used NaNoWriMo to write the second book in The Truth Duet and I managed to write 84k+ words. I won! So “winning” NaNo isn’t the problem, but writing a publishable book is where I struggle. I’m still fixing that book so sometime during the beginning of the year, I decided not to participate.

But here we are on Halloween and I’m feeling the pull to compete.

I mean, let’s face it. If you’re even a little bit active in the online writing community, it’s pretty hard to avoid the NaNoWriMo conversation. Not that I want to. The energy and cult-like excitement around this writing challenge is so motivating! Writing is such a solitary pursuit that logging in to that camaraderie for 30 days straight is kinda really amazing. And the idea of sitting this one out is giving me a serious case of FOMO, so I’ve been brainstorming ways that I can participate unofficially.

Today I’m on Caroline Donahue’s Secret Library Podcast talking about different ways to hack NaNoWriMo. It was a fun conversation—a chat with Caroline about writing is hands down one of my favorite things to do. On that show, I talked about using NaNoWriMo to finish a book versus starting another one. Initially figured I would use November to finish The Way Things Are. We talked about writing from the last chapter/scene and finding my way back to the plot hole that I’ve been struggling with. I couldn’t wait to try out this method so I started it right after we hopped off of the call. At the time I had about 45k+ words left, but I’ve already added another 25k to that book since then. I’m pretty close to done! So without a big word count to tackle, I started searching for other ways to participate or hack #NaNoWriMo and I came across #NaNoPlotMo!

#NaNoPlotMo isn’t an official offshoot of NaNoWriMo.

From what I can tell, folks are using it as #NaNoWriMoPrep. My idea is to use the actual month of November to plot a novel or novella a week!

This is how I’m gonna do it…

I will be using The Basic Character Creation Workbook to craft my characters and Romancing the Beat to plot the actual story. My process also borrows a bit of Dan Well’s plot structure—specifically the bit about beginning at the end. I don’t write linearly so his idea to write the last chapter, the dark moment, and then the first chapter—in that order—makes the most sense to me.

And because I love having a plan/schedule, this is how I will break all of this down:

Why plot i stead of writing?

I’ve recently starting batching my blog posts and social media posts and it has helped me get a lot of work done. So why not apply that to fiction! Batching the plotting portion and writing the transitional plot points will help me get down to the business of writing the book a lot faster. Well…that’s the plan anyway, lol. Also, part of my goals for 2019 is to start submitting my work again. This plot exercise will eventually become the stories that I send out to a short list of publishers I’d love to work with.

Are any of you participating in NaNoWriMo?

Follow me on Twitter and Instagram so that I can show up in your mentions and shake my pom-poms!

Happy Writing!


4 Basic Story Building Blocks: Stories About Ideas #WriterWednesday

Last week we talked about place and the types of characters that play well in that sort of story.

Today we’re going to talk about a story built around an idea.

The foundation of an “idea” story is pretty simple. A problem is presented at the beginning, the main character or characters devise a plan and the reader is completed to continue reading to find out how they solve it. Something inevitably goes wrong, but the story isn’t over until the problem is solved. Mysteries, suspense, police procedurals, heist stories—all of these follow an idea story structure.

How much do you need to develop your characters for an “idea” based story?

Most characters in idea bases stories have a flat character ar. Flat character arcs do not focus on character growth or change. I discuss character arcs at length in The Basic Character Creation Workbook, but this is the sort of story that the flat arc is perfect for.

Agatha Christie’s “locked room” mysteries are the best example of how minimally developed characters can still produce an interesting story. Each character is a fixed archetype with a few quirks to make them interesting and to make them legitimate suspects of the crime.

Modern detective stories tend to have a bit more character development and the detective’s personality tends to dive the narrative. However, these characters rarely ever change. All of the eccentricities remain intact and become part of the mystery. The reader stays interested because they want to discover why the character is so horrible or broken how he became that way. A good mystery, thriller, or suspense writer can pick that character apart bit by bit over several books. In fact, the lack of change in these characters allows the reader to use the same characters over and over again.

Idea stories exist in other genres in a larger, more intentional way.

Science Fiction frequently flirts with ideas about politics, class, and race. Women’s fiction challenges societal expectations and patriarchal ideas. Those characters tend to remain fixed as well.

There is a misconception, however, that ideas stories have “bad” characterization. The characters in an idea story have at the right amount of development for that kind of story.

What books have you read or written that emphasize and center an idea? I’ve written one called The Truth of Things. Tell me about yours!

Happy Writing,


Do you want to learn more about flat character arcs and all the other ways you can make sure that you have the right character for the right story?

Grab a copy of The Basic Character Creation Workbook!

Add heading copy