How to build a character from scratch

Approaches to Storycraft

Building a character doesn’t happen in one shot, at least, not the unique, three-dimensional characters. Deep, believable, get-you-in-the-gut people that drive story are so rich and complicated they burn, smolder inside you. How do you infect readers with your characters?



What are the Most Common Weak Words?

Approaches to Storycraft

Weak words are a story’s nemesis. They are easy to use, serve multiple purposes, and act as quick fillers–but they drag your story down and dim your writing. They crop up like kittens unless we are paying strict attention to each sentence we compose. With care and time, you can ferret them out—my advice is to wait until you’re at the copyediting stage, when there is no chance of you rewriting and accidentally adding in more of these insidious words. When you edit, replace those offenders with strong verbs or simply tighten the sentence.



What is Your Writing Process of Choice?

Approaches to Storycraft

Some writers are overwhelmed by the need to tell a story, caring only about letting the story loose onto the page, wildly spilling forth the characters, setting, and problems, like an adventurer without a map. Other writers are methodical, controlled, and deliberate; their need to tell a story may still be great, but their approach is more like that of a hunter tracking prey.

It may either encourage or frustrate you to be told that there is no one single or right approach to writing. As with everything else, what works for one writer may not work for another. This is all because of your natural writing forces. Finding your writing pace and discovering which processes work best for you is necessarily a product of practice and search pursued by writing every day (Time Warrior’s), or on a regular basis.

Let’s explore the two different extremes of writing process…



And You’re a Writer

Approaches to Storycraft

When someone comes up to me and tells me they’ve been struggling with setting up daily writing habits, committing to a writing practice, or even time management (fitting writing into a busy lifestyle), one of the first questions I will ask:

Have you identified yourself as a writer?

Identity is one of the key foundational elements to a writing journey. There is very little success or forward progress for anyone who doesn’t believe that they are a writer. And yet, it’s one of the most common areas that writers forget to nurture.

About eight years ago, my husband, two children, and I were in a taxi. The cabbie asked my husband what he did for a living. They shared a small exchange before the cabbie looked at me in the rear-view mirror and asked me what I do for a living.

I said, “I take care of these two sugar cubes,” referring to my two children sitting on either side of me.

My son Riley looked up at me and said, “And you’re a writer.”


Why you should know your writing purpose

Approaches to Storycraft

One of the top struggles I hear about from writers is the inability to finish a project. Reasons run the gamut from “not having enough time” to “lost confidence.” Rather than tangling ourselves up with figuring out methods on HOW to finish, I want you to focus on WHY you are a writer.

Because writing purpose is the foundation of your journey.

Your purpose is what drives you. Your purpose is what keeps you motivated. Your purpose is what supports and encourages you through the tough spots.

You have to ask yourself:

  • “Why am I a writer?”
  • “Why is this story rattling around in my soul?”
  • “Why is this story keeping me up at night?”
  • “What do I see myself, as a writer, doing in five years? Ten?”
  • “How will I feel if I don’t write?”
  • “How does writing make me feel when it’s going well? When it’s going not so well?”

If you can figure any of that out—and hopefully your answers aren’t tied in any way to making a lot of money, because that’s not going to happen, certainly not with your first publication—you have then found the motivation to finish your project. To get your butt in the chair and write every single day.