How to Write Chapter 1: Include the 4 C's and a Q

[originally published 11/2014; updated 5/2021] Starting a new project is often the most exciting stage. As creative writers, we get to put our imaginations to work dreaming up witty and fun characters, fantastic settings, conflicts that would destroy anyone but our stalwart protagonist, and plot twists that readers never see coming. We get it all…

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Some Useful Plot Structure Definitions

When I first found my way back to writing after putting it aside for far too long (during my entire twenties and thirties), I discovered a whole world of “writing terms” that I’d never heard when I wrote as a young girl and teen. As a reader (and a woman with two degrees in English…

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Using HONY to Create a Character

“HONY? What the heck is that?” You might be asking. HONY stands for Humans of New York, and it is (in my mind) one of the greatest blogs EVER. This past week, a student wrote a great poem about how we, as humans, often base our judgments of others on appearances. The poem reminded me…

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What is a Character Arc?

Is a character arc a giant boat for characters that Noah built? Or perhaps it’s a lovely arched rainbow for our characters to walk through? Nope, it’s none of those. A character arc refers to how a character changes through a story. Your characters, especially the main characters, should experience some sort of change throughout…

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Should you outline your stories?

If you don’t consider yourself a planner, and you are writing a single scene short story, go ahead and start writing. These are much easier to revise since you don’t have multiple characters, sub-plots, and plot layers. However, if you’re writing a longer piece, like a novel, you should plan WAY more than you think.…

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Character Basics: Character Archetypes

When you’re creating a character, the most important step is to figure out what they are like: their purpose, personality, quirks, and voice. The list can go on and on. So, where do you start? I like to start with character archetypes because they give characters their purpose in the story, and they are also…

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Five Strategies for Writing Chapter Titles

When trying to decide on chapter titles, writers face two major questions: 1) Should you come up with witty, clever titles ala Rick Riordan such as “I become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom” (one of my student’s favorites)? 2) Or, should you use something…simpler to label a chapter? This is one of those questions that…

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Who Should Tell Your Story? Three Questions to Figure it Out

This past week, I’ve had several conversations with teen writers about their current stories in progress. They all went something like this: Me: “Who’s your POV character? Who’s telling the story?” Teen: “Well, the main character. Who else would it be?” Me: “Okay, but how would the main character know that X was happening? Or,…

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The Anatomy of a 2013 YA Bestseller

Have you ever dreamed of writing a novel that everyone has read or seeing your name appear on the New York Times Bestseller list? In 2013, thirty-seven authors of Young Adult fiction made that dream a reality. How did they do it? Well, they wrote amazing stories. But I was curious if there were any strong…

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POV part 6 – When Should you use 3rd Person Omniscient POV?

The omniscient narrator or POV is often referred to as a “God-like” narrator, one that narrates the thoughts and feelings of any given character at any given time. It is often compared to a camera lens that looks down on a scene happening. The narrator is never in the scene but instead watches and narrates…

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