What a Character!

Another Wednesday – so let’s get to it.

First, the weather report from Central Pennsylvania. It’s a chilly 6 degrees and slightly overcast. Snow still covers the ground from last week’s storm. Typical Pennsylvania weather for January, but never fear. April is coming! Okay, now on to our thoughts for the day.

A great story doesn’t happen without great characters. Whether you are an outliner or a pantser, you must have well-defined characters. If you are into outlining, perhaps the best way to get to know and develop your character is by interviewing him/her. Dig into their backstory, future dreams, what makes them tick. If you’re a pantser, your protagonist will naturally reveal himself as you write, but he still must be well-developed.

Regardless of which way you go, be sure your character is flawed and imperfect. Perfect characters have no place in fiction. The obstacles she faces should change her but not perfect her. The more challenges he faces, the better. Only the toughest challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds transform characters and compel readers to care.

What drives fiction is conflict. Make sure there is plenty of it – and make sure there is no easy way out for your main character. Make the odds almost insurmountable, but in the end, he must overcome them and win.

Just some things to think about as you write. Let me know your thoughts and I’ll see you next week.



What’s the Plan?

Pennsylvania is experiencing the heaviest snowfall of the year – so far. The white stuff is beautiful, but traveling is terrible – just another year in the making. With that being said, it’s time to get busy and plan your year, if you haven’t already. Let’s look at three areas that might help.

Analyze Last Year’s Goals

Think about last year’s goals. Did you plan on writing a novel? Maybe starting a blog was on the list last year. Maybe something you wanted to edit.

Now, what did you actually accomplish? What goals did you meet? What still needs work? Maybe you can write a dozen drafts in a year, but you take much longer to edit. Or maybe you can edit a dozen novels, but in writing them, you proceed much slower. Use last year’s goals and accomplishments as a kind of roadmap to get you where you need to be in the coming year. Play to your strengths and give yourself lots of time and patience for tasks you know will cost you more.

Step Down Your Goals (Just a Little)

I know that sounds counter-productive, but think where the past two years have taken us. Our world has changed dramatically (thanks or no thanks to COVID), and it’s necessary to reexamine how we accomplish things. It’s a brand new ball game with new rules which affect almost all we do.

Lowering your goals just a bit may help you adjust. You can always overachieve if the goals are too low. It may mean being willing to write a first draft rather than deliver an entire novel in print by the end of the year.

It may also mean setting smaller goals along the way to reaching bigger goals. You may still get that novel completed, but it may mean fewer words per day or week. These in-between steps matter as much as the ultimate goal. Break the goal into steps you can handle and complete. Don’t get overwhelmed. That’s a sure way to miss the mark.

Plan for Breaks

Like it or not – or believe it or not, breaks are important. Nobody is exempt from the possibility of burnout. Save yourself the trouble and intentionally plan to have a week off here and there. The necessity of taking a break is real, but also, it might inspire you to work harder as you look forward to the break.

You will need to allow room in your schedule for unplanned breaks. Emergencies happen frequently, and they don’t a;ways pick a good time to occur. You need to have space in your overall schedule to allow for them.

Regardless of what you schedule. You just need to schedule. With nothing planned, very little will be accomplished. You know the old saying, “Aim at nothing, and you will hit nothing.”

Well, there you have it. See you next Wednesday.



Welcome to my Wednesday, the first of 2022. I hope you have had a great start to the new year and my best to you in the weeks to come. Let’s get started on this week’s topic – Conflict.

Without conflict, your story is doomed to boredom. It’s conflict that drives the plot and keeps your reader reading. Conflict creates tension, and tension keeps the pages turning.

Use both internal and external conflict. Internal conflict takes place within your character as he fights his own demons and self-doubt. External conflict is simply the obstacle or challenge your character faces.

Let me briefly mention fives areas of conflict to consider as you create.

Man vs. Self – although the battle takes place within, it is usually caused by something from without. Perhaps your normally honest protagonist can only accomplish his goal by dishonesty and/or manipulation. How does that play out?

Man vs. Man – you do not always need to involve physical interaction in this type of conflict, but the resulting conflict will be protagonist against antagonist.

Man vs. Nature – think deserted islands, jungles, wild animals, sweltering heat, etc.

Man vs. Society – this type of conflict pits a character against his government, the police, the military, or some other powerful force — including social norms. It’s usually most effective when Society is personified by a specific villain.

Man vs. Supernatural – consider conflict with vampires, werewolves, aliens or wizards in fantasy, science-fiction or horror stories.

Okay. Experiment. Let me know what you come up with, and I’ll see you next week!