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The Setting Can Match the Action, or Not

fogAll it takes is a foggy, unexpectedly warm morning in January to transform the world into something magical and full of mystery.  We’re intensely sensitive to real-life settings and the moods they create, so it makes sense to use them carefully in our fiction writing, too.

Consider how a setting can support or contrast with the action of its scene.  If a character learns on a Ferris Wheel that his girlfriend loves him, the setting piles happiness on happiness.  If he finds out she cheated on him,… Continue reading

The Night Tipping Point



Her brain is fried, and she’s been sitting in the same chair for hours and hours.  The house is quiet, it’s late, and the responsible adult in her tells her she ought to quit writing and go to bed.  But she doesn’t.  She hangs on, rereading sentences, pondering words, taking a long time to make small decisions and knowing as she labors that she’ll unravel the decisions in the morning at a stroke.  In time, she starts to type with her eyes closed, so she… Continue reading


angelnotesVisiting family in Minnesota this past weekend, I was delighted when my little nephew presented me with a gift: a winged figurine called “Courage.”  He’s a sweet little guy in preschool who knows me primarily as the aunt who tickles, and I was touched that he thought of me at all, let alone in terms of spontaneously picking out a present for me.  And courage, of all things!  It’s exactly what I need just now.

My latest step of going forward with my writing has involved deleting… Continue reading

Adding the Unicorn

Add Drama Here

I don’t add unicorns to my novels, but sometimes I can tell that a scene needs something more.  The stakes need to be higher.  A surprise needs to occur.  A bone needs to get snapped.  Last week, I tried adding a dead sister to my novel.  For a whole day, I played around with how that could tie certain threads together and add resonance to family scenes, and then I realized I was crazy.  It would mean telling an entirely different story from the… Continue reading

Lining Up These Book Guys

GuysI have guy characters in this novel who are not doing what they’re supposed to do.  They manipulate the system, they’re preoccupied by computer games, they smell like work, they talk back to adults, they take stupid risks, they’re restless, they’re competitive, and their timing is awful.  They’re also thoughtful, generous with small things and big, intensely creative, loyal to their families, and fierce.  One is good at kissing in the rain.  Another is funny.

I know, as a writer, I should line up one of… Continue reading

Listening to Voices

WoodsLooking over my shoulder the other day, my son asked me if the scene I was revising was the scene I’d revised most in the entire novel, because, according to him, every time he looks over my shoulder, that’s the scene I’m on.  Frankly, at this point, I have no idea which scene I’ve revised the most.  All I know is the scene needed more work.

Here’s how one of my scenes evolves through revision.  At first, the characters say somewhat random things that I write down,… Continue reading