3 Tips To Brainstorming Villains

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Photo by Olly Bennett

One of my very favorite parts of a book are its villains. They create the drive to will a hero/heroine to survive the worst the villain and life can throw at them. Their journey to survive and overcome are inspiring.

When it comes to inspiring the reader with a hero/heroine’s survival, the villain is key. Not just any villain will do, but the worst possible foe, with great skills in bringing about their evil schemes.

Some of the best ever villains have similar qualities exhibited in stories. Susan May Warren teaches the importance of showing an almost insurmountable ability to do evil, when pitting him against the hero/heroine. This is of huge import when trying to make a believable villain.

There are other important elements to a villain as well.

As you brainstorm villains for your stories a few tips will help you to create a villain that draws the reader to keep turning pages.

3 Tips To Brainstorming Villains:

  1. Brainstorm A Lair. A villain needs a place for his evil to have a home world. Writing mentor Rachel Hauck shared this insight with me. If there is a villain point of view, this might be a place where s/he reflects on their crimes, or looks at mementos. If not, it can be a place that others discover to uncover the plots or evil intentions of the villain.
  2. Brainstorm Incidents That Place The Villain Next To The Hero/Heroine. Placing the villain next to the hero/heroine without them being aware of the evil that is so close creates tension and a feeling of danger.
  3. Brainstorm a tell or unique behavior for your villain. This can be as simple as a smell, or sound that brings a sense of foreboding in the hero or heroine, even when they don’t know what caused it. This tell can be used at different times to create an emotion.

Who is your favorite villain of all time? Why?

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3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming

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Photo by Kyryl Lakishyk

Group work in the writing community can be wonderful, or frustrating. It becomes frustrating when individuals aren’t on point when you brainstorm your story, or you end up following story threads that eventually won’t work in your story. But the rewards of a group brainstorming session can be substantial.

So, how do you get brainstorming sessions to be effective ways to expand your story options? Gather your courage to share your story with others and ask for their help.

Brainstorming with other writers.can bring new life to an author’s stories. The challenge is often in finding the right group to brainstorm with and keeping the brainstorming session focused enough to be helpful.

Over the past few years I’ve watched some brainstorming groups succeed and some fail. Each group that failed got bogged down in one of three areas. Here are 3 tips to successful group brainstorming from my observations.

3 Tips To Successful Group Brainstorming:

  1. Select group members carefully. Keep the group small- 6 or less to allow everyone time to bounce ideas. Find group members who use similar methods to write, providing a commonality of terms and knowledge.
  2. Identify the focus of the session. A complete book is too broad of a topic to brainstorm successfully in one session. Instead, focus on one thread of the story. This allows everyone in the group to focus on the area of greatest need. If the whole story idea is the focus, recognize that it may take a few brainstorming sessions to complete it.
  3. Record ideas and follow-up. During the brainstorming session, record ideas without passing judgement on them. Occasionally, redirect the conversation back to the thread you want to explore. Have a follow-up brainstorming session to further develop the ideas from the first session. This follow-up will deepen your story.

What works for you in group brainstorming?

3 Tips To Brainstorming Through Blank Page Paralysis

Photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

Photo by Mario Alberto Magallanes Trejo

A story is a complex structure with multiple elements, each key to the overall success of a novel. Many key parts of story structure I learned through My Book Therapy’s coaches Susan May Warren, Rachel Hauck, and Lisa Jordan.

Their instruction helped me understand the spine of a novel and the elements required for a novel to be publication worthy.

Once all of the key elements are in place, an author still must put flesh on the bones of the story. It can be an overwhelming task. Is it any wonder that sometimes along the way writers get lost?

Do you struggle from Blank Page Paralysis?

Staring at a blank page, waiting for brilliance to strike can be frustrating. Instead of staying stuck, try the following strategies.

3 Tips To Brainstorming Through Blank Page Paralysis:

*Brainstorm From Setting. Determine the setting for the next scene. Brainstorm the sensory details and what is present in the setting. Determine who is there and what the mood is of the scene. As the setting begins to come to life, it becomes easier to visualize your character there and what their goal is next.

*Brainstorm From Character. Identify the Point of View character for the next scene. Brainstorm how they are feeling, what the goal is for them in the scene, and how the setting reflects their mood. Then brainstorm who and what is in the scene with the POV character that could cause obstacles to them reaching their goals.

*Brainstorm From Plot. Focus on what will happen in the coming scene that moves the plot forward. Determine where you need to be at the end of the scene and how the objectives of the Point of View character feeds into the plot. Brainstorm what could happen in the coming scene. Put no filters on the possibilities. When you are finished, select the one that best moves your story forward.

Need A Brainstorming Coach?

Holiday Brainstorming Session Sale 

December 6~16th

*Register for a brainstorming session between December 6-16th and get a $15 discount (Session may be scheduled to occur before January 31, 2017)

*Session sale price of $35 can be submitted through PayPal.

*To Register send a message through the contact form below. Use Sale Code: Holly616


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How Do You Get Out Of Blank Page Paralysis?

How To NaNoWriMo Through the Holidays – 3 Cold Turkey Plans & Strategies

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Photo by kindhelper

So you’ve signed up for this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo and the holidays are staring you down, threatening to derail your whole plan. Take heart, there are ways to keep on track, even during the holidays.

It won’t be easy, but it is completely doable. Groan, right? Well, NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart. You’re a warrior writer, right?

During this holiday you can do some cold turkey writing to keep you on your word count goals for the month. The key is to plan now and pick the plan that works the best for you.

How To NaNoWriMo Through the Holidays –

Photo by Vaughan Willis

Photo by Vaughan Willis

3 Cold Turkey Plans:

  1. Prewrite your goal. This one is just like it sounds. Divide up the writing you would normally do during the days you will be vacationing for Thanksgiving to do in the days ahead of time.
  2. Schedule writing for your strengths. If you write earliest in the morning, ask someone else to prep the turkey. If you write best in the evenings, ask someone to clean up after the meal. Plan your writing time by your strengths. If you know that you will not want to write after the family comes over because you want to see them and chat until late into the night, then plan to write in the morning. Be purposeful to avoid failing to meet your goals.
  3. Post-write your goal. Take the word count you would have had during the holiday and divide it over the few days after the holiday is over. Try to get this all done within a few days after the holiday, or you will feel the task to finish the month is insurmountable.

3 Cold Turkey Strategies:

  1. Write crazy family dynamics into your story. Be inspired by the crazy family dynamics during the holidays. Use a quirky family member to build on a character. Use someone’s dialogue patterns to make one of your characters more unique. Let the characters you interact with, even that crazy lady who almost ran you over on Black Friday in the Walmart parking lot, inspire uniqueness in your story.
  2. Add a festival or community activity into your story. Community is built in your story through its culture. Add a touch of what makes your story character unique by adding a community activity or festival to your novel. It can be the May Day Parade, or Cat Fish Days, as long as it is part of what makes your community unique.
  3. Build the sensory details in your novel. Scientists have discovered that smells are the strongest memories. What does your character’s story world smell like. Think of all of the wonderful holiday smells and foods. Add some of these sensory details into your novel to expand your creative pallet.

What is your favorite part of the holidays?

3 Tips To Brainstorming A Captivating Antagonist Or Villain

Photo by Ear Candy

Photo by Ear Candy

There is nothing as suspenseful as a creepy villain or cunning antagonist. Books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Sail by James Patterson draw their reader in by their intense villains. Regardless of the genre, an author needs to pull in an antagonist or villain to build the tension in their novel.

How can you brainstorm a captivating antagonist or villain?

The key to developing an antagonist or villain that captivates the reader is all in the purposeful brainstorming strategies to create them.

Just as an author brainstorms the backstory and characteristics of the hero and heroine, it is necessary to brainstorm the backstory and characteristics of a villain.

3 Tips To Brainstorm A Captivating Villain or Antagonist:

*Brainstorm what formed the villain/antagonist. A villain/antagonist is created by the combination of environment, intellect, and personal qualities. In determining what formed the villain/antagonist, the author can determine what motivates their actions in the story. This will make the villain/antagonist more believeable and more able to add conflict.

*Brainstorm the elements of their private world. This is the lair where they obsess over their villainous actions. Writing mentor Rachel Hauck taught me the key of setting up this world for the villain or antagonist. The antagonist might enjoy plotting at their desk, scribbling over the faces in a year book. A villain might have a grungy shack in the woods where (s)he keeps their trophies.

*Brainstorm a public persona. Determine what face your antagonist/villain shows the rest of the community. Are they a loner, the next mayor, or a down and outer. Build this piece till it is deeply layered. It will allow you to place the antagonist/villain right next to your hero/heroine, ratcheting up the tension. Then determine the secrets that they might hide with their facade.

What is your favorite villain or antagonist in literature?

How To Find Unique Flavor For Each Novel – Rearranging the Spice Drawer

Cooking at my house can be a blend of where east meets west sometimes. With a blend of Chinese and American cuisine you can imagine the amount of spices in our spice drawer. Make that two spice drawers.

The more variety of spices to choose from, the more diversity your dishes can have in flavor. This past week I organized our spice drawers and it made me think about what kind of spices I like best. Could I mix things up a bit to create more variety in our dinners?

Writing is much the same way. When we rearrange the spices we work with we create a more unique flavor for each novel.

Finding the unique flavor for each novel is as easy as changing up the following spices:

*Location. Varying the location of where a story takes place can change everything. It changes the details and richness that create story world.

*Occupations. Striving for more unique character occupations will change the direction of a story just because of the kinds of events and competence your character will inspire.

*Quirky Character Types. Not every story can have the same type of quirky characters. You select different ones for different novels. You may have a dry humor sidekick in one and a goth scientist in another.

*Who Gets The Point of View Scenes. You will always have point of view perspective from your hero and heroine, but the type of characters you give additional POV scenes to when developing a subplot can vary greatly.

*Villain Type. There are many different kinds of villains in all genre’s. Everything from the unintentional villain to the sociopath. Even Romance can have a villain of a blander variety. Mix up the villain type and adversity they create.

*Spiritual Thread. The spiritual truth in each of our novels should be varied. You may run into some that are similar due to series theme or focus, but you do want it to variate somewhat.

*Relationships. The success of different types of relationships for your hero and heroine should fluctuate. The heroine can’t always be adopted, or always have a poor relationship with her father. There should be a mix and match of different character relationships.

Remember that even though you rearrange the spice drawer, you are still the cook and your cuisine should have your signature style or voice.

What kind of things do you like to read in a novel that give it a unique flavor?

How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel – Help! I’ve Fallen Into The School Bus

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

If you are reading this blog, chances are I survived the back to school rush of 2016. Whew!

Four kids make back to school a challenge. There’s all of the Open Houses, school supply lists, clothes shopping, and new schedules. As luck would have it, my four children are attending three different schools, making it even more chaotic.

If you are a last minute shopper, or forgot a few items, you just might be duking it out Jingle All The Way style in isle ten. And if you are looking for a TI 84+ calculator. . . sorry, we got the last one.

This past week has been full of real life conflict that is enough to make any mom want to move to Australia with Alexander. Just like us, our characters’ lives are full of real life conflict, too.

Have you built that into the ebb and flow of your novel. Characters seem real when we give them the experiences we go through every day and they must navigate the potholes.

Here are a few tips on How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel that make it easier for readers to identify with your characters.

How To Add Real Life Conflict To Your Novel:

*Brainstorm a list of real life situations your character might face at the time of year your story takes place. It helps to focus in on the time of year when your novel takes place. List holidays, professional busy seasons, personal hobbies that might draw a character away from their goals, and even key times for other characters when they are not as supportive due to outside pressures.

*Select the events that are highest in conflict in conjunction with genre suitability. At Christmas, a chic-lit novel might have shopping woes and complicated to shop for mother-in-laws. Although those might work in a suspense, it would be much more helpful to make a character more vulnerable, having to shop after dark when there is a chance their stalker would wait for them in the parking lot while their arms were weighed down with packages. (For more on plot conflict and escalation techniques check out my book here.)

*Intensify the conflict by making us care even more. If a character has to chose between the dangers of facing that parking lot when your life is at risk and not finding a special gift for your mom’s last Christmas, the tension increases. The reader cares about the character’s safety and the last Christmas for a mom and her daughter. Using these competing values is a trick I learned from Susan May Warren in her book Deep And Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques.

What was the crazy part of your back-to-school season?