Character-driven vs. Plot-driven




Someone commented to me that she felt my books are mainly character-driven. I agreed, but vowed to do some investigating on the age-old controversy: Character-driven vs. plot driven. Is there a clear winner?

Here’s what I found:

Character-driven writing focuses on the inner conflict of the characters that you’ve created—their attitudes, decisions, and how they, in turn, change the shape of the plot and the story as a whole. Character driven is often referred to as “literary fiction” since it features characters that possess multiple layers that are exposed as the story develops.

The emphasis is on characterization, inner conflict and relationships. The story often depicts the character’s inner struggle to resolve issues from their past, such as overcoming grief, learning to live again, mending broken relationships.

Plot-driven stories place a larger emphasis on the actual plot itself. Factors such as plot twists, action and external conflict are what make up the focus of this style of writing.

Often the story goals are more external such as obtaining, winning, escaping, or changing a situation. Defeating the bad guy, catching a murderer, solving a mystery are some examples.

A good story will certainly have some of both, but there is almost always a heavier focus on one over the other.

Take a look at your own writing. Is it character or plot-driven?

A fun exercise is to rewrite a page. Make it more character-driven, if you write plot-driven. Change it from character driven to plot-driven, if that is not what you would normally write.

You may find that adding just a little more of your “non-preferred” style to your writing may give it more depth, richness, and excitement.

And that’s the clear winner.




Sing, Dance and Write!



Dance like no one is watching.

Sing like no one is listening.

Write like no one is reading???


The idea is to do things with abandon…freedom…passion…not caring who might be watching, isn’t it?

Let me ask you something.

If you knew no one would ever read your words, would you still write? Would it still be satisfying? Would it still make you all warm and fuzzy inside to know you have put your words—and thus your feelings and emotions—on paper?

Can you be fulfilled even if you are the only one who will ever read what you have written?

If so, you have the heart and desire necessary to be a writer.

Now, true, if you are going to put your words “out there” in the form of an article or book, you also need to do a good job of writing and editing–as if everyone will be reading what you write.

Make it as perfect as you can.

But, when it all comes down to it, write with the freedom and abandon that draws your readers in and invites them to sing and dance right along with you.

When Divisions Can Make Perfect Sense


Last week, I read a book that was divided into three “parts.” I toyed with the possibility of doing this with my latest book.

It wasn’t too late. I was still on the final edit.

I asked myself what would be the reasoning behind dividing my book into parts and just what were the “rules” for doing so?

Here’s what my research showed:

Authors often divide their books into parts to show a natural shift in the story. For example, two people may be separated by a disaster in Part One, and then they may be reunited in Part Three.

Most authors use a three act division to shows where there is a natural divide in the story.

A part change may also show readers where they can stop for awhile, and pick back up later.

If a book spans a period of many years, imposing a structure by dividing it into several sections helps indicate the passage of time.

Simon and Marcus have known each other for almost twenty years. Dividing my book into parts will not only show the passage of time, but also how their relationship has changed from Chapter One through Chapter Twenty.

Divisions makes sense in this case.

Test it out. If your book takes place over a span of time, the story has natural shifts, or you think your readers would appreciate pauses between particularly tense action, dividing your book into “Parts” may be a good choice for you, too.

The Power of the Preorder


11542112_10155804265685174_6967391244578362338_nApple is an expert in the use of the preorder. So is Clinique. I know this because whenever they have a promotion, I get an email asking me to preorder so I can receive a gift-with-purchase.

We all love a good deal, whether it is on an I-Phone, make-up, or a good book.

We want to get it, use it, have it—FIRST.

And we like a good deal—a freebie, reduced cost, or a new release at an introductory price.

That’s why I’m gearing up to do a preorder of my newest book, Simon Says. While Beta Readers are wading through the pages, I will be working on the back cover copy.

Roughly three months will be devoted to the preorder while revisions, editing, and a cover contest take center stage.

After that, it’s show time and planning for another book.

Would you like to preorder?  Be watching for a special offer, coming soon.

Hang a Wreath



I went to one of my favorite hobby stores last week. After spending an hour there and filling my cart, I joined other shoppers in the check-out line.

I saw quite a few people purchasing seasonal wreaths. Some bore the symbols of Halloween while others were decorated with fall leaves and Thanksgiving messages.

Wreaths are a colorful and fun way to send a subtle message to friends and neighbors, in much the same way as decals and vanity plates on cars.

Since our writing has messages that are more pointed–more in-depth–within their pages, we might want to think of our covers as wreathes for our books.

The artwork and titles—even the colors and fonts that are used—all work together to form a subtle impression for the purchaser.

It is the entire “package” that entices a reader to buy. Careful thought to even the smallest detail can mean the difference between a sale or casual glance as they walk on by.



Having been out of the teenage and young adult categories for years, now, I find I don’t buy music like I once did.

Oh, I still enjoy listening to good vocalists and great music, especially Jazz. It’s just that I don’t purchase it.

However, last week I received an email offer for a free CD. It was music I knew I’d like, so I claimed it.

I wasn’t as though I had been “shopping” for it, but it tempted me—because it was FREE.

Now, my point is this:  often times a reader isn’t looking for your book—maybe not even for something to read from your genre—but they can be lured by a free offer (and may even leave a stellar review).

If your books are on Amazon, you have an easy option of doing an out-and-out Giveaway or take advantage of running a Countdown Deal. Book Bub and Goodreads have similar promotions.

On your own website or Facebook page, you can offer free copies of your book or something else free. (I “won” a box of beautiful handmade greeting cards as a giveaway prize from another author a couple of years ago.)

The point is: people like getting something for free AND it may get you noticed which, as all new authors know, is HUGE.

Freebies—just another way to promote yourself, your brand and your message.


Cooking Up A Good Story




When I was a child, I had a problem with stretching the truth just a little bit, especially when doing so would help me avoid punishment from my father. When I would finish my “explanation” of events—the defense of my actions—he’d often say, “You sure cooked up a big one this time, didn’t you?”

Maybe storytelling does have some similarities to cooking.

Just this month, for example, my writing involved what one might call three culinary aspects. 

Now that I have written the last page of my next book, I am starting my rewrites. Starting on page one, I checked my list of ingredients, i.e. plot points. Were they all there? Did I add them in the correct order?

Next I trimmed the fat—those phrases, scenes, even chapters–that didn’t really go anywhere and didn’t lend to moving the story forward.

On the next run through, I focused on the spice, the sauce, asking myself if there was just enough to keep the story interesting for the reader.

After that, I closed up my file. I will let the story simmer for awhile. Although I will not actively work on it, I will use this time to let new thoughts/ideas come to the forefront, contemplating things that will improve the story and trashing those that won’t.

A few months from now, I will open the file and begin my second round of rewrites before giving it to my taste testers (beta readers) who will read it and give me their opinions which will be used for the final rewrite.

The next phase is up to the customers. Will they my latest recipe?

They say the “proof is in the pudding.”