Change the Recipe

I have a cobbler recipe that I like. It is delicious and super easy.

I have used the recipe quite a few times. However, I often alter something about it to make it “better.”

I have substituted different fruits. And I use less and less dry ingredients as I seek that perfectly moist concoction.

As I made my cobbler a few days ago, I thought of my day of editing the day before. Cutting out words, lines, paragraphs—even whole scenes. Inserting others so the story was more suspenseful.

I left my computer, pleased with the final product, and my kitchen with the delightful aroma of another tasty cobbler.


Solving a POV Problem

I read A LOT. And one of the things I notice most often is problems with POV. I’m sure you’ve seen them, too.

The most common mistake is head-hopping, or allowing the thoughts of more than one character at a time to take place in a scene.

Each scene should have the viewpoint of one person only. And the revealed emotions/thoughts of that person.

When you want to reveal another person’s thoughts/feelings/emotions, you must make a scene break, and begin anew with the person you want to be your new POV character.

All of that is probably no surprise to you. But it is what’s next that you may not have thought about.

I have learned that the main character of the book (the one who’s journey we are following) should be the one featured as your POV most of the time.


Because you can share the POV’s emotions and thoughts to a deeper degree. It just makes sense that our “hero” needs to become the character we know—and care about. The one we are cheering for.

I’m not certain in the case of your story just what percent of time to devote. It may depend on how many characters you have.

For instance, if your book has only two characters, then the main character could be the POV more than half of the time. For me, that might look like 60%. For someone else it might be 75%. 

If you have four characters, maybe they take up 60% (all together) and your main character accounts for 40%. You’ll get a feel for it.

There are times when I’m done writing, that I go back for that final read(s) and I realize I need to rewrite a few scenes to make them in the main character’s POV. I know this because my character’s just not coming through as someone I know well enough.

Other times, I may not change the POV. But, in order for the reader to identify more with him, I will have another character verbalize their perceptions about the main character. They might say, “You are just a crybaby, aren’t you?” Or, “That’s the second lie I’ve caught you in today.”

So you can definitely use your other characters to reveal information and emotions, too.

Be creative in finding ways to get us in touch with your main character at a much deeper level. Your writing will be richer, more interesting, and full of emotion.

Happily Ever After

When I was a kid, the vast majority of books that I ready ended with a happy ending.

But, then I read a book in junior high that had a sad and unexpected ending. I vividly remember going back and rereading the final few pages because I just knew I must have “read it wrong” or “misunderstood.”

I had read for hours, only to be “rewarded” with a tragic ending?

Later, I would learn the terminology for that type of  story was called a tragedy.

Aptly named.

A literary tragedy  consists of brave characters who confront powerful obstacles. They exemplify the resiliency of the human spirit when faced with danger…. and may even end in death. The characters are likable, making their suffering distressing for the reader. And, they often have a tragic flaw that becomes the reason for their downfall. And, finally, there is that heartbreaking ending.

Even though a character may lose everything in the end, if he takes responsibility for his actions, if he affirms human values, the reader is often filled with hope for mankind.

You may decide not to write a true tragedy. However, there are still some techniques you can use to make each scene or chapter in your book a “page turner” or “cliff hanger”:

  1. Use an ellipsis (…) so readers will be left with an unfinished thought. 
  2. Ask a question (so the reader will wonder what might happen or cause them to madly search Amazon for the next book in the series).
  3. Share negative or conflicting inner thoughts for your characters to reveal their inner turmoil.
  4. Make sure your scenes are very descriptive and I vary the sentence length to take readers from intense action to peaceful interludes and then return to a faster pace.
  5. I have written a “less than satisfying ending” which is then addressed in the Epilogue.

Avoid a Time Warp



One of the most difficult things for me to remember when I am writing, is to show the passage of time.

As I work at my computer, the stories flow continuously, so I often need to go back as I edit and insert time “markers” for readers. (This is especially important because most people read a chapter or so at a time. They need reminders as to where they are on the story’s timeline).

So, just how do authors deal with the passage of time in their books?

Well, some authors actually date their chapters, such as “Monday. 9 A.M.”

Some label them by the year: 1942.

Some by the season: Summer, 1950.

Still others use the age of the main character: Eighteen.

However, most often authors simply use phrases (usually in the first paragraph of a chapter or scene) which denote passage of time.

Later that morning, the next day, or the following day.

She glanced at the bedside clock. Was it already seven?

The sun dipped behind the mountains.

He had just enough time to shower and dress before his eight-thirty meeting.

She rushed into the baby’s room. Had he really slept through the night?

You get the point: avoid reader confusion by showing the passage of time where necessary.

Do it subtly. Do it creatively. Use a variety of techniques. 

Put Your Legos to Good Use



I am sure you have seen scale models of subdivisions in offices of new housing developments. These usually depict lots available for building, green belts, water features, even planned schools and businesses.

While writing a chapter in my “upcoming” book last week, I needed to describe, in detail,  the street on which a character lived. Since this is a book in a series, I recalled doing a similar description in an earlier book a couple of years ago.

It would have made my job so much easier if I had actually sketched the street layout, much like a map, and kept it in a file to refer to at a later time.

And, now that time had come.

But, since I didn’t do that, I had to reread that portion of my previous book and draw the neighborhood, including streets, which characters lived where, and the location in which certain scenes took place. 

No, I will not be building a full-scale model of the neighborhood. (I will leave that task to you overachievers.) But I guarantee that I will save it so that I can refer to it when writing future books in the series. 

Models and/or maps are good reminders—as are notes of characters’ descriptions, facts about their lives–even as detailed as ages, eye color, and so on.

The more information you retain in your files NOW, the more time it will save you in the long run.


Even though my posts for the last five years are archived on my website,, I know that it isn’t convenient for many readers to search around for information. So, for the next few weeks, I am going to be re-posting some of those which generated the most questions/comments from readers.

I hope they are useful and encouraging!

Here is the first:




I love to get freebies, don’t you?

Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded several free fiction books.

Some were absolute jewels. Others … well …

That’s the way it goes in the world of “free.”

One of the books contained a LOT of head-hopping. Although the story and characters were enjoyable (that’s why I kept reading) the intermingled flow of dialogue, description, and emotion from various characters within the same paragraph made the story difficult to follow.

A reader shouldn’t have to constantly wonder who is speaking and whose thoughts are being revealed. Avoiding head-hopping is essential for writers—and it is so easy to do:

  1. In each scene, establish your point-of-view character. Although other characters can be in the scene, can show action, and speak dialogue, only the POV character can share their thoughts and perspective.
  1. Each paragraph should have only one character. When you want to change characters, simply start a new paragraph.
  1. When you want to change POV characters, begin a new scene.

Within the same paragraph (even within the same scene) don’t allow yourself to hop back and forth from one character’s thoughts and perspective to another’s.

If you confuse your reading audience in this way, even the most interesting characters and enjoyable dialogue may not be enough to keep them reading to THE END.