Storytelling

Five Tropes That Make a Villain Look Incompetent

Villainy is a profession loaded with tropes. From the evil speech to the climactic duel against the hero, villainous behavior has been tweaked and refined through the ages. Unfortunately, some of these tropes make the villain look incompetent. They invoke eye-rolling from the audience and destroy tension in the … read more »

Depicting Background Characters

Not every person that appears in a story is an actual character. These non-characters remain in the background: standing in line, cheering after a speech, or manning a stand. Like the buildings or the waterways, they exist to flesh out the setting. They are the extras of … read more »

Depicting Internal Conflicts

External conflicts are obvious to the audience and easy for storytellers to conceptualize. The hero either defeats the villain or they get beat; they either convince the jury or they are thrown in jail. But while these conflicts are usually the first thing that new storytellers reach … read more »

The Big Problem With Uncertain Endings

Basic story structure includes a problem at the beginning and a resolution to that problem at the end. But to make their work stand out, some storytellers reject the resolution. The romance ends without the audience knowing if the lovers will be together; the adventure ends with an undecided battle … read more »

Five Signs Your Story Is Ableist

If you write ableist stories, you are contributing to the systemic oppression of people with disabilities or diseases. Of course, you probably don’t mean to make their lives worse, but good intentions won’t erase the damage your story does. It’s up to all of us to … read more »

Five Bad Tropes to Drop

Sometimes a trope starts off fine but is overused until it eventually becomes a cliche. That is not what we’re talking about today. Instead, we’ll focus on tropes that are bad to begin with but continue to be used for various reasons. These tropes will … read more »

Five Tips for Creating a Layered Character

Compelling characters have many layers, like an onion. (Or as Donkey in Shrek might say, like cake.) As writers, our job is not to peel back layers but to create them. Without these layers, your characters will feel like flat cardboard cutouts. With them, you’ll have rich, … read more »

Twelve Traits for a Lovable Hero

A hero the audience loves is a critical ingredient in our stories. Unfortunately, liking the character yourself is no guarantee of audience attachment. To help a diverse array of people love your hero, give your protagonist some traits that are widely likable. Starting your story by demonstrating … read more »