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Writing Tips: The turning point

The turning point in a novel looks a lot like a plot thumbscrew. It’s a collision of two or more storylines that twists the plot in an unexpected new direction. But the turning point differs in one important respect.


Writing Tips: What's wrong with a passive protagonist?

After more than ten years of reading manuscripts and writing reports on them, I have noticed that passivity was overwhelmingly the commonest feature of the protagonist.

Often, the protagonist had no goal. But even when they did have a goal, they did nothing to try and get it.


Writing Tips: Character flaw

When the protagonist has a character flaw that prevents them from getting what they want, the story deepens and becomes more richly layered. This character flaw can be called the internal antagonist. It drives the protagonist to act against their own best interests, while also blinding them to that fact. 


Three writers discuss plot triggers

A plot trigger (or inciting incident) launches the story. It’s the protagonist’s call to action – the thing that sets the story in motion and gives our protagonist a problem to solve. Anything before the plot trigger is scene setting, characterisation, back story, etc.

A plot trigger can come in many forms. The discovery of a body, a letter in the mail, a desperate plea on the telephone, perhaps even a conversation or epiphany.


Writing Tips: The internal antagonist

In every fictional narrative the main character faces at least one external antagonist. This player blocks the main character’s efforts to get what they want. But in many narratives the main character is blocked by another kind of antagonist. This antagonist comes from inside and is the internal antagonist. 


Three writers discuss what makes a good antagonist

An antagonist is a broader and more complex idea than a villain. A villain acts for purely selfish reasons and does destructive things with no consideration for the effect they will have on others. A villain is wicked. A villain is unable to change and grow. An antagonist, on the other hand, is a character who pursues a certain goal in the story.


Writing Tips: Psychic death

If a story is to work properly, the main character needs a strong goal and they must do everything they can to reach it. Everything they do to get what they want creates plot.