Plot Development

The Hook

What is your story’s hook? Analyze your opening scene and identify the implicit but specific question it encourages readers to ask. Is this question in the first paragraph or, better yet, the first line? How can you strengthen it?

Plot Development

The Forbidden Prompt

"There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable" – Mark Twain. Your character is doing something someone else has forbidden. Someone else discovers. Will there be a confrontation? Or will the discoverer be so uncomfortable that (s)he will ignore or throw hints instead? This is a great scene to practice tension between two characters as well as the internal thoughts of one of the characters.


The Art of Description

A few well-chosen words can create a strong sense of place which adds a rich dimension to your story. It draws your reader right in, as if they were in the room with your characters.

Choose one of the following places and describe it using ALL of your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing). In fiction, you won't usually use all five, but limbering up your storytelling this way will help you show rather than tell the story:

  1. A market in the South of France
  2. A teenage bedroom
  3. A pub
  4. A hairdresser's salon
  5. The souk in Marrakesh
  6. A stately home
  7. A garden


“Gossip, as usual, was one-third right and two-thirds wrong,” wrote L.M. Montgomery. Improvise a gossipy dialogue between two characters (Character A and Character B) about your protagonist (Character C). If these fractions are followed, what do Character A and Character B get right about your protagonist — and what do they get wrong?

Character Development

Somewhere Familiar

Are you finding it difficult to get to know your fictional characters and/or differentiate them from yourself? Try this: Choose a character from your project and let her/him take a walk into a place you know well. Then describe this place from this character’s perspective and ask yourself:

  1. What does (or doesn’t) s/he notice?
  2. How does s/he feel about what she notices?
    What thoughts do the things s/he notices trigger in her/him? This can be memories, social critique, enjoyment or disgust etc.
  3. How do your character’s impressions of, and responses to, the place differ from yours?
Writer's Block

Translate Your Memories

This exercise is particularly helpful for those who write for children and youth. Study an old photo of yourself or your family from your childhood. It’s probably easy to remember the who, the where, the what. But for this exercise we want to go deeper.

Close your eyes and remember the details of the event. Then remember how you felt at the event in that photo. How did you feel when anticipating the event? How did you feel if it was a surprise? How did you feel if it didn’t turn out as you anticipate? How did others at the event treat you? How did you react/respond to them?

Now, translate those FEELINGS into an event, place, child that would take place today.

Character Development

But Why?

Keep asking your characters why. Here’s an example:

  • Why are you grumpy? I have a hangover.
  • Why do you have a hangover? My friend was in a bad accident and I thought he might die?
  • Why did you think he might die? His girlfriend lied to me about how serious the accident was.
  • Why did she lie about that? She’s jealous of our relationship.
  • Why? I think she’s insecure and has trust issues.

Do you see how much that question will dig into a character?


What Did You Say?

Part of writing great dialogue is ensuring each character has a unique voice. Pretend three of your characters have won the lottery. How does each character reveal the big news to their closest friend? Write out their dialogue with unique word choice, tone, and body language in mind.

Writer's Block

Body Language

When writing emotion, it’s easy to become stuck on how to express what the point-of-view character is experiencing. An exercise to try is to pull from your own memory if you feel comfortable doing so. Sit back in your chair, take a few calming breaths, and think back to a time where you experienced this same emotion. Carefully draw up the memory, thinking about the situation, the location, the people involved. Remember the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes.

Now, pay attention to your body. Are you relaxed, or tense? Are your muscles tight? Is it easy to breathe, or do you feel restricted? Is your posture curling up, an attempt to hide, or are you twitchy all over and want to leap out of the chair? Make as many notes as you can, and when you go to write, use what you collected to give life to the character’s experience.

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