How Do You Make Your Story Stronger?

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Plot vs Character
The plot-versus-character debate is nothing new. Most indie writers struggle with it. I’ve never been one to work from a plot outline, but I’m also among the first to admit that a man sitting alone with his thoughts is a not a story.

It may be an interesting, colorful character study, but it’s not a story. Story is the intersection of character and plot.

Your premise and plot twists might keep the reader turning pages, but you also need a character (sometimes several of them) to be a window into the action. Readers might pick up a book because of the premise, but they only remember it because of the characters.

Your protagonists set the tone for the conflict by the way they develop and change. As the author, you do this by making each of your characters want something that lets you send them on a journey.

That journey is your story.

The protagonist’s desire is what sets it in motion, and the change he undergoes in pursuit of his goal sustains the momentum.

Make Your Characters Come to Life
There are four components to consider in order to make your fictional characters come to life and feel real to your readers:

  Appearance – this includes descriptions of how they look & act … or seem to … to an observer.

  Actions – this is not only things your character does, but also those things he/she chooses not to do.

  Thoughts – anything the protagonist might think or feel.

  Dialogue – any conversation at all that your characters might have with someone else.

Some writers rely on some of these elements more than others, and I use them all. I like to write in the first-person, but before I type a word I prepare detailed character studies for each individual in my story … complete with an idea of family history, education level, religious background, and occasionally even dialect.

Then I pose a “what if” question. When I begin to write, it’s based on how I think each character will respond to it. That way, each character tells his own story.

Sometimes they even surprise me with the things they do.

As a writer, that can be disconcerting at times … but when you get it sorted out, it’s often magic to a reader, as each character becomes more than mere words on a page.

In fact, if you do it right, your characters are seen as real people.

I’ve been told that about my characters, and I think it’s one of the best compliments a fiction writer can get.

An Important Thing to Remember
However, it’s simply not enough just to have a well-developed character as protagonist. That character needs to be shown to want something. That goal … whatever you decide to make it … is really what he means to change or preserve in himself, or the world around him … and it drives the story.

As you approach the climax of your tale, you should find you have developed your protagonist’s deepest motivations. You should also have included the motivations of supporting characters.

The type of supporting characters that appear could be best friends, sidekicks, mentors, love interests or villains. Some become complimentary … others create obstacles. A few might even represent more than one type … but they each affect the protagonist’s journey.

As you develop them, keep in mind how you can use their peculiarities to raise the stakes of the journey. While this might seem to have infinite possibilities, there are only four possible endings.

If he is still pursuing the desire he expressed at the beginning, your protagonist either gets what he wants (a happy ending), or he doesn’t (a tragic ending).

If, on the other hand, the character’s desire has changed, the ending will need to adjust accordingly. He might not reach his original goal … but that’s all right, because it’s not what he really wanted anyway.

Sometimes, however, the character does get what he was after, but it turns out to be less than he expected. Sort of a “be careful what you wish for” ending.

While both character and plot need to intertwine to create a compelling story, I’m a firm believer that it’s your characters who are a novel’s heart and soul.

So, breathe some life into those characters … and, by all means, keep on writing.


My books have all garnered some terrific reviews, and you can see the ones I have available by using the Amazon link below. Look for them. Better yet, buy one and read it. You just might like it.

buy now;

On Tuesday, October 17, 2017, I plan to attend the Freelance Writers’ Marketplace Group at the Barnes & Noble store in Rochester Hills.

On Saturday, October 21, 2017, I will attend the Tenth Annual Rochester Writers’ Fall Conference at Oakland University.

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, I’ve been invited, along with a host of other local authors, to participate in the Books & Authors Event at the eclectic lifestyle store, Leon & Lulu, in Clawson, Michigan. If you’re in southeast Michigan about that time, I hope to see you there.

As a four-year student of Monteith College, the former honors college at Wayne State University, I have been invited to attend a special celebration and recognition ceremony on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, honoring Montieth’s contributions to the WSU scholarly legacy.


If you haven't voted yet, please read my essay and vote for me as one of The Authors’ Show’s “50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading.” Voting ends October 31, 2017.


You’re invited to visit my website, BROKEN GLASS, or
like my Book of Face page. You can find me on Goodreads, or follow some of my shorter ramblings on The Twitter.


Visit my web site to hear the remarkable radio interview about my novel “Blood Lake” by The Authors Show.


Comments posted below will be read, greatly appreciated and perhaps even answered.

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