Occupation Thesaurus: Veterinarian

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

veterinarian, character occupations, writing characters well, backstory

Occupation: Veterinarian

Overview: Veterinarians care for the furry, scaled, feathered, and otherwise non-human members of our families. They can work in a general practice or specialize in certain kinds of animals, such as exotics (birds, reptiles, rodents), equines, or other farm animals (cows, pigs, sheep). Vets can also work in the inspection field, visiting livestock and other food animals to test and treat them and make sure government standards are being met. Research veterinarians spend more time in a lab than in a practice, doing clinical research on various health issues.

Necessary Training: A doctorate is required for someone to become a vet, meaning eight years of post-graduate schooling (in the U.S.). Slots in a vet program are highly sought after and extremely competitive, meaning many qualified students may not be accepted.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a way with animals, empathy, gaining the trust of others, dexterity, physical strength, a good memory

Helpful Character Traits: affectionate, bold, calm, cooperative, efficient, gentle, intelligent, merciful, nurturing, observant, organized, passionate, patient, perceptive, playful, professional, studious

Sources of Friction: volatile or nervous pets, difficult owners, conflicts between staff members, having to put a pet down, seeing neglect cases and not being able to do anything about them, having to confront an abusive owner, a rude or insensitive staff member driving away customers, a contagious disease spreading through the animals being boarded, dogs or cats fighting in the waiting room, a bigger and more successful practice opening up nearby, endorsing a pet product that ends up being being recalled, being unable to gain a pet’s trust, an animal escaping the boarding facility and running away, self-doubt arising from a misdiagnosis that ended in death, financial difficulties that create other problems (having to let staff go, not being able to pay the bills, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: pet owners, other vets in the practice, administrative staff members, vet techs, a landlord, vendors (selling medical equipment, medicines, pet supplies, etc.)

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Physiological Needs: Care has to be taken around sick or injured animals—particularly the large or unpredictable ones—who can inflict injuries that could result in death
  • Safety and Security: Safety should always be a concern around volatile animals. Not only will some bite, kick, charge, or trample out of the desire to protect themselves from perceived harm, many of them can cause serious injury unintentionally. And whenever blood is drawn, the risk of infection is real.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Business owners tend to be take-charge people types who are involved in every aspect of the business. So when something isn’t going well, they can take all the blame on themselves and become mired in self-doubt. The same can be true when they make a mistake that results in an animal’s suffering or death.

Common Work-Related Settings: vet clinic, waiting room, animal shelter, barn, farm, race track (horses), ranch

Twisting the Stereotype: 

  • Vets are almost always represented in a friendly office setting. But what about a less idyllic situation, such as a vet who works in slaughterhouses maintaining the health of the animals, or one whose passion lies with test tubes and microscopes rather than the animals themselves?
  • Gentleness and a nurturing nature are commonplace traits in this field. Consider, instead, a different kind of veterinarian—one who is cold and brusque, apathetic, or is only in the business for the money.
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Getting Jiggy with the Nitty Gritty, or, Improving Your Sentences

As writers we spend most of our time torn between needing to write and needing to market what we’ve written. Then, when we’re writing, our focus is often on improving our characters or the big picture story and characters’ arcs. But one of the fastest ways to improve your writing (and therefore your story) is to get jiggy with the nitty gritty, and by that, I mean honing your sentence level quality.

So here are five tips to help you improve your sentences.

1) Filtering

Filtering is when you, the author, add in unnecessary narration, causing the reader to be removed one step from the character. For example:

  • I heard
  • They saw
  • She felt
  • He thought

Filtering words like these add in an extra layer, and instead of the reader looking through the eyes of the protagonist, they look at the protagonist. They’re observing the scene. For example:

I heard the owl hooting in the trees and saw the leaves rustle in the canopy.

The reader doesn’t need to read heard or saw because it’s implied in the description of the sound. Those words also put the reader at a distance, where they’re stuck watching what’s happening instead of experiencing it along with the character. Remove those filtering words to bring readers in closer to the scene, so they can hear and see things for themselves:

As the owl hooted in the trees, the leaves rustled in the canopy.

You don’t have to remove every instance of filtering, if, for example, removing it will affect the meaning. But where possible, remove these words to tighten your sentences.

contrast, juxtaposition in writing stories

2) Juxtapositions

One of my favourite quotes is a juxtaposition that pits perfection against failure.

“I think perfection is ugly. Somewhere in the things humans make, I want to see scars, failure, disorder, distortion.” (Yohji Yamamoto)

Using a juxtaposition in your description can add depth to both your writing and your characters because they’re symbolic and often produce metaphors and similes, which create vivid imagery.

“The screams continue, some only a few feet away, some so distant and forlorn you could mistake them for something else, for owls, maybe, hooting peacefully in their trees.” (Delirium, Lauren Oliver)

Pitting the horror of screams in the night against the peaceful hooting of owls creates a vivid description that is unexpected for readers.

3) ‘Sense’-ational Sentences

Stories are often compared to pictures; you can produce a simple pen-and-ink drawing or a mixed media, full-color piece of art. If you want to produce the latter, one of the best things you can do is include the senses in your descriptions.

Pen-and-ink: As the night draws in, he puts his arms around me and kisses me.

Full-color: I lose myself in his arms, as the forest, the chirping of night insects, and the rustling of the undergrowth, disappear as his lips touch mine.

By reaching beyond the visual to incorporate sounds and textures, the description becomes more tactile, engaging the readers’ senses and pulling them more fully into the story.

4) Captain Obvious: Crutch Words, Wordiness, and Clichés

Crutch Words

These are the words we habitually sprinkle throughout our text, and most of the time, they can be banished from the story without losing any meaning. Examples include words like but, just, then, so, shout, etc, but everyone’s crutches are different.

If you don’t know what your crutch words are, ask a friend to read a few chapters and look for any pesky repeats. You can also use a word frequency checker or phrase counter to find them.


Next, rid yourself of unnecessary wordiness and adverbs. How? You can streamline your sentences by eliminating any word that, when removed, doesn’t impact the meaning of the sentence.

Bad habits: But then as he gritted his teeth, he realised whether he liked it or not, he really ought to rescue Analise.

Good habits: He gritted his teeth. Whether he liked it or not, he ought to rescue Analise.

Likewise, strengthen your verbs by swapping bland ones for words that help a reader to visualise the scene.

Bad habits: Even though his arms were weak, he held the baby and sang to her.

Good habits: Even though his arms were limp, he cradled the baby and whispered a dreamy lullaby.


Clichés are over-used describing phrases: fit as a fiddle, brave as a lion, head over heels. They’re wasted words in your sentences that readers have seen a million times.

She picked up the sword and sliced through his armor just in the nick of time.

The cliché can be removed to tighten the sentence without losing any meaning:

She picked up the sword and sliced through his armor.

5) First and Last Lines

I’m an obsessive sentence collector. When I see a sentence I love, I highlight it (on my kindle, I’m not committing sacrilege on physical books) or I copy it down into my notes. One of the best places to find amazing sentences is in a book’s first line:

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his mustache.” (Six of Crows , Leigh Bardugo)

Why is this good? Because it’s unexpected, and using the unexpected in a sentence (especially your first sentence) surprises the reader and will hook them straight into your book.

Likewise, there are hundreds of famous last lines, often capturing the theme of the book or giving a teaser hook into the next book

Last line (book theme): “The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” (Animal Farm, George Orwell)

The final part of the last sentence, showing that the animals can no longer discern between their original human rulers and their new ‘thought-to-be-better’ pig-rulers, is the essence of the book’s moral, political, and philosophical debate. Ending with this thought reminds readers of the idea that’s been reinforced throughout the story.

Last line (series hook): “But now our friendship is gone, replaced by the one thing we still have in common. Our hatred for Maven. I don’t need to be a whisper to know we share a thought. I will kill him.” (The Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard)

Why does this work? Because for one, two people who hate each other are now teaming up due to their mutual dislike of another. Mor importantly, the words I will kill are a statement of action. As the reader, you’re now desperate to know if she succeeds.

Final Quick Tips

Collecting sentences is a great way to deconstruct and learn from them. If you don’t want to wait until they pop up in the books you’re reading, try searching for them in other places, such as famous quotes, song lyrics, poetry, and moments of epiphany in films where the protagonist has a realization linked to the theme.

We have to get our story and character arcs right to hook our readers and create a tension-fuelled plot. But remember that it’s the sentences that get read and contribute to a reader falling in love with your characters. Next time you’re editing your manuscript, spend a little time focusing on the nitty gritty, and I promise you your readers will thank you for it.

Sacha Black is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, 13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft A Superbad Villain. Her blog for writers, www.sachablack.co.uk, is home to regular writing, marketing and publishing advice sprinkled with dark humour and the occasional bad word. In addition to craft books, she writes YA fantasy, and her first series, Keepers, is due out in November 2017.

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Posted in Cliches, Description, Editing Tips, Resident Writing Coach, Revision and Editing, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 20 Comments

Good Endings: What Should Yours Include?

roz-morrisWhat’s the right ending for your novel? This isn’t a simple question to answer, because there are many factors to consider. But the first thing you want to think about is the story’s genre.

Let’s take a simple example. Suppose your story centres around a startling event like a murder. Should the murder be solved? If you’re writing a cosy mystery, yes. If you’re writing a political thriller or a police procedural, you probably have to solve the murder, but it’s not mandatory. If you’re writing a contemporary or experimental novel, you might not present any concrete answers about the murder—you might use the event to explore other questions.

So if you’re struggling to identify what your ending should be, the first place to look is the genre expectations. All stories provoke curiosity and raise questions. That’s what keeps the reader’s attention through hundreds of pages. Your genre is characterised by where you direct that curiosity. What does your reader care about most? Solving the puzzle and restoring order? Studying relationships where there are no easy answers? Picking apart the structures and flaws in society and our power systems? Identify your ideal reader’s pleasure and what the genre implicitly promises, then use your ingenuity to fulfill it in an original way.

What Do All Good Endings Have?

But there are other considerations—especially if we’re writing a story that doesn’t have such strong conventions, where anything goes. One rule of thumb for effective endings is that they have two general qualities: surprise and inevitability.

Let’s break those down.

writing good ends, surprise endings, how to end a novel, the endSurprise is an interesting quality here. A good ending will essentially contain an element of the unpredictable, even if there are certain tropes that must be obeyed. If lovers are to get together, you must make the reader yearn for it while convincing them the obstacles are so great that failure is more likely than success. At the same time, the solution mustn’t come out of the blue or the reader will feel cheated. Somehow, you make it surprising—while laying careful groundwork.

Almost all surprise endings seem fair when you look back. This means the writer needs to use misdirection; while we stack the odds so that the true ending looks impossible, we must also plant clues so the reader accepts the solution when it’s unveiled. This is one of the hidden arts of the storyteller: making twists and revelations seem reasonable rather than randomly invented. A good ending is seeded carefully throughout the story and the reader doesn’t realize … until you’re ready to reveal your hand.

And that’s how a surprise can also be inevitable. It’s a nice emotional chord composed of two complementary tones—a pleasing complexity for a story’s final note.

But What If We Know What Will Happen?

What if the major story outcome seems obvious? If it’s clear that, for example, that all the characters are going to die, how will you give the reader something surprising? Well, that surprise might be a new emotion. For example, Nevil Shute’s On The Beach is about the last survivors of a nuclear war. It’s only a matter of time before the radioactive winds catch up with them and they die. The end is obvious on one level. The surprise is in how the characters face their deaths and how the reader feels as they witness them. The true journey of the book is how the characters face and accept the inevitable with courage, and it only becomes apparent in the final scene. This moment, when it comes, is very satisfying and moving for the reader.

This leads me to another quality of a great ending. It will do more than answer puzzles, knot the loose threads and confront the problems. It has a quality of thoroughness and closure—a feeling that nothing more can be said. Perhaps the monster is vanquished, if not in a literal sense, then metaphorically. Perhaps the heroes will be happier. Perhaps they have more self-knowledge, which may be a comfort but could also be a burden. Eva, the mother in Lionel Shriver’s We Need To Talk About Kevin, is left picking over the debris of a long and terrible battle. Her husband and daughter are dead. Her social status is ruined because her neighbors—and indeed the entire country—blame her for the deeds of her son. In William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, the schoolboy Ralph, rescued from the island, weeps for the loss of innocence.

Loose Ends

Also, keep in mind that tying up all the loose ends is optional. If you’re writing a story that aims to go deeper than the events, perhaps you don’t want to finish or explain everything. The movie Insomnia ties up most of its physical threads; it ends when the case ends. Morally, though, it is anything but neat. The characters leave the story with unfinished business and nagging burdens—and this is its true power. It is the toll paid by those who have to deal with murder. The viewer carries it too, as a sharer of this experience in all its ambiguity. The story plays fair, but it deepens the human mystery.

writing a novel, story writing, creative writing, writing fictionAnswers

Stories don’t always have to give us answers. Sometimes the questions they give us are as important. That question might be an epiphany, so the reader’s last thought is, I’ve suddenly seen. THIS is what the writer is showing me.

Instead of slaying their monsters; our characters might discover they are monsters themselves. The jealous, obsessive central characters of Josephine Hart’s Damage and William Sansom’s The Body end their stories having discovered their own true depths.

Tips for Effective Endings

If you’re wondering how to end your novel, consider the following tips:

  • Consider the must-haves of your genre, and use your ingenuity to tick those boxes in an original way.
  • Do you have any loose ends? Do they add depth or do they make the story seem unsatisfyingly incomplete?
  • If your story events are quite predictable (e.g., it’s obvious the characters must die) should your ending emphasize their journey rather than the literal destination?
  • Have you missed the main conflict? Give your manuscript to a trusted reader and ask what the main question is and whether you’ve tackled it. Sometimes we don’t realize what we’re writing about until an astute critic identifies it for us.
  • Have you planted the seeds of your ending early in the story? Even though an ending should have an element of surprise, it shouldn’t seem random. The earlier you include a hint about the question that will be answered at the end, the more satisfying and rounded the story will be. If you’re tempted to add a new element to bring about the ending, look back through the story and see if there’s something else you could reuse or extend, and your ending will seem much smarter.
  • It’s sometimes a good idea to write on past the ending. You might make surprising discoveries—perhaps you stopped the action too early or the characters will make a more fundamental and resounding change if you let them riff a bit longer. On the other hand, I see quite a lot of manuscripts where the writer carries on too long with the characters, perhaps because they don’t want to let them go. If the pace is flagging at the end, it could be that the story finished earlier than you suspected and you need to speed up the leave-taking.

And Finally…

A good ending will usually feel like a settling, a sense that there is a new order. The last scene of The Wings of the Dove by Henry James has a line that is a fine maxim for any story ending:

We shall never be again as we were.

If you’re planning an ending to a situation in which there is no obvious solution, end when there has been a substantial and irreversible change. This is a good compass point to follow.


Roz Morris is an award-nominated novelist (My Memories of a Future Life; Lifeform Three), book doctor to award-winning writers (Roald Dahl Funny Prize 2012), has sold 4 million books as a ghostwriter and teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian. She is the author of the Nail Your Novel series, with books on writing process, characters and plots. She has just published a collection of narrative non-fiction, Not Quite Lost: Travels Without A Sense of Direction. Find her at her website and on her blog.

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Posted in Endings, Resident Writing Coach, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

News and Updates

Hi everyone! I had a smattering of things to mention so I thought I’d stuff then all into this one post.

First off, a big Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians out there! We hope you enjoy this time with family and friends and take a few moments for yourself, too.

As the Team Canada part of this duo, I’ll be getting my turkey on this weekend. I love this time of year as it is a great opportunity to take stock of what is important, and where our time goes. Sometimes adjustments are necessary to find a better balance, and that’s totally okay. 🙂

Second, all the winners for our One Stop for Writers giveaway have been drawn and are being notified. Congrats to all who won and thanks to everyone for celebrating with us.

One Stop for Writers is a special project to Becca, Lee, and I and we very much appreciate having a cheering section as we work to add to it, making it a truly unique resource for writers.

Third, Amazon reached out to us a month ago to see if we would put one of our books up for sale in a special month-long promotion, so we said sure, of course!

If you shop at Amazon.com, you’ll find The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws discounted to $1.20 (or less). So, if you don’t have this one, you might want to grab it.

And don’t forget…you can also gift books and set the delivery date for Christmas, in case you have some writer friends on your list. 😉

Fourth, The Emotional Wound book is coming soon–are you guys getting excited? We just received the digital files and now our formatter is working on the print version. Getting close, folks…October 25th is only a few weeks away. Here’s some early feedback coming in for this books:

Remember if you are part of our newsletter or sign up for book release notifications, we’ll let you know the nano-second the books are available as they often end up a day or two early.

Finally, I was hanging out at Romance University recently, so stop by if you like for a huge list of resources for Adding Depth to Your Protagonist.

I am also over at Writers in the Storm today discussing the importance of a Villain Having Well-developed Motivations. Do stop by!

Happy weekend,












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Help Us Celebrate! It’s One Stop for Writers’ 2nd Anniversary

WOW! It’s been two years since Lee, Becca, and I held our breath and threw open the doors of One Stop for Writers, a unique online library stuffed with tools, resources, and tutorials to provide writers with a better way to elevate their storytelling.

The best part?

We just keep growing!

  • 13 different Description-Based Thesauruses
  • Step-by-Step Structure Maps (Macro and Scene level)
  • A Drag-and-Reorder Timeline Tool
  • Worldbuilding Surveys
  • Templates & Worksheets
  • Unique Idea Generators
  • Tutorials, Lessons, Tip Sheets & More!

Anniversary Giveaway!


Prize #1: Six months of One Stop for Writers (4 to be drawn)

Imagine accessing everything listed above for six delicious months. You will be unstoppable!

Prize #2: A custom thesaurus entry, winner’s choice (6 to be drawn)

Custom entries, whhhhhaaaat? That’s right, pick a setting, have us explore your protagonist’s emotional wound, or maybe ask for a specific emotion, talent, skill, or character motivation that you really need. Provided it’s in our wheelhouse, we’ll write the description entry for it and give YOU your own personal copy.

To enter, just fill out this FORM.

(Contest is now closed–good luck to all who entered!)

Prizes will be drawn Saturday, October 7th, 11 PM EST and announced Sunday. Legal rules here.

Want to try one of the most innovative brainstorming sites around…for free?

HEADS UP! This code expires on October 7th, 2017, so activate it quickly to take advantage of this special offer. Here’s how:

  1.     Register at One Stop for Writers, and watch for a confirmation email.
  2.     Once confirmed, go to the ACCOUNT tab and select My Subscription.
  3.     Place the code:


(this code has expired.)

into the coupon code box and click “activate.” (case sensitive, no spaces)

4.    Once the message says the coupon has been applied, attach a credit card (all accounts need one, but with this code you won’t be charged).

5.    Now choose the 1-month plan. A one-time credit of $9.oo will be applied to your first invoice, leaving you with a balance of $0.

You will be emailed as your 1-month plan nears expiry, and you can cancel any time. 

Poke around One Stop and see how it will help you brainstorm, draft, and edit a story. It’s the perfect partner for the NaNoWriMo novel you’re cooking up, that big revision you have to tackle, or the new characters you’re building.

Already a subscriber?

You can use this coupon, too! Apply the code above and the one-time discount of $9.00 will come off your next invoice, regardless of the plan you are on.

Know someone who needs writing help? Share this incredible offer with them so they can experience One Stop for Writers for free, too!




















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What’s the Dark Night Moment All About?

cs-lakinYou’re coming to the end of the tunnel, and you see a bright light illuminating the finish line. You are almost through writing your novel!

If you’ve done your homework, you’ve carefully worked out the big build to the exciting climax of your story, and you’ve made sure that your protagonist is facing her hardest obstacle yet as she lunges in desperation toward that elusive but coveted goal, with everything she cherishes at stake.

Okay, well, not every novel is going to be a nail-biting, high-intensity ride to the finish. Some writers have their character plod steadily and quietly on a camel and ride off into the desert sunset rather than race a car at breakneck speed around treacherous corners to crash through the police barricade to save the world from a maniacal terrorist.

Still . . . for great novel structure, one cannot omit those final key scenes that serve as solid framework: the dark night moment, the climax, and the satisfying resolution.

While you may have numerous scenes that go in this section of your novel, there should be one specific scene for each of these functions of structure.

While the purpose of these last key scenes may be somewhat obvious, there are some aspects we should keep in mind when crafting the “dark night” moment of our story.

Make It Impossible

In this dark moment, we need to think of all the ways we can make this situation as hopeless as possible. Everything the character has depended on up till now should fail.

Once the character feels all is lost and processes the situation she is in, she essentially looks back on the journey so far—what brought her to this brink of failure—and questions her commitment, beliefs, choices, and actions.

If “all is lost” at this crisis point, it only stands to reason she is going to reflect on how she got here and what possible options there are, if any, for going forward.

Now, at this crucial point in the story, the plan to reach her goal has failed, the obstacles are insurmountable, and the character thinks, “There’s absolutely no way out.”  If you’re writing a romance, this is the moment the hero loses all hope of getting the girl.  In a mystery, arriving at the truth seems impossible. In a thriller, evil seems to have won.

At this point, too, there’s no retreating or going back—the only way out is through. And that means one final hard push toward that goal—often lacking the support of allies the character once had. Often the hero has to go it alone—everyone else is either dead or has abandoned him.

Make It Believable

Readers love it when we paint our heroes into a corner that is seemingly impossible to get out of. And that’s the challenge of the dark night moment and climax. But we need the situation and the solutions to be believable. If you are going to have your character use some talent or skill or amazing intellect to prevail, you better make sure you set up throughout the story that he has that needed attribute.

If you’re going to have another character suddenly show up and save the day, that’s not going to work. Your hero has to be the one to draw from his well of inner resources to push through to victory.

Yes, an ally can show up to give support—think of how Hans Solo comes “out of nowhere” in Star Wars to help Luke Skywalker in that eleventh hour to destroy the Death Star. But Luke is the hero, and it’s his goal we’re focused on. He saves the day by trusting the force and firing the explosive that blows up the Death Star.

The Dark Moment Showcases Your Themes

Theme is at the heart of these final scenes.

Even a suspense thriller that appears to be just a hang-on-to-your-seat wild ride of chases and danger can present themes that readers resonate with. Just take a look at the popular superhero movies—they’re all about good defeating evil, one of the most ubiquitous themes in stories.

Theme is what your story is “really about.” Theme is your protagonist’s inner motivation made universal. So it stands to reason that in that key scene #8—the “dark night of the soul” moment—your novel’s theme is going to come to the forefront.

The dark moment of despair or hopelessness often reflects back the theme by showing exactly how the character feels about the pertinent issues in her situation.

So when you’re brainstorming that dark moment and your climax, think about your themes, and have your character face full-on the things that matter most to her and what is ultimately driving her to her goal.

The Moment of Truth

Part of the dark night moment is the transition from hopelessness to determination. This is the “moment of truth” that comes right before the outward, visible action taken to reach the goal. The decision to press on is made in that “moment of truth.”

Does she really want to reach that goal? What’s it worth to her? What will it truly cost her? What will the consequences be if she fails? Who will suffer?

At the end of Never Been Kissed, Josie is standing on the pitcher’s mound with the clock ticking. She has alienated the guy she loves and has exposed her heart by revealing her ruse (pretending to be a high school student) via an article she wrote for her newspaper. Will Sam forgive her and come to the ballpark before the clock counts down to zero? Everyone in the crowd is waiting and watching with her, hoping he’ll come. Her heart is on the line, but he’s not there . . . then, he runs toward her. Whew!

Other great dark moments before the climax:

It’s a Wonderful Life: George’s dark moment brings him to the revelation of seeing what the world would have been like if he wasn’t in it, and this then moves him to run back to the bridge where he was going to jump to his death and instead cries, “I want to live again!” From there, the town comes together at the climax to help George raise the lost money so he can avoid arrest.

Ender’s Game: After Ender completes his training and practice sessions, the big battle against the Formics takes place. Under the greatest duress, Ender vents his anger and destroys the enemy, thinking he is only trying to pass a test. His dark moment occurs when he learns the truth—that he actually annihilated an entire species and their home world. While the big battle appears to be the climax, it’s a “faux” climax. For Ender, his goal is reached and his arc is complete when he rescues the queen pupa and heads off to a planet to ensure the survival of her species.

We writers are often eager to wrap up the novel we’ve been working so long and hard on, and we tend to rush through those final scenes. But try to slow down and spend time crafting that essential dark moment for your protagonist. If you do, that victory will be oh-so-sweet for your reader.

cs-lakin_framedC. S. Lakin is freelance book copyeditor, writing coach, and award-winning blogger and author of 30+ books, fiction and nonfiction. Her new release Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scene goes deep into this scene-layering method. Join Lakin’s Novel-Writing Fast Track mailing list to get free writing craft books (2 the first week!) and great tips on how to fast-track to success with your writing!

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Posted in Characters, Fear, High Stakes, Motivation, Plotting, Resident Writing Coach, Tension, Writing Craft | 4 Comments

Meet Our Newest Resident Writing Coaches

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we started the Resident Writing Coach program, but here we are! This program, designed to bring you high-level writing education from a variety of experts, has been wildly successful. We’ve had such a huge response to it that continuing the program was a no-brainer!

Being able to showcase the voices and viewpoints of different masters of craft for an entire year has been wonderful. Due to time issues, a few coaches are leaving us, and Becca and I would like to offer sincere thanks to Roz Morris, April Bradley, C.S. Lakin, and Michael Hauge for lending us their knowledge. It was an honor to have you part of our program!

We have a few new faces joining us, bringing considerable craft knowledge to the storytelling table. Check out this lineup:

Lisa Cron is the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius. Her video tutorial Writing Fundamentals: The Craft of Story can be found at Lynda.com, and her TEDx talk, Wired for Story, opened Furman University’s 2014 TEDx conference, Stories: The Common Thread of Our Humanity.

Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and Court TV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency. Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and she is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program in Visual Narrative in New York City.

In her work as a private story coach, Lisa helps writers of all ilk wrangle the story they’re telling onto the page. For a library of her free myth-busting writing tips, and information on how to work with her one-on-one, you can find her at: wiredforstory.com 


Sacha Black is the author of the #1 bestseller for writers, 13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft A Superbad Villain. Her blog for writers, www.sachablack.co.uk, is home to regular writing, marketing and publishing advice sprinkled with dark humour and the occasional bad word. In addition to craft books, she writes YA fantasy, and her first series, Keepers, is due out in November 2017.

Sacha is also the founder of the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards, a yearly international event for bloggers, writers and authors.

Tamar Sloan really struggled writing this bio because she hasn’t decided whether she’s primarily a psychologist who loves writing, or a writer with a lifelong fascination of human behaviour. Somehow she got lucky enough to do both.

Tamar is a freelance editor, consultant and the author of PsychWriter – a fun, informative hub of information on character development, the science of story and how to engage readers. Tamar is also an award-winning author of young adult romance, creating stories about finding life and love beyond our comfort zones. You can checkout Tamar’s books on her author website.

Gabriela Pereira is an author, speaker, and entrepreneur who wants to challenge the status quo of higher education. As the founder and instigator of DIYMFA.com, her mission is to empower writers, artists and other creatives to take an entrepreneurial approach to their education and professional growth.

Gabriela earned her MFA in writing from The New School and speaks at college campuses and national conferences. She is also the host of DIY MFA Radio, a popular podcast where she interviews bestselling authors and offers short audio master classes. Her book DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community is out now from Writer’s Digest Books. Join the word nerd community at DIYMFA.com/join.

These new coaches will be joining our returning writing masterminds:

jsb-author-photo_framed2James Scott Bell is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award and author of the #1 bestseller for writers, Plot & Structure. Among his numerous thrillers are Romeo’s Rules, Romeo’s Way, Romeo’s Hammer, Try Dying, and Don’t Leave Me. In addition to his traditional novels, Jim has self-published in a variety of genres. He served as the fiction columnist for Writer’s Digest magazine and has written highly popular craft books including: Just Write, Write Your Novel From the Middle, Super Structure, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense.

Read more about Jim here.

jennie-nash_framedJennie Nash has worked in publishing for more than 30 years. She is the author of four novels, three memoirs, and The Writer’s Guide to Agony and Defeat. She has been an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writing Program for 10 years and is the founder and chief creative officer of Author Accelerator, an online program that offers affordable, customized book coaching so you can write your best book.

Read more about Jennie here.

jami-picture-200-x-300_framedJami Gold, after muttering writing advice in tongues, decided to become a writer and put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fueled by chocolate, she shares writing tools, presents workshops, and offers insights on her blog about the craft, business, and life of writing. Jami is the winner of the 2015 National Readers’ Choice Award in Paranormal Romance for the novel Ironclad Devotion in her Mythos Legacy series.

Read more about Jami here.

september-c-fawkes_3September C. Fawkes can scare people with her enthusiasm for writing and reading. She works as an assistant to a New York Times bestselling author and writing instructor, a job that includes editing manuscripts of both published and unpublished writers. She has published poetry, short fiction, and nonfiction articles, and her writing tips have appeared in classrooms, conferences, and on Grammar Girl. She holds an English degree, has served as the managing editor of The Southern Quill literary journal, and had the pleasure of writing her thesis on the worldwide appeal of Harry Potter.

Read more about September here.

sara-_framedSara Letourneau is a fantasy writer in Massachusetts who devours good books, geeks out about character arcs, and drinks too much tea. In addition to WHW’s Resident Writing Coach Program, she writes the Theme: A Story’s Soul column at DIY MFA and is hard at work on a YA/New Adult magical realism manuscript. She has also freelanced as a tea reviewer and music journalist in the past. Her poetry has appeared in The Curry Arts Journal, Soul-Lit, The Eunoia Review, Underground Voices, and two print anthologies.

Read more about Sara here.

We are looking forward to another incredible year of Resident Writing Coach posts. Is there a topic you’d like to see covered? Just leave us a comment below!

Happy writing,

Angela & Becca





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What Is an Emotional Wound?

If you’ve hung around Writers Helping Writers at all over the past year, you’ll know that Angela and I have been kind of obsessed with character wounds. For the better part of the year, we built our Emotional Wound Thesaurus here at the blog and talked quite a bit in individual posts about the topic—because there’s a lot to discuss. Wounds are complex and impact our characters on so many levels. So as we gear up for the book release at the end of October, I thought it would be helpful to provide a simple explanation for emotional wounds and why they’re so important for us to know as authors.

And then I said to myself: Self, you guys have already written this. IN THE BOOK. Why not share an excerpt from the soon-to-be-released Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma that explains everything?

So here’s a first glimpse into the Emotional Wound’s front matter, which, truth be told, I think is kind of phenomenal. I hope you agree…


Growing up, do you remember something happening that you didn’t expect, something that surprised you—and not in a good way? Maybe you came home with a third-place Science Fair ribbon, and rather than wrap you up in a breath-stealing hug and fawn over the yellow slip, your mother barely gave it a glance, declaring that you should have tried harder. Now, fast-forward to junior year. You auditioned for the lead in the school musical, but the part went to someone else. How did that feel, especially when you had to deliver the news to dear old mom? What about when you missed the cut for a university program that, as she likes to remind you, your brother got into with no problem, or the time you were passed over for a promotion and had to sit through an agonizing family dinner where your sibling was lauded for his accomplishments?

Chances are, this wounded past doesn’t match your own. But if it did, at what point would resentment set in over your mother’s love being withdrawn each time you failed to meet her unrealistic expectations? How long until you stopped talking about your goals or—even worse— refused to try at all because you believed you would only fail?

Unfortunately, life is painful, and not all the lessons we learn are positive ones. As with you and me, the characters in our stories have suffered emotional trauma that cannot easily be dispelled or forgotten. We call this type of trauma an emotional wound: a negative experience (or set of experiences) that causes pain on a deep psychological level. It is a lasting hurt that often involves someone close: a family member, lover, mentor, friend, or other trusted individual. Wounds may be tied to a specific event, arise upon learning a difficult truth about the world, or result from a physical limitation, condition, or challenge.

character wound, wounding event, backstory, story research, emotional painWhatever form they take, most wounding experiences happen unexpectedly, meaning, characters have little or no time to raise their emotional defenses. The resulting pain is brutal and immediate, and the fallout of this trauma has lasting repercussions that will change the character in significant (often negative) ways. As with us, characters experience many different painful events over a lifetime, including ones in their formative years. These wounds are not only the most difficult to move past, they often create a domino effect for other hurts that follow.

Now, you might ask why we should care about what happens to our characters before page one. After all, isn’t it what they do during the story that matters? Yes, and no. People are products of their pasts, and if we want our characters to come across as authentic and believable to readers, we need to understand their backstories too. How a character was raised, the people in her life, and the events and world conditions she was exposed to months or years ago will have direct bearing on her behavior and motives within the story. Backstory wounds are especially powerful and can alter who our characters are, what they believe, and what they fear most. Understanding the pain they’ve experienced is necessary to creating fully formed and compelling characters.

When we think of emotional trauma, we often imagine it as a specific moment that forever alters the character’s reality, but wounds can present in a variety of ways. It’s true that one may develop from a single traumatic event, such as witnessing a murder, getting caught in an avalanche, or experiencing the death of one’s child. But it can also come about from repeated episodes of trauma, like a series of humiliations at the hand of a workplace bully or a string of toxic relationships. Wounds may also result from a detrimental ongoing situation, such as living in poverty, childhood neglect caused by addicted parents, or growing up in a violent cult.

However they form, these moments leave a mark, albeit a psychological one, just as a physical injury does. Wounds damage our characters’ self-worth, change how they view the world, cause trust issues, and dictate how they will interact with other people. All of this can make it harder for them to achieve certain goals, which is why we should dig deep into their backstories and unearth the traumas they may have been exposed to…


I hope this clarifies what a wound is and what kind of aftershocks it can have. It’s SO important for us to know this important event from each character’s past, and The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma is coming on October 25 to help you figure out which past experiences might be haunting them.

If you’d like to stay up-to-date on release information, consider signing up for our Future Book Releases newsletter, which only goes out when we have information to share about an upcoming publication.

To see a sample entry, visit this page, or to browse the entire selection of emotional wounds we cover, the complete list is at One Stop for Writers.








Posted in Character Wound, Characters, Uncategorized, Writing Craft | 5 Comments

The 10 Key Scenes You Need to Frame Up Your Novel

Happy to welcome our editor and friend C.S. Lakin to the blog for a special post on story structure. Please read on!

“How do I write a great novel?”

This is probably THE question every aspiring novelist has asked . . . but maybe hasn’t had answered in a satisfying and clear manner.

There are plenty of techniques floating around that help writers learn how to structure solid scenes, craft compelling characters, bring setting to life, and pen engaging dialogue.

writing, plotting, story structure

But as far as the nuts and bolts go—meaning, where the nuts and bolts go—therein lies the challenge—and hardly anything has been written about it.

Novels are made up of scenes. Lots of scenes.

Where the heck do all the scenes go, once you’ve come up with them?

Pantsing and Plotting

If you’re a pantser, you wing it and write whatever scenes come into your head. If you’re a plotter, you sit down and make a list of as many scenes as you can think of, and then you try to put them in order as best you can, maybe create an outline, and then (cross your fingers) hope it works.

If you’ve written a lot of novels, you probably have a good sense where scenes need to fall in your story.

You may know that you need some initial disturbance (also called “the Inciting Incident”) to kick off your story somewhere near the beginning of your novel.

And you might also know that at some point your protagonist should be pursuing a goal (but, believe me, a lot of writers don’t even understand this is at the crux of plot and premise) that builds to a climax somewhere near the end. And then you figure you need to wrap things up and end the darn thing.

Many writers resist “overplotting” because they want flexibility. They want to allow their characters to come to life and take over (without overthrowing The Creator of the Novel) to some extent. I do too!

But novels are highly complex, and you cannot (she says adamantly, after having critiqued more than a thousand manuscripts) just write a bunch of scenes, stick them where they feel right, and call it good.

Most writing coaches will tell you: you must follow novel structure, very specifically, to craft a terrific novel. And that means understanding what types of scenes you need to frame your novel and where to put them.

The first layer of ten scenes is your foundation, your frame-up. It supports your entire story and premise. While I go deep into all of these ten scenes, as well as a variety of second and third layers (supported by many handy charts, such as the one in a post on layering romance you may have read on this blog) in my book Layer Your Novel, let’s take a brief look at the ten key scenes (and if you need more info on each of these, read the linked posts).

story structure, openings, writing a novel

#1   Setup. Introduce the protagonist in her ordinary life. Establish her core need. Set the stage, begin building the world, bring key characters on stage. You want to begin your novel right before the Inciting Incident.

#2   Turning Point #1 (10%) Inciting Incident. This starts the protagonist moving in a new direction. It’s the “opportunity” that arises that will shift the character toward the fixed goal.

Turning Point #2 (25%)  The visible goal for the novel is set.

#3   Pinch Point #1 (33% roughly). Give a glimpse of the opposition’s power, need, and goal as well as the stakes. Your protagonist may or may not be aware of this development.

#4   Twist #1. Something new happens: a new ally appears, a friend becomes a foe. New info reveals a serious complication to reaching the goal. Protagonist must adjust to change with this setback.

#5   The Midpoint – Turning Point #3 (50%). No turning back. Important event that propels the story forward and solidifies the protagonist’s determination to reach her goal.

#6   Pinch Point #2 (62% roughly). The opposition comes full force. Time to buckle down and fight through it. If the first pinch point introduces the opposing force (which could be a person/people, group, or force of nature, to name a few), the second pinch point brings this force to bear in all its power upon the protagonist.

#7   Twist #2. An unexpected surprise giving (false?) hope. The goal now looks within reach. A mentor gives encouragement, a secret weapon is presented, or an important clue is revealed (examples).

#8   Turning Point #4 – Dark Night Moment (75%). Major setback. All is lost and hopeless. The protagonist’s support system is threatened or even fails. Time to go all-in for the final push.

#9  Turning Point #5 – Climax (76-99%). The climax in which the goal is either reached or not; the two MDQs are answered. Everything from the 25% mark to this moment is about progress and setbacks toward the goal, and the climax should be the BIG event in which the protagonist faces her most daunting opposition.

#10  The Aftermath (90-99%). The wrap-up at the end. Dénouement, resolution, tie it all in a pretty knot. This is a brief final scene that brings the novel to a satisfying conclusion, without dragging on and on. (Live by the wise words: quick in, quick out.)

Take the time to learn just what each of these scene types are about. It’s important.

Sure, you can veer off track a bit. These scenes don’t have to be in exact places. And you’re not limited to two pinch points or twists. Remember: this is the basic framework to start with. And from here, you can layer your next scenes (I provide charts for three different second layers in my book).

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s also not something to rush through. Take the time to learn about these key scenes and understand why they’re important.

I will dare say if you use this chart when you begin to plot (or need to revise) your novel, you will see how much easier the process is than if you rely on guesswork.

Which scenes do you struggle with most when plotting out your novel? Does a look at this chart reveal to you what you might be missing in your structure?

C. S. Lakin is freelance book copyeditor, writing coach, and award-winning blogger and author of 30+ books, fiction and nonfiction. Her new release Layer Your Novel: The Innovative Method for Plotting Your Scene goes deep into this scene-layering method. Join Lakin’s Novel-Writing Fast Track mailing list to get free writing craft books (2 the first week!) and great tips on how to fast-track to success with your writing!


Posted in Character Arc, Guest Post, Plotting, Story Structure, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 11 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Bartender

Jobs are as important for our characters as they are for real people. A character’s career might be their dream job or one they’ve chosen due to necessity. In your story, they might be trying to get that job or are already working in the field. Whatever the situation, as with any defining aspect for your character, you’ll need to do the proper research to be able to write that career knowledgeably.

Enter the Occupation Thesaurus. Here, you’ll find important background information on a variety of career options for your character. In addition to the basics, we’ll also be covering related info that relates to character arc and story planning, such as sources of conflict (internal and external) and how the job might impact basic human needs, thereby affecting the character’s goals. (See this post for more information on this connection.) It’s our hope that this thesaurus will share some of your research burden while also giving you ideas about your character’s occupation that you might not have considered before.

writing occupations, character career, characterizationOccupation: Bartender

Overview: A person responsible for providing alcoholic drinks to customers in a social environment. Bartenders are found in clubs, sports bars, pubs, restaurants, and at special events like weddings, private parties, or entertainment venues.  A bartender must be of legal age to distribute alcohol and there may be other conditions depending on the venue and security considerations.

Necessary Training: Some bartenders may attend bartending school, but others are self-taught. Having a wide knowledge of popular drinks (and how to mix them), understanding the many varieties of beer (lagers, ales, IPA, etc.) and being able to offer up recommendations is key. Some locations may require special knowledge of a particular beverage (say if one worked in a wine bar).  Depending on the location of your story and the type of venue, a bartender may have to obtain different certificates (such as a license to serve alcohol), or take alcohol awareness classes. They may also need a food handling permit if they are also serving food, or pass a security check if the bar-tending position is in a location where one is serving high profile clientele.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: charm, empathy, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, hospitality, making people laugh, reading people, self-defense, strategic thinking, enhances taste buds, throwing one’s voice

Helpful Character Traits: adaptable, calm, charming, creative, diplomatic, discreet, efficient, friendly, organized, perceptive, hospitable, persuasive, flirty, spontaneous, talented, witty

Sources of Friction: drunk patrons, domestic abuse situations that play out in the bar, jealous boyfriends or girlfriends who view the bartender’s friendliness as flirting, patrons unable to pay their bills, patrons who have taken drugs or prescriptions that lead to accelerated intoxication, people who refuse to get a cab, disputes over bills, tip theft among staff members, arguments and fights when tempers flare among partygoers, dealing with threats and de-escalating potentially violent situations when patrons are cut off due to drunken behavior, witnessing someone attempting to dose a drink, underage patrons who have fake IDs, a robbery

People They Might Interact With: Servers, management, patrons (drunk, sober, high, amorous, etc.), delivery people, wait staff, cooks, police officers, bouncers, alcohol reps

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Safety and Security: bar fights, rowdy patrons, and possible illegal activities happening during one’s shift may create safety issues.
  • Love and Belonging: Relationships can be difficult to maintain in this career because one is always working during traditional “social time” like weekends and holidays, and the hours are often quite late, meaning one is catching up on sleep when others are awake. Partners of bartenders may also become jealous as flirtatiousness for tips often are at play.
  • Esteem and Recognition: This industry may cater to hiring women bartenders over men, as many establishments feel that beautiful women bartenders lead to more product being sold. If there is not a gender bias, there is still usually an appearance bias. This type of prejudice may cause people who do not fit the “ideal” feel held back if they are limited in hours or opportunities as a result.

Common Work-Related Settings: Restaurant, Bar, Pub, Black Tie Event, Casino, Cruise Ship, Nightclub, House Party, Wedding Reception

Twisting the Stereotype: Give a bartender (male or female) a specific personality trait, a flare for the dramatic, or a creative spirit when it comes to inventing new drinks that makes them exceptional, rather than the usual “good looks.” Maybe they know exactly how to handle difficult patrons, can read the minds of their customers, or they are known for sleight-of-hand magic tricks while they sling drinks. Think outside the box with this occupation and deliver something unique to readers.







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