10 Methods to Make Your Character Likeable


A key point of writing a successful story is to have likeable characters. This is usually a must for the protagonist, but the cast overall should have a number of likeable characters. Here are 10 methods to accomplish that.

1) Pet the Dog/Save the Cat

This method might be the most well-known. In movies, it’s used to get the viewers to like the protagonist immediately. Show your character doing something kindhearted for someone else–petting a dog or saving a cat out of a tree–to make them likeable. The audience realizes, “Hey, that guy is a good guy: He saved that cat!” or, “She gave that homeless guy money!” In short, show us that your character is kind.

backstory, understanding characters, character development, research2) Intriguing Backstory

I love character backstories. Probably more than the average writer. Give your character a tragic or interesting one and it goes a long way to making an emotional connection. Look at Snape in Harry Potter. Everyone hated him through almost the entire series. Then, once we got his full backstory, people started saying he’s one of the best written characters of our time. Fans seem to have completely forgotten that Snape actually was a jerk. If your character has a fascinating backstory, we’re interested.

3) Understanding

That last one leads me to another point. When readers understand the character, they’re connected to them. That’s why everyone loved Snape after the Harry Potter series. We finally understood him. You can create that understanding through a backstory, but it’s not the only way. Reveal to the reader why a character is the way she is through a scene of dialogue, internal thoughts, or action. When readers understand someone, they care more about her.

4) Cool Factor

Heighten your character’s cool factor. We like characters who are cool. I mean, we like characters who are nerdy too, but we don’t not like characters who are cool. Give your character a “super power,” or give him something that is a wish-fulfillment for the audience–we wish we were him.

Cool factors can be any number of things. They can be a real magical ability, like in fantasy, or they can be a heightened skill or talent. Maybe your character is a genius or a killer guitarist. Whatever it is, it’s a “super power” in that she’s better at it than the average person.

5) Vulnerability

We care about characters who are vulnerable, damaged, or hurt. This is one of the reasons the “orphan” protagonist is so popular. We feel for a child who has lost his parents. A vulnerable character may have a physical impairment or ailment; she might have chronic pain. Or an emotional hardship. Maybe she’s just been cruelly hurt by someone she thought was her best friend.

6) Give them Worthy Goals

When characters have goals we can relate to or that are at least goals worthy of having, we want to see them succeed. We want them to fight for it. The goal can be primal, like Katniss’s in Hunger Games. Or it can be a burning interest like in August Rush, where the protagonist yearns to compose great music. Or you can do both.

7) Let them Growgrowth, character arc character transformation

Show how your character grows into a better person over the course of the story. We care about people who change for the better–after all, don’t we all hope we can change for the better? Can you really hate the Grinch after his heart grows by two sizes?

8) Humor

Make your character funny. We love being with characters who make us laugh, whether it’s clever wit, entertaining snark, or endearing self-deprecation. You can learn more about humor approaches in my post here.

9) Make Your Character Liked by Others

When we see other people like a character, we feel like we should like her too. We like characters who are liked. This is one of the reasons you will often see the loyal best friend character.

10) Self-Aware of Shortcomings and Weaknesses

Make your character aware of her own shortcomings and weaknesses, that makes us more forgiving of them, and we can relate, because none of us are perfect. It can be a confession that happens in passing, or a passage about an ongoing tendency or temptation the character struggles with.

Your Characters

Your protagonist, by the way, should fulfill a number of these to increase her likeability. But these are methods that may be used for any character in a story. Just be careful not to use the same method for all the characters in your ensemble. And if you find yourself dealing with an unlikeable person that you want to make into a likeable character, I have an article on that as well.

So, what methods work for you when creating likeable characters? Leave them in the comments.

september-c-fawkes_3Sometimes September scares people with her enthusiasm for writing and reading. She works as an assistant to a New York Times bestselling author while penning her own stories, holds an English degree, and had the pleasure of writing her thesis on Harry Potter. Find out more about September here, hang with her on social media, or visit her website to follow her writing journey and get more writing tips.

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Posted in Character Traits, Characters, Empathy, Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Exotic Dancer

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.

Occupation: Exotic Dancer

Overview: An exotic dancer can be male or female, and work in a variety of venues such as bars, gentlemen clubs, as in-home entertainment (such as a birthday party or retirement party), or at special events (bachelor parties, Ladies’ Night, clubs, porn industry award shows and after parties, etc.). Exotic Dancers may take off all their clothing, only some, or simply tease while taking nothing off at all. They must be personable, have excellent hygiene, be conversationalists, and have a strong sense of playfulness. Dancing requires flexibility, strength, balance, grace, and a good sense of costuming and presentation.

In some areas, “exotic dancers” and “strippers” are viewed as interchangeable, and in others, exotic dancers are seen as being more refined, having stronger choreography and dance skills, and being cultured in the art of conversation more so than a stripper who may be more focused on the routine and less on the conversing and rapport-building with a client. Sometimes “exotic dancer” is used to describe a belly dancer, burlesque performer, or show girl, but these will be covered in a different entry.

Dancers are not always paid by the establishment; often they are paid directly by customers during their routine on stage, or for private dances. In this case they charge per dance (or for a special event, by the hour). Dancers in this case also may pay fees to the establishment, sometimes to a dressing room manager, and often will tip bartenders and bouncers to ensure they and their clients are well taken care of. They may follow a set work schedule, or have a “drop-in” agreement, working only as long as they wish to. The median age is 23, and although it seems like a cliche, many dancers are actually putting themselves through school!

Necessary Training: An exotic dancer usually has some dance skills, and possibly formal training (a ballet background, time in theater, etc.) that aids in their ability to provide a strong performance. Dancers must also be fit, flexible, be attractive and have specific physical attributes that make them eye candy to their clientele.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilities: a knack for making money, charm, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, haggling, lip-reading, lying, making people laugh, musicality, parkour, photographic memory, promotion,  reading people


Sources of Friction: clients who ask for dances and then can’t pay, clients who get grabby or who pass beyond the legal boundary of what is allowed during the dance, stalkers, other strippers who poach clients, work drama and jealousy, management who do not respect the dancers, getting involved in drugs and performing poorly as a result, growing older and being out-staged by younger dancers, hecklers in the audience, client disrespect, clients who cry (because they cheat, they are in a divorce situation, they are depressed, they lack deep connections and are looking to find those connections within the intimacy of the dance), being propositioned, being treated like a hooker, having one’s personal life and professional life colliding (a client who enters and recognizes the dancer from his PTA meetings, etc.)

People They Might Interact With: clients, the spouses of clients, bouncers, other dancers, management, DJs, wait staff, kitchen staff, event organizers, police officers and undercover detectives

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Safety and Security: Dancers may be targeted by obsessive clients who misread the attention as affection.
  • Love and Belonging: A romantic partner may not be understanding or supportive of one’s particular type of employment, creating friction in the relationship. It is also possible that some in this industry may develop intimacy issues because of the wall they grow used to deploying when with clients.
  • Esteem and Recognition: Family and friends may not understand one’s career choice and look down on it (or make unkind assumptions based on the work), causing one to question their own self-worth.

Common Work-Related Settings:
Bars, dance clubs, strip clubs, gentlemen clubs, home venues, special event areas, private penthouse parties

Twisting the Stereotype: How about a exotic dancer who is intelligent, and chooses this line of work because he or she loves it? Or perhaps the character works in this industry as an outreach specialist to identify and aid vulnerable individuals. How about a dancer who is a psych student who counsels clients during the dance?




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Diversifying Your Characters’ Voices

“Voice” is one of the things we authors agonize over—finding the character’s unique and authentic way of speaking. It’s especially critical to get this right when we’re writing in multiple viewpoints, so each character sounds like him or herself and readers can tell the difference between them. Liam Carnahan is here today to share some techniques for differentiating between your characters’ voices.

character voice, multiple viewpoints, narrators

Writing engaging and realistic dialogue is hard enough on its own. When your novel or story has multiple characters, it’s an even bigger challenge—you have to give each character his or her own voice as well.

Without unique voices, conversations between characters can confuse your readers, and you’ll have to be overly reliant on dialogue tags to keep everything straight. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can use to make each character’s words and interior monologues sound unique.

Who (and What) Influenced Your Character?

To understand how your character speaks, go to the source. Who were the significant people in his life when he learned his first language? Parents and guardians are almost always the first influencers, with extended family, school teachers, and fellow children all contributing to a character’s language development. There are always exceptions to these rules, but unless your character does not speak, he had to learn his words from somewhere.

As we grow, the people in our lives impact our language. Researchers have found that people in close personal relationships will begin to mimic each other’s speaking patterns. Romantic partners, family members, and close friends may share the same verbal quirks—and in this case, making two characters speak in a similar fashion can be a way to underscore their closeness.

However, because each of your characters has unique experiences and histories, consider what other threads might be part of their linguistic tapestry. Culture, heritage, geographic location, and educational background are prime examples of other external factors that should impact how a character speaks. If your characters live in the United States, map resources like this can be a good way to understand how people from different parts of the country talk.

Consider making a list of the people, places, and histories that would have influenced each of your protagonists, particularly in their formative years. Comparing these lists side by side will help you understand how each character differs from the others.

What’s Your Character’s Personality?

Personality dictates tone. Language is in every way a form of expression, and how a person speaks is a reflection of who they are at their core. Your characters may all speak the same language, but their vocabulary, cadence, and manner of speaking are determined by their personalities.

There are a few traits that can help you decide how a character should speak. Ask yourself, is your character more…

Introverted or extroverted? If a character feels energized by conversation, she’ll speak more often and might use longer sentences. A character who prefers to be alone or in small groups might speak less often, with more pauses for consideration and internal monologue.

Pessimistic or optimistic? Your character’s outlook on life will impact her word choices and possibly her speed of speech. Are they cynically sarcastic? Are they cheerfully positive?

Serious or silly? How often does your character crack jokes? How often does she laugh at other people’s jokes? Does she have her head in the clouds, or are her feet always planted squarely on the ground? Humor and playfulness manifest themselves in words as much as in actions.

Honest or coy? Does your character tell it like it is, or is she more likely to withhold information and opinions? When she speaks the truth, is she blunt or gentle? Is she a practiced liar?

Of course, realistic characters will have a spectrum and range of emotions, but exploring questions like these can nudge dialogue in the right direction.

On Dialects and Accents

Dialect and accents of course influence how an individual speaks, but a word of caution: overdoing it with what’s known as “eye dialect” can turn into a big issue for some writers.

“Eye dialect” is when an author intentionally misspells words to make them representative of the way they sound. For example, writing the word “was” as “wuz” or “listen” as “lissen.” Many well-known authors, from Mark Twain to Terry Pratchett, have used eye dialect in their work.

The issue, however, is that it’s very easy for this to come off as stereotypical or even mocking, particularly when it’s associated with a racial or national background. If your book takes place in modern times, eye dialect also tends to make a character’s way of speaking seem dated, which may or may not be an intentional side effect.

As an alternative, consider taking a few moments to describe a character’s accent when they speak. For example:

“The voice was careful, masculine, and local;
the vowels had all the edges sanded off.”
(The Raven Boys, Stiefvater)

Use narrative description to reflect on the sound of their words, or let your characters reflect on each other’s way of talking. This is a much safer (and often more accurate) way of showing a character’s mannerisms when speaking.

Examining your characters’ backgrounds and personalities can help you build uniqueness into their voices. Coupled with character traits and individual descriptions, your cast of characters will make your novel worth reading.


Liam Carnahan is the founder and chief editor of Invisible Ink Editing. With four other professional editors on staff, Invisible Ink Editing offers a variety of book editing services for fiction authors. Liam can be reached at Liam@InvisibleInkEditing.com, or you can connect with Invisible Ink Editing on Facebook or Twitter.

Posted in Characters, Voice | 9 Comments

Writing By Design: A New Way To Envision Storytelling

Part 1: The Significance of Space

As writers, we often think of ourselves as “word people,” fully entrenched in the realm of language and all things verbal. Yet we have more in common with our artsy counterparts than we think. Some people even go so far as to call writers story architects and engineers of narrative. We might not use clay, paint, or plaster, but words can serve as building blocks just like bricks and stone.

Yet this notion of writer as builder doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. As writers, we don’t just create a books as objects, we are story designers and our job is to craft immersive experiences for our readers.

As a graphic and product designer, I spent the beginning of my professional career designing toys and packaging. Even now as a writer, I often find myself thinking about stories and writing in design terms and I’m excited to do a deep dive into some key design elements and how they relate to our craft. Today we look at space.

The Final Frontier… Okay, Not Really

design a novel, story structure, reader engagement

Unlike the infinite darkness explored by the intrepid Star Trek cast, in design you often have to deal with space in terms of limitations. Space is a precious resource, and the amount you have available—along with its configuration—will determine what you can do with the design. This means that somewhere along the way, you will need to make difficult choices, deciding what to include and what to leave out.

The same is true in writing. While a 90,000 word novel might feel huge when you’re just starting to write, if you go too far over that, you will need to trim it down. That cutting process can be hard. In fact, many writers find it easier to add five thousand words to a manuscript than to cut that same number.

The finite nature of space—both in design and in writing—forces us to make choices, and that’s where things get interesting. We can’t cram every last detail in our story because it would either bore readers to tears or we’d simply run out of room. This means we must choose to show certain details on the page while others are implied but extend beyond the page. In design terms, this concept is called closure.


As an avid comic book fan, I’ve been surrounded by closure my entire life, I just never realized it. Closure is that notion that even though you don’t see an image in the comic’s frame, it still exists outside the field of vision.

As an example, imagine a comic showing Wonder Woman flinging her lasso, but the frame crops out part of that lasso (along with the bad guy she’s hitting with it). Readers won’t look at that drawing and think that the lasso ends abruptly at the edge of the frame. Instead, they “see” that lasso as extending far beyond and hitting the bad guy in the face, even though those elements are not actually in the picture. The human brain is smart and fills in the gaps.

As writers, we can use closure to our advantage by being deliberate in what we crop into (and out of) the picture we present our readers. We don’t need to show mundane, repetitive actions, because readers can infer that characters do normal “human” things like commute, shower, sleep, eat meals, or go to the bathroom.

In fact, when we put these routine moments on the page, readers may expect something out of the ordinary to occur. If you’re going to describe something mundane and repetitive in a character’s life, there needs to be something significant about this particular instance that justifies including it in the frame of your story. Trust that your reader will fill in the blanks otherwise. This ties closely to the idea of negative space.

Negative Space

If you’ve ever taken an art class, you’ve likely heard teachers talk about negative space, which is the space around an object as opposed to the space occupied by the object itself. In drawing classes, I always thought it a mild form of torture when the professor would force us to sketch an object not by looking at the thing itself, but by filling in the negative space, the air around it.

While drawing negative space in an art class might make your eyes feel like staring at one of those “magic picture” 3D images, it can be a worthwhile exercise for writers when looking at their novels. In writing terms, the negative space of your story is anything that happens off the page. This might include scenes that ended up on the cutting room floor, things that happen to supporting characters when the main character isn’t around, and so forth. Yet even though these moments do not appear in the final manuscript, they still affect the story that ends up on the page.

Just like you can look at negative space and “see” the object within it, similarly those negative space story elements can influence choices you make in the story itself. When you examine your story, don’t just look at what’s on the page. Look for what’s missing, what’s not being said.

There are so many design principles that apply to writers and storytelling and I can’t wait to introduce you to more of them in my next article.

Gabriela Pereira is the founder of DIYMFA.com, the do-it-yourself alternative to a Masters degree in writing. She is also a speaker, podcast host for DIY MFA Radio, and author of the forthcoming book DIY MFA: Write with Focus, Read with Purpose, Build Your Community (Writer’s Digest Books, July 2016). Join the word nerd community at DIYMFA.com/join.

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Posted in Publishing and Self Publishing, Resident Writing Coach, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Occupation Thesaurus Entry: Emergency Dispatcher

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.

occupation thesaurus, character creation, backstory, job

Occupation: Emergency Dispatcher

Overview: When someone calls 911 during an emergency situation, the first point of contact is the dispatcher. This person takes calls, gathers vital information, offers medical advice when necessary (such as how to perform CPR), passes the information along to the correct agencies (police, ambulances, fire department, etc.), and records the information into a database so it’s available to all parties. While the job requirements are fairly technical, this position requires a lot of finesse, since the dispatcher will need to remain calm and think clearly under high pressure, life-or-death circumstances. Turnover is high in this field due to the stressful nature of the job.

Necessary Training: Most dispatch positions require a high school diploma or GED. Required instruction includes on-the-job training as well as extensive classroom training that usually occurs during the dispatcher’s first year.

Useful Skills, Talents, or Abilitiesa knack for languages, basic first aid, enhanced hearing, exceptional memory, gaining the trust of others, good listening skills, knowledge of explosives, multitasking, predicting the weather, reading people, typing quickly, working well under pressure, being able to communicate clearly, quick decision making

Helpful Character Traits: analytical, calm, centered, cooperative, courteous, decisive, discreet, efficient, empathetic, focused, kind, objective, organized, patient, perceptive, perfectionist, persuasive, proactive, professional, pushy, sensible, supportive, wise

Sources of Friction: becoming emotional about a case while one is trying to work it, taking out workplace stress on people at home, technical difficulties or machinery malfunctions, hysterical callers who can’t be reasoned with, making a mistake that results in someone’s death or injury, freezing up at a critical moment (not knowing what to say, drawing a blank when needing to give advice, etc.), taking a call as a new dispatcher that one isn’t qualified or trained to handle, receiving a call from someone one knows, taking a call about a large-scale emergency that affects one’s loved ones, someone needing help immediately but emergency services are delayed, witnessing a traumatic event on the call (a death, kidnapping, abuse, etc.), turning off one’s feelings at work and having difficulty turning them back on again after hours, budget cuts that make one’s job difficult (resulting in old or faulty equipment, insufficient emergency vehicles and responders, lack of training, etc.), one’s performance being questioned when a call goes bad, conflicts of interest (if a loved one is a first responder with a certain team, etc.), physical discomfort from sitting in a chair and working from a computer screen for long hours, increased worry or anxiety for loved ones due to the day-to-day traumas one deals with

People They Might Interact With: people in crisis, other dispatchers, supervisors

How This Occupation Might Impact One’s Basic Needs:

  • Safety and Security: The situations a dispatcher encounters can become traumatizing over time. After prolonged exposure to crime, victimization, and violence, dispatchers may worry about the ability to protect their own loved ones or themselves from danger.
  • Love and Belonging: An emergency dispatcher has to be able to walk a fine line of being empathetic enough to help callers while not internalizing and dwelling on the situations they deal with. In some cases, dispatchers may turn off or minimize their emotions at work; if they’re unable to turn them back on after hours, it can cause strain with loved ones
  • Esteem and Recognition: The stakes don’t get higher than they do in this occupation. One mistake or memory lapse, or not knowing what to do in a given situation, can cost someone their life. If something does go south, it can cause a dispatcher to question their decisions and abilities, which may further impact their ability to function well at work.

Common Work-Related Settings: ambulance, car accident, emergency room, fire station, hospital room, house fire, police car, police station, prison cell

Twisting the Stereotype: There tend to be more female dispatchers, so consider this occupation for your male characters.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Got 15 Minutes? How to Write 500+ Words

Life is busy, and for many of us, writing happens in smaller blocks of time rather than in big chunks. If we fall prey to one of the many distractions that are competing for our attention, then BAM, that writing time is gone in a blink, and nothing gets written.

It doesn’t have to be this way–the terrifically brilliant Colleen Story of Writing and Wellness is here to show us that if we can find 15 minutes, we can get the words down. Please read on!

You just put the baby down for a nap, and you’ve got 15 minutes before that conference call.

Fifteen minutes of free time. You could write! Goodness knows it’s hard enough to find the time these days. You could take advantage of this small window and finish chapter seven…maybe.

Or…you could open up your laptop and fritter away that 15 minutes reading emails, perusing your Facebook feed, or following some research tangent that you didn’t really need to follow.

If you had 15 minutes, which would you do? Here’s how to make sure you use that precious time to pound out 500 words or more.

We’ve Finding it Harder to Focus

Unfortunately, we’re living in a distracted nation, and most of us are finding it increasingly difficult to focus on anything, say nothing of our writing.

Technology giant Microsoft recently surveyed 2,000 people and studied the brain activity of 112 others to gather data about our current ability to focus. They found that the human attention span had fallen from twelve seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds today.

Goldfish, on the other hand, have been found in studies to be able to pay attention for nine seconds. (Gulp. Or should I say, glub?) The researchers blamed technology and smartphones.

As a writer pressed for time (and what writer isn’t?), you need to be able to take full advantage of any free time you may get, which means increasing your focusing skills. Here are three ways to do just that.

  1. Make it Easy to Tune Out

You may imagine that focusing on your story is all about being able to tune into your characters, setting, and plot, but the truth is that how well you focus is about how well you can tune out everything else.

There’s a part of the brain called the “ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC)” that fires up when you need to inhibit a natural response, like answering a text or email in the middle of your writing time. It’s the brain’s natural braking system, and scientists say the better your VLPFC works, the better you are at focusing on a task.

This system isn’t the most hearty of systems, unfortunately. Things like mental fatigue, stress, interruptions, multi-tasking, and lack of exercise will all make it less effective. Age doesn’t help either. When the fine lines start showing up around your eyes and the gray hairs make their appearance, that’s about the time your brain starts changing, too, making it harder for you to resist those automatic impulses.

The first thing you need to do, then, is to make it easier on your brain to tune everything else out. You’ve got 15 minutes. Spend the first one:

  • Turning everything off (smartphone, Internet, email, etc.). Don’t fool yourself that you can concentrate regardless. Remove the temptations.
  • Isolating yourself. Put a “do not disturb” sign on the door, or hide out somewhere. (Seriously!)
  • If you can’t get away, use noise-cancelling headphones or music to drown out the other distractions around you.
  • Opening a notebook or notebook application. If a thought comes up (my brother’s birthday is tomorrow!), write it down and get your brain back on your story.
  • Get a glass of water. Even if you’re only slightly dehydrated, it will affect your ability to think clearly.
  1. Meditate the Easy Way (Practice Focusing)

Most of us have trained ourselves not to focus by responding to distractions all the time. (“Ooh, I got 50 retweets!”) Meditation can help you ditch this bad habit. And don’t worry—you don’t have to be fancy about it.

All you have to do is set the timer for ten minutes, sit quietly, breathe deeply, and focus on one thing. Maybe it’s an image of your favorite place, a candle flame, a spoken sound, or the flower in the corner of the room. Allow your thoughts to come and go without reacting to them. Keep bringing your attention back to your focal point.

Expect it to be uncomfortable. Expect that your brain will keep bugging you to do something else. Resist. Sit. Focus. (I dare you.)

Meditation is the perfect training for focus and concentration. The more you do it, the better you will get at it. If you try it for just a week, you’ll likely notice improvements in your ability to focus faster.

  1. Practice Delayed Gratification

You can make your VLPFC stronger by finding daily ways to resist your impulses.

Start by resisting for only five minutes. If you want that donut or other nighttime snack, make yourself wait for five minutes. If you’re dying to answer a text, wait for five minutes. If you feel a little chilled, give it five minutes before you put on your sweater.

The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it, until you’re able to focus quickly and for long periods of time without getting distracted.

Guess What? It Takes Only Weeks to Improve Your Focusing Skills!

As it becomes easier to sink into your story every day, broaden your application to your other projects. Ask yourself how long it takes you to focus on a task at work, for example, on a conversation with a colleague or friend, or even on a television show. Watch yourself to see how often you are distracted, and how many times you resist those distractions.

 Focus is a skill, much like playing a musical instrument or…writing! Practice, practice, practice, and you will get better. You may surprise yourself at how quickly you can pound out those 500+ words.

Kevin McSpadden, “You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span than a Goldfish,” Time, May 13, 2015, http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/.

Colleen M. Story is the author of Overwhelmed Writer Rescue—a motivational and inspiring read full of practical, personalized solutions to help writers escape the tyranny of the to-do list and nurture the genius within. Get your free chapter here!

For more information, please see her motivational blog Writing and Wellness and her author website, or follow her on Twitter (@colleen_m_story).

Posted in Focus, Guest Post, Time Management, Writer's Attitude, Writing Time | 13 Comments

Critiques 4 U!

Oh my gosh, people! What a roller coaster the last two weeks (months??) have been. But The Emotional Wound Thesaurus has officially been released into the wild, launch week is done, and now Angela and I can safely collapse :). Let me just take one more opportunity to thank everyone who participated in our celebration, those of you who bought a copy of the book, and anyone who has sent us a kind word of encouragement about our work. It’s been a tiring week but also an uplifting and exciting one. We’re so grateful to all of you!

With all the craziness, it’s been a few months since we’ve been able to host a critique contest. I didn’t want to let another month go by without one, so in the spirit of getting things back to normal, its CRITIQUE TIME!


If you’re working on a first page and would like some objective feedback, please leave a comment that includes: 

1) your email address. Some of you have expressed concern about making your email address public; if you’re sure that the email address associated with your WordPress account is correct, you don’t have to include it here. But if you do win and I’m unable to contact you through that email address, I’ll have to choose an alternate winner.

2) your story’s genre (no erotica, please)

Also, please be sure your first page is ready to go so I can critique it before next month’s contest rolls around. If it needs some work and you won’t be able to get it to me right away, I’d like to ask that you plan on entering the next contest, once any necessary tweaking has been taken care of. 🙂


Three commenters’ names will be randomly drawn and posted tomorrow. If you win, you can email me your first page and I’ll offer my feedback. Best of luck!




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Writers Are Beautiful People…And No Matter What, They Persevere

Just a very quick note to thank everyone who participated in #writerspersevere. Oh my gosh, the stories we read…you guys truly are amazing people. Becca and I admire you so much. It is clear to us that just like the characters we write, we may come from different backgrounds, different life paths, and we have suffered different types of pain, but we are all the same when it comes to our passion for story and our persevering spirits.

For some, what I asked wasn’t easy. Opening up about difficulties we have faced or still face…this can make us feel exposed. But I want you to know I saw something else as I read through the comments to your posts, and responded to messages and emails: people were inspired by you. They felt a kinship with what you struggle with. And best of all, several people told me that what you said and what we all celebrated these last few days gave them courage to keep going. So thank you for sharing those stories.

I know exhaustion causes me to wander ever closer to  the the precipice where my sappy, sentimental thoughts live (somewhere in NY Becca is screaming, I am sure, lol), but every day, writers astound me with their kindness. It is such an honor to be part of the community. A big thank you to everyone who sent in stories, loaned us their blogs, tweeted and shared, commented, reviewed out books, and wished us well as we launched book #6With each book, we try to do right by you and earn the faith you have in us. Becca and I hope you find this newest volume to be just what you need to carry your writing upward. 🙂

Thanks to all who entered our giveaway! Almost all prizes were unlocked, so you guys were fabulous. We’re in the midst of notifying everyone, so please watch your email boxes. If prizes go unclaimed after 48 hours, we need to redraw, so you don’t want to miss a notification. 😉

Finally, a tremendous shout out to our incredible street team.

Over 200 of you signed up to help us our with this event and we could not have done it without you. Becca and I are very blessed to have such terrific people in our lives.


And now…Becca and I get to pass out.  🙂





Posted in Emotional Wound Thesaurus, Past Events, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Help Us Celebrate The Incredible Strength of Writers (And A New Book!)

The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Emotional Trauma is out in the world!

Full disclosure: this book was not easy to write. Emotional wounds are not fictional–they create heartache in the real world, too. Life, as we are all acutely aware, can be a painful teacher.

But for us to bring truth to the page we must be willing to explore all aspects of the human experience, including the psychological trauma of the past. Writers are in a unique position in that they can take these negative life lessons and use them to build authentic characters with real motivations.

We want strong, realistic characters who remind readers of themselves so they see their own life journey within the mirror of the story. If we dig deep enough, we can accomplish this.

The Writer’s Journey

But what of us writers? None of us are strangers to struggle. In fact we share one: battling the same hurdles, challenges, and sacrifices attached to a career in writing.

This is NOT an easy path to follow. Writer’s doubt is a constant companion. It takes passion–and perseverance–to keep going.

And guess what? All of you are doing it!  Because #writerspersevere

For this release, we’re inviting writers to blog about some of the obstacles they have overcome on the writing road. Check out the list at the end of this post and read a few of these stories. Let’s draw inspiration from the incredible strength of other writers. If you like, join in! Share your own story if you like, and inspire others!


In addition to this, we’re running a giveaway! What can you win? Well, that’s up to you, because the more you share any of the images here, along with the #writerspersevere hashtag, the MORE PRIZES we will add to the prize vault.

Here’s what a FULLY UNLOCKED vault looks like:

(Pretty epic, right?)

Winning something on this list could give you a BIG BOOST toward your next writing goal or milestone! More information on each of these prizes can be found HERE.


18 years or older? Meet the legal requirements here? BOOM, just fill out


Giveaway now closed–good luck! Watch your inbox. 🙂 

Then . . .

1) share this post (or one that links to this post) where appropriate.

2) add an image from the post & the hashtag #writerspersevere

We’ll count the hashtags. The more you share, the more prizes we’ll unlock!

Prizes (the final tally to be determined by Becca and me) will be drawn MIDNIGHT EST Oct 27th, and winners will be notified Oct 28th.  You have 48 hours to claim your prize, or we’ll redraw, so watch your email box! Full rules here. Prize descriptions here.

One more thing.

Each year, Becca and I donate some of our royalties to a special charity. Because our book is centered on emotionally wounding events, we’ve chosen the American Association for Suicide Prevention. Thank you for supporting us, so we in turn can pay it forward and help others.

Good luck!


To see currently unlocked prizes, visit THIS PAGE.

To read stories of inspiration and strength, follow the links below…or join in and share your own experience!







Posted in Uncategorized | 37 Comments

The Mother Lode of Links on Writing Emotional Wounds

Hi everyone! I thought with the release of  The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma, I’d do a round up of posts on emotional wounds to help with this super-challenging area.

Today I am over at Jane Friedman’s blog looking at Using Dysfunctional Behavior to Reveal Characters’ Emotional Wounds. This post looks at some of the negative defense mechanisms we can use to hint to readers that the character is struggling with the pain of an emotional wound.

If you want to back up the bus a bit and really go over What Is an Emotional Wound? then Becca’s got this covered. (It’s an excerpt from the book, too!) She’s also written about why it’s so important to identify this negative past experience.

You can find ideas on uncovering your character’s emotional wound here and here, and if you want to understand what “type” of wound your character has, try Understanding Character Wounds: A List of Common Themes.

If you want to better grasp how emotional wounds lead to personality flaws and other types of dysfunctional emotional shielding, check out How Your Hero’s Past Pain Determines His Character Flaws.

Also, swing by the Tools for Writers page because we’ve already uploaded tools from The Emotional Wound book. We think you’ll find the Character Arc Progression Tool and the Backstory Wound Profile VERY helpful!

If you’d like to check out The Emotional Wound Thesaurus just visit this page here.

You can also add it to your Goodreads shelf. Or if you want to access all 13 of our thesauri in one place online, check out One Stop for Writers’s version of this thesaurus, which we will be adding even more entries to in coming days.

Help Us With Fundraising?

Finally, if you think you’d be interested in obtaining a webinar recording of an Emotional Wound Master Class Becca and I will be giving, just leave us your address HERE and we’ll contact you with more information as soon as we have it.

We will be selling these recordings for the unbelievable bargain of $10 each to raise money to go toward a writer in our community who lost her home in the California Cascade wildfire. ALL profits will go toward the effort to rebuild.













Posted in Character Wound, Emotional Wound Thesaurus, Uncategorized, Writing Craft, Writing Lessons | 9 Comments