Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What I Learned From Deconstructing A Novel

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

I've heard some talk about the benefits of deconstructing a novel, so I decided to try it. And I wanted to share what I learned.

I scoured the Internet for blog posts on the subject of deconstructing a novel so I could learn how others went about it. I picked my favorite advice and came up with my own plan. I filled out a general paragraph for the overall story. I made a list of things to look for in each scene. Then I grabbed a stack on index cards and started reading. I chose the book The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson because I loved the story and wanted to see what I could learn from it.

My general paragraph:

The hero wants _________________________ (story goal) because _________________________ (his motivation for why he wants the goal) but ____________________________ (conflict for why he can't have his goal).

Here is my filled-in paragraph for The Rithmatist:

Joel wants to be a Rithmatist because it's noble and exciting and he thinks he could be a good one, but he missed his inception ceremony years ago and now he's too old to be tested.

Here is the list of things I looked for in each scene:

Scene #
Opening line
Characters present in the scene
Gist of what's happening
POV's goal for the scene
Author's goal for the scene
The reader reads on because...
The scene advances the story because...
Scene/chapter hook
Feeling it leaves me with

And here is how my first two cards looked for The Rithmatist.

Scene #: 1
Chapter: Prologue
Opening line: "Lilly's lamp blew out as she bolted down the hallway."
Pages: 11-13 (3 pages)
POV: Lilly
Characters present in the scene: Lilly, an unnamed bad guy, and chalklings (fantasy creatures)
Date: unknown (The first time I read the book, I had assumed this scene happened before chapter one, but after I read the book, I realized it happened after chapter one.)
Setting/Location: Alternate America, early 1900s. A house in the city of Jamestown.
Gist of what's happening: A girl is being attacked by someone. She tries to defend herself with magic.
Conflict: A girl is being attacked.
POV's goal for the scene: Lilly wants to protect herself.
Author's goal for the scene: To show the bad guy and the magic at work, to show some of how the people live in this storyworld, and to plant this danger in the minds of the reader (I think, since chapter one opens in a rather non-exciting way).
The reader reads on because... we want to see what happened to Lilly.
The scene advances the story because... it shows that a crime took place and sets up how magic works for this story.
Chapter hook: "Lilly finally found her voice and screamed."
Feeling it leaves me with: Fear and curiosity

Scene #: 2
Chapter: 1
Opening line: "'Boring?' Joel demanded, stopping in place. 'You think the 1888 Crew-Choi duel was boring?'"
Pages: 19-23 (5 pages)
POV: Joel (our hero)
Characters present in the scene: Joel, Michael, and random students that pass by
Date: unknown
Location: School campus in Jamestown, outside, day
Gist of what's happening: Joel is talking about Rithmatics--he's obsessed with Rithmatics. And then Michael tells him he's not invited to his house for the summer.
Conflict: Michael doesn't care about Rithmatics, and he's not impressed with Joel's knowledge. / Michael doesn't want this embarrassing outsider at his house this summer when so many important kids will be there.
POV's goal for the scene: Joel wanted to convey how amazing the duel was, to get Michael as excited about Rithmatics as he is.
Author's goal for the scene: To show us who Joel is, to characterize him, to show his love of Rithmatics, to show more of how the magic works, and to show how Joel doesn't fit in.
The reader reads on because... we want to know more about Joel. We want to know what's going to happen to him next and learn more about Rithmatics. Michael might not be interested, but Joel has intrigued us with this unique magic system.
The scene advances the story because... it shows us that Joel is obsessed with Rithmatic magic---but he is not a Rithmatist. He doesn't have the magical ability to make his chalk drawings come to life. Thus the reader sympathizes with him. We like him. We want him to have what he wants. But he's in a no-win situation.
Scene hook: Well, he thought, it looks like it will be just me and Davis here all summer again. He sighed, then made his way to the campus office.
Feeling it leaves me with: Sad for Joel's lack of friends. The scene was endearing. I like him and want him not to be alone anymore.

1. Sympathetic heroes rock. The heroes from many bestselling novels have similar traits. They are orphans or come from broken homes. They are poor. They have few or no friends. They are different from everyone else and don't fit in. And they are rebellious in some way. For Joel, his father is dead and his mother works all the time to support them. He gets to go to school on scholarship. He has no real friends. He's obsessed with a magic he can't do and others think that's weird. Plus he's rebellious in that he has no business studying magic. He isn't a Rithmatist. He sneaks into Rithmatics classes, practices, and reads up on the magic---all at the risk of failing other classes.

2. Author's goals are fascinating to see unfold. When I consciously thought about the author's goal in each scene and how he delivered information to the reader, I was thrilled to see things unfold and understand his plan. (Not that I can read his mind, or anything, but I was able to make an educated guess as to what he was up to.)

3. Stories should start with some kind of action. I actually looked at several other novels, and they all started with action. And when chapter one didn't, a prologue was added that did start with action.

After finishing this project, I found it interesting to deconstruct one of my own books to see where my pacing, plot, and characterization could use some work. Now, please hear me. You can drive yourself crazy trying to make your books fit into some magical formula. And you can also waste so much time studying other novels, you never write your own. So, should you choose to venture into such a project, be careful. Watch how much time you spend on it and be prepared to call it quits. Also, you don't have to deconstruct full novels to learn. You can just do the first chapters of several books. Or the last chapters. Play around with it and see what helps you most.

Have you ever deconstructed a novel? If so, what book did you study and what did you learn from it? If you've never done this, what book might you want to deconstruct? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Another top five entry in the Go Teen Writers 1,000 word contest

Last Tuesday we posted the winning entry of the Go Teen Writers 1,000 word contest. We're taking the next few Tuesdays and Thursdays to highlight the other wonderful finalists. This entry is written by Ajax Cochrane:

The night breathed around him, sending cool air rushing over his bare arms. Sweat dripped from his nose, soaking his shirt, coating his hands so that he continually wiped them on the one dry patch on his pants cuffs. Off to his right a stick cracked, followed by a sharp grunt- that would have to be Danner. The guy couldn’t move three feet without tripping over his own boots. Martin clicked his cricket, two fast clicks followed by one slow one. Essentially, shut up and keep still. Mosquitos fluttered and whined around him, eager to drink his blood but not so eager to fly past the repellent he’d coated himself in before takeoff. West Nile virus was no joke in these parts.
A soft stuttering in the east, faint but growing, came their way. As the stutter increased to a roar, a helicopter came in low and fast, circling the area where Danner and Martin lay concealed in the bushes. Martin pulled out his light, snapped on the red filter, and ran to the middle of the clearing where he began flashing the light at the black mass of the chopper. The Huey gently lowered itself, runners barely a foot off the ground. Martin jumped on board, followed by Danner, who nearly slipped off the runner trying to scramble through the door. The chopper pulled up and away, hugging the ground as it wove through the mountains and valleys. Martin took his station in the copilot’s seat next to Felipe, and Danner sat by the mounted M-2. The metal skin of the chopper vibrated in rhythm to the thrum of the engines.
“You get them?” Felipe asked.
Martin nodded tersely. The instruments glowed soft green. Fuel, good. Trim, good. RPMs, normal. Temperature, normal. Martin stared blankly out the window on his right. They had been doing this for what, ten, twelve years now? Fly in, hit the target, fly out, get the money, go home and try to live a normal life until the next job. He was so tired. Three straight missions in as many days. After this one, he was going straight home to a hot shower and bed. Unless, of course, someone had managed to pick them up, in which case they would be halfway around the world by sunup. That was a major disadvantage to carrying out ops close to your home range- if they found you, you had to go somewhere else, whereas attacking further out gave you the option of returning home as a safe base.
The sky was turning soft grey, with tinges of purple and pink brushing the clouds that floated overhead in the early dawn. The chopper landed in a swirling cloud of dust, navigation lights winking. Anderson, the mechanic, strolled out to meet them. As the engines wound down, Martin was the first out of the chopper, knapsack hung over one shoulder, rifle in his arm.
“D’you get them, Martin?”
“Yeah. For what they’re worth. How much are they worth, anyway?”
“For us, that’s two million.”
“Then they’re probably worth at least ten to whoever wants them. Crumbs, that’s what we get, just the leftovers.”
Martin stumbled wearily to the small SUV parked in front of the hidden hangar. Anderson and Felipe cast worried looks at each other. Felipe tossed his flight helmet in a corner of the hidden hangar and walked over to the car. Danner, realizing that now was not the best time to crack a joke, waited silently in the background. At twenty-three, Danner was the youngest guy and a greenhorn compared to the rest of the gang. However, he stayed on because he had a knack for doing something totally incorrect at the right time and saving a mission gone bad. Plus, he was a dead shot with nearly any weapon, not sniper material but definitely deadly, so he stayed on despite his misplaced humor and clumsy gait.
Anderson stayed at the field as usual to check over the chopper and have it ready to go on their next flight, and to cover the entrance to the hangar. From the air, the landing site appeared to be a bare dirt clearing in the middle of the woods, the kind kids might ride out to in the evenings and race their four-wheelers on. Only, the land was private, and no one got past the front gate without a key. The hangar was a tunnel in the side of a nearby hill. Felipe, Danner and Martin drove off, the dust billowing out from under the mud flaps and hanging lazily in the air over the trail. Martin clutched the knapsack tight to his chest. Two million dollars for one dead man and three floppy disks. What a rip-off. He should have bargained for at least five. But what was done was done, and the dead inevitably stayed so.
It was a two-hour drive into the town, and another thirty minutes to the run-down ghetto where they were supposed to meet their client. It was a ghetto in a ghetto, and Martin felt for the reassuring coolness of the pistol strapped on his thigh. Felipe and Danner wore their pistols high up, on their belts, but Martin preferred to have his low, with the tip of the holstered butt just above his wrist. A faster draw, with virtually nil reaction time needed to pull it. The tattered remains of old seats pulled from junk cars and used as porch furniture competed for space with the dogs, the dirty kids, the piles of cans and bottles, building materials brought at some forgotten date to repair buildings beyond repair, and the inevitable collection of fix-up cars. Everyone in suburbs such as these thought of themselves as mechanics, and manifested it in the astounding number of rusted and battered hulks they could cram into their front yards.

What our judges thought:

You’ve set up a very interesting scenario here, and it’s within a genre that sells and creates a career.

This entry surprised me with its mature understanding of character and motivation. I felt like it started and ended in the right place, and maintained the right combination of detail and dialogue. What could have been all action and testosterone was surprisingly full of insight.

There is so much about this entry that I like. I like the MC's voice and the subject matter. The writing flows nicely as well.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Emotion beats in your dialogue

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

Dialogue is pretty much my favorite thing about writing stories. Right up there with character development. And the brainstorming process. And writing the first chapter. And pretty much everything else about writing books.

We've talked on here about minimizing your dialogue tagssaid, asked, repliedand using action beats instead to both clue the reader in on who is speaking and what is taking place while they speak.

So instead of:

"How do you not know this?" Palmer asks.

We can show our audience more by cutting the tag and showing action instead:

Palmer looks at them like they're stupid. "How do you not know this?"

What we haven't talked about yet on Go Teen Writers is using a beat to show the emotion or sound of the dialogue. Sometimes this technique is called "dialogue cues," but I think of them as emotion beats. Like you're showing the audience not just what's happening, but the emotion of the scene as well.

The easiest way to do this would be with adverbs:

"What do you mean?" he asked warily.
"I mean you're grounded," she said forcefully.

But adverbs are high on the no-no list of editors, so you need to find another way. I pulled three books off my shelf from different genres and with drastically different author voices so you can see how this plays out in a variety of stories:

"If you're gonna wallow in it, I'm going in." Alex could be reading passing stats for all the feeling in his voice. "I simply wanted to make sure you weren't making plans to climb to the top of the hotel and dive off."

This is an excellent dialogue directive because it not only tells us how he's speaking, but it's a true word picture to Alex's character as an ex-jock. I love that.

Here's another one of Jenny's that shows deep emotion:

"You knew I assumed you were proposing that night two years ago. I thought we were going to spend the rest of our lives together." The old hurt lodged in her throat and made her words hoarse. "I can't do this right now, Matt."

Really great stuff. See how much better an emotion beat is there? The dialogue would lose something, in my opinion, if instead Jenny had chosen to tell us that the character is teary or that she's reaching for a Kleenex. This is great.

Here's one more that's similar to the previous example with Alex, only it's about fifty pages later.

"Just to review, we pretend to date for approximately one month. This time in June, I will propose to you somewhere public and slightly humiliating to us both." His voice was as expressionless as if discussing his preference in athletic socks. "In five monthsa month before our wedding dateyou and I will have a very amicable, very quiet separation. We will realize we both want different things and go our separate ways..."

Jenny's books are always popping with voice, and she carries that all the way through her emotion beats.

Now let's look at an example from historical fiction:

Julie has a lovely historical voice, as you'll notice in both the dialogue and beats:

"But we have had it wrong, Mary." Mrs. Mimpurse drew near and spoke in hushed tones. "Miss Powell is marrying one of the Marlows to be sure. But not Roderick as we supposed. She is marrying Sir Henry himself."

I like this one a lot too. The dialogue is so clear to the reader's ears:

"Down, I say." She heard a man holler in false bravado. "Down!"

And since so many of your write fantasy, I pulled To Darkness Fled by Jill Williamson off my shelf as well:

"That is disgusting." Sparrow's voice cracked. "I hate this place. I hate it!"

Jill could have chosen so many action beats for dialogue like that, but I love how she chose emotion instead. Another Sparrow example:

"Your friends on Ice Island." Sparrow's raspy voice always sounded like he had a cold.

And I like in this last example how Jill combined action and emotion for the beat:

Achan met Sir Gavin's brown eyes and forced his voice to remain even, though his stomach clenched. "Of course."

Now it's your turn! Pull out your manuscript and either find a place where you've already marked the dialogue with an emotion beat, or switch out an action beat for an emotion instead. I'd love to see your examples below!

Friday, April 25, 2014

What Does a Writer Do All Day?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

I had a teen job shadow me this week, which got me thinking about the things I spend time on. Here is my list.

My word count goal changes depending on my current project and deadline. I like to divide my final word count goal by the days I have to get it done to find out how many words I need to type a day to reach the goal.

I could be re-writing a book or working on line edits from my publisher.

This is when I'm thinking up a new book. I might play around by drawing maps. I might sit with a notebook and jot down ideas. I might go on a long drive to think, think, think.

I spend too much time online researching. I lose hours in this. I dream of making enough money someday to hire a tech assistant to help me with this. It could happen. You never know.

I read a lot. I read fiction. I read non fiction. Some of it is for research. Some of it is to read my genre. Some is to read books that are getting a lot of buzz. Some is to read a book a publisher sent to me for an endorsement. Some is because I just want to read a book for fun. But I'm a writer, and I should be a reader too. So I read.

Business Writing
This is when I have to write proposals, synopses, queries, and such. It can be very time consuming. But sometimes it is easier than I expect. And those are good days.

I am addicted to Adobe Photoshop. And I use it for so many things. I create ads for my books. I create maps for my books. I create extras for my books. I also create images for posting on Facebook or Pinterest.

I blog for Go Teen Writers. And when I have time, I blog on my author website. I haven't blogged on my author website in several weeks...

Website Updates
I periodically must update my author website so that it is current. I do this at least once a month to keep up with my monthly giveaway. But I also change ads every-so-often. And I like to update my WIP word counts. I don't know if anyone looks at those. But it makes me happy to see them grow.

Social Media
I should only pop onto Facebook or Twitter once or twice a day. But I often leave it open all day and do a lot of procrastinating there. I'm thinking it might be a good idea to just not log in each morning.

I spend time promoting my books or myself in various ways. I try only to do this when I have a new book, only because I could make a full time job out of promotion. Doing interviews falls into this category. And book giveaways too.

Critiquing Others
When my author friends need help, I read their work and give them feedback. And I do occasional critiques for people as well. I also judge contests sometimes. I try not to do too many critiques because this is one of the most time-consuming things I do. I just can't critique quickly.

This is a beast that haunts me. I feel as though I will never catch up on email. It just keeps coming. And some of them are harder or more time-consuming to answer than others. So those tend to sit in my inbox until I have some extra time, which I often have none of.

I also spend quite a bit of time with snail mail. I do lots of giveaways. And sometimes people buy books from me online. So I make many trips to the post office to mail things. They know me well down there.

Bills, Royalty Payments, and Taxes
I am a business, and as such, I have bills to pay. Many more bills than I'd like. So that takes time each month. I also pay royalties to Stephanie for the GTW book and to my friends who adopted a child for Chokepoint. I try to pay royalties every quarter. It takes me several hours to do this. And when tax time rolls around, I need at least two days to get my stuff all added up and turned in to my accountant.

Looking for Stuff
Sadly, I waste time looking for things I've misplaced. Last week, I spent and hour and a half looking for a map that I'd brainstormed some notes on. It is very frustrating. I do try to keep organized so that this doesn't happen. But every once in a while, it just does.

No wonder I have trouble getting my word count in some days! How about you? What do you do all day?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

One of the top five entries from the Go Teen Writers 1,000 word contest

We posted the winning entry on Tuesday, and today we're highlighting one of our finalists, Deborah Rocheleau:

I never went boating when upset. At least, that’s what I told myself as my boat’s prow sliced the water, skimming over the frothing waves. After all the sea turtles I’d treated with Gramps, all the torn flippers and split shells from collisions with careless boaters, I swore I’d never put one in danger myself. But some days, the best life philosophies and most sincere promises can’t keep you away from the ocean. Especially when it’s the only place your nagging sister won’t follow you.
So when the boat’s hull clunked against something hard in the water, the propeller hiccupping a beat, it knocked the bold thoughts right out of my head and out to sea.
I cut the motor, letting the boat coast to a stop in the water. Rushing to the stern, I leaned out the back and scanned the waves behind the slowing propeller. A mushroom of red blossomed below. It hovered a moment, then began to sink.
That did not just happen.
I pulled my cellphone out of my pocket, racing through my contacts. George was an hour away in Grace Port, and Dad was out of the question. So, swallowing a lump, I scrolled down the list and speed-dialed Anna.
She answered in three seconds.
“Anna, meet me at the beach. By the old boat access.” I didn’t elaborate. Snapping the phone shut, I plunged into the water, shoes and all.
My mouth filled with the taste of saltwater and blood. In the murk under the surface, I felt rather than saw the barnacled shell of a turtle, wide as a steering wheel and slick with algae. I braced myself for the beat of flippers, the struggle of a frantic turtle, but none came. No thrashing head, no gnawing beak. Instead, I did my best to kick upward and shove her toward the light.
I broke the surface with the turtle. She was heavy, but she bobbed out of the water easily enough—must be suffering from floating syndrome. I lifted her—or maybe him, I couldn’t tell—out of the water, glancing over her shell to assess her condition. Bad idea. My hands trembled when I saw the gash, her carapace cracked in two by the propeller, the wound awash in blood and waves. I saw the damage I’d done, a sight so brutal it made me sick. I’d killed her, I knew it. It didn’t take an expert in turtles to tell that.
But as I brought her toward the boat, desperate to save at least her dead body, I felt a rush of hope as her flipper slapped against me.
Glancing toward the shore, I scanned for Anna. There, in the lot by the beach, I saw her standing in front of her car as if she’d been waiting for me this whole time. Sometimes her quick reactions scared me. Propelling myself out of the water, I waved my arms over my head and yelled until she spotted me.
I wasn’t far out, only a brisk swim’s distance from shore. Upon seeing me, Anna kicked off her shoes and charged into the waves, starting freestyle when it got deep, eyes locked on me. A trained lifeguard, she reached me in no time.
“What should I do?” she asked when she reached the boat, flipping the hair out of her eyes. She stared at the bloody turtle, seeing one up close and critical for the first time.
“Help me get her into the boat,” I shouted, reaching for the ladder hanging over the port side. Scrambling up, I found the net Gramps kept onboard for emergencies and unfolded it. Throwing it to Anna, I leaned over the side of the boat, so close to the waves they stung my face as I stroked the turtle’s flipper.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
“Stop being sorry and help me,” Anna said. The turtle had stopped moving again, and I wondered if I’d imagined the slap. Anna tucked the net under the turtle, tossing the corner back to me. I held tight as she climbed into the boat, then helped me lift the two-hundred pound animal up over the side to safety. We never could have done it, if the turtle weren’t so sickly thin.
“Aren’t you supposed to call somebody?” Anna asked as I draped a damp towel over the turtle to keep her wet. Staring at the animal, still as death and headed that way, I knew I should call wildlife control. She needed help. She needed a doctor. But what would the authorities say when they realized I was the one who’d hit her?
“Never mind.” Anna snatched the phone from me. “I’ll do it. You drive.”
Stumbling to the steering wheel, I started the motor and sped away.
Wildlife control was waiting for us by the time we reached the boat access. I smashed the side of the dock as I steered into port, jumping out as the rescuers in their uniforms hopped into the boat and began to unload the turtle. They took their time in checking her condition, assessing the damage even as she bled before them. On deck, Anna talked to the rescuer with the clipboard, filling him in on what few details she knew. She didn’t mention I was the one driving (mistake number one) or that I’d jumped into the water (mistake number two) or that I’d handled a member of a threatened species, tried to save her myself when I knew I ought to leave it to the professionals. If that didn’t spell negligence, I didn’t know what did.
“We’ll take it from here,” the lead rescuer said. He opened the metal doors of the rescue van as members of his team loaded the turtle. She still wasn’t moving. I watched, motionless, as the uniformed rescuers climbed into the van. As they reached to pull the doors closed, I snapped into action.
“Take her to Grace Port University,” I yelled. “They have an operating room.”

What our judges had to say:

There is a maturity to the way you tell a story that is very appealing. And, the scene with the turtle…I haven’t read anything like it. So major points for originality.

Beautifully written! This one stayed in my mind as one of my favorites from the start. It's not the fastest paced story in the world, but the writing is beautiful and descriptive. The author did a great job of layering the piece with a lot of emotion without being manipulative.

This excerpt has a lovely pace and your mc's panic was palpable. Good job.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Is There More Than One Plot Type?

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Everywhere you look, it feels like it's more of the same. Hero saves the day. Boy gets girl, loses girl, gets girl back. Rebels expose corrupt government. Action hero saves the world and doesn't get a scratch. There is a protagonist, maybe two, if it's a romance. And all these stories fit into nifty three-act structures.

But is that the only way to tell a story? What if your story doesn't have a disaster? What if you have four acts instead of three? What if you have five protagonists? What if your story is all narration and you like it that way? Does that mean you are doing things wrong?

Not necessarily.

The three-act structure is, indeed, the most popular model for storytelling today. It's been around a really long time, too. Greek philosopher Aristotle gets credit for the idea since he said in his Poetics, "A whole is what has a beginning and middle and end." And Hollywood has perfected this structure, as have novelists. The thing works. Readers and viewers like it. But sometimes it feels wrong for your story idea. Sometimes you want to do something different. But what?

I once wrote a post on Georges Polti's 36 Plot Structures. And that list might get your brain thinking of new ideas. But I recently stumbled upon another list of plot types that enthralled me, and I wanted to share them with you. Dr. Charles Ramírez Berg has written numerous articles on film and is currently a professor of film history, screenwriting, and criticism. He created a list of alternative plot types for filmmakers, but I think that we can learn much from his analysis of films. I've listed several of them below.

The Daisy Chain Plot
This type of story has no main protagonist. One character's entire story leads right into the next character's entire story, and so on. Sometimes the story will come back to the first protagonist. Sometimes not. But this is a fun way to tell a story. My husband had an idea for a Daisy Chain Plot once. He wanted to tell a story that followed a one dollar bill.

The Ensemble Plot
In this type of plot, there are many protagonists. No one character is more important than another. The stories may intertwine. Or they might not. But each protagonist has his or her own story to tell. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a good literary example of an ensemble plot.

The Multiple Personality Plot
Here the main character plays more than one role. Maybe one person is living two lives. Or maybe he's schizophrenic. Or maybe he's been cloned. Or maybe he's a time traveler, so there is two of the him in the story at once. Or maybe he's George Bailey, getting to see what life would be like if he were never born, though, I suppose, there is only ever one George in the story at a time, so maybe that doesn't count.

The Subjective/Internal Plot
In this type of story, the plot is all inside the main character's mind. It's personal, emotional, internal. And it's very subjective or one-sided. We only get the perspective of once character. You might argue that all first person stories are this way. But a Subjective Plot is different. The story happens more in the characters thoughts than in his actions. This type of storytelling requires a unique voice and lots of narration.

The Backwards Plot 
This story is told backwards. Best example I can think of is the movie Memento. If you haven't seen it, it's pretty cool. Warning: it's scary. But these types of stories are told in reverse. There was an episode of Seinfeld told this way once. It was pretty entertaining.

The Repeated Action Plot
Ever seen the movie Groundhog's Day? How about 50 First Dates? Both are examples of the Repeated Action Plot in which the hero re-lives the same event over and over and over until he, somehow, manages to break the cycle. I saw one last Christmas called 12 Dates of Christmas. You can probably see the whole movie in your head just from that title.

The Repeated Event Plot
Picture a police detective trying to get the facts at a crime scene. He might hear over and over, "That's not how it happened." That's the gist of this plot type in which we have one event happening over and over, each time seen through a different character's eyes.

The Jumbled Plot
Here you have a number of scenes that appear to make no sense at all. But the story is like a puzzle. A nonlinear sequence of events. Out of order. Confusing at first. But each time a scene is added, the story will make more sense until it all comes together in the end. Quentin Tarantino really seems to like this style of storytelling.

The Existential Plot
In this type of story, the goal is often simply "stay alive." Many war stories fit into this category, and the reader/viewer experiences the action first hand. We often don't have a clue what is going on. At all. But we'll figure it out eventually. This type of story is meant to be honest and immerse you into the existence of the main character. You experience life as is, and it might not be pretty in the beginning, middle, or end.

So what do you think? Ever thought of writing a story that didn't fit the typical three-act structure or didn't have a main character and a happy ending? Which one of these plot types most interests you? Share in the comments.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The winner of the 1,000 word Go Teen Writers contest

Congratulations to Anastasia Elizabeth K. who won the Go Teen Writers 1,000 word contest!

We are extremely grateful to literary agent Amanda Luedeke who took time out of her very busy agenting, writing, dog-owning schedule to provide feedback for our five talented finalists. We're also grateful to authors Laura Anderson Kurk and Shannon Dittemore who gave so much time and energy to selecting the top five and providing feedback for those in the top twenty.

The top five entries are all so amazing that we want you to have a chance to read all of them. Today we'll post Anastasia's and we'll post the others on the following Tuesdays and Thursdays:

Anastasia Elizabeth's winning entry:


LAW 1.1: Any sort of progress relating to standard improvement, whether it be scientific, technical, medical, or mechanical, is forbidden.
Minors under sixteen subject to ten years in prison; adults subject to death.


I’ve been here long enough, I know.
I know when rush hour is heaviest. I know how long it takes the lights to switch. I see that display in the lingerie store that never changes, even though all of us wish it would. Off to the right is a coffee shop that is open at ungodly hours like four and serves mostly bagels, no coffee.
I know to walk on the pavement closest to the cars because it’s the least crowded and the blue curb is wide enough I don’t lose my balance. People pass by on my left, all the students who don’t have cars to get them to their jobs on time. I don’t have a job, and probably never will, but I snatched a jacket from Charlie’s closet a while back and I found sixty-five cents in the sleeve pocket. It’s enough to buy a coffee-shop bagel.
I know what I’ll see if I look up. I’ll see a long, straight road with more silver cars than blue and every so often a bike. I’ll see red-brick buildings. I’ll see trees, and against those trees, I’ll see the contaminated.
So I don’t want to look up.
But, as always, I do, right when I’m passing one. Right when I’m passing him. He’s eight, maybe nine, and has knees hugged to his chest and eyes caving in on themselves. He begs for food but of course nobody gives it to him, since he’ll throw it right back up again and the faster he dies, the better off the rest of us will be.
We mill a good three yards away from him, an arc of limbs and faces nailed to ground, a mass determined not to die. Even our breath smells of fear, of hesitation, of don’t breathe in don’t breathe in.
The stretch of pavement around him is starch white, blown with leaves and debris. I sure don’t want to die, either, but I remember when I was eight and go over to him.
“Here.” I press my bagel into his hand and force myself not to hold my breath.
Breakfast, as they say, is the most important meal of the day, and this is why I never eat it.
I peel away from the crowd and duck into an alley. It’s a tight one—spread your arms and both elbows brush brick. Usually I walk this barefoot or in old flip flops, but Charlie gave me these sneakers for my birthday a few months ago and I swiped the jacket too. You’d think the adoption agency would make sure I have these, but we have a system. I keep out of their hair if they pretend I don’t exist.
Sidestep garbage bag, oil puddle from drain pipe, and a few loose cement blocks, and I crawl out into open air. This is where the stretch of buildings ends and the trees begin. Look behind both ways, and it’s brick wall after brick wall, differing heights like jagged teeth. Smoke pours from a few chimneys jutting up and through sky. I inhale deep as I cut my way to a stretch of dirt weaving through the woods.
Sunlight peeks through leaves, littering little yellow spotlights all over hard-packed earth. The smell is cleaner than the contagion we breathe in town. I trudge along the path, my foot landing in mud every few steps. Half a mile through, my hunger sets in and he’s probably puked by now, but I just shrug off the stomach ache; it’s easy enough because there’s more important things to think about. Today is the day Charlie and I worked out to set the machine. Even if we haven’t spoken in a while, I’m going to keep my word.
Another climb and I’m at the warehouse. The gray paint is chipped like claw marks and the roof is caving in. It’d look like a regular barn if it wasn’t for the bomb shell a couple yards off.
We agreed to meet here, Charlie and I. Three days from now is when we decided we'd finally do it, so talking today is kind of important.
My fingertips have just touched the door knob when I hear my mom’s name.
"Well, if it isn't Cassidy Levine."
My bones go rigid. I whip around, both hands locked on the handle.
The man steps forward, laughs, his hands jammed in pockets. Jedidiah. And who else was I expecting, really? He searches me out almost once a month. Nobody else ever bothers.
Jedidiah looks the same as I've always known him. In his twenties with blond hair, broad shoulders, and charcoal gray eyes. Gray like the whales that died out centuries ago. And like the gun strapped to his hip.
"Can't get over it. Damn, girl, you look just like her."
"What are you doing here?"
There he goes, laughing again. Something hot presses against my chest like an iron or maybe hate. "I could ask you the same thing. It's a bit too dangerous out in these woods for a li'l sap, din'cha know?" A smile curves at the edge of his mouth all lopsided. "Wonder if you remember last time."
I force out a laugh, and I hate myself for it, hate how stupid I seem doing it. My hand clutches my shoulder, skin tingling. "Don't think I could forget," I say. My voice reeks calm and everything else spills fear and an aching urge to run. "What do you want?"
Idly his finger traces the shotgun at his waist. It's no rifle and the caliber isn't so big but it's a gun nonetheless, a real one in the flesh. Wonder if it's the same one he killed her with.

What our judges thought:

Amanda: This sample provides a fresh look at the dytopian genre, told in a wonderfully stylistic voice. Two years ago, at the height of the dystopian frenzy, I have no doubt this manuscript would have been considered for publication. 

Our authors:

I didn't expect to like this one as much as I did, but the main character's empathy in the midst of barrenness won me over. I think the author is onto something with this character and I'd like to see where it goes from here. Also has grasp of convention and form.

Love this so much. The writing is effortless. The characters compelling. I would love to see this on a bookshelf.

Congratulations to Anastasia!

Monday, April 21, 2014

When is it okay to tell rather than show in my story?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

A week ago I posted on how to show your story rather than tell it. The trick we learnedcourtesy of Jeff Gerkeis to ask ourselves, "Could the camera see this? Could the microphone pick this up?" And if not, we should ask how to make it visible or audible.

This trick keeps us from writing phrases like, "Piper felt angry." Though a sentence like, "Piper smiled," isn't telling because it's something the audience can see.

After reading last Monday's post, you might have been tempted to rip from your novel every phrase that can't be put on a stage. But let's consider this sentence:
If he didn’t know it already, Jeremiah Crane is about to learn that I’m not the type of girl to be pushed around.
This is the first line of my manuscript. You can make a case that it's telling. After all, you can't see or hear that on a stage, can you?

But this falls in the quirky category of internal monologue. We're tuned in to Piper's thoughts as she prepares to engage in a battle to defend her friend. And if we had a microphone in her head, we would be able to hear this. When you're checking your internal monologue to see if you've crossed over to telling, that's a good test to run. Because it would be telling if I instead used one of these:

I'm angry with Jeremiah Crane and intend to teach him I'm not the type of girl to be pushed around.
When Jeremiah takes the seat my friend is about to sit in, I decide to teach him I'm not the type of girl to be pushed around.

These cross a subtle line into telling because they are sentences that seek to explain to the reader what is happening and which emotion the character is feeling.

And that's what telling primarily isexplaining something to the reader rather than letting them interpret details for themselves.

So when can you explain something to your reader?

You have to make sure it's a question your reader has been asking.

A common issue among new fantasy writers is to open with a prologue that details the history of their country. But on page one, your reader is not asking about the history of the country. They don't care yet because you haven't given them a reason to.

And almost all new writers (and some not-so-new writers) struggle with dumping too much character backstory into the first few chapters. We do this because we desperately want our readers to understand everything. We don't want them to be confused, so we pause the story to explain.

Let's look at something on page one in my manuscript. This is still Jeremiah and my main character, Piper.

Jeremiah glances at my hand. “I see you haven’t changed.”
I push my bruised hand into my pocket.
Jeremiah’s gaze flicks beyond me. “I believe your friend has found another place to wait. If talking to me offends you so, perhaps you should join her.”

Now what if I had instead written:

He glances at my hand. “I see you haven’t changed.”
I push my bruised hand into my pocket. Sister Alice had beaten me with the ruler again when my sewing stitches weren't even.Jeremiah’s gaze flicks beyond me. “I believe your friend has found another place to wait. If talking to me offends you so, perhaps you should join her.”

The first example is more intriguing. Why is Piper's had bruised? What kind of girl is this? But in the second example, I raise the question in one sentence and answer it in the next. That won't build intrigue and keep readers turning pages.

How do you know if the reader is asking the question? You should be dropping in teasers, same as you would as you're pacing a big reveal in your story. For something like Piper's hand, which isn't a big part of the story, I'll maybe make one more mention of it before we find out what happened. Even then, I'm going to do my best to tell as much as I can in dialogue rather than outright pausing the story.

For something bigger, you may require a flashback or a brief here's-what-happened summary. You can get away with doing this only once or twice during a novel, so make sure you pick wisely, that you've placed your hints well, and that you don't dawdle your way through the explanation.

Here's another fine time to tell rather than show - in the first draft.

My first drafts are full of telling. It didn't take me long to pull a few examples out of my manuscript. (These are pulled from different sections and are unrelated to each other.)

I lean back in my seat, deflated
I laugh and feel strangely embarrassed as I touched my bobbed hair. 
“Piper, I’m going to give up baseball.”
Give up baseball? Walter has been obsessed with baseball his entire life. And he’s so good. “How can you even think that? Did training not go well?”

Those are all moments that I crossed into explaining to my readers rather than letting them interpret. When I do my micro-edit (my second round of edits) I'll be looking for ways to convert this telling to showing.

Are there any questions I can help answer about this?

Friday, April 18, 2014

What should writers worry about when they're in high school?

By Sarah Blinco

Sarah Blinco is editor of (, and creator of Media Bootcamp ( which is a digital training tool designed to get you on the fast-track to your dream career. She's worked in publishing and radio and is always happy to answer questions - you'll find her at or Tweet @sarahblinco

‘What should I do with my life’? It's a question we all ponder, and it's a tough one! It’s hard enough being in school, completing the final years of senior and trying to work out what you want to do with your life, but how do you discover all the options? Often mentors are not on hand who are able to answer such industry-specific questions – wouldn’t it be nice if they were!

I was chatting to an author friend about this recently and we both absolutely wish there’d been someone to help us out with more answers when we were in high school. Doing my bit to impart some wisdom then, this post is with particular reference to those of you who love things like media,  writing and English, even drama and the arts. In school you’re usually only exposed to a few job types:

radio personality

The really obvious ones, but did you know there’s a whole array of wonderful jobs out there where you can apply your love of writing and communications?

Let’s try an exercise.

Aside from media, writing or performing, what are you most interested in, or what do you love? E.g. your dog, red carpet fashion, astronomy, music, blogging, technology, movies, traveling?

Write it down on a piece of paper. Now consider, whatever you have written down, there’s a communications role associated with it! If you love your dog – or more widely, animals – you could end up in a communications role with an organization that protects and campaigns for animals. You might end up managing their magazine or website. Or perhaps you’ll be in their public relations department, or devise advertising campaigns? For those who perhaps said technology, well, where should we start? There’s a million tech start-ups who need writers and content creators, or you may end up managing their publicity and writing for a related blog! These are just a couple of examples, but I hope you understand my drift.

Of course, there’s the traditional media stream that you may dwell in too, and that’s great – television news, radio presenting, writing for a magazine, newspaper or digital media, or maybe you’ll talk your way into high places as part of a funky PR team.

The aim of this little spiel is to get you thinking. To get the juices flowing. Don’t get stuck in the mundane or feel like you’re limited, or even that you have to work it all out right now (because you don’t). Just know there’s amazing opportunities out there where you can combine your talents with your passions in life – keep surrounding yourself the things you enjoy, and it will fall into place.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Images, Animated Gifs, and Copyright Law for Bloggers

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

For Bloggers everywhere, copyright infringement is a concern that often lingers in our minds as we post images and wonder if we are breaking the law. I've wondered this many times myself before. And several of you have asked about this. So I consulted James Scott Bell for help on those gray areas I wasn't sure of (Thanks, Jim!) and managed to put together this post. I hope it helps.

Copyright law is designed to protect the creator of a work from people using that work without paying or obtaining permission. (For a more information on copyright law, click here.) Copyright law is sometimes a very gray area, and it can be difficult to know when you've crossed the line. Here are some things I can tell you are blatantly illegal:

-Downloading pirated ebooks, music, TV shows, or movies.
-Using pirated images to make book covers, T-shirts, or any product that you sell or helps you profit (which would include advertising images).
-Putting song lyrics into your book without gaining permission and paying the appropriate fees. (The fees are not a set amount. Each owner decides whether or not to grant permission and how much to charge.)

So what does pirated mean?



1. a person who robs or commits illegal violence at sea or on the shores of the sea.
2. a ship used by such persons.
3. any plunderer, predator, etc.: confidence men, slumlords, and other pirates.
4. a person who uses or reproduces the work or invention of another without authorization.
5. Also called pirate stream. Geology. a stream that diverts into its own flow the headwaters of another stream, river, etc.

verb (used with object), pi·rat·ed, pi·rat·ing.
6. to commit piracy upon; plunder; rob.
7. to take by piracy: to pirate gold.
8. to use or reproduce (a book, an invention, etc.) without authorization or legal right: to pirate hit records.
9. to take or entice away for one's own use: Our competitor is trying to pirate our best salesman.

verb (used without object), pi·rat·ed, pi·rat·ing.
10. to commit or practice piracy.

I highlighted the definitions of pirate that applied to our discussion. But basically, it's stealing. If you copy and paste an image or download it from online without paying for it, you pirated it.

So what can you do, then? What's legal?

First, you need to understand fair use. The fair use law is designed to defend the user against a claim of copyright infringement when the subject matter was used to teach, offer criticism, or parody. (For a longer definition of fair use law, click here.) But you can use certain materials when you are teaching, critiquing, or mocking (in a kind way).

Teaching ( Give Commentary)
When I write blog posts, I often use images from movies in my posts. This falls in line with fair use laws. In the Go Teen Writers book, Stephanie and I were able to quote many passages from published novels without obtaining written permission from the publishers of those book because of the fair use law. We were very careful not to abuse this by:

-Using passages of 300 words or less.
-Using each passage as an example of something the author did well. (We never used a quote to say something negative.)
-Using only one example per novel.
-Citing the author's name and book title with each quote.

In doing this, we kept everything in line with the fair use law.

A writer or blogger offers critique when they write a review of something. This is most done in our industry in book reviews. You legally can post an image of a book cover for a book you are writing a review for. And you can legally quote a few lines from the book as well.

This is when you make fun of something. And here, you should be careful. Weird Al writes parodies of famous songs. But, if I'm not mistaken, he gets permission first to keep himself out of trouble. Some people just don't have his sense of humor.

If you are posing images or animated gifs on your blog that come from movies or television, you do not need to get permission. A production studio could see it and decide to make an issue out of it. But they probably would never see it, and even if they did, they probably wouldn't take issue with it. Prosecuting such things is not worth their time and money. Plus, most these blogs only help spread the word about their book or movie. It's free advertising.

I made a series of flyers for an event for our youth group once that used famous movie posters. I took photos of my husband and me and re-made the posters. This is another an example of using copyrighted material to make fun of or parody. Altering an image or video that is copyrighted falls under fair use law as long as you are not using the image for profit and as long as the image does not convey the idea that the original creator is endorsing you. Both those things are deceitful on your part and break copyright law.

Un-famous Images
For pictures that don't fall under fair use law, things get trickier. There are a lot of artists out there---photographers and graphic artists---who are looking to build careers. They put their images online, often on royalty photo sites like iStock Photo or Shutterstock. These are places where they can sell their images. It is illegal for you to copy and paste these and use them for any reason. It is illegal for you to open the image in Photoshop and erase the watermark. These images are for sale, and taking them without paying is stealing.

People download pirated ebooks, movies, TV shows, and songs all the time. And it's illegal. And as authors, we should understand what this means to other artists. When it happens, the musician, author, or artist doesn't get paid.

It can be difficult to know for certain whether or not an image is copyright protected. The only way to know for certain is to purchase images or to use images that have a Creative Commons license. To learn more about Creative Commons, click here.

It's not worth my time to bother searching for Creative Commons images to use. But there are some sites out there in which you can find free images quickly.

Getty Images offers a wide variety of images that can be used for blogging without charge, and they make it easy for users as well. Simply let your cursor hover over the image and click on the embed icon.

Here are some other image sites to consider. Just make sure you read the Terms of Use for each site:

Any questions about copyright infringement?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Top 5 Finalists in the Go Teen Writers 1,000 Word Writing contest

Congratulations to the writers whose entries were chosen for the top five in our 1,000 word contest: (Listed alphabetically)

Ajax Cochrane
Anastasia Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth Liberty Lewis
Deborah Rocheleau 
The Russian Pianist

Their entries have been passed on to super stud agent, Amanda Luedeke. Congratulations!

Monday, April 14, 2014

How to SHOW your story instead of telling it

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

I'm guessing that every single fiction writer at some point in his or her journey has been told, "You're telling too much and you need to show instead." does that mean? Can you tell that a character smiled, or do you have to show it? (The corners of Piper's mouth raised until her mouth formed the shape of a crescent moon...) Can you say that a character poured herself a glass of milk, or do you have to show it? (Piper reached her hand to the door knob and pulled the cabinet door toward her. Then she selected a glass and placed it on the counter...)

It's confusing, right? Just to offer a bit of comfort, showing rather than telling is one of the last big concepts to click for most writers. (The other is using point of view correctly.) So if you're struggling with showing, and if you're consistently struggling with showing, you're far from alone.

Resist telling emotions.

When you hear industry professionals talk about showing rather than talking, predominately they're talking about emotions rather than action. 

"Piper poured herself a glass of milk" is a fine thing to say in a book. 

"Piper felt angry as she poured herself a glass of milk" is not.

I challenge you to run a search in your manuscript for the word felt because it's almost always used for telling something that you could be showing. Another red flag word is thought:

"Piper thought about Mariano and felt angry while she poured herself a glass of milk."

Why do we naturally tell instead of showing?

Well, for one thing, it's easier. It's how we handle stories that we tell our friends in real life ("I was feeling so bummed out, so I went to get ice cream...") so we're programmed to do it.

But I think the biggest reason is that we want the reader to be perfectly clear on why the character is doing everything they are. That's why we constantly have to fight our desire to explain everything our character is doing. 

I listened to an incredible class on this topic by Jeff Gerke where he said what you'll sacrifice in clarity, you'll make up for in reader interest. While we don't want our reader completely confused, we do want them to feel intrigued by what the character is doing. And part of that is not explaining every detail.

Think of your book as a movie or a stage play.

In the Jeff Gerke class I listened to (which I wish I could link to, but I listened to it from one of my conference CDs) his advice to know if you're telling or not is to ask yourself, "Could an audience see it if this were a movie or a play?" If not, you've likely crossed into telling.

Of course a novel is a different art form than screenplays, and there's definitely a need for internal monologue, so don't go ripping it all out of your manuscript. But do keep an eye out for when you're using internal monologue for sneaky telling. 

You'll notice that lots of classics are full of telling. Those were written for a different audience—an audience who hadn't been brought up on a steady diet of movies and TV shows. The modern reader is accustomed to having their stories shown to them, and while they'll have patience with Jane Austen, they likely won't extend the same patience to you.

Let's go back to Piper and her glass of milk. Put her on stage—how can we show that she's angry and thinking of Mariano while she pours the milk? She could be grinding her teeth. She could pour the milk with a bit too much gusto, and when it sloshes out of the glass she mutters, "Mariano," as if it's all his fault.

There are lots of ways to show it, and all of them are far more interesting than "Piper felt angry."

Is description telling?

Using the Jeff Gerke trick, no. Because it's something the audience can see. You're not telling, you're showing the audience where the character is. Much like decorating a stage.

Is dialogue ever telling?

YES. When your character is saying some solely for the benefit of the audience, you've crossed into telling. My personal pet peeve is dialogue that looks like this:

Guy: How long have we known each other, dear?
Gal: Why, ten years, of course.
Guy: And that's why I'm giving you this 10-carat diamond.

I hear versions of that way too often on shows and in books, minus the ridiculous size of the diamond. Character A should never tell Character B something that Character A knows Character B already knows. (I rewrote that sentence approximately a dozen times to try and make it more clear, and I'm not sure I achieved it! Don't let characters say things they know other characters know.) 

Sometimes writers work way too hard to inform the reader: "Well, Jim, we sure missed you last night at the game but I'm sure you had a lot of fun at your niece's concert."  You can still work in that information, but you can find a much more natural way to do it:

Guy: Hey, Jim. We missed you at the game last night.
Jim: I would've much rather been with you guys, trust me. A kindergarten concert isn't exactly my idea of a good time.
Guy: It's nice that you went. I'm sure your niece appreciated it.

Are action tags telling?

Can you say that a character laughed or a character smiled? Yes. If you can see it through a camera (or pick it up with a microphone) then it's showing. You don't need to get all fancy with character's mouths becoming crescent moons or anything.

Is it ever okay to tell?

Yes. And we'll discuss that next Monday!

Friday, April 11, 2014

10 Ways To Deal with the Love Triangle in Your Book

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books for teens in lots of weird genres like, fantasy (Blood of Kings trilogy), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website.

Love triangles. Many readers are sick of them. But they remain popular in bestselling books. And maybe you've put one in your book, but now you're torn because you don't know how to end the thing. And maybe, more than anything, you really want to do something different. Something fresh. Avoid the cliché at all costs. So, if you've put one into your book and don't know how to get yourself out of it, here are ten ideas to help you. (Warning: sarcasm is imminent.)

1. Have a plot. I do hope that the entire story doesn't hinge on the love triangle alone. A love triangle should always be a subplot. There needs to be a separate plot in the story. If your book is only about the love triangle, add a plot that readers will still care about even if your love triangle disappoints them.

2. Shoot somebody. I don't recommend killing off one of your love triangle people. It's too easy. And when you end subplots in convenient ways, it doesn't feel right to your reader. But you could always shoot one of their loved ones. The complication and stress would add something to the love triangle. The person would leave to be with their mother/sister/uncle/grandpa/bff and that could bring the love triangle participants closer together or drive them farther apart. Accidents happen, right?

3. Someone gives up. "I just can't do this, anymore!" Again, having one of the trio quit feels lame. But, hey. If one guy isn't willing to put in the fight, who wants him, right? And if you write this well and it fits character flaws that have been foreshadowed, it will feel right to the reader. "He didn't have what it takes, anyway, you know? He didn't love her as much as he thought he did."

4. Send someone away. Does absence really make the heart grow fonder? We shall see. Maybe someone is given an assignment that sends him elsewhere. Maybe the girl takes off to get some air. This type of situation can show which character is the most tenacious in regards to making things work in spite of the odds. In The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta were thrown together in a life-changing situation. You just can't compete with circumstances like that.

5. Our hero picks neither one. "This is too much pressure. I'll just start over, and this time, I'm only looking for one romantic interest." Again, this feels too convenient. But if the choice fits your character, it could work. If your character can't make decisions, maybe this is something she would do. But to keep in line with the Six Things That Need Fixing, she should have to come back in the end and choose---or at least dump both of them. Running away is lame.

6. Be rational. A couple is a good fit when together they are stronger than they are on their own. Opposites attract for a reason. If I was just like my husband, we'd lave a LOT of fun, but no one would ever pay the bills and we'd likely be bankrupt. My responsible nature balances out his fun-loving nature and vice versa. If I was married to someone like me, we likely would have killed each other long ago for both wanting to be in charge of everything. In your love triangle, one couple should make more sense than the other. Attraction will likely fade in time no matter what, but a logical choice will stand the test of happily ever after.

7. Reveal a flaw. Is there something one person has been keeping secret? Frozen did this well. I was so ready for the typical Disney movie cliché, that I was thrilled how they surprised me with Hans. That's what you want to do. Surprise your reader in some way. And it doesn't have to be quite so dastardly as Hans's plans, but that sort of thing can be lots of fun.

8. Introduce a second love triangle. Why not complicate this already-complicated matter? Why not have a love square? Or a love pentagon? Or maybe even a love decagon?

9. Get real. Have her say, "Listen. The fate of the world is hanging in the balance here. Let's just not worry about romance right now and focus on saving the planet." Maybe the love triangle just doesn't have to become a full-fledged triangle. Maybe our hero isn't the schmoopie type. Maybe she's saving her first kiss for marriage and will not be swayed by hunky heroes vying for her affections. You never know. It could happen.

10. The liar loses. Who's the liar? In many of these love triangle romances, it's our hero. But most often there are two culprits. If someone stole her from her boyfriend, this is a bad sign for both parties. This means that 1. she cheated on the person she was with, and 2. the person who stole her likes the chase. What happens when he wins her? Nine times out of ten, he gets bored and looks for some other happy couple to destroy. This is where you need to take a good look at your characters, how you want to present them, and how you want them to grow. I mean, who wants to be with a home-wrecker? And who wants to be with a cheater? Neither option is a very good sign of how things might go in the future. A smart hero will see that coming.

Okay, so some of my ideas were silly. But I've read plenty of books where the love triangle was silly. And unless you're writing comedy, you don't want silliness in your book. In real life, love triangles are rare. But if they do happen, they're messy and horrible. You can't please everyone in your story. Some readers will like your decision. Some will hate it. Such is life. Try to get out of your own head and into your hero's. Do what you think the hero would do. Choose one over the other? Run away? Choose neither?

No matter what, you've got to write your way out of it. And it can be hard to do. But that's a good thing for your readers. It keeps up the tension in your story. Above all, try to stay true to your characters and to use whatever happens to further your plot. And, whenever you can, do the unexpected. It keeps readers on their toes and keeps your book from falling victim to clichés.

Have you ever written a love triangle? How did you decide to end it? Share in the comments.