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Tuesday, June 18

Jamie Fraser Eats an Apple: Using Objects to Inject Character and World-Building into Dialogue

By Lisa Lowe Stauffer, @LisaLStauffer

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: What’s in a scene is more than just stage dressing and props. It can be an opportunity to show your characters and the world they live in. Lisa Lowe Stauffer visits the lecture hall today with tips on how to do just that.


Lisa Lowe Stauffer, author of Two By Two (Zonderkidz, 2018) eagerly anticipates the release of the next book in the Outlander series. In the meantime, she stays busy writing books for children and teens, volunteering with SCBWI, and traveling with her own red-headed husband.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter |

Take it away Lisa…

Monday, June 17

You're So Emotional: Describing a Character's Emotions in a First Person Point of View

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

A first-person narrator has a unique set of challenges, and describing emotions is one of them. 

For many readers, emotion is a big reason why they picked up a particular novel. They want to feel connected to the characters, experience life through their eyes, escape into their worlds. Bringing those emotions to the surface is critical to bringing the story alive.

Except sometimes, we go overboard and shift from emotion to melodrama. Our protagonists are too whiny, too stuck in their heads, to self-aware of what they're feeling all the time and that's draws attention away from the story.

This is particularly easy to do with a first-person narrator, because everything is so deep in that character's point of view. If we go emotionally overboard, our characters don't feel like natural people, because no one walks around fully aware of every little feeling they have and why they have it.

Sunday, June 16

Sunday Writing Tip: Identify What Changes in Every Scene

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, make sure something changes in every scene.


A red flag for a slow or lackluster story is that the plot never advances. Scenes unfold, but nothing about the events in that scene have any affect on the protagonist or the problem at hand.

Something should change in the scene to show why that scene is there. The change might be the direction of the story, an attitude of a character, a belief, the direction of the plot, the emotional state of the protagonist, the stakes, the goal, the motivation for that goal, an understanding about the world or setting, and so on.

Saturday, June 15

Real Life Diagnostics: Would You Keep Reading This Space Opera?

Critique By Maria D'Marco

Real Life Diagnostics is a weekly column that studies a snippet of a work in progress for specific issues. Readers are encouraged to send in work with questions, and we diagnose it on the site. It’s part critique, part example, and designed to help the submitter as well as anyone else having a similar problem.

If you're interested in submitting to Real Life Diagnostics, please check out these guidelines

Submissions currently in the queue: None

Please Note: As of today, RLD slots are open.

This week’s questions:

1. Does this version set up the tension, conflict, and hook better than the previous version?

2. Would you keep reading? 

Market/Genre: Space Opera

Note: This is a resubmit. Here's the original RLD if you're curious to see how the author revised.

On to the diagnosis…

Friday, June 14

Upcoming Writing Workshops from Janice Hardy

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’ve got a lot going on the rest of 2019, and there will be a few more added to this list in the months ahead (two are still being finalized--one in Tampa in August and another in St. Augustine in November).

If you live in Florida, or will be heading down to Florida, there's a decent chance I'll be at a conference or workshop event near you. I'll also be traveling to Texas this October. Not only will it be my first time doing a workshop in that region, it'll be my first visit to the state. A busy, but exciting year for me.

Here’s an updated list of my workshops and events:

June 


Winter Park, FL: Orlando Word Lab 
Wednesday, June 26, 7pm
Winter Park Library
460 E New England Ave, Winter Park, FL 32789

This workshop is free and open to the public.

My Workshop: Building Your Story World: Developing Setting and World Building

World building is vital to every novel, but it’s more than just describing the setting. It’s conveying the rules of the world, the subtext of a society, and the role your characters play in that story. A well-crafted setting draws in readers and makes them feel part of the world, and better still—makes them want to return to that world again and again. In this workshop, writers will learn tricks to bring their story world to life without it taking over the novel. They’ll also discover how to background setting and world details, use point of view to enhance the setting, and show, not tell, their story world.

Thursday, June 13

How to Guide a Critique

By Sarah McGuire, @fireplusalgebra

Part of The Writer's Life Series 


JH: Critiques are part of writing, and Sarah McGuire is back this month with tips on how to guide your critique to best get what you need out of it. Which is perfect timing since I'll be opening up my Critique Connection Yahoo Group on July 1 for the summer session. If you've been looking for a crit group, keep your eyes open.


Sarah McGuire is a nomadic math teacher who sailed around the world aboard a floating college campus. She writes fairy tales and would be just fine if one day she opened a wardrobe and stumbled into another world. Coffee and chocolate are her rocket fuel. She wishes Florida had mountains, but she lives there anyways with her husband (who wrote this bio in less than three minutes!) and their family.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter |

Take it away Sarah…

Wednesday, June 12

Has Fiction University Helped Your Writing? Share Your Stories!

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I'm hard at work on a new project I'm excited about (which I'll share in a few months when it's ready). To assist with this, I'd deeply appreciate hearing how the site, or even me personally if we've interacted at a conference or online, has helped you with your writing.

Aside from helping me fine-tune the new project to best serve writers, it would also be nice to have some testimonials and success stories for the whole marketing and promotional side of things (and yes, for those wondering, it is hard to ask this, but that's the biz).

Long or short, any size is fine, and a mix of lengths is actually perfect. You can leave a comment or email me if you prefer.

If there's a particular way you'd like to be identified if I use your quote or story, please use that in your comment, such as:

"Nice quote about Fiction University!"  --Bob W.

"Wonderful story about Fiction University!"  --Jane Smith

"Super nice quote about Fiction University!"  --Sally West, author of Why Did it Have to be Zombies? 

Than you so much, everyone. You guys are the best.

Tuesday, June 11

How to Use Foreign Languages in Fiction

By Laurence MacNaughton, @LMacNaughton

Part of the How They Do It Series

JH: Using a foreign language in a novel can be tricky, but it can also add a sense of the larger, diverse world. This month, Laurence MacNaughton tackles options for using foreign languages in your story.

When a character in your story speaks a foreign language, should you write it out in that language, or in English? How can you make the dialogue sound exotic without confusing the reader?

These are tricky questions. Foreign languages can lend your characters and locations a more exotic flair, and even increase the dramatic tension in a scene. But before you start sprinkling a certain je ne sais quoi into your prose, understand that you have several options.

Monday, June 10

Writing the Ending: Tying Up All the Loose Ends

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Before we dive in today, just a heads up that I’m over at Anne R. Allen’s blog sharing thoughts on The Lure of the Writing Template: Why Filling in the Blanks Doesn’t Work. Come on over and say hello.

The ending of a novel is seldom just one moment. It takes a bit of juggling to get all the storylines tied up without stealing attention from the climax.

Even when we know our novel’s ending, there are usually multiple storylines in that story that also need to be wrapped up. Major subplots, secondary character arcs, small side plots that need resolving or readers will wonder about them. Everything needs to come together at the end in ways that support the story—not send it in six different directions.

Sunday, June 9

Sunday Writing Tip: Are You Using Enough Sensory Details in Your Descriptions?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Each week, I’ll offer a tip you can take and apply to your WIP to help improve it. They’ll be easy to do and shouldn’t take long, so they’ll be tips you can do without taking up your Sunday. Though I do reserve the right to offer a good tip now and then that will take longer—but only because it would apply to the entire manuscript.

This week, check how many senses you're using when you describe things in a scene.


It's easy to remember sight and sound, since characters look at and listen to the world around them. But what about smell? Touch? Taste? You can flesh out a setting by adding sensory details. While not every description will need to use all five senses, catching a whiff of a scent instead of seeing what's causing the smell can be more powerful. Smell also triggers memories, so it's a great tool for when a character needs to remember something.

Check out your scenes, especially any setting descriptions. Try to use each of the five senses at least once in your descriptions.