Author: Brandon Miller

Three Reasons to Make Your Villain Sympathetic (and Two Dangers to Avoid)

A villain rounds out your story’s conflict by opposing the hero’s every move. But, like heroes, villains are busy people, and they have more purposes than wreaking havoc. You’ve probably heard that they need to be “sympathetic” and “relatable.” Maybe the source you visited helped you concoct such a villain, or maybe (probably) it didn’t. How to create a sympathetic villain is commonly hashed out in the writer community. It’s a tricky concept to master, and a well-developed villain can make or break a story as much as a hero. In this article, I’d like to take a step...

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Keeping Readers Grounded in Strange Worlds

Have you ever worried that the fantasy world and story you are writing is too weird to be believable? Some fantasy stories are so far afield of reality that their authors have (valid) concerns that readers will be lost and skeptical of the world, causing them to miss the important aspects (characters, theme, emotions). Does this mean we can’t tell bizarre fantasy stories? No. But our stories need to be organized and handled correctly. Here are a few tips to make your fantasy world comprehensible, and even familiar, to readers. Focus on Humanity If your story involves shifting fifth...

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Five Ways to Create Nail-Biting Internal Conflict

What do character, theme, and tension have in common? They are all results of genuine internal conflict in a story. What is internal conflict? As opposed to external conflict which involves characters battling antagonists, internal conflict ensues when a character wars against himself. Or, perhaps more usefully, it can be summed up as the process of making difficult decisions. Of course, not all decisions are interesting, nor will all interesting decisions generate tension or develop characters, but some will. The Five Steps to Internal Conflict I’ll pull an old writer’s adage out of the playbook and parade it around...

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Three Ways Exceptional Sci-Fi Authors Develop Themes

My favorite sci-fi stories always seem to be tight. The sci-fi elements, the characters, the world, and the theme are all closely intertwined. Whether the stories are relatively small scale (the movie Arrival) or full-blown trilogies (Jill Williamson’s The Safe Lands), they blend otherworldly characteristics with real-world issues to create a compelling narrative that not only entertains but explores and instructs. But how? Theme was complicated before aliens and phasers and warp speed got in the way. Are you supposed to handle theme the same as you would for non-speculative genres? No, because genres differ for good reasons. Speculative stories...

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How to Write an Unlikable Hero

A dark, brooding hero isn’t particularly nice to anyone, and he is particularly mean to a few nice people. A tragic event in his past has shaped his sour outlook on life. He might live on 221B Baker Street, or he may call up CIA agents just to tell them they look tired. He’s conflicted, fearless, and terrified. Also, he’s very popular in modern YA fiction. But, unfortunately, failure awaits those who attempt to write him. A dark, brooding, unlikeable character is … unlikeable. The chances are slim that he will hold readers’ attention through a book. Many authors...

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