Monthly Archives: April 2022

6 Key Details to Use at the Beginning of a Book (and Beyond!)

So, you’ve got an intriguing story idea and you’re picturing some of the scenes in your mind, eager to get them down on paper and begin wowing readers. But unless you ground your readers with deep POV right from the start, you’ll have a hard time getting them to care what happens.

There are specific techniques that master writers use to draw readers in and keep them engaged. In this article, I’ll be teaching you about the first and fundamental—absolutely indispensable—technique that pulls readers in and makes them forget they’re reading.

So get out your notebook and prepare to level up your writer’s toolbox. This will be a game changer!

The Ten-Second Audition

Readers have millions of books to choose from. They don’t waste much time on a book that doesn’t immediately engage their curiosity and get them anticipating future events. We have mere seconds to grab them before they move on.

As if that’s not enough of a challenge to a writer, we have to compete with social media, streaming services, video games, and all sorts of other avenues of entertainment. Ours is a tough job, one that requires discipline, dedication, and a willingness to keep learning and honing our skills.

But if you have a passion to tell a good story and serve your readers, this is a good place for you to be!

Notice how I said, “serve your readers.” I believe that’s what it’s all about. The reader.

It’s important to realize there’s an actual person on the receiving end of your words, that they have real wants and needs. Great writing—the kind that sells—is about creating the sort of quality reading experience that living, breathing person craves.

Often, first time writers think it’s all about the story. I was no different. I jumped into creating stories without realizing that the story is just the path to reaching the reader. Writing is about connecting with someone and making a difference, however small or fleeting, in that person’s life.

Readers want to escape into a story, to sink beneath the page so they’re no longer just reading—they are immersed in the story. This kind of reading imparts a sense of immediacy and becomes an experience, a satisfying and sustaining way to spend the precious commodity of time.

It’s our job, as fiction writers, to give our readers what they need so they can have what they want, and the essential place to do this is in the opening pages of the book.

Deep POV: Pulling Readers Deep Into the Story

There’s a trio of forces that drive a reader forward through your story—curiosity, surprise, and suspense. I talked about the superpower of each in my last article, What is Suspense? Why and How It Makes Better Books.

But in order for these forces to function as they must, the reader needs to be solidly engaged and grounded in your story. And this has to happen from the very first sentences of your book.

The most powerful technique for achieving this is often called Deep Point of View (Deep POV).

You may be asking, “What is deep point of view?” I think of it as the magic of applied POV. My mentor, Dean Wesley Smith, refers to it as Depth.

He explains Depth as what you do to take your reader deep into the story so that he cannot leave, keeping him away from the surface where he might break out of the story and put the book down.

Writing in deep point of view is accomplished through the use of specific types of details, and the omission of others.

Writing in Deep Point of view keeps the reader solidly engaged and grounded in a story. Writers can achieve such Depth with six specific details, all of which are covered in this post.

Before we dive into that, there’s a crucial concept I need to drill home, because everything really hinges on understanding this one key aspect.

Your Characters Are Alive

In the context of your story, your characters have a real life, and the reader experiences the story through them. They are the interface. They are what allows your reader to “plug in” to the story and feel the power it generates.

Mulan Survive GIF - Mulan Survive Live - Discover & Share GIFs

Every word of the story must come through a character’s point of view, whether first person or third person, if you want to pull the reader beyond the page and ground them in the setting of your world. If you allow author intrusion, you risk losing your reader.

In other words, if you—as author—look around and start describing the setting through your own viewpoint, you’ll never pull the reader into the character and story. You must go through your POV character.

This means you have one filter. Your story might have multiple viewpoint characters, may even combine first person POV with third person point of view, like James Patterson does in his Alex Cross novels.

But it’s important to stick to one point of view per scene, with clear scene breaks between. Bobbing around from one character’s thoughts to another’s doesn’t allow the reader to attach and grow inside the viewpoint character’s head.

Worse, it can be confusing and send a reader speeding away from your book.

While it’s possible to tell a story in this superficial manner, you won’t achieve the depth, the absorption, the commitment from your reader that we’re addressing in this article.

One POV character per scene. One filter. And everything in the story comes to the reader, undiluted, through that single viewpoint and filter, in your character’s voice.

When writing, consider the different types of filter words, the details, you’ll need to pull your reader deep and ground them in the story’s setting so they’ll want to stay.

There are six types of details that will help you achieve Deep POV.

Your characters are alive. Readers experience a story through your characters, which is why applying Deep POV is so important. This is done with six details

6 Key Types of Details That Achieve Deep POV

The goal here is to pull your reader deeply and immediately into the story through a connection with your viewpoint character, making it hard to put your book down.

This POV can be a single character for the length of the book, or dual POVs that each share their own viewpoint.

Regardless, these are the specific types of details you’ll use in the opening lines of your story and the beginning of each chapter to achieve this deep POV.

1. Character-focused details

Remember, your viewpoint character is alive, a functioning individual with a background of experience. And every word of the story is filtered through that character’s experience.

Have you heard of the Rashomon Effect, named after Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 film? It describes how people can witness the same event and give substantially different accounts about what happened. That’s because many of the things people notice are unique to them.

Is your character a professional chauffeur? What kinds of details would a chauffeur notice that others might not? Would he pay particular attention to the makes and models of cars? The state of a vehicle’s tires? Would he notice a suspect’s peculiar tan line from wearing driving gloves in a convertible?

Is your character a baker? What kinds of details would a baker notice that others might not? Would she pay particular attention to the quality of bread served in a restaurant? The state of another character’s kitchen? Would she notice that yeast infection rash on a suspect’s hands that comes from kneading too much dough?

When you get inside a character’s POV and deliver the scene to the reader through that filter, the character—and the story—come alive.

This sucks the reader deep into the story world, and tightly holds them to a new character or group of characters they like.

Week 27: The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais | postcards from far away

One Great Strategy for Writing Character-Focused Details

In Voice: The Secret Power of Great Writing, James Scott Bell writes, “You, the author, must identify with the character so closely that you feel what the character feels, think what the character thinks. This is what great actors do.”

When I’m working on character development, I get into that character. I adopt the physiology of the character, meaning I get up and jump around, energize myself, if I’m writing that type of character. Or I slump in my chair, exhausted, if that’s appropriate to my character’s state. I take on their body language.

I might augment this by running through an internal dialogue in my character’s voice until I sound like he or she sounds. Or pretend I’m choosing off a menu or dressing for a party as they would. And so on.

This technique comes from theater director Michael Chekhov, and the theory behind it is that our physiology informs our psychology. It helps get me into the same state of mind as my character so I can provide the kind of details peculiar to that individual.

And, of course, I try to think as a chauffeur or a baker would think.

It’s always a smart idea to learn from the masters. I’m defining a master writer as an author who’s consistently produced bestsellers over the last thirty or forty years.

So, let’s look at an example from the masters.

The opening paragraph of Michael Connelly’s book The Scarecrow is delivered through the point of view character, Wesley Carver, chief technology officer for a data security firm. Notice the types of details he uses to ground the reader in the setting and inside his own viewpoint:

Carver paced in the control room, watching over the front forty. The towers were spread out before him in perfect neat rows. They hummed quietly and efficiently and even with all he knew, Carver had to marvel at what technology had wrought.  So much in so little space. Not a stream but a swift and torrid river of data flowing by him every day. Growing in front of him in tall steel stalks. All he needed to do was to reach in, to look and to choose. It was like panning for gold.

Carver is a computer guy, steeped in data. The details he notices and thinks about relate to the abundance of data and what it can do for him. Like rivers and fields he can harvest and mine for gold. Do you see how these details tell us more about his character and ground us inside his head?

In the opening of your own book, make sure you get firmly inside the head of your viewpoint character and deliver the story to your reader from there. Think about what your character would notice and include fresh, character-focused details that will pull the reader in there beside you.

2. Sensory details

Remember, every piece of information that comes to your reader must pass through your viewpoint character and how do we receive information but through our senses?

Again, this is where “getting into character” is useful. Feel what your character is feeling; see what they see. Hear, taste, and smell what they’re experiencing. Whether it’s the sticky heat of an Amazon jungle or the shriek of brakes on asphalt, pass it on to your reader.

It’s a good idea to use at least four of the five senses in every depth opening during the first third of your book. But another sensory technique you can use to convey a feeling of being overwhelmed is to focus lavishly on one sense.

For example, if your character is assaulted by noise:

The cacophony rose higher, coming in shrieks and great whorls of sound that swelled in a distorted symphony, wracking Joanie’s eardrums. When she thought she could bear no more, a loud maniacal laughter joined the riotous stew, and then a new sound, strange and frightening above all else. It was her own scream.

Or, your character may be plunged into absolute darkness:

Inky black pressed against Paul’s eyelids like coins on a dead man’s face, drenching him in its clutching grasp. The darkness was thick as tar, sticky, smothering him, working gloom-clawed fingers into his mouth, his ears, his nostrils, until he was drowning in it.

Using details that involve the five senses is key to pulling your readers beneath the surface of your book and keeping them immersed—in a good way.

Let’s go to some examples from the masters. Here’s the opening of James Lee Burke’s story Big Midnight Special:

You know how summertime is down South. It comes to you in the smell of watermelons and distant rain and the smell of cotton poison and schools of catfish that have gotten dammed up in a pond that’s about to be drained. It comes to you in a lick of wet light on razor wire at sunup. You try to hold on to the coolness of the night, but by noon you’ll be standing inside your own shadow, hoeing out long rows of soybeans, a gunbull on horseback gazing at you from behind his shades in the turnaround, his silhouette a black cutout against the sun.

Do you see how Burke made his readers smell the watermelon, rain, and fish? See the light and shadow? Feel the searing heat? Did you catch how these details pull us right into the viewpoint character and the setting? Reading this, you know he’s a prisoner on work duty in the fields without being spoonfed the information in a boring backstory info dump. Genius.

Don’t neglect to use thick, rich sensory detail to open your story and pull your reader deep.

Using details that involve the five senses is key to pulling your readers beneath the surface of your book and keeping them immersed—in a good way.

3. Specific details

This is where we talk about something my mentor calls a fake detail. You need to understand that the words you write are symbols that represent ideas for the reader. You produce these symbols and the reader interprets them.

If you want the reader to stay immersed in your story, you need to be in control of what you communicate.

That means using specific details that communicate clear pictures and ideas to the reader. We can never transport the story in our heads in undistorted and perfect form into a reader’s head, but we need to come as close to that ideal as we can or risk bumping the reader to the surface.

Here’s what I mean.

Let’s say in your story you mention a dog.

Dog is a very general term, and if the dog is unimportant to the story and won’t be mentioned again, you can probably get away with letting your readers conjure up any kind of dog they like.

But if the dog is to play a role, or in any way re-enter the story, you’ve just put yourself in a dangerous position by using such an unspecific term.

Here’s why: the reader takes the coded symbols you’ve given him and formulates a picture in his mind of what’s going on in the story. You wrote that a dog was running along the street, so he imagines his favorite kind of dog, a Great Dane, loping in great strides.

Your reader is grounded in the setting and things are flowing along smoothly until your story tells how the beagle stopped running and started barking, a whiny, high-pitched yipping sound. And—Bam!—you’ve popped your reader to the surface.

Beagle GIFs | Tenor

Your coded words don’t match the picture in his head, reminding him it’s just a story, only words on paper, and he might as well put the book down and go to sleep.

Wherever feasible, use specific details. And keep these two rules in mind:

  1. Specify up front. If you had initially identified the dog as a beagle, your reader would have formulated that picture from the start and wouldn’t have been yanked from the story when the dog started in with its beagle bark. Later, you can just say “dog” because the image of a beagle has already been imprinted.
  2. If you’re going to describe something, don’t name it until after you’ve described it. If you name it first, the reader gets an image in her head and when your description doesn’t meet up with her idea, it jangles and can encourage her to surface out of your story.

You never want to do anything that sends a reader to the surface and away from your story.

4. Opinionated details

Your character was not born on page one. Remember, they have a history of life experience which has given them, among other things, opinions. Their opinion should color everything they pass on to the reader, like a hot key combo into their personality.

Those opinions animate your character, making them real, and this helps pull the reader down beneath the surface of your story. Their opinions also make them distinct from other characters in the book, allowing them to stand out and be a three-dimensional individual.

Characters are revealed by their behavior and their interactions with others. By making sure your character’s attitudes and opinions come through to the reader, you’ll ensure a deeper, more satisfying reading experience.

Elizabeth George demonstrates this well in the opening of her book With No One As Witness. She delivers a paragraph packed with opinionated details perfectly suited to her character, giving us a vivid picture:

Kimmo Thorne liked Dietrich best of all: the hair, the legs, the cigarette holder, the top hat and tails. She was what he called the Whole Blooming Package, and as far as he was concerned, she was second to none. Oh, he could do Garland if pressed. Minnelli was simple, and he was definitely getting better with Streisand. But given his choice—and he was generally given it, wasn’t he?—he went with Dietrich. Sultry Marlene. His number one girl. She could sing the crumbs out of a toaster, could Marlene, make no bloody mistake about it.

These details, dripping with opinion, pull us immediately into Kimmo Thorne’s head. We know what he likes and how he feels about it. He loves impersonating female vocal stars and Marlene Dietrich is his favorite. Once we’re inside his head, we’re grounded in the setting and ready to experience the rest of the scene through his perceptions.

When you express your viewpoint character’s opinions, you bring your characters alive and readers deeper into your story world, ready to follow on as the story progresses.

5. Emotional details

Using details that convey your character’s emotion is another key way to pull the reader below the surface and get her actively involved in your story, feeling some of what your character is feeling.

Because your reader is a real and individual entity with life experiences of their own, the emotions of your character will stir your reader’s own emotional embers to evoke authentic, personalized feelings.

What a powerful way to draw the reader deep into your story world and get them invested in what happens to your character.

Focus on describing what it feels like to the character to be angry or hurt or deliriously happy, rather than naming the emotion outright. Show, don’t tell.

What physical reactions are taking place? How do they cope with them? What kind of memories or insecurities do they evoke? Emotions, like opinions, will color the details you choose to include.

For example, here’s the opening of Dean Koontz’s book Sole Survivor:

At two-thirty Saturday morning, in Los Angeles, Joe Carpenter woke, clutching a pillow to this chest, calling his lost wife’s name in the darkness. The anguished and haunted quality of his own voice had shaken him from sleep. Dreams fell from him not all at once but in trembling veils, as attic dust falls off rafters when a house rolls with an earthquake.

When he realized that he did not have Michelle in his arms, he held fast to the pillow anyway. He had come out of the dream with the scent of her hair. Now he was afraid that any movement he made would cause that memory to fade and leave him with only the sour smell of his night sweat.

Notice how Koontz describes the effects of the man’s emotions, rather than labeling them as grief and longing. Did you also happen to notice how Koontz included the character-focused details of a native Californian? And sensory details including sight, sound, touch, and smell?

All in the first two paragraphs of the book.

Including emotional detail creates intimacy and draws a reader inside a character, inspiring empathy. It can also spark an answering emotion within your reader, reaching someplace deep inside and generating a genuine emotional response.

Let’s examine one more type of detail that helps create the depth you need to capture your readers and sink them deep into your story.

6. Consistent detail

Remember, your words are like code to the reader that they decipher to form a picture in their mind, allowing them to join in the story almost as if experiencing it themselves. When this happens, they won’t put the book down unless absolutely necessary, and they’ll come back to it as soon as possible.

Unless you pop them out of the story by some inconsistency.

We discussed head hopping and fake details already, but your reader can also be jarred out of the story if you throw in a detail that clashes with the rest of the image you’re establishing.

Like a well-decorated house, your details can be eclectic and fresh, but they should work together to form a consistent flow and fabric for your story.

Stephen King illustrates this well in the beginning of his novel The Stand:

Hapscomb’s Texaco sat on US 93 just north of Arnette, a pissant four-street burg about 110 miles from Houston. Tonight the regulars were there, sitting by the cash register, drinking beer, talking idly, watching the bugs fly into the big lighted sign.

It was Bill Hapscomb’s station, so the others deferred to him even though he was a pure fool. They would have expected the same deferral if they had been gathered together in one of their business establishments. Except they had none. In Arnette, it was hard times. In 1970 the town had had two industries, a factory that made paper products (for picnics and barbecues, mostly), and a plant that made electronic calculators. Now the paper factory was shut down and the calculator plant was ailing—they could make them a lot cheaper in Taiwan, it turned out, just like those little portable TVs and transistor radios.

Norman Bruett and Tommy Wannamaker, who had both worked in the paper factory, were on relief, having run out of unemployment some time ago. Henry Carmichael and Stu Redman both worked at the calculator plant but rarely got more than thirty hours a week. Victor Palfrey was retired and smoked stinking home-rolled cigarettes, which were all he could afford.

Do you see how the underlined details work together to create a sharp and consistent image of the perishing town? I especially like the bugs flying into the big lighted sign as a metaphor for the death that awaits them all. It suggests everyone present in the scene is just waiting for the zap that will dispatch them to the big light in the sky.

When you use consistent details throughout a scene, each one adds a layer to the fabric of your story, strengthening it while adding something fresh, drawing your reader ever deeper into your story world.

While all six types of details will help you ground your reader into your story with Deep POV, there are also a few more writing tips about detail you should know if you’re to hone your writing style and polish a great story.

Can You Give Too Much Detail?

When I first started writing, I subscribed to the idea that the story should be cut down to the bone, spare and lean, uncluttered by too much detail. I had great plots (or so I imagined), but I didn’t always put much flesh on those bones.

As I learned and grew as a writer, I discovered how vital it is to add color and substance through detail, that a story is more than a series of brilliant plot points.

I remember taking one of the Great Courses, Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. The professor advocated for lush, long sentences, using what felt to me like a shocking amount of detail, but I began to see how detail can clarify and enliven rather than clutter and obscure.

If you use the right kinds of details in the right way. As I’ve described in this article—through the point of view character. And there’s nowhere in your story more important to establish this richness and depth than in the scene and chapter openings of the first third of your book. This is what it takes to root a reader in your story.

As the book progresses into the later stages and the pace increases, you won’t need as much detail to hold your reader down in the story. Provided you’ve done the work to pull them down in the first place.

If you haven’t, you won’t need to worry about the level of detail in the later stages because your reader isn’t likely to make it that far.

Can You Open With Action?

You might think the most exciting stories start with a big bang of action, but if you go back and analyze the work of master writers—those who’ve consistently turned out bestsellers for a decade or more—you’ll see that the author quickly grounded the reader with sensory detail, opinion, and emotion either before the action began or as the action unfolded.

Here’s an example from the first sentences of Jeffery Deaver’s book The Twelfth Card:

His face wet with sweat and with tears, the man runs for freedom, he runs for his life.

“There! There he goes!”

The former slave does not know exactly where the voice comes from. Behind him? To the right or left? From atop one of the decrepit tenements lining the filthy cobblestoned streets here?

Amid July air hot and thick as liquid paraffin, the lean man leaps over a pile of horse dung. The street sweepers don’t come here, to this part of the city. Charles Singleton pauses beside a pallet stacked high with barrels, trying to catch his breath.

See how Deaver wove sensory, emotional, and character-focused detail into these few sentences to start pulling the reader into the setting? In subsequent paragraphs, he thickened the use of detail to finish the job.

If you’re worried your opening will drag without immediate action, make sure you’re using vivid language and active voice rather than passive voice. And deliver every word through your viewpoint character, pulling your readers into the setting and showing it to them through the fresh eyes of your character.

It Works - GIF on Imgur

Open your story with 300 to 400 words of depth, expressed through the viewpoint character in the types of details we’ve discussed, before moving forward into plot points and action. If the reader has no interface with the story, no way to “plug in” via details delivered through the viewpoint character, they won’t care what happens and you’ll lose them.

Make the connection with the reader first, then introduce action and plot.

A Better Foundation Pulls Your Reader Into the Story

Whether you’re starting your first novel or your fifty-ninth, building a firm foundation so your reader can experience and enjoy your story is imperative. If you missed it in your first draft, make this your number one job in revision.

In this series so far, we’ve discussed the elements of suspense and how suspense is a driving force in any type of story. We’ve discussed what suspense is and how it works in tandem with curiosity and surprise to keep a reader moving forward through a story.

In this article, we’ve discussed the types of details you need to pull your reader beneath the surface of your story so they won’t put your book down.

But there’s another piece of the foundation you must build in order for your reader to invest in the story and keep turning pages to the end.

That missing piece is making sure your reader cares about your main character.

We’ll cover some powerful ways to accomplish this in the next article, so stay tuned!

How about you? Do you see how using these specific types of details draws a reader into a story? Tell us about it in the comments.

By Joslyn Chase


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What is Rhythmic Writing?

By Sue Coletta

Rhythm is one of the most underrated aspects of writing, but readers sense the rhythm in our words, whether they realize it or not. Rhythm attracts readers to certain authors.

Life itself has a rhythm.

Whether it’s our heartbeat or the motion of the sun, moon, and planets, we’re embedded within a rhythmic world. Hence why rhythm has such enormous power. It’s built into who we are.

Have you ever lounged on a blanket outside at night, stargazing? Nature is never silent. Even a quiet evening has a melodic undercurrent — a pulse, if you will.

The same holds true in writing.

Rhythm Defines a Mood

Rhythm forces the reader to either rush through the pages, flipping one after another, or nestle in the comfy chair to quietly enjoy the story. Words dance. The writer who pays attention to story rhythm creates sentences that waltz, jerk, tango, stutter, tap dance, float, and sing.

Good writing ebbs and flows by varying sentences, paragraphs, and chapter length and structure.

Notice the atmosphere Hemingway creates in Farewell to Arms.

In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the channels. Troops went by the house and down the road and the dust they raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees too were dusty and the leaves fell early that year and we saw the troops marching along the road and the dust rising and leaves, stirred by the breeze, falling and the soldiers marching and afterward the road bare and white except for the leaves.

Rhythm Defines Pace

In music, tone length and dramatic pauses define rhythm. When long notes blend without pauses, the music flows like a swan across still water. On the flipside, short notes with clear pauses draw your attention. The music amps you up.

The same principles apply to writing. Rhythmic writing is defined by punctuation and the stress patterns of words. As a general rule, long sentences are more relaxing, while staccato sentences startle the reader. They draw attention. They force the reader to pay attention.

Run. Now.

Tension builds and releases. When a movie reaches its climax, the rhythm increases in pace only to subside as the story resolves. Within the larger rhythmic structure of a story, micro-structures also generate rhythm. Scenes change and plots twist. An interruption in the rhythmic flow transports the reader in a new direction. It knocks them off balance — a gentle slap to ensure they’ll keep flipping pages.  

Sentence Structure

If each sentence follows the same structure and rhythm, the writing becomes boring and predictable. Writers who play with rhythm can create tension in many ways, depending on punctuation and word choice.

In the following example, notice how the intentional repetition of hard -ed verbs create tension in The Killing Song by PJ Parrish

He watched her for the next hour. Watched her playing with the plastic snow globe she had picked up in the souvenir shop. Watched her finish her peach tart, tuck her Fodor’s in her purse and wind the red scarf around her slender white neck.

In the next sentence, the authors slow the pace by varying the sentence structure, adding gerunds, and visceral detail, yet maintain the creepy atmosphere.

In the crowded elevator traveling down from the restaurant in the Eiffel Tower, he stood behind her, closing his eyes as he breathed in the grassy scent of her hair.

In White Fang by Jack London, note where he forces the reader to pause.

A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness.

London also uses repetition but not with a hard -ed verb.

There was a hint in it of laughter, but of a laughter more terrible than any sadness — a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild.

Does Point-of-View Matter?

Not at all. Using rhythm as a literary device isn’t limited to 1st or 3rd POV, or even past or present tense. Check out the melodic rhythm in Try Darkness by James Scott Bell. The novel is written in 1st POV, but the following excerpt is in 2nd POV to show the protagonist talking to himself.

And then you wonder what makes you go on, what makes you care, because it’s in there somewhere, the caring, even if you don’t know why, even if you don’t know any reason for it. It’s just there and that’s why you don’t sleep.

You look out at the dark, you walk around in it, you think maybe there’ll be a big insight, a sudden realization. And then everything will add up. That’s the hope part, the part the absurdists call a fool’s game.

Are you just a fool like everybody else?

You think of the girl and you think of her being scared and you can’t stand it, and caring becomes torture.

If God was in the room right now you’d scream at him.

That’s what you think about when you can’t sleep.

Next time you read a novel, pay attention to its story rhythm. Where does the author let you pause? How does the author vary long and short sentences? How does the writing ebb and flow? Do you notice a similar rhythm in the writing of your favorite authors?


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The One Popular Myth Writers Believe About Writer’s Block

By Colleen M. Story

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block!”

No doubt you’ve heard this myth before.

Worse, you may have believed it.

And that’s rarely a good thing, as it tends to keep you where you are—in that stuck place you dare not call writer’s block.

Myth: There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

“There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” says writer Leigh Shulman. “It’s an excuse.  Your way of telling yourself you have a reason for not writing.”

You’ll find a wide variety of writers echoing this same sentiment. Whenever I heard it, I worried. I didn’t want to be one of “those” writers.

“The secret about writer’s block is that it’s an indulgence,” writes Amy Alkon for Psychology Today. “…The way you end so-called ‘writer’s block’ is simply by sitting down to write—’blackening pages,’ as Leonard Cohen called it.”

Lazy! Undisciplined! We hear it again and again. Stop coddling yourself. Sit down and write!

I vowed to do just that. I wouldn’t be weak. I would be a strong, productive writer.

No writer’s block here.

Then along came my third novel, The Beached Ones. And it humbled me in a hurry.

My Novel Taught Me All About Writer’s Block

Draft after draft, I came up against a wall. No matter how hard I tried or how many hours I put in, I could not figure out how to get past the midpoint of that novel.

Now understand: I was no newbie to the mid-novel struggle. I had gone through it with my other two published novels, but never to this extent.

I bought books. I went to conferences. I talked to award-winning writers. I sketched out the plot. I outlined the chapters. I examined each of the character’s inner and outer motivations.

I did everything you should do when experiencing writer’s block—things that before had led to a breakthrough—and nothing helped.

It was frustrating, to say the least.

I looked writer’s block squarely in the eye and withered. So much for strength and discipline. They weren’t helping me at all.

My Cure for Writer’s Block

I finally had to admit that I was suffering a bad case of writer’s block.

Oh, the shame!

I’ve since learned that other writers—much as they may lecture about there being no such thing as writer’s block—just have a slightly different definition of it.

Says Schulman: “Here’s the thing: Every writer who has ever existed feels stuck at some point. That’s why I say there’s no such thing as writer’s block because it’s part of the writing process.”

Oh. So it is writer’s block. You’re just calling it something else.

And that something else is comforting, isn’t it? Shulman is assuring us that everyone experiences being stuck now and then. Relax. It’s normal.

But I couldn’t relax. The story sat in the back of my mind bugging me day in and day out.

So I kept trying. And now, looking back, I can say that is my solution to writer’s block that I want to share with you: keep trying.

It is the key to finally breaking through.

The Key to Ending Writer’s Block

What does it mean to keep trying?

Don’t Give Up

First of all, don’t give up on your story. I thought about it many times, but looking back, I’m really glad I didn’t. (The book is releasing soon, after all!)

Keep the Story In Mind

Second, keep the story in mind.

Personally, I didn’t have any choice. The story wouldn’t leave me alone. It may be the same for you. But it also helps to find other ways to keep it at the forefront of your thoughts.

Everything I did along the way—starting over, reading books, attending workshops, outlining, researching, sketching, etc.—helped keep the story in my brain. My brain, in turn, continued to work on a creative solution to my writer’s block.

You don’t want to forget what was happening in your story. Even if you’re not writing new scenes and chapters, it’s important to keep the characters alive in your head in some way that you continue to “live” with them in their world.

Find a Way to Think Outside the Box

This is what finally led to a breakthrough for me.

It was as simple as going to a movie.

I went to see Girl on a Train starring Emily Blunt. (Love her!) I was fascinated by how the story was told.

For much of the movie, the main character didn’t know what had happened to put her into her current situation.

It was something I had never explored before: what if my hero was in the dark as to what had happened?

Voila! Breakthrough.

That single idea was enough to send me back to the keyboard. And telling the story from that point of view solved my problem.

No more writer’s block. I sailed through to the end, put the book through several more rewrites, submitted it, and landed a publisher on—get this—April Fool’s Day, 2020.

For you, it’s likely to be something else (besides a movie) that allows you to break through your writer’s block. Maybe it’s an image you see, something you hear, or something someone says.

Here’s a tip: Usually, breakthroughs happen when we step away from our usual routines. Do something different, put yourself in a new environment, and allow your creative brain to play. That’s the best way to inspire it to come up with a solution.

See Writer’s Block as a Gift

Looking back, I can see that writer’s block gave me a gift—it forced me to come up with a more creative way to tell the story. It also taught me that you can be seriously blocked and still succeed in telling a good story if you’re willing to stick with it.

Shulman agrees that sometimes, being blocked can be a blessing:

“When you’re stuck, it’s often because you’re doing something you’ve never done before. That means you’re stretching yourself as a writer. You’re improving, and soon enough you will breakthrough to a new level. You’ll be a stronger, more agile, better writer.”

Writer’s block? It’s no myth, but if it’s plaguing you, it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Instead, celebrate. Welcome your confusion. Allow your frustration. Bang your head against the wall and keep going.

If the story matters, you’ll find a way.


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Book Writing Software (2022): Top 10 Pieces of Software for Writers

Writing a book is hard. I’ve written fifteen books and at some point during each one I had the thought, “There has to be a tool, a piece of book writing software, that would make it easier to reach my writing goals.”

Bad news/good news: writing a book will always be hard, and the best piece of writing software in the world won’t write your book for you. Some may even require a steep learning curve. Others are easier.

The good news is there is book writing software that can make the writing process and meeting your daily goals easier!

In this article, we will cover the ten best pieces of software for writing a book and look at the pros and cons of each.

Click the links below to get our review on the best writing software.

Best Writing Software: Contents

  1. Scrivener
  2. Google Docs
  3. Google Sheets OR Microsoft Excel
  4. Vellum
  5. ProWritingAid
  6. Publisher Rocket
  7. Evernote OR Ulysses
  8. Freedom
  9. Microsoft Word
  10. Hemingway App
  11. Bonus: Google Drive OR Dropbox

Worst Pieces of Software for Writing a Book

Before we discuss writing software that will help you write a beautiful book, it’s important to understand (and eliminate) what will hurt your writing progress.

At least while you’re writing a book:

  1. Video Games. Especially World of Warcraft (always, always, always!) but also Solitaire, Sudoku, Angry Birds, and, for me right now, Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes.
No World of Warcraft for Writers


  1. Facebook, TikTok, and Other Social Media Software. Do I really need to say more? Fortunately there’s a piece of book writing software for avoiding this very distracting software (see Freedom below). You can’t write a book if you spend you writing time publishing social media posts.
  2. Other Productive Software Not Directly Associated With Your Writing. Yes, it’s good to reconcile your bank account on Quickbooks or make sure you’re up to date on your calendar app, but responsible, well-meaning work can easily be an excuse for a quick distraction that turns into a major distraction from writing your book.

Set aside time for your writing every day and then stay focused.

If you need a game, make writing your daily word count your game.

If you want more “likes” on social media, imagine how great getting five-star reviews on your book will be.

If you need to check your bank balance several times a day, think about what your bank balance will be when you stop checking it constantly, finish your book, and become a successful author.

By Joe Bunting


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How to Solve Writer’s Block: 5 Simple Steps to Get Back to Your Book

It’s practically inevitable. You’re rockin’ and rollin’ through your writing process, you let the creative juices flow, and then you reach a sudden halt: You’re blocked. And you have no idea how to solve writer’s block.

The words won’t come. It seems like there’s nothing more, and yet you’ve got things to do. Deadlines to meet. A writing schedule to stick to.

t can seem impossible to write another word when you experience a creative block. The good news is that with a handful of steps, you can readjust your writing routine and reenergize your creative flow.

it can be done.

Here’s how to write a book when you’ve got writer’s block.

Want to learn how to write a book from start to finish? Check out How to Write a Book: The Complete Guide.

What is Writer’s Block?

This seems obvious: Writer’s block is a writer’s inability to write. When in this position, writers can find themselves sitting at their desk for hours—and no amount of inspiring writing quotes can clear their writer’s block.

Instead, writer’s block is the result of several problems, like low self-confidence and poor planning. And to fully address this complicated situation, it’s important to take a number of steps that will restore the writer’s confidence and plan a course for success.

This is the only way you can save your writing day and make progress on your book when you’ve got writer’s block.

How to Write a Book When You’ve Got Writer’s Block: The 5-Step Plan

Ready to overcome your block and revitalize your writing? Here’s your recovery plan:

Step 1: Take a Step Back

Some coaches out there will encourage you to plow onward no matter what.

That may be good advice for a determined few, but for the rest of us it’s just plain impossible. It might even unintentionally make you a bad writer—or a discouraged one.

In some situations, the words simply won’t come. And when we force them out, they’re terrible and we hate them and we hate ourselves for writing them.

What do you do then?

Simple: Stop.

Stop writing and take a step back.

It’s important to understand that writer’s block is caused by specific knots in your story, not general ones. In other words, it’s not you—it’s your protagonist. Or your setting. Or your point of view.

Something specific to the story isn’t working as you’ve been approaching it, so you need to stop and back up, if just for awhile.

Writing a book is a lot like navigating a maze. Consider how complicated each character’s journey is. When you write the story, you’re finding your way through the labyrinth without a map.

Reaching a dead-end is the same as writer’s block. You have to stop moving forward, step back, and find your way to love creative writing again.

Crashing into the same wall isn’t going to solve your problems.

Remember: The block is specific, not general. You don’t suck. This moment in your storytelling life is what sucks, so you need to step away and gain some perspective.

Writing a book is like navigating a maze. If you hit a dead end, turn around, retrace your steps, and find a new way forward.

Step 2: Emancipate Yourself

One of the reasons you’re blocked might be an imaginary rule.

What is an imaginary rule? It’s a rule that you have created for yourself that you’re unwilling to break, and it’s killing your writing.

Have you created a self-imposed deadline for yourself? As in, “I have to have this done by July”?

Or have you read a bunch of great literature, only to demand that your first draft look and sound just like The Great Gatsby or Beloved?

Another rule I tend to create for myself is a story rule. These look like this:

  • The story has to take place entirely in one room.
  • The story has to be in the first-person point of view.
  • This character has to die.

And so on. We make these rules for ourselves because we want to achieve greatness, or reach a particular writing goal.

But more often than not, they tend to trap us in prisons of our own making. When we can’t meet our own impossible demands, we submit to the feeling of failure and throw in the towel.

You have to emancipate yourself from these imaginary rules. Free yourself from the bondage of perfectionism.

Identify the imaginary rule you’ve created that is holding you prisoner. Write it down in a way that frees you: “The story can take place in any room. It can be in any point of view.”

Whatever you need to free yourself from this false bondage and get back to creating with freedom.

The secret to overcoming writer’s block: let go of perfectionism. Your book doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to be written.

Step 3: Unplug

To fully recover from the frustration of your writer’s block, you need a break.

Take a short sabbatical from your labors. Unplug from the world of your writing and enjoy the things that refresh your body and spirit. Visit nature. Play with your children. Make other kinds of art. Watch your favorite movies or a season of your favorite show.

Part of the reason you need to unplug is to separate your humanity from this project. The frustration becomes personal. The rules and expectations that have been driving you become unforgiving taskmasters.

Unplugging is the physical action you must take to redefine your writing life.

Also, you may not be able to fully emancipate yourself from your imaginary rules until you’ve unplugged. Steps two and three go hand-in-hand. Rediscovering your humanity works side-by-side with reframing your independence as a writer.

Make sure to keep your sabbatical brief, though. Give it a deadline since it can threaten your long-term productivity, and hold to it.

But let yourself live a little and reconnect with the things in life that inspire you to create in the first place, free from crushing expectations and the feeling of failure.

Step 4: Strategize

When your retreat ends, it’s time to get back to work. But if you simply start banging your head into the same wall in the labyrinth, you’ll just end up back where you were.

Instead, plan ahead before your jump back in.

A book is a large undertaking with numerous parts. Certainly there are parts where you aren’t blocked, right? What does your daily writing habit look like on that day?

Here are five ways you can strategically continue to write a book when you’ve had writer’s block:

  1. Back up and start a scene from a different time and/or place
  2. Let a character fail during a scene
  3. In a scene between two characters, add a third character for triangulation
  4. Move the scene to a new, more resistant setting (location)
  5. Craft the scene from a different character’s point of view, or a third-person point of view

Once you’ve made a choice, try it. But be prepared for it to possibly fail. Be ready with another idea or two in your pocket.

Strategy isn’t just about the story itself; it’s about readying yourself for a variety of outcomes, successful or not, so you don’t end up blocked again.

Step 5: Return and Write With Freedom

The final step to overcoming writer’s block when writing a book is to return and write with freedom.

You’ve stepped back and freed yourself from the shackles of impossible expectations and faulty rules.

You’ve take a restorative sabbatical and come out of it energized, filled with ideas about new strategic approaches to your storytelling problems.

The last thing to do, then, is to write.

The Secret to Overcoming Writer’s Block

See, overcoming writer’s block isn’t just about the story. It’s about the storyteller.

When done right, taking these steps builds muscle memory. Every time you conquer writer’s block you get better at doing it. In fact, if you beat writer’s block enough, you’ll hardly ever feel truly “blocked,” but see the momentary hiccup in your process as just that: a minor nuisance that you’re an expert at dealing with.

No one is ever truly, eternally afflicted with writer’s block. The power is in your hands.

You can do it. You can write a book when you’ve got writer’s block, just like every professional writer out there.

You just have to know how.

What strategies do you use to overcome writer’s block? Let us know in the comments.

By David Safford


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Realistic Dialogue: 16 Observations Writers Should Know About Real Life Talk

Dialogue can make your story. In fact, as Shakespeare knew, you can tell a whole story just through authentic, realistic dialogue. You’re probably thinking: “Easier said than done.”

Good stories are about real people, and people in real life love to talk to each other. We are biologically disposed to receive pleasure from conversation.

If you want to write good stories, learn how to write effective dialogue. In this article, you can learn sixteen  dialogue tips that will help you take everyday conversations and turn them into stretches of dialogue that benefit your story.

Dialogue is a Skill

Writers can learn how to take bad writing riddled with unnecessary dialogue in their manuscripts and write ordinary conversations in their manuscripts that grab readers and significantly impact the plot.

When I first started working seriously on my writing, I would go into coffee shops, eavesdrop on a real life conversation, and write down everything people said. This helped me begin to understand how normal speech worked—but it wasn’t enough.

Before I could write lines of dialogue well, I had to ask WHY casual conversations mattered.

Realistic Dialogue in Everyday Life

Why did this person say this thing? Why did that person reply like that? How did they get on this subject in the first place?

I eavesdropped on conversations for months. It was actually a little creepy. But it taught me so much about how real dialogue works, and how I can take a conversation to inspire natural dialogue and nuanced conversations in my creative writing.

Here are sixteen writing tips I learned about realistic speech patterns, and how to use these to write great dialogue:

1. Real People Say Random Things

As writers, we want our characters to talk about things central to our plot, but humans are weird. Tin real conversations, people don’t talk about important things. More often than not, they talk about mundane things like the weather.

To write realistically random dialogue without losing track of your plot, have your characters begin a conversation about something random, and then circle around to the important parts of your plot.

2. Real People Bicker

I’m sure some people manage to be nice to each other all the time, but in my experience, the closer you are to someone, the more you bicker.

In fact, bickering can become part of an everyday conversation—as unfortunate as that is.

Bickering rarely turns into full arguments. It’s more like a constant buzz of tension.

And while bickering can add tension to your scenes, make sure characters don’t bicker just because. Use these conversations in your story to impact the plot or develop a character trait.

3. Real People Don’t Have Long Monologues

I know you want to show off your exquisite writing skills with a long speech, but in normal situations, real people don’t like making speeches. They feel uncomfortable when they’re the only one talking for a long time.

If you want to write a speech, you need to create some kind of excuse for your character to give the speech. Perhaps they just won an award or their about to go on a long trip or they are dying and want to share their last words.

And if you do need a long speech, make sure you don’t just write dialogue alone. While long speeches might work in movies, especially if they’re written by a dialogue genius like Aaron Sorkin, books do better to break up long speeches with action.

4. Real People Don’t Always Hear You

Real people are hard of hearing. Real people have lawnmowers go by them in the middle of their conversations. Real people say, “What’s that? Huh? What did you say? Come again? Sorry, what?”

In your stories, could you create tension by having certain characters ask questions—and maybe even leaving them with unanswered questions.

Dialogue through subtext can be just as powerful as actual dialogue—and getting a character to ask a question can draw a reader’s attention to the importance of information.

5. Real People Refuse to Repeat Themselves

Sometimes, when the other person can’t hear and says, “Huh? What did you say?” Real people don’t repeat themselves. They say, “Nothing. It’s not important. Never mind. I’ll tell you later. Forget it.”

Sometimes, this leads to bickering.

This technique is especially effective if a character has just said something vulnerable. People will rarely repeat something embarrassing or hurtful or vulgar. You can draw attention to their vulnerability by having them refuse to repeat themselves.

6. Real People Don’t Always Reply

Sometimes, someone will say something like, “Man, it’s a beautiful day,” and then wait for the other person to respond. Usually, the other person says, “Yeah, gorgeous, right?” But sometimes the other person doesn’t say anything. They just grunt or roll their eyes or stare out the window.

People learn how to do this as teenagers, and it’s a good way to show underlying tension.

7. Real People Use Nicknames

No one calls you by your first, middle, and last name. So don’t use whole names in your dialogue.

Maybe you want to introduce a character by their first and last name early in the book with description, but after that, trust that the reader knows who they are. Especially since other characters won’t address them by their formal name unless it’s a specific character trait that speaks to the kind of person they are.

8. Real People Cuss

Some people are very sensitive to curse words, and I get it. But real people pepper curse words throughout their speech, and if you want to write realistically, you need to think seriously about interjecting an occasional D-word in your dialogue.

9. Real People Speak in Tangents

A paper needs proper grammar, but it’s not uncommon for incomplete sentences to occur in everyday speech. Let the grammar rules go when you’re writing dialogue. Seriously.

10. Real People Lose Track of Time and Their Surroundings When They Talk

Don’t intersperse your dialogue wit a lot of description or action. Your characters aren’t noticing what they’re doing or what they’re seeing. They’re paying attention to the conversation. If you’re using any kind of deep viewpoint (i.e. third-person limited), your narration should be paying attention to the conversation, too.

11. Real People Exaggerate

Real people don’t tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They don’t exactly lie either. They just leave things out and exaggerate to make themselves look better. It might be morally questionable, but it’s very human. (And you’re writing about humans, aren’t you?)

12. Real People Tell Stories

The only time you can write long speeches is when your character is telling a story. People love to tell stories, especially stories about themselves. Sometimes, people will even listen to them.

William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, the author of Arabian Nights, and many others have exploited this with the literary technique of the Story within a StoryHeart of Darkness is basically one long monologue about an experience a sailor had on his travels (in fact, it’s a monologue about a monologue). T

he majority of Arabian Nights is a woman telling stories to her murderous husband. Often, in these situations, the author allows us to forget we are actually reading dialogue. All the speaker tags would get really old.

Every once in a while, though, another character will make an interjection and remind us.

13. Real People Have Accents

But remember, writing in an accent can be extremely annoying to read, not to mention distracting.

Feel free to experiment with accents, but don’t be surprised if your readers don’t appreciate it.

14. Real People Talk When No One is Listening

Even when people don’t reply, real people keep talking anyway. This is a great way to show annoyance, if your character’s lecturing someone, or insecurity, if they can’t stand the sound of silence, or even social awkwardness, if they can’t pick up on social cues.

15. Real People Don’t Talk at All

Sometimes, real people are too mad or too nervous or too sullen or too much of a teenager to talk. Don’t make your characters talk if they don’t want it.

16. Real People Say Less Than They Feel

In the end, natural dialogue isn’t the best tool for developing a plot because real people are unpredictable. They rarely speak about the things closest to them. They rarely speak about their vulnerabilities.  They often talk about the most superficial, irrelevant subjects.

Real people talk lessl, which makes it very difficult to get emotion, sentiment, and transformation across through dialogue.

The key is to get your characters into a situation where they’re so broken, so destitute, so screwed up that they’ll say anything. And perhaps that’s why we read fiction anyway, to hear people say exactly what’s on their mind.

Write Realistic Dialogue…But Not Too Realistic

Writers need to include realistic dialogue in their stories if they want to make their characters feel real. However, this comes with a small caveat.

If the dialogue becomes too real, it might drag and be filled with conversational content that doesn’t do much for the story—other than slow it down.

So when you’re writing, make your dialogue sound realistic but not so realistic that it takes away from other story essentials, like character, plot, and pacing.

Overall, include dialogue that benefits the story. Don’t include every bit of real life talk just because it sounds like real life. Instead, strip the dull parts from the conversations while preserving what makes the dialogue sound real.

What are your favorite observations about realistic dialogue? Let us know in the comments.

By Joe Bunting


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Fear Thesaurus Entry: Growing Old

Debilitating fears are a problem for everyone, an unfortunate part of the human experience. Whether they’re a result of learned behavior as a child, are related to a mental illness, or stem from a past wounding event, these fears influence a character’s behaviors, habits, beliefs, and personality traits. The compulsion to avoid what they fear will drive characters away from certain people, events, and situations and hold them back in life. 

In your story, this primary fear (or group of fears) will constantly challenge the goal the character is pursuing, tempting them to retreat, settle, and give up on what they want most. Because this fear must be addressed for them to achieve success, balance, and fulfillment, it plays a pivotal part in both character arc and the overall story.

This thesaurus explores the various fears that might be plaguing your character. Use it to understand and utilize fears to fully develop your characters and steer them through their story arc. Please note that this isn’t a self-diagnosis tool. Fears are common in the real world, and while we may at times share similar tendencies as characters, the entry below is for fiction writing purposes only.

Fear of Growing Old

While growing old is a natural part of life, it’s not always an easy process. Someone who has always looked young, whose identity is tied to their attractiveness, or whose occupation relies on their mobility and independence can develop a fear in this area. Whether they’re triggered by their changing looks, a potential mental decline, a physical weakening of the body, or death itself, someone with this fear may become driven to do everything in their power to keep the inevitable at bay.

What It Looks Like
Incessantly working out
Eating healthy
Following a strict and involved skin care regimen
Investing in multiple cosmetic surgeries
Wearing a lot of makeup to cover signs of age
Staying out of the sun
Seeing doctors often for preventative and corrective measures
Avoiding doctors altogether (being in denial about growing old)
The character hanging out with people younger than them
Adopting youthful practices, speech, and activities
Needing constant reassurance about their appearance
Being obsessed about staying physically and mentally active
Avoiding reminders of old age, such as nursing homes or a retirement party
The character constantly testing their mental or physical acuity to see if it has deteriorated
The character avoiding having their picture taken
Taking many supplements that support memory and improved neurological functions
The character comparing themselves to others their age
Remaining stubbornly autonomous; turning down help or refusing to admit that an activity is beyond the character’s ability
The character refusing to change their ways—e.g., continuing to drive even when it’s dangerous for them to do so
Heightened awareness of mental and physical changes over time causing the character to hide or compensate for them

Common Internal Struggles
The character obsessing over changes in their appearance or mental capabilities
Worrying that others also notice the changes
Seeing deficiencies where there are none
Constantly wanting to look in mirrors but being afraid of what will show up there
The character comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking
Becoming deeply insecure about their appearance
Knowing that aging is a normal (and unavoidable) process but feeling compelled to fight it anyway
Being in denial about changes that are happening

Flaws That May Emerge
Childish, Compulsive, Defensive, Frivolous, Inflexible, Insecure, Irrational, Morbid, Nagging, Needy, Nervous, Obsessive, Oversensitive, Perfectionist, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Stubborn, Vain, Worrywart

Hindrances and Disruptions to the Character’s Life
The character spending too much money to maintain their appearance, purchase supplements, etc.
Frequent surgeries and recoveries stealing the character’s free time
The character spending so much time on the activities that will keep them young that they pass up other opportunities
Difficulty relating to people their own age
Being exhausted by the effort to always prove themselves and their capabilities to others

Scenarios That Might Awaken This Fear
A friend or associate passing away
Seeing a drastic change in an older friend’s appearance
The character experiencing a physical change associated with aging, such as gray hair, age spots, or a drop in metabolism or libido
Hitting a milestone birthday (40, 50, 60, etc.)
The character having memory problems that aren’t caused by their age (a side effect of medication, not getting enough sleep, etc.)
The character having trouble doing something they’ve always excelled at
The character being rejected or discriminated against and believing it’s due to their age



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