Sue May Warren

Big Screen/Your Scene

Craft Tips and Techniques from Today’s Blockbusters

Flawed Plotting: The Secrets of National Treasure

When I plot a book, I always start with a hero’s greatest dreams and greatest fears. Getting to the bottom of what my character dreads the most is a great way to develop the ultimate black moment.

But it’s not the only way. What if, in fact, you started with a character’s greatest FLAWS…and wrapped the black moment and the entire plot around your Character’s foibles? This is exactly the kind of plotting technique used in one of my favorite series of movies – National Treasure. And most specifically, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets.

Benjamin Gates. National Hero. Treasure Hunter, Historian and adventurer. He’s a guy with a long family history, and a firm belief in the secrets of our country. But Benjamin has a few flaws.

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Sherri Lewis

Author By Night

Such Is My Life

It’s Saturday night, and I’m squinting at my computer screen through eyes blurred by the lack of sleep. Why? I’m an author by night, and quite honestly, I forgot I had promised to write this article . . . in spite of the numerous e-mail reminders sent by my dear friend and editor to jog my memory.

Such is my life right now. I work full time as a physician in a state women’s prison. I have two published novels and often travel on the weekends for book events. I’m preparing for a March 2009 release, so I’m in marketing and advertising mode. And if all that wasn’t enough, in a moment of overwhelming inspiration and surrender, I signed up for my church’s ministry school, which meets at least three times a week. Insane? Absolutely. I have no choice but to admit it.

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Short Stories

Bitter Chivalry

The princess sank, still weeping, into a cushioned chair. While a woman-in-waiting poured her a cup of wine, Daymonde sat on the edge of a sofa and glanced back at Captain Strathmuir, guarding the door of the private parlor. This was the most privacy he could expect.

Where to begin?

While Glenmarr’s daughter sipped and tried to compose herself, Daymonde studied her.

Computer Dating


Julie groaned at the two little boxes that popped up on her computer screen. Send an error report or not? How should I know? Who does the report go to, anyway? She imagined fifty people in a windowless room cackling as they deleted error reports received from around the world.

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Endearing new Tales Of Christmas Past And Present
Brandilyn Collins

Making A Scene

Story Resolution-Part IV

Last month we talked about designing a resolution for a novel that is character-driven, not fact-driven. A scene that gives the readers a satisfying look at the character’s life after all the action is over. I noted that in this type of resolution it’s very hard to weave in all the facts that still need to be explained in a natural way. So how to do that?

On the personal side, I try to bring as many characters into the scene as possible. Either they are physically present, or there’s a phone call, or the main character is thinking of a recent conversation with that person, or all of the above. A lot of the characters will...

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Mary DeMuth

Write Real

The Making of a Masterpiece - Part One

I read an altogether fascinating book entitled Mockingbird by Charles J. Shields—a book about the life of novelist Harper Lee. Though, it’s frustrating that Shields has no first-hand interaction with his subject, I am learning a lot about what went on behind the scenes of my favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Here’s what surprised me. Nelle Harper Lee wrote a novel based very closely on her life growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. I knew, of course, that Dill was Truman Capote, that Atticus was a prototype of her father, A. C. Lee. But many other details of her life correspond to the story as well: a character who looked and...

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For Writers

Susan May Warren

Five Secrets of Best-sellers

J.K.Rowling, John Grisham, Karen Kingsbury, Tom Clancy, Jane Austen, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkein, Robert Ludlum: all best-selling authors, from different genres, markets, even eras. How? What sets their stories apart from others that make them a must-buy for readers?

They know the secrets to a best-selling story. And you can to.

Secret #1: A Sympathetic Hero or Heroine

Harry. Jack Ryan. Jason Bourne. Frodo.

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