Strengthen Your Weakness


Nothing like a trip out of state & sickness to screw up life’s rhythms and routines. Ha! There is no getting back to normal. It’s all a lie! Anyways, here’s hoping for a semblance of normal.

Strengthen your weakness.

Isn’t that a great thought no matter the topic, whether we are talking about writing books or living life?

Last Monday, we touched on whether our stories tend to be more plot-focused or character-focused. Me? I’m plot all the way. I love the action, the adventure, and my stories don’t lack in obstacles, but getting it all tied up neatly at the end is a different story. In my first book I had put every conceivable obstacle in the path of my characters and had to cut out a bunch as I edited it. I might consider that a strength especially if you compare it to my characters who were more like pawns in a game of Chess. You mean, they are supposed to have goals and motivations apart from the story? Oh… In The Art of War for Writers, we are challenged to spend extra time developing the weaker parts of our writing.

For character-driven writers: explore all the possible worst case scenarios. Be outrageous, Bell says, we can always scale back later.

For plot-driven people: go deeper with your character’s emotional experience/reaction to the events around them.

Back in May, we discussed putting our passion into our writing. I believe it is important to be vulnerable in order for our passion to become transparent, but it is also important in creating dynamic characters. At least, this is where my journey is taking me. Peeling away the layers, pushing through the veils and tearing down those walls…so that I can breathe life into my characters.

Do you think writing-help books can helps us with this process? I picked up two books years ago. Writer’s Guide to Character Traits by Linda N. Edelstein, PH.D. and 45 Master Character: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. The first was like a psychology text book, and the other was a fun read, but I’m not sure what to think about them.

Plot Versus Character: A Balanced Approach to Writing Great FictionI’ve been eyeing some other books like Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Have you read them?

Plot & Structure: (Techniques And Exercises For Crafting A Plot That Grips Readers From Start To Finish) (Write Great Fiction)

Or do you think just reading really good fiction will help us figure out how to strengthen our plots, characters, etc?


So what say you? Where is your writing strong, weak? What are you doing to strengthen where you are weak? This could apply to any area of writing not just plot and characters. Any resources you’ve found helpful?


6 thoughts on “Strengthen Your Weakness

  1. Gabrielle Meyer says:

    My stories are plot drive, as well. I’m working on character development. I just read a whole bunch of Susan May Warren’s writing books. They are in workbook form, so you fill in the blanks as you go and she asks some deep questions! I LOVED doing this. It helped me build stronger characters and showed me some principles to help along the way. In October I will be going to one of her retreats in Minnesota! I can’t wait.

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      I am so happy for you that you will be able to go to a retreat. Awesome! I have a love/hate relationship with workbooks. I like them to fill out and all, but some of those questions are difficult to do. I have a “Writing the Breakout Novel” and I have never gotten past the first page…argh. For me, I need to go through the workbook with another person, it just seems to help draw out those answers or better understand the questions. Maybe we could go through a workbook online after we finish this one….hmmm…

      I have read one of Susan May Warren’s novels, I didn’t know she had workbooks and retreats. Very cool. 🙂

  2. C.L. Dyck says:

    “I’ve been eyeing some other books like Plot versus Character by Jeff Gerke and Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell. Have you read them?”

    I have both on my shelf as reference points for editing. I’m never sure whether to answer that question with “yes” or “no,” though, because I tend not to read such books in a front-to-back way. I browse them repeatedly and jump all over the place in the content.

    I’ll raise my hand here as a character-based writer. I think very differently about plot than anyone who talks about it, and it took me years to begin connecting the usual plot jargon to the alternate wordings I initially developed in my head.

    • J. L. Mbewe says:

      YEA a Character person! Help my characters suck! Just kidding…in my mind they are dynamic and I’ve been learning more about character development, hopefully it will show in my next book. Not sure if there is much hope for my first novel, but we’ll see…

      I understand about using those books as reference books and not reading them straight through. I have a few books that I keep going back to, although, I did read front-to-back at first, but they are: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers & Writing Fiction for Dummies…which I’ve probably have mentioned before…

      This whole industry is filled with jargon. There should be a book or website or something with all the jargon in it…. like a writing industry dictionary with jargon, terms, acronyms, etc…ha!

      • C.L. Dyck says:

        I like the dictionary idea. Hmmm….I may have to work on that sometime, just for kicks. I know after a decade at this, I *still* keep coming across terms that bewilder me.

        Self-Editing and For Dummies are also among my primary references. I particularly love Browne and King’s commonsense on narrative distance/voice, and Ingermanson’s systematic thinking on novel structure. (Global level, mid-level, detail-level; seven scene elements)

  3. J. L. Mbewe says:

    the Dummies book has helped me a lot in so many different ways. I’d say I wished I’d found it earlier but it came out in 2009, by then I’d already written my first story and had to rewrite it twice. ha!

    let me know if you do the dictionary thing, I’ll link to it and let others know in my small little blogosphere world 🙂

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