The only thing that’s bad for writing is being interrupted. You have to have time to write. And while that seems obvious, you’re probably living a life with a lot of interruptions.
Joyce Carol Oates
Feeling extremely like this right now.
Tips for Writing a Difficult Scene
Every writer inevitably gets to that scene that just doesn't want to work. It doesn't flow, no matter how hard you try. Well, here are some things to try to get out of that rut:
1. Change the weather
I know this doesn't sound like it'll make much of a difference, but trust me when I say it does.
Every single time I've tried this, it worked and the scene flowed magically.
2. Change the POV
If your book has multiple POV characters, it might be a good idea to switch the scene to another character's perspective.
9/10 times, this will make the scene flow better.
3. Start the scene earlier/later
Oftentimes, a scene just doesn't work because you're not starting in the right place.
Perhaps you're starting too late and giving too little context. Perhaps some description or character introspection is needed before you dive in.
Alternatively, you may be taking too long to get to the actual point of the scene. Would it help to dive straight into the action without much ado?
4. Write only the dialogue
If your scene involves dialogue, it can help immensely to write only the spoken words the first time round.
It's even better if you highlight different characters' speech in different colors.
Then, later on, you can go back and fill in the dialogue tags, description etc.
5. Fuck it and use a placeholder
If nothing works, it's time to move on.
Rather than perpetually getting stuck on that one scene, use a placeholder. Something like: [they escape somehow] or [big emotional talk].
And then continue with the draft.
This'll help you keep momentum and, maybe, make the scene easier to write later on once you have a better grasp on the plot and characters.
Trust me, I do this all the time.
It can take some practice to get past your Type A brain screaming at you, but it's worth it.
So, those are some things to try when a scene is being difficult. I hope that these tips help :)
Reblog if you found this post useful. Comment with your own tips. Follow me for similar content.
How to get rid of this writer's block NOW!
oh, yes, you read it right! you're getting rid of your annoying writer's block like right now with these tips. ready? let's get started.
stop. being. a. perfectionist (please)
i knowww, i know. you love to do everything right and make sure it's the best you can do. trust me, i feel you. however, being a perfectionist can stop you from writing because you're always looking at everything you've wrote so far and rewriting it over and over again (oh gosh, this feels so so familiar to me...)
so, rach, how can i stop being a perfectionist? you ask me. well... let me do a quick research:
focus on maximizing the impact of your effort so you can concentrate on what’s important. similarly, learn to calibrate your standards. - from Harvard Business Review
now that we know how to stop trying to make everything perfect, it's time to:
get rid of distractions
imagine this: you open your laptop to write a chapter of your novel but, just before you do so, you open youtube to play your favorite song (but watch three recommended videos first), then open tumblr to check the notifications and, when you look at the clock, it's time to do something else. what did you write? exactly, noting! (i'm not judging you, this has happened to me countless times)
if you get distracted by your laptop, get a distraction blocker;
if you get distracted by your tv, turn it off and put the controller away from you;
if you get distracted by your surroundings, try to find a peaceful place where you can be free from distractions.
suddenly you feel like everything you write sucks. yeah, i've been there. the best you can do is to pick up a book you love and read it. touch its pages, smell it (i swear it is not as crazy as it might sound). imagine that your book will be someone's favorite book, and they will love the smell of it, too.
manage your time
you never, ever, have time to write, right? maybe it's because you don't plan your writing sessions ahead.
try doing this: when planning your week or month, include a few minutes every day on your schedule just to write (ten minutes will always be better than zero).
maybe you don't stick to your plan... try timeblocking! it's life changing, i swear. when you look at your calendar you see how organized your life / routine is, so hopefully you'll feel less anxious. you got everything under control, so there's still time to write.
to finish the post, i want to tell you this: PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT BLAME YOURSELF IF YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE WRITING! it's okay, you'll eventually feel inspired to get back on track. in the meantime, lay back and relax. practice meditation, listen to yoour thoughts, and breathe. you got this!
Writing Insights -- Part One
I started writing my first novel when I was twelve years old. I was thirty-three when I completed my first rough draft. That’s twenty years of wanting to do something and not knowing how. Twenty years of failure and frustrations and giving up.
A big part of the problem is that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t know which questions to ask, much less who might have the answers.
These days, people write to me as if I know what I’m doing. Or like I have a shortcut to success. I’m not sure either is true. One thing I’ve learned is that luck plays a massive role. But what I do have are some insights today that I wish I’d had twenty years ago, tips and pointers that might’ve saved me a lot of headache and heartache if I’d known them sooner. Maybe it’ll help some aspiring writer out there if I jot them all down now.
I’m going to share what insights I have in four parts. The first part is a list of all the things I wish I’d known about becoming a writer before I set out. The second part is tips and tricks for completing that first rough draft. In the third part, I discuss the important art of turning a rough draft into something worth reading. And finally, I share some tips on how to get your story out into the world.
These are my insights now that I’ve written over a dozen novels, sold a few million books, been published in over forty languages, and have seen all angles of this complex industry as a reader, bookseller, writer, editor, and publisher. My first novel was published traditionally through a small press; I’ve self-published many on my own; others are with some of the biggest publishers in the world. I give this advice knowing how much it would’ve been worth to me while understanding that it all might be worthless to you. I only have my own experiences and observations. I wish you all the best of luck.
Insight #1: Anyone can become a successful writer; the only person who can stop you is you.
I spent twenty years stopping myself from becoming a successful writer. The biggest obstacle I faced is thinking success meant selling a ton of books, which meant writing something that millions of readers would enjoy. As I began writing my first attempts at a novel, watching the sentences form on the screen, I knew the words weren’t good enough, and so I stopped in order to spare all those readers from what I was writing.
The problem is that I had the definition of “successful writer” all wrong. A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.
Imagine if NBA all-star Steph Curry attempted to learn to play basketball with a million people watching. Or if the first pickup game he ever played was his only chance to land an agent and get signed to an NBA team. This is the pressure writers put on themselves, and it makes no sense. Basketball players will put all the hustle and energy into a thousand practice games before they ever get a shot at turning pro. Most will spend a dozen years playing almost every day of their lives before they make it onto a high school or college team. Writers should have the same expectations. Perhaps you write a dozen novels before you write one that blows you away or becomes a bestseller. The point is to finish them all. Play all four quarters. Steph Curry played a thousand games to the end before he turned pro. Every game he finished was a success. He didn’t stop himself, and neither should you.
Insight #2: You can’t compare your rough draft to any of the books you’ve read.
If you’re just starting out as a writer, there’s a good chance that you’ve never read a rough draft in your life. So don’t compare what you’re working on to what you’ve read from your favorite authors. Their rough drafts were nowhere near as wonderful and polished as the final product that you loved as a reader and that made you want to become a writer. Just like you, they had to get the words down on the page first. And then they had to go back and rewrite much of what they wrote, several times. At this point, they probably gave it to their spouse or a friend to read, and that person saw lots of room for improvement. Which meant another revision. The same process took place again with their agent. And then their editor. Each time, the rough draft got better and better. So will yours.
The books that made you want to become a writer were rewritten and revised as much as a dozen times, with the input of several other people. You don’t get to see all of the mistakes and boring bits – all of that has been cut away. It’s just like when you take a thousand photos on an epic vacation and only share the thirty or forty very best ones. This is what it takes to be a successful writer: You have to learn how to write the good and the bad all the way until the finish. Trust the revision process. No one will have to see your rough draft but you. And you can’t revise a work to perfection until it already exists. So make it exist.
Insight #3: There is no special qualification required.
I used to think writers belonged to a special club that had all sorts of requirements for admittance. You had to graduate from a special school, or live in the right city, or own a turtleneck. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best writers have the most diverse backgrounds. They come in all ages, all genders, all races, all sexual persuasions. They all have unique things to say. Anyone can be a writer, if they put in the work. Like most things in life, it takes lots of practice. How much practice you get is entirely up to you.
I first started dreaming of being a writer after reading Ender’s Game. I was around twelve years old. This novel blew me away, because the heroes of the story were children my age. It made me think there were no limits to what I could do. At the end of the novel, there was a brief biography of the author, Orson Scott Card. I was shocked to read that he lived in my home state, North Carolina. I always thought writers lived far away in little shacks in the woods or tall glass towers. I always thought kids had to wait to be adults to do amazing things. This book got me thinking that both assumptions might be wrong.
Related to this insight is the idea that there are too many novels out there in the world. This is rubbish. There are always readers agonizing that they can’t find something great to read. Maybe your next book will fill that void for a reader. Or it’ll be the book that leads to the book that fills that void in many other readers. Either way, there should be joy in the act of creation. My mother started knitting for the pure joy, then grew her talents until she was giving away works, then having people pay for them, and then owning and running her own yarn shop. The lady at the farmers’ market you buy tomatoes from started gardening to see if she could. Steph Curry enjoyed shooting hoops with his dad and grew hooked on the sound a perfect swish makes. There is nothing wrong with starting something as a hobbyist and asking for compensation for your art. We can all turn pro whenever we like.
Let the readers decide if you’re worth supporting with their time and money, not the cycicism of other writers who don’t want you playing ball with them.
Insight #4: The best writers are the best readers.
There aren’t any shortcuts around this. Successful writers read. They read a lot. And the best writers read a wide variety of books. It’s impossible to stress the importance of this insight. When aspiring authors ask my advice on making it as a writer, this is my most common first response: Read.
Writing is a lot like singing. There’s a musicality to good writing, and I don’t mean florid writing like you might encounter in a literature course. I mean the simple flow and cadence of sentences, how they run together, how long paragraphs should be, how much dialog to sprinkle among the action (or action among the dialog). Every sentence in this blog post is an example. I listen for the rise and fall of stresses, the iambic pentameter, mixing short punchy sentences with long comma-filled breezy ones. It should come naturally. You don’t want to even be aware that you’re doing it. Eventually you won’t.
Of course, your style will be different than my style. This is called “voice,” and we’ll talk more about voice and constructing sentences in the next part of this series. For now, it’s important to know that you’ll have a very difficult time creating pleasant prose without absorbing years’ worth of it first. Books are like tuning forks. We hear the pleasant ring of words on key, and it helps us recognize when our own pitch is a little off. The avid reader will know when a sentence needs more tinkering.
It would be convenient if we could dismiss this advice and say, “I’m going to write my own way, rules and tuning forks be damned.” But it doesn’t work that way. There are millions of effective voices and styles, but all share a common framework. Just as there are an infinite number of songs in a single guitar, but that guitar needs to be properly tuned. The way we tune our writing instruments is to read, and to read as writers. Recognize sentences that make you smile, or think, or laugh, or cry. Pore over them. Ask yourself how this writer made you care about the protagonist, or feel revulsion for the antagonist, with so few words. Where is the conflict in the story? How are the characters different at the end of the novel? This is the craft that we’ll discuss in the next part of this series, and it’s what we should look for as readers.
It’s never too late to start. And it’s impossible to do too much of it. Above all, branch out. I wrote my first novel after months of reading and reviewing detective and crime fiction for a friend’s website. These were not my preferred genres, but I was reading and reviewing a book a day. I learned so much about intricate plotting, misdirection, tension, danger, and the crafting of horror. These elements now appear in my young adult novels, my science fiction, my romance. Every type of story has many elements of all other types of story. Study all the genres deeply. You may even uncover a new passion or write a completely different kind of novel.
It also helps to not be too deeply immersed in the types of stories you want to write. If you only read within your writing genre, one of two things will happen: You’ll write something derivative and unoriginal, or you’ll be so terrified of doing this that you’ll be closed off to exploring themes that your colleagues are also delving into. Both are terrible risks.
As a science fiction author, I’ve found it better to read non-fiction. Many of my story ideas come from newspaper articles and the latest works of science and philosophy. History books are a great inspiration, because they reveal the cultural patterns that forewarn the future. Satire is impossible without a deep understanding of history.
Romance novels benefit from books on psychology. A thriller featuring a tortured couple gets new layers by reading self-help books meant for those going through a divorce. Even fiction authors have to do research. Certainly read enough in your genre to understand what readers expect (even if your goal is to defy expectations). But don’t get trapped. The more adventurous you are with your reading, and the more avidly you read, the stronger your writing will become. There is no better writing advice than this. All writing advice, in fact, presupposes the truth of this: that we must be readers first and foremost.
Insight #5: This is a marathon, not a sprint.
Despite what appears to be exceptions to this rule, writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You don’t sit down, bang out a rough draft, and watch the money flow in. Your first novel will quite likely not be your best. When I was starting out, I gave myself ten years to see if I could make this work. Ten years! The plan was to write two novels a year, twenty novels in total, hoping that eventually one of them would be decent.
I get emails all the time from writers who have heard this advice from me and credit it for the success they eventually found. It helped them to not give up. It’s exactly what this philosophy did for me. It also allowed me to concentrate on the writing and not the promoting. Promotion is a waste of time until you have enough material out there for each one to feed on the other. It’s not like those books are going away or growing stale. Wait until you have five or six novels published before you start to spread the word. Pour every spare minute and every ounce of energy into the writing while you can.
This is one of those bits of advice you simply must trust and believe in. I was lucky to stumble upon the truth of this early on in my career. These last two insights truly distill what a writing career is all about, and the simplicity can blind us to the quality of the advice: Read and write. Just keep doing this and you will surprise yourself.
Insight #6: Whoever works the hardest will get ahead.
This insight is for those who measure their success as a writer by readership, sales, and the ability to make a full-time living from their craft. The biggest, most daunting, terrible, awful truth working against this type of success is this: There are only so many readers. It really is as simple as that. If there were twice as many books being consumed, there would be a lot more seats on the bus to successville. Ten times as much reading would be even better. You’d have ten times the chance of making it as a writer. There’s a lot we could do as a society to increase the number of readers, but that’s a blog post for a different time.
Because of the limited number of readers, and the ever-growing number of distractions and hobbies that aren’t reading, only a limited number of people can find an appreciable audience and make a living with their writing. But there’s good news as well: A larger share of the readers’ dollars are now going to writers, which means more writers today can make a living than at any time in the past. The other bit of good news is this: Not many writers are willing to do what it takes to make that living. Which opens the door for you.
I know a lot of people who make a living with their writing. Many of my close personal friends are among those who do. And this isn’t a self-selected sample, where I end up meeting other writers at writing conventions, so all my friends are successful writers. What I’ve seen happen over and over is people who want to know how to get this done, and then go out and do it. What they all have in common, bar none, is a work ethic that borders on obsession.
This is true of all careers with more dreamers than open slots. Going back to sports, imagine the number of times Lionel Messi kicked a soccer ball off a brick wall, passing back and forth to himself, while his friends played Nintendo or watched TV. Successful people find a joy in the thing they do that allows them to do more of it than their peers. I guarantee I’ve read more books than 99.9% of aspiring writers. For many years of my life, I had a goal of reading a book a day. I did this throughout college and most of high school. And when I started writing, I carried the same obsession into my craft. I joined a writing group, read writing theory and advice, and wrote two to three novels a year, plus many shorter works.
This meant getting up at four in the morning to write before work. I wrote over my lunch break. I wrote all weekend. I revised my rough drafts a dozen times. I hired, traded, and begged for editing advice. And I’m not even a good example of proper work ethic. I have friends who write, revise, edit, and publish a novel a month. Year after year. I have friends who have published over fifty novels in their first handful of years of writing. Both of my friends who publish a book a month make millions of dollars a year, and they are among the best writers I know when it comes to craft. I can’t put their books down. They pass like Messi.
When I hear writers brag about how little they publish, or how long it takes them to finish a novel, I hear Steph Curry brag about how little he shoots hoops, or how he only practices once a year. I turn on the TV to watch athletes who obsess over their craft. I admire writers who have the same level of obsession. This is what anyone who wants to make a career at writing should expect from themselves. Stop listening to anyone who brags about how little they write and how much they procrastinate. Surround yourself with the Messis and Currys of the writing world.
Please note here again that making a career at writing is very different from being a successful writer. They’re two different goals. Successful writers are out there completing works and making those works available to readers. These writers might dream of making a living one day, but unless they are outworking everyone they know, their chances are slim. A dream is not a plan. There’s nothing wrong with writing for the pure joy of creation. There’s nothing wrong with shooting hoops with friends, or playing in a community basketball league and wanting to win every game without ever being paid one dime. Know your goals, and know what it takes to achieve them.
Insight #7: Competition is complicated
It might be true that there are a limited number of readers, and that you have to outwork your peers to turn writing into a career, but that doesn’t mean we’re all in competition with each other. We’re only competing to a certain degree, and then we’re in cahoots. Believe it or not, this is a team game.
Steph Curry played for Davidson College, not far from where I grew up. I watched him play college ball. Steph was competing with every player on his team, and every player in his division, for a spot in the NBA. But once he made it to the NBA, he was now reliant on not just his teammates but on his opposition to advance his career. The better Lebron James played, the more spectators and the more money Steph Curry enjoyed. And vice versa. Every NBA superstar grows the pool of viewers, hence advertising dollars, and so all NBA pros benefit.
I see a lot of writers get this wrong, claiming it’s a zero-sum game and we’re all competing with each other. This is nonsense. None of us can write fast enough, or a wide enough variety of material, to please all readers. We rely on our fellow pros to keep interest in the hobby high. JK Rowling did so much for all writers when she increased the number of young avid readers. I rely on my colleagues to keep people reading while I’m working on the next book. Just as Steph and Lebron both work to keep ratings high, advertising dollars flowing, and salary caps increasing.
The biggest fear NBA players, team owners, and executives should have is that viewers might change the channel. The real competition at this level is the NFL, MMA, CNN, the great outdoors, and so on. The paradox is this: You compete up to a point, and then you rely on each other. This means it’s never too early to foster great relationships with fellow writers. Which leads me to the next insight…
Insight #8: Be helpful and engaged
If there’s a shortcut to writing success, it’s here. Be helpful to other writers, and you’ll find your generosity will pay dividends. It’s not the reason you should try to be helpful, but it doesn’t hurt to know that being a good person will be rewarding. I’ve seen it over and over in this industry.
One author I know was a brilliant illustrator. While still working on his first novel, he started helping indie authors with their cover art. He did much of this work for free, and then for much cheaper than he should, all because something most of us find difficult came very easily for him. His generosity and kindness made him incredibly popular. When Jason Gurley finished his novel Eleanor, there was a long line of people eager to give it a read, offer blurbs, and promote the hell out of it. Your novel still has to be good, of course. But you won’t believe how difficult it is to get even family and friends to read your work. Writing good material is a necessity, but it isn’t enough.
Another friend of mine got her start by being a beta reader for other writers and later an editor. You could learn how to format ebooks and offer this service. Or start a blog reviewing and promoting new releases (I’ve watched several bloggers move into writing; it was my path as well). You could join a few writing forums and contribute as much as you can to the helpful discourse among writers. Be yourself. Be kind. Form relationships. Share your journey. Soon you’ll meet and get to know those who want this as badly as you do. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find yourselves on opposing teams one day, realizing that you are now both colleague and competitor, but that you only go as far as you can lift each other up.
Insight #9: Know your readers
My first reader was my cousin Lisa. Other people had read my rough drafts and manuscripts before her, but Lisa was the first person who – under no obligation to read my work – sought it out, loved it, and started asking for more. She also – crucially – began telling all her friends how much she loved my debut novel and asked me if she could send copies to them. At the time, my book was just a Word document. I told her to feel free to send it to anyone. By the time I received a book deal and had the novel ready for pre-order, Lisa had dozens of friends and family excited about the release and securing their copies.
When Lisa talked about what she loved in the book, I listened. As readers began leaving Amazon reviews, I read them closely. I started a Facebook page primarily to connect with readers. I’ll never forget the day I friended my 1,000th reader and realized I was reaching well beyond friends-of-friends. Now I was connecting with strangers from all over the globe. Cultivating these relationships, and giving back every ounce of the love and passion that was streaming toward me and my works, was profoundly satisfying and paid enormous personal and professional dividends.
Connecting and getting to know your readers is critical. Set up platforms that allow this as early on as you can. The important thing is to make it easy for readers to find and connect with you. Don’t waste time trying to win over new readers by spamming social media; this does not work in a sustainable manner. Instead, spend your creative energies writing more works. And use your downtime to connect with the readers you already have. Other readers will come. It all starts with one, like my cousin Lisa.
Insight #10: Know your industry
My last insight is a peek ahead at the final part of this series, but it’s one of the things I wish more aspiring writers thought about before they began honing their craft. The writing industry is a business. Whatever your goals and aspirations, you should learn as much as you can about how books are made, distributed, sold, published, edited, translated, purchased, read, shared, and recycled. Working as a bookseller gave me an advantage that I didn’t appreciate until many years later. When I realized how little most writers knew about their industry, I was shocked at first and then later dismayed. Dismayed, because I saw how many writers were taken advantage of or disappointed simply by not knowing very much about the field they’d devoted their creative lives to.
Most students who go into medicine have at least some idea of the work that will be involved, the hours, the expected pay, the time it will take to get through their residency, the fact that they’ll be working graveyard shifts before they ever catch a whiff of their own practice. Before they take on several hundred thousand dollars in student loans, they look into what an anesthesiologist might expect to make in the state of Indiana upon graduation.
Very few aspiring authors know how much they’ll earn from every paperback sale. Or that most works of fiction are now purchased as ebooks. Or that most physical books are now purchased online. If the goal is to sell enough books to raise a family, the dream should be to have a great online presence for one’s books, and to concentrate on ebooks. However, if the goal is to place books into bookstores and submit for awards in particular genres, the plan should be very different. Understanding these choices and managing expectations will be the subject of the fourth part of this series. For now, my advice is to start learning as much as possible. Read Publishers Weekly, The Passive Voice, Kristine Rusch, JA Konrath. Spend time in bookstores. Follow authors who blog about their experiences. Know what you’re getting yourself into.
Those are the top ten things I wish I’d known before I got started. Next up, I discuss what I wish I’d known about finishing my first rough draft. Maybe it’ll help you, however far along your own writing path you happen to find yourself.
Many of the challenges and frustrations you’ll encounter along the way are the exact same as those felt by every other writer. The exact same. Writing requires long stretches of uninterrupted concentration. This sort of time has always been difficult to carve out. We have children, pets, and spouses who require our attention. We have day jobs to work around. We have the stress of bills, mortgages, student loans, rent, empty gas tanks, empty stomachs. We berate ourselves for not writing more. We judge ourselves when our works don’t sell. We watch as other writers get ahead, as markets change, as retailers come and go.
Every generation of writer thinks that their challenges are unique, and that every other cohort of writer had it easier in the past or will have it easier in the future. That’s because the past highlights those who succeeded there, and their success seems to have come all at once, without the failures, frustrations, and challenges that all writers feel in the moment. The present for a struggling writer is certainly suffering, but this never stops being true. It’s always been true.
The only thing that truly changes over time is the stories and rationalizations that we tell ourselves when we feel these universal pangs of self-doubt, envy, and exhaustion. We tell ourselves it’s because Barnes and Noble is killing indie bookstores. Or that it’s Amazon destroying B&N. Or that it’s Amazon introducing a new program. Or the Nook not doing enough to compete. Or James Patterson and his stable of co-authors. And so on and so on and so on.
The excuses and the stories we make up vary. The challenges don’t.
The fact is that the writing landscape today is as vibrant and viable as it’s ever been in the history of mankind. Authors have more power and control over their careers than ever before. They have more access to readers, to each other, to foreign markets, to the tools of publication, and to the infinite manufacture of goods at almost zero cost. Ten years ago, it was almost impossible to reach readers. Ten years from now is a complete unknown. Seize the day, my friends.
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
THIS IS NOT A DRILL
THE STRICTLY NO HEROICS (Feiwel & Friends, Macmillan Children’s, 2023) IS UP FOR PRE-ORDER!
[ID: cover of a book showing a figure in a gasmask, hoodie and gloves, leant on an old TV. A rainbow pride pin is pinned to their jacket. Text reads ‘STRICTLY NO HEROICS’ in neon pink and green, and ‘B. L. Radley’ in white.]
If you're a powerless normie in a world run by superheroes, you need three rules to survive:
1: Keep your head down
2: Don’t make enemies
3: STRICTLY NO HEROICS
When a hero gropes her best friend, Riley Jones breaks all of them.
Her attempt at serving justice gets her fired from her summer job. Luckily, Sunnylake City’s biggest business is booming (literally, when there's C4 involved).
Every villain wants henchmen: masked cronies who take their coffee orders, vacuum their secret lairs, and posture in the background while they fight. The HENCH agency provides a steady stream of drop-outs and losers who are willing to get beaten up by sidekicks for minimum wage.
Riley might just be the perfect candidate.
I’ve worked so hard on this project, with an incredible team of people. And we’re getting closer to that sweet, sweet pub date (March 28, 2023)!
Any boosts would be greatly appreciated <3 Let’s give my debut some love?
If you like queer & wlw content, teenage activists organizing strikes, and superhero stories from the perspective of the civilians... this is the book for you!
(If you’re short a bob but still want to get your hands on this glorious beast of a novel, consider requesting that your local library buy it! x)
My new approach to writing is "give every OC at least one trait that would make them your blorbo if someone else was writing it."
Me, a writer: *considers myself an intellectual*
If you're feeling bad about your writing just remember that "Aro started to laugh. "Ha, ha ha," he chuckled." managed to get published.
Larkin and Yvette
Summary: Larkin is curious. All Fae are. That curiosity leads her to college. That curiosity leads her to Yvette.(F/F, fantasy, original short story)
“What did you do that day?”
There’s a cage around the bare bulb dangling above the table. Larkin looks for shadows from the bars on the walls, but doesn’t find any. The small room is evenly and uncompromisingly lit from that single lightbulb, the only shadows lying directly beneath the metal table bolted to the ground. Larkin wonders if her chair - more of a stool with a low back - is bolted down too, but doesn’t dare check. She feels if she moves, the man braced on the other side of the table will lunge for her.
The man raps his knuckles against the table, the sound like a soda can crumpling, and rocks back and forth on his heels. There’s no stool on his side. “I said, what did you do that day?”
Larkin wipes her lips with the back of her hand. There’s a red ring around her wrist left behind by handcuffs. “What day?”
“October 18th,” the man says. His teeth are probably white but look yellow next to the gunmetal walls. His canines are prominent, pressing against his thin lips. “Thursday. The day you killed her.”
“No,” Larkin says. Her long, brown hair slides over her bare shoulders as she shakes her head. The room is making her head spin. No, not spin. Ring. Like silver bells. “No.”
“Yes,” the man insists, banging his knuckles against the table again. That sets off another round of ringing in her head, a chorus of bells that seeps through the air. “You killed her on October 18th.”
“I met her that day,” Larkin says. The memory swims through the fog, presents itself like the opening credits of a movie. Curtains rising. Bells resolving into a chord so sweet that she can’t help but remember Yvette’s smile. “A year before that day. Exactly a year.”
The man stands upright, folding his arms over his thin chest. Victory flashes through his cold, blue eyes. “Tell me about it,” he commands. “Tell me about the day you met Yvette Troy.”
————— The beginning————-
It’s a stupid idea.
Larkin presses herself against the tree she’s hiding behind. The bark bites into her skin, sharp and real and painful. If she wants she can melt into the tree, slide herself sideways until it accepts the paleness of her flesh like new bark, wraps older, hardier stuff around her. Young voices - young human voices - drift on the wind.
It’s a stupid idea, but it’s one she keeps having over and over again.
Larkin sucks in a breath through her new teeth and steps out onto the manicured lawn. Immediately the sun is too bright, no longer mitigated by the thick, deciduous canopy, and she blinks against its rays. Slowly, her vision adjusts, irises shivering until they settle into a new shape. She blinks, testing the surprising lack of flexibility in her pupils.
Huh. Humans really are blind.
A heavy bell rings from deep within campus. Iron cast by the sound of it. Larkin shivers but forces herself forward. Her boon will save her iron’s sting for a year and only a year. She is not so foolish to waste a second of that time on fear.
The other students are as bright as the sun. The bell signaled a new hour and a majority of them are entering the same path through the heart of campus, splintering off into this building or that. One of them is wearing all red from the soles of her shoes to the ties in her hair. Another is singing as he walks, meaningless little syllables that nobody but Larkin can hear. Metallic nail polish waves to a woman sitting on a bench the color of sea foam.
Larkin slips amongst them as easily as she might slip into a tree. Nobody falters at the sight of her black t-shirt, her jeans, her navy blue backpack clutched against her chest. Of course not. She’s done her research, sought the wisdom of her elders, clawed through the memories of those few humans lucky enough to survive a night dancing for the Court.
A cautious and shuddering joy begins to unfurl in her chest. She can do this. She is doing this.
And she has a whole year to enjoy it.
The classes are fascinating. Larkin never goes into the same one twice. There’s an older woman pointing to diagrams of ancient ruins in Building 6a, telling the class of bored freshmen that the ancient civilizations had urban planning, a sign of advancement ignored by early colonizers. A man in a tweed vest reads aloud in Conferences Room 178, odysseys and sonnets that remind Larkin of her native language. One class is spent entirely in silence, a nude human posed at the front of the room, staring out the sub-level room’s window and into the blackened hall.
“Auditing,” she tells curious TA’s when they can’t find her on the roster. She smiles and readies a glamor in her hand under her desk. Just in case. “For next semester.”
They never ask her to leave. It’s well past the time for audits, well past the time for casual drop-ins to test majors and minors, but nobody cares. Larkin doesn’t need to use a single bit of magic. She no longer slips into classrooms and lecture halls. She strides in, chest high, head up, her backpack slung over one shoulder.
Then on Wednesday, October 18th, she meets Yvette Troy.
Larkin is sitting in the first row of the smallest theater on campus. She came to see a play the night before. A beautiful, grating, horribly written play which none of the actors had memorized and only a smattering of people showed up for. She’s been trying to figure out what it was supposed to be about since then and hasn’t bothered to move even as the lights turned off all around her and the sun came up outside. Why should she move? Nobody will ask her a question.
“Oh,” a woman says. “I didn’t know someone was in here.”
Larkin twists in her seat to find the woman standing at the top of the aisle, bracketed by the theatre’s double doors, and backlit by the sunlight streaming into the lobby.
“I saw Fiddler Diatribes last night,” Larkin says. She turns back to the stage, seeing the actors and stage lights in her mind’s eye. The main character entered from stage left and Larkin is trying to decide if that was supposed to be symbolic or not. “It was about the devil. Or maybe a particularly unlikeable salesman? I can’t figure it out.”
“My roommate wrote that,” the woman says. Her footsteps are soft on the crushed carpet. She walks like a dancer. Toe, heel, toe, heel. Then, at the bottom of the steps, the rhythm changes. Heel, toe. Heel, toe. “You didn’t like it?”
“I loved it,” Larkin declares. She turns to face the woman and is momentarily struck dumb. The lighting had hidden the woman’s features from her before, but now, illuminated by the low lighting of the room, she might be the most stunning creature Larkin has ever seen. High brows and a sweet, round face. Dimples pressed into the swell of her cheeks as if no matter how hard this person tries, there’s no way to hide her smile. Her eyes glitter like the crystals growing in the deepest parts of the woods. Larkin swallows. “Not to say it was good. It was really bad. Really, really bad.”
“I know,” the woman says. The physicality of her feels like a compulsion. Her hands swan through the air as if directing her own words. Like music. Like a symphony. “That’s the whole point though. It’s a commentary on how mandatory art - in this case, a play written for a grade - will never be fully authentic. Natalia cast Economic majors and Computer Science majors only. She bribed them with beer but I think they would have done it for free.”
“It was authentically awful,” Larkin says. Her nails are digging into her thighs. She eases them out of her flesh and stands. “I’m Larkin. Please, tell your roommate I’m a big fan.”
“Yvette,” Yvette says. She doesn’t offer her hand. “Natalia would hate having a fan after last night’s performance.” She cocks her head to one side, eyeing Larkin’s feet. “Why aren’t you wearing shoes?”
Larkin is in love.
Fae desires are minnows. They flash in the shallow edges of the pond, never venturing into deeper waters. If they do, they grow. All things do when given the right amount of space and nutrition.
Larkin sips at Yvette, herding the minnows of her interest into the shallows as best she can.
Yvette is 24 years old. She loves gardening but always forgets when to water or what to plant which plant in. Her counselor wants her to decide on a major sooner rather than later. She was homeschooled and protected from the crush of the masses until she threatened to run away and join a circus. College was a compromise. Her parents call every week with worry-filled words, but Yvette doesn’t believe them.
“They miss what I can do for them,” Yvette tells Larkin. She’s solving a Rubik’s cube on the lawn, propped up on one elbow and lounging across the picnic blanket Larkin insisted on spreading out. She completes the orange side and frowns at the blue. “They’re missing a skill set, not their daughter.”
“And what skill set is that?” Larkin asks. The flower crown in her hands burns with purpose. She eyes the bowed top of Yvette’s head speculatively and dismisses it. Larkin gets the impression that Yvette will fight her to the death if she attempts to place the crown there.
“Magic,” Yvette says. She says it like a joke, that smile flashing in her dimples before she clicks her tongue at the Rubik’s cube. The orange side now has one red cube in it. “Or something like that.”
“Or something like that,” Larkin echoes.
Larkin wonders sometimes what Yvette would look like in the woods. She wants to know how the sunlight through the canopy would lay across Yvette’s brown skin and what the brooks would look like reflected in her amber eyes.
Yvette purses her lips and sets the Rubik’s cube on the blanket, completed blue side up. She turns all of her attention on Larkin. “What about your parents? Do they miss you?”
Once, when Larkin was small, she fell out of her tree. There was a flower just on the river’s edge that was big and red and unusual this deep into the woods. She leaned towards it, imagined what its petals would feel like against her lips, and then pop! The wet, decaying leaves beneath her tree stuck to her skin. The ground was cool and shocking against her warmth.
Larkin remembers reaching out to lay her hand against her tree. She made a conscious effort not to slip into it, intent on studying the bark from this side rather than inside. That’s where I came from, she thought. She stared at her long, spindly fingers spread out against the grooved bark. That’s what I’ll be someday.
She twisted back towards the flower, the idea that, since she was out of her tree, she best make the most of it. The flower was now leaning away from the river. She could see right into the center of it and, where there should have been a stamen, she saw only darkness. A root writhed under the earth towards her, dragging the flower a centimeter away from the water’s edge.
The wind slipping through the forest felt new and invasive. She slipped back into her tree and did not venture out again for a long, long time.
“No,” Larkin says. Then, because sometimes she is not good at keeping her minnows away from deeper waters, “But I miss home sometimes. I would like to show you it someday.”
Yvette stares at her. Her face doesn’t change, but Larkin can feel something softening in her. A barrier lowering. A cautious interest growing. “I suppose,” Yvette says slowly, “I could. One day. For a visit.”
A visit. Larkin doesn’t know if all of her kind think the sort of mean and mischievous thoughts that are in her head. It would never be just a visit.
Larkin imagines inviting Yvette into the woods. She would help the shorter woman over the decaying logs with her hands under Yvette’s elbows, her shoulder there to lean on. She’d chatter meaningless words like birdsong, each sentence tumbling over the next until the air was filled with Larkin’s voice and Yvette had no space to think. No chance to second guess.
She’d sweep the twigs and branches out of Yvette’s path so nothing could trip her as she stepped into Larkin’s world. Why, if Larkin did it right, Yvette would never feel the magic close behind her, sealing her away from the human world forevermore.
She could show Yvette the dark part, deep, deep into the woods where the brooks collided into the river and the red flowers had begun to take over the banks. She could press Yvette against the harsh bark of the deciduous trees, cage her in with her long limbs until Yvette slipped into the tree, Larkin’s tree—
“No.” Larkin barks the word. It’s more directed at herself than Yvette. She grabs the hair on either side of her head, squeezing her eyes shut. “No, you can’t. You must never.”
Yvette’s eyes are wide, but not afraid. The sun shines out from her amber irises. There’s a magnetism to them that Larkin can’t look away from. “It was only a thought.”
“Thoughts grow,” Larkin says. She can’t get the image of Yvette against her bark out of her head. Larkin jerks to her feet, uses the motion to break eye contact. “I’m going.”
Larkin feels the light of Yvette’s eyes on her back like solar flares.
Larkin is selfish. It’s a new concept, a new description, a new boundary she must be mindful of. The fae are not selfish. The fae just are. But Larkin is not fae right now. Larkin is human and being a selfish human hurts.
She does not want to hurt Yvette.
She hides from Yvette after that day on the lawn. Not wanting to hurt is also new. There’s a hard, stone-like part of Larkin that doesn’t care if Yvette hurts so long as Yvette is hers. But another, softer part wonders, would Yvette cry?
Larkin growls and follows a cloud of students towards the Drama building. She doesn’t have a ticket to whatever play they’re going to, but it doesn’t matter. For the first time in ten months (and when did ten months pass?) she uses glamour to slip inside, bypassing the ticket seller entirely.
The back row is completely empty. Larkin hunches down in the center of it, arms folded tightly over her chest. She can feel her ribs shifting, thinning and lengthening as her emotions surge.
Her minnows mouth the surface of the water, hungry. Needle-like teeth fill their mouths, too big for their frames.
“Damnit,” Larkin whispers. Her heart is pounding and her palms feel clammy. She feels hunted. Haunted. Cornered. She thought she had everything under control, thought herself above the infatuation the elders had warned her against. But in her certainty, she’s trapped herself and, worse, she’s trapped Yvette. “I have to leave.”
A warm body slides into the seat next to Larkin. The smell of sun and magic wraps around her and a plump, short hand wraps around Larkin’s four-jointed fingers.
“The play has just started,” Yvette whispers into Larkin’s ear, so close that her lips brush the shell of it. She squeezes Larkin’s hand. “Stay.”
Larkin feels herself root to the spot.
“In the end,” Yvette says after the show, “you never had a chance.”
Larkin is walking in the shadows behind her. She can’t quite remember how long human legs are supposed to be so she’s dipping from one pool of shadow to the next, dodging the circles of light left by the campus’ streetlights. Yvette’s shoulders are relaxed, her hands clasped behind her back.
“I didn’t?” Larkin asks. She’s lost control of her voice too. It’s smoother. Lower. It comes from somewhere deep in her belly. “Me?”
“Neither did I,” Yvette admits. She eyes Larkin out of the corner of her eye. “I didn’t know what you were at first. You’re very good at camouflage.”
“I forgot my shoes.”
“It’s college,” Yvette says. “Lots of people forget more important things than their shoes.” She sighs, looking up at the sky. It’s a waning moon nearing its height. “In case you need it spelled out, I love you.”
I love you.
Larkin reaches out from the deepest shadows and drags Yvette out of the pathway. The shorter woman is soft and pliant as Larkin spins them behind the corner of the dining hall.
“Ouch,” Yvette says mildly. She blinks up at Larkin, one hand lightly wrapping around Larkin’s wrist. “I’m going to get a crick in my neck looking up at you.”
Larkin doesn’t want Yvette in pain. She breathes in once, twice, three times quickly and then lets the air shudder out of her. She shrinks on the exhale, skin regaining human warmth and hands shortening until her fingers barely curve over the back of Yvette’s shoulders. “I didn’t mean for you to be uncomfortable.”
“I didn’t mean that, it wasn’t bad,” Yvette says. She studies Larkin for a long moment and then sighs. “We are in quite a mess.”
“I love you,” Larkin says. She wants to press her lips to Yvette’s forehead where the skin looks smooth and soft like a flower petal. “You love me. What mess?”
“I was understating my parents’ concern,” Yvette says. “This might be their worst fear. Their precious baby mingling magic with the Unnatural.”
There’s a story there that Larkin isn’t privy to. Humans and their biases. They never let anything be. She tucks a curl behind Yvette’s ear. “We could run away.”
“You say that like you’re joking, but it might be our best bet.” Yvette frowns, eyes going far away as she thinks. After a long moment, she refocuses on Larkin. “I’ve got an idea, but it needs time. I need to think about it.”
“I only have two months,” Larkin says. It seems stupid and short-sighted now to have only asked for the boon of a year. Ten years would have been better. Twenty even. “Before I need to go.”
“If my plan doesn’t come together by then, we’ll do it your way,” Yvette says. She shivers when Larkin’s hands drop to her hips. “We can run away.”
Larkin wonders if Yvette really knows what it means to run away with the fae. But it seems like it’ll hurt her to explain it, so she doesn’t. Instead she noses at the skin behind Yvette’s ear. “Mhm.”
“We have better things to do anyway,” Yvette says breathlessly. Her hands come up to grip Larkin’s biceps. “In fact, planning can wait until tomorrow. Perhaps even the next day.”
“What better things will we be doing until then?” Larkin asks. She’s fascinated by the way Yvette’s breathing is growing more and more ragged. She wants to hear it change even more. She drags her nose along Yvette’s jaw. “What do you mean?”
“You confessed, I confessed,” Yvette says. “What do you think?”
Larkin bends down to press her lips against Yvette’s.
One month and nineteen days later, Yvette drags Larkin into her dorm room, her eyes burning like stars. Larkin’s been here any number of times, but today is different. There is electric energy in the air as Yvette closes and locks the door.
“I have it,” Yvette says, “a plan.”
Larkin’s heart is slowly losing its humanity, but the news is enough to make it beat. One week left. “Oh?”
“You need,” Yvette says, “to do exactly what I say.”
———-The end ———-
The man is an agent for the Witch’s Council. No, that’s not right. Not an agent. An investigator.
“You claim you fell in love,” he says. He raises an eyebrow, blue eyes disbelieving. “You? And a witch of Yvette Troy’s caliber?”
He’s laughing at her. Larkin keeps her face smooth and her hands hidden under the table. She’s lost her boon, but her heart stings at the mockery.
It was real. It was. No matter what this man thinks.
Let him laugh, Yvette whispers in Larkin’s mind. They’ll laugh and you must let them.
Larkin lets her roots ground her in her seat.
“You really didn’t kill her,” the man says when he’s done having his fun. He props his hands on his hips. He watches her as if she’s a bug. “Did you?”
“I did not have the chance,” she says evenly. Her wrists sting. When Yvette’s parents found their daughter missing at the end of the school year, they exploded. Ripped through Yvette’s dorm. Found traces of Larkin, the only fae on campus, and jumped to the conclusion they wanted.
Just as Yvette predicted.
The investigator put Larkin in iron handcuffs to satiate the bloodthirsty demands of Yvette’s parents. As soon as he got her in this room, he took them off of her. No need to pretend to be afraid of a silly little fae.
“Don’t lie,” the man says. Despite his words, he sounds amused. “You didn’t have the chance. Let me guess - you tried to take her, but she was stronger than you. Didn’t expect a human to be so powerful, did you? I bet she beat you and ran.”
Larkin looks down at the table. He sees her as cowed. Ashamed. A foolish fae who tried to make prey out of the most powerful witch in Northern America. She raises her chin to look him in the eye, lets him see what he wants to see. “Humans are more powerful than I imagined.”
It’s the truth. That’s why her words ring with sincerity. She just doesn’t mean it in the way he thinks.
The investigator laughs and his canines wink in the harsh light. “That they are!” When he’s done laughing, he sighs. “Time was I could kill you for even thinking of laying a hand on a witch, never mind a witch as protected as Yvette Troy.”
If he tries, kill him, Yvette whispers. Don’t let him lay a single finger on you.
“I saw no protections on her,” Larkin says.
“No,” the man says. He’s already looking to the door. “That’s part of the problem. Between you and me, I think she was planning to run ever since her parents let her out of the house. Probably spent the past year stripping the magical compulsions and trackers they left on her. They couldn’t see it though. They’d rather think a fae killed her.”
Larkin stares at him. “Why are you telling me this?”
“Because I don’t want you to get the credit for something you didn’t do,” the man says. He’s got one hand on the door. “Your kind always thinks you’re so clever. I want you to remember that Yvette Troy escaped whatever twisted infatuation you had and she did it without meaning to. You were never an adversary. You were never a player. You were nothing to that witch and it’s a shame that her parents made me waste this time on you.”
Something dark curls in Larkin’s chest, purring. This man thinks he knows. This man wants her to feel small. This man doesn’t know she’s already won.
Keep pretending, Yvette hisses, he could be testing you.
He’s not. Larkin knows he’s not, but she won’t bet Yvette’s plan on it. She bows her head and waits as the man leaves. She watches her fingers lengthen and shorten, her pale skin mottling into bark and then returning.
She feels the man leave the building, drifting back towards the heart of campus where Yvette’s parents wait, two supernovas in her mind’s eye.
A year without Yvette and their stolen power will wane.
Larkin grins, teeth sharp and needle-like, and lets herself slip out of her chair and through the back wall.
The woods on the edge of campus will be watched, sure. That’s why Yvette isn’t there. No, Yvette is safe, deep past the brooks and the circles of oaks that mark this world from Larkin’s.
Come home, Yvette whispers. Come home.
Larkin slips into the trees and runs.
Thanks for reading! I love these sort of Romeo/Juliette stories where I get to keep both of them alive <3
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I also post Patreon Exclusive stories at least once a month there.
Thanks for reading :)
Oh, man. Hard truth here. 😂 😂 😂
"A university degree, four books & hundreds of articles and I stil make mistakes when reading. You wrote me "Good morning" & I read it as "I love you".
5 Tips for Pacing in Your Story
Today, I'm going to be discussing pacing and tips to better achieve a good flow within your story. First off, pacing is how fast or slow your story is moving and this is determined by how the writer distributes information. This is something that is very tricky to nail down, especially if your story spans several books. Plotting is something that is very important when it comes to pacing. I have a post on the types of plots linked here if you need more information on that.
#1 Sentence length
Varying sentence length is important in general, especially with exposition and narration. If your sentences are consistently short or long and not varying, this can risk disrupting the flow of your story.
A rule of thumb:
1. Use shorter, choppier sentences for fight scenes to add tension and excitement
2. Use longer sentences and add more detail to slow things down and add suspense.
#2 Paragraph length
Paragraphs should never be too long. If they go on for even a page, you’ve done too much. I’ve learned a trick to help me out in this area. Imagine a camera moving through your story. If the camera pans to another character or different action, start a new paragraph. You should always start a new paragraph for dialogue, especially between characters. If a new character is speaking or moving around, the camera pans, and thus a new paragraph should begin.
#3 Keep track of conflicts/subplots
An important part of pacing is to keep up with conflict and subplots. The central conflict/inciting incident should present itself around the third chapter of the book. It should remain prevalent for the entire course of the story. Some authors like to write different conflicts for every book released (typically seen in graphic novels), but a great series is centered around one conflict that takes a couple or even a few books to complete. By keeping track of the conflicts of your plot and subplots, you are able to better keep pace. If your character has a love interest and that’s the subplot, why haven’t we seen them in four chapters? If they’re overtaking a great, untouchable drug lord, why did it only take half of the book to defeat them?
#4 Cut unnecessary bullshit
I’m sorry to tell you, but excessive wordbuilding counts as unnecessary bullshit. We don’t need to know the name of every single town in every realm of this continent. We don’t need to know what kind of fabric the clothes in this world are woven or what the fabric is made from unless your main character works in the clothing district or this is vital to the plot. Descriptions should not go on and on until it takes entire pages to explain that we’re on the side of a mountain. Unless you’re writing poetry, vague and long descriptions distract from the point of the story or scene and are often just boring to read.
#5 Telling vs Showing
It’s common for people to explain things rather than show what happened. The majority of your story should be carried by scenes and dialogue, not exposition and narration. Showing instead of telling helps the reader become more grounded in the story, and it causes more connection and emotional attachment between your readers and the characters.
That’s all for today. Hopefully, this helps you on your writing journey!
How to Kick a Reader in the Gut
Disrupt the reader’s sense of justice.
This generally means setting a character up to deserve one thing and then giving them the exact opposite.
Kill a character off before they can achieve their goal.
Let the bad guy get an extremely important win.
Set up a coup against a tyrannical king. The coup fails miserably.
Don’t always give characters closure.
(Excluding the end of the book, obviously)
A beloved friend dies in battle and there’s no time to mourn him.
A random tryst between two main characters is not (or cannot be) brought up again.
A character suddenly loses their job or can otherwise no longer keep up their old routine
Make it the main character’s fault sometimes.
And not in an “imposter syndrome” way. Make your MC do something bad, and make the blame they shoulder for it heavy and tangible.
MC must choose the lesser of two evils.
MC kills someone they believe to be a bad guy, only to later discover the bad guy was a different person altogether.
Rejection is a powerful tool.
People generally want to be understood, and if you can make a character think they are Known, and then rip that away from them with a rejection (romantic or platonic) people will empathize with it.
MC is finally accepting the Thing They Must Do/Become, and their love interest decides that that’s not a path they want to be on and breaks up with them
MC makes a decision they believe is right, everyone around them thinks they chose wrong.
MC finds kinship with someone Like Them, at long last, but that person later discovers that there is some inherent aspect of MC that they wholly reject. (Perhaps it was MC’s fault that their family member died, they have important religious differences, or WERE THE BAD GUY ALL ALONG!)
On the flipside, make your main character keep going.
Push them beyond what they are capable of, and then push them farther. Make them want something so deeply that they are willing to do literally anything to get it. Give them passion and drive and grit and more of that than they have fear.
“But what if my MC is quiet and meek?” Even better. They want something so deeply that every single moment they push themselves toward it is a moment spent outside their comfort zone. What must that do to a person?
Obviously, don’t do all of these things, or the story can begin to feel tedious or overly dramatic, and make sure that every decision you make is informed by your plot first and foremost.
Also remember that the things that make us sad, angry, or otherwise emotional as readers are the same things that make us feel that way in our day-to-day lives. Creating an empathetic main character is the foundation for all of the above tips.