Listen to your characters, but don’t let them run away

Nathan Bransford, TVWriter™’s favorite publishing know-it-all, has an important lesson about characterization for all of us who spend our days writing fiction of any kind.

by Nathan Bransford

Nearly everyone who has written a novel has had the experience of writing an unruly character who suddenly takes the story in a different direction than you anticipated. Even the best outline can quickly go up in smoke.

This is a good sign! It means you’re listening to the internal logic of the character and you’re adjusting accordingly.

At the same time, it’s risky to lose control of a character and let them run away with your novel. You might fall in love with a minor character a little too hard, or halfway through the book you might start writing a different novel than the one you started.

Here’s some advice for walking that fine line between being true to a character and letting them run roughshod over your novel.

Look carefully at the moment the character broke free

Chances are there’s a particular moment where a character will bounce out of the frame you’d put them in. Stop for a sec and think about what really happened there.

Ask yourself some questions:

  • Is the plotline you were envisioning not true to the character?
  • Did you make an important discovery about the character that needs to be woven through the rest of the novel?
  • Is this the real beginning of the story?
  • Did you just find the real voice of the novel?
  • Did the character suddenly become active and before they were too passive?

And perhaps most importantly, ask yourself….

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Need help with your book? Nathan is available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!

For my best advice, check out Nathan’s guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and his guide to publishing a book.

And if you like this post: subscribe to Nathan’s newsletter!

Best FREE SCREENWRITING SOFTWARE for Mac, Windows, Linux | 2020

Yeppers, gang, here it is, a short, snappy, and – we hope – thoroughly expert analysis of the best free screenwriting software available this year. And we don’t even have to read it. We just have to watch.

From the YouTube channel of our very good friends at Script Reader Pro

The Script Reader Pro website is here

How to Stop Over-Analyzing Every Conversation

Yep, we’re bringing you another article on the curse of overthinking. Why? Because we’re overthinking it, of course.

by Thorin Klosowski

During every conversation I have, I analyze everything about the other person. I’m looking at their eyes, watching body language, and listening for different keywords. I’m reading between the lines with each social interaction and never taking anything at face value. It’s making life more difficult than it needs to be.

Writing for Lifehacker has taught me a lot about social interaction. I know how to watch for liesread body language, and spot fallacies. These are useful tricks to have, but when I do it in every conversation, I overthink it.

I got here because I’ve read (and written) so many articles about communication that I’ve over-hacked communication. Every problem has a scientifically proven formula for a desired outcome, right? Communication doesn’t always work that way, though. I approach conversations like a mystery that needs to get solved because I’ve come to fancy myself as a kind of Sherlock Holmes grade armchair psychologist. If this sounds like you, I’m here to help you learn from my mistakes. I’ve come up with a set of guidelines for myself to keep this from happening….

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Lockdown got you down? Here are 4 productivity tips to keep you at the top of your game

Writers and other creatives aren’t the only ones who suffer from productivity problems. Just about everybody in every walk of life does. Here’s how a genuine OMG business recommends dealing with overwhelming stress. With a little ingenuity, they can work for us too.

by Yessi Bello Perez

Approximately [six] months ago, Western countries shut down as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and most employers asked their employees to work from home.

For those not used to working remotely full-time, doing so proved to be an understandably challenging time: working away from colleagues, potentially surrounded by family and small children, makeshift desks and offices, and uncertainty-induced anxiety about what lay ahead.

As always, the tech community has been quick to share productivity tips and advice to help others deal with what some have already deemed ‘the new normal.’

[Read: Here’s why ‘if you build it, they will come’ is shitty advice]

But what’s changed some 60 days later? We spoke to several tech founders and CEOs to find out.

Let’s face it — loungewear is the way to go

Caroline Plumb, founder of Fluidly, a cashflow management tool, says working from home during lockdown with three children has been a completely new experience for her.

Her working day, she says, has lengthened considerably but become more efficient.

“No one wants to stay on video calls longer than they need so meetings tend to be 20 to 40% shorter. We are also better at keeping minutes and notes in shared documents so less time is wasted on missed actions or misunderstandings,” she explains.

Early morning runs have been keeping Plumb sane and she’s used this time to clear her head and sort through priorities but also to get clarity on many longer-term strategic questions….

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If it’s not on the page, your reader doesn’t know it

Nathan Bransford, TVWriter™’s favorite publishing know-it-all gives us the publishing insider downlow on an old saying from the theatrical realm: “If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage.”

Universality for the win!


by Nathan Bransford

This is one of the hardest, nubbiest challenges of writing a good novel.

You know your world backwards and forwards. You know what makes your characters tick. You can picture what’s happening. You know what you’re trying to say.

But unless these elements actually make it onto the page, your reader is left in the dark.

It’s really, really hard to put yourself in the shoes of one of your readers and accurately assess what you have and haven’t told them.

Here are some tips for making sure you have what you need on the page:

Err on the side of clarity

I was one of the less-promising students in my creative writing classes in college and I seriously doubt any of my teachers thought I would be someone who went on to be a published author. Among the many problems with my writing was one big flaw: I expected too much of my readers.

After receiving feedback that it was too difficult to follow one of my stories, I still remember the look of frustration on my creative writing teacher’s face when I insisted, “It’s all there on the page!”

Sure. Maybe. The problem was that it was way too difficult to piece everything together.

Don’t make your reader go digging for clues for the basics of what’s happening. Try not to beat your reader over the head with obviousness, but remember this: you’re probably not being as clear as you think you are.

This goes doubly for a character’s motivation and what’s at stake. You can’t possibly be too clear about these elements….

Read it all at

Need help with your book? Nathan is available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!

For my best advice, check out Nathan’s guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and his guide to publishing a book.

And if you like this post: subscribe to Nathan’s newsletter!