Building Your World in Your First Line

by Jonathan Ammon When we’re leaving a bookstore, my wife Tatiana and I like to play a game: we go through our bag of purchases, and we read aloud the first line from each of the new books. Whoever has the book with the agreed-upon best first line wins. Our game puts more emphasis on … Read more


Narrative Summary—How? Why? When?

      Art by Carl Mueller, 1940 In my head, it’s clear that, in fiction, dramatic events need to be shown in scene. A single point-of-view character wants something and strives against obstacles to get it—all shown in the real-time of the story. And mundane events need to be omitted or presented in well-crafted … Read more

His Girl Friday stars

Ways to Create Subtext

“…but I know it when I see it—” Subtext can be hard to define, but it’s worth the effort. It makes room for the part of a scene the intelligent reader brings to the story. Of course, the expertise of the clever-and-confident author sparks the reader’s contribution. Characters often use subtext when blurting out the … Read more

3 muses in line at Starbuck's

How To Write the Emotion-Packed Scene

Get Inside Your Character’s Head At the start of a story, I like to be very deep inside my character because I hope my readers will empathize with the character and come along for the story journey. I practice seeing through his eyes. Depending on how my character is doing emotionally, a walk in the … Read more


Early Questions to Shape Your Story

Reading time: 3 minutes Blank pages are not scary (A mantra to chant while you shower.) The next time you’re faced with another beginning writing session, consider this strategy. Don’t lose a moment; show those naked passages who’s boss, and whip out your handy-dandy list of questions. Questions About the Existing Manuscript Simply write out … Read more

15475938 - illustration of a road accident and the man with the wheel

Battling the Dreaded SAP

Reading time: 4 minutes When I’m editing fiction or nonfiction, one of the most common speed bumps I trip on is The Simultaneous Action Problem (SAP). Sounds serious, right? It’s not. It’s also known as the AS/While Issue, and it’s just a speedbump. It happens when the author uses as or while to show simultaneous … Read more


An Easy Way to Add Power to Your Sentences, Paragraphs, Scenes & Chapters

Reading time: 4 minutes Remember being in fifth grade? Imagine yourself at a birthday party, sitting in a circle with your buds and playing a rousing game of Telephone. One kid whispers a message to the kid beside him, and she passes it to the next kid—all the way around the circle.  By the time … Read more