How to Write a Joke

Like any short form of writing, creating jokes teaches how to use a few words effectively. In this article, I will give examples of jokes and I will (shudder) explain them too. I know, you shouldn’t explain your jokes, but this helps us talk about them. Good jokes are often: Incongruous – This is the … Read more

1,462 Basic Plot Types

For centuries, writers and critics have tried to put stories into basic categories. I’ve written about the scientific quest for universal plot types using the Hedonometer and the theories of Kurt Vonnegut. My colleague Mark Nichol has written about several lists of types of plots: three types, seven types, another seven types, twenty types, and … Read more

List of 50 Compliments and Nice Things to Say!

Too often I forget to do it. But when I’m pleased or impressed by someone, I need to make a point to write them a note. Some people are embarrassed by strong face-to-face compliments. After all, if a compliment isn’t heartfelt, it may seem mocking instead. But if you think they will be uncomfortable, you … Read more

How to Write Dialogue

Dialogue refreshes. Seeing quotation marks on a page has been proven to increase readability, which means that readers find the page more interesting. And you want your readers to stay interested. Dialogue breaks up “gray text” and gives your eyes a break too. Dialogue uses basic rules for punctuating and formatting: When the speaker changes, … Read more

The Quest for Universal Plot Types

For centuries, writers and critics have tried to put stories into basic categories. Novelist Kurt Vonnegut described eight of them: Man in Hole, Boy Meets Girl, From Bad to Worse, Which Way is Up?, Creation Story, Old Testament, New Testament, and Cinderella. He argued that stories have beautiful shapes which can be drawn on graph … Read more

Don’t Overload Your Readers With Your Message

Great writing is not only enjoyable, it has something to say – there is greatness in the theme. It may not be primarily a moral or a lesson, but something about the story appeals deeply to the heart. I believe that your skill as a writer determines the weight of the message you can communicate. … Read more

Inspiration for Writers: Hunt It Down!

Not many writers lounge in an ivy-covered tower pouring out inspired words – that’s unrealistic. Many successful writers still keep a day job, most out of necessity, some out of choice. How inspired would you feel if you sat in an ivy-covered tower all day? Seasoned writers say that, since few books make much money, … Read more

41 Words That Are Better Than Good

The soul of writing is specificity, yet all too often, we lean on general-purpose words instead of choosing the most precise ones. Most of our daily communication probably depends on less than 1,000 words. Of course, that includes words such as you, I, is, are, of, and for, which are already the best words for … Read more

20 Tips to Improve your Writing Productivity

So you’d like your latest writing project to get moving faster. Great writers have felt the same. Don’t worry, it’s fixable. When the words stop, writers have effective ways of getting them moving again. Plow new ground Write multiple drafts instead of obsessively editing the same one. You can tell the same story, but tell … Read more

30 Words Invented by Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), considered the greatest writer in the English language, used more than 24,000 words in his writings, more than any other author. Of those words, more than 1,700 were first used by him, as far we can tell. He may have made up many of them himself. How can you possibly understand someone … Read more

Holding Back Your Backstory

Authors call the hidden part of a character’s life their “backstory.” When I was acting in plays, directors might ask me to decide what my character was doing before the scene began. Since my character is supposed to be a real human being, he has a life outside of what appears on the stage or … Read more

28 Good Words from Latin and Greek

Let’s talk about something good. Here is a variety of words for good things, based on ancient words for “good”: Latin bonus and Greek eu. Good words from Latin In Rome, bonus was the Latin word for “good, noble, kind, honest, brave.” Since Latin gave birth to the Romance languages of Europe, words such as … Read more