Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nugget: Twist and Drop

(These golden nuggets of writing advice I'm going to share with you from the SCBWI summer conference are going to be short -- for your benefit and for mine! *grin*)

This valuable tip I picked up from Deborah Halverson, author and former editor, during her break-out session The Ultimate Checklist for Submitting to Editors. Also, check out her helpful website

Deborah calls this tip the TWIST AND DROP.

TIP: When you're done with your manuscript, take your main character from your last chapter and DROP HIM into your first chapter.

How does he respond to the events in your first chapter? If he behaves DIFFERENTLY, he passes the test.

If his behavior is the same, you have a problem: you don't have a good character arc. In other words, you have a stagnant character who has not experienced emotional growth during your book.

You can also do the opposite trick and drop your character from your first chapter into your last chapter. If he's totally in over his head and freaked out, then you've passed the test.

There are ways to fix the problem of a weak character arc:
  • Put larger obstacles in your main character's path -- "put him in a tree and throw rocks at him."
  • Make the stakes higher with more emotional depth -- make the losses mean more to him.
  • Give your character a flaw that makes him believable and sympathetic. However, still give him a moral core, a purity of heart and motive, so that the reader keeps liking him.
That's the golden nugget of writing advice for today. Did your characters pass the TWIST AND DROP test?


  1. Wow, I don't know if she passed or not. I'll definitely have to think about that one. What a great nugget - thank you!

  2. Thanks, Amy! I think he does.

    I love Dear Editor, though I hardly ever comment.

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  4. Great nugget, Amy. I think Seth passes the test. He certainly didn't have the gumption to rip out his Wingtooth in front of everyone in chapter one, but he's walking around with a gaping hole in his mouth by chapter twenty-three. Thanks for this.

  5. Ooh, nice tip! Yes, my character from my last WIP definitely changes! Yay! I'll do this test with my current WIP when I get to the end.

    Amy, it was so nice meeting you in L.A.! :)

  6. Susan---Yes, she does. (I just Beta read for Susan.)

    Great post! I'd never thought about doing something like this...

    Deborah seems like a wonderful person. I've been emailing back and forth with her after our initial communication via dear editor. Lucky you meeting her at the conference!

  7. Amy, This is such a good idea. Sharing little nuggets of wisdom from the conference. I missed this session and am glad to have this good advice! FYI, there is a cute picture of YOU at my blog!

  8. How about The Twist and Shout? When I finish a manuscript, I twist in my chair and go running the streets shouting, "I'M DONE! I'M DONE! HAH! HAH! HAH!"

    Lupe F.

  9. Thanks Amy! I think he will pass the test. At least it looks like he should at this point in the story.


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