Author’s Tips
From Jason Hinojosa


Let your characters drive the plot
Rather than force your characters to do whatever it is you think they should, let
them decide instead. Trust your characters. They know what to do. Let them
decide and the plot will follow.

Ignore the reader
Paradoxical as it sounds, the less you consider your reader’s questions, the more
you will draw her toward the answers. Trust your reader to keep up. Don’t insult
her intelligence by explaining everything away.

Encourage bad behavior
As Isabel Allende said, “Nice people with common sense do not make interesting
characters. They only make good former spouses.” You don’t have to
overdramatize your fiction, but you will keep your reader engaged with a
character who knows better but does the wrong thing anyway.

Stay in scene
Your characters are (usually) physical bodies in particular places at particular
times. Don’t wander away as you wax authorial. Stay with them. How do they
respond to the sensory stimuli of the moment? How does the moment inform,
contradict, or complicate what they’re thinking and feeling?

Start with a question you can’t answer
If it matters to you, it will matter to your reader. Rather than explain something
you already understand (and risk sounding preachy or condescending), delve into
a thorny mess in earnest and invite your reader to come along.

Linger at the moment of choice
As J.W. Goethe wrote, “All beginnings are delightful; the threshold is the place to
pause.” The decisions your characters make will show your reader more than any
amount of description. When your character is presented with a choice, slow
down. Let the reader soak in the moment.

Don’t let your characters off the hook
When your characters get pushed into corners, avoid the temptation to provide
them an easy way out or simply end the scene. Force them to react to the crisis.
Make them face the impossible decision – and its consequences.

Avoid either/or endings
An either/or ending – Will he or won’t he? Did she or didn’t she? – usually fails
to be satisfying. What matters most usually isn’t what the character does at the
end, but what the character feels.

Develop a daily writing practice
It’s simple. Sit down and write. Write just one word if that’s all you can muster.
Do it every day.

Read your story aloud
Listen to the rhythm of what you’ve written. The music of your prose – from the
sour notes to the harmonious chords – will guide your revisions.

Trust your instincts
Writing is intuitive. Give your inner critic a break. Get out of your own way and
just delight in the pleasure of unchecked creative flow.