Does Your Story Measure Up?

Writing is a tough profession. The competition makes the strongest writers think twice. But those of us lured by the magnificence of story are committed to creating a world where our readers slip into the shoes of our characters and are whisked away to an amazing, yet uncertain, thrill.

Every writer has a gauge by which she measures her stories—the one she is currently writing and the ones being shopped at publishing houses.

Feel what you want readers to feel
My barometer is that each reader comes to expect an adventure from my books. This is a two-way street. If I don’t have an adventure while writing the story, how can I expect a reader to? When I laugh, cry, hate, love, argue, discover, run for my life, and leap mountains (through my characters), I expect my readers to do the same.

How do I measure success? Each book has to have deeper characterization than the previous, a more intricate plot, and a setting that challenges the storyline.

Dynamic characters
I insist on an unlikely heroine—a woman qualified and able to solve a problem, but who has the odds stacked against her. She’s feminine, capable of feeling, and mentally strong. She may or may not be a Christian, but she will find faith by the end, learning to solve her problems through a Christian worldview.

The hero will be a strong man who appreciates many aspects of the heroine. They have differing views and argue but learn to work together while they step from one danger to another.

The villain is motivated by greed. He’s intelligent and charms with power, money, or wit. I prefer to hide his identity so my readers can be a part of the heroine’s journey.

Deliberate plotting
While developing my characters, I think about a plot line that presents my heroine with a nearly impossible goal. My plot parallels the heroine’s profession and puts her in danger.

Plotting involves asking: What is the worst possible thing that could happen to my character? How can I raise the stakes in every scene? How can I keep the reader on the edge of her seat and glued to the book?

Are my readers breathless? Filled with excitement? Do they sense the danger? Are they swept away in a romance? Only if I have been during the writing.

Detailed setting
I’m always looking for the best place to set my story. What setting interests or terrifies my heroine? My research has taken me from Sudan to riding the line with the Border Patrol to interviewing treasure hunters in West Texas to FBI cold cases.

What about you? What kinds of characters pique your interest? What plots rob you of sleep? What settings send chills up your spine? Now is the time to get started on your adventure.

DiAnn MillsDiAnn Mills combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed novels. She has 50 books in print and has sold more than 1.5 million copies. Her Sworn to Protect won a 2011 Christy Award in the Contemporary Romance Category. Breach of Trust won the same award in 2010. DiAnn is the Craftsman mentor for the Christian Writers Guild.

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