Sunday, March 29, 2020

How to Turn Your Idea into a Story: More Conflict! #amwriting #writing

Here are a few more tips on setting up conflict, following the lesson from last time:

• What does your main character want? What does he need? Make these things different, and you'll add tension to the story. It can be as simple as our soccer player who wants to practice soccer, but needs to study. Or it could be more subtle, like someone who wants to be protected but needs to learn independence. 

In the Haunted books, Jon wants to be a regular kid, and fit in, but needs to protect his sister – who gets him into trouble and embarrassing situations. This increases the tension and gives the reader sympathy for my main character. 

For a more detailed explanation of character want versus need, exploring the movie ET as an example, see my brother Doug Eboch’s Let's Schmooze blog on Screenwriting, E.T. Analysis Part 11.

• Even if your main problem is external (man versus man or man versus nature), consider giving the character an internal flaw(man versus himself) that contributes to the difficulty. 

For a few examples of internal flaws, see the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. 

Perhaps your character has a temper, or is lazy, or refuses to ever admit she’s wrong. This helps set up your complications, and as a bonus makes your character seem more real. 

• Before you start, test the idea. Change the character’s age, gender, or looks. Change the point of view. Change the setting. Change the external conflict. Change the internal conflict. 

What happens? Choose the combination that has the most dramatic potential. 

For example, one work in progress started with two female cousins visiting. I changed one into a boy, and added a girl friend next door, which made for nice boy/girl tension behind the main plot.

Take a Step toward Publication – get a critique from Chris

Novels: $2 per page (standard manuscript format/​double-spaced) for general editorial comments (plot/​character/​flow/​language notes). This provides a 4 to 6 page editorial letter, plus notes written on the manuscript. Minimum $100.
Picture Books up to 1200 words: $50

Email me through the contact page on my website. A sample critique letter and recommendations are available on request.

Do you need help analyzing a plot? Download The Plot Outline Exercise from Advanced Plotting in a form you can edit and reuse! (For more about Advanced Plotting, scroll down.)
Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Learn more or read excerpts at or visit her page on Amazon or Amazon UK. (For other countries click here.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Stuck at home? Going crazy? Keep writing! #amwriting #amediting

Get Advanced Plotting from Amazon in print or ebook.
We're in a crazy time. We may have more time to write while isolating at home ... but it’s hard to get any writing done when everyone is home, and anxiety is high. 

If you need help shaping your novel, or identifying problems, consider getting a professional critique. You can find my rates and recommendations here (short version: developmental/content editing at $2 per page for a novel, $50 for a picture book).

Books on writing can give you advice on every aspect of writing.

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer: you’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This book can help.

Read the book straight through, study the index to find help with your current problem, or dip in and out randomly — however you use this book, you’ll find fascinating insights and detailed tips to help you build a stronger plot and become a better writer.

"This really is helping me a lot. It’s written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!"

If you write for kids or teens, check out You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting. Learn more at or my Amazon or Amazon UK. (For other countries click here.)

Here are some other writing craft books I like. The links are to the authors’ websites or blogs. If you want to buy, it might be faster to go to your favorite online retailer and paste in the name, or ask your local bookstore to order the book.

My brother, scriptwriter Douglas Eboch, is co-author of The Hollywood Pitching Bible. While it’s targeted at scriptwriters wanting to sell screenplays, a lot of the material is helpful and interesting to novelists as well, especially if you are trying to find your book’s “hook” or write a query/synopsis.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King is one of my favorite writing craft books. Each chapter covers a specific tip for improving your style, and exercises at the end (with answers in the back) help you see if you are really “getting it.”

There’s a good book by Nancy Sanders called Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career, which points out that we typically write for three reasons – the emotional satisfaction of getting published, to make money, and for the love of writing. She suggests separating those three goals, so you don’t put pressure on yourself to sell what you are writing for love, and you find more practical ways of approaching the other two goals. She then addresses how to target each goal.

The Idiot’s Guide to Children’s Book Publishing, by Harold Underdown, is an excellent overview of the business. It explains the different genres, the difference between a magazine story and a picture book manuscript, how to find a publisher, etc.

I’m a big fan of using close/deep point of view. Jill Elizabeth Nelson has a book called Rivet Your Readers with Deep POV.

And if you need help with grammar (or know someone who does), these have been recommended by writing teachers I know:

Things That Make Us (Sic)by Martha Brockenbrough
Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss
Painless Grammar, by Rebecca Elliott
Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman

Please share your other favorite books in the comments. 

Chris Eboch’s novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show. 

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Connecting Kids to History #historyteaching Get #lessonplans 4 #teachers or #homeschool

Stuck at home with kids to educate and entertain? Trying to teach kids history long distance?

Historical fiction is a great way to bring history to life. It’s especially valuable for young people, who may not find textbook history interesting.

I’ve been impressed with the many wonderful ways teachers come up with to use historical fiction in the classroom. Consider this teacher’s review for my novel The Well of Sacrifice:

“My class (fourth/fifth graders) read this book for our theme: The Maya. The book gave authentic facts about the Mayan culture and a plausible explanation for the demise of their culture. We used the book as the backbone of several language arts exercises such as: written and oral reports about the Maya, literary criticism of characters, plot, and sequence, persuasive essays on human sacrifice vs. murder and Mayan culture vs. our own culture; and art projects from wood burning to mapping. We studied geography and the rainforest. The students’ enthusiasm for this book pushed our curriculum into other disciplines including math.”

Get her lesson plans here. I also provide free Lesson Plans aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).

Historical fiction can connect to other curriculum areas as well. Some teachers like to have students write their own versions of what happened after my book ends. Their answers can range from marriage and happily ever after, to massive death and destruction. This type of exercise another way to get young people engaged with history.

History Lessons That Resonate

Using historical fiction in the classroom or at home can help kids understand history better. It can also help them understand and identify with people of the past. If they can do that, they should be better able to understand and identify with different people today.

My Egyptian mystery The Eyes of Pharaoh also works as supplemental fiction. The Eyes of Pharaoh is ideal for use in elementary and middle school classrooms.

“Using this historical fiction is a window into Ancient Egypt—its people, culture, and beliefs. My class enjoyed doing research on Egyptian gods and goddesses, and hieroglyphs. Projects extended their knowledge of this fascinating time and place. I also highly recommend it for its fast-paced plot, interesting and ‘real’ characters, and excellent writing.” – teacher of gifted fourth and fifth graders

There are loads of projects classes can do, from art to discussion groups to persuasive letters. In addition, my book explores themes of national pride and attitudes about foreigners and immigration. The book can be used as a discussion starter.

But often it’s the simple things that help kids connect. For example, the ancient Egyptians may seem wildly exotic in their religion and architecture. Yet their food sounds tasty, and you don’t find too many things that sound yucky-weird – instead it’s “platters piled with joints of meat, bread baked into animal shapes, cheese, nuts, and fresh fruit.” I did a school visit and one of the students brought in “honey cakes” her mother had made from a recipe she found online. They were similar to cornbread served with honey, simple and tasty.

Historical fiction shows our differences, but also our similarities.

Teachers who would like lesson plans associated with the book can find them at my website, or the publisher’s website links to these and lesson plans for other novels.

Find the books: 

at Kobo
at iBooks

If you buy a classroom or school set of 6 or more copies, contact me via my website for a free Skype visit.