Four Tips for Writing Scenes with Many Characters


It is difficult to write scenes with groups of people all talking. A writer can’t show 20 people talking.  Here’s how to keep the scene realistic, but also keep your reader engaged:

1.      Stick to a single point of view

Stay in one character’s point of view throughout the scene. If you need to show someone else’s internal thoughts on the topic, do it in a following scene. Choose the character with the most to gain or lose and use that person’s POV, unless you want an objective perspective on the issue and then you could choose someone more detached.

2.      No more than four or five speakers (maybe six)

Try to keep to no more than four or five characters representing different factions or positions in the argument.  Maybe you use two characters taking each side of the debate, with one or two others voicing oddball positions or offering a humorous quip to break the tension.

3.      Don’t introduce any new characters in this scene

Only have the characters you’ve already used in the scene speak. If you need must have someone new step on stage, don’t name them; just say “the man in the grey suit said … “

4.      Try to use as much dialogue as possible, but use tags to keep it clear

Dialogue will make your scene more active than a narrative summary of the discussion. Use the characters your readers know already to articulate the key points of the argument.

Put each speaker’s lines in a new paragraph, so it’s clear when the dialogue shifts to another person. Use frequent dialogue tags and beats, but don’t use “Joe said” at the end of every line, which gets monotonous.

Here’s an example of how to make it work: 

“We’ve got to buy more paper.” Sam pounded his fist on the table.

Joe picked up his pencil and twirled it, trying to stay calm. “Don’t know what you mean,” he said. “We’ve got enough paper for the next six months. Why buy more at these prices?”

“But we’re using it faster than ever,” Sally argued. She stood and headed toward the credenza and coffee pot. “We’ve got to stay ahead of the demand curve. Prices are going up daily.”

Jill sat beside Joe, tapping on her smartphone. Did she even care about the paper crisis? Joe wondered. How could she remain so disengaged, when the cost of paper was eating them alive?

In this snippet, I involved four people, three of whom spoke. I probably shouldn’t bring in more than one or two more in the entire scene.

I stayed in Joe’s point of view.  I’m dying to know what Jill was thinking, but I won’t find out until the next scene.

Scenes with many characters talking hard work, but they’re fun when they work well.

Some Words About Word Count


Everyone worries about word count. Whether you’re writing a first draft, trying to reach a daily goal, or revising, you’re probably worrying about your word count.

When You Shouldn’t Worry about Word Count:

  • Writing your first draft. All first drafts suck. Everyone can cut from their first draft, taking away thousands of words at a time. Don’t worry about your word count during this stage.
  • Reaching a daily goal. It doesn’t matter how much you write in a day. Some days you may write two thousand words and some days you may write five hundred. I’ve gone from zero one day to five thousand or more the next. Having a daily goal is fine, but don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach it every day.
  • Writing chapters. Some chapters are one page long. Some are fifty. While different age groups have different chapter lengths (usually to keep the reader’s attention), you shouldn’t worry about chapter length. You can fix this later by splitting up scenes in to chapters.

When You Should Worry about Word Count:

  • Final Revisions. Different genres have different word count boundaries, and for good reason. Knowing your genre is a must, and the word count for that genre comes along with it (unless you’re a famous author or a celebrity). Do all you can during your final revisions to get the word count within range.
  • NaNoWriMo. You don’t have to worry too much about this, but the winners get some pretty good deals on writing software.
  • Contests. There are contests for several genres, but those have word count limits. These word counts are often within the short story range, sometimes in the novellete range. Don’t go over these word counts. The judges will not make exceptions no matter how good your story is. 
How to Lower your Word Count
  • Adverbs. Writers don’t often realize how many adverbs they use. Using the “find” feature on Microsoft Word can really help with finding all these adverbs. Delete them. If you can’t delete them, rewrite the sentence. That can also get your word count down.
  • Unnecessary Words. Words like to, through, under, at, onto, into, under, up, and down can often be omitted and the sentence will still work. Instead of saying She entered the room through the door say She entered the room or instead of saying the cat jumped up onto the bed say the cat jumped on the bed. Other unnecessary words include: adjective, articles, and pronouns.
  • Scenes, Dialogue, and Information. Get rid of anything that is not needed. If a scene, a piece of dialogue, or some information does nothing to help plot or character development, get rid of it. I don’t care how much you love it.
  • Redundant Phrases. Odds are you’ll find some redundant phrases in your writing. A big one in query letters is “fiction novel”. 
  • Transitional Phrases. Your high school English teacher probably pressed you to use these, but skip them in creative writing. Don’t use them in dialogue either, unless it fits the character’s personality (like the tenth doctor from Doctor Who, who often used “well” at the beginning of his sentences).
  • Description. Don’t over do the description. No one cares what the store clerk looks like or what color your protagonist’s brother’s room is.
  • Active Voice. Writing in active voice cuts down your word count a lot…if you weren’t doing that already.
  • Dialogue Tags. Not every line of dialogue needs a tag or an explanation of the character’s action. Their words alone can give off a tone and the reader will be able to pick up possible body language and facial expressions.
How to Raise your Word Count
  • Subplots.Add subplots. These help flesh out your characters and your world. It gives more opportunity to introduce new ideas and relationships between characters. Here is a subplot resource post.
  • Introduce a New Character. But this character has to be relevant. This character may come along with a new subplot or even the main plot. Odds are, they’ll add a few thousand words.
  • More Conflict. Raise the stakes for your character. Make them take a wrong turn (literally or figuratively). This will add more relevant scenes and keep your reader interested…as long as it’s interesting.
  • Add Description. I know I said to cut description, but some of it can be helpful. Put your reader in your character’s place. Use all five senses, not just sight.
  • Revise. You may find plot holes or missing information. You may even add a scene for clarity.

Word Counts* by Genre:

  • Adult: 75k - 95k
  • General Sci-fi: 100k - 115k
  • Hard Sci-fi: 90k - 110k
  • General Fantasy: 100k - 11k
  • Epic Fantasy: 90k - 120k
  • Contemporary Fantasy: 90k - 120k
  • Urban Fantasy: 90k - 100k
  • Paranormal Romance: 85k - 100k
  • Romance: 85k - 100k
  • Horror: 80k - 100k
  • Mystery/Crime/Thriller: 75k - 90k
  • Middle Grade: 25k - 40k
  • Fantasy/Sci-fi Middle Grade: 45k - 65k
  • Upper Middle Grade: 35k - 45k
  • Young Adult: 50k - 80k
  • Picture Book: 300 - 1k
  • For All Debut Authors: Try not to exceed 100k

*There are exceptions to word count. These are just guidelines.

5 Character Points You May be Ignoring


You don’t need to describe your character down to the finest detail; let your reader do some imagining of their own (they seem to enjoy that!) But there are a few character points that affect how they interact with their world which you can reveal through action.

  1. Height: Do they need to duck through doorways, or bend to speak to their friends? Do they struggle to reach the top shelf in the supermarket? The way they cope with these things reveal how they feel about their height. Do they compensate by wearing heels or by slouching?
  2. Weight: Do they easily slip through small spaces and crowds? Or do they avoid sitting on flimsy-looking furniture? Do they suffer backache from pulling their stomach in all day, or do they wear layers to try and look bulkier?
  3. Eyesight: How well can they see distances or read small print? Do they proudly wear glasses, do they go more subtle with contact lenses, or are they in complete denial?
  4. Smell: Do they douse themselves in perfume or do people shy away from their sweaty smell? Do they realise what they smell like, or are they oblivious?
  5. Walk: Does the way they walk make them stand out, or blend in with the crowd? Do they look ahead or walk looking at their feet? How big is their stride, how big are their feet, and how does this affect the way they move around their world?

These are all things that can be used to reveal character, impact plot and affect the setting.

Think about how happy your character is with their physical attributes. Do they hide them because they’ve suffered years of bullying, or are they proud of who they are and have little care for what others think?

Section Breaks vs. Scene Breaks


by Jill Williamson

Have you ever been reading a book and noticed that sometimes a break in a scene is depicted by asterisks or some other fancy symbols, and sometimes there is only a wide space before a new scene begins? 

What’s the difference between the two, and how do you know which to use?

Read More

The Effects of Alcohol and Alcoholism Withdrawal


Short-Term Effects of Alcohol

  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Upset stomach
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Impaired judgment
  • Distorted vision and hearing
  • Blackouts
  • Flushed appearance
  • Intense moods
  • Lack of coordination and slower reflexes
  • Reduced concentration

Long-Term Effects of Alcohol

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Brain damage
  • Vitamin B1 deficiency
  • Ulcers
  • Mouth/throat cancer
  • Malnutrition
  • Concentration & memory problems

Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Within 2-6 hours of the last drink
    • Insomnia
    • Anxiety
    • Headache
    • Reduced appetite
    • Tremors
    • Stomachache
    • Paleness
    • Clammy skin
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Dilated pupils
    • Fatigue
    • Irritability
    • Depression
    • Rapid emotional changes
  • Within 12-24 hours
    • Some experience alcoholic hallucinosis, which includes visual, auditory, and tactile hallucinations that normally end within 48 hours
    • Most are aware that the hallucinations aren’t real
  • Within 24-48 hours
    • Withdrawal seizures may occur
    • Risk is increased after multiple detoxifications
  • Within 48-72 hours
    • DTs (delirium tremens) may occur
    • DTs usually peak at 5 days
    • Disorientation
    • Confusion
    • Anxiety
    • Seizures
    • High blood pressure
    • Severe tremors
    • Fever
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Sweating
    • Hallucinations indistinguishable from reality


Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories


7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories:

  1. High level of entertainment value
  2. High degree of originality
  3. Born from a “what if” question
  4. Highly visual
  5. Clear emotional focus
  6. Inclusion of some truly unique element
  7. Mass audience appeal (to a broad general audience, or a large niche market).

How much of your map you draw depends on you and your story. Start with what is important to the story and when you have time, you can draw maps for other places as well.
When you draw the main area, whether it be an island, a whole country, or just part of a country, start with the outline and geography. Draw the main borders, add some geography, and figure out its climate based on its position. I would suggest drawing borders within an area after drawing the geography, as rivers are often used as borders and they can help give your world a more natural look.
If you’re making up the whole world with all its land masses and whatnot, I would suggest creating one giant landmass, cutting it up, moving the pieces around a bit, and then adding and taking away some coastal lands to change the shape a bit.
When focusing on an area and with a story in which characters travel, it’s a good idea to figure out the distance so you know how far and how long your characters need to travel. To do this, compare the map to a real-world map and come up with a conversion for distance (ex: 1 inch = 15 miles).
If you have trouble coming up with borders, coastlines, rivers, mountain ranges, and other geographical and political locations, grab some maps or an atlas and trace small parts of real world places for your map. Put them all together and you’ve got a whole new world.
Stuff to Include:
Compass rose
Names of geographical places
Symbols to represent settlements
Bodies of water
Geographical places such as mountains and deserts
Important major roads
A legend for these symbols
The trail that your characters travel on
If there are important settlements in your story, it’s a good idea to make a map for your own reference. Some settlements are (in order of smallest to largest): hamlets, villages, towns, and cities. Of course there are other settlements, but the terms used and what they mean vary by region.
Before you make your map, you should consider the following:
What is the population? How many people make up a village or a city is up to you and it should reflect the population and the population density of the fictional region you’re writing in.
Where is it located? The first permanent settlements started small and sprung into cities while farms and villages popped up around them. These settlements were also near water and other resources, which brings us to the age:
How old is it? The oldest settlements will be near water no matter how much technology is available in the time period you’re writing in. Older settlements were not built with the technology needed to transport water to far places. How old a settlement is will also affect the architecture and the artifacts and structures found nearby.
What is the layout? Newer settlements will typically have an organized layout based on the geography around the settlement. Older settlements may be organized as well, but are more likely to have roads built around permanent dwellings and buildings rather than the other way around. If your settlement is organized, build the roads first. If it’s not, mark structures first and build the roads around them.
Roads & Buildings:
Like mentioned above, the layout of your settlement depends on geography, roads, and structures.
It would be best to start with the geography, such as hills, bodies of water, and forests. Once you have the general geography of the settlement, you can either put the roads down or the structures.
Organized settlements should start with major roads. How many you have depends on the population size. If there are only a few hundred people in the settlement, there may only be one or two main roads with several minor roads. The main road should lead people to important areas of a settlement, such as a government building, the roads out of the settlement, and other non-residential buildings or structures. However, there can still be residential dwellings. The minor roads should come off the main road(s) can lead to anywhere from residences to parks. To differentiate between the main roads and minors roads, draw the main roads as thicker lines.
Unorganized settlements usually, but not always, start with the structures and without a plan of what this settlement will develop into. While organized and pre-planned settlements are more likely to cut into geographical areas rather than work around them. If your settlement has less grid-like roads and more random placements, start by placing all the structures of your town before drawing the roads.
These types of settlements will still have some type of structure. For example, non-residential buildings tend to be in one area with the occasional stay building. This is usually where a main road ends up. Residential buildings are more random. How far apart they are depends on the type of settlement and what the people at that residence do. Farmers will have more land while those who don’t work off the land or who work outside of their home may or may not have smaller properties.
Draw the oldest roads in unorganized settlements first. The oldest roads usually end up being major roads whether they are straight or curved. The minor roads will go next or there may be no minor roads at all.
Now you have to name your roads and buildings. You don’t have to name all of them, but it can help for reference and it can help build your world.
If you are building a city rather than a smaller dwelling, there are more tips for that here.
Climates and Ecosystems:
World Climate Zones
World Biomes
Tundra Biome
Grassland Biome
The Mediterranean Biome
Deciduous Forest Biome
Forestry Terms
Tropical Rain Forests
Temperate Forest
Forest Biome Regions
The Forest Biome
Anatomy of a Beach
Types of Dunes
Desert Biome
The Formation of Deserts
How Are Deserts Made?
Where Are Deserts Found?
Cave Terms
Sea Caves
Solution Caves
Anatomy of a Volcano
How Volcanoes Work
Waterfall Classification
River Anatomy
Anatomy of a River
How Rivers Are Formed Animation
Freshwater Biome
Marine Biome
Lake Origins
Water Geography
How Mountains are Formed
Mountain Ranges
The Alpine Biome
Nations and Culture 2.1: Giving Land a Face
Fantasy World Maps
Glossary of Geography Terms
Fantasy Map Photoshop Resources
Fantasy Map Brushes

Character Development: Characters Unknown



Rewriting Checklist - 30 questions to ask when you’re rewriting your novel

Tips For Characterization
21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Tips From Great Authors
The Importance Of Body Language
34 Writing Tips That Will Make You A Better Writer
Things Almost Every Author Needs To Research
Eight Short Story Tips
How To Stop Procrastinating
Ten Exercises In Creativity
How To Show (Not Tell)
Ten Ways To Avoid Writing Insecurity
Why Research Is Important In Writing
Five Ways To Get Out Your Comfort Zone
Seven Ways To Use Brain Science To Hook Readers And Reel Them In
The Difference Between Good And Bad Writers
Five Essential Story Ingredients
Formatting Your Manuscript
Four Ways To Have Confidence In Your Writing
99 Ways To Beat Writers Block
You’re Not Hemingway, Helping You Develop Your Own Skill
Best Apps For Writers
Online Whiteboard
This Sentence Has 5 Words
Urban Legends From The World Of Grammar
20 Common Grammar Mistakes
Synonyms For Said
Alternatives For But
Alternatives For Angry
Alternatives For Whispered
200 Words To Describe Light
45 Ways To Avoid Saying Very
Colour Names
Other Ways To Say…
Lay vs Lie
Make Words Longer
Words And Meanings
Common English Mistakes
Online Etymology Dictionary
Tip Of My Tongue
Cliche Finder
7 Rules Of Picking Names For Fictional Characters
Names In Different Time Periods
Behind The Name
Meaning Of Names
Fake Name Generator
Random Name Generator
Quick Name Generator
Fantasy Name Generator
Baby Names Country
Muslim Names And Meanings
Indian Names And Meanings
Name Playground
How To Rewrite
Editing Recipe
How To Write A Novel
Writing 101: Revising Your Novel
Revising Your Novel: Read What You’ve Written
Finishing Your Novel
Novel Outlining 101
Outline Your Novel In 30 Minutes
13 Most Common Errors On A Novels First Page
How To Organize And Develop Ideas For Your Novel
Family Tree Maker
Tips For Characterization
Character Trait Masterlist
Character Bio Help
Character Writing Exercise
123 Ideas For Character Flaws
Three Ways To Avoid Lazy Character Description
How To Create Fictional Characters
Writing Magical Characters
Character Development Sheet
Character Development Worksheet
Character Chart
Character Chart For Fiction Writers
100 Character Development Questions For Writers
Ten Questions For Creating Believable Characters
Ten Days Of Character Building
Writing Effective Character Breakdowns
When To Change Paragraphs
36 (plus 1) Dramatic Situations
How To Write A Death Scene
The Snowflake Method
Effectively Outlining Your Plot
Tips For Creating A Compelling Plot
One Page Plotting
How To Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps
Choosing The Best Outline Method For You
Creating Conflict And Sustaining Suspense
Conflict Test
What Is Conflict?
Writing The Perfect Scene
How Can You Know What Belongs In Your Book?
Masterpost For Writers Creating Their Own World
World Building 101
Creating A Believable World
Maps Workshop - Developing The Fictional World Through Mapping
Creating Fantasy And Science Fiction Worlds
Writing Fantasy
Creating The Perfect Setting
Establishing The Right Point Of View
How To Write In Third Person
The I Problem
Types Of Crying
Eye Colours
Skin Tones
Who Do I Write Like?
Write Rhymes
Survive Nature
How To Escape After Being Buried Alive In A Coffin

*Click on the posts for more information*

"If one's an incident and two a coincidence and three is a pattern, then what's four?"