Wednesday, May 24, 2017

3 Ways to Add Punch to Your Story

by DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

In the boxing ring of every story’s aim to receive five-star reviews and thousands of sales, some novels emerge as winners, rightfully claiming a “golden glove” award in fiction. We all want to be there and not just for one novel but every one we create.

We writers analyze the hows and whys of bestsellers while incorporating new techniques into our writing. So here’s my challenge—Slip into a pair of writer boxing gloves. Get the adrenaline going and maybe a little caffeine. The following are three of my favorite ways to move closer to a championship title.

1. Research the psychology of your character.
We can never learn enough about our character. Do you know your character’s life experiences that affected who she is in chapter one, line one of your story? What is your character’s darkest memory? What is feared? Loved? Despised? Treasured? Forbidden? Love language? How does your character’s temperament stop him from achieving her goals? What motivates your character into reaching for his goal? The list goes on and on. A professional writer is always exploring new ways to find the character’s secret world.

2. Study the art of dialogue.
Dialogue exposes the character’s dreams, goals, needs, culture, education, faith, temperament, and what matters most. Sometimes the character’s speech exposes hurts, flaws, and weaknesses. Properly written dialogue mirrors how we talk and cuts the extraneous stuff that makes us all sound like idiots. It’s fresh, intimate, credible, moves the story along, and always builds tension.

3. Explore every inch of the setting.
If setting is not antagonistic, it serves little purpose to the story. Shove your character into unknown territory. Let him think he’s safe then swing the stakes against him. Use setting to force your character to adapt and grow into a better person. Have the character suffer in the setting, learn new skills, sacrifice, and then shape her personality by enhancing heroic qualities.

Don’t take off those boxing gloves! Now’s not the time to throw in the towel.  Let’s get to work and who knows, we might meet on the bestseller’s list.

How do you add punch to your story?


Slip on a pair of boxing gloves & learn how to add punch to your story - @DiAnnMills (Click to Tweet)

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook:, Twitter: or any of the social media platforms listed at


  1. Great post, DiAnn! I especially appreciated your insights on setting: "Use setting to force your character to adapt and grow into a better person. Have the character suffer in the setting....” Wonderful advice that I do my best to apply when I write. Thank you for always providing good advice to your fellow fiction writers!

  2. oh yes!! i just downloaded and printed the Myers Briggs types the other day! (I'm INFJ by the way)

  3. What great advice! Thank you, DiAnn. I am going to make sure to put on my boxing gloves when writing my next short story.

  4. Great analogy, thanks. Ironically, shortly after reading this, I was driving home and passed a church marquee that read: "Anyone who thinks they can count you out, can't count." I like thinking of your 3 ways to a championship as 3 distinct editing drafts of a WIP. That first draft being the training/prep. Then the focus of an entire draft could be on characters and their full development. The focus of another entire draft could be on dialogue. And the focus of another draft on setting: story and scenes. That now seems like a more effective plan to move from draft to draft, looking for everything along the way. Best wishes for a great conference. I have lots of friends there.