Monday, May 14, 2012

The Five C's

Whenever I give a talk to kids in schools about writing, I always discuss The Five C's I learned from a fantastic book about writing scenes:

So what are The Five C's? Let's start with...


Ok, to begin with, your story has to have interesting characters. In order for them to be interesting, you have to know your characters. You, the writer, have to know EVERYTHING about your characters otherwise, the reader will know...

They will know that you didn't do your homework.

So, what all should you know about your characters?

Hair color
Eye color
Family history

As a writer, your job is to make sure you know all of the above. Write them down. Go back to your list for reference. 


Well, I once had a student tell me he noticed in one Harry Potter book the author mentioned his birthday as one date, then in another book she changed it to another date. 

Your readers are clever! They will notice if you get your characters eye color wrong. They will notice everything! These errors rudely take your reader out of your story and they may not want back in. 

Good writers are prepared.

Now, take that list and develop it even further. What is that secret your character has and why does she have it? Will it come back to haunt her? Will this secret be dealt with in your story or the next? 

Strengths and weaknesses are great for characterization, but show us and don't just have your character tell us her weakness is being disorganized. Show us!

The Next "C": Conflict

 I have blogged before about conflict, but it's worth mentioning againThere comes a time when you have that feeling of inner conflict. Perhaps when a boss orders you to do something that goes against your beliefs or when you make a decision that might hurt someone you love. 

That inner struggle is what makes your readers begin to care about your character. 

But sometimes there is an outer struggle as well. 

In The Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter is mysteriously entered into a contest he might not be able to live through. Inwardly, he struggles with being the "hero" and making it through to the end. Outwardly, he struggles with how his classmates react to his entrance into the contest. They suspect him of cheating. 

This is an excellent example of conflict that draws your readers in and makes them care about the characters.

Think of how you will add conflict to your story and why. 

Not every story needs to have that Sophie's Choice moment of conflict, but think of how you will show your character struggle with some issue or crisis inwardly and outwardly. 

That's it for now....

Next week I will discuss the other "C's" and show you how to further develop your story using this clever tool.

In the meantime...just write!



  1. Well, now I'm wondering about the other 3 C's :)

    Good advice, and I always love your blog!

    Here's to writing...

    1. Oh good! You are'll have to stay tuned!

      Thanks for always visiting.

  2. I don't know how you find so much time to read all of these great craft books! :P Looking forward to the next 3 C's...

    1. LOL! Oh this book I read (and revisit from time to time..) while writing Dragon Forest 1 & 2. It has a lot of great scenes from movies, plays, and books. It really makes you stop and think about adding more to each scene.

      Thanks for visiting!