Author Archives: Nanci Panuccio

The Essential Rewrite

    We all have a story. Yours might be of loss, confusion, or upending heartbreak, a crisis that brought you to your knees. Maybe you lost your child, or your marriage fell apart. Maybe you’re a survivor of the most brutal abuse. Whatever your story is, it continues to have you in its grip. It’s the…

3 Ways to Write A Captivating Beginning

              The screenwriter and director Elia Kazan once said he had 7 seconds to hook his audience. What’s more, focus groups showed that if the beginning failed to captivate, his audience experienced the entire film as a bit of dud, regardless of how stellar its middle and ending. You probably have even less…

The Single Most Important Thing You Need to Know About Point of View

As I get ready to teach this Fall, I’m giving a lot of thought to some of the most common misconceptions about craft that keep writers stuck. Of all the things I see tripping writers up, point of view is the most persistent. And most often, poorly taught. Here are 3 common missteps I see…

Nothing But The Truth – A Writing Exercise

Last week, we saw how writers deal with the same fears no matter how prolific or seasoned they are. Vanilla brain, paralyzing self doubt, the crushing uncertainty. We all feel those things at various times.   And it’s easy to disconnect from our writing during those spells of despair.   But the best way to reconnect…

The Struggle That Most Writers Never Talk About

An aspiring writer recently shared this with me: “My story looks so alive and brilliant in my head. But as soon as I write it, the story falls flat. And then I feel like a fraud. I wonder why I continue to spend so much time at something I’m obviously so bad at.” Ever feel…

Building Character by Raising the Stakes

  Happiness may be great in real life. But it’s fatal in story. Few things numb readers more than a character surrounded by birdsong and puppies, who isn’t risking something deeply important. There’s no payoff when everything works out all hunky dory. Or when the outcome is as simple as a character getting what he…

The Simple Trick to Writing Riveting Sentences

When it comes to writing stories readers devour, it’s all about creating immediacy sentence by sentence.  We can engineer a stellar plot line, dream up characters with compelling conflicts — all the broad strokes – but it’s the accumulation of small word choices that keep a reader spellbound. Writing is all about the sentence. Here’s…

Writing With and Beyond Uncertainty

How much should you know about your story before you write it? The conventional advice goes something like this: First, write a one page summary of what your story is about. Know your characters inside and out. Come up with the conflict. Plot out your beginning, middle, and end. Know your theme. Then write the…

How to Create Subtext in Dialogue

There’s this unforgettable scene in the film Sideways where failed novelist Miles and his romantic interest Maya rhapsodize to one another about their reverence for wine. Except that they’re talking about so much more. An excerpt: MILES … [Pinot}’s a hard grape to grow. As you know. It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s not a…

Character Questionnaire: the actor’s technique

We spend a lot of time thinking about what our characters want. Wanting something, and wanting it bad, is fundamental to developing character and plot. But often what we come up with is what our characters want in the most immediate sense. The concrete goal. Humbert wants Lolita. Anna wants to be with Vronsky. Hannibal…