October 9, 2020

Advice for Writers ~ Ane Mulligan ~Part 2

 Ane Mulligan

Continued from Thursday ~Advice for Writers . . .

Another Example

Another good example for deepening characterization came from a member of the critique group, Penwrights. He told how after a particular critique, something clicked. Now when his character hears tires on the gravel driveway and looks out the window, she just doesn't simply see the next-door neighbors coming home. She takes note of Jasper, their son. She describes him and even renders her opinion:

He had his father's build, looking like another welterweight boxer, but Jasper had his mother's looks. Fortunate for him.

Being privy to the character's thoughts and opinions, filtered through their past, brings them alive to the reader, making them feel like the character is their friend (or enemy in the case of an antagonist).

Many years ago Ron Benrey taught me his Magic Paragraph. He's included it in his book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Christian Fiction, which I highly recommend. That little bit of advice has a tremendous impact on your writing. It goes like this:

1. Signal which head to enter

2. Twang an appropriate sense, emotion or mental faculty

3. Show appropriate action

4. Repeat if necessary 

Write all your descriptions with purpose. Use it to set a mood, foreshadow an event, or perhaps even be a metaphor of the story question.

Follow the rules. Really?

I often hear writers complain about having to “follow the rules” or guidelines of writing. They see seasoned authors breaking these rules. Here’s what I’ve learned: Storytelling is a talent. Talent is a gift from God with some assembly required. And that entails learning the craft

It’s much like when we first learn to print back in kindergarten. We had paper with large lines...guidelines. We all made our letters the same, straight up and down, first the lower case and then the upper. 

After time, we graduated to cursive. Once again, the paper had guidelines. We slanted the letters at an approximate 45-degree angle, and kept the lowercase letters in the bottom half of the guidelines. It wasn’t until we’d mastered those guidelines that we began to apply our artistic creativity to our signatures.

It’s the same with writing. We must first learn what constitutes good writing, things like point of view, show vs telling, characterization, plot, conflict, etc., before we can understand when and how to break the rules. When you have mastered your craft, you can then know how to do it with panache. 


 A One Sheet - What Is It?

I’m often asked about my “One Sheet” which is a single pitch sheet for a book or series. My critique partners and I spent a lot of time learning how to do a good one. When I had mine requested by an agent to use as an example of a good one, I knew we’d done it right. 

It should include:

· your hook 

· a short synopsis like the back cover blurb

· the book's status, i.e.: a 92,000 word completed work of women's fiction

· your bio 

· and finally your contact information.

Plain or with photos and graphics, as long as the one sheet includes the information listed above, you'll be fine.


The Write ConversationMy Book TherapyACFWThe Snowflake guyThe Book Club Network,

Jane Friedman’s blog.

Ane Mu Ane Mulligan has been a voracious reader ever since her mom instilled within her a love of reading at age three, escaping into worlds otherwise unknown. But when Ane saw PETER PAN on stage, she was struck with a fever from which she never recovered—stage fever. She submerged herself in drama through high school and college. One day, her two loves collided, and a bestselling, award-winning novelist emerged. She lives in Sugar Hill, GA, with her artist husband and a rascally Rottweiler. Find Ane on her websiteAmazon Author pageFacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest and The Write Conversation.  



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry Ane, I published before checking it and mispelled Ron's name. So I deleted my comment.

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I especially appreciated your One Sheet, that will help a lot of us. Also I thank you for sharing Ron's advice from his book.

    1. Thank you, Susan, and thanks so much for the opportunity to share.

  3. Ron Benrey was fabulous. His advice was alway spot on. Just like yours is today. Thanks for taking the time to write this very informative blog post!

    1. Thank you, Pat. And yes, Ron truly was amazing. That class, in which he first taught the Magic Paragraph, was as a very early conference I attended, maybe 2002 or 03. I've used it ever since and it's served me well.