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Bookfox

John Matthew Fox helps authors write better fiction. He is the founder of Bookfox, where he creates online courses for writers, provides editing and offers publishing assistance. He is the author of "The Linchpin Writer: Crafting Your Novel's Key Moments" and “I Will Shout Your Name,” a collection of short stories.

Featured Post

My Neighbor is a Terrible Writer, but thinks he's AMAZING

Hi Bookfoxers, I'm continuing to answer readers' questions, this time from someone who will stay anonymous, in case their neighbor reads this newsletter as well: Despite holding an MFA from a prestigious university and a recent acceptance for traditional publication for my second novel, I still have what is referred to as "imposter syndrome." I knew it was present, perhaps beneath the surface, but what drove it home was when a neighbor asked me to review his manuscript. He planned on...

10 days ago • 4 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, I've started to answer questions from readers in this newsletter, and this one comes from Brenna Labine: Any advice on toeing the line between too much visual description and the right amount of scene/character description? Great question, Brenna! Your question is really a question of pacing -- how can writers keep the reader's interest while simultaneously fully fleshing out the world of the book? If you don't give enough description, the reader won't be immersed. While if you...

16 days ago • 5 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Patricia Highsmith, who wrote "Strangers on a Train" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley," used to hang her writing awards in the bathroom. She'd won the award of the year from the Mystery Writers of America and the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere from France, and she hung them in the bathroom because she said they "looked less pompous there." I love that humility. She didn't hang the awards over the mantle or in the foyer for all visitors to see, she hid them in a place where...

23 days ago • 2 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Do you practice "polyphony" in your writing? Polyphony is a variety of voices in a novel. A bad novelist will make every character sound like each other (or make every character sound like the author). It's bad because it's boring. And it's bad when the voice doesn't match the character. For example, "Parable of the Sower" by Octavia E. Butler succeeds as a sci-fi novel on many levels. It's a classic. But her fifteen year old narrator sounds like a grizzled 50-year-old sage. I...

about 1 month ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, You probably think of the climax as fitting into a certain slot in your story. Let me guess -- you think it's 9/10ths of the way through the story, right before the end. That's because Hollywood has conditioned you into embracing a singular shape of storytelling, where they have the climax at the same place nearly all the time. That's not wrong. But it's certainly not the only place where your climax can occur. Today we're going to look at alternative placements for your...

about 1 month ago • 2 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Antagonists power your book. Without an antagonist, you don't have a story and you certainly don't have a novel. But antagonists don't have to be villains. A villain is an outright evil character, while an antagonist could be: a friend who turns on the main character an annoying parent even the protagonist! (like Holden Caulfield) But how likeable should you make your antagonist? It's perfectly fine to have an antagonist who is 100% evil. It's also perfectly fine to have an...

about 2 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, How do you create suspense in your fiction? You need suspense throughout your book because the opposite of suspense is ... boredom. The reader isn't looking forward to anything, and there's no friction, no electricity in your writing. You're just delivering information. You're just having characters talk and act. In fact, I would wager that having suspense is the main element that separates ho-hum fiction from fiction where readers grip the deckle-edges and stay up past their...

about 2 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Let's say you want to have a character tell another character something. A kind of message, such as: Don't ever trust the mafia Switzerland is paradise Spend more time with your children You could just have them say it. "Billy, never trust the mafia!" But it might be far more memorable for them to tell a story that illustrates the point. After all, telling stories is what novels do. Plus, a micro-story can be a way of convincing the character -- perhaps they're resistant to...

2 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Duke Ellington, the great jazz musician, nearly missed his first performance at the Cotton Club. He was in a contract with another venue in Philly, and a member of the mob had to send some goons down to "convince" the manager to let him come play in New York. Ellington and his band arrived just minutes before showtime. He looked out at the sea of white faces (it was still segregated, in 1927) and knew that if he could nail this performance, his career would take off. Well, they...

2 months ago • 3 min read

Hi Bookfoxers, Don Fry was an author with a problem. He was frustrated that his readers would often ditch his book or article right in the middle. Readers would write to him, complaining about what he’d written, and it was obvious they’d never made it to the end! So he came up with a strategy to solve this problem. He called it the “Gold Coins” writing technique. Imagine you were walking in a forest and found a gold coin. You’d be ecstatic. And if you saw another one up ahead, you’d run to...

3 months ago • 2 min read
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