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Writer's Digest presents an excerpt from my webinar, "Three Secrets of the Greats: Structure Your Story for Ultimate Reader Addiction."

Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers, interviews me about storytelling, writing, independent editing, and the difference between literary fiction and genre, with an impromptu exercise on her own Work-in-Progress.

Editing client Stu Wakefield, author of the Kindle #1 Best Seller Body of Water, talks about our work together on Memory of Water, the second novel of his Water trilogy.






  • By Victoria Mixon

    1. If you’ve got a love story, bring in a third party.
    2. If you’ve got a thriller, break their tools.
    3. If you’ve got sci fi, create unexpected social norms.
    4. If you’ve got a fantasy, make reality too hard to cope with.
    5. If you’ve got historical fiction, unearth facts no one from this era would know.
    6. If you’ve got a mystery, kill off your informants.
    7. If you’ve got horror, use prosaic details.
    8. If you’ve got an adventure, put your protagonist’s life in danger. And everyone else’s.
    9. If you’ve got comedy, add a touch of poignancy.
    10. If you’ve got YA, give your protagonist a dry sense of humor.
    11. If you’ve got MG, add random non sequiturs to the dialog.
    12. If you’ve got a picture book, make sure your illustrator is the very best.
    13. If you’ve got literary fiction, make sure your editor is the very best.

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    9 Comments

    “The freshest and most relevant
    advice you’ll find.”

    —Helen Gallagher, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

    The Art & Craft of Writing Fiction

    The Art & Craft of Writing Stories


    A. VICTORIA MIXON, FREELANCE INDEPENDENT EDITOR

    VICTORIA’S ADVICE COLUMN

    9 Comments

9 Responses to “13 Ways to Add Depth to Your Genre Novel”

  1. Kathryn said on

    That was great.

  2. Victoria said on

    Thanks, Kathryn. You’re so darn quick, it’s like you’re standing right behind me!

  3. Interesting list.

    How many multiple genres are allowed in a story? Are genres to be paired specifically, i.e. Paranormal romance, paranormal suspense, dark fantasy? Or are there other multiples that are acceptable? And how many genres are too many?

    Multiple genres weren’t covered in your Advice Column.

  4. Barbara, I can’t believe I never saw this question come through back in June. I’m sorry! Must have been a hectic week.

    I’ll write about it on the Advice Column this coming week, okay?

  5. Kathryn said on

    It’s the time difference I think!

    It works out great for me. I get inspired every time I read your blog.

    Maybe I was wrong about Steinbeck. I’m re-reading “Of Mice and Men” and there is a lot I like in it now that I’m reading it from a different perspective. I like this line a lot: As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment. Then gradually, time awakened again…

    I could learn something from that.

  6. Great list, Victoria! I’m trying desperately to think of one to add… I suppose it would be the opposite of #9 about comedy… If you’ve got deathly stakes, add a little humour. I’m tweeting this.

  7. Great post! 🙂 I’ve had no sleep, so I have nothing helpful to add, but I like your list and your site. 🙂

  8. Number 0: If you’ve got any genre at all, learn how to do top-notch character development.

    As a fellow editor, I’m sure you can empathize here: how many manuscripts have you seen where the characters were flat and lifeless, where their motivations were unclear, where their emotional responses were tin-eared or just plain wrong, where everyone’s dialogue sounded the same, et cetera and et cetera?

    And how many have you seen where the characters were clearly portrayed, lively, believable, distinctive, emotionally credible, and sympathetic to the reader?

    To me, the best, Best, BEST way to add depth to any novel is to make sure your characters come across as real people that we’d actually want to read a novel about. If you don’t have that, the rest doesn’t matter.

  9. Victoria said on

    Oh, absolutely, Jason. You bet. Fiction is about documenting the human experience. A really good writer can ferret out the tension in just getting up in the morning, if they’ve created a riveting enough character. But nobody cares about paper dolls holding guns on each other.

    Wait a minute. . .that might actually be a pretty good premise. . .with matches. . .

    As it happens, I just did a post on 8 Places to Find Inspiration that’s basically all about character development. And I’ve got eight more for the next post.

    Character is the heart blood of fiction.




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Authors


MILLLICENT G. DILLON, represented by Harold Ober Associates, is the world’s expert on authors Jane and Paul Bowles. She has won five O. Henry Awards and been nominated for the PEN/Faulkner. I worked with Dillon on her memoir, The Absolute Elsewhere, in which she describes in luminous prose her private meeting with Albert Einstein to discuss the ethics of the atomic bomb. Read more. . .


SASHA TROYAN is a Professor of English at Montclair University and author of the critically-acclaimed novels Angels in the Morning and The Forgotten Island, both Booksense Selections, beautiful stories based upon her childhood in France. I worked with Troyan to develop her new novels, Marriage A Trois and Semester. Read more. . .


LUCIA ORTH is the author of the debut novel, Baby Jesus Pawn Shop, which received critical acclaim from Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, Booklist, Library Journal and Small Press Reviews. I have edited a number of essays and articles for Orth. Read more. . .


BHAICHAND PATEL, retired after an illustrious career with the United Nations, is now a journalist based out of New Dehli and Bombay, an expert on Bollywood, and author of three non-fiction books published by Penguin. I edited Patel’s best-selling debut novel, Mothers, Lovers, and Other Strangers, published by Pan Macmillan. Read more. . .


SCOTT WILBANKS, represented by Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, is the author of the debut novel, The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, published by Sourcebooks in August, 2015. I’m working with Wilbanks on his sophomore novel, Easy Pickens, the story of the world’s only medically-diagnosed case of chronic naiveté. Read more. . .


SCOTT WARRENDER is a professional musician and Annie Award-nominated lyricist specializing in musical theater. I work with Warrender regularly on his short stories and debut novel, Putaway. Read more. . .


M. TERRY GREEN enjoys a successful self-publishing career with multiple sci-fi/fantasy series set in the Multiverse, based upon her expertise in anthropology and technology. I worked with Green to develop a new speculative fiction series. Read more. . .


DARREN D. BEYER is an ex-NASA experiment engineer who has worked on every Space Shuttle orbiter but Challenger. In his sci-fi Anghazi Series, Beyer uses his scientific expertise to create a galaxy in which “space bridges” allow interstellar travel based upon the latest in real theoretical physics. Read more. . .


ANIA VESENNY, represented by Beverly Slopen Literary Agency, is a recipient of the Evelyn Sullivan Gilbertson Award for Emerging Artist in Literature and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. I edited Vesenny’s debut novel, Swearing in Russian at the Northern Lights, and her second novel, Sandara. Read more. . .


STUART WAKEFIELD is the #1 Kindle Best Selling author of Body of Water, the first novel in his Orcadian Trilogy. Body of Water was 1 of 10 books long-listed for the Polari First Book Prize. I edited Wakefield’s second novel, Memory of Water, and look forward to editing the final novel of his Orcadian Trilogy, Spirit of Water. Read more. . .


GERALDINE EVANS is a best-selling British author. Her historical novel, Reluctant Queen, is a Category No 1 Best Seller on Amazon UK. I edited Death Dues, #11 in Evans’ fifteen popular Rafferty and Llewellyn cozy police procedurals, which received a glowing review from the Midwest Book Review. Read more. . .


JUDY LEE DUNN is an award-winning marketing blogger. I am working with Dunn to develop and line edit her memoir of reconciling liberal activism with her emotional difficulty accepting the lesbianism of her beloved daughter, Tonight Show comedienne Kellye Rowland. Read more. . .


LISA MERCADO-FERNANDEZ writes literary novels of love, loss, and friendship set in the small coastal towns of New England. I edited Mercado-Fernandez’ debut novel The Shoebox and second novel The Eighth Summer. Read more. . .


JEFF RUSSELL is the author of the debut novel, The Rules of Love and Law, based upon Jeff’s abiding passions for legal history and justice. Read more. . .


LEN JOY is the author of the debut novel, American Past Time. I worked with Len to develop his novel from its core: a short story about the self-destructive ambitions of a Minor League baseball star. Read more. . .


ALEX KENDZIORSKI is an American physician working in South Africa on community health education and wildlife conservation. I edited Kendziorski’s debut novel Wait a Season for Their Names about the endangered African painted wolf, for which he is donating the profits to wildlife conservation. Read more. . .


ALEXANDRA GODFREY blogs for the New England Journal of Medicine. I work with Godfrey on her short fiction and narrative nonfiction, including a profile of the doctor who helped save her son’s life, “Mending Broken Hearts.” Read more. . .


In addition, I work with scores of aspiring writers in their apprenticeship to this wonderful literary art and craft.

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