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Noah Lukeman

Noah Lukeman is the author of several bestselling books on the craft of writing, among them A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. Noah lives in New York City, where he runs a literary agency.

Articles by Noah Lukeman

The Plot Thickens -- 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life

'The moment comes when a character does or says something you hadn't thought about. At that moment he's alive and you leave it to him.'

--Graham Greene

Plot does not magically appear with the creation of a character; Frankenstein's monster might open his eyes, but until he gets up from the table and DOES something, there is little basis for a plot. P... (read more)

Characterization - The Inner Life

I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope.
--Stanley Elkin

Many writers mistake the outer life of a character for the inner life, assume that by offering a physical description and a few surface details, they have created a character. In actuality, the creating is just beginning. In real life it might suffice to know... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part Six

In the previous issue, we examined interdependent journeys, obstacles and destiny, and how all of these might affect the journey and the characters in your work. In this, the final installment, we'll take it one step further, and see if we can't explore the very boundaries of the journey. This means considering a journey that leads to a journey, a character that doesn't journe... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part One

"Writing a book is like driving a car at night. You only see as far as your headlights go, but you can make the whole trip that way."

-E.L. Doctorow

Hollywood studios test market their major motion pictures before releasing them to the public. They spend millions of dollars to gauge audience reaction, to find out, simply, if viewers are satisfied. What c... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part Two

Last week we looked at the three profound journeys. This week we'll turn to the seven "surface" journeys, journeys which are less profound, but equally important when crafting fiction. The profound journeys are internal and substantial; the surface journeys are external and might not be substantial. Nonetheless, they are highly visible, can have a great impact on a story, and ... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part Three

Last time we introduced the idea of the "surface" journey, a journey which lacks the depth of a "profound" journey but which is nonetheless highly visible and a powerful aid in complementing a work. One of the seven surface journeys (such as romance) may not have the timeless impact of one of the three profound journeys (such as self-realization), yet romance, or any of the ot... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part Four

Last issue we examined the 7 surface journeys, and learned how finance, friendships, physical change, education, stature and family can quickly and effectively impact a character's journey. We've by now covered all of the profound and surface journeys--yet the journey does not end there. There are other influences that can impact a character's journey, other issues to keep in ... (read more)

The Importance of the Journey - Part Five

Last issue we looked at some of the outside influences that might impact a character's traditional journey, such as his beginning, his destination and circumstance. In this installment we'll continue to examine outside influences which might affect the course of a traditional journey, and give it further meaning and substance.

Obstacles

Obstacles... (read more)

The Three Paragraph Rule - An Excerpt from "How to Write a Great Query Letter"

"It seems important to me that beginning writers ponder this--that since 1964, I have never had a book, story, or poem rejected that was not later published. If you know what you are doing, eventually you will run into an editor who knows what he/she is doing. It may take years, but never give up."
--Joseph Hansen

The best secret ... (read more)

A Dash of Style - a new book

Intellectually, stops matter a great deal. If you are getting your commas, semicolons, and periods wrong, it means that you are not getting your thoughts right, and your mind is muddled.

-- William Temple, Archbishop of York, as reported in The Observer, 1938

Punctuation is not only for grammarians. Nor is it only for historians, or for the intellectually curious. Punctuat... (read more)

Excerpt from A Dash of Style

In last week's installment of my book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, we discussed the power of quotation marks, their ability to accelerate the pace of a work, and to allow a break from prose. They have many additional creative uses which are often overlooked; let's examine a few of them:

Quotation marks can help indicate a passage of tim... (read more)

A Dash of Style - Part Four

In last week's installment of my book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, we began to discuss ways that quotation marks might be misused. In this final installment, we'll examine this issue in depth, and also look at the power of quotation marks when used in context with other punctuation.

In some trendy works (and classic works, too) you'll find that autho... (read more)

A Dash of Style: The Period

In celebration of the paperback release of Noah Lukeman's seminal guide to punctuation, A Dash of Style, The Writers Store is pleased to present a four part series of excerpts from the book.

Some authors, like Camus, Carver and Ernest Hemingway, used the period frequently. Ot... (read more)

A Dash of Style: The Period, part 2

In last month's excerpt from my book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, we discussed different ways to use the period. This time, we'll examine a few of the dangers of overuse.

There is a major distinction ... (read more)

A Dash of Style: The Period, Part 3

In last month's installment of my book A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, we discussed a few of the potential dangers of overusing the period. In this month's installment, we'll examine a few of the dangers of ... (read more)

A Dash of Style: The Period, Part 4

In last month's excerpt from my book, A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, we discussed a few of the dangers of underuse of the period, as well as the role that context plays in punctuation. In this, the final installment, we'll continue examining the pivotal role of context, and take a... (read more)

How to Evaluate a Literary Agent

When it comes time for you to research agents, you may find it difficult to determine whether any given agent is legitimate, effective, or the right one for you. Most authors are so eager to land an agent, that they will rarely stop and take the time to thoroughly evaluate whether an agent is appropriate to begin with.

But this process of evaluation is crucial, as it will p... (read more)

How to Research Literary Agents

Read part one of this series here.

The reason 99% of manuscripts get rejected is, simply, because authors approach the wrong agents to begin with. As writers, we know there is no comparison between a good word and the perfect word. Similarly, there is no comparison between any a... (read more)