Monday Writing Tips: Consult with Julius on Subplots!

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Jumpstarting Your Inner Novelist!

How do you use subplots to your advantage in crafting a novel?

A subplot is a secondary plot that is supporting a side story for any story or main plot line.

Have you ever driven down one of those winding backroads in a rural area and couldn’t figure out how to get back to the main highway? Well, that is the feeling a reader gets when they read a novel and get lost in the tangling subplots.

Your goal as an author is to create a little depth in your novel, maybe a little suspense, but not take anything away from your main plot and pull your reader out of the “Fictive Dream”.

Writing Tip:  Your objective is to pick and choose when to use or add subplots to add depth to your book. For example, the main character can have more than one goal, usually relating to the main goal in some way.

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Monday Writing Tip: Consult with Julius…on setting!

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Jumpstarting Your Inner Novelist

Where am I?

This is a question you DON’T want your readers to dwell on as they turn the pages of your novel. You must craft a vivid realistic setting to act as a backdrop canvass in order for your characters to perform within it.

This setting/sense of place must be credible. It must permeate the novel and evoke emotions in your characters. Maybe create a setting that puts your protagonist at a disadvantage. Now, you have conflict that builds reader interest.

Be Realistic!

Writing Tip: When choosing the setting for your novel, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What year is it?
  2. What city/and or town do my characters live in?
  3. What kind of architecture is found in my setting?
  4. What can I do to paint a picture of the setting in the reader’s mind?
  5. What season is it?
  6. What is the weather like?

Build your setting on these and other questions that is specific to your novel.

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Monday Memories: Philadelphia Playgrounds in the Seventies!


It’s Monday and time for another installment of Julius JE Thompson‘s Monday Memories from the award winning journalist, novelist and coach.

When I was a sportswriter for the Philadelphia Bulletin during the seventies, I spent time exploring and learning the different Philly neighborhoods.

Basketball was played in every playground, recreation center, church gym, and anywhere you could cram a court. I wanted to know: Why were Philly basketball players so skilled in “The City Game?”

I visited 48th and Woodland, Kingsessing and other meccas of basketball to see players practice their skills over the course of many summers. Eventually, they tried out for the Sonny Hill League teams which played games at air-conditioned McGonigle Hall on the campus of Temple University.

For a sportswriter, these encounters provided material for some of the best human interest stories of the year. The summer was a time to find unusual features to fill up the sports pages. For me, I wanted to find human interest stories that captured the essence of Philadelphia basketball.

For example, I watched a playground legend, John Smith who lived across from Clarke Park, develop his game. I did a feature story on his exploits. He was a talented point guard who moved from the cement court at 48th and Woodland to the hardwood at Ben Franklin High.

I watched players practice in the scorching hot summer afternoons when Philadelphia playgrounds were never silent. Gang wars on corners, screeching cars on avenues, and squealing steel trolley tires on the tracks kept you alert for the next confrontations.

On the basketball court at 48th and Woodland, the occasional thump of a basketball striking the cement startled the hibernating ghosts of past hoop games. I saw players pass under the gate to engage in one-on-one battles. The kids spent more time wiping sweat form their foreheads than dribbling a basketball.

For a lot of the players this was “the bridge to something else” and a way to earn a spot on a summer league team and then maybe be good enough to make the JV or Varsity team at Overbrook, West Philadelphia, John Bartram, University City or any of the other Philadelphia Public League teams.

The kids had a plan, an organized procedure for improving their “Skill Set”.

First, they practiced everyday under the sun and then tried out for a team like Herb (Uncle Herb) Adams in West Philly, Bill Berry in South Philly or Jon Kinley in Germantown. And there were other community and recreation leaders like Bob Johnson at Gustine Lake, Warren Tanksley at Kingsessing and others who groomed the Philly basketball players that set the stage for the explosion of the tremendous growth of basketball talent in seventies Philadelphia.

I watched players get off the trolley that clanked up and down Woodland Avenue with three of four T-shirts hanging from the back of their pants. They traveled from playground to playground, changing shirts, playing a game and then hop on the trolley or bus to the next playground. With this work ethic, the players improved and honed their talent.

They played on 12-14, 14-16 and 16-18 teams working hard to be able to try out for the Sonny Hill League team in South Philly, North Philly and Germantown, etc. Maybe, you could play for a team called Mrs. Pauls’ Pals or travel to Narberth Playground in Delaware County for games.

Players in the seventies worked hard on these outdoor courts and it was a different era. Today, what do you have…AAU?

What are some of your memories from the “Cement” playground basketball courts?

Julius J.E. Thompson
Phone: 404-707-0151
Twitter: @consultjulius
Urban Fiction Course:
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Monday Writing Tip: Consult with Julius!


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Jumpstarting Your Inner Novelist

Plausible complex characters are crucial to successful storytelling. This involves the protagonist, the antagonist and a carnival of minor characters.

All of your characters should respond to their experiences by changing or by working hard to avoid changing. While they work to seek to carry out their agendas, run into conflicts, fail or succeed, and confront new problems, they will not stay the same. Create dynamic characters that change, not necessarily static characters that stay the same

If you want to create a successful novel, create a realistic group of characters that move your plot along.

     Writing Tip: How do you get to know your characters? Create a character resume for your protagonist, antagonist and a few of your minor characters. Use a character resume as if a character was applying for a job in your novel.This way you can get to know the nuances of your crucial characters.

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Monday Writing Tips: Consult with Julius!

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Novels are driven by incredible Scene Construction. How a writer handles scenes will make the difference between a manuscript that sells, and one that ends up in a slush pile. The concept of a scene in fiction comes from theater, wherein it describes the action that takes place in a single setting.

     Writing Tip: When you flesh out a scene, you must either create a “Show Scene” or a “Tell Scene” to advance your story line.  This will affect your pacing. Be aware that you can speed up the action with tell scenes and slow it down with show scenes. Your goal is to show the characters experiencing the action. Your reader must have sensory feelings, for example feel, touch, taste, etc., and be in the scene with the characters. Your readers will experience what the characters are feeling.  This will put your readers in the  “Fictive Dream” created in your book.

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