My short stories and novels are character driven. They are the key element, the impetus, in all of my stories.

I have to be inside the story, actually be there in my mind and see what happens, to write. I’m more a reporter in the field, recording what is happening, than an author of fiction. It’s almost a disembodied feeling where I’m barely aware of my fingers on the keyboard.

There are different terms for this state. Some people refer to it as being in the zone. That’s an apt term. It’s hard to enter the zone and even harder to remain in it for an extended period of time. I refer to it as writing from the inside out. I have to go there, I have to be inside the story, to write well.

Sometimes I will find myself writing from the outside in, peering in at the story from a distance, and writing what I see. This is a mistake, at least for me. In such cases my characters are little more than stick figures and my narrative is mundane at best.

Write from the inside out or don’t write, that’s my advice. Keep thinking about your story –  plot line, dialogue, characters, narrative arc – until you’re ready to step inside and write what you see. You’ll get there and it will be worth the wait.