Writing Powerful Scenes and Stories with Just Two Characters By: Guest Column |

Stranded on a mountaintop? Shipwrecked on a deserted island? Can a story actually thrive with only two characters on the page for long stretches in a novel? Well yes. But it’s tricky. Here are some techniques I learned while writing my new release, Summer by Summer.

When I told my agent I wanted to write a novel about two young adults shipwrecked on an island, she quickly informed me it would be the most challenging book I’ve ever attempted.


I’d already written at least ten novels. I have an international bestseller to my credit. I’m no newbie. I honestly believed writing the story of Summer Mathers and Bray Garrison was going to be easy.

Boy was I wrong.

And boy was she right.


When Common Devices are Stripped, One Major Element Remains

As authors, we don’t realize how much we depend on everyday things (I like to call them familiar hooks) to help move a plot along. Going to the store, dropping by a coffee shop, a long drive, laundry. All these things help propel our characters. We also rely on secondary characters, be they foils for our protagonist or mentors.

Now, take all that away. No store, no phone, no interaction. Is it a challenge? Yes. But we’re authors. Challenge is what we do!

[Learn the 5 Essential Story Ingredients You Need to Write a Better Novel]

When two characters are utterly alone, they better have more going on than just survival, just meeting basic needs. Of course, there will be basic needs and storyline to accomplish those tasks, but the reader already expects that! How are you going to compel that reader to … keep reading? How are you going to keep them glued to their seat, holding their breath, neglecting their families until the resolution and the turning of the last page?

It’s all done with tension. Tension must be maintained because in a story with only two characters, there’s no familiar hooks to hang the reader on. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!]

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