I attended The Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE) 2014 writer’s conference last weekend and took a boatload of notes through the entire weekend. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing things I’ve learned, notes I took along the way, and the big epiphanies that came from a weekend of endless writing panels and learning sessions.

One of my favorite sessions I attended was a talk given by Chersti Nieveen called: Learning Advanced Writing Techniques from Joss Whedon.

Chersti is a YA author and active on both Twitter and Facebook. You can find her blog including a great writing advice section with many of the tips she shared in her presentation here:


She spent many painstaking hours reviewing every scrap of information she could find about Joss Whedon’s writing process, watching DVD commentaries, behind the scenes details, and of course, watching everything Joss has ever produced. From this process of research, she came up with a list of some of the advanced writing techniques Joss Whedon uses to make consistently interesting and beloved characters, non-cliched plots, and tons of conflict.

Here’s a few highlights I took away from her presentation:

Control the Reader’s Expectations

  • Find things about the character that you love. Remind yourself and your audience why they love this character so much.
  • Defy and then reaffirm the reader’s expectations
  • Use cliches to your advantage. Readers demand to be challenged so turn the perceptions against them.
  • You must have at least¬†three plot twists in a story.

Writing Better Characters

  • Give every character a secret.
  • Make every character believe in something. Give each an ethos or cause by which they live.
  • Characters should grow and change so they don’t always react the same way.
  • Make characters sacrifice, lose something, give up things.
  • Never make the solution/resolution simple or easy.

We watched a bunch of clips from Joss Whedon’s work. Some specific episodes she recommended watching and studying were:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 2 / Episodes 21 & 22

Firefly – Objects in Space (Joss claims this is the best example of how he tells stories)

Angel – Hero (Season 1 / Episode 9)