The Seven Heavenly Virtues for Writers

Two weeks ago I posted a list of writer Bruce Coville's Seven Deadly Sins for Writers. As promised, here are the seven heavenly virtues for writers.

If you didn't get to check out Bruce Coville's website last time, you'll want to visit today. And for all you fans of fantasy (which is only one of the genres Coville writes), he's just finished his four-book Unicorn Chronicles.

The Seven Heavenly Virtues for Writers, from Bruce Coville

1. Passion. Great work arises out of passion. Find whatever it is you are passionate about it. Don't worry about what's "hot" in the market. What is burning inside you?

2. Temperance/Sensuousness. Coville calls these "loving descriptions of the temporary world". Texture and style pull in the reader. In every scene, try to use at least three of the five senses.

3. Wisdom. As writers, we transmute our life experiences for the reader. Coville suggests making a list of the top six experiences in your life where you learned something important. Chances are, these memories are somewhat painful, yet we are hard-wired to remember them. By writing about these difficult times, we kick open doors in the minds of our readers, helping them to access and understand their own experiences.

4. Guile. This is where a writer uses the element of surprise, or springs a trick on the reader. Coville promotes "smacking" the reader with something they did not expect. Remember the movie Star Wars, and Darth Vader's line, "Luke, I am your father."? While it may not have as much impact if you've seen the film multiple times, the first experience was surprising.

5. Humor. Coville wants writers to remember to use humor whenever possible. His example brought down the house, "Even God has a sense of humor. If he didn't why did he put the plumbing and the playground so close together?"

6. Courage. As writers, we need to demonstrate courage in life. Courage to face those tough life experiences, and learn from them. According to Coville, courage is freedom. What do you have the courage to write about?

7. Joy. Give joy to your readers. Celebrate everyday happiness. Help others recognize those moments and experience them. Our stories are mean to heal. Remember, Coville says, joy is not cheap--it's free.

Coville ended by stating, "We are storytellers, dream makers, and heart healers." Which of these seven virtues are active in your writing, and which do you plan to work on?


  1. Thanks, Susan. Bruce was so inspirational. These kinds of keynotes are one of the things that make writing conferences so amazing.




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