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40

I felt this was best answered by examples. A lot of examples :P "Sudden" does not guarantee surprising This is fundamental "show, don't tell" - describing something as being "sudden" doesn't mean the reader gets a sense of surprise while reading it, any more than you'd laugh at reading the line "Bob is a really funny guy." So one key skill is, look out for ...


38

I think this is one of those areas where the 'show don't tell' rule really shines. Instead of: Bart sat back in his chair and let himself relax. All of a sudden, there was a huge explosion down the street. Try: Bart sat back in his chair and let himself relax. He was almost asleep when something made him open his eyes. There was just enough ...


27

Everything has been done before. Seriously. I've taken two Ancient Literature courses and it's amazing how many plots are basically recycled versions of older plots. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter - their plots all model older books and plays from hundreds of years ago. Even parts of the Bible are found in manuscripts that predate ...


25

To answer your question literally: most novels that are written will never be published. Thousands of people write a novel every year, and probably less than 1% of those novels are ever read by anyone other than the author's friends and family. Publishers and agents turn down many thousands of manuscripts a year. However, it does not follow that publishing ...


24

Anyone who actively pursues publication can get published. Sometimes it can happen easily, other times it may take month or even years. Just because it's well written and is a decent novel, doesn't mean every publisher wants it. It may not be right for some publishers, and others may not think they can market a certain novel well. But if you keep trying, ...


21

Seems to me that consistency is a big thing. Internal consistency and external consistency. External consistency: on Numb3rs, they use real mathematical jargon assuming people will not understand it and will accept it at the Wikipedia level of understanding. But I actually do understand many of the techniques they talk about and they simply cannot be used ...


20

Normally the purpose of fiction is to let the reader immerse into your story - to get him caught deeply into the world you have created. If the reader is wondering about the narrator's gender all the time, there will be no immersion. If he assumes a gender and it is wrong then he will be ejected out of your story when he discovers his error. If you want to ...


20

It's definitely possible to do this without losing the reader. The New Testament is a story where the "protagonist" dies towards the end. I'm sure plenty of readers are quite satisfied with that. Much like the Gospels, killing the protagonist is advisable only if it really means something. Emphasis on the really. Even if you make your character a martyr ...


19

As long as you approach it with good writing practices and treat it as you would your own real writing project, it can help you practice the art of putting words on paper. What it will not prepare you for, however, is world-building, which is the other half of the battle when you write, and is just as important as your ability to write. You can be a ...


18

On one side of the spectrum, some ways of describing have the particularity that, instead of describing all of the character, they define them little by little. For instance: I. You can highlight their body while they do something. a) Indirectly: I gladly helped her take the book from the high shelf. (Implying a tall character) b) Directly: ...


17

Well, first and foremost - do you believe in the character? Do you think he/she is sympathetic? If so, you're already in a good position - because you have a believable, sympathetic character, you just haven't convinced your readers of that yet - meaning, if you get negative critiques on the point, you just need to figure out why you like the character, and ...


17

That's totally nonsense. Stupid gender category thinking. Just ignore statements like this one. The truth is that many women do not think (because of this nonsense) that men can write fiction for women (probably because they think men do not understand women). Therefore male writers use a female pseudonym if they want to sell romances and stuff where the ...


17

If you want examples of successful diplomacy, try CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series, which I think is up to 15 books so far. The main character, Bren, is a diplomat between humans and the non-human species who are native to the planet where the humans crash-landed. Positively fascinating. Hard going at times, but I was never bored. And diplomacy is not ...


16

As a reader, I tend to assume a gender (often but not always the same as the author's). The only reason this would bother me is that it's jarring when I discover I'm wrong, as I have to reimagine the character. As a writer I do try to clarify it early, and that's the advice I've heard from others as well. It's tricky in first person, especially if the piece ...


16

There's two main techniques I use. Mix and match as appropriate for your story. The simplest one: for a conversation between two people, don't give attributions like "he said", but just state it. If it's going to be a lengthy conversation, you can also throw names into their speech. "Hey Sally, check it out - I found an important clue!" "What's ...


15

What's the most important thing that your readers need to know right way? What's the scene that will drag them into your story? The answers to those questions will tell you what should come first. It's certainly possible to write a convoluted, insanely complex story, jumping back and forth in time. Kurt Vonnegut wrote: "Start as close to the end as ...


15

One thing you've got to remember as a writer is that you are not, in any spiritual sense, getting "inside people's heads". What you are doing is producing an artefact that convinces other people that you are inside the minds of many different characters but only as long as they don't look too terribly hard. Your question poses a worry that you can see that ...


15

This isn't really any different than any other important information you want to get across early. Here's a few thoughts: A character considering how s/he might look to others is classic and pretty non-intrusive - e.g. "Somehow, people just see my blond hair and my perky smile, and never imagine such a cheerful, innocent-looking person might be a private ...


15

Basically, anything that the reader considers implausible when he's already suspending disbelief, can spoil the illusion and break that suspension. The key issue to understand is that up to a certain point, your story is exposing the world of the story, and explaining what's allowed and what isn't. Anything you establish clearly, the reader will be willing ...


15

Even though you notice the problem in the first words (in the subjects of the sentences), I think the problem is elsewhere: Each of the first five sentences has a verb that reminds that we're in Adele's head. But we already know we're in Adele's head, so these reminders are unnecessary, and they weaken the sentences. Consider this edit, which removes all ...


14

Don't explain, demonstrate. You can show the meaning of a rank by what people of that rank typically do, and by the way characters of different ranks react to each other. If an Oberst berates a Feldwebel, and the Feldwebel reacts as if berating is within the bounds of their relationship, readers will understand that Oberst is a higher rank than Feldwebel. ...


14

Use of trademarked names in fiction does not violate intellectual property laws. There are a couple of things to be wary of nonetheless. Be careful with the light in which you depict real businesses. As explained here, if you have a character die from a bad hamburger at Burger King or hurt himself because of a defective pair of Reeboks, then prepare for a ...


14

A lot of it is just convention. Most people seem most accustomed to reading past tense, so it tends to not be noticed by the reader. There are exceptions to this, however. YA, especially, has a lot of present tense writing, and in that genre it seems to be totally unremarkable. Fans of present tense often argue that it gives a sense of immediacy to the ...


14

Do you really want to bloat a chapter just to meet an arbitrary quota? Besides that, till you haven't finished the book, you cannot tell how many words a chapter will have. Because you will rearrange, rewrite, and (most important) delete unnecessary stuff. So don't sweat it, start a new chapter, keep writing and drop a quota for chapters. If your story is ...


14

TLDR: Beats are what you make scenes out of. "Beat" is terminology that probably came backwards into writing from acting. Essentially a scene is made of beats for an actor. To explain: I used to be an actor and one thing that I think always blows people's minds is how an actor can learn the entirety of Hamlet's part in a matter of a few months and then ...


14

What has worked for me in the past is to simply concentrate on telling the story. I'm assuming you are on your first draft and have yet to complete even that. In that case, you need to spend less time analyzing and more time telling your story. If you spend too much time reviewing as you write, you'll end up with a case of paralysis by analysis. Sometimes ...


14

In some paragraphs, have the speaker do things in addition to speaking. Readers will understand that it's the same person acting as speaking. Bob knocked on door. "I found an important clue." Sally held her breath. "What was that?" She cranked the pencil sharpener more furiously. "The killer left this behind." Bob held out an evidence bag ...


14

If the scene is boring, it’s not necessary. Think about what you actually need to convey to the reader to move the plot forward, write something interesting that delivers that necessary information, and skip everything else. This may be a good time to break the “show, don’t tell” rule. “Eight hours and two liters of vodka later, Ambassador Königsberg ...


13

Time is based on an Event. We are in the year 2010 because someone inaccurately took the birth of Jesus Christ as the base (hence b.c. And a.d. denominations). Other cultures have other years, I believe either the China or the Arabian countries have a completely different year. In the Star Wars Extended Universe, the battle of Yavin is the base for their ...


13

An invented language can be a tool for exposing the traits of a culture. Different languages not only sound different, but they feel different. They shape ideas differently. They are also shaped by their environments. The way a language works can help illustrate the thought processes of the people who speak it. As an example, I recently saw the Star ...



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