Hot answers tagged

60

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 ...


57

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 ...


29

Use your best ideas. Write them as well as you can. Yes, your writing will improve with experience. And your ideas will also improve with experience. If you reserve your "best ideas" until you're a better writer, then your early stories will exhibit neither your best ideas nor your best writing. Why hamper yourself like that? Sometimes people love great ...


28

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 ...


28

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 ...


28

There are no age restrictions on publishing - you may need to get someone else to sign contracts for you, but that's a minor detail. That said, it's pretty hard to get a book published, even for adults who've been working at writing for a long time. It's probably best if you focus on writing because it's fun, and give yourself a chance to explore without ...


27

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, ...


23

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 ...


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 ...


21

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 ...


21

Feedback is an enormously complex topic, for everyone, everywhere, in every role in life. Some people understand that it's complex. Others do not. Avoid feedback from people who think feedback is simple. Here are some (perhaps too many) of my thoughts. The Briefcase Method Charlie Seashore offers this technique: When someone gives feedback, put it in a ...


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 ...


19

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 ...


19

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 ...


19

As I understand him, Palahniuk doesn't actually mean that you must avoid thought verbs, especially not at all cost. Palahniuk does use thought verbs in his own writing. That blog post is a suggestion for a writing exercise, not a rule for how you should write for publication. The important part in that post, to me, is what Palahniuk calls "unpacking". As I ...


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

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 ...


17

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 ...


17

Advantages First person narratives also have a much easier time garnering empathy from your audience, since they end up spending so much time in your character's brain. If done well, it can give logic and motivations to characters that would seem otherwise evil, immoral, or otherwise not relatable. It more easily fleshes a character on the page by ...


17

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 ...


17

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 ...


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

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 ...


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

I'm not going to tell you how to solve your problem. Quite frankly, I don't know how to solve your problem, despite having faced it countless times myself in the past. Instead, I'm going to show you why you have this problem in the first place. I'm going to show you how to treat the cause instead of the symptoms. Not knowing what to include in your novel ...


16

In a novel-length work, there is almost always room for some humour. I'd say the trick is to choose the right type, and in the right places. Be the right kind of funny If you've seen it, think of the TV show Breaking Bad. Its subject matter was bleak and often gruesome; its emotional content was utterly brutal; but the writers sprinkled in plenty of ...


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

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 ...



Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible