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57

Short, forceful, sentences are clear and pleasant to read. Long sentences (full of description and unnecessary circumlocution), while capable of containing more information than a much shorter sentence, have a tendency to indulge in bad habits like the passive voice, and oftimes the reader, upon reaching the end of a monstrously long and verbose sentence, ...


25

Complex, long sentences are less common in modern English than in modern German, or in the English of a century ago, or in Latin. Most style guides agree that a sentence that one has to read twice in order to understand it is inferior to rephrasing the same such that one may understand it in one read. (Did you enjoy reading the previous sentence? I think it ...


17

They are all grammatically correct (as far as I'm aware), but I think they give different feelings. Parentheses feel like an aside to the audience, like a weaker form of footnotes. I use them a lot in technical writing — often to indicate bits that are optional or additional information/explanation, but that aren't necessary to read — and in more informal ...


16

Yes, they do. They open with a problem occurring -- an unknown disease that no one can figure out. House has to be conned into taking the case. They sit around a room and throw ideas at each other. All of the ideas are wrong. Patient nears death and no ideas are working. House has a magical epiphany and solves the case. The End. (Also, don't forget the ...


15

There are two main ways to structure a series: each book is essentially a stand-alone with a continuing story as part of the plot (Harry Potter), or each book is a critical part of the whole and they are difficult to read out of sequence or without the other books (Lord of the Rings). Either is fine; they just accomplish different things. Stand-alone books ...


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 ...


11

Every part of your work needs to have its own logical arc and structure. In a novel, this can be a chapter or a scene and in a trilogy or series this a book. Each piece should have a beginning, middle, and end. The parts don't live in isolation, though, and each one should leave give the reader enough to enjoy what they are reading but hold back enough to ...


11

I say set it aside and forget about it. I wouldn't recommend throwing it out, but definitely set it aside. Move on to something else and let yourself get focused on something new. Somewhere down the road you may decide that you've found the missing piece and decide to go back to it. Even if you don't, you might find some elements that you can reuse later in ...


11

Using lots of very short chapters creates an impression in the reader of very rapid pace and lots of movement. For some genres (such as Patterson's thrillers), this accelerated pace is exactly the effect that you want. Having long chapters creates the opposite effect: it slows the pace down and gives the author time to expand more fully a given section or ...


11

A prologue is pro, before, the logos, word. It's text before the main body of the text. Whether a work needs a prologue is entirely up to the author. There is no right or wrong way to write one. There is no right or wrong content. It can serve as an introduction, a teaser, a flashback, background material, a recap, or anything else the author thinks might ...


10

Short answer: Give hints along the book. Make the character notice stuff. It will make the "dump" shorter, even convert it into a short reference to scenes that happened. Find a way to imbue feelings or actions in the section. More on that: Include at least some action. Surely there is something that sets off this train of thought. Try and be as brief ...


10

'Stream of Consciousness' is usually considered a narrative mode - it's a style, more than a habit of writing. You could absolutely write in stream of consciousness using an outline. Think of it like intense first person, with no rational filters or structural impositions. I think what you're asking is 'which is more productive, discovery/'pantsing' or ...


10

It depends. Ending each chapter on a cliff hanger is a plot device used in some genres, like thrillers. Dan Brown uses it extensively in his books, as do some other writers. If well done, they can make the book more exciting, and gives it that 'can't put down' feel. On the other hand, if done badly, it irritates the reader, as it seems the only purpose of ...


10

Since you're a software developer, I encourage you to think about the book the way you think about a significant application. You (probably) don't just start writing code; you do some requirements analysis, maybe some use-case analysis (please don't shatter my dreams :-) ), some high-level design... and then, if you're like most of us, you start ...


9

Ralph certainly covered the structure of individual episodes: the patient's symptoms escalate; the team tries one treatment after another (with dramatic results, in some direction or another); House solves the case. That's a fair description of the single-episode plotline, but there's a lot of other tools in the House arsenal - and ones which, I think, are ...


9

It's hard to opine on this without some examples of the sentences you wrote. But generally, you shouldn't write complex sentences just because you can do it well. When a particular idea really requires a complex sentence in order to be conveyed accurately and fully, then I see no problem with it. But this is rarely the case. I can't tell you how many ...


9

The question itself isn't annoying, but it is being asked too often. I believe this is clearer, and I hope a bit nicer -- assuming that's the effect you're going for. :)


9

If your plot is no longer interesting to you, let it go. It's the most extreme version of Kill Your Darlings. You haven't wasted the time you've spent. Consider it an exercise in plotting and development. Think of how much faster and more organized you'll be with the next one. Mourn the story, kiss it goodbye, bury it. Move on. You hereby have ...


9

Quit bean-counting. Finish the novel and then go back and worry about whether the first act works. Methods for structuring a story are guides, not laws. The novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is 850 pages. I remember vividly that the first six hundred were a complete slog, and then suddenly something happened and the last 200-odd pages went like a ...


9

Nope, works fine. Starting from the POV of a minor character to establish the setting is no problem at all; in fact, that can be an interesting prologue, particularly if you're dealing with a mystery. It's sort of a sideways entrance into the story. As an example, Susan Elia MacNeal has done this with all the books in her Maggie Hope mysteries. Mr. ...


8

Here's several tricks I have used to handle flashbacks: Vary their length and use them more often. If you think of flashbacks more like memories of varying length, it becomes apparent that they can be as short as one sentence or as long as an entire chapter. Humans are constantly bombarded with moments of past experience. Some are just a single second of ...


8

To a large extent, a plot-centric book should make its central conflict clear as early as possible. If the reader needs to get past hundreds of pages of exposition to find out what the book is "about," that's definitely a structural flaw in the book. It might not be an insurmountable flaw (if the lead-up is sufficiently well-done); it might also be a flaw ...


7

The best advice I ever read regarding flashbacks was from the excellent book, "How To Write A Damn Good Novel" by James N. Frey. He commented that flashbacks are very much overused and misunderstood, and speculated that writers often use them because they get anxious about the characters they themselves have created, and are trying to avoid conflict. At ...


7

While the question initially seemed pleasant enough, somewhere around the 127th utterance it took a nasty turn towards annoying. The question was reminiscent of a top 40 pop song. The lighthearted head nod it inspired at first disintegrated all too quickly into the self-inficted banging of one's head into a concrete wall. (This wall, like most concrete ...


7

It is possible to have a story without character - that is living beings that have thought processes and some amount of intelligence. This would include people, animals, aliens, robots, etc. There are two types of characters - flat and round. Flat characters are generally those that are background characters that don't evolve or change throughout the piece. ...


7

I think the phrase "breathing space" is misleading to the point of damage. How does giving someone "breathing space" sit with making a story "unputdownable"? "Changing gears" or "Pacing dynamically" is perhaps a better way of phrasing the experience you are looking for. In movie script writing they refer to each "gear" or mood as a "beat". If you have a ...


7

The way to play this depends heavily on what you're trying to achieve with your antagonist's secret goal. The key concept here is that every major thread should have some set-up and introduction in the first act; how precisely to accomplish that for the "antagonist's goal" thread depends on the specifics of your story. So, what are your goals for this ...


7

You have six sentences' worth of text in three conjoined sentences. Not all of the pairings are necessary and some might not be "correct"; for example, you could just as easily conjoin the question and the answer, which are currently part of two different sentences. One way to attack this problem is to break it into the six sentences and then ask yourself ...



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