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Q&A

General Q&A about the craft of professional writing, editing, and publishing. Questions about all types of writing are welcome -- fiction, technical documentation, scholarly articles, poetry, scriptwriting, blogs, and more.

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Basing my protagonist on myself

(I asked another question about this novella here.) In a novella I'm writing, I explore the lives of a young Hispanic woman, Ramona, and her brother, Rafael, in an Orwellian-esque future America w...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Books in a trilogy are significantly different lengths. What to do?

I’ve managed to write a fantasy book, Lord of the Rings-style. That is, a single story that would almost certainly be published as three separate books with multiple branching plotlines. Or at le...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Galendo‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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What's "fair use" for borrowing someone else's invented term?

Let's say I'm writing a sci-fi novel. I want to use a word which another writer has coined, which has become well-recognized outside the original book, for the name of an alien species in my story....

4 answers  ·  posted 12y ago by Lauren Ipsum‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Giving a character trauma but not "diagnosing" her?

In my post-apocalyptic novel, my MC Eris is severely traumatized by the death of her family at her own hands. Because of this, she has extreme aversion to social interaction and even physical cont...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Do we simplify descriptions when they sound weird?

The woman said as she pulled a small coin out of a small wallet ... The woman said as she pulled a small coin out of a small box she opened/used earlier. I am wondering if "opened" or "use...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by woxim‭  ·  reopened 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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As a discovery writer, how do I complete an unfinished novel (which has highly diverged from the original plot ) after a time-gap?

I am a reader more than a writer, and fantasy is my favorite genre. I used to write short stories and poems. Some of them are published in magazines and get good reviews. In 2018 January, I read ...

8 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Sangeetha‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Non-sense question about plot structures

Suppose then you have an story in your mind. Then, to write down this finite series of events, you have to translate your imagination into the paper. This process isn't trivial, of course and plot ...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by M.N.Raia‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to make a villain fall in love?

How do you show the softer side of a rough person without loosing the gruffness? I have a character that was the antagonist in one story and will be the protagonist in another where he will fall i...

4 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by poeticvampire‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by ArtOfCode‭

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I want to make two of my characters fall in love

My story is about two gang leaders. The female is the leader of the largest gang in the country. The guy is the leader of the 2nd-largest. They meet at a café where the guy instantly falls in love...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Hail‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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APA In text citations, with the same first author and one other author with the same surname

This seems to be a bit of a corner case. I have two articles, with the same first author, B. G. Cook. The first article has a second author, S. C. Cook. The other article has two other authors (G. ...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by damned truths‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Secespitus‭

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How do I write a generic romantic relationship between a male anti-hero and a female antagonist?

My anti-hero is good character; my female antagonist is the threat. How can I express a romantic relationship between them if I write a short novel? I am a new writer with almost no experience. I h...

1 answer  ·  posted 7y ago by Seraph Myrmidon‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Is anything like the propulsion systems (warp/impulse drives) copyrighted from being use in other sci-fi novels?

I'm currently writing a sci-fi/fantasy novel that mostly takes place on a star/space-ship but I'm stuck on if i'm available to use names of the propulsion drives, such as Warp or even Impulse drive...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by SKKennell‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by celtschk‭

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What's a good market for experimental novellas?

A short story of mine has grown until it's become a bit of a monster - about 15K. I don't know if that makes it a novelette or a novella, but it's certainly too long for most of the journals I woul...

3 answers  ·  posted 11y ago by micapam‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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Is there any difference between these two sentences? (Adverbs)

I'm just trying to work around the whole "Adverbs are the devil" rule. Is there any difference between these two lines in regards to writing quality: He smiled patronisingly at them And H...

6 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by klippy‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by DPT‭

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Would publishing my story like a TV series be successful? [closed]

I'm considering writing my latest story in the style of a TV series. The plan is to write 13 episodes of 10-12,000 each. Episodes will be published weekly on Kindle over a three month period. If se...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Surtsey‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Why does the second act 'reaction' and then 'action' need to be drawn out?

I subscribe to the school of writers who like to (and often must), outline their stories before writing them. For a long time however, I did not use the 3-act structure. My mentality on that has no...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Thomas Myron‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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I have a name, and no plot [closed]

So I made a name for a character and his name is quite fancy so I have no idea what I should do with him. I named him, ready? Sir Nathaniel Charles III. Without asking for specific suggestions on ...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Cecilia‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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A.I character that talks using pre-scripted messages. How do i make it seem more relatable?

I have some character stuff im trying to figure out for an AI antagonist. In a game development project that I am part of, there is an artificial intelligence that speaks to the player character t...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Fennecai‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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Computer science academic conference paper using "randvar" instead of "random variable"

I am reviewing a computer science submission to an academic conference. The authors use "randvar" instead of "random variable" (as well as "logvar" instead of "logical variable"). I am wondering i...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by user118967‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Resolving moral conflict

Conflict is one of the most important things in driving a story. I’ve been working on my particular story for a while now, and I finally seem to have worked out a good plot, and by that, I mean the...

8 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Grace‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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How to convey that the POV character *does not understand* what's said in dialogue?

The general advice is often to focus on the content of what's said in dialogue and just write it in the reader's language, largely whether the characters would use that language or not in-universe....

4 answers  ·  posted 11y ago by Canina‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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How can I make my 'first draft' good enough to be published?

One of my bugbears about writing is the editing process. I'd much rather get it right first time, rather than chop this and change that afterwards. Other industries would not tolerate the rather c...

5 answers  ·  posted 6y ago by robertcday‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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Dumping an entire world for dramatic effect?

About 1/3 of the way through my story the main antagonist "wins" and is able to completely remake the world of the story into his notion of an ideal world. The "new" world shares some elements wit...

6 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Bad to start story with VR/non-real scene?

I'm coming up with an outline for a cyberpunk story. I want to establish (at some point) that the main character has marksmanship proficiency by starting my cyberpunk story with a VR sequence, in w...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Ninjalah‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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The excessive use of 'and'

The word 'and' is an indispensable conjoining tool in any form and discipline of writing. Although, a repetition of the word can make a paragraph too tedious to read, and it only lengthens a senten...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Chagat Nahn‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+1 −0
Idea overflow in plotting?

I've been working on a paranormal/romance/mystery kind of novel for over 4 years now and still haven't finished it. It all started out as a fanfiction but I decided that it had too much potential (...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by AlexSkellington‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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How many character flaws can the main character overcome?

My main character is realistically flawed with a few good points. I'm very satisfied with where she is at. As I begin to connect the internal and external conflicts however, it seems that there is ...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by MXMLLN‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How do I introduce a large cast in an interesting way

I am currently writing a story about eleven college friends and a child. I don't want to just introduce them as "The Jock" or "The Delinquent," and I don't want to do a dry listing of "this is who...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Mai Green‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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How can one "treat writing as a job" even though it doesn't pay?

I hear this advice a lot: "Treat your writing as a job." But it seems to me that this is easier said/done when it is actually paying off and, thus, one is encouraged to do it. But what if one is be...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by user394536‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Would it be better to write a trilogy over a much longer series?

I'm planning out a long series (more than five books as is). It's very optimistic, I know. But I'm just wondering: Would it be better to plan out my series as a trilogy, leaving room to expand if...

3 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by klippy‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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What innovative techniques can make a textbook for learning a foreign language "pop"?

One of the biggest obstacles I've encountered learning Chinese is the incredibly dull and boring textbooks. Yes, the grammar in them is important, but it's so boring! Typical writing reads like: ...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by becky82‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by johnDanger‭

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How do I distinguish between self-doubt and objective recognition of fault?

I start writing a short story, I'm loving it. If I didn't love it, if I didn't want to tell it, I wouldn't be writing it. I finish the first draft, I still love it, and am so proud of completing i...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Galastel‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Leo‭

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+5 −0
Writing slurred speech

One of my characters gets drunk and accidentally kills another. He has a couple of lines where he needs to sound obnoxiously, falling-down drunk. Is there a good way to accomplish this? What sound...

6 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by aparente001‭

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+2 −0
Pantsing a story?

I heard a writer talking about pantsing a story. What does that mean?

2 answers  ·  posted 13y ago by Elizabeth Schechter‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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Is a lawful good "antagonist" effective?

In my post-apocalyptic novel, my protagonist is not necessarily "good", and although the antagonist is an honest and kind person, my protagonist perceives her as "evil". My antagonist is the leade...

14 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Kevin‭

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+3 −0
How many metaphors?

Some of the best books I read have a heap of metaphors, awesomely describing the characters' surroundings or the characters themselves. My creativity appears to be limited in metaphors. I want to a...

2 answers  ·  posted 7y ago by James‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+4 −0
What determines genre?

Is the "genre" a piece of fiction belongs to determined by the author, or by the editor and publishing house? Is there an established definition for each genre, or is it largely ad hoc? I ask bec...

6 answers  ·  posted 13y ago by Zayne S Halsall‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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Has self-publishing killed the in-person critique group?

I belonged to an excellent critique group for many years. More than one member of that group went on to commercial publication of the works that they refined in that group. But since we moved a cou...

4 answers  ·  posted 7y ago by Mark Baker‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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+3 −0
How I should handle gender-neutral pronouns in technical writing?

I am writing API documentation for a mobile loyalty program and I am not sure which of the following is better wording: 1) When the user requests for their visit and order to be registered in thei...

3 answers  ·  posted 8y ago by Manmohan Singh‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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How to use professional jargon when writing fiction?

The military, the medical professions, police, etc. - they have their professional jargon. One noteworthy characteristic of this jargon is the extensive use of abbreviations. Those abbreviations ar...

3 answers  ·  posted 6y ago by Galastel‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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How do you track dependencies for your co-authors?

I and one or more co-authors, sometimes geographically distributed, are working on a set of related documents. Sometimes I will make a change in my part that affects someone else's part; this coul...

4 answers  ·  posted 12y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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Can we dialoguify sounds?

Can we dialoguify sounds? By dialoguifying I mean turning something that shouldn't be put in quote when that something correspond to sounds into a dialogue by putting it between quotes and treating...

4 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by blackbird‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+3 −0
How do we end a description properly?

Sometimes, I have trouble coming up with a way to end a description properly, especially one that's at the very end of a chapter. What are some of the things you can do, especially when the descrip...

3 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by blackbird‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

83%
+8 −0
Good exposition examples

Sometimes exposition is just necessary. Although there's plenty of youtube videos with examples in films of exposition done right, I'm struggling to find good examples of written exposition. I te...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by cegfault‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+4 −0
How can I make names more distinctive without making them longer?

In the point-of-view culture in my story, all of the women in priestly families have two-syllable names beginning with vowels. (There are reasons for this, but they're completely tangential to my q...

11 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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How to balance the agendas of co protagonists that periodically conflict?

While not mutually exclusive, the goals of my co protagonists do conflict and I need to keep them balanced. MC1 works for the CIA and is being burned. He needs help from someone so he can find out...

4 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Rasdashan‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Mark Baker‭

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+5 −0
Ending a line of dialogue with "?!": Allowed or obnoxious?

A dialogue of mine contains the following sentence: "You fired all three of them?!" Trouble is, I'm not sure I've ever seen a novel that used a question mark and an exclamation point together...

5 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Evil Sparrow‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Amadeus‭

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+4 −0
How do we distinguish someone talking to another person via telepathy rather than via vocal means?

In my sci-fi novel, some people have the ability to talk via telepathy so how do we distinguish telepathy from other types of communication? I would like to do it, because it's not the same, and I ...

2 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by repomonster‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by Monica Cellio‭

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What are the indentation rules for the paragraph introducing a bulleted list?

I'm writing a formal document for my company where it'll be shared and used by a number of teams. Unfortunately, we don't have any official standard style guide to follow, so I've attempted to be a...

0 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Troyen‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by System‭

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+4 −0
Naming Characters after Friends/Family

I drafted a book two years ago that I'm now polishing to publish. When I drafted it, for speed's sake, I named one of my primary characters after an old school friend who I'm still in contact with ...

5 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by GGx - Reinstate Monica Cellio‭  ·  last activity 4y ago by System‭