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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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How to differentiate between two people with the same name in a story?

I am writing a story in which at some point two characters with the same name interact each other. I can't use their last name to differentiate because it's necessary for them to have no last name....

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by System‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Doubt about the difference between a "Beat" and a "Event"

My main source of research about storytelling/screenwriting/how-to-write-a-book manual is [1]. But, the definition of "beat" given by [1] maybe can causing me some confusion. In [1] we have a def...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by M.N.Raia‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Point of View Confusion

I’m confused about point of view. In my story—so far—I only reveal to the reader what the main character, a child, can see/hear. Not often, but at times, I write that the child “wondered” or he “no...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by romebot‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Shifting tenses in the middle of narration

I am writing a short story where the narrator is recording a message to his daughter about some tragic event and in between the narration, the narrator sometimes tries to address directly his daugh...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Jerard Dela Victoria‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Help, I cannot decide when to start the story

So, this probably came up already thousands of times, though here I am. So let me explain... I have a story I want to tell. I am planning for it to become a novel, possibly multiple novels because...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Pharguin‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Is it uncompelling to continue the story with lower stakes?

A big piece of criticism I've seen directed at the last season of Game of Thrones was the fact that they killed the Night King before the finale, and the last episodes had Cersei, a mere morta...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by A. Kvåle‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Good ways to sort "rambly" notes?

I know there is a name for this kind of "writing", but I just can't think of it at the moment. Basically, most of my notes are endlessly long ramblings that can go from one place to another in a he...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by noClue‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to not confuse readers with simultaneous events?

In an omniscient third person, I have 8 (practically unrelated) events going simultaneously in different parts of a large mansion. I want to present these events as they happen, but I feel jumping ...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Weckar E.‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How important is it for multiple POVs to run chronologically?

The way I am currently designing a story with three distinct POVs. An issue I am running into, however, is that one of these has much more to do in the first third than the other two while having l...

5 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Weckar E.‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Where is the line between a tough love character and a pure asshole?

So, I have a character who was going to just be an unlikable character at the start of the novel, but now I want to make her more caring towards certain people, like the innocent character. Thing i...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Kale Slade‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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POV - 3rd Person Rules and Exceptions?

I'm stuck on a POV question in a short story I'm writing. The entire story is written in 3rd Person, but not omniscient - I guess it's either "distant limited" or "deep" (I'm not sure exactly the d...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by romebot‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Is it bad writing or bad story telling if first person narrative contains more information than the narrator knows?

Here are a few examples of the narrator knowing more than he should. (A) In a humourous short story about Bertie Wooster and Jeeves, Bertie is talking about a situation involving two strangers and...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Prem‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Can you use a semicolon to connect fragments that are one item in a vertical list?

I'm trying to write a numbered vertical list. The items are not complete sentences. Can you use a semicolon to connect two fragments that are one item? Receive guests; entertain guests Or, sho...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by happycrabapples‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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The difference between dialogue marks

Most authors use dialogue in writing, especially when writing fiction. Now, if I remember my first grade primary school correctly, dialogue can be directly separated from narration in a number of w...

4 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Punctuating text messages with speaker tags in running copy

Punctuation (and spelling and capitalization) in text messages is different from punctuation in other forms of written communication (emails, memos, standard prose). In particular, punctuation, o...

1 answer  ·  posted 3y ago by Lauren Ipsum‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Avoiding the "not like other girls" trope?

The "not like other girls" trope is pretty common in young adult fiction, arguably misogynistic, and usually applied to a female protagonist or love interest. Attempts to make a female character s...

7 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Help! My Character is too much for her story!

A while ago, I started writing a short story for a competition. It was supposed to be about four girls in a shared student apartment. The plan was to have everyone conflict with everyone until they...

3 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Galastel‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to write a chaotic neutral protagonist and prevent my readers from thinking they are evil?

I've come across a problem with one of the main characters in my book. The "heroine" of my story starts out as an apathetic self-absorbed hacker, who seeks adrenaline thrills to find meaning in her...

5 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by Joe-You-Know‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Should beta-readers have genre experience?

In this comments of How many elements can you focus on during worldbuilding? a conversation arose about the usefulness of non-genre savvy beta-readers. Another question Are "non-readers" useful be...

2 answers  ·  posted 3y ago by linksassin‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Third wheel character

I have three characters, who are supposed to be good friends. Athos, Aramis, and Porthos, if you wish. Instead, I have two characters who share a strong Frodo-Sam relationship, and the third guy, w...

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

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How do I avoid the "chosen hero" feeling?

In many works of genre-fiction (I'm talking mainly about fantasy and sci-fi, but others genres can apply), and across many forms of media, the main characters ends up being special in some ways. M...

10 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Liquid‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to keep romance out of my novel?

(Kem uses they/them pronouns.) I'm outlining a story about a witch named Kem who has to protect the world from evil. Kem befriends demons and other witches, but I don't want them to find a crush ...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Is writing three drafts really necessary?

So I understand the first draft which is basically writing whatever comes to mind but I don't understand why we have to rewrite it three times. Can someone please explain to me? What exactly do we ...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Faith‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How soon is too soon for a redemption arc?

My character, Day, is the son of a dictator and the director of state-sanctioned and sponsored torture of mutated humans, one of whom is my MC. He killed his own sister to prove to his father that...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by weakdna says reinstate monica‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Storing WorldBuilding Information

I've been writing a story and world-building as part of the process. Now it has come to a point where I have lots of information about the world and I need to store it effectively for my own refere...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Oren_C‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Confused about when to treat something as a dialogue tag

Background: I'm helping a friend edit their fiction. I'm frequently left confused on anything related to dialogue tags. “Yes, but I mean no,” Steve stumbles over his words. “Not the come hom...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by mh9‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Planning story using layers, compartmentalization, and time

Plot, environment, characters, each one is a layer in a story. Each layer is also a compartment for further layers that are internally affected by external changes in their own, unique way, and eac...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Atlas‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Varying POV and tense

My novel is written in the third person. When changing POV between different scenes (or chapters), is it OK if the parts for different POV characters use different tenses: some - the past tense, an...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by John Cooper‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Needing Help Fleshing Out Male Character So He's Not Just a Stock Character

I have been working on a fantasy novel for the past twelve years, during which time there have been drastic changes. The most drastic being that I decided to cut out the first third of the story, a...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by J.Y. Nona‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Writing a Non Fiction: Need to Format a Continuous Side Bar

I am writing a novel with two stories simulatenously running alongside each other. That is, on each page there is a main story, taking the body of the page, and there is a 'side story' which runs a...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Max‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Does this scene fail the Bechdel test?

My novel has approximately a dozen women in it, but they don’t tend to talk to each other. Most of them are separated geographically or philosophically and sitting down for a chat does not seem som...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Rasdashan‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How long can a fantasy novel stay in metaphorical Kansas?

I am writing a novel with the basic Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland or the Matrix if you want structure. The novel begins in perfect modern day, and at some point in a very sharp way takes a turn...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Andrey‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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When can I kill my character? [closed]

When is it acceptable to kill a character? (and if possible, when is it most appropriate?) BTW, I'm not talking just about a protagonist; I'm talking about any of my characters, whether they're MC...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Adi219‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to make a repeating plot "slice" not annoying

In my fantasy novels, I don't want to kill anyone off, I just want to get them injured, like badly. I made up numerous believable excuses for this (low-violence, a genuine will to live on the enemi...

6 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Characters that take on a life of their own

There are definite advantages to writing comprehensive character maps, but one downside that I've found is that when a character is fully fleshed out, she/he tries to take on a life of her/his own ...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by robertcday‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to make the villain relatable/human without making the hero seem like a monster for killing him?

I have a story I'm writing which has a villain that, in order to make him more human/developed, I gave him a relatable, tragic and/or disturbing life story, gave him plenty of reasons to be who he ...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Yuuza‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to make a funny and egotistical character that doesn't annoy the audience

Oh, this one's a classic. You have a character with an ego so large, it's on the verge of collapsing into an intellectual black hole. You want to make it into a comic relief but instead, end up wit...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Mephistopheles‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Hate to love, love to hate

I was reviewing my first draft and realized: I need a better antagonist. I have a flat, unspecified, weak organization with a stereotypically evil guy who are absolutely easy to defeat. I need an...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by FoxElemental‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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A question about Past Participle vs Simple Past in a novel

The novel is in past tense and the character is recounting things that happened before the novel began. Should I be using the past participle? Everything I read says that using the word "had" is a ...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by rb304288‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to prevent seeming like a Marty Stu-ish villain is cheating?

In a story I'm writing, there's a villain who is a genius strategist that can get anything he wants, whatever it is, by developing perfect strategies that can have only two possible outcomes: 1, su...

5 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Yuuza‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Moving away from a gender-based analysis

I'm writing a short essay on gender undercurrents of conversations, i.e. how do different people approach communication and problem-solving in their relationships. One way to phrase this is in term...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Buddhapus‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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What is the correct way to use semicolons vs. commas vs. em dashes?

In Sabriel by Garth Nix, near the beginning of Chapter Two, there is the following sentence: Anything powerful enough to cross the Wall usually retained enough magic to assume the shape of a soldi...

2 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by matt_rule‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Indent dialogue to make text look less blocky

I am writing a story but I am trying to indent the dialog because right now it looks like a chunk of text. My text is Then a figure under the box moved behind Professor to which John yelled “P...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by Dan‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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What type of character should I write about first in a potential series of books?

I have a world in which many characters live in. At first, I thought they all could be part of one novel (kind of like Sherwood Anderson's book Winesburg, Ohio or the movie Short Cuts (1993) by Ro...

3 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by Carlo‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Screenplay vs Novel [closed]

Now I know, that this question could be tagged too broad or opinion based, and that it might even be closed down. But I have been struggling over this for quite some time now and I want to get an a...

4 answers  ·  posted 4y ago by HardikT‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Question mark in use with colon

Do you use a question mark in hand when you use a colon, if yes how? I Will Fix Any Error Or Bug is the title of the service. Should I place the order in: I Will Fix Any Error Or Bug Sho...

1 answer  ·  posted 4y ago by nicoX‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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Should I capitalise the first letter of a title that an unnamed character has?

I'm writing from a third person viewpoint. I have a character who does not have a name. He is simply known as "The Sentinel". In fact, that is the only introduction he gives for himself. So when I'...

3 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by user96551‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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What are the standard genre characteristics of contemporary women's fantasy [closed]

I want to write a fantasy novel with a female protagonist, and I want to familiarize myself with reader expectations. Is there still a tradition of (medieval-type) fantasy by and for women, and wha...

5 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Sorry for that‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How do I spot an unintentional promise in my story?

It's commonly said, mainly here on Writing SE and mainly by Mark Baker's answers, that "a story is a promise". The beginning of the story sets the promise and the ending fulfills it. A story that d...

3 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by Yuuza‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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How to derive a storyline from a beginning?

I have an idea for the beginning of a story. I have the setting, the protagonist, and the events that set the story in motion, including the inciting incident and the first plot point. I have, in s...

7 answers  ·  posted 5y ago by System‭  ·  last activity 3y ago by System‭

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