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Activity for Mark Baker

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Edit Post #277178 Initial revision 3 days ago
Answer A: How to ask for permission to use readers' endorsements?
Write to them an ask. If they have reservations or wish to place limits on their endorsement, they will say so. Write because you want their reply in writing, should a dispute ever arise.
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3 days ago
Edit Post #277168 Post edited:
3 days ago
Edit Post #277168 Initial revision 3 days ago
Answer A: At what point does a POV character noting their surroundings go from showing/telling to an infodump?
At the point at which the things they are noticing are not germane to the situation they are in. At any given moment, we take note of those things that are relevant to what we are doing or what is happening to us. Only in moments of complete repose to we look around idly and notice things for their o...
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3 days ago
Edit Post #277127 Initial revision 5 days ago
Answer A: How to keep track of worthwhile snippets from discovery writing, which don't work where they were first written?
Stick them in a file called Snippets. This has one function and one function only: to make it easier to excise all the stuff that does not belong in your story. Tell yourself that this is good stuff and one day you will go and find a way to use it in something else. You won't, but that's okay. The po...
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5 days ago
Edit Post #276340 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Using accents while staying legible
Don't fall into the trap of assuming that you have to act out how dialogue is spoken. Yes, some author do try indicate every nuance of sound in some character's speech, but most readers find it highly annoying. Fortunately you don't have to rely on acting it out. Your book has a narrator. You na...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276313 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Is writing policy pages in a lighthearted manner harmful in any way?
The up side is more people might read the policy. The down side is that people might not take the policy seriously. They might think you are mocking policy documents. If the policy is to mean anything, though, you may one day have to cite it in an enforcement action. Do you want to be citing a...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276241 Post edited:
about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276241 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Dealing with Audience's expectations
Audiences want contradictory things. They want to fall in love with a character, and once they fall in love with them, they don't want anything bad to happen to the person they love. But, of course, they also want excitement, adventure, peril, and woe, or else they will get bored because nothing ...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276221 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Writing "light hearted" lead characters
Let me suggest that lightheartedness is not a character trait but a response to circumstance. Let me suggest that a lighthearted character is one who expects to get the things they desire, and that a heavyhearted character is one who does not expect to get the things they desire. A man who goes c...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276195 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Question Rep score inflation
What happened to the rep scores? They jumped by a bunch.
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276172 Post edited:
typos
about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276172 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Action scene pacing and clarity
Well, there is usually not a lot of inner dialogue in the middle of a sword fight. The slow part of the brain that mulls over stuff switches off and the fast part of the brain the tries to not get stabbed takes over. So inner dialogue in a scene like this would generally be inappropriate. It would no...
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276127 @Prahara, yes. The snobbery around old money vs new is important to bear in mind, but we are dealing with a period of over 200 years of rapid social and economic change, so attitudes and practices certainly changed very much over the course of the period. You can certainly find whatever you need to s...
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276120 @DPT That was not my intention. The extreme character limits for comment for one to be more abrupt that one would like. My apologies.
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276129 I'm not sure that it would be all that rare. It seems a likely part of the moral development of every individual to rebel against the moral failings of the parents, even if it is only their failing to meet the standards of their culture. But cultures are never monolithic. Consider St.Francis rebellio...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276128 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: In a young adult, what would cause development of a high sense of duty?
For your industrial revolution era character, the whole of their upbringing, education, and training would be designed to develop a high sense of duty in them. It is only after the first world war and Wilfrid Owen's scolding of his civilization that attitudes on duty start to change: >If you could...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #276127 Initial revision about 2 months ago
Answer A: Could a 13-year-old have morality to disagree with their family's unethical business practices, while those are the norm in their society?
Well, first, the scenario you posit is a bit unusual. During the Industrial Revolution (on which I did my MA many moons ago) many of the men who made their money in trade and industry at some point sold their companies to live like landed gentry. Landed gentry status was the desirable form of wealth ...
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276120 Lord of the Rings is a meditation on the nature of temptation. Every character of note is tempted in some way, and each responds differently. Tom Bombadil is the prelapsarian figure not tempted by the power of the Ring. (That is why he's important.) Everyone else is either corrupted by it, wise enoug...
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276120 This is the reckless young knight story and it occurs over and over again in literature down through the ages. The theme is romance vs discipline. It is a universal theme. Karate Kid. The Sword in the Stone. Star Wars.
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276120 Luke's want is to be a hero. He's a dirt farmer on a dead end world. He's bored. Adventure calls, but he is naive, impatient, and romantic. He wants to rescue a princess. His need is for discipline, which he repeatedly resists -- at considerable cost. He finally submits himself to the discipline of t...
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276104 @ArtOfCode the tag works. Thanks.
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276104 So where are these questions? I don't see them as new questions on the site. Or did they all get added by their creation date, and are thus buried deep in the list where no one will see them? How would we locate them if we were interested in reading them?
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about 2 months ago
Comment Post #276107 Good point. You make me think that there is an even more specific point in the heroes journey that highlights the moral dilemma. It is the refusal of the call to adventure. Why does the character feel the call to adventure? There must be come moral imperative behind it. Why then do they initially ref...
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about 2 months ago
Edit Post #275961 Post edited:
2 months ago
Edit Post #275961 Initial revision 2 months ago
Answer A: How can I pinpoint a story's moral dilemma?
I think it is important to note that while there is often one particular moment where the choice is faced and made -- what James Scott Bell calls "the mirror moment", the choice may not necessarily come to a head in such an obvious dramatic way. Look for it rather in the forms of the opposing for...
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2 months ago
Comment Post #275954 Great analysis. I think something that this points to is that in a tragedy, the protagonist is offered a shot at redemption and refuses it. This means that there is no deflection in the onward course of their fall. The path does not bend the way it does in a heroic story. But the inflection point is ...
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2 months ago
Edit Post #275824 Post edited:
2 months ago
Edit Post #275824 Post edited:
2 months ago
Edit Post #275824 Initial revision 2 months ago
Answer A: Chapter 1 Problems
Usually when someone says that they have a lot of ideas, they mean that they have a lot of plot ideas. The problem is, they don't understand the difference between a plot idea and a story idea. Giant ape climbs the Empire State Building is an plot idea. Great, now sit down and write a story the clima...
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2 months ago
Comment Post #75052 It isn't the war, it's the wound. It's the pain of the wound. It's the dysfunction of the wound, and its attendant frustration. It's the exclusion and the loss of sense of self that comes with the wound. Emotion is not geopolitical, it is personal. Stalin was not wrong. One death is a tragedy. A mill...
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2 months ago
Edit Post #75052 Initial revision 2 months ago
Answer A: How to show powerful emotion in a character trying to hide it?
While emotions do show on the face and in the movement of the body, those are not the major ways that we judge people's emotions in real life. In particular, they are not the principle means by which we judge the intensity of the emotion. Different people, after all, vary hugely in how expressive the...
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2 months ago
Edit Post #75050 Initial revision 2 months ago
Answer A: How can I make a character sound condescending?
The way you make a character sound condescending it to have them say condescending things. That's it. That's the whole of the recipe. But I suppose you knew that. I suppose you must have tried that and had a hard time pulling it off convincingly. So here is a guess as to why that might be. I'm...
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2 months ago
Edit Post #75028 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: Are speaker tags always necessary when multiple people are in the conversation?
Essentially, you do need a speech tag if the reader can easily tell who is speaking. Under what conditions can the reader easily tell who is speaking: 1. There are only two people in the conversation and we know who spoke last, so the new speaker must be the other person. But note that you can't c...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #75025 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: What to do with cliched metaphors?
As is typical with tired language and cliches, the main problem here is not simply that the phrase is overly familiar, but that it is inappropriate to the scene. This is not a scene in which two people fail to take each other's meaning, despite speaking the same language. Mother and daughter understa...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #75024 @Sigma, yes, language is hard. Or, to be more precise, language is organic, not mechanical, and therefore it is hard to understand it in mechanical terms, and hard to govern it using mechanical rules. Any system of prescriptive grammar has to be understood as at best an approximation of the organic w...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #75024 Post edited:
typos
3 months ago
Edit Post #75024 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: "The tale how" vs. "The tale of how"
What is wrong with it is that it is not idiomatic, as you note. Writing idiomatically is the important thing here. It really does not matter whether you can explain or justify an idiomatic expression grammatically. In fact, grammarians can really tie themselves in knots sometimes trying to fit so...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74972 @ArtOfCode Well that is unfortunate. The only use of last activity date that I can think of is to see if there is anything new to look at since you last visited. It's one more thing that makes it hard to keep up with what (if anything) is happening here. Anyone who visits the site regularly basically...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74972 It seems now to be reporting the last answer or edit on an answer, but not comments. If there are comments made after the last answer or edit to an answer was made, they don't seem to be reported as activity. For an example, check out the last modified date for this question.
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3 months ago
Comment Post #75011 I don't disagree with that. Users are familiar with the term click and familiar terms are incredibly persistent. (Horsepower, for instance!) Select and click are both viable options, IMHO. Trying to come up with some exotic new term is the fatal mistake. But we need to make the argument for the right...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #75011 The language that the code speaks to the machine really has no bearing on the language that the documentation speaks to the user. The machine must be addressed in terms that the machine understands. The user must be addressed in terms that the user understands. They are often very different terms. ...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #75003 Agreed. The only way this place thrives is if it becomes known as the best place to ask questions, and that only happens if it becomes known for having the best answers. Otherwise SE's first mover advantage will be insurmountable. More vigorous curation could certainly do a lot to improve the quality...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #75001 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: What new data should we import from SE?
I don't know. What this place needs is not more data but more users. Bringing over a few more months of questions from SE would give the few of us who still check in here something to chew on for a little while, but I don't see it changing the dynamic. Sooner or later this place has to learn to fly o...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74983 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: mice don't tap and tablet-users don't click: what word can I use for all audiences instead?
Notice that you don't "click" a mouse. You point to an object with the mouse point and you press the mouse button. And the mouse button makes a clicking sound. Click is not an action, it is feedback. In other words, the current word is not a literal description of what you do. It is a word chosen...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74958 Initial revision 3 months ago
Question Last activity data incorrect
The "last activity" data on posts appears to be inaccurate. I just answered a question, but while the answer count shows my answer, the last activity data still refers to the time the question was asked. Image alt text I've noticed in the past that the last activity indicator on posts often se...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74957 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: How can I make a transition from third person omniscient to first person less jarring for the reader?
It is almost certainly just a really really bad idea and you should stick to either one. At novel length it has been made to work by people like Charles Dickens and Cormac McCarthy, but at short story length I can't imagine it being successful. Novels can be episodic in structure, but a short story i...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74906 This sounds a lot like the various types of reactions that you can make to a Facebook post. The difference being that on Facebook they don't accumulate to an reputation or other form of trust mechanism. But why shouldn't they, in principle? Getting a lot of "that worked" votes, for instance, might me...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74904 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: Accepted Answer?
It strikes me that there was something contrary to the stated aims of Stack Overflow about the accepted answer button. SO set out not to provide an answer to one individual but to create a permanent collection of questions and answers that would be valuable to many people. Given this, what is the poi...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74879 Post edited:
typos
3 months ago
Edit Post #74882 Initial revision 3 months ago
Question Naming of Categories
Apropos of the Sequence of Categories can I suggest some standardization of the naming of categories. In particular, I would suggest renaming "Q&A" as "Questions". Yes, questions have answers, but then Challenges have responses, so it is not necessary to name both components in the category name. ...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74879 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: Is sharing prior research does more harm than good, in general, in Q&A sites?
I think the point of requiring evidence of prior research is to avoid clogging up the site with endless repetitions of the same basic questions. The point of a Q/A site, or, at least, the stated goal of Stack Exchange, was not to provide answers to individuals to to build up a permanent resource that...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74845 Post edited:
typos
3 months ago
Edit Post #74845 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: How do I deliver a historical plot reveal?
The question you always have to ask about a reveal is, what is it paying off and how its it paying it off. The narrative technique you use should be appropriate to the type of payoff you are creating. Dramatizing the moment of the reveal may be absolutely necessary if the information pays off in term...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74800 Good question. I'm not sure if there is just one word. "Arc" might come close, but I don't think it suggests the whole idea, perhaps only because it is so commonly used that its implications are forgotten.
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74810 The best decision that the Writing community on SE ever made was that critique was off topic. There is no shortage of critique sites on the web and they have developed rules and mechanisms to keep things fair and civilized. Let them do what they were designed to do (but by all means list them as a re...
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3 months ago
Comment Post #74807 Maybe the standalone posts would work better. I was thinking one page per resource, rather than lists. The other thing could work to, I suppose: a request for resource recommendations followed by answers suggesting resources -- the dreaded list post. :-) But I was thinking more in terms of proactive ...
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74807 Initial revision 3 months ago
Answer A: Shall we showcase some of our fiction, poetry, and other work?
Speaking of categories, what about a category for Resources. People could suggest books on writing, write reviews on them, and other resourses, and share opinions on their virtues and vices.
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3 months ago
Edit Post #74801 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Shall we showcase some of our fiction, poetry, and other work?
For what purpose would people publish their work here? If it is for critique, this seems like too public a forum for it. It will look like publication and that will make the work ineligible for publication elsewhere, at least until it is taken down. And if it is taken down, what happens to the co...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #74800 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: What information about a fictional world is unnecessary?
To solve questions of this kind, you have to understand the role of setting in a story. Stories do not exist to describe settings. Settings exist as a place to stage stories. Settings contribute to a number of aspects of a story. They contribute to the plot, obviously, when the material circumsta...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #38613 Post edited:
typos
4 months ago
Edit Post #74775 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Is publishing a book around the age of 14 possible?
Lots of people start writing novels in their teens. Most of them are not very good at first. That is to be expected. A novel is one of the most complex forms of art that can be created by a single person. After all, a novel has to entertain a reader consistently for ten or twelve hours. What other wo...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #74769 Initial revision 4 months ago
Question What happened to the Questions Tab?
What happened to the Questions Tab? We used to be able to see multiple pages of questions and view them in different ways, including "Lottery". Now there is just one page of questions with no navigation and no alternate views of the list.
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39433 Post edited:
4 months ago
Edit Post #39443 Post edited:
4 months ago
Edit Post #41988 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Is the first page of a novel really that important?
Yes, the first page is vitally important. It is the place where engagement happens. It is the place where the reader either sinks into the world of the story or skates of the words without engaging. It is the place where the character and/or setting either comes to life or remains lifeless. It is...
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4 months ago
Comment Post #39580 No reputation? Does that mean there will be no form of social proof or a different one? And if a different one, what will it be? I'm struggling to see how a QA site without social proof is any different from a plain old web forum.
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39576 Post edited:
typos
4 months ago
Edit Post #39577 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How to convey the anatomy of a humanoid race?
A wise writer chooses a point of view that enables the reader to see what they need to see of the story. If you choose a point of view arbitrarily, or because it is fashionable, you will often find yourself stuck with no natural way to show the reader what they need to see. You will then be stuck try...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39576 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How do I introduce dark themes?
> "this isn't what I thought I was reading"? This is the key phrase. The reader needs some idea of what kind of book this is. But this is where genre conventions come to your rescue. Each genre had a certain shape to its stories. Will a high fantasy turn dark in the middle? Of course it will. Wil...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39574 Initial revision 4 months ago
Question What questions was my new rep for.
One thing I really miss from SE is the ability to see what answers of mine got upvoted since I last logged in (or in the last day). In other words, where did my rep increase come from. Because vanity. Is there a way to add this?
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39573 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How to prove that my blog is just not average?
Everything Monica said, and then this: There are, at very least, three components to this. 1. Are your ideas exceptional? Most people's aren't, of course, but some peoples are. No one can tell you how to have exceptional ideas, of course. 2. Is your expression of these ideas exceptional enough...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39566 Post edited:
4 months ago
Edit Post #39570 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Rapid change in character
I think you need to make a distinction between a change of character and a change of heart. Characters, inherently, don't have changes in character, because they are characters and character is all they have that makes them what they are. If their character changes, they are a different character. ...
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4 months ago
Comment Post #39569 Maybe the list should be blank until you type the first character. That would suggest that the list is dynamic, and that you can type your own if you want to. If the list appears immediately, though, that looks like a set of preset choices.
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39568 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How to hint at an antagonist's identity?
By their fruits ye shall know them, but the works of their hands. What follows a character, despite the many masks they may wear, is their goals and their modus operandi. If the character acts the same way, exhibits the same values, and works for the same ends by the same means, we will recognize...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39567 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How can you redeem an awful character, who hits close to home?
This question presumes are rather economic view of redemption. If the number of good deeds exceeds the number of bad deeds,the characters is redeemed. If their assets exceed the debts, they are redeemed. But that is not really the way redemption works. Redemption is a direction of the heart. A ch...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39566 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How do I know if my cast is diverse enough or too diverse?
Birds of a feather flock together. This is a universal truth and one that you ignore in a story to your peril. A story which ignores this truth may check a bunch of ideological conformity check boxes (and that never hurts in the market, as long as you pick the right ideology), but it tends to leave s...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39565 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Scale: How to handle a personal story set in an epic war?
One of the most important aspects of writing both fiction and non-fiction is managing the reader's attention. Parts of a scene are for atmosphere. They are meant to flesh out the setting so that it feels real and engages the sense in the moment. They are not meant to be remembered, only to color the ...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39563 Post edited:
typos
4 months ago
Comment Post #39563 Okay, I have addressed this in an edit to the answer as it is too long for the comments.
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39563 Post edited:
Edit to address comments.
4 months ago
Comment Post #39563 So, a story about a dark/evil character where everyone lives happily ever after? I think you need to define what you mean by a dark/evil character. Do you mean the tempter or the tempted? Because the tempted has a story arc, and the tempter does not.
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4 months ago
Comment Post #39563 Well then, how do you account for tragedy? How do you account for Hamlet? (Everybody dies.) Or Romeo and Juliet? (They both die.) Human life is tragic. (We all die.) Literature has always dealt with tragedy. And since life is tragic, there is every reason to care about a tragic character. We see our ...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39563 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: How can I write a dark protagonist for whom there is no hope?
Light vs darkness is not and never had been the only theme in novels. In fact, in the simplistic sense in which it is practiced today in things like post-Tolkien fantasy novels, it is a pretty new phenomena. Take most fairy tales, for instance, have more to do with the moral fortitude to resist t...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39558 Initial revision 4 months ago
Question Have we ground to a halt?
It seems like this place has ground to a stop. I have been trying to do what was suggested earlier of going back to old questions (as surfaced by the Lottery tab), but that seems to be all that is happening here lately. I rather suspect that all the people who used to answer questions back on SE ...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39557 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Is there any popular wisdom on the word "seem"?
Many people have a personal animus against particular words. "Very" is a very common target. (See what I did there?) Certain words just seem inadequate to their task, flabby, somehow, or inapt. I don't think that this has to do with the weakness of particular words. It may have to do with the car...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39556 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Is the genre 'fantasy' still fantasy without magic?
Magic and Wisdom share a common root, but have since diverged. The Wise Man became the Wizard. The natural philosopher similarly diverged to beget the scientist and the alchemist. Our notion of magic, in the modern sense, is a product of that divergence. The divergence occurred as we moved from a...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39555 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: What makes an ending "happy"?
Having thought much about this question since I proposed it, I am going to suggest a somewhat abstract answer: A happy ending is one in which perfection meets desire. That is, the ending which is the perfection, the rightful completion, of the story told, is also the one which the reader desired. ...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39553 Post edited:
4 months ago
Comment Post #39549 To which we might add that in many cases, the asker is looking for someone to confirm their own prejudice on some question, and will prefer answers that do that over potentially better answers that expose the fallacy of that prejudice.
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39553 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: Averting Always Chaotic Evil
Why do baddies have to be bad? (Because that is the question you are really asking here.) Baddies have to be bad because baddies serve an important literary function. Robert E. Lee said, "It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it." And we are fond of it, particul...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39546 Post edited:
4 months ago
Edit Post #39546 Initial revision 4 months ago
Answer A: What can I ask my readers to help me and how?
You are trying to turn a critique into a movement. Is that possible? Sure. That's how all movements start. But critique is easy and it is everywhere. All the cranky old men who write to the newspapers decrying every new development and change in public policy are engaging in critique. Not one of ...
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4 months ago
Edit Post #39442 Post edited:
Adding the inoculation argument.
5 months ago
Edit Post #39544 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Lost my ‘magic’ concerning characters
For many of us, our first dive into writing consists of writing plot-driven stories peopled by one note characters, characters who are just types with a name assigned to them. That's fine. Writing is a complex skill and the way we learn complex skills is by practicing one aspect of them at a time. So...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39543 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Introducing evil characters before the evil deeds take place
It depends on what you mean by evil. There are many characters in fiction which exist only as the personification of evil. They are not people, they are evilness in trousers and a mourning coat. You can't introduce Satan as anybody or anything other than Satan. They are the embodiment of evil and evi...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39542 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: How to organize ideas to start writing a novel?
The thing you have to understand about writing a novel is, it's impossible. It can't be done by any method known to science. Sure, you can try writing an outline. It won't have any heart. Your characters will be flat as cardboard. You can try writing character biographies. Then you novel will be ...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39429 Post edited:
5 months ago
Comment Post #39532 For a character, yes. For a reader, thought? Not so much. That is why dramatic irony is powerful, but false suspense is deadly.
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39535 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Is it alright to add scenes that don’t move the plot forwards much but develop relationships/character?
Every scene should produce a change in story values, which almost always means some change of state for the character. From the beginning of the scene to the end, the character should be more in love or less, more in danger or less, more tempted to sin, more moved to pity, more pained by rejection, m...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39534 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: How could the disregard for both plot and dialogue tell the story?
You can call the cat a minivan but you still can't drive it to Costco. A story is what a story is. If you create an object that has none of the characteristics of a story, it is not a story. You might consider it a literary work, given that it is a work made of words, but being a literary work do...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39533 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Do living authors still get paid royalties for their old work?
Author royalties depend entirely on the author's contract with the publisher. If the contract says they get royalties, they get royalties. If the contract says they don't get royalties, they don't. The issue of copyright, which other answers mention, is beside the point. The author licenses or se...
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5 months ago
Comment Post #39532 But that is a real minefield. If the danger that the reader thinks is there turns out not to be there, that is letting all the tension out of the story when it is revealed, and is likely to come as a huge disappointment. Unless the book is really about something else entirely, and real tension lies e...
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5 months ago
Comment Post #39532 Keep it uncertain for whom, the first protagonist or the reader? There is a fundamental principle in drama called dramatic irony, in which the audience knows something that the character does not. This can be a powerful way to build anticipation and dread in the audience. (Classic example: the cheerl...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39532 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Does a point of view need to be introduced when or right after the character is introduced?
The point of view of a story is the point from which the reader experiences the story. What you do with point of view should be based on what the reader will want to experience at any given point in the story. I often see writers decide on a point of view long before they have figured out what th...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39526 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Transitional sections
How does that travel change your characters? The iron law is that every scene should leave your characters in a different state from when they began, or, at very least, leave the reader with a different appreciation of their state from the one they had at the beginning of the scene. If the only c...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39517 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: How to write an introverted main character with accidental charisma
The way you make a reader feel anything about a character is by how he acts. You can try telling the reader stuff about him that is contrary to how he acts, but it won't work. The reader will still judge him, will still feel interested in following him, or not, based on how he acts. So this makes...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39515 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: What are good ways to improve as a writer other than writing courses?
I think you need to distinguish four aspects of writing and focus on the ones that you most want to improve on. They are: The mechanics of writing: Sentence structure, punctuation, etc. For this books and/or classes on grammar and composition may be useful. The craft of writing: This has to ...
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5 months ago
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39513 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Is having elaborate metaphors ever a bad thing?
Metaphors must be apt. They must make the reader's experience of the scene they are reading more vivid. The problem with many metaphors, particularly those created by inexperienced writers, and most particularly by those that think they are obliged to fill a certain quota of metaphors, is that they a...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39511 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: How to realistically describe pain?
You can't. You can't describe pain. You can't describe what things taste like. You can't describe much at all about our physical sensations of the world. Language just does not seem to work like that. There are no adequate words for any of it. What you can do is evoke the memory of sensations tha...
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5 months ago
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39505 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Should a scene break always be put in place when there is change in location, times, and dates?
A scene is a small dramatic arc within a story. Usually scenes take place in a single place and time, though that is not always the case. Usually it is clear that one scene has ended and another has begun, thought that is not always the case either. Where there is a possibility that it may not be cle...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39504 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Is it cliché to have two best friends fall in love?
Human beings are pretty simple creatures are heart. We are formed by evolution to pair up and reproduce. The forming of romantic bonds is therefore central to our lives and central to our stories. And there are only so many choices for the people we can form romantic bonds with: friends, acquaintance...
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5 months ago
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39503 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Doubt about a particular point of view on how to do character creation
A character is a bundle of desires. (One could debate whether that is an adequate description of a human being, but characters are not complete human beings, they are artefacts of story.) When you create a character, you know what they desire, because that is what a character is. A simple character h...
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5 months ago
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39499 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: Are worldbuilding questions on topic?
It seems to me that there are two types of worldbuilding question. One is about the literary craft of creating the story world in which every story exists, even those that are ostensibly set in the real world. That would strike me as obviously on topic here. The other deals with the mechanics of f...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39498 Initial revision 5 months ago
Answer A: What's the difference between time-tested and formulaic?
I think that the answer, broadly, is that structure is necessary but not sufficient. You need both structure and vision. Yes, you can have works that don't follow conventional structures, or don't do so in obvious ways, but their appeal tends to be limited. It is also true that there are some...
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5 months ago
Edit Post #39491 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Alternatives to develop relationships without dialogue
What Amadeus says about body language is true, but it can be hard to convey in prose. It is the kind of thing you can rely on actors to do well in film, if that is the medium (as the 90 second time limit suggests), though that really doesn't leave you much to write. In prose (and in film as well...
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6 months ago
Comment Post #38859 I think you are confusing point of view with object in view. The point of view character can observe several other characters acting, and can turn their attention from one character to another, while the story remains in their point of view. A point of view change changes where the action is reported...
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6 months ago
Comment Post #39321 I'm noticing that the questions on the Lottery page seem to be highly weighted towards recent questions. Often, some of the same questions appear on the lottery page and the front page. Since the purpose is to dredge up older questions that might need a review, is there a way to weight its question s...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39488 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Introducing a new POV near the end of a story
POV is all about letting the reader see the things they want to see. One changes POV so that the reader can see things from a different angle. We often do this in life. We move around a scene so that we can see it from different angles. But there is a time for changing points of view and a time f...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39487 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How to integrate letters, in-universe book Snippets and the like into a story
This is simply backstory, so the rules of backstory apply. Backstory should only be given when the reader wants to know the backstory. Backstory slows the forward momentum of the plot, so it should only be given when the lack of backstory would make further forward progress of the plot impossible. ...
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39477 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Choice of words on writing
Travel writing is not about the destination or about the journey, it is about the company. It is the personality of the travel writer that make travel writing worth reading. Otherwise, you might just as well read a guide book. So your travel writing is not about taking your reader on a trip, it is ab...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39476 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Do people usually like the side characters more than the MC?
The structure of most stories is that the main character is led to make some fundamental choice of values. Secondary characters exists to be the subject of those values (the love interest), the promoter of those values (the wizard), the supporters of the values (the companions), a temptation from tho...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #38094 Question reopened 6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39472 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Outlining the climax made me lose interest in writing the actual story
This is a presumption, but my guess is that you have lost interest because there is no drama in your outline. The peril of outlining is that it causes you to focus on events. Events are not dramatic in themselves. There is no drama in a set of turn by turn directions, for instance. They will get you ...
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39471 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How to start a story after the inciting incident?
> In this story, the inciting incident, refusal of the call, and start of the quest are all backstory. Are you sure? You say they are heroes. They have set out on a secret mission. But is that a departure from their normal world? Or is that what these heros do for a living. Perhaps going on secret...
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39466 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Is quality of writing subjective, or objective?
Any discussion of quality in art depends on your theory of what art is for. There seem to be two dominant theories of art today. Theory: art creates an experience ========================= In the case of literature, this means that reading the piece gives the reader an experience analogous in...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39084 Question reopened 6 months ago
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39465 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Is there a formula for creating stakes?
Raising the stakes is a gambling term. It refers to betting more and more on a game as time goes on, often in the hopes of redeeming past losses. It is not hard to understand why gamblers raise the stakes. What is hard is to understand is why they gamble. This seems to apply to fiction as well. W...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39463 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Difference between News Analysis and Opinion?
It might be useful to compare this to what doctors do. Doctors first establish symptoms. These are the facts of the case. Notice that it is possible to miss or discount a symptom. The data being gathered is factual in nature, but that does not guarantee that it is complete or accurate. Even gathering...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39456 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Are competitions worth it in order to get published?
A win in any contest in any field is valued in proportion to the quality of its entries. Winning a Pulitzer or an Nobel will do wonders for your career. Winning the Podunk County Fair Short Story Competition, not so much. However, publishing is a business. They publish work that can sell. It is n...
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6 months ago
Comment Post #39096 You will not succeed in getting agents and publishers to tell you why they rejected your MS. They reject hundreds every day. They don't have time to give reasons, nor is there any benefit to them to do so. There are ways to get critiques of your submission materials though, through conferences and we...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39444 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How can I have a character introduce themselves as humble without making them seem arrogant?
Humble people don't know that they are humble. Anyone who burns to say that they are humble, isn't. See Uriah Heep: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UriahHeep.
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39443 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: What genre would a fictional eyewitness account of a real historical event fall under?
What you describe is mainstream historical fiction. There is significant piece of the historical fiction market that seems to value the historical accuracy not only of period details but of events themselves very highly. They want their historical fiction to be essentially a textbook, but with more s...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39442 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: The concept of "Exotic Culture" and the necessity of a new world
A story is like a scientific experiment. You have to isolate the subject of study from outside influences in order to focus on its properties. Setting is the main tool that novelists use to achieve this isolation. For example, the country house mystery is a simple device from cutting off a group ...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39441 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Dangers of being sympathetic to the killer
We often use the word "sympathise" to mean agree with or approve of. But that is not what it means (or not what it should mean) when we are talking about the reader sympathizing with a character in fiction. In this context, sympathy means, to feel as they feel. The root of the word is from the Gr...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39440 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How much uncertainity will the 'general (Non-YA) fantasy reader' tolerate?
Showing physical reactions to things works for immediate reactions. But stories are not built on immediate reactions. They are built on the long term desires and goals of the characters. It is hard to show those just by moving your character around the board like a chess piece. And immediate reac...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39436 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How can I make a character sound uneducated?
Begin by noticing that educated is a relative term. Today we tend to think of it in terms of formal schooling. But many people with less formal schooling, may be educated in other things by other means, such as apprenticeship. Similarly, someone highly educated in physics may be completely ignorant o...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39433 Post edited:
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39433 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How to write strategy and schemes beyond my real-life capabilities?
All that has been said here about doing research, and about the advantage of the author's omnipotence, is valuable. But there is a more basic answer as well. Don't show how the sausage is made. Your hero is a tactical mastermind. Fine, have men drink a toast to his brilliance in the tavern after the ...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39432 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Can I conceal an antihero's insanity - and should I?
This question seems to implicitly (at least) confuse behavior and diagnosis. Behavior is how the person acts, and novels are all about behavior, no matter which narrative POV is chosen. Diagnosis is what happens in a psychiatrist's office. Unless your character goes to a psychiatrist and gets diagnos...
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6 months ago
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39430 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Character and world building in less than 2000 words
The general principle, which would apply in this case as much as in any other is, establish the base and describe the deltas. Don't describe anything in complete detail. Rather, call up a general image and then add the distinctive details that make it specific to what you are creating. To do this ...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39429 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: How do I get beta readers?
What you want in a beta reader is someone who you trust to tell you the truth in the spirit of helping you improve, without attempting either to stroke or destroy your ego. You can't trust friends and family to do this (for the most part). They are more interested in preserving their relationship...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39035 Question reopened 6 months ago
Edit Post #39428 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Is it a copyright violation to have the character share some characteristics with a known character?
A useful way to think about this is, every story you write is set in a world of your own invention, that sits in some relationship to the real world that we live in. The real world that we live in includes J. K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books. (Which created a world of their own that sits in some...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39427 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: First or third person
First person narration is a gross violation of common sense. I say this simply to point out that all forms of narrative, or almost all, are a gross violation of common sense. Who is telling this story and when? Who observed that action that is being told, and how? How did it get into the hands of the...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #38517 Question reopened 6 months ago
Comment Post #39414 It occurs to me that one of the ways in which social proof militates against curation is that any reduction of duplication or elimination of inferior answers involves reducing reputation (unless reputation is separated from individual content items somehow).
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39415 Post edited:
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39417 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Letting a (secondary) antagonist leave mid story - Should it be avoided?
There are three types of conflict in fiction, man vs man, man vs nature, and man vs self. Man vs man and man vs nature are not particularly interesting in themselves without the element of man vs self. Man vs man by itself is just a matter of capacity. The strong man wins. Man vs self, makes man vs m...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39416 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: What is Documentation Design that I haven't already done?
I have no clue what he meant by designed. But I agree with him that you have not designed the documentation. Why? Because you have not created a list of user tasks. Documentation is a response to a theory about what users want to do. Its purpose is to assist them in doing the things they want ...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39415 Initial revision 6 months ago
Answer A: Should you write character description points in bulk or spread them out?
People skip details that they don't care about at the moment. If people are not interested in the details, it won't matter if you put them in a lump or spread the out. They still won't be interested in them. They will still skip them. If people are interested in a set of details at a particular p...
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6 months ago
Edit Post #39407 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How can a writer point out the merits of his or her own work?
One of the things that every writer has to accept is that they pay far greater attention to every aspect of their work than any reader ever will. Sure, the writer can set up a joke on page 7 and give the punch line on page 349 and think the result is hilarious. No reader remembers the setup, and so t...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39398 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Giving a character trauma but not "diagnosing" her?
If you are afraid of being criticized, don't be a writer. You are not writing a documentary. Your responsibility is not to correctly diagnose your characters. Your responsibility is to focus your story on the one thing that your story is about and push it to its maximum extent. To do that, you ar...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39397 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Non-sense question about plot structures
It is worth observing that some objects have literal structural elements. Buildings, for instance, have a network of load bearing members that allow the building to stand up, as well as countless partitions and decorations that make up the spaces that you largely experience. The shape of those spaces...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39306 @Amadeus, Anything we say here is analysis. But analysis is usually more valuable for editing and critique than synthesis. If it is not working, analysis may help you discover why. But writing into an analytical framework is not always helpful or effective. A surgeon can diagnose and even heal, but t...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39306 @Amadeus, and further to this point: The portion of the story that precedes the inciting incident is about the establishment of the normal world. Yet in different stories and different genres, there may be more of less work required to establish the normal world. For any given story it may be a horri...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39306 @Amadeus Yes, even if one grants that the only real rule is, keep the reader interested, that there may only be on general structure that does that over the length of a novel. Still, I have to question the effectiveness of writing to the averages. Averages, in themselves, are not gauges of perfection...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39381 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Dumping an entire world for dramatic effect?
The question you should be asking is not how big a change this is in the world, but how big a setback it this for the protagonist and how does it impact his/her moral arc. The basic structure of story is of an escalating series of challenges leading to a revelatory moral climax in which the character...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39380 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Bad to start story with VR/non-real scene?
I think this would work great -- in a movie. But books are not movies. VR is a visual experience. It engages the sense of hearing and sound, and essentially turns everything else off. It is a world without affections or worries, a setting aside of life and its concerns. Watching a character play a vi...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39378 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: The excessive use of 'and'
"And" can be used sparingly in exactly the same way that "it" and "yes" and "up" and "the" and "how" can be used sparingly. Which is not at all. There are words that are full of evocative power (particularly when used in the right combination) and there are words that are just the glue that holds the...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39375 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How many character flaws can the main character overcome?
None of the things you list are character flaws. They are forms of disability. A person can suffer multiple physical and psychological disabilities and still be of stirling character. A character flaw, generally speaking, is an inclination to act in an antisocial way, to let down your obligation to y...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39374 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Idea overflow in plotting?
Dreaming up story ideas is like wandering through a farmer's market. Every stall is piled high with wonderful ingredients. Honey! Turnips! Croissants! Pork Chops! Limburger cheese! Brussels Sprouts! Kale! Peaches! Writing is like cooking a meal that you know your family will like. Do you go to the...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39372 Are you sure poignant is the word you mean? "evoking a keen sense of sadness or regret." The US Declaration of Independence is a denunciation of tyranny and a justification for rebellion. I don't see much poignant about it.
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39370 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Would it be better to write a trilogy over a much longer series?
Prove to yourself and to the world that you can write one decent book. Until then, there is not a lot of point planning a trilogy or a series. Until you can complete one book, you are not going to have any real idea of how big an idea it takes to create one book, let alone to come up with multiple re...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39369 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How can one "treat writing as a job" even though it doesn't pay?
To me, treat it like a job means two things, principally: First, set a regular work schedule and/or production target. Write from 9am to noon, or from 8pm to 11. Or else set yourself a word count target for the day. 1000 words, 1200 words, 2000 words: what ever is a reasonable goal for a work day....
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39365 Cool. Subscribed. Thanks.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39346 @Amadeus Nobody writes for everybody.
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39346 I have yet to read a sex scene that did not make me wince.
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39347 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Pantsing a story?
There are a couple of meanings for "pantsing" in writing. One is the saying that in order to write one must begin by applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. But by far the most common meaning is "writing by the seat of your pants," by which is meant, writing without a predetermin...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39336 @MonicaCellio, I do like the idea of giving priority to the new, though. It would be useful, as a user, to be able to view the site in "What's new" more or in "What's best" mode, depending on the reason for my visit.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39336 Right, but there is potentially far more to curation than simple deletion of the egregiously bad. Consolidation and pruning could make a huge difference to the quality of the information set. On the other hand, they could offend the contributors and make reputation counting more complex. Not easy cho...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39339 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: What determines genre?
People buy books they way they buy vacations. The are looking for a specific kind of experience. There are certain elements that must be part of the experience. There are certain elements that must not be part of the experience. A certain amount of surprises and novelty are welcome as long as they ar...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39335 @Amadeus, fixed, thanks.
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39336 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How shall we handle our old (imported) content?
The model on SE was moderation, not curation. Nothing was ever removed. Duplicates, were marked, but never resolved. The only way any kind of curation occurred at all was through voting, and voting was not based on the expertise of the voter. Bad advice was supposed to sink to the bottom of the page,...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39335 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Is a lawful good "antagonist" effective?
There is almost never just one antagonist in a story. There may be a chief antagonist, a person who is directly working against the protagonist, but most stories are not actually like that, and even in the ones that are, there is more than one force, more than one person, whose actions frustrate the ...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39334 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Tools to overcome a block from: "My words are bad"
I've never subscribed to this notion that you should just start writing. Sure, depending on your level of skill and experience, some number of things about your first draft will probably be bad. A novel is an incredibly complex piece of art with severe constraints on its form. It is hard to get every...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39326 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Can we dialoguify sounds?
1. Quotation marks are for words that are actually spoken. Nothing else. If you must do this, use italics. But don't do this. 2. Don't try to do sound effects. A novel is not a movie. You can describe sounds, when they are relevant, but don't try to reproduce them. If you want us to hear the soun...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39325 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How do we end a description properly?
First of all, there is nothing inherently wrong with describing a character's psychological state and inner thoughts (thought I would suggest focussing on the emotional state rather than the psychological). This is something that only the novel can do, and therefore a vital element of stories that on...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39324 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Questionable Promotions!
Pondering this, I wonder what the point is of improving questions/answers that no one is reading. Is writing new answers to those questions going to make then suddenly start turning up in searches? It occurs to me that as long as the version of this site on SE exists, it is what is going to show ...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39316 Initial revision 7 months ago
Question Email subscription
This place is not exactly lively yet. That is not a surprise. But one quickly loses interest in visiting just to find nothing new day after day. Pretty soon you don't come back at all. What would help would be a subscribe to new questions feature that would send an email when a new question is as...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39299 Re number 3. The Ask button is right next to the Meta button. So once you have located the Meta button, you have also located the Ask button. So when you want to ask a question in Meta, you don't look for an Ask button, because you already know where it is. You just press it. The notice that comes up...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39315 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Can a fight scene, component-wise, be too complex and complicated?
In any scene, you need to look at what story values are at stake. Narrative is interesting insofar as it develops or changes story values. It is boring insofar is it does not. Technical descriptions of how things work usually don't develop or change story values. Occasionally they do, as in the examp...
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7 months ago
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39314 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How to balance the agendas of co protagonists that periodically conflict?
I don't think you do keep them balanced. Or, at least, I don't think you should. If their goals are incompatible, the reader has to choose whose goals they are going to root for. And at the end, one is going to achieve more of their goals than the other. So you are not going to achieve balance in the...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39313 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Good exposition examples
Exposition is a problem for movies, because movies, generally, do not have a narrator. The audience sits and watches events unfold. But if the story needs the viewer to be aware of events that would be tedious to watch unfold, they have to be told to the viewer somehow in the context of the events th...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39312 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How can I make names more distinctive without making them longer?
The problem with your names is not that they fail to be distinct, but that they fail to be sticky. The stickiness of a name is a measure of how easily the brain can retain it and assign it to an object. If names are not sticky, making them more distinct will not help the brain retain them. The reader...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #37857 Both allowed and obnoxious. Allowed because it is sufficiently supported by convention and usage. Obnoxious because it should be unnecessary in well written prose. Lots of things are both allowed and obnoxious.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39277 Agreed. Even if the "interobang" exists (it's a new one on me), familiarity is *the* core value of communication. Use the most familiar word that does the job. Use the most familiar punctuation that does the job. Personally, if I saw '‽' in a book I would take it for a printing error.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 But if when I sign up I am told that Monica is in charge and here is what she will tolerate and what she won't, that's much easier. It does not require me to agree to your principles. It just tells me that if you don't like what I say, you will shut me down. Agreeing to submit to authority is much l...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 My point, as in the SE case, is that if I am required to subscribe to a code, I have to look at that code as a whole and decide if I can subscribe to all it implications and assumptions. In the case of SE, I could not, even though the chances that I would ever have actually violated it are extremely...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 @MonicaCellio, exactly. And that comes down to where authority lies. Does authority lie in the moderator or in the code. If authority lies in the mod, there is no arguing with the decision. If it lies in the code, then there is endless ground for arguing about the decision of the mod.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 @ThomasMyron What cannot be legislated must be adjudicated, and what must be adjudicated depends on the character and principles of the Judge. There is no way around this. This too is the human condition. In the end, thought, admitting this can result in a less restrictive covenant.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39307 Seems to have worked, @ArtofCode. Thanks!
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 A policy that says no harassment must be intended is unenforceable. A policy that says no harassment must ever be felt is impossible to comply with. That's where the loophole lies, and it is a loophole in human nature that no code of conduct, however worded, can ever close.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 And someone may feel harrassed by even the most innocent and innocuous of comments that just happens to fall on an already raw nerve that the speaker could not possible have known about. People also can and do claim to be harrassed solely for the purpose of shutting down a contrary opinion.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 @ThomasMyron that is the fundamental problem with the notion of harassment. There is the intent to harass and the feeling of being harrassed. An argument might be advanced passionately, in the heat of argument, with no intent other than to prove the point at issue, which might make certain parties fe...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39308 Post edited:
7 months ago
Edit Post #39310 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: How do I distinguish between self-doubt and objective recognition of fault?
Some of the stuff you write is going to suck. Some of it is going to be without substance or inconsistent or just dull. And some of it is going to be brilliant in conception but dreadful in execution. The first you should junk. The second you should fix. But you won't always be able to tell w...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39309 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: In a dialogue, how can I hint that the characters aren't telling the whole truth?
The way you do this effectively is through dramatic irony, which is where the reader knows something that the protagonist does not know. There is a fantastic scene in Upstairs Downstairs where one of the characters is seeing another off on an ocean voyage and they are all happy and full of plans and ...
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39308 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Writing slurred speech
Dr. Johnson is supposed to have said that you cannot reproduce the effects of dullness and garrulity without actually being dull and garrulous. Being slightly less 18th century (I'm more of a Victorian, truth be told), I would say, just because it is true does not mean it isn't tedious. I think w...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39307 If my ID was user16226, then that's it. Otherwise, it is gone.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 The site owner is entirely within their rights to do that. It is the same principle on which I invite people into my house. It leaves no wiggle room for barrack room lawyers, and it forces no one to take an ideological test to join.
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 On the other hand, I would have no problem with a site that said, "This is my site and I reserve the right to delete anything I don't like and kick off anyone I don't like, and here are my general principles, just so you know. You have zero rights, and you make zero promises. You are here at my indul...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 Now, it is vanishing unlikely that I would ever have done anything to violate that code, but by being forced to accept that code, I was forced to subscribe to the ideology behind that code and that, on one particular point, I could not do. Most people would not scruple about it as it do, but a signif...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39304 @ArtOfCode, I was just reading through the thread that Monica pointed to, and as I was reading it, it occurred to me that there is a certain futility in trying to establish rules of conduct that people are asked to agree to up front and which they can then appeal to in cases of dispute. For me, as le...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39305 Actually, no, it looks like a bug. When I try to ask a meta question, I get the banner saying it is a meta question, but then when I press ask, I get a banner saying I am asking on the main site. So it does not seem possible to ask on meta right now, or else I'm missing something in my question and w...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39305 Sure. Thought I was asking on meta though.
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39306 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: Why does the second act 'reaction' and then 'action' need to be drawn out?
I'm all one for structure, and awareness of structure, but some of these paint by number descriptions of the three act structure strike me as going a bit far. Just as you say, one gets stuck trying to figure out exactly what is supposed to happen at every one of these points. At the other extreme...
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7 months ago
Comment Post #39305 Well, my stuff is listed as user16226 on SE, but it appears as "System" here. But I wouldn't know how to reclaim them even if I found them.
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39305 Initial revision 7 months ago
Question Reclaiming you content if you no longer have an SE account
It's not the end of the world if this is not possible, but I would like to reclaim my content. The problem is, I no longer have an SE account of any kind. I asked them to delete my main account because I felt I could no longer subscribe to the code of conduct.
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7 months ago
Edit Post #39304 Initial revision 7 months ago
Answer A: A Code of Conduct, dare I say it
I just heard about this place (thanks icanfathom). Willing to give it a try. Of course, the first thing I checked on was the code of conduct and, no surprise at all, the only item of contention in the code of conduct is the harassment clause. So let me offer some suggestion on why harassment clauses ...
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7 months ago
Answer A: How can I make it so that my story isn't resolved so easily?
Your story is resolved too easily because no one pays a price for the ending. People face all kinds of practical problems every day and they resolve them in practical ways without much drama. Stories are about the kind of problems that are not solved by merely practical measures. At the heart of a st...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Do we simplify descriptions when they sound weird?
If you are going to refer back to something that a character used earlier in the story, give it some significant characteristic that will help the reader identify it when it comes up again later. Thus is if you want the reader to remember a box that the woman took something out of earlier, give it a ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do you write short-short nonfiction?
You can most certainly write a nonfiction of 80 words, but, as Galastel says, it won't be an essay. An essay is an argument. It martials evidence in support of a point of contention. You can't do that in 80 words. In 80 words you can pen a proposition or an anecdote or an aphorism, all of which would...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How can I make "acts of patience" exciting?
I had to think about this one for quite a while, but finally I realized that there are two distinct kinds of patience, which I will call anticipatory patience and enduring patience. Anticipatory patience is what gets you through the period of waiting for some exciting event. It is kids waiting for C...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Can you pitch an outline?
If you are a bestselling novelist, you can pitch an outline. Otherwise, you have to have a finished manuscript. Nonfiction is different. You pitch a book proposal, which usually includes sample chapters. But there is a lot more to a book proposal than just an outline.
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11 months ago
Answer A: Describing the taste of food
Is this bad writing? Yes. A great description should be precise and evocative. Food neither runs wild not explodes (both would have unpleasant consequences for the eater). They are just the wrong words to capture the intensity of a flavor and the surprise that you feel when you experience that flavou...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is anything like the propulsion systems (warp/impulse drives) copyrighted from being use in other sci-fi novels?
Yes, it can be confusing. The basics are simple, through commonly misunderstood, but there are grey area along the borders. The first and most basic rule of copyright is that you cannot copyright an idea, you can only copyright the expression of an idea. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl...
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11 months ago
Answer A: What are the rules for punctuating a conversation?
With all due respect to Lauren's answer, there is a fourth rule. 4) Speech that is incidental to action stays with the paragraph that describes the action. That is, if the character runs, jumps, yells "Stop", and tackles the person they are chasing, that is one action paragraph, including the dialog...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Maintaining distance
Interesting question! Here's what occurs to me as the first principle of distance: From a distance, you can't see the small stuff. At a distance you can see fear of dragons, but you can't see fear of bees. At a distance you can see high romance, but you can't see petty infatuation. At a distance y...
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11 months ago
Answer A: I feel like that misinformation feels too artificial as a plot-driving force in my story, how can it be more natural?
Panics have deep roots. They don't come out of the blue. They arise out of our need to make sense of our lives, to find patterns in randomness. Pattern finding is how our brains work, and it serves us well most of the time. But faced with a series of unexplained events, we seek connections, and when ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is it the right call to title my romance a 'legend'?
Distance is an important element of the design of a story. In some cases you want the story to feel very intimate, as if the reader is right there with the protagonist, in their thoughts, in their immediate present. This is the most fashionable way to write today and it is reflected in the overuse of...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do you show, through your narration, a hard and uncaring world?
There are two roads from Santa Fe to Taos, New Mexico. One runs through the gorge of the Colorado river. The other runs over the mountains through pine forests. The one through the pine forests is considered the scenic route. I drove both routes a couple of years ago. I live in eastern Canada. Half ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Parenthesis Types in Fiction
Comma, dash, and brackets are not simply different degrees of parenthesis, they are different types of parenthesis. Comma parentheses denote modification or clarification of the main point. > His father, John, was a clergyman. Brackets denote secondary non-essential information. > His father, Joh...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to plausibly write a character with a hidden skill
A story is an experience. The reader has to trust that experience. If they stop trusting the experience, they essentially drop out of the world created by the experience, and once that happens, their enjoyment of the story is over. Exactly what creates a trustworthy experience is not entirely straig...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do I introduce a large cast in an interesting way
First, understand what a character is in fiction. A character is not simply a person. A character is an instrument for making a story work. You can't simply sit down, dream up a bunch of people, and then expect to insert them into a story and have them work. Characters have to be designed to drive th...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to write a sincerely religious protagonist without preaching or affirming or judging their worldview?
Avoid the imputation of naiveté. In the real world, of course, all most all people hold their beliefs reflexively and naively. Most atheists have not thought through or are even aware of the epistemological and ontological difficulties of their position. The same is true of most Catholics, Jew, Hind...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to "Start as close to the end as possible", and why to do so?
I would take this as an expression of what I think of as knowing the difference between history and story. Every story is embedded in a history. A history is a sequence of event connected by causality. A plot, in itself, is a history. A story takes place within a history, but the story is not the hi...
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11 months ago
Answer A: What makes a character irredeemable?
No character is irredeemable. If professional wrestling teaches us nothing else it teaches us that any character can make a face turn just as any character can make a heel turn. But authors don't really write that way. If an author intends to redeem a character, they lay the groundwork for that rede...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Writing about real people - not giving offence
You don't. Turning a life into drama will almost certainly cause pain to those who remember that life. Life is more subtle than drama. Drama needs a definite shape that life lacks. That is why we value drama: it gives a shape to human experience that our pattern-seeking brain craves but cannot find i...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Double lies as sources of conflict in a single arc
There are two theories of character. One, to which most people give lip service (at least) today, is the one that Galastel has expressed: characters, like people, are complex multidimensional constructs. This view of character seems to come from the modernist school of literary realism. It can, accor...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Documenting framework features and descriptions
I would definitely not recommend using Word for this. It is just not what it was designed to do. There are multiple documentation systems that have been developed specifically for the purpose of writing developer documentation. They provide frameworks and tools, and, what may be more important to yo...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How can I get into the mindset to write?
Writing is a stupid waste of time. It will make you lonely, but it won't make you rich. I can think of only two legitimate reasons to write: 1. A profound and unshakable regret for not having written. 2. A publishing contract with a deadline attached. It follows that the only reasons to write ar...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is it a good idea to give your manuscript for publishing to a considerably new publisher (start-up)?
It depends what your goal is. If you want to build a readership and make money from your writing, then paying anyone to publish you is not a good idea. If a so-called publisher makes money by charging writers a fee, then their business model is based on collecting as many fees from as many writers as...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to identify whether a publisher is genuine or not?
First, real publishers don't advertise. It is really as simple as that. No legitimate publisher advertises for submissions because any real publisher is bombarded with manuscripts on a constant basis. Their concern is not to find more. Their concern is to make the barrage stop. If real publishers are...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Two footnote numbering sequences
I'm not sure that it is a given that the numbering needs to be different from the original footnote numbers. Footnotes numbers are not necessarily a canonical part of the text, and since it would be virtually impossible to ensure that the pagination of the translated work would be the same as that of...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Detail vs. filler
Setting is character. That is, setting functions in a story very much the way secondary characters function: it shapes and reflects the character of the protagonist, and it functions to propel the protagonist along their arc. To a certain extent, we are shaped by the people around us, and by the env...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Recounting events in dialogue
Recounting events that the reader has already seen is almost never OK. It is repetition. It is boring. The essence of drama is tension. Writing a novel is difficult precisely because it is difficult to maintain tension over hundreds of pages. Going back over old ground is very antithesis of tension....
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11 months ago
Answer A: Averting Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses
There is always an issue in literature with how strength, or any other human trait, is portrayed. In movies and TV in particular, that which is within can only be shown by external action. Books can look inward, but even so, representing qualities through action is still a major part of how books ope...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Averting Bathos
To build on Galastel's point, bathos is not simply about the juxtaposition of tones. It is about the unworthiness of the emotion expressed to the event that has occurred. So if you present a serious event, the death of a child, say, and then follow it with the emotion appropriate to the loss of a too...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Subverting the emotional woman and stoic man trope
Subversion is not just a way to introduce literary variety. It is actually subversive. It overturns the established order. So you have to ask yourself, why does the established order exist, and what would be the motive for subverting it? The stoic male is an established literary trope because it is ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Thesis writing: consistency of symbols
In any work in which you use symbols, you have to establish the scope of each symbol when you use it. There is nothing to say that you can't use the same symbol to mean different things in different places as long as you clearly scope it each time it is used. On the other hand, you should not assume...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do you use the interjection for snorting?
Closest I can think of, though perhaps a little archaic: > "Harumph, you're quick on the uptake I take it." But, like DPT, I would be more inclined to keep it out of dialogue tags.
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do you make characters change believably?
First, TV serials are virtually impossible to end in a way that satisfies the audience. The whole dramatic structure of a TV drama militates against bringing it to a dramatically satisfying conclusion. The probably applies to book series to. The whole art of the serial is to subvert the traditional s...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is it a good idea to leave minor world details to the reader's imagination?
Your readers are not going to imagine what LILLAHI birds look like. At best, this sort of technique calls forth the impression of an exotic location from their memory. For a westerner, for instance, references to exotic birds, gems, and flowers, may call to minds old Hollywood movie scenes set in Ind...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Production/edition focus order
The chances of getting a three volume set of 400,000 word novels by an unknown writer accepted for publication are as near to zero as makes no difference. Such a project would be extremely expensive and represent a huge risk for a publisher. It is not entirely impossible, but it is highly unlikely. S...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Research Paper Summary: How much should be citations versus original thought?
My rule of thumb has always been, don't quote anything unless you are going to comment on the quotation. If all you are doing is citing an information source to support an assertion, make the assertion in your own words and cite the source in a footnote. But a summary is not about proving or support...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Resolving moral conflict
There are, fundamentally, two kinds of problem: technical problems and moral problems. A technical problem requires working out a workable technical solution. It is subject matter for a technical manual. A moral problem requires a choice between two values. It is the subject matter of novels. The re...
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11 months ago
Answer A: As a discovery writer, how do I complete an unfinished novel (which has highly diverged from the original plot ) after a time-gap?
This is the first ever draft of your first ever novel. If you were able to simply pick up where you left off and bring it to a successful conclusion, you would be a phenom. The novel is a highly complex construct. The complexity may not be apparent when you read a good novel that works well. (As in ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: I feel like most of my characters are the same, what can I do?
I'd venture to guess that you are caught in the worldbuilding trap. Worldbuilding is a perfectly fine hobby. You can make up characters and people and kingdoms and creatures. You can draw maps. You can imaging histories. This is all a perfectly fine way to keep yourself occupied on long rainy days. B...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Secondary characters in character-study fiction
That is what secondary characters are for. If you conceive of a story as the arc of a principal character, then every event and every secondary character exists to define that arc, to push the character along that arc, and to demonstrate the change that occurs in the character (if any) as they traver...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Do I need to start off my book by describing the character's "normal world"?
Start with a wind blowing through the normal world As others have stated, you need to start in the normal world because we need to understand who the main character is, how they live, what they love, what they are capable of, etc. in order to understand what is at stake as the story unfolds. At the...
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11 months ago
Answer A: When writing non-linear, do I have to note time changes?
How a time change is indicated in the finished film is up to the director. You just need to indicate to the director that the time has changed, not specify how this is shown.
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11 months ago
Answer A: Correct way of Citing References in a writing a Non-Fiction book?
Different publishers will have different preferences about this. An academic press is likely to prefer a more academic style. A popular press will prefer a more popular style. Ultimately, this decision is going to be up to the publisher. If you know who the publisher is, ask them which style they pre...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is there a writing style I can use to show "the result that appeared is contrary to the expectation"?
Writing is all about conditioning the reader's expectations. All the big effects in writing come from an appropriate setup. If you want to show a result contrary to the narrator's expectations, you make sure that the reader is aware of the narrator's expectations before the event occurs. This is the ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to ensure that neurotic or annoying characters don't get tiring in the long run
A character has to have an arc and be seen to move along that arc. You can't show the reader the same thing they have seen before, you have to show them development -- which may mean development of the character, but more often means development of the situation in which the character finds themselve...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to switch pov characters mid-scene without jarring the reader?
This is definitely a high wire act. I had to do it for one scene a novel where I had two lovers who were both misunderstanding the other's motives and actions. The only way to make full sense of what happens in the scene was to be in both heads. Whether I was successful in pulling this off remains to...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to write characters doing illogical things in a believable way?
Foreshadowing. Basically, anything you do, any coincidence, and personality quirk, that you introduce in order to move the plot in the direction you want it to go will appear as transparent manipulation to the reader if there is no precedent for it in the story. On the other hand, almost any coincide...
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11 months ago
Answer A: What should come first—characters or plot?
Yes, there is an objectively better place to start, and that is with character. This is not to say that it is the only place to start. As long as you put all the bits together in the end, it doesn't matter how you got there. However, you stand to save yourself a lot of bother if you start with charac...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to deal appropriately with an inappropriate sexual relationship
Well, I think you need to start by reading Lolita -- not because it will give you a clear answer to your question, because Lolita is hugely controversial to this day -- but because it will give you an example of a great artist treading the same treacherous ground you are proposing to tread. And you w...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Should you only use colons and full stops in dialogues?
You should punctuate dialogue exactly the way you would punctuate the same sentence if it were not in dialogue (excepting the typographic rules around the placement of quotation marks). A sentence is a sentence. A sentence fragment is a sentence fragment. Two independent clauses joined together are ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Very simple markup language for writing fiction
Just because markup preferences are personal, I will mention the markup system I developed for writing my last non-fiction book. It is called SAM (Semantic Authoring Markdown). It is a general purpose language, like XML, but with lightweight syntax, like Markdown. This means that while it has standar...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Writing a love interest for my hero
As it stands now, your question seems to boil down to: how can I write a story that no one will criticize? The answer to that is, don't publish it. If you publish it, with any degree of success, someone will criticize it. The more successful you are, the more people will criticize it and the more vic...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How much should I pay the copyright holder for the right to translate a book and sell copies?
I think the issue of translation is largely beside the point here. What you are seeking is the right to publish the book in a new form for a new market, presumably one that the current publisher does not serve. So, for instance, if you wanted to publish this Ukrainian book in Spanish, you would be lo...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Where's the balance between realism and story?
Is there a breaking point where people say, "that makes no sense"? Certainly there is, but I don't think it is anything you can quantify. In fact, it is demonstrable that that point is different for different readers, some condemning works for making no sense while others ignore the contradictions qu...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Doubt about the double action of the concept of plot in fiction writing
You may be interpreting McKee too narrowly. "Design in time," for instance, does not have to imply a strict sequence. But I would suggest that you look at the word "plot" in much the same way as you would look at it in the real world. A plot in the real world is a conspiracy to make something happen...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Switching languages within dialogue
Placing foreign languages phrases in italics is a well established convention that extends outside the bounds of fiction. It is always vastly preferable to stick with established conventions since people are much more apt to recognize them than anything you invent for yourself. Still, I would recomme...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Leaving wiggling room for your characters while avoiding contradictions
In the end, the story you are creating will either be convincing or not. But being logically coherent has little to do with making a story convincing. (The fact that there is an entire YouTube subculture dedicated to finding plot holes in blockbuster movies should convince you that a plot hole is not...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Getting an editor after the second draft
At this point you need one of two things, either time or someone you trust to tell you the truth. The problem with most beta readers is that they are friends or acquaintances and they don't want to upset you or jeopardize your relationship. I recently did a beta read for a friend and basically told ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do we create our own symbolisms?
The short answer is that you can't. Symbolism is really a property of a culture, not an individual work. Symbols are a kind of second order language, and you can no more make up symbols out of whole cloth than you can make up language -- at least, not if you hope to be understood by a broad audience....
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is there a "right" way to interpret a novel? If so, how do we make sure our novel is interpreted correctly?
This notion that a novel has a meaning that we can ferret out and interpret has been a staple of English teachers for decades. Essentially it is an attempt to turn a novel (or any other work of art) into a simple proposition. As far as I can tell, they do this because otherwise they can't figure out ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do I start off in web comics?
Every writer should understand the Hero's Journey. Not everyone agrees on whether it describes the archetype of all stories or just a particular genre of stories, but either way it provides a lot of the language that is used to talk about story structure. It is hard to talk about storytelling without...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is there a better way to introduce acronyms through a dialogue?
In this particular case, don't, because the term NASA is more well known than its expansion. Sometimes acronyms evolve into words, such as scuba and radar. Once they become words, use them as words. As a matter of usage, NASA is no longer an acronym but a word (like FBI or CIA). Use it as such. As a ...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How exactly can a writer write a horror story without making it so scary to the point where it's actually hard to read or watch?
I think you need to make a distinction between horror, which runs largely on anticipation (like every other genre) and splatter porn (which relies on the perverse titillation that some people feel when regarding scenes of gore, torture, etc.). If you are writing splatter porn, you probably can't go ...
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11 months ago
Question What makes an ending "happy"?
In this answer, Amadeus makes the case for happy endings based on their far greater popularity compared to unhappy endings. This leads me to wonder, what exactly makes an ending "happy"? Before I go further, though, let me say that talking about a "satisfactory" ending doesn't address this question...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Is there any difference between these two sentences? (Adverbs)
Well to start with, "Adverbs are the devil" is not a rule. It is not even correct. Adverbs are a perfectly peaceable law abiding part of speech like any other. That many people use adverbs poorly is a valid observation (thought not a rule). A reasonable rule would be, if you want to write well, lear...
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11 months ago
Answer A: 'This one' as a pronoun
There is a distinct use of "this one" in English which is a matter of usage rather than grammar. It is used by one person to refer to another person (often, though not always, an inferior), who has done something stupid. Thus: > We were driving along in the rain and this one decided to hit the sunro...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Doubt about the concept of "true (or complex) character"
A character is not a human being. A character is a construct created entirely by the author for the purpose of telling a story. This works because stories are much neater simpler things than real human life. They exist in part to allow us to escape our humdrum human lives, and in part to help us unde...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How do we know if a dialogue sounds unnatural without asking for feedback?
Characters seem natural when they pursue their goals in a way that is consistent with their values. (Their actual values, not necessarily the values they give lip service to for the sake of social acceptance.) Characters seem natural when they act this way because that is how human beings act. The p...
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11 months ago
Answer A: How to eliminate standoff between "Lengthy" vs "Concision"?
Every propositional document (that is, one that is not telling a story) consists of three parts: the conclusion, the argument, and the evidence. The native or intuitive way that most people write such a document is to mix in bits of evidence as they develop the argument and then sprinkle bits of conc...
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11 months ago
Answer A: What is one way to write about feeling someone's sadness?
There are multiple ways to approach a character's emotions, each of which may be appropriate in context. First, you can simply name the emotion. This is appropriate when their emotion is incidental to the main focus of the scene. It is also appropriate in cases where the character is giving no outwa...
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11 months ago
Answer A: Should I contact agents/publishers to see if they would be interested in my book before finishing it?
If your book is fiction, it must be finished before an agent or editor will consider it. They are not going to invest any time or effort in an unfinished project by an unknown and unproven writer. After all, many novels never do get satisfactorily finished, and they already have a superabundance of f...
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11 months ago
Answer A: What is a more techy Technical Writer job title that isn't cutesy or confusing?
The conventional term is "programmer writer" or, sometimes, "programming writer". It is generally used to describe someone whose training and focus is programming rather than technical writing, but who is currently performing a technical communication function specifically aimed at documenting things...
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over 1 year ago
Answer A: How can I highlight changes in HTML output from Flare, based on branch diff?
Even if you could find a way to format dif output in HTML, that in itself would not give you the dif navigation tools that you get from a dif tool (next change, last change, etc.). One way to very quickly get a navigable WYSIWYG dif of two HTML documents (old and new) would be to open them both in Wo...
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over 1 year ago
Answer A: For HTML documentation sets, are there meaningful guidelines for topic length?
I spent so much time trying wrestling with just this problem that I wrote a book about it: Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web. (http://xmlpress.net/publications/eppo/). The answer I came up with after much research and experimentation is that it is no...
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over 1 year ago
Answer A: Third Person POV: What level of telling is acceptable for character motivation?
Please understand that "third person limited" and its ilk are categories of analysis applied to works after the fact by those who find it entertaining to categorize everything. They are not rules that you are obliged to follow. You are not obliged to pick one box and stick to it. Also note that the ...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I make an in-universe random event feel like it was really random instead of just RNJesus' will?
What Chris said, but with the concomitant point that solutions must be merited. They don't have to be probable. Little in most stories is truly probable. Stories basically run on coincidences. Their logic is moral. Misfortune is often merited by a moral flaw, but is can also exist to create some mo...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Overcoming "Possibility Paralysis"?
In any life, there are moments when you can turn one way or another. With fictional characters, largely untrammeled by the cares of real people about where they are going to sleep or what they are going to eat or when they will run out of money, there are more and bigger moments at which they can tur...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Should I be able to 'feel' my outline?
No, you should not expect to feel your outline. An outline, by its nature, strips away all the particular details that create an emotional response. Our emotional responses are naturally regulated, tamped down, if you will, to make life bearable. If we reacted equally to every emotional stimulus, par...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Character motivations facing death?
At the core of every story, there is a moral choice. That is, a choice between values. Circumstances force the protagonist to the point where that choice must be faced and made and lived with. Such choices can obviously end well or badly, and can involve triumph or sacrifice or defeat for the main ch...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Is my story too similar to an existing published work?
A story is like a person. Many people lead similar lives and yet each person we meet is unique. Every fireman we meet is a different fireman. Every nurse is a different nurse. Every teacher is a different teacher. Every cop is a different cop. Even when they fall into stereotypical behaviors -- even...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Will it be disappointing for the reader to not know who the main character is until the end?
Yes, it will be disappointing, but that disappointment will not likely occur at the end, but much earlier when the reader begins to get the sense that the character they are following has no arc. Once they realize that, they will stop reading and never reach the end. A story is not a history. A hist...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it true that "Any story can be great in the hands of the right storyteller"?
By and large, yes. thought it does depend on what you mean by story. Every story is unique. It is a particular set of words that tell a particular tale about particular characters, and it is the total immersive experience of the reading that make it great, not some particular twist of plot or eccentr...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Academic Writing: Paraphrasing few words when quoting
If something is a quotation, you put it in quotation marks. If you are replacing part of a quotation with a paraphrase, you put the paraphrase in square brackets. "[Faith] can be active and effective only when man, through the exercise of his Reason, has already acquired knowledge of God, belief in...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Difference between DITA and S1000D
Yes, these sorts of comparisons between systems are very difficult, essentially because there is no independent definition of terms like topic and module outside of the particular systems that use them. In other words, both systems, as well as several other similar systems, use similar terms to descr...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Can ‘Stupid’ Characters Make Plot Narratives Memorable?
Remember that all stories are moral. They deal with moral conflict, both within the individual and between individuals. Questions of what it is most effective to do to address a given problem as the matter of essays, not fiction. If fiction deals with them at all, it is to address the related moral i...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Topic-based authoring vs. Modular authoring
This is a complex question -- complex enough that I wrote a book about it: Every Page is Page One: Topic-based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web from XML Press (https://xmlpress.net/publications/eppo/). At the heart of the confusion is ambiguity about what the word "topic" means. For ...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it considered lazy writing to have a dry prelude at the start of a book?
Not too lazy. Your work habits really have nothing to do with it. The question is, can you make it interesting? Providing context is difficult because it is a chicken and egg problem. No one cares about the context until they know what is a stake, and no one can tell what is really at stake until th...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How does a writer go about consulting experts?
Pick up the phone and call them and say, "Hello, my name is X. I am a writer and I am researching a piece on Y for Z. I will credit you, of course." This pushes the I'm-gonna-get-my-name-in-the-paper button. After food and sex, getting your name in the paper is the third most potent human drive. At 1...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it permissible to use subconclusions for argumentative paragraphs if they contain multiple arguments in support of the main point?
It is certainly permissible because outside of specific educational programs, there are no prohibitions on paragraph structure that would make it impermissible. That topic-sentence etc. model is simply a particular systems of training wheels and there are innumerable good paragraphs that don't fit th...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I write about historical realities that readers mistakenly believe are unrealistic?
I feel for you. I write about the Anglo-Saxon period in England and I am careful to portray my characters living and working in huts and wooden halls and guarding their villages with wooden palisades. No matter. My readers conjure up castles out of thin air. Of course, this is how fiction works -- h...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How do Red Herrings work?
Stories run on anticipation. A reader keeps reading because the anticipate that certain things are going to happen, and that we are making progress towards those things happening. By and large, the reader reads on because they anticipate the enjoyment of watching those thing happen, and thus enjoy th...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: What are alternatives to "is that" as in "[something] is that [something]"?
The alternative is to stop listening to people who say silly things like that. There is, unfortunately, a sub-culture of writers who obsess over the minutia of prose without having any actually stylistic skill. This means that come up with a collection of vacuous rules, and one of the most vacuous o...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Archetype or Stereotype?
An archetype is a role. A stereotype is a bundle of characteristics. Thus the wizard (wise man, not necessarily magical) is an archetype character because he plays a specific role in the hero's journey (providing information, gifts, admonishment, or encouragement). A common set of characteristics c...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How much value do publishers and editors place on informative/educational content in fiction stories?
It depends on the genre. The purpose of a story is to give pleasure to the reader. Learning things is certainly one of life's pleasures. In historical fiction, for instance, readers often take the story as a kind of history text and expect to learn things about the period. In age of sail novels, a la...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How many characters are too many?
The number of characters in a novel is probably not a number you can fix. The number of characters in a scene, and in an arc, however, can be significant. Essentially, each character in a scene should create tension in the scene or arc, should shape the way the scene or arc unfolds. The basic test h...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How to construct a technical tutorial when the user can't verify the results after each step?
There is not really much you can do in a situation like this other than to clearly alert the reader to the situation up front. If there is no way to verify the next five actions until you have completed all of them, put a warning in big shiny letters saying: > WARNING: The next five steps must all b...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How much agency should main characters have in the plot?
At the heart of every story is a choice about values. The protagonist is brought to a point where they must choose between two things they value. This requires the ability to actually make the choice and accept the consequences. That much agency at least is required. On the other hand, there must be...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Are there any rules to follow about the narrator mixing past and present tense in writing?
Stories are not written all in one tense. Even sentences are not written all in one tense: > I think I will go to Paris tomorrow, the place where I was born. The only thing that the concept of tense applies to is individual verbs. One of the uses of the present tense is to express general qualitie...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you show character reactions without making them do something physically that is unrealistic?
Lamentably, a great many authors today are mentally acting out scenes in their heads because they are subconsciously directing a movie rather than writing a novel. Both the screen and the page are limited media. They do some things well and some things badly. Showing facial expressions and body lang...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: What could be done to generate and maintain reader interest in plots without a lot of conflict / tension?
All stories are moral. That is, all stories are about a choice between values -- a choice that the protagonist does not want to make but is eventually forced to make. Saying that stories are moral does not mean that they make judgements about which choice is correct (though the readers often will). I...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Eliminating the Dash in Prose Writing
The em dash does not mean pause. There is no piece of punctuation that means pause. The em dash is a more emphatic substitute for the comma, colon, or parentheses and can be used to indicate omitted words. If you need to indicate that someone pauses in speech, say "John paused". Be particularly awar...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Why do most literature magazines take so long (several weeks or months) to respond to submissions despite having only a few hundred subs per month?
In addition to what GGx and robertcday have mentioned, it is because the submissions you are talking about, the over the transom submissions, are their lowest priority. Publishing houses, agencies, and magazines would much rather deal with people they know, people referred by people they know, people...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Describing an important emotional turmoil in the character's life I've never been through
There is a very simple rule here: don't describe emotions; create them. You are creating an experience for the reader. If you describe emotions, you are creating a clinical experience, one that is detached from what is happening. But if people want a clinical experience, they usually turn to non-fict...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Can I assume readers will root for my protagonist in a man vs. beast story?
For us to be interested in your protagonist, there must be more at stake than mere survival. Survival is merely a technical problem. The physical action of an escape story is usually used to explore a deeper escape story, one that is more psychological, more moral, in nature than physical. In facing ...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Mentioning quickly repeated events in first person?
> I knocked several times but no one answered. No more than that. Any emotional response to knocking and getting no answer has to be set up in advance. Show us that a reply was expected. Show us that much depends on the reply. Show us that the lack of a reply is a sign of great peril. Then just say,...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: How to describe something, that would normally be shown by facial expressions?
Watch much less TV and read far more books. TV/Movie storytelling is different from book storytelling. If you are thinking in terms of facial expressions, your storytelling apparatus is running in video mode, not prose mode. Both prose and video are limited media. Prose has limited access to visual ...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Writing Unequal Societies (Without Supporting Inequality)
While there are injustices in every society, and the rich and strong oppress the poor and weak in every society (including our own), current ideas about what is biased or unfair treatment can't be projected back on past societies. Modern society is highly anomalous in its individualism and in the cen...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Avoiding Slang whilst Writing
Neither your individuality or your creativity is precious, no matter what they told you in kindergarten. Your story may or may not be precious, depending on whether it is any good or not. Creating a good story is not about expressing yourself (no matter what they told you in kindergarten), it is abou...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Avoiding Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy
At the heart of every story there is a moral choice -- a choice about values. The hero will be brought by some means to a point where they must choose between two things that they love. They may choose well or ill. The consequences may be for good (comedy) or ill (tragedy), but there must be a choice...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: What is the structure and important points to cover in a first chapter?
In classic story theory, a story begins in the normal world, the world from which the hero will be forced to depart and to which they will attempt to return, often transformed. This does not mean a physical journey, necessarily. A coming of age tale requires the hero to leave the normal world of chil...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Can I assign actions to broad concepts?
Our speech and writing is full of anthropomorphic language. We ascribe actions to inanimate objects and abstractions all the time. It is almost impossible to communicate effectively without doing this. Unfortunately, there are people who think of language as a machine (rather like the way a programm...
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about 2 years ago
Answer A: Why do heroes need to have a physical mark?
The idea of the anointed one is as old as recorded history and recorded literature. But we should remember that this idea exists in the context of societies in which everyone has a specific role to play. The rejection of this notion that everyone has a place and a role and a responsibility in the co...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do experienced writers introduce the topic sentence halfway or near the end of the paragraph?
Personally, I would regard this more as a critique of the notion of a topic sentence than as and evidence of skilled writing. The theory of the topic sentence is part of a theory of paragraph design that really doesn't hold much water when you look at the practice of real writers. So maybe the fact t...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I make "foreshadowing" more relevant in the early going?
You can do almost anything if you make it a story. Want to foreshadow something that will happen in chapter 5. That's fine, as long as you do it in the context of a story in chapter 1. A novel is a long story made up of many smaller stories. Each turn, each event, each incident, is a story in its own...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How much can the supporting sentences deviate from the topic sentence before introducing a second paragraph becomes a better option?
The paragraph is a very ill-defined unit of composition, and the rules of paragraph writing that they teach in schools (which is a kind of mini-essay format) has not a lot to do with how actual working writers write today. For certain, the paragraph has been getting shorter. In the 19th century you ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How acceptable is "alternate history" in writing (nowadays)?
You were right about your own taste. You may have been right about the taste of many other people as well. But as a general principle, you were wrong. Fiction is fiction. Fiction is all the stuff that didn't happen but should have. There is no part of life, experience, or history that is not ripe fo...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I convey an absolute truth from the author to the reader without a mentor character?
If you want to say something to the reader, just say it. You are writing a novel, not a movie. You are narrating the whole thing and everything in it is said by you to the reader. In LOTR, Tolkien outright tells us all sorts of things. There are other things that we learn only when they are spoken b...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to plan a short story for a given word count?
A story is how long it is. The short story is a spare medium to begin with. You can't make a decently written story of X words X-500 words without taking something away from the story itself. I think a perennial short story writer develops a sense of what constitutes a 2500 word story. It is a 2500 ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Do you have to write in the tone of ordinary speech?
You should never write in the tone of ordinary speech. Ordinary speech is unreadable. It is repetitive, broken, trivial, and largely mindless. Dialogue is not speech. Dialogue should be crisp, relevant, coherent, readable, and should move the story along. As such, dialogue is always to a greater or ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Does the degree of immersion in the character alter the extremity of plot points used?
The most powerful magnifier of emotion is anticipation. Dread multiplies horror. All horror films play on this basic emotional truth. If you want to produce the most profound emotional impact on the reader, you must build their anticipation. Full immersion is not necessarily the best way to do this....
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Why is young adult romance now being written primarily in the first person?
I doubt it is specific to romance. It seems to be everywhere. I keep finding books that have no reason to be in first person (and in some cases every reason not to be) which are in first person nonetheless. In part it may just be a fad. It's a bit like the way people wore blue jeans when I was growi...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Describing something that doesn't exist
It looks like a fish bowl had a baby with a bike helmet. Images, not adjectives, are what you need to describe something that does not look like anything conventional. You won't get close to the details -- words are not good at imparting physical details, they are good at recalling images that the re...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Do I have to show my characters making up after an argument, or can it be implied when we see them on good terms again?
It depends. In these matters, it always depends. It it advances or enriches the story, leave it in; if not, leave it out. There is no general rule that says such and such a thing always advances the story or such and such a thing never advances the story. It is always about the role it plays in the c...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Tools for organising anthologies
In a month or two I will have a book out on how to do things like this (Structured Writing: Rhetoric and Process, from XML Press). The big question is, what are you going to use to do the selections based on the metadata and publish to the various output formats? Are you willing/able to write any co...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Slow buildup vs sudden introduction
It all depends on the moral structure of the story. At the heart of every story is a choice about values. (With great power comes great responsibility, etc.) The more conventional structure would be to build up to by focussing on the choice that the hero has to make in order to fully realize their p...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What is the most fundamental advice when it comes to writing?
If you want to be a writer -- that is, someone who writes for a living -- as opposed specifically to being a novelist, then the money is in business writing: technical writing, science writing, marketing writing, medical writing, etc, etc. These are all reliable and lucrative careers that allow you ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: No time to deal with emotional trauma
Two thoughts. 1. Literature is not about the character's emotions. It is about the reader's emotions. In real life, every single TV cop and mystery series detective would be invalided out with PTSD by the traumas they endure. Most fictional heros are far more emotionally resilient that real people (...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Alternative for the Hero's journey (since it is about Ego)
It strikes me looking at this that what the difference between true self and false self here can be summed up as contentment vs discontent. I would like to think that contentment was the true self and discontent a false self, but I think that is bollocks. Man is born to trouble and the sparks fly up...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Describe illustrated characters?
I think there is a huge difference between an illustrated novel and a graphic novel. An illustrated novel is a novel that can stand on its own but to which the publisher of a particular edition has chosen to add pictures. There are various editions of Lord of the Rings, for instance, both illustrated...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Referencing a blog post in text?
When it comes to citations, there is no universally correct method. There are various style guides that specify different ways of doing citations. Publications often specify that the articles or books that they publish must use a certain citation format. Certain academic disciplines may adopt a parti...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to manage getting depressed by what my main character goes through?
I'm not sure that you do get through this. A story is an experience. To write the story, you have to live the experience, emotionally at least. When a story does not ring true, I think that is usually because the writer chickened out of really putting themselves through the emotions, of fully immersi...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should I describe a person or a room first?
Setting is character. Where you meet someone tells you something about them. It may tell you a lot or it may tell you a little. It may tell you the most significant thing you need to know about them or it may tell you trivial things about them. It is either the space they designed or the space they ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to improve a "dry" scientific review article?
Dry is not a precise or technical term in writing. It is more of an I-don't-know-what-it-is-but-I-know-I-don't-like-it term. There are a lot of those in writing because in the end it is the total effect of the writing that matters and either the total effect is pleasing or it is not. However, most w...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What are the limits to description in story writing? How do I know if I have crossed them?
The central issue here is not the extent of description, it is focus. Good prose allows the reader to focus on one thing at a time. When it is time to describe, it describes. When it is time to deal with action, it deals with the action. If a description of the setting is necessary to understand the ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How common *are* happy endings?
An ending does not have to be happy; it has to be satisfactory. That is, it has to affirm something that the reader believes, or wants to believe, about the world. That can be something sad. It is often something sad. Sad stuff happens and we have to deal with it. It is often preferable for people to...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: A question about Past Participle vs Simple Past in a novel
Lauren's analysis is excellent. But there is one thing to add. Language is not a machine. It does not work by machine rules. It works by context and suggestion. > Her father had given it to her... This sentence establishes the context of what follows it. The use of had here is essential because it ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you handle editors who materially change your writing after publication?
Editors edit. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. When an editor edits something in a way that changes the original meaning it is a sign that, however clear the statement was to you, you did not get it across successfully to at least one person -- the editor. I'm going through the edit p...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Can I use LaTeX in a fictional code-weaving?
ReStructuredText is a lightweight markup language with built in support for LaTeX math expressions: https://stackoverflow.com/questions/25793190/latex-in-rst-processed-with-pandoc
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Technical review process when using FrameMaker
Long experience has taught many of us that when you send a busy person an email with more than one question, they only answer the first one and ignore the rest. Thus many of us have gotten into the habit of asking one question per email. You may be able to solve part of the problem by asking writers ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Why do readers enjoy reading about "bad" or evil characters?
The virtuous transgressor is one of the oldest and most popular figures in literature. We find them everywhere from Robin Hood to Dirty Harry. How can a transgressor be virtuous? We all have basically the same attitude towards the law: it should constrain me as little as possible and other people as...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Can religions like Islam or Hinduism be represented respectfully in a fictionalized/fantastical Earth?
The objection I think most people of faith have to their depiction in works of literature is not so much the author's lack of respect but the sheer ignorance of many writers about what people actually believe. I think this is true irrespective of genre. As a Catholic, I can tell you that the Catholi...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Larger structure - followup to Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
It seems to me that what Pinker is describing at the sentence and paragraph level is substantially what most books on story are describing at the level of a document as a whole. Stories have a coherent shape and that shape has been mapped in various ways by different authors, but broadly the same sha...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: When should you convert a measurement in a local translation of a novel?
It depends on whether you are using the local unit of measure for information or for atmosphere. If you use modern units in an historical setting (kilometers and grams in ancient Egypt, for instance, readers will know how large a quantity you are talking about, but it will sound completely out of pla...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Writing a Super Intelligent AI
Surely it comes down to identifying what human quality your AI lacks. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Philip K Dick identifies that quality as empathy. He takes pains to illustrate the lack of empathy of his android characters. He does this by putting them in situations in which their lack of ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to break up dialog if some of the dialog is not in quotes?
Despite the sources that ScottS cites, I believe this idea that you should use a new paragraph for a new person speaking is bogus. Paragraph rules are paragraph rules. You use a new paragraph for a new thought. A new person speaking is often a new thought, but not always. In particular, dialogue that...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Am I changing POVs if I'm describing what two or more characters are sensing (touch, smell, sound, etc.)?
"Am I changing POVs if I'm describing what two or more characters are sensing". Not necessarily. If you are writing in what is awkwardly called "omniscient POV" then you can can tell what any number of characters are sensing without changing POV. Also, don't confuse POV with narrative first person. ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to describe 4 main characters at once without overloading the reader with information?
By rewriting the book so that the four main characters are not introduced all at once. There is a good reason that most books introduce characters one at a time or two at a time (in the form of a conversation). Readers need time to integrate each character and form a distinct memory of them. This is...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you assess the value of an individual scene?
The theory is bollocks. Here's why: the reader does not need any of it. A story is an entertainment. The reader needs food and water and oxygen and shelter and love. They don't need your novel. Readers read for pleasure. Any scene that gives pleasure is a good scene. However, a novel is a significa...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should I write scared?
You should write inspired. You should write in response to vision. Great work is work of great vision, work that sees what we ordinarily miss about human life. Tackling your vision may or may not be scary, but that is beside the point. If you have looked into the abyss, your vision may have terrified...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Putting code examples in BSC thesis
Theoretical concepts are always difficult to understand without examples. Plus, the examples can provide evidence of the soundness of the concepts and generally increase the reader's confidence both in their understanding of the concepts and in the soundness of the concepts themselves. So yes, inclu...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: I feel like I'm plagiarizing my story?
There are no new ideas. Everything has been done. Every plot device has been used a thousand times. Whatever you write it will use ideas that other writers have already used many times over. Plagiarism is representing someone else's work as your own. It is not using ideas that have been used before....
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Software to draw plot structure charts
I think Dia, which is a general diagram editor, checks most or all of your boxes. http://dia-installer.de/
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to get started as a freelancer?
To make money as a freelance writer you have to have expertise in something other than writing. Anybody who tells you otherwise is blowing smoke. That can be expertise in addressing a particular audience for a particular purpose, such as an advertising copywriter or a PR disaster recovery specialist...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How should I respond to a supervisor/editor who thinks my technical writing is "too conversational?"
There have been significant changes in technical communication style over the last 20 years, and particularly in the last five years as increasing volumes of evidence have shown that simple friendly language is both easier to understand and more respected by users. But it sounds like your supervisor...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I write LGBT characters without looking like I'm trying to be politically correct?
Well, first, you cannot write about any politically charged issue without being read as taking sides. If you are ideologically aligned with one side, the other will throw rocks through your window. If you are not ideologically aligned with either side, both sides will throw rocks through your window....
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is Wikipedia Trustworthy?
No information source is entirely trustworthy. But for purposes of citation, we need to distinguish three kinds of information: evidence, interpretation, and reporting. Evidence is the original data. Interpretation is what something thinks the original data, or a collection of data means. Reportin...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to get valuable feedback on the quality of my storytelling?
I love critique groups. I have belonged to a number of them. I have good friends I met because of them. But if you are concerned about your storytelling, it is vital to realize what they can and can't do for you in regards to storytelling. To state it briefly, they can't help you with your story, but...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it okay if I wrote a story based on true historical events?
Historical fiction based on real events is a huge part of the genre of historical fiction. In fact, the taste today seems to be for stories that are as close to historical events as possible, with authors often basing their stories on one particular character (famous or otherwise) and often including...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Are there agents or representatives who only specialize in book promotion and not distribution?
You really can't separate credibility from reach. Credibility is reach. Credibility gets a message attention. Credibility gets a message passed on. A traditional publisher is not the only source of credibility today, but they are still a huge one. The credibility that a traditional publisher brings w...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to best pace information reveals to the reader
I think it is a mistake to think of your story as a set of reveals. A story has a shape and the reader remains interested if they sense that the story is making progress. Tension is not created by mysteries but by anticipation. Consider a romance. We all know what the resolution will be. We all know ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Writing an "honest" Blurb?
As has been noted before in relation to several questions on genre, a genre is a promise to the reader of a certain kind of literary pleasure. A blurb is essentially an expansion on that promise. It indicates a little more of the particular flavor of the work within its genre. Because a blurb is an ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: "Real people don't make good fictional characters". Really true?
It very much depends on what you mean by "real people". You can, of course, make people from history into characters in fiction, as writers of historical novels do, and you can base characters on people you know, as Kerouac based Dean Moriarty on Neal Cassidy . In that sense you clearly can base char...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Pretty flowers with clunky Latin names
The average western reader would not know the difference if you told them that your heroes rested in the shade of a rhubarb tree or tied their horse to a gigantic parsley. Even western works that talk about people walking through a grove of ash or poplar only evoke a vague sense of woodsiness in the...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is First person perspective more intimate than Third person perspective?
First person narratives are not inherently more intimate. You can achieve intimacy or distance in any narrative mode. But in some ways first person can actually diminish intimacy. But first we have to ask what we mean by intimacy. It could mean any of the following: - Knowing more about the charact...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Where's the middle ground between genre conventions and originality?
Stories are inhabited by archetypes. That does not seem to be a choice. It seems to be what the human psyche craves. One has to ask, after all, why we like stories at all. We can suggest some practical purposes that stories serve, but for the most part they are simply entertainments, and it is very ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you tell a character's backstory without explicitly telling it?
This is another version of this question: Intentionally leaving out a part of the story, for a more interesting reveal? In other words, it is a how do I tell something given that I have chosen a narrative point of view that is not suitable to telling it. The answer is, you don't. In the default na...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Intentionally leaving out a part of the story, for a more interesting reveal?
A story has to be interesting all the way through. There are many cases of authors withholding information that could be given earlier in order to create a big reveal later. But it has to be done in a way that does not make a big chunk of the story leading up to the reveal boring or frustrating. The...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: A question on the ambiguity of the Alternate History genre
Everything in a story has to matter. If you write alternate history, the alternate has to matter to the story. If you put in a detail that is obviously and deliberately contrary to history (as opposed to an accidental anachronism, which you will find in many books if you look hard enough) then it is ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Intentionally writing a Deus Ex Machina?
If you could remove that plot point and the story would remain the same, then it is not a deux ex machina. It is only deus ex machina if the entire resolution of the plot depends on an intervention of some force entirely outside of everything that has happened in the story before. In other words, it ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you make the reader root for the protagonist when the primary antagonist is more relatable and more likable?
Be careful not to confuse the concept of protagonist with the concept of good guy or even hero. Protagonist simply means the main character of the story. Similarly, antagonist does not mean bad guy or villain, it simply means the person opposed to the protagonist. There is nothing at all to say that...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it a good idea to make the protagonist unlikable while making the supporting characters more likable?
It is not and never has been about making the protagonist likable. It has always been about making them recognizable. If you want a great example of an unlikable protagonist, try Graham Greene's Brighton Rock. Pinky is in no way likable and in no way moral. He is, however, recognizably human. When p...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How unadvisable is it to flip the protagonist into a villain?
The good character who turns bad is a classic feature of literature. It is the essence of the literary form we call tragedy. Thus Macbeth opens with high praise for the virtuous Macbeth: SOLDIER. Doubtful it stood; As two spent swimmers that do cling together And choke their art. The merciless...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it a deus ex machina if the alternative is illogical?
I think you have to look at DXM this way: the resolution of the hero's arc has to be merited. The hero can merit their solution by achieving it by their own actions. But they can also merit it by deserving the help that has been provided to them. A classic case is Androcles and the Lion. Androcles i...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I get my readers through the early, "hardship" part of my fiction?
"The purpose of the book is to convince..." That is likely the source of your problem right there. If a book is didactic or polemical in nature, it is generally only of interest to those who support that message and only of interest to them while it is actually preaching that message. A book can cer...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What type of character should I write about first in a potential series of books?
Start by writing about a character into whom you have the most insight, about whom you have the most to say. Art is about vision. It is about seeing what others do not see and transforming it into words so that they can see it. This is not as highfalutin as it may sound. A character becomes compelli...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Does my protagonist *have* to succeed?
No, your protagonist does not have to succeed. Your protagonist has to arrive at some difficult choice and make a choice that the reader finds emotionally or morally satisfying. That does not mean that they have to win the fight with the antagonist, either immediately or in the future. Sometimes the ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Resources to find editors of magazines and newspapers?
You don't find them. They are hiding from people like you. And from people like me. You might as well announce that you have decided you want to play professional baseball and want to get the names of scouts for the Yankees. It does not work that way. You have to start at the bottom and work your way...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Would George Orwell get hired in today's expert climate?
There is now and always has been a front door and a back door to every profession that is not government regulated. The front door is generally to go to school, get the appropriate qualifications, send in your resume, and hope for the best. The back door is to know someone, to have a friend who know...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it discouraged to format a list of items vertically?
It depends on the context. In technical writing, using the list format is generally preferred. In a novel, you would always keep the list inline. In popular non-fiction you will find both styles used. There are some markup language that will allow you to enter a list as a substructure within a parag...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: No Contractions
This rule is because it is easier to impose simple rules than to inculcate good taste. In real life, try to develop good taste by reading excellent examples with attention. In class, do what you are told so you can get good marks, graduate, get a good job, and be able to afford to buy good books whic...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Structure for software documentation: long vs short pages
I wrote a whole book on this subject. It is called Every Page is Page One: Topic Based Writing for Technical Communication and the Web. In it I look at the research on how people use technical information and how the web changes how we use information generally and come up with seven principles for t...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What is the spectrum of 'disasters' in 'scene-sequel?"
Well, not specific to the scene-sequel model (for which I would harbour deep suspicion) but in literary terms I would say as disaster is an irreparable loss. A loss you can recover from, from which you can be made whole, is not a disaster, it is an inconvenience. A disaster forces a permanent change ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Stories with multiple possible interpretations: do you plan for it?
No matter how hard you try to make sure that there is only one possible interpretation of your story, people will interpret it in different ways according to their experience, ideology, and circumstances. You don't need to plan for multiple interpretations; you are going to get them whether you like ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Character, plot, and setting conflicts
My pet theory on this is that all story conflict is moral. That is, it is a conflict between values. If a big pile of rocks falls on the road and our hero picks them up one by one and moves them out of the way, that is landscaping, not story. If a big pile of rocks falls on the road and our hero st...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Sorkin: "Dialog is music" - In what way(s)?
I don't pretend to be able to interpret Sorkin on this, but I would make this point: When we write, we have punctuation to break sentences into meaningful phrases. In speech, unless you are Victor Borge, you do not. And in writing, if the reader does not get the meaning of the sentence the first time...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to write a 'fish out of water' character?
Well, the best way to introduce a reader to a world is to describe it to them. It worked for Tolkien. It worked for Rowling. It can work for you. The best way to make a fish out of water character convincing is to have a very good reason why they are out of water, and either show them working as har...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I manage screen shots and other graphics for maintenance?
For the book I am currently writing, which is not written in docbook directly but is written in a markup that will be translated to DocBook for publishing, I use an XML file to capture metadata for each illustration. assemble.svg assemble.svg 4.25in...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Can your narrator talk to the reader of the novel?
Of course the narrator can talk to the reader. That is their job. It is what narrator means. I suspect what you are really asking is, can the narrator comment on the action? Again, the answer is that of course they can. This was pretty much the way every novelist wrote until very recently, and the w...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Character crisis for a Science Hero?
Science and faith are not opposites. They are different modes of knowing. They are other modes of knowing as well, such as logic, mathematics, ethics, and the historical method. Each of them addresses a different subject matter and we use each of them according to type of evidence available to us and...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Words we may believe are neutral yet have restricted connotations
I'm not sure that the issue with enormity is that it has emotional baggage. The issue is that it has restricted usage -- it is only use in certain constructions such as "enormity of the crime". This is not a matter of emotional baggage so much as simply an accident of the development of standard usag...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you write a Stack Exchange answer?
That is an interesting question and and interesting observation. Is the Stack Exchange answer a distinct genre? Or perhaps more broadly is the QA site answer a distinct genre. If it is, I think it is an example of a more pervasive genre that was created by the Web, which we might call persistent conv...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is there a dialog tag for when someone is saying something in awe?
How many ways are there to say "Oooooooo!" Only one that I can think of. Therefore the only dialog tag you need is "said". The only reason to use a dialogue tag other than "said" is if the intonation of the dialogue is not clear either from the words themselves or from the context in which they are ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to quote something somebody was told by someone else? (Third-party, hearsay)
The classic case of this is Conrad's Heart of Darkness, which is almost entirely in the dialogue of the narrator from the frame story. > "It arrested me, and he stood by civilly, holding a half-pint champagne bottle (medical comforts) with the candle stuck in it. To my question he said Mr. Kurtz had...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Describing body language?
One of the things you discover pretty quickly as a writer is that there are all kinds of things that we do not have words for. Worse, even if there were words of them, most people would not recognize what they meant. (How many people know what it means to say that someone stands with arms akimbo?) T...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How To Settle On An Ending?
You really should not have much choice of endings. Of course, you have all kinds of choices in the specific details of the ending. But in a larger sense the function of the ending of a story is to prove through action that the protagonist has made the choice that they are shown to have made at the cl...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Coincidence of Similarity in Writing
Finding something truly unique on the Web is pretty rare. What you find far more often are a hundred different ways of saying the same thing. Even on Stack Exchange, which goes to considerable pains to detect and eliminate duplicate questions, multiple instances of essentially the same question aboun...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Converting/rewriting present tense narratives to past tense gracefully. Not a question about verb conjugation
One of the great misconceptions is that a story can be written in the past tense or the present tense. This is not the case. Individual sentences and sometimes phrases are written in particular tenses. Any substantial passage of prose is likely to contain multiple tenses. Stories are written in the ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I introduce languages that will be spoken in the long term?
Does it actually matter to the story that the language they are speaking changes? Most of the time in international stories, the difference is language is not germane to the plot in any way and is simply ignored. A well-told story focuses the reader's attention on the elements that matter to the sto...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I understand characters whose worldview is alien to my own?
The only way you can really pull this off convincingly is through humility. If you are to approach a person you disagree with with sympathy, you have to start with the notion that they are neither irrational, malevolent, or crazy, but rather a sincere and rational human being who has reached differen...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to make the murder's identity less obvious, or make the obviousness not matter?
This is an "I have chosen the wrong point of view for the story I want to tell. How do I make it work anyway?" question. We get them a lot. The answer is, change the point of view so that the story does work. Choose the right tools for the job. If someone asks you, "I am entering a hundred yard das...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What is the difference between limited third-person narrative and free indirect discourse?
Limited third-person narrative and free indirect discourse are analytical categories invented by academics to classify the techniques of writers because classification is what academics do (regardless of whether such classification produces anything useful). Academics are often bitter rivals so it i...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it okay to include world-building facts by "telling" instead of "showing"?
You have to understand what show vs tell means in the context of prose. In a movie, you can show something by pointing the camera at it. In prose, all you have is words and all you can do with words is tell things. Showing in a prose context therefore means telling us one thing which leads us to see...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How should I document a product release with an inherently flawed design?
This is essentially a business problem, which is not to say it is off topic, because technical writers exist to solve business problems. But it is not a problem the writer should try to solve on their own. You have to get guidance from the product manager. However, there is a very good chance that t...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it better to use "firstnamelastname.com" for a portfolio site, or something unique?
First of all, if your firstnamelastname.com domain is available, claim it now. Even if you don't decide to use it immediately, it is a valuable asset that you might not be able to claim later. I would say that firstnamelastname.com is much more effective when people have heard of your first and last...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to get my book taken seriously as a teenager?
If you write a serious book, people will take it seriously. If you write a book that people take seriously at age 13, people will consider you a phenom. But it almost never happens, and the reason is that a book is a highly complex piece of art that depends both on an in-depth grasp of storytelling ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I spot an unintentional promise in my story?
What a fascinating question. I suspect that the answer is that you can't with perfect certainty. There will probably always be readers who will pick up your book hoping for one thing, thinking in the early going that they are going to get it, and then being disappointed in the end when they don't. In...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Submitting things I post on my blog for publication
Legally there is no issue. It is your work. You own the copyright. You can licensed anyone you like to make copies no matter how many copies have already been made (subject, of course, to any rights you have already sold). The issue is going to be what individual publications are willing to accept. ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should software product release notes be in marketing voice or technical voice? (software documentation)
I think that there is a very strong case to be made that this distinction between marketing voice and tech comm voice should be avoided entirely. There are two main reasons for this: 1. In ancient times, when tech comm and marketing were delivered on paper, each came to the customer at a different t...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you mix dialogue with actions of a character?
There is always the temptation these days for a writer to try to act out a scene as they imagine it playing on a movie screen. But this does not work in prose. It is impossible in prose to have two things happen at once. The reader can only read one word at a time and a rapid back and forth between d...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I include a powerful theme in my story without making it blatantly obvious?
Just as a technical matter, a theme is not a message. Love is a theme. Love sucks is a message. When you say you want to get across a message in your writing, what you are saying is that you want to change people's minds about some issue: either change what they think about the issue or change how i...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Our team needs to automate many routine tasks. Can we use a single tool or do we need to use multiple ones?
To automate any data manipulation task you need two things: - Access to the metadata or pattern in the source data that you want to act on. - The ability to change the metadata or data of the source in such a way that you don't corrupt the file or make it unreadable. The reason that so many syste...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it redundant to repeat a subject when it's been implied in a college essay?
Redundancy in prose is often useful because people forget things and because the real world relationships implied by the grammatical relationships is not always clear. One often finds that overzealous editing for brevity can do a hatchet job on clarity. Technically the meaning may have been preserve...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should important events that happen a long time before the rest of the story be in a prologue or in chapter 1?
You are not writing a history, you are writing a novel. In a history, the temporal sequences of events is generally the mainspring of the narrative. In a novel, the story arc of the protagonist is the mainspring of the narrative. Events should therefore be narrated in the order that they impact the s...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Still struggling with character desire, positive vs. negative, hooking readers
Root for the guy is not really the magic elixir you are after. As I have said before, the heart of every story is a choice. It is not enough to make your character want something. The pursuit of that desire, whether the desire itself is considered positive or negative, is not enough. It must lead the...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to derive a storyline from a beginning?
If you don't have a middle and an end, you don't have a beginning. I don't mean that you have to work out all the details of the middle and the end before you begin, because you can work those out as you go if that is how you work. What I mean is that the beginning sets up the middle and the end so i...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can a "rip-off" still be good?
Ah, the myth of originality. (Hi @LaurenIpsum! Waves.) No one in the publishing industry wants originality. Not publishers. Not readers. The only people in the orbit of publishing that claim to value originality are snarky internet trolls and bad tempered newspaper columnists. And these people, of c...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it better to repeat steps listed elsewhere in a manual, or to refer the reader to where the steps are listed elsewhere in the manual?
I think there is one thing to be said on this that is not covered by Does DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) Apply to Documentation? and that is this: It is not uncommon that there are common operations that must be performed as part of many different tasks. For instance, you might have to log on to the ad...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Writing dialogue
Dialogue is an action like any other action in a novel. The amount of dialogue in any given novel should be a function of how much of the action of the novel -- the working out of the story shape of the novel -- involves people talking to each other. In some novels the working out of the story arc r...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is there a word or a sets of words that describe a persons beautiful dead face?
First let me say that the notion that a dead face cannot be beautiful is nonsense. Some may never has seen a dead face they found beautiful, but many have, and I see no reason not to believe them. But whether a dead face is objectively beautiful (supposing you are willing to grant the traditional we...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What are the things that only Stories can do?
I disagree with Amadeus on the matter of becoming the protagonist. I don't think that is what literature does or why readers turn to literature. I think there is always a narrative distance. We are always hearing a story told, and that is a different thing from doing something yourself. If I read abo...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is inner monologue a bad way to show character traits?
Not necessarily, but the propensity to indulge in internal monologue is itself a character trait. Fundamentally, the way we assess the character of someone in fiction is the same a how we assess their character in life: by their actions. Sometimes it makes sense to shortcut the process of establishin...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What strategies are there to document data lineage and keep it updated with a minimum amount of maintenance?
I worked on a project that sounds similar to yours in which the ability to identify every process that touched every piece of data was vital in order to minimize the amount of code validation that had to be redone whenever any other piece of code changed. To show the flow of data through processes, ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to communicate character desire?
I doubt the issue is whether the desires are stated explicitly or implied by actions. I suspect the issue has more to do with story shape. If we use the hero's journey model, and novel opens in the normal world, where we establish what the character loves and who they are. Then comes the call to acti...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What constitutes a 'hook?'
I hate the word hook (in this context, it is useful for talking about fishing). It implies some kind of violent capture (fishing again). Who wants to be hooked? Fish? Drug addicts? The problem with the word it that implies a kind of sudden and intrusive attachment. That leads writers to suppose that...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it okay to use "fell" in one sentence, and "fall" in the next sentence?
Yes, absolutely. Repetition is a well known rhetorical and dramatic technique. Unfortunately, you will get English teachers that will tell you that you must always vary your words. I have seen people in critique groups who hardly ever contribute anything other than to criticise repetition of words, ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I learn subtlety?
Well, to start with, what you are describing is not subtlety. Subtlety is paying attention to the small but significant details of something -- making a subtle point or a subtle distinction. What you are talking about is indirection: suggesting one thing by saying another. It is closely related to t...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is it acceptable to use synonyms to achieve rhythm?
As someone who worries a lot about rhythm in my own writing, I would say that rhythm is more often achieved by changing word order than by by changing words. Prose rhythm does not depend on exact scansion anyway, so choosing a word with a different stress pattern doesn't do that much for you. Prose r...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I show dust/ ashes being blown away by the wind in a story?
This is where the show don't tell doctrine becomes particularly pernicious. It is all telling. All you have is words. All words can do is tell. To apply show don't tell to prose, you have to show A by telling B. So, if you want to show that Joe is nervous you replace telling us he is nervous: > Joe...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I write an action scene?
First, make sure that you are not subconsciously trying to write a movie fight scene. Movie fight scenes are all about movement and noise (and generally far too long and tedious for anyone older than 10). Good fight scenes in the movies are actually more dialogue than action. (Consider the sword figh...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How much does style contribute to the overall value of a novel?
"Everybody can invent a story" -- No. In his classic book Story, Robert McKee reports just the opposite: There are a great many people who can write beautiful prose. There are very few who can tell a captivating story. My years of critique groups and writing classes bear this out. Most of the manusc...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Does DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) Apply to Documentation?
No. Don't repeat yourself is a good content management rule, which is what it is in programming as well. If you have two instances of the same thing it becomes harder to manage them. If it were not for the management issues it raises, there would be no point to the DRY doctrine. But the same pieces ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Where would I specify which user is required to run an administration command?
People do not read the documentation through. They dip into a specific spot in pursuit of one instruction on how to accomplish their task of the moment. As far as the reader is concerned, therefore, Every Page is Page One. There is no rest of the manual. There is only this page. It is all I am looki...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Alternatives better to the binary "0b..." format?
People will type things the way you write them in the documentation. People are looking for concrete instructions on what to do, not philosophical discussion of the working of the system. So, enter them in the documentation the way people should enter them in the product.
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Terminology question - "if-else" or "if/else"?
In this case I think what you want is if...else. The slash tends to be used to suggest alternatives: yes/no answer. But you are talking about a case where both are present. The hyphen is used to make a phrase into a word you can talk about. Instances have an is-a relationship to their class. But if...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Formatting of Text in Technical Writing (Procedure Writing)
This is all about recognition. The user may recognize the component being mentioned by name (verbal) or by sight (visual). Recognition by name is sufficient in most cases. If you are going for recognition by name, the the reason for bolding the text in the manual is to offset the name from the rest ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Can "numbers" be good doc performance metrics? Is there a way to meaningfully interpret the quantitative user data we gather?
It is extremely difficult to measure the performance of a technical document because it is hard to gather the data and hard to interpret the data when you have it. Let's start with the aim of technical communication. The aim is to make the user of a product productive by enabling them to use the pro...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Traits of Bad Writers - Analysing Popular Authors
The novel is one of the most complex pieces of art that humans create, and the enjoyment of novels can be based on many different characteristics. Without trying to be exhaustive, we could distinguish these five elements in a novel that may satisfy readers to different degrees: - Prose: the ability ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Bridging the gap between colloquial usage and technical meaning of terms
People choose words to make distinctions. Sometimes the distinctions they are trying to make are fine-grained and sometimes they are not. In many cases, the people making the coarse-grained distinctions are not even aware that the fine-grained distinctions exist. People tend to choose the most famili...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can we make reviewing HTML documentation easier?
On one project I worked on, we did reviews via a work- in-progress server, which was an HTML version of the current state of the docs. We created a modified build script for this server which included the following: - A status indicator for each topic (ready to review, draft, final, etc.) - An ID fo...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Why do many manuals and technical documents seem to prefer passive voice?
Well, there is no good practical reason for it. In other words, there are no studies showing that passive voice is more effective in communicating technical information. That leaves us with social reasons, which are necessarily a little more speculative and anecdotal. There is history to suggest that...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Limitations of automatic documentation
Doxygen, etc. do not really generate documentation automatically. They restructure and format information that was written by hand, either in the form of code (which is a form of structured data) or comments written into the code. They format and publish the information automatically. They don't gene...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How much humour is effective in technical documentation?
The typical user of technical communication is in a hurry and in a bad mood. They were working along trying to get a job done so they could go home and have supper with the kids then something broke or refused to work the way they thought it should, or a part would not go on properly, or a bug appear...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you explain the details of something technical to a non-technical audience?
While there are strategies such as the use of analogy and simplified language that can help somewhat, the real issue is that a non-technical audience is non-technical (for a given domain) because they are not interested in the details of that domain. We are all technical in some domain or another, a...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to simplify a sentence so that a younger audience can understand it?
You can't. 13 year old boys don't care about pocket squares. Period. End of story. There is a vast overemphasis in the writing community on how things are written. The emphasis should be on what things are written. Most communication project do not fail because of how things are said but because of ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What does "juvenile tone" mean?
The overwhelming concern of the child is to be noticed by adults. It is a constant stream of "look at me, daddy", "look at me, mommy", "look at me, grandpa". Kids act out in school, in public, at the dinner table because they want to be noticed. Even being scolded is, apparently, preferable, for the ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: The Good, the Bad, and the Semicolon
Bollocks. (That's a technical term.) The semicolon is the correct punctuation for a particular kind of sentence structure. So on the face of it, if you want to outlaw something, it should be that sentence structure, not the punctuation that is necessary to it. But this is one of those rules like kil...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Moving between a narrator's memories of the past and the "literary present"
"Use the present tenses when discussing events in literary works" I don't know where you got this from, but it is not true. The default for stories is to tell them in the past tense, or to be more precise, in the narrative past -- relating them as if the events occurred in the past. This is fundamen...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to properly format a post update on a company blog?
There is no universal convention for this, and thus no "proper" way to do it. But I would question is editing an existing blog post is the right way to do this at all. A blog is a "web log". That is, it is sequential in time. One post follows another. The primary organization of the material is simpl...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to edit story structure
While no one can say for sure, my guess is that you are probably suffering from what seems to be a recurring problem for people posting here: confusing plot with imaginary history. Story never starts with plot. It always starts with character, and it always starts with a character who wants somethin...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Are there any postulates of literature?
Well, within any discussion of literature -- any answer given on this SE for example -- there tend to be lots of ideas postulated. That is, simply, that they are taken as accepted truths by the writer, and usually by the readers as well. They are postulates in context -- simply the things we think we...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should I write a novel if I haven't read many?
In all the author biographies I have read, two things seem to be constant. They are all voracious wide-ranging readers, and they all (or almost all) started writing in some form at a very early age. It follows that they cannot have been widely read at the time they started writing. Wide extensive rea...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Should I, and how should I develop a "filler character"?
At the core of every character is a desire. They want something. They are where they are, they do what they do, because they believe that it is leading them to what they desire. They also have a set of values and beliefs that shape how they are willing to behave in order to achieve their desire -- th...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I write someone reading a document?
I don't think I seen a closeup on a document in any movie made since the 40s. It simply isn't done that way. The way it is done if for the character to be handed the document, open it, and immediately cut to a scene in which two characters are arguing about it. Look at any legal drama made in the las...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is there a difference between slogans and brand statements?
I don't think you should expect to find a term like "brand statement" defined too rigorously. I think you will find different companies using different mechanisms to control their message and calling those mechanisms by different means. I would take the meaning of "brand statement" to be a generic f...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to prevent ebook piracy from stealing your livelihood?
It appears to be just the cost of doing business. Pretty much everything I am going to say here comes from https://techcrunch.com/2011/08/23/book-piracy-a-non-issue/ but I will sumarize. First, in the days of paper, authors only got paid for a fraction of the people who read their book. Many readers...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do I make a book or series of books that take place in three different centuries make sense and flow appropriately?
You need to make a very clear distinction between imaginary history and story. It seems to be quite common for aspiring writers to construct elaborate imaginary histories and then struggle to write them down because they are not actually stories. We can't tell from your question if what you have are...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What is Third Person Dramatic?
First and foremost, it an an analytic category. This means it is a category that is used to do literary analysis of existing texts to group different texts according to common features. There are apparently people who find this a diverting exercise. They are not writers. This particular category mea...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What tense do I use when talking about a character that has died?
You use the past tense to report past things and the present tense to report present tense. Death turns a number of present facts about a person into past facts. "John is Chair of the Board" becomes "John was Chair of the Board," but only because John is no longer Chair of the Board. It same would b...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Q about verb tenses for technical writing
In these cases it is generally preferable to use the imperative mood: > System developers must transport their systems to the facility in Boulder, CO. The declarative mood (in which the question of tense comes into play) deal with statements of fact. But it does not signal that such a fact is creat...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How do you handle it when a controversial philosophy is an essential part of your story?
A useful way to think about this is to recognize that all stories are experiences, not propositions. A philosophy is a proposition, so it is not the matter of stories. But living with the consequences of a proposition is an experience. You can write a story about living with the consequences of beli...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Writer's Block? Or something else?
There is no such condition as writer's block. However there are several reasons you may be unable to write. - You may not have anything of consequence to say. Since the young tend to imagine that everything that pops into their heads is of consequence and needs to be expressed, and discover, as the...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What is the origin of the Hero's Journey?
That first story is long lost in the mists of time. Indeed, it could reasonably argued that it is the first and universal story. In a very real sense, this is the story written in the human heart, and the art of the storyteller is not creating this story but discovering and serving the need that exis...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How does one gauge the strength of any particular adverb?
Think of a sentence like a Venn diagram. Each word you add to the sentence is like a circle added to the Venn diagram. Each circle added to the diagram should reduce the area that is common to all the circles. If the circle you add does not have any area in common with the other circles or does not r...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Why are clichés discouraged in fiction writing?
You have to make a distinction between plagiarism and familiar ground. Writers cover familiar ground all the time. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy gets girl back. It is familiar ground. It is not a cliche. Writers stick to familiar ground because that is where they find the stories that people w...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Questioning Plagiarism Rules
Algorithms cannot detect plagiarism. They can detect a similarity between two text which might or might not be a sign of plagiarism. Plagiarism is passing someone else's work off as your own. You can write a text that is similar to another text (actually this happens all the time) and not be plagiari...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: To make my art or to work for the readers? (For a profits-intended work)
I think this is a false dichotomy. Art is a form of communication. It fails if it does not communicate. We hear a lot of talk about "expressing yourself" but that is hollow unless you are expressing yourself to someone. We are social animals. We strive to make ourselves understood to others. Good art...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Do people keep reading because of what's ahead or what's behind?
Consider the mania around spoilers. Why do we demand that people discussing books and TV shows online warn us if their posts are going to contain any information about how the story ends. Here's the thing about spoilers: if the point of reading a book was to find out what happened, spoilers would be...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to tactfully inform readers of differences in the book world to the real world?
The simple answer is that you don't. You don't tell the reader anything that is not needed to support the plot of theme of the story. There are a lot of people who enjoy world building as a hobby and when they have built a world they want to write a novel set in it as a way of taking people on a gui...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What makes a good death scene?
As is the case with any scene intended to evoke strong emotion from the reader, 90% of the effect is achieved via the setup. If the reader is going to scream "please don't", it will not be because of how the death scene itself is written. It will be because of how they have come to feel about the cha...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Plot and characters conflict too much
Plot is the servant of character. One of the most common mistakes of beginning writers seems to be to start by inventing a plot -- essentially an imaginary history -- and then peopling it with characters to make it go. But stories are about characters. More specifically, they are about character arc....
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How to slow down the pace of the story?
You never want to slow down the pace of a story. Pace is everything. But pace is not about rushing to the exits. A pace is a comfortable speed at which to see all the scenery and experience everything that the journey has to offer. If the pace feels too rushed, this is not about the speed per se, it ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: Is the strategy described here an effective one, to distinguish character voice?
Be careful not to fall into writer as actor syndrome, imagining the movie of your book and how the actors might act the parts. You are writing a novel, not a prose description of a movie. While you can certainly create a visceral experience of sight and sound (and smell, and tastes, and touch) in a ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: In fiction writing, how can one make the passage of time seem shorter?
Stories are asynchronous. There is no particular connection between story time and calendar time. The length of a story is determined by the complexity of its action and the depth of its detail, not by the elapsed time between its inciting incident and its denouement. You will sometimes have to make...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: What would you call non human "people"?
We tend to have more and simpler words for things we talk about regularly than for things we talk about seldom, so there probably isn't an exact equivalent to "human" for ants, at least, not one the average reader would recognize. So I think you have to ask what effect you are trying to produce for ...
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over 2 years ago
Answer A: How can I write a realistic motorcycle crash?
The human perceptual system runs on anticipation. We understand things that play out in predictable and foreseen ways. We are disoriented by things that happen suddenly, violently, and out of the blue. We come away from those incidents with a jumble of poorly integrated memories of light and noise bu...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I make a setting which shows something?
Stories create experiences. Stories that are heavy on setting create an experience of that setting. People sometimes simply receive an experience for what it is. We are experience junkies. Stories are one of the ways that we satisfy our need for experiences. They help keep us sane. People often draw...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a name for layers of subtext?
Your subtext2 is what is generally called foreshadowing. That is, it hints at something important that is yet to be revealed: the clouds on the horizon that hint at rain. It is not really a form of subtext. Subtext is a very loose term (and, frankly, I think we would be better off without it) but it ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I write sexual tension between two characters?
Tension (of any sort) lies in what doesn't happen. To create tension you create the expectation that something is about to happen, but then don't let it happen. This keeps the reader waiting for it to happen, and that is tension: waiting for something to happen that you expect, hope for, or dread. T...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make a statement formulated like an exclamation, but even-toned?
On the old typewriters, there was no `!` key. To create an exclamation mark you had to type a single quote, backspace, and type a period. That was a good system. Exclamation marks should be hard to type. There is a good argument to be made for breaking them off your keyboard altogether. There is a l...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to know the reason for rejection?
Publications don't explain why they reject things because: a. It takes time. b. If they do, people will argue with them and call them names. c. If they do, people will try to fix the piece and send it back, creating even more work for them. But there are really just three reasons why a publicatio...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is a neutral/impartial story "boring"?
For the sort of poor soul who can only enjoy themselves if they are rooting for one side in a fight, then I suppose that a story that does not take sides will be boring. But that is not and never has been the function and appeal of art. Art is about seeing the world as it is, but more acutely, with ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to avoid repetitive sentences? (Describing actions, he/she)
First and foremost, I would suggest that you resist the urge to describe everything that happens in a scene. In a movie, all the actions of a scene like that are acted out and are visible on screen, though it might take several viewings before you actually saw everything that every actor was doing. B...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Do modern readers believe the first person narrator can't die?
I suspect that most reader expect the narrator is not going to die. But you should not look on the device of the involved narrator as requiring the maintenance of strict logic about when the story was written down. Using an involved narrator is a literary device. It is not intended to imply that the...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to avoid being too wordy
It is the lure of the fine phrase. We all want to create fine phrases, phrases that are a thing of beauty in their own right. But the lure of the fine phrase can often lead us into the verbose and the excessively ornate. There is nothing wrong with fine phrases. We should pull off a fine phrase when...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to avoid constantly starting paragraphs with "The character did this" "The character did that"?
This seems to be an increasingly common problem and my belief is that it results from the writer consciously or unconsciously seeing the movie in his head and trying to transfer it to the page. Thus they give what are essentially stage directions at every verse end. To break this habit, you have to ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How does one write fluff?
I think the heart of your difficulty is that you are equating light hearted with not serious ("fluff"). Your intuition that it is easier to write dark than light is correct, at least in the sense that going dark is an easy way to seem serious while covering up the fact that you don't actually have an...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it dull to have a world where all characters cannot speak properly?
The great privilege of the novelist is that you can choose what sources of interest you create in your novel. Novels today tend to be dialogue heavy, partly in response to "Show don't Tell" and partly because the writer and the reader probably watch more TV than they read novels. But that does not me...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Does misspelling words for the sake of bad English improve the immersion or distract the reader?
Dialect writing can be extremely difficult to read. The preferred technique today seem to be to do just a very small hint of it. The best way to portray the background and intelligence of a person is through the words they choose and the ideas they express. People from different areas use different ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it wrong to use the same word multiple times within a few sentences?
You can use the right word repeatedly in the course of several sentences as long as it is the right word in each case. There was a writing school fashion a while back for using as much vocabulary as possible, but this is generally regarded as bad technique today. (In some ways it gets confused with a...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: To what extent do I have to explain certain reasons or choices to my audience?
In The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner tells each part of the novel in the voice of a different character. In No Country for Old Men Cormac McCarthy switches back and forth between first and third person narration. In Bleak House, Dickens switches back and forth between a rather haughty and detached nar...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Will a publisher create a custom font?
I question whether a publisher is going to produce a book using a custom font. The complications of making sure such a book was formatted correctly on all possible digital devices don't seem worth the risk and expense. If they are willing to include them at all, I expect they will do so using a graph...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Effective hero journeys that don't kill the villain?
You don't always need someone to die. Remember that the Hero's Journey is a universal archetype. It does not just apply to quest stories where the hero literally goes on a journey. It is (it is proposed as) the archetype of all stories. Thus it is proposed as the archetype of Pride and Prejudice just...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What's gained from NaNoWriMo?
People are motivated by competition. We can do more, often much more, when we have others to compare ourselves against. In the Tour de France, riders ride in teams. Each lead rider has a team of ten or so teammates to set the pace for them. In any competition, athletes do better when competing agains...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How many pages should cover the Ordinary World of the Protagonist?
This is the third question today that I am going to answer with essentially the same point, but stories are fundamentally about a choice of values. To establish the grounds for a story, you must first establish the values that will be at stake. In a loss of home and family story (like LOTR) you have...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Should my opening include a religious initiation ritual?
A drama is fundamentally about values and about a choice between values that reveals who the protagonist is in their heart of hearts. The first question that a story has to answer, therefore, is one of values. Who is the protagonist, what does he have now that he cherishes, and what does he desire th...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I start writing a good plot line?
What you have done so far is to create a history. A history is fine, but it is not a story. A story is a drama and dramas have a specific shape. You can think of a drama as being built around a choice, specifically a choice between competing values. A conventional hero is on a journey of discovery. W...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How is an antithesis used in creative or formal writing?
The first principle of highlighting anything in any work of art is contrast. If you want a white dot to stand out, you put it on a black wall. If you want a high note to stand out, contrast it with a low one. If you want a character to appear more saintly, compare their conduct to that of a sinner. ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Can't write, can plan
At the heart of all art is vision. The artist is an artist because the see something and find a way to express what they have seen so that others can share in the experience. No work of art can succeed without vision. If you have not seen, you cannot show. It may or may not be necessary or helpful f...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to be mindful of the reader when handling disturbing/distressing subjects?
You should always be mindful of why a reader is reading your book. People are reading for a reason. In the case of fiction, they are reading for pleasure. People may take pleasure in reading about serious and difficult subjects. One of the functions of fiction is to provide vicarious experiences that...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Are more or less details better for details that do not play a role in the story but describe where part of the story takes place?
The reader needs to be able to see the scene in their mind's eye. This does not mean that every reader needs to see it the same way. In fact, it is a virtual certainty that each reader will see it slightly differently, or even radically differently. We build our pictures of scenes from the stock of i...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: When my story has a powerful phrase but that loses its power when I read it again in the next day, should I keep it or remove it?
Delete it ruthlessly. As writers, we are often addicted to the clever phrase (or the phrase that seems clever at the time). But we succeed or fail not as crafters of phrases but at tellers of stories. The storyteller in you has to keep the writer in you on a short leash or your story is going to get ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Could I get a publisher outside of my home country to publish my work?
Yes you can. In fact, people do so all the time. I am Canadian. I have published one book with a European publisher, one with an American publisher, and have another coming out from an American publisher later this year. I have also contributed to two other books from American publishers and had a nu...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a YouTube for writers? Basically a way to share manuscripts on social media
What distinguishes YouTube is not the number of contributors, though that is huge, and essential to its success, but the number of viewers, which is extraordinarily large. What makes a content platform is always its appeal to consumers. For any content platform, the primary appeal to producers is tha...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Why are words like In stressed sometimes and not others?
While words with multiple syllables do have an internal stress patterns, stress is more a matter of the role a word plays in a sentence. Often a writer who is sensitive to this will recast a sentence just to make the stress fall on one word rather than another, or two have stress fall on two related ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: "Group think" and least common denominator in writing groups?
This is absolutely a problem with critique groups. On of the fundamental facts for 90% of critique groups is that your critique partners are not your natural readership. Most of the critiques I give start with "This is not the kind of thing I read, but..." We would all like to think that if a piece ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it possible to read your own words too much? (and begin to hate them as a result)
I think this is what separates the pros from the amateurs and the unpublished from the published. Writing is hard. Getting it right can take a huge amount of work and many writers report being royally sick of a book by the time they have finished it, or even by the time they have finished the first d...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Usefulness of writing conferences and realistic expectations of obtaining an agent
Going to writing conferences will increase you chances that a literary agent will read your manuscript, compared to the chances if you simply submit over the transom. It will not make it a more publishable manuscript. Why do agents go to conferences (a significant cost in time, if nothing else)? Bec...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Flash-forward as Prologue and then Flashbacks too complicated?
This is a very common technique among aspiring writers. It feels like playing tricks with the narrative line solves all kinds of writing and story problems for you. But this is largely an illusion. You rarely find these kinds of tricks in successful published works. Sometimes, certainly, but not ofte...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Rewriting a scifi story to fit with actual science, should I do it as I go?
Fix it now vs fix it later is a perennial question in writing. Often the answers given are absolutist one way or the other, or come down to "whatever works for you". But I would suggest a different approach, one which divides changes into structural and cosmetic. If you were building a house and you...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the risks and benefits of using humour in business/commercial writing?
There are two reasons for a reader to read something, because they are interested in the subject matter and because they like how it is written. The risk of using humor in business or technical writing is that it can turn people off even if they are interested in the subject matter. The opportunity...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Classic fantasy races lazy or boring?
I think it is important to remember where these creatures came from. They are all religious in origin, and as such represent fundamental religious themes that have a corresponding resonance in the human heart (whether we actually believe the religious ideas or not, those ideas still resonate because ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Do some people lack the ability to generate ideas or content for writing?
The term writing is kind of like the word walking, except that writing gets used as a collective term in a way that walking does not. Lots of people walk as a major part of their jobs: letter carriers, police, floor salespeople, soldiers, etc. We don't refer to them collectively as "walkers". We rese...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: When does use of offensive language in a book go from a character trait or to convey emotion to bad use of English skills
The purpose of fiction is to give pleasure to the reader. The use of profanity, like anything else, works when it gives pleasure to the reader. Of course, certain profanities will displease certain readers, so you will certainly lose some potential readers if you use profanity. The question is, are ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I explain my world if the character is technologically not yet capable of understanding it?
If you are using POV characters to explore a world, you are not doing storytelling, you are doing world building. That is a perfectly legitimate hobby, but it is not literature and the normal concerns of literary writing, such as suspension of disbelief, or, for that matter, point of view, don't appl...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What raises the stakes and suspicion in a plot?
Stakes, in a plot, as not what the character wants, but what they will have to give up to get what they want. Love is a desire. But gaining the one you love may require giving up your pride or your prejudice. Is you character willing to do that? Those are the stakes. So, Lassie wants to rescue Timmy...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Referencing Screen shots in technical/knowledge base articles?
There are three basic reasons for using figure references in a document, rather than just putting the figures inline in the text next to the point where they are referenced: - You are referencing a figure from more than one place in your document. Using figure references lets you insert a reference ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Why are the paragraphs of a document often indented and not vertically separated?
A factor that has not been mentioned yet is the difference between material that is meant to be read vs. material that is written to be scanned. Narrative works such as novels and histories are written to be read. Thus they are formatted to facilitate the easy movement of the eye through the text. Pu...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Considering the audience for technical publications
There is no real way to tell if you are doing enough, of doing the right things, just from a brief description of your product and your users. The questions you really have to come to grips with are: - When your user look for information on how to do something with your product, are they finding it?...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I give a novel a particular atmosphere?
Suppose you are hosting visitors to your city and you want to control the impression they get. If you want to give them the impression that your city is safe, you take them down certain streets at a certain time of day. If you want to give them the impression that your city is dangerous, you take the...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What is the balance between 'stating a problem clearly' and Hemingway's literary iceberg?
This is an interesting question. The answer, I believe, lies in remembering that people read for pleasure. And when it comes to our pleasures, we value predictability very highly. This is not to say that surprise has no role in pleasure, but it is a very confined one. When we read a mystery, we want ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How Often To Proof Read Book I'm Self-Publishing
First, let's be clear on terms. Proofreading is going through a manuscript looking for mechanical errors: missing punctuation, misspelled words, grammatical errors, etc. If you are rewriting sections, that is editing, not proofreading. Proofreading is generally the last step in the preparation of a ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Are tables of contents mandatory in novels?
Starting around the 1920's dust jackets started to get decorative and became a place where you could market the book. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust\jacket#Oldest\dust\jackets) That function has now migrated to the back page of the paperback. There is no place to put marketing material on the co...
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almost 3 years ago
Question 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 couple of years back, it seems very difficult to find anything remotely equivalent. One group I joined fizz...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: I wrote a book, but changed my mind on the ending
Yes, this is going to be a death march. But the thing that is going to kill you is not this rewrite, but the next one and the one after that as your story gradually become more and more disorganized through the process of revision if you fall into the trap of trying to get there by rearranging scenes...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Little did he know
The phrase is being used here to refer to what is commonly called either Sophoclean irony or Dramatic irony, a literary device in which the reader knows something that the character does not -- something which is going to have a material effect on the character's future. This device is extremely usef...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What's a good writing software for Android phones/tablets?
It is perhaps worth pointing out that in the 6.5 years since the question was originally asked, Microsoft had made Word available on Android. Whatever you think of Word as a writing app, there is an obvious appeal to cross platform software with files in a shared space. Ditto for OneNote for the note...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Common mistakes made by first time fantasy novelists?
As far as I can tell from the MSS I have read in critique groups and from the kind of questions asked here, the biggest mistake of aspiring fantasy writers it to focus too much attention on worldbuilding, followed by too much attention on word choices, with very little attention being paid to story, ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What makes writing emotional?
Writing isn't emotional; stories are emotional. Paint isn't emotional; pictures are emotional. Notes aren't emotional; music is emotional. While some words are certainly more emotionally changed than others, even the trigger power of certain words depends on their context in a story. Emotion in a st...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: First Person vs. Third Person: Advantages and Disadvantages?
First person vs third person narration does not really change what can be narrated. In both cases, the narrator is the narrator and it is their role to tell the story. You can tell a character's thoughts in third person or in first person, including the thoughts of characters other than the narrator,...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to structure a sentence containing long code examples?
Do the simplest thing that works, which in this case is example 3. The rules of sentence structure don't really cover these kinds of things. That is a defect of the rules of sentence structure, not of the examples themselves. Remember that the first rule is clarity. Grammar rules and style guides ex...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: In searchable documentation, what function does a glossary serve?
In terms of providing definitions for general terms, I would say that glossaries are pointless in online documentation. User can easily search for any term they do not understand. If there are terms that refer to concepts that you describe in your documentation, I would say that it is far more valua...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What is a subplot based on: conflict or tension?
I think you have to start with understanding the role of a subplot. Artistically, I think it is fair to say that a subplot exists to provide a counterpoint to the theme of the main plot. If a short story is a singer accompanying themselves on a guitar, a novel is an choral symphony with complex harmo...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Not sure if my idea for a conclusion is introducing a new argument
Rhetorically speaking, your conclusion should not be a mere summing up of arguments already presented. Rather, it should build a rising tide of emotion and conviction to carry your reader irresistibly to act as you would have them act. The whole point of communication is to change the reader's behavi...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make my story structure less repetitive?
The first issue I see here is not that the writing is repetitive but that the details are banal. That is, they are bits of everyday life that happen to everyone. They are repetitive or everyday life without telling us anything specific or vivid about your character of your story. Yes, sometimes your...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What should I do if halfway through a story, I am not anymore convinced with the plot and the storyline ?
It sounds like you are starting with an incomplete story idea and discovering, half way through writing, that your idea is incomplete. For some writers, it would seem, it is quite normal to start with an incomplete idea and for them to discover the rest of the idea as the story develops. (The tale g...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to cite annotation in an annotated copy of Shakespeare's Othello
An annotated edition of a work is essentially a book within a book. The inner book is the original text and the outer book is the volume of annotations. Cite the book you are citing, inner if you are citing the original text, outer if you are citing the annotations. Details are here: http://penandthe...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Where to put counter-examples within a 5-paragraph essay?
I think you need to remember that the five paragraph essay is not a normal literary form, it is an artificial training exercise (of dubious merit, if you ask me, but that is beside the point). Training exercises are designed to isolate certain aspects of an activity in order to focus on them in pract...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it better the use the present or the past tense for a novel written in the first person
You are almost certainly going to use both, since it is almost impossible to say very much without making reference to actions past, present, and future. But I think what you are really asking is, should you write in the narrative present or the narrative past. The narrative present means that you a...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What can I do if I hate my own protagonist?
You don't build a character around a psychological profile. The primary driver of character is desire. Do you know what this character wants? Do you know why they want that thing enough to overcome their shyness to strive for it? No one comes out of their shell except under the compulsion of desire. ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to deal with multiple climaxes (multiple protagonists)?
A good book should form a thematic and, ultimately, moral whole. Multiple characters may reach their moment of crisis, but there will generally be one central climax that plays the major notes of the theme and multiple supporting climaxes that work in harmony or counterpoint to support the major note...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it okay to have my family edit my book?
Your family may be biased, and they may be too kind, but the deeper problem is that they will be interested in your story because you wrote it and they are interested in you. Thus they are in no position to judge whether or not it will be of interest to anybody else. You need the opinion of a reader ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I break up a lengthy explanation?
If the explanation is interesting, the reader will not notice that is is long. If it is not interesting, breaking it up will not make it interesting. So forget about whether it is too long and focus on whether or not it is interesting. The reader may be interested in explanation for one of three rea...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to transmit feelings in a technical book writing?
Just don't. Unless you are writing one of those nutty Dummies books, don't put emotion of humor in a technical book. The reason is not that technical subjects aren't funny or that technical people don't have a sense of humor, it is that audience selection is different for technical books than for ot...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Two protagonists where one is dark - a mistake?
Evil is cool. Virtue is dorky. The pure hero really only exists in hagiographies and tracts -- works that hold up somebody's idea of political or moral virtue for admiration. Works of these kind exist to draw lines between good and evil, not to examine the human condition. And consider the basic sh...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How much heed should we pay to writing advice
You should follow the advice that makes you go, "Oh, of course, why didn't I see that before." If you don't have that kind of clarity, then you have not understood the advice properly and will not be able to implement it correctly. Thus if someone tells you to remove all your adjectives, and you go...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: What are effective methods for getting reviews for a non-fiction business book?
There is probably nothing you can do that will get publications like the Economist to review a self published book. Major outlets like this are bombarded with more book review requests than they could ever possibly publish. One of the virtues of going with a traditional publisher is that major publis...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Pros and Cons: A blog to get feedback
Publishing a blog make a lot of sense for a non-fiction work. Almost all of my last non-fiction book appeared on my blog first and this had three big benefits: - I got me lots of feedback on the quality and interest of the ideas. - I got lots of criticism and discovered lots of errors and omission...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: The use of short, concise sentences to suggest a withdrawn character
I think it is unwise to rely on style changes to delineate a character. First, it is far from certain that the reader will notice the difference, or interpret it in the way you intend. Don't rely on subtle effects to get across key points of your story. It is hard to do well and probably will go over...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Plotting My Story~
One way to think of plotting is in terms of desire and accidents. The point of a story is (usually) to bring one or more characters to the point where they must face a defining moral choice. What drives them towards that point is desire. What boxes them into a situation where they have to make that c...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Multiple POV's: Am I in over my head?
Don't spice up the goal, spice up the antagonist. Pinky and the Brain had the same goal every week: to take over the world! It mattered not a whit. It was just an excuse for mousy mayhem. Taking over the world is just a McGuffin, the thing everyone wants that provides the impetus for the plot. It do...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Avoiding "kill it off for DRAMA" trope whilst doing it
The basic patterns of story are as old as the hills and they are not going away or losing any of their potency. It is always and forever in the execution. But I think you need to stop thinking in terms of tropes, or at least stop reading TV Tropes. TV does not get by on storytelling. Most TV storyli...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make "Joffrey like" characters for a "kick that son of a bitch " moment
Betrayal elicits stronger negative emotions than mere villany. The traitor, the false friend, we hate more than we hate an honest enemy. The betrayer adds the wounding our our pride to their other sins. We want to hurt them particularly, and personally, for having made fools of us. That and harming ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to move from writing scenes to a short plot?
The mainspring of story is desire. What drives your hero on from one scene to the next? What shapes their actions in a consistent way? It is their desire, they thing they are driven to attain. The desire can be anything that reasonably drives someone to action: love, lust, greed, revenge, the desire ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: I wrote a novel, now what?
I can't speak to the Italian market specifically, but generally speaking the fiction market is totally saturated with manuscripts, most of them completely hopeless. This saturation means that it is very hard to get over the first hurdle of getting a publisher or agent to even pick up and read your ma...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write from a cat's perspective?
Remember that all stories are told from a human perspective. Cats don't have grammar and they don't have stories. A cat's eye story, therefore, is an act of projection of the human into the cat. It is a human experience of a uniquely human ability: the ability to project themselves imaginatively into...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Tips for making writing move fluidly
The paragraph is the most indistinctly defined unit in all of writing theory. In the 19th century it was common for paragraph to run on of a page or two. Today, they often run only a few lines. For instance, the paragraph break I just made does not really indicate a shift of thought or action or the...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Does a work need to be sexually stimulating to be classified as erotica/erotic literature?
From a marketing point of view, books are classified according to the type of pleasure they give. Stories can give different kinds of pleasures. Some readers are more open to a variety of pleasures, and some want a steady diet of a particular kind of pleasure. Genre sections of bookstores exist mostl...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I stay confident?
Only everyone ever, to the point where it is a classic cliche of the writer: the writer sitting in front of a typewriter beside a large wastepaper basket overflowing with bits of crumpled paper, and tossing yet another ball of paper over their shoulder. (By the way, after earning my living as a write...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: When using mythology in your writing, can you change certain small aspects of some myths to fit into your story?
You can turn Zeus into a flower pot if you want to. It's your book. The myths are public domain and the vast majority of the population has no idea of the details of any of the myths.
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make good anti-heroes?
I don't think I would count Han Solo as an antihero. He may take a little longer to cross the threshold, he may resist the call to adventure a little longer, but in the end he becomes a traditional hero, even to the point of getting a medal in that absurd final scene. To me, at least, the anti-hero ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Weaving VERY IMPORTANT OPINIONS into a story without murdering it
Lots of great authors had very important opinions. Dickens. Steinbeck. Solzhenitsyn. Dostoyevsky. What they all understood is that a story is not a vehicle to express an opinion, but a vehicle for leading people to form the same opinion themselves by leading them through the experiences that would le...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: From a writing standpoint, what is the value of Deus Ex Machina?
It really comes down to merit. The heart of every story is moral, it is about the character making a choice about values, and the reader has a basic desire to see virtue rewarded and vice punished. If your Deus Ex Machina prevents your hero from having to make the great sacrifice that proves their mo...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to introduce a nameless, mysterious character in limited third person?
I don't think you have a point of view problem, I think you have a storytelling problem. You are trying to introduce a character without introducing them, identify them without identifying them. You are doing this because you are planning a surprise for the reader. Fine, you can certainly surprise t...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Literary agent terms
I doubt many of these terms have very precise definitions, and I am probably not the best authority on their meaning, but here is what I would take these terms to mean: Serious fiction: Not genre (bearing in mind that genre is defined no only by subject matter but by treatment and intent -- Cormac M...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Using Present Tense to describe a Fact on a story that uses Past Tense
Stories do not have tenses. Individual verbs have tenses. Even an individual sentence can contain verbs in different tenses. > Tom is saying that Jane promised that she will marry him in September. Stories may be told in the narrative present, meaning that the narration is framed as if it were taki...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Story content and audience
Well if your style is immature, only two things will fix that, reading with attention, and writing. Do not neglect the reading with attention part. Francine Prose has a good book called Reading Like a Writer. It will help you learn to read with attention, to understand how the writers you read are ac...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: If the first book didn't sell well due to going the self-publishing route, is writing the sequel worth it from a business perspective toward agents?
Well, more to the point, no agent is going to want to read a sequel to a book they don't represent because no publisher is going to want to publish a sequel to a book that they did not publish. The value to agents and publishers is seldom in the first book, it is in the body of work. If they want the...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Reasons for confusion over tenses in a story
The tense is not wrong. Guessing as to why you are being told it is wrong: English grammar is a system of explanation, not a set of rules, and it is incredibly complicated, and even as complicated as it is, still does not adequately describe all forms of common English usage. In this system of expla...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I be concerned with my fiction writing containing accidental prophecies of real world events?
Stories "ripped from the headlines" are always good sellers -- the interest in their subject matter is being actively aroused by current events. Writing a novel is a long business, so to be able to bring out a "ripped from the headlines" novel at the opportune moment is often a matter of serendipity ...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I write a good haiku poem?
I think you have to start by making a fundamental distinction between good and conformant. Obeying a set of rules makes something conformant but it does not make make it good. A Lada is conformant to the characteristics of a sedan, but it is not a good car. This is not to say that there is no relati...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: How to stop projecting yourself into your writing?
There is always a temptation to be didactic. At least, that is always a temptation for me. Having got your character into some sticky situation, there is a temptation to treat them as you would a child, to advise them on the sensible course of action that will get them out of the sticky situation wit...
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almost 3 years ago
Answer A: Why are 'Episodic' books so uncommon
The reasons may be economic. I'm speculating here, but the golden age of the short story was the golden age of the magazine. If a magazine wanted to publish fiction (and most of them did back before TV took over) it necessarily had to fit within the available space. That meant either short stories or...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: a compiler or an editor?
You are the author of the work. Authorship means you wrangled the words. It does not mean you originated the ideas. If you composed the words, selected the quotes, and put it all in order, you are the author of the work. Since you are not advancing an argument of your own, the work is one of reportin...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How much work do you have to do after getting your novel published?
If you mean how much work you will have to do between when a contract is offered and when the book is published, the answer is that it will vary depending on how good the MS is and how well it fits the publisher's needs. But it will probably be quite a lot and it will probably be the hardest work you...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Wrote myself into a paradox and now demotivated - how to resolve?
It is hard to say without reading (and we don't do that here) but the times I have fallen into this paradox, and the many times I have seen others fall into it, I believe the real problem is that the story lacks a main spring. The main spring, the thing that drive a story, can, I think, be reasonably...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I promote a self-published book?
The fact that you have never seen an ad for a book should tell you something. Advertising doesn't sell books. If advertizing sold books, you would see lots of advertisements for books, because publishers would do what works. (As the comments indicate, publishers do certain amounts of targeted adverti...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Do popular books use simpler language?
Apparently not, according to this study (https://contently.com/strategist/2015/01/28/this-surprising-reading-level-analysis-will-change-the-way-you-write/) which found popular authors spred all acorss the reading ease scale from Ernest Hemmingway at a grade 5 level to Michael Cricton at a grade 9 lev...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Am I being too descriptive?
If people are telling you that your writing is very descriptive, I would take them at their word. I have been in many critique groups with many very nice people and they do not say that about every piece they read. A good story is a composite of many elements. There is no one recipe for a story any ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: When writing a novel where do you start?
At the heart of every novel (or almost every novel, at least) is someone who wants something and some form of opposition, internal or external, that stands in the way of their getting it. The novel is their quest to attain what they desire and how they either overcome or are overcome by the things th...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What makes a piece "lyrical"?
The word lyrical does not mean "like a song lyric". If anything the derivation probably goes the other way. Lyrical means expressing the writer's emotions in a beautiful or imaginative way. Thus you can have poetry that is lyrical and poetry that is not lyrical. You can have prose that is lyrical but...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Point of view, narrative voice, and when to name a character in narration
Just because a scene is written from a character's point of view does not mean it is written based only on information available to the character. The first responsibility of the narrative it to make events clear to the reader, so it should generally be written in terms of what is known to the reader...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Not enough real world experience to write convincing situations?
There is no substitute for experience, but when a story feels forced or inaccurate the root of the problem is almost always motivation. Authors can and do divert wildly from how actual places look and how actual institutions work all the time. Real forensic labs are not staffed by the gorgeous peopl...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is consonance good or bad in fiction?
One of the worst things that happens in advice given to writers is that individual criticisms get inflated, either by the speaker or the hearer, into iron-clad universal rules. Thus, a perfectly reasonable "show this, rather than telling it" becomes a universal "show don't tell"; "remove this adverb"...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Citing an author's primary sources
There are multiple citation standards. If your teacher or your school has a particular citation style they prefer or require you should consult the guides for that style. In not, one approach you can use to make your sources clear is to use the formula, "as cited by". That is: "Instructions to Christ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Explain character dynamics without giving away too much backstory?
Character dynamics come through story. There really isn't another way. You can simply tell the story in brief form to establish the dynamic, or you can dramatize it in full, but in the end, character dynamics come through story. There really isn't another way. Now, you can certainly observe behavior...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write and promote my film blog more effectively?
Blog audiences (and for that matter audiences for most content) are primarily built word of mouth (or perhaps today I should say tweet of thumb). Yes, you have to seed the process by making the existence of your blog known to as many people as you can, but after that, it is all about the retweets and...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How can we find a mentor for publishing our book?
There are certainly people who will perform a substantive edit on a manuscript and give you an evaluation of it. They generally advertise themselves as editors or literary consultants. However, finishing a non-fiction book before you look for a publisher is generally not the right approach. Publishe...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Are lit consultancies just out for money or can I trust them?
There is an obvious moral hazard in the literary consultancy business, but it is hardly alone in that. There is a moral hazard in the financial planning business, for instance (advisors profit from the trades you make through them, and may be incented to sell certain products). But that does not mea...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Are About pages copyright?
Yes, those pages are copyright. Copyright is automatic. Everything written is copyrighted from the moment it is written unless it has passed into the public domain or has been explicitly placed into the public domain by the copyright holder. So, it is not okay to copy anything from anywhere ever unl...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Internal and telepathic dialog
There are no conventions for representing telepathic dialogue. This means you get to pick how you are going to do it. It also means that you have to clearly and explicitly establish your convention for the reader. A typographic change is certainly one way, but you will have to be very careful to make...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Finding a thematic setting
I don't think it is reasonable to call a setting thematic in itself. It should also be said that a theme is not a message. A theme is what you deal with in a story or an essay, not what conclusions you reach about it. You can have two different works on the same theme that reach very different conclu...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Could I be overdoing it on my first story?
Different writers work in different ways (you are going to hear the terms "plotter" and "pantsers" from multiple people -- plotters being those who plan first and pansters being those who just sit down and write). However, you should be aware that there is an entirely separate activity/hobby/avocati...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Are the following examples violations of first-person limited?
First person limited is not a rule and therefore cannot be violated. It is an analytical category that can be used after the fact to describe what an author has done. The author's responsibility it to tell a compelling story, not to confine that story within an analytical category. If the story is go...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Does a technical writer need a technical background?
Technical writing is a three legged stool. To do it well and efficiently, you need three things: - Sufficient knowledge of the user's task to figure out what they need to know and how to communicate it to them. - Sufficient knowledge of the technology to figure out how it works and what you need to...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it good to add 'I believe' at the beginning of the sentence?
It is not necessary to qualify every statement you make. You are the one making the statement. It goes without saying that you believe the statement you are making. However, there are specific times when it is appropriate to add "I believe". - You are contrasting your belief with someone else's bel...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the acts of a story?
A play has certain practical requirements that are met by dividing it into acts: - It provides an opportunity to change the set or to redress the existing set. - It allows you to suggest a change of time or place to the audience. - It gives the audience a chance to pee and visit the snack bar. Part...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to protect my idea/design to re-publish a public domain book?
No. There is no protection for literary ideas, only specific recorded works of literature. If the work is in the public domain it is in the public domain and your idea to publish it with illustrations is not something you can protect or prevent other people from doing. Multiple publishers publish wel...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I have a war with no "good" or "evil" side?
At a political level, many conflicts are simply contests for resources. For each side it is good that their wives and children should have enough to eat. Since there is not enough food available to feed both tribes, each feels justified in fighting to feed their families. In the age of extraordinary ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is active or passive voice more common in scientific writing?
Discussions of the passive voice often cause more confusion than they avoid. It is always easier to see your way clear in these cases if you think in terms of naming or hiding the agent. In other words: > Tom kicked the dog. Here the agent is named. We know who did the kicking. > The dog was kicke...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it eccentric to address the reader in non-fiction writing?
No, it is not eccentric at all. As I am sure you can tell from reading your two examples, the first is livelier and much easier to read -- and that is 95% of the argument in any question of style. But the use of the second person in any work that is discussing things that the reader might do has beco...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it better to self-publish or get a real publisher for a 100page humor/comedy ebook?
There are four basic reasons to self publish: 1. The work is not good enough for a commercial publisher to accept. 2. You are not willing to put in the work to get it professionally published. 3. You are confident in your ability to market the book yourself and believe you will make more money pub...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I bother allowing images (headshots) for pen names?
I would not assume that the reason for using a pen name is the desire for anonymity. Sometimes it is about marketing. If your name is Rock Hardplace and you write sweet romances, you probably want to use a pen name. Sometimes it is about disambiguation. If your name is Jonathan Kieth Rowling, you p...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Finding beta-readers for science | religion non-fiction
Personally I would not favor looking for anonymous online beta readers for a project like this. Any project on the relationship of science and religion is going to attract cranks on both sides of the spectrum and the opinion of cranks is of no value. There are really three types of beta readers wort...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Where to put statistical signifance test results
This is not an opinion based on academic practice, but on general writing principles: If you think that the typical reader is going to want to read the table when they get to it, include it inline since it creates an inconvenience to the reader to have to go look for it in the appendix. If you think...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Isn't word-choice important?
There are occasions where word choice is very important. These usually come where you are trying to express a new idea or make a distinction that people do not usually make. Each word takes the reader's mind down a certain well worn path and if you want to get them off that path you may have to choos...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is writing in fragments bad practice?
In Story, Robert McKee warns very strongly about the dangers of writing in scenes. His point is that what makes a story is its overall arc. Given a set of characters you have invented, each with a particular motivation and a set of values that shape how they pursue their goals, it is easy to put almo...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Creating a fictional place within an actual city?
All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players. So sayeth the Bard, and he should know. No story is set in a real place. It is set on a stage created by the author, a stage designed carefully for the convenience of the author's plot. It may share names and physical features with so...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I use colons and semicolons to summarize information?
> To quickly summarize: MIT is located in Massachusetts; FIU is in Florida. A colon is used to introduce an explanation or summary, so "To quickly summarize" is followed by a colon. A semicolon is used between two related independent clauses. "MIT is located in Massachusetts" and "FIU is in Florida...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Can a source be cited just to substantiate a claim, without specifically mentioning the author or the content?
Using footnotes to substantiate claims of fact by reference to published sources is a common and accepted practice. However, it is more common in academic work, or in popular works that pretend to academic rigor. In popular work it is not common to footnote every claim of fact, but if you say somethi...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What constitutes misleading the reader
"Don't confuse the reader" is not a rule, but it is an action with consequences. You can decide to break a rule, but you cannot decide to exempt yourself from consequences. The consequence of confusing the reader is a confused reader. The probable consequence of a confused reader is an abandoned book...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Can I have two prologues
How would this be different from having chapter one by about their birth, chapter two be about them at 10, and chapter 3 start the main adventure? This is a perfectly normal progression for many novels. A prolog, generally, is not simply an incident earlier in the career of the MC, it is in a differ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it bad/distracting to mix dialogue and action too much?
Since it is my answer you are referring to, I will take a stab at this. First, I would generally avoid saying that something is "bad" in writing. It is more useful to think in terms of everything having an effect. A given technique has a given effect. If it is the effect you want, it is a good techn...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Ways to reduce the -ing verbs in dialogue and action tags?
I'm not entirely sure for your question whether you are trying to avoid the verb or avoid the entire clause. If you insert the action clause in the sentence, the ing verb is the right way to do it and anything else is going to sound forced and ugly. However, regardless of the ing verb issue, mixing ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make a character's personality trully distinguishable/memorable?
In a nutshell, the answer is, humanity. A more human character is more memorable. The great authors are those who seem to have the greatest insight into what it means to be human. I don't think that comes from anything one could reasonably describe as technique, it is more a matter of careful observa...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Recaps: Yes, No, and How To?
I can only speak to personal taste, but in the interest of generalization, I will try to justify my personal taste in this. I think serials should consist of stand alone novels that can be read independently. This is for four reasons. 1. Many of the serials I have read -- Sharpe, Aubrey/Maturin, Hor...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: When it comes to creating cadence, should I depend on my ear or are there principles I can follow?
Prose cadence has mostly to do with making the emphasis in a sentence fall on the most important words: > But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Do I have any control over the grammar of my novel?
1. English grammar is anything but black and white. Everything is debatable, even the definition of "word". 2. Punctuation is not grammar. This is a punctuation question, not a grammar question. 3. Your publisher probably has a preferred style guide that they want their authors to use. 4. Everythi...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Will Publishers Accept Alternate Planetology?
Publishers will accept anything that they think people will buy. That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know.
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How does copyright generally work?
Copyright is what it says it is, the right to make copies of a written work. Copyright covers a finished form of expression -- book, movie, etc. It does not cover an idea. There is no protection for ideas. Copyright is automatic. As soon as you write down an original work, you own the copyright on t...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a hack to bring out your "true" voice?
It should sound very far away from your internal voice. Your internal voice is the voice you use to talk to yourself and it has all kinds of advantages that your public voice cannot share, since you know yourself better, and have a complete stock of shared experiences with yourself, that no member of...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Text formatting
Any decent text editor will have a function to unwrap lines. For example, you can download Notepad++ and install the TextFX plugin. Then highlight the text and choose TextFX \> TextFX Edit \> Unwrap text.
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What are ways to make the protagonist's relationships with other people seem realistic?
This is a pretty broad question and therefore this is a pretty broad answer. It all comes down to what is called the "telling detail". The word "telling" emphasises two things here. First it means "important", a detail that matters. Second it means a detail that gives information. A warrior walks in...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What rights are needed to sell books on your website?
IANAL, but when it comes to rights, it is generally the the right to make copies that is protected. If you own an existing copy of a book you can sell it just like you can sell a chair or a piano. However, the Supap Kirtsaeng case makes things a little more interesting. Publishers often sell books m...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: 'Filling' up a school setting without making a bunch of new characters?
If a character knows the people in a crowded scene, they think of them by name, which indicates to the reader that they are in familiar surroundings. If they don't know the people in a scene, then they will tend to notice some prominent feature or action they are performing. If you don't name the in...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Do new writers stand a chance at a career without ambitions to write series?
I think you are looking in the wrong part of the bookstore. Certainly that is not true in general fiction (by far the largest part of the fiction marketplace). There are plenty of best selling authors who do not write series. John Grisham is a good example, or Michael Crichton. It also depends on ho...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a method to estimating the length of a work before writing it?
I suspect not. Certainly I have never found any proportionality between a line of an outline and so many lines of finished text. A concept or event that you sum up in one line could take ten lines or a thousand lines to fully describe in exposition. Sometimes what seems like one chapter in an outline...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Making a blog for my book?
The best place to get critiques is in a critique group or a writing class. In these settings you will get feedback from other writers, or from a writing teacher. These are people who are (to one extent or another) studying and practicing the craft of writing. They care about why things work and don't...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I know what language is period-appropriate?
Let's start with two basic observations: - All dialogue is artifice. People in Jane Austen's day did not speak like characters in a Jane Austen novel. Dialogue is not speech. Genuine transcribed speech is painful to read, almost inarticulate at times. Speech is a multimedia phenomenon. Dialogue has ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: When can You Pause the Story and Speak Directly to the Reader?
I think your premise is a little flawed here. The convention of the novel since its inception is that the narrative is addressed by the narrator to the reader, and that the narrator is free to relate events or to comment on them as they see fit. There is no fourth wall in the novel; there are no wall...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Using ellipses in a novel
Editors care if you have a good story to tell and can tell is reasonably well. No manuscript was ever or will ever be rejected on the basis of spaces around an ellipsis. Four spelling errors on the first page, maybe. Spacing around an ellipsis, never. All that will get taken care of in copyediting an...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Why is getting a job in journalism so difficult without a degree?
I very much doubt that there was any such thing as a degree in journalism in George Orwell's time. There has been a huge proliferation of degrees over the last half century or so, responding, I guess, to the demand of the upwardly mobile middle class to send all their children to university. Since th...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to find and keep readers and commenters for a diary like blog about mental health issues?
Most of the marketing for content is by word of mouth. You build an audience by writing good content that people want to read. Slowly, the natural audience for that content will find it and will spread the word, slowly building an audience for you. You will notice that advertizing of books is rare, ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How can a book get a Kirkus Star, yet have no sales?
A good review means the reviewer liked it. It does not mean anybody else did. Something can be intensely liked by a small group of people and ignored by everyone else. It can be a very fine example of a kind of literature that appeals to very few people. The my-childhood-was-wacky-because-my-parents-...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Satirical writing: how much can you say about famous athletes?
This is essentially a question of libel. Is what you say about these athletes libelous or not. The laws governing libel different from one country to another, so it is impossible to give a definitive answer as to whether what you propose is libelous or not. Also, libel is not in the general concept, ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Can my character's name match someone in real life?
How many Harry Potters do you think there are in the phone book? Or James Kirks? Literature would be full of some truly strange and wonderful names if no character could have a name borne by any real person.
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What makes a poem a poem?
Well, it's a very old question, and one that is not likely to get a definitive answer. It is perhaps worth making a distinction between poetry and verse. Verse is a literary form that is characterized by the use of rhythm to achieve literary effects, the most foundational of which is simply to make i...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: When do I successfully kill off an important secondary main character... in a series of five books?
If you can't adequately develop sympathy for a character over the course of an entire book, then there is little hope of your readers ever reaching the end of that book. Of course you should be able to get your readers attached to Cancer by the end of book one, indeed, but you need to get them attac...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to interleave a story with context and introspection?
In principle it works. Great magazine writers do it all the time. The thing is, at every turn of a story, you have to make the reader care. Detail for the sake of detail is just a distraction. If you include a detail it has to be what we call in the trade a "telling detail" it has to point to somethi...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Switching between past tense and historical present tense
It is perfectly acceptable to switch tenses generally, using each as it is appropriate to the thought being expressed. One thing to note in regard to tenses is that the choice of tense has nothing directly to do with past, present, and future time. Rather, they have to do with events relative to the...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What's the effect of placing "of course" at the beginning or at the end of the sentence?
Virtually none. Both the beginning and the end of a sentence are prominent positions to emphasize something. English allows for many variations of word order with the same semantics. The only effect of one choice over another in many cases is a change in emphasis, in where the reader's attention is d...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Term for writing mostly in first-person, but switching to third-person for things the POV doesn't yet know?
It is called a frame. A frame is a literary device in which one narrative is contained within another, the outer frame being used to in some way set the scene for the other. A frame has nothing to do with person or POV directly, but it is not unlikely that the frame and the narrative it frames may be...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing about a subject on which you have no expertise?
Most fiction that includes technical details get them wrong. Fiction does not sell based on the accuracy of its technical details, but on the strength of its story. Indeed, many stories absolutely depend on getting the technical details wrong, or, at very least, ignoring obvious technical solutions, ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How long is a single-title romance novel supposed to be?
Publishing is a risky business. Publishers lose money on a lot of the titles they publish and new authors are a much greater risk than established ones. The longer a book, the more it costs to produce, and therefore the greater the loss if it does not sell. Therefore publishers look for books from fi...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Online resources searchable for example sentences from literature
Well, the obvious answer is Project Gutenberg. All the material is there and searchable. The question would be how to confine your search to just the works that fit your definition of classic English literature. What I think you are really looking for is a concordance of English literature, and Goog...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Better Ways of Showing Fear
Two thoughts: 1. As an author, your job is not so much to show that your character is afraid, but to make the reader afraid for them. The physical expressions of fear are far more often played for comic effect. (Think about how they are used in the movies. Almost any time you see a character's face ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do you describe your characters?
Well, it is impossible to tell from what you have told us which of these problems you have, but there is a fairly easy test you can do to find out. Write character descriptions of real people you know. If you are happy with those descriptions than your ability to write descriptions is fine and the pr...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it better to leave out the "filters/filler" in situations like this one?
This is all about where you want to direct the reader's attention. As a writer, you have almost total control over where the reader's attention is focused in a scene. If you write: > A rabbit sticker sealed the manila envelope. Graceful handwritten words read: To Kiyoshi. Then the reader's attenti...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Time frame of a traditional publisher, submitting to publishers, and need for an agent
The number of publishers that will even accept unsolicited fiction manuscripts is very small, so unless you are submitting to some very specific niche market, it is hardly worth talking about. Most major publishers will only accept work that is submitted by agents, so basically you need an agent to ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Where should I pitch a book of short stories in English accompanied by French translations?
To answer any "where should I pitch" question, you should ask yourself the following questions: - Who would want to read this? What is its market niche, and how big is it?. - What are the other notable works that people in this niche read? - Which publishers serve that niche? Publishers build t...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a template for how to write a movie summarization?
By their very nature, such templates tend to be specific to individual publications. For example, the general shape of a recipe is universal and well known, but the details like whether to include a picture or a wine match, or substitutes for key ingredients, or a list of nutritional values, are spec...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Resource for rejected novel manuscripts
Yes, it is called Amazon Digital Services. It is where authors publish manuscripts that have been rejected by publishers, or which they have rejected themselves by not bothering to submit. Writing is a craft and publishing is a commercial enterprise. Like other enterprises that depend on appealing t...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I cover many years with little activity without it feeling rushed?
You are writing a story, not a history. Were the characters of your story real people (which they are not) many things would happen to them in their day to day lives that are not in any way relevant to the story. Your story is not going to tell us how many times they went to the bathroom or brushed t...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What writing process should I use to produce the kind of writing I want?
I'm going to dissent from the spin straw into gold argument that others have made. It's not that I don't see merit in it, its just that I think prose rhythm is a heard thing, by which I mean that some people hear it in what they read and some do not, and that some writers hear is in their heads as th...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Can I avoid free writing?
There is story development and there is narration. You need to compose a story before you can narrate it. Some people are naturals at story development. For them the story flows so naturally that they can focus on narration from the moment they start writing. Some people struggle with story developm...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do you write an evil character without making him "sexy" or "cool"?
Cowardice. Villains who are bold and brave like Darth Vader have a cool factor because of their boldness and bravery. However evil their deeds, they display characteristics that we admire and would wish to possess. But the cowardly villain, the obsequious sneak like Uriah Heap or Wormtongue has not s...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: In a formal syntax notation, how should I indicate many optional elements?
The problem here is that you are conflating two separate things: the syntax for parameters in a function expression and the list of available parameters. The syntax itself is straightforward enough: CREATE PARSER [schema.]function [WITH [parameter='value' [, parameter='value']+] ]; ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How can you show that a character is feeling amazing?
You use the full narrative pallet that the novel form makes available to you. Different emotions manifest themselves in different ways. Some are very overt, some and entirely hidden from external view. Don't worry about doctrinaire interpretation of show vs tell; Use whatever techniques are useful in...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I write a fictional mythology diary?
One of the most common forms of dating in the pre-Christian era was by regnal dating. That is, events were recorded as occurring in such and such a year in the reign of king X. (For that matter, Christian era dating is actually regnal dating based on the reign of Christ as king.) The use of regnal da...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What kind of effect can the name of a place or character have on a reader?
I'm not sure that the phrase "Curley's wife" was intended to express possession. Be careful not to view things through a contemporary political lens. (Actually, two points here: don't let contemporary politics color your interpretation, and don't assume that literature was intended to be read in the ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: "Am I mixing my tenses?" She asked, scratching her head
Stop worrying about this stuff. English tenses are enormously complicated, but they are tools of analysis, not composition. If you are a native English speaker you will have learned how tenses are used in English by osmosis. Trying to follow the explicit rules that have be developed to explain how te...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Worth writing, if end is obvious
The ending is obvious in most books. In a romance, will the heroine get the guy? Obviously yes. In a detective novel, will the detective get the bad guy? Obviously yes. Wanting to know how it ends is not actually about wanting to know the facts of the ending, or no one would ever reread a book. It i...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What is considered "childish" in fictional writing?
The emotional lives of children, adolescents, and adults are very different. This sometimes lead adults to dismiss the emotions of children and adolescents as trivial or inconsequential, which is unfair. If anything, the emotions of children and adolescents are more deeply felt than those of adults. ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: When writing a novel, is it wise to switch from first-person to third-person? What is the most effective way to do this?
Perhaps the most famous example of switching from an involved to external narrator is Dickens Bleak House. No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy is a more recent (and shorter) example. It is worth noting that in both these cases, there is far more than a change of narrator going on. The whole ton...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to focus on external conflict rather than inner/interpersonal conflict?
I would suggest that rather than thinking in terms of external conflict rather than internal conflict, you should think in terms of internal conflict caused by external conflict. In a romance, the story tends to focus caused by the internal conflict between the desire for a romantic relationship and...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do journalists prepare to cover unfamiliar fields?
It really isn't possible to bone up on the vocabulary of a field in a few hours. The vocabulary of a field exists to express experiences, distinctions, and idea that are unique to that field. In other words, its vocabulary is tied to its history and community, and you can't bone up on those things in...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing for a broad spectrum of readers. How do you engage the elite whilst appealing to the base?
To appeal to a broad audience, write simply and directly about things of interest to a great many people. Nothing in this formula stands in the way of creating great literature. Greatness in literature depends on creating a rich and enduring experience that is deeply true and exceedingly vivid, not i...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What happens with changing POV Irregularly?
I just hate the common categorization scheme for point of view and voice. It is so misleading and causes so much unnecessary anxiety, not to mention awkward narration. To begin with, point of view and identity of the narrator are different things. You can have a character as narrator or the storytel...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How should I plan blog content and themes for the best reader experience?
This is perhaps a bit cavalier, but I'm going to say it anyway. A blog needs either a personality or an editorial calendar. People are interested in people, particularly in people whose interests are the same as theirs. If you find a blog in a field that interests you that is written by somebody wit...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do you write a character that HATES being born into a well-off family?
We hate those things that keep us from the things we love. If a character hates being a member of a wealthy family, it is because that family, or its wealth, or its responsibilities, keep them from something they love, or harms the thing they love. To write hatred simply as hatred, therefore, is neve...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I avoid making all my characters speak like me?
The main thing that distinguishes the speech of different characters is what they say, not how they say it. If you understand the motives and the fears of every characters in your scene, and if you make sure that every word they speak proceeds from their fears and desires, then their speech will seem...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Does a novel require a conflict?
I don't know the eastern tradition well enough to comment on whether or not it has stories without conflict. But of course, this depends on what you mean by story. But then the question is not about stories, it is about novels and the novel is not an eastern art form. It was invented in the west with...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: "just telling the tale" - does this work?
Stories are not about proving points. A novelist may have a point they want to push, but if the point overwhelms the story than the result can only appeal to the people who already agree with the author's point. The great novelists who had a point they wanted to make (Steinbeck, Dickens) told a story...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing my Watson trope
Here's the thing about Watson: he is a fully developed character. If you met him at a party, you would say to yourself, isn't that Doctor Watson? This is even more true in the Sherlock TV series (in no small part because Martin Freeman is a much better actor than Benedict Cumberbatch). I think the f...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I turn a "screensaver" into an actual story?
At the heart of every story (or most stories, anyway) is a character arc, and in the center of a character arc is a decision, a hard decision, a decision that will cost the character something valuable, that will make them face the question of what sort of person they are or want to be. Plot exists ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Finding fantasy genre a bit too complex
You don't specify what length of story you are trying to write, but a novel, at full length, is a highly complex piece of work regardless of genre. If you were learning to be a programmer, you probably would not choose to write an enterprise content management system as your first project. You would ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Copying Certain Information From A Official Website
Just to add a little to what Lauren has said, make sure you understand the difference between copyright and plagiarism. Copyright is the legal right to make a copy of the whole or parts of a work. Copyright automatically belongs to the person or organization that created the text, unless they sell i...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Tracing the line between a (genuinely) dramatic and a melodramatic/over-dramatic story
Well, from a commercial point of view, there is nothing wrong with melodrama. People make very good livings producing melodramas, and for the most part I think they are unapologetic about it. In part this is simply a matter of taste. Saying that food is sweet or spicy refers to something objective: ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Why do newswriters separate women when they report on disasters?
Do they really still do that? The origins are not hard to guess at. It has been a fundamental social presumption for centuries that the essential role of men is to protect women and children. On sinking ships, the rule was women and children first, and woe betide a man who survived a shipwreck in whi...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How many plot points ( whatever you call them ) do you need for a novel?
A plot point is a turning point. It is something that turns the the story in a new direction. Taken together, a set of plot points describes a complete story arc. What you are describing are incidents. Incidents get you from one turning point to another (and every incident should contribute to gettin...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How does (or should) an inner conflict span a series of novels?
This is an interesting question. I'm not a big reader of series fiction, but based on the series I have read or watched on TV I can think of several patterns: - New book, new character. Each of the chronicles of Narnia has a new central character, often with the central character from a previous boo...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it too cliche to have the villan of my story from a different planet?
Other as enemy is one of the most basic tropes in all of fiction because it speaks to one of our most primal fears -- fear of the strange, the alien, the unpredictable. We are tribal beings. Individually we are weak. Our strength lies in our ability to form alliances and to cooperate with each other...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Help! I've got Writer's Block
I have an old Shoe cartoon somewhere in which Shoe has his feet on his desk, smoking a cigar, and staring off into space. But when Cosmo interrupts him, Shoe exclaims furiously, "Can't you see I'm writing!" There are two parts to writing, composition and transcription. Sometimes transcription flows ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How far do I need to go to show "fit" between two "dating" characters?
Showing that one person is a better fit psychologically is very difficult, especially since we don't seem to know what constitutes fit or why one relationship works in real life and another does not. (I think the truth is that when people "fit" it is more because they grow together, grow around each ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Finding someone to publish, in the digital age
Agents represent people, not manuscripts. The author/agent relationship is a long term business relationship on which the author's career and livelihood largely depends. If you don't like and trust your agent, you are not going to be happy. If an agent does not like or trust their client, they are no...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Use of Regional Diction in Writing
Dialect writing was quite popular among authors in the 19th and early 20th century. Both Twain and Kipling indulged in it extensively. In an age where few had the opportunity to travel and there were no movies to bring the sounds and sights of foreign lands to people, the appeal of the exotic in fict...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How does a new writer keep from getting scooped?
Your ideas are valueless. (Sorry!) My ideas are valueless too. There are approximately 197 billion story ideas floating around the litosphere just waiting for someone with a net to scoop them up. What is valuable is your ability to take a literary idea and turn it into an interesting story. People w...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I add more detail to my story, or just leave it vague and add it all in later?
There is a huge difference between plot and story. A plot is a sequence of events that happened for a reason. A plot requires only technical detail. A story is an experience. It is the observation of or an entry into the live of, a particular person in a particularly place and time, who is experienc...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: First-person narrative: Does it make more sense to focus on internal thoughts than external gestures?
There is a third, and, to me, preferable alternative. The two alternatives you have given are both attempts at what we might call invisible narration. The reader is not listening to a narrator but somehow eavesdropping on a scene. > No, impossible. Could someone I barely knew know so much about me? ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Is blending genres well received by readers?
You can very clearly blend elements of genres. Lots of people have done it. The real question is, will it produce a work with crossover appeal? That is, will it appeal to fans of both genres? A good example to look at here is Joss Whedon's Firefly. It is a very clear blending of elements from wester...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Why would my "Hero" start his Quest to save the world?
I'm afraid that you have gone about this a bit backwards. The basic structure of a story can be described in many ways, but one of the best and most well-founded is that of the hero's journey, as described by Christopher Vogler in his book The Writer's Journey. The story begins in the hero's normal w...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Variations of the same story?
There is an old piece of advice in writing circles that says "slay your darlings". When a story has been worked and reworked many times, you will have created a number of great scenes, great characters, great plot lines, great emotional arcs, great endings. (At least they will seem great to you, they...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How does External Conflict set up the Climax?
There are many ways of describing story structure, most of which are essentially pointing to the same thing. One of the simpler ones is that proposed by James Scott Bell which is a small elaboration on the basic three act structure. I think it may be a useful way to look at this question. In Bell's ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What are character flaws and what makes a good one?
The word "character" is used in two different senses. There is "character" in the sense of "characteristics" -- the way that a person does things that is different from how others do things. If someone whistles while they work, that is a characteristic. The second meaning is moral character. A moral...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Physical description of characters
A character does not have to be described at all to feel real. In many stories we are told little of their appearance beyond whether they are male or female, and occasionally not even that. Where physical appearance is described it can really go no further than to place the character in a general cl...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to turn the world "alive"?
Worlds and their histories are abstractions. People don't live in worlds and they don't live in history. They live in a particular neighborhood at a particular time. Their horizons are small. Only their local bubble is known by direct experience. The wider world is known largely through stories, whic...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: Can there be multiple translated versions in the same language of a public domain book?
Can you think of other cases where there are multiple translation of the same book into the same language? If you search Amazon for classics in one language, do you find multiple translations into other languages? (Try the Divine Comedy or Beowulf or the Iliad -- or the Bible.) What do you find?
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make the reader feel like the protagonist is not a single character, but the group/squad?
Short answer: you can't. Stories are about emotions and they are about choices. Groups don't have emotions and they don't make choices. Only individuals do. Stories about groups of friends are, of course, very common. But in such stories, each person in the group has their individual story arc. Thos...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I ensure what I am writing captures what I'm feeling as I write it?
The job of the writer is not to convey emotion (or only in a secondary sense that I will come back to in a minute). The writer's job is to create emotion. A story is fundamentally an experience. You don't push emotions onto the reader during the experience, rather you design the experience to create...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What is the Purpose of an Inner Conflict?
Inner conflict is the whole enchilada. All good stories lead up to a moment of crisis in which the protagonist must make a choice. That choice must be personally difficult. It must come at personal cost. Deciding to buy the Chevy rather than the Ford is a choice, but not one that comes at a personal ...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What I kind of project can I do for a writer's group to show that I have mastered character development?
> I have begun writing a story about two city-states in the year 2307 in an arms race to create a time machine. The essence of your difficulty is right there in your opening sentence. Stories are not about city states. Stories are always always always about a man/woman/boy/girl/small furry animal wh...
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about 3 years ago
Answer A: What is the difference between Literature and entertainment literature
Books are classified for various reasons. The word literature is used in more than one classifications scheme. For the purpose of selling books, "literary fiction" is a genre like any other. Genre is sometimes thought of in terms of subject matter, but it would really make more sense to think of it ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Grammar for describing novel plots?
Story structure is essentially a sequence of incidents. It is important and contrary to what is said in some of the comments, literature has it just as much as light entertainment. But while all conventional stories have story structure, those incidents must happen to someone in some place and some ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I break away from imitating published works?
There is a fundamental difference between the desire to imitate and the desire to create. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the desire to imitate. Indeed, it is the foundation of our social order. Imitation is how we learn to get along with each other. It is why originals tend to be outcasts. We...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Act 3 totally broken...keep writing?
Stop writing and put it in a drawer. Go write something else for a while. There is no point in continuing when you know, as you clearly do, that this story is off the rails. It is not going to yield either usable prose or usable insight. At the same time it is clear that you have not yet had the po...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is stating the feeling in the action that describes it a sign of bad writing?
In real life, we experience emotions ourselves and we observe them in others. Thus some emotions are observed but not felt and that is fine. As far as felt emotions are concerned, we feel emotions in response to events. We do not feel an emotion because we are told to feel it. Felt emotion, therefor...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to keep it interesting before the inciting incident?
Inciting incident is a term for one of the bones of a story, the thing that give it shape. But while a story needs shape, shape alone is not enough. The basic story shapes are well enough known and not particularly complicated. Anyone who does a little elementary research should be able to write a st...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it possible for an aggressive character to become sensitive?
You are writing a story, not a psychology textbook. Stories appeal to our hopes and to our sense that the world is (or our wish that it should be) a fundamentally orderly place, by which I mean a place with a fundamental moral order. Virtue is rewarded. Vice is punished. Love conquers all. Whether y...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it bad idea to directly state the message/moral of a story?
Fundamentally, a story is a an experience. Strictly speaking, an experience does not have a meaning. Different people may reach different conclusions based on the experience they have had, just as they may with real life experiences. The novelist should be content to create an experience that is true...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Nintendo Based Copyright
IANAL, but this is one of those questions where you can start out by asking, are other people doing this. If not, there is a good chance that the answer is that you can't do it either. This is essentially what is called a tie-in. Your book would be tied into the world of the games. People who play t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write hidden details
There is no background in prose. The reader receives every word and they receive them one at a time. Thus there is no place to hide anything. Where you can be more subtle is in the connections between things. If you mention a rose, it is a foreground rose for the moment the reader is reading a word,...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it a bad idea to write and edit chapter by chapter?
A story is an experience, but it is an experience in which all the threads of that experience point at something, like the pattern the iron filings assume around the head of a magnet. If you have a very strong sense of how the magnetic fields of your story align, then I think you are in a position t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to casually reveal the relationship of two recently introduced characters?
The answer to this is crushing simple. You tell us that they are brother and sister. > "Pass the butter," Pamela said. > > "Get it yourself," her brother replied. Don't try to slip information into dialog that naturally and properly belongs in narration. It will always sound forced and unnatural a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I make the final realisation less depressing?
A good story creates an experience. The reader draws their own conclusions and has their own emotional reactions to the experience it provided. Some will therefore find your ending more of a downer than others. What we want from stories is not necessarily uplift. It can be understanding. It can be a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to work in a piece of information that no MC knows, when writing in 3PLtd?
I really wish we could get rid of the current terminology for describing point of view. First person and third person are not points of view. They are simply grammatical persons. Point of view is the angle or viewpoint from which a scene is described. It would be much more helpful if we used terms l...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Using reference books for free handbook
There is no copyright on ideas. You can retell the ideas from other books freely, as long as you are actually creating new words to describe those ideas from scratch. If you are taking chunks of text from other books and editing them for clarity, on the other hand, you would need permission, and you...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to interpret editor feedback?
I was in just this position as few years ago. Extensive comments from an editor at a top house, mostly critical. I did a rewrite and got a "better, but not quite" back. No invitation to try again, so that was that. I was having more success on the non-fiction front so I put the fiction in a drawer an...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What exactly is a copywriter?
"Copy" is one of the elements of an ad, along with the visuals, the headline, etc. The copywriter is the person who writes the copy. The word has largely given way to the equally generic "content" these days. But the implication of copywriter is that the writer is not necessarily the prime creative ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What makes a personified force of nature?
In this context, I would take it to mean someone who cannot be reasoned with. When dealing with a mountain or a rainstorm, you can't reason with them or reach a deal or a compromise with them. When you are dealing with a normal human being, on the other hand, you can reason with them or make a deal w...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Point of view question
Here is the thing about point of view. People always position themselves to get the best view of something they are interested in. If they can stay in one place and see everything they want to see, they stay where they are. If they have to move to see everything they want to see, they move. This is t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Presenting documentation for a large software product
That approach is fine for a landing page. But what you have to bear in mind is that people don't use landing pages. This is true across all categories of information. There has been a steady decline in reader's use of landing page across all categories of information. Gerry McGovern charts the declin...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Length of Children's Books
Because bedtime stories are about getting children to fall asleep and no parent wants to be reading until 3am. Publishers impose word restrictions for two basic reasons. 1. A new author represents are risk. Bigger books cost more to produce, so the risk is higher. Restricting word count reduces the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much development does a subplot need?
A subplot is a plot. As such, it has the same shape, the same components, the same effect as a regular plot. The reason you have a subplot is to provide thematic counterpoint of elaboration to the main plot. You need to to be sufficiently worked out to provide the desired elaboration or counterpoint...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: A subplot becoming another novel
Subplots are generally thematically related to the main plot. They provide thematic elaboration or counterpoint to the theme of the main plot. If your subplots are doing that for you main plot, then they are enriching the reader's experience and they should stay. If they are just more business, then ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Flashback or Framing, does either work
"I want to hook the reader by displaying the danger and darkness of my world" This is a very common idea about how to engage the reader, but it has a fundamental flaw: Darkness and danger are not interesting unless they happen to someone we care about. Look at most successful novels and you will se...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing a book that appeals to both genders
It has become fashionable in recent years to base the appeal of a novel on personal identification with the protagonist. That is, enjoyment of the novel is supposed to consist in a personal aspiration to be the protagonist or in a close personal identification with the protagonist (recognizing onesel...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Get an agent for prescriptive non-fiction before or after completing a manuscript?
The normal process for a non-fiction book is to sell it first, then write it. The reason is that non-fiction books sell based largely on the author's qualifications, the soundness of the idea, and the size of the author's platform (their existing audience). It also allows the publisher to shape the b...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write from the male point of view?
There is one key fear that all young men share, and most older men, if we are honest: The fear of appearing weak. Men have an instinctive need to project strength, and will find any way they can to do it, even when it is against their best interests. They will do it through their behavior, they will ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Stories with Philosophical Conversations?
I would suggest that there is a very simple rule of thumb here: if it is revelatory of character, it is a story. If it is revelatory of ideas, it is a philosophical essay in disguise. We debate philosophy. It is part of what makes humans human, and it is therefore a fit matter for story. But the iss...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Powers with unknown limits vs ones full of rules, limits and reasons?
In addition to Lauren's excellent points, I would refer you to this question: "The flux capacitor--it's what makes time travel possible." When to keep world-building explanations short. Whether you explain magic or not, set limits on it or not, depends on if it matters or not. In some stories it matt...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Help! I have no 'cheese-meter'!
I think cheese, as you call it, is simply one aspect of work that is not morally serious. What do I mean by morally serious? In the literary sense, I mean that a work that is morally serious is one in which the author works to ensure that they are presenting an accurate portrait of human life as it a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing psychopathic characters (I)
There is a kind of brainstorming process that some writers seem to go through when trying to come up with something to write about. It goes something like this. Can I take two apparently incompatible features, assign them to the same character, and see what happens. And after trying to make this wor...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I avoid rambling in first person narratives?
The simple answer to this is that this stuff works when it is revelatory, when it shows the reader something they care about, when it draws them in. That is not about quantity, it is about aptness. Is the hatred of a green sweater or the need to fix the lock on the front door revelatory? Not in thems...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Multiple tasks and a step by step tutorial
Reality is often more complex than our document structures can easily capture. Most of the solutions to this issue simply make the text structures more complex without making the meaning any more clear. Practical clarity should rule over scrupulous correctness. There is no real risk of confusion of ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Caption title for screenshots
I would tend to match the case of the interface, but here is a way to think it through: Labels on interface elements are often brief instructions rather than actual names. The capitalization of those instructions will frequently be unconventional because the people who wrote and implemented them wer...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What Kind of Story can Achieve Cult Status?
I think your revised question reveals a confusion of two different things. There are works with strong and enduring followings, and there are works that inspire roleplaying. There may be some intersection between these two categories, but they are by no means the same thing. The roleplaying phenomen...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it more effective to lead with a physical conflict rather than an emotional one?
The heart of a story is neither physical conflict nor emotional conflict, it is moral conflict. That is to say, it is about the character being made to face a choice about values. Does pride and prejudice win out over love? Does Spiderman save MJ or the busload of children? Emotional conflict result...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Classical Style vs. Modern Innovation
Centuries don't have styles; writers have styles. True, there are certain broad features of the way things are written which change over time, but they are very much secondary to the styles of individual authors. And diction and vocabulary are only a small part of what constitutes an author's style. ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I keep the gender of my main character purposely ambiguous?
One of the things that seems like a good idea to many beginning writers is trying to deceive the reader in some way or another. There is one problem with this idea: readers don't like it. And why should they? The reader's enjoyment of a story depends on their ability to enter into the world of the s...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What Kind of Story can Achieve Cult Status?
If you don't think Pride and Prejudice has cult status, you are looking in the wrong place. It's cultists are called Janeites. And I think you may be overestimating the staying power of Star Wars and Star Trek. They are now brands more than they are art, and the ordinariness of the latest entries in...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to copyright my works in India?
Copyright is automatic. If you write something, you own the copyright on it. If you write something for hire, the person who hires you owns the copyright on it. Certain jurisdictions may provide a means to register your copyright, but that is not required. You own the copyright the moment you create ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How many metaphors?
47. Not seriously, no. You really should not be thinking about metaphors. Metaphors are very much an ordinary part of speech. You probably use them all the time without realizing or thinking about it. As non-physical objects, metaphors can't actually be placed in heaps. Heaps of metaphors is a ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I've got too many flashbacks
I haven't read your samples because we don't do critiques. But there is a general question here that may be of use to other people. If you have too many flashbacks, it it probably a structural problem. Some of the possible causes are: 1. You have started the story in the wrong place. An anxiety to ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to imply the opposite of the truth
To paraphrase your question slightly, "How do your lie to the reader?" Answer: you probably shouldn't. Once the reader distrusts you, it becomes impossible to achieve any effect at all. What you are trying to do here to to create what I call artificial suspense. Real suspense is based on what the c...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What do you do to prevent dips during which you're not writing anything?
What you are experiencing is the natural rhythm of human productivity. There are even techniques designed to help you optimize the use of this rhythm. One is called the Pomodoro technique in which you use a kitchen timer to time your work sessions and breaks. I think the mechanical nature of the Pom...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What to do with 'blank' chapters?
You are not writing a history, where you are obliged to fill in the details of all the day, months, and years that pass. You are writing a story. You are obliged to write only those incidents that build the arc of the story. If nothing happens that builds the arc of the story for a day, a month, a ye...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is my story a rip-off?
There are no original story ideas. It has all been done before. Any originality lies in the telling, not in the story idea. And, the publishing industry cares about originality about as much as the pizza industry does. Most customers do not want an original pizza. They want the same pizza they alway...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Longer or shorter chapters?
This is really all about cadence. You break up a text, at various levels, as an expression of its cadence. A slower cadence tends to express itself in longer sentences, longer paragraphs, longer chapters. A faster cadence tends to express itself in shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, shorter chapt...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How is a dialog interruption actually shown?
Standard punctuation for an incomplete sentence is ellipsis. But don't. Don't have one character interrupt another at all. Dialogue is not speech and the page is not the screen. The page is an asynchronous media. Events do not unfold in real time but in read time. It can take far longer to read the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What English version of the bible should I quote from?
First, the KJV is most definitely not in Old English, a tongue that had not been spoken for centuries when the KJV translation was done. It is written in modern literary English. Modern English has been with us for several centuries now, so there have been many shifts in vocabulary and diction since ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Seeking advice on establishing the emotional impact of backstory
I suspect you may be miscalculating where your story begins. A story arc whose climax has a massive impact on a relationship generally begins with the beginning of that relationship, with all the things that shaped and defined that relationship, with all the things that make it vulnerable to the cris...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What else should I plan?
People clearly differ in the amount and type of planning they do. But I think it is important to bear in mind that in the end a novel is an expression of a vision. Its function is to create a vivid and compelling experience for the reader and while aspects of that experience can be distilled and desc...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How many errors per page volume is typically "okay" in a book?
Whether such a threshold exists or not is irrelevant, since you can never know whether you have met it or not. If you detected an error, you would fix it, so the number of known errors is always zero. The number of unknown errors is unknown because you can't count unknowns. Therefore there is no way...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the Advantages/Disadvantages of Dividing a Novel into 'Sections'?
They generally announce to the reader the beginning of a new story arc. I think that's about all there is to it. The format of a sequence of short story arcs that combine more or less loosely to form a larger story arc has become something of a TV staple since BTVS popularized it. But it has existed ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can I can legally use these song lyrics as book/chapter names?
IANAL, but questions of this sort fall under the doctrine of fair use, which may differ from one jurisdiction to another. Generally, fair use says that there are certain exceptions to the protection provided by copyright law that allow people limited use of those material for specific purposes such a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: A novel consisting of three separate stories joined only by a theme. A bad idea?
There are examples of separate stories connected thematically. I think the question is, when is such a work a collection of independent stories on the same theme and when is it a single novel. One example that springs to mind is Alan Garner's Red Shift, in which the same story plays out three times,...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is representing distorted voices via different typefaces, and different languages represented by enclosing brackets an advisable thing to do?
This is generally inadvisable (which is not to say that it is not done sometimes). The reason it is inadvisable is that every artform has its palette, its set of devices and conventions by which it tells its story. Mastering any art form is about learning how to tell the story within the confines of ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can I transition from real to fictional places in fantasy series?
Fantasy literature is full of examples of characters passing between real and imaginary worlds. It is one of the core theme of fantasy literature. Indeed, the roots of fantasy literature are all in the long folk tradition that has seen a magical world existing side by side with the real world, and wi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What do you call a narrator who is not unreliable, but is naive?
I think the closes you are going to come is "narrative irony" or "dramatic irony", but that does not name narrator specifically. I can't think of any case of transmuting this into "Ironic narrator". Actually, that would not work because it would mean a narrator who is being ironic on purpose, whereas...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: In What Way are Most First Drafts Bad?
There is a lamentable process by which averages become aphorisms. That is, we see a common pattern and turn it into an absolute rule. Adverbs are often used badly, so don't use adverbs at all. Writers often tell when they should show, so always show, never tell. This is, essentially, lazy thinking, a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to deal with nameless characters?
A name is not actually an invariant property of a person or object. A name is an expression of the relationship between a person and another or between a person and an object. Thus the same person may be "mom", "grandma", "aunty", "Joan", "Joanie", "Joan Smith", "Mrs. Smith", "the woman in the green ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing differently when following different character POVs - mainly age difference. (3rd Person)
There are no rules. There is a lot of advice. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. A lot of it is generalized inappropriately. There are also a lot of conventions which it is safer to follow unless it is necessary to break them, since breaking them always creates a difficulty for which other qualit...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does anyone have experience with using dictation software for creative writing?
I haven't used it in years, and it may be better now, but my experience was that it would periodically misinterpret whole phrases. The problem was not that it made more errors than I did typing -- my typing has never been good. The problem was that when I made a mistake it tended to be misspelling or...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Active voice in situations where the subject is unknown
A character that is not lucid enough to see or interpret what is going on around them is not lucid enough to have a POV. If they are not lucid and you say: > Something poked her shoulder. Then the reader is forced to assume that we are in omniscient narration. And if we are in omniscient narration,...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does a story necessarily need a theme?
Theme is not necessarily a message. It is more the thing that you are exploring. If the theme is love, for instance, you don't have to take a position on love, you don't have to have a covert message, like "love hurts" or "love sucks". The theme is love simply because the story is about love, is an e...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does the concept come before other "literary devices" in philosophical science fiction?
If you lead with a compelling concept, you should write an essay. A story is not, principally, about exploring an idea. Principally it is about creating an experience. Creating an experience can be a fantastic way to explore the implications of an idea. But it can only do so effectively if it is firs...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is a ghost writer an honorable professional, or a hack?
Most works of art bear the artist's name. Most works of craft do not. The person who paints your portrait signs their work. The person who paints your house, or your sign, does not. Using a ghostwriter to produce a work of craft writing is no different from hiring someone to paint your house. It is ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Would it be possible to create a character without substantial motivation?
What you describe is a person who denies the value of anything, and yet creates things. This is a contradiction. If nothing has value or meaning, there is no point in creating anything, and, for that matter, no point in trying to convince anybody of anything, including nihilism. And yet this person ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to portray a passively arrogant character?
A character is a bundle of desires. They are defined first by their primary desire: the thing that is driving their action in the story. Second, they are defined by their secondary desires, the things that shape or limit how they pursue their primary desire. Tom wants to win an athletic scholarship ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much does a manuscript change through publication?
I think the answer to this is, almost anything. More characters, fewer characters, different setting, different ending, longer, shorter, rougher, gentler. People get asked for all of these things and much more. Publishers are trying to fit a book to a certain market, and they will want you to produce...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the keywords of fantasy that might deliver the feeling of fantasy
Words individually do not give the feeling of any genre. It is how you put them together to create a picture in the reader's mind. Just as a painter may use the same pallet of colors to paint a unicorn or a cart horse, so an author can use the same pallet of words to paint a fairy palace in the air o...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Issue with flow of dialogue
Dialogue consists of two characters trying to get something from each other. Each has a desire that they want the other to fulfill. Each has some reluctance in fulfilling that desire, or else has difficulty figuring out what that desire is because the other is not, for one reason or another, stating ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I incorporate Vocabulary in my writing that I already know?
Don't. I know the use of fancy vocabulary may seem like a sign of sophisticated writing, but it's not. Every fancy word you use makes you prose less accessible to readers. The only reason to bring in a fancy word is if you cannot express the idea you need to get across using simple words. The hallmar...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Magic and logic
There are two basic uses of magic in literature. One is as a catalyst for a cautionary tale on the dangers of power. Examples of this include The Lord of The Rings and A Wizard of Earthsea. The former is a treatise on the nature of temptation, and the latter on the nature of pride. The second use is...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What aspects of written dialogue are important when giving characters a unique voice?
Few readers will notice difference of style between different characters. Perhaps for one or two of them, but not for a dozen. What distinguished people much more than their style is what they want and the kinds of things they are willing to say. One may be kind to a fault while another is cruel. The...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What's better in fiction: to make personal statements or universal statements?
The point of fiction is not to make statements. If you want to make statements, write an essay. The point of fiction is to give the reader an experience. The reader may, of course, reach a conclusion as a result of a fictional experience, just as they may reach a conclusion as the result of a real e...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Credibility of using English in non-English-speaking worlds
The notion of "willing suspension of disbelief" is one of the most misleading phrases in the literature of writing (right up there with "show don't tell"). It is very much worth reading Tolkien's On Fairy Stories, in which he offers an extensive critique of the concept. Tolkien's argument is essenti...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to writer longer stories for a SciFi novel?
A story must always be a story, which is to say that it must have a story arc. The arc of a story is fundamentally built around desire and the things people will or will not do to achieve their desire. Thus the crux of a story is always a choice the protagonist must make about the price they are will...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is this an example of an unreliable narrator?
I'm not sure if what you are describing is unreliable narrator at all. An unreliable narrator is not one who is mistaken about facts. An unreliable narrator is one who is deliberately deceiving the reader. You say the twist is that B is really right about who did it. But how do we know that this is ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much character development is necessary beyond what the story line provides?
In story, character is desire. Character is the things you want and the things you are willing to do, or not willing to do, to get the thing you want. Some stories hang a lot of rich detail on these bones, and some pretty much rely on archetypes to do it all for them, but in essence it is always abou...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to head off a legal reading of a term or phrase?
There really is no way to indicate that you are using a term in a non-technical sense if you use it in a context in which the technical sense would normally be inferred. The best approach to avoiding ambiguity in these cases is to approach the entire descriptions differently. Don't just substitute a ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the Criteria that Distinguish a Thriller from Horror?
A genre is a promise from the publisher to the reader about the kind of experience that the book will give them. The definitions of genres therefore are not technical, they are emotional. A couple fighting monsters in Arizona in 2073. Is it romance, horror, or sci fi? It all depends on the kind of ex...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Legality over using a REAL museum and REAL artifacts in a fictional - HEIST novel
Thought experiment: If Dan Brown had required the permission of the Vatican to publish The Da Vinci Code, do you imagine it would ever have been granted? Do you think the Pentagon or the White House would ever give permission for most of the novels set there? Ergo, you don't need it. If you want yo...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should a reader have enough information to deduce the twist?
By definition, it is not a twist if the reader sees it coming. In fact, there is nothing worse than a plot twist that you see coming. Nothing makes a story seem more contrived than when you see the twist coming and it does. Now, if the reader sees a twist coming and then the story actually twists th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to know the quality of query letter critiques?
A query letter is a sales tool. The feedback you want is not from writers but from people in the business of selling books. I don't know that there is a reliable way to know if you are getting that on line. I think you would do much better to seek advice in person. Ideally, try to find someone in you...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Are idioms in query letters a bad idea?
Writers often indulge a charming fantasy that publisher and agents are looking for originality. They are not. They are looking for works that fit into a well established sales channel and that habitual readers of a genre can quickly identify as the kind of book they like to read. Pretty much the wors...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write a manipulative protagonist that the audience can connect with
The core of this problem may be the misconception that the reader needs to identify with a character. That is oft repeated, but simply not true. A story creates an experience. One way to enter into that experience is to identify yourself with one of the characters in that experience. But it is not th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I end a comedy sketch?
It is well said that there are no rules in funny. A traditional story needs a specific story shape in order to work because the payoff is in the climax and denouement. But comedy, though it can conform to this structure, does not need to. The payoff is funny. It does not need to end logically. It jus...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I know when to include subplots?
You could think of a subplot like a side dish to a meal. It provides contrasting or complementary flavours that enhance the overall dining experience. How many side dishes are too many? When they overwhelm or confuse the senses? How many are too few? When the main dish grows dull and monotonous with...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can a book be written without an antagonist?
There are a certain class of works in which the theme is discovery or enlightenment and the antagonistic force is simply ignorance. The effort to overcome ignorance may be a struggle, and enlightenment a victory, without any external attempt by anyone to hinder or obscure discovery. In others, the a...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Spoilers; What Makes A Feel Good Tragedy?
Stories are an attempt to endow life with meaning. Where ordinary life seems possessed of a terrible randomness, we look to stories to assure us that there is actually meaning and purpose in life. This may or may not be true, but the thought that it is true is of enormous comfort to us, even in the f...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What can publishers do for me in a niche market?
Publisher do two things for you, other than those you have listed, and they are things that you absolutely cannot do for yourself. 1. They provide provenance and branding. Once published by an established publisher, your book enjoys the provenance that comes with that publisher's name. More people w...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Where to break paragraphs in dialogue?
You should follow normal paragraph rules, which are, essentially, that a paragraph contains a complete thought. Of course, this is a fuzzy definition. What makes a thought complete? A sentence, a chapter, or an entire book are all in different senses the expressions of a complete thought. Paragraph i...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I am teaching myself how to write a novel -- where can I find support and resources?
This is the reality of the thing: there are hundreds of thousands of people who would like to have written a novel. Many of them are willing to spend a considerable amount of money to advance their ambitions. This creates a market for writing courses and books on how to write. Where such a market exi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is a single main character really important in a novel involving a team effort?
You can certainly have an ensemble cast, and you can certainly send a team on a shared quest. Hundreds of novels and movies do exactly that. But while a team can have a shared plot, a plot is not the same thing as a story arc. A story arc is the difference between a story and a piece of imagined his...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: The protagonist can't defeat the antagonist without the antagonist being stupid
Actually, most stories that have a specific antagonist depend on the antagonist being stronger than the protagonist, so logically the antagonist should win most of the time -- unless they do something stupid. We love to root for underdogs. After all, most of us are underdogs. If the hero was clearly...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing the nitty-gritties of a particular scene
The danger you can run into with that kind of detailed planning (there are dangers in all approaches to a large piece of work) is that it can lead you to focus on plot at the expense of conflict. Stories are essentially about recreating the experience of conflict and its resolution: what is it like ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I feel stuck in a [description/action] sentence structure
There is nothing terribly wrong with the sentence structure per se, but it has an effect that may or may not be desirable, and probably is not desirable quite as often as you are doing it: it changes the emphasis on the action being described. Each of these sentences describes two actions, one leadi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I get my readers in the gut?
As you rightly perceive, the moments that have a potential for gut emotional appeal are well known, but merely creating the moment does not always produce the emotion -- precisely because we all know what the moments are: loss, sacrifice, enlightenment, affirmation, conversion, reunion, acceptance, m...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What is the best way to avoid plagiarism when importing information from a source?
The definition of plagiarism varies by context. Technically, you avoid the charge of plagiarism by citing sources, but that ignores the issue of what you are using the quoted material to do. A quotation should be used to support your argument, not to express your argument. In other words, if you are...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Formatting multiple languages while avoiding italics for native speakers in their POV
It strikes me that this difficulty in deciding how to format all of these languages is just a canary in the coal mine keeling over to let you know that this is all going to be too confusing for the reader. This is one of those times when it is better to tell than to show. If the mother switches back...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Technical Writing Other Than Software
This is one of the great debates in technical communication. Do you need to be a technical expert or is it enough to be an effective communicator? Different tech writers, and different employers, come down on different side of this debate. I think there are two main factors to consider here. First,...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How similar can I make fictional and real cultures?
Well, if you garner enough attention to get any critics interested in savaging you, you will already be doing well. But critics qua critics are unlikely to savage you for it unless you do it clumsily. The accusation of cultural appropriation is a relatively new weapon in the culture wars. Indeed, ad...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I write an uneducated character with a genius level intellect in a medieval society?
In that period, education was not the province of the nobility but of the church. A intelligent and idealistic young man or woman would have a very obvious outlet for their intelligence and idealism, and an opportunity for an education, by joining a monastery. Monasteries were not just the seats of r...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can a person get bogged down by science fiction research?
I would suggest that the key question you should be asking yourself is whether you actually have a story to tell. The heart of any story is a decision. The protagonist (and possibly other characters as well) have to make a decision which is hard for them. Either decision they make will cost them some...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write montages in prose? (fantasy novel)
You can't do a montage in prose, anymore than you can paint a symphony or score a sunset. It is simply a technique of a different media. Each media has its own storytelling devices and you should not try to mimic the devices of one media while working in another. It is worth asking, in this regard, ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it hard for a foreigner to publish in English?
It will make very little difference. The publishing industry is desperate for good stories. They don't much care where they come from. Anything interesting or exotic about the author's background can be exploited for marketing purposes, but really it is all about good stories. I wish people would st...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should you avoid offensive hyperbole?
This questions is unanswerable except in regard to a specific market. We live in an age of taking offence, and also in an age of giving offence. Certain things will close doors to certain segments of the market, certain things may open doors to other segments of the market. Deliberately giving offen...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I gather enough material to write a close reading essay?
The basic material for a close reading is the text itself. Literally, you read it closely, line by line. Is it clear what is being said? Are there allusions to things outside the text that may affect its interpretations? If so, go look them up and show how the allusion affects the reading of the text...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I am an unestablished author with a decent book. Should I publish online, or try to find a 'real' publisher?
Personally, I would not regard self publishing as an alternative to traditional publishing but as a market for work that does not fit in the traditional publishing sphere. Publishing is book marketing. Marketing is about knowing a particular part of the market and figuring out how to sell to it. Eac...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Where does the "black moment" fall in a novel?
You can create an average of any data set. If you average out enough story data than you can describe an average story arc and assign names to all of the moments in that arc. This exercise is not without value. It gives some insight into the nature of the beast. But few if any stories will actually c...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it a bad habit to reveal most of the information still at the beginning of the story?
Good stories are not created by withholding information from the reader. They are created by constructing a satisfactory story arc, by creating the desire to know what happens next. The desire to know what happens next is not created by withholding information. It is created by engagement with the st...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should each book in the series be a similar length?
Artistically, each book should be as long as it needs to be. Commercially, there are certain limits determined by salability and risk. A thin book may not be perceived by the reader as value for money and so may not sell. A fat book costs more to produce and so represents a bigger risk for the publi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Would it be wise to make the turning point of a story coincidental?
There is nothing wrong with serendipity in a story. Our lives are like that anyway, governed largely by chance. What matters in a story is the moral arc of the characters. What chance occurrences should not do is resolve the moral arc of a story. Practical problems are usually caused by chance and ar...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Intellectual rights for a guest blog submission
IANAL, but, you own all the rights to work you create. No one else acquires any rights to that work unless you grant it to them through an explicit agreement. By sending them your articles to publish, you grant them permission to do just that: publish them on their site. Unless you agree to grant the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why introduce new physical appearance details late in the narrative?
This is the result of two misguided pieces of advice given to most aspiring writers today: "show, don't tell", and "jump right into the action". Taken together, these two piece of advice leave no room for the writer to set up their story. So writers ask, how am I supposed to tell the reader the backs...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to describe a kiss between the protagonists in third person?
I suspect that you don't really want to describe their emotions in the clinical sense. Rather, you want the reader to know how they feel, and to feel how they feel, or at least to feel sympathy for how they feel, at the moment of the kiss. If so, the way you do that is not through what you say in th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Documenting the no-args call of a command line program
Arguments modify the behavior of a program. Running it without arguments means you get is default, unmodified behavior. So the help should describe the default unmodified behavior first, in the body of the description. $ foo -h foo [OPTIONS...] Foo does X. For example: f...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can this sentence have the same detail and yet be simple to comprehend?
There is nothing wrong with a long sentence, but it should still be a sentence. Long sentences generally result from qualification and elaboration of a single point. But that is not what is happening in this sentence. Rather it is telling a sequence of events as the midwife reassembles the child. Thi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Pay rate and terms for writing book series under contract
If this were a conventional commercial publisher that was in position to distribute the books widely it would be a very good deal. If it is a purely speculative venture by someone with no previous experience of the book trade, then it is probably not such a good deal. The deal between a publisher an...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Do 'text walls' scare off readers?
Almost anything will scare off some readers in some contexts. That does not make them wrong things. It just makes the things that appeal to one person more than another. No work of art or communication should strive to appeal to anyone other than its natural audience. If someone is looking for video...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to handle translation of a language in a comic, while preserving a sense that the language is significant?
This is how it was handled in the Asterix comics. Specifically Asterix and the Goths: ![enter image description here](https://i.stack.imgur.com/BOVwZ.jpg)
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I am familiar with the Monroe Motivated Sequence, which is used for speeches. What are some other frameworks which make the outlining process easier?
There are a great many systems for structuring the argument of a piece of writing. Each taking different approach to what to structure and how. Some to check out include: - Information mapping - STOP - DITA - Minimalism) - Inverted pyramid In addition you should look at structured writing generall...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it best to make a description metaphorical, or upfront?
It is better to be a straightforward as possible in all descriptions. The aim is to form an image in the reader's mind, and the simplest language that does that is the language you should choose, since to do more risks the reader getting stuck in the thicket of words and not receiving the intended im...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I figure out my main character's overall goal?
Story is driven by desire and that which stands in the way of achieving desire. If your character had a strong desire, she would have a goal. If she does not have a strong desire, that means she has everything she wants. Or at least she has everything she is willing to work hard to get. That's fine....
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I turn a premise into a story?
The part that is most obviously missing from what you describe is "why?" Character provides the why. But equally importantly, the why provides the character. A character is a person who would do this thing in this way. You can start with the character and then ask yourself, what would this person do...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How feasible is it to write a story without any worldbuilding?
If your question is, can you set a story in an imaginary place without telling the reader that you have done so, the answer is yes, but the reader will not know that you have done so. The problem is, if any of the features of that imaginary place are necessary to the plot, then the plot will not make...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Past tense writing troubles. Specifically the word "Now"
Here's how to fix your problem. 1. Pick up your grammar books. 2. Hold them over a fire. 3. Let go. You can't write out of a grammar book. You can only write out of a fluent grasp of usage in the language you are writing in. In the case you cite, your grasp of English usage is clearly far ahead o...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How are opening chapter expectations affected by genre?
> Suspense is called suspense for a reason, you suspend aspects of the story that are revealed later. No, that is not why suspense is called suspense. Suspense is a story that is suspenseful in itself. Something bad might happen and the characters don't know if it will or not. They try to prevent it...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What Can Ensure Re-Readability?
A book can be a puzzle or it can be an experience. If it is an interesting puzzle, and you are the kind that likes puzzles, the puzzle may pull you through to the end. But once you reach the end, the puzzle is solved. There is no reason to read the puzzle again once you know the answer. An experienc...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make sure that you don't end up writing a Self-Insert?
Turn your gaze outward. A writer writes what they see. If your gaze is turned inward, you will write about yourself. If you are brutally honest with yourself, this may be revealing, but since we seldom are brutally honest with ourselves it is more likely to be a fantasy of yourself, or a form of pers...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Approaches to finding critique group for creative nonfiction
I do think it is more difficult to find a critique group for non-fiction. All fiction has a common core: an interest in story. You can still usefully critique a piece that is outside of the genre's you usually read because there is still a story there, or should be. In fact, critiques from people out...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there any resource available listing words for facial expressions?
If you read with attention you will realize that there is very little of this in fiction. Actors can display all kinds of things with facial expression, which is why a script has to leave the actor room to work. But prose does not work that way. If you want a reader to know how a character is reactin...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Quote or Italicize Prior Dialogue
It is a quotation so it goes in quotation marks. It is not the function of punctuation to indicate when a speech was uttered. If you need to make that clear, then you must do so in the text.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Where would I find a Critique Partner or Group?
I don't think it is wise to try to do this online. You have no idea who you is giving your the critique. Some people will just always be nice. Some will just always be nasty. You can't tell who are are dealing with if you don't meet them face to face. If you want feedback, join a critique group or t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does age matter if you want to publish a non fiction book?
For non-fiction, publishers basically want two things. They want you to prove that you are qualified to write the book, and they want you to have a platform -- a bunch of people who already follow you or know about you would would be likely to buy the book and recommend it to others. I have never he...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is 'temping' a culture-specific term?
All slang is culturally specific. The meaning of most of it can be figured out by context though. Certainly "temping" falls into that category. But vocabulary recognition simply does not happen on a word by word basis. It happens in the context of the story being told. As kids, we pick up new words ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it okay to publish some material in blog first, then incorporate into book?
Not only possible, but better. Publishers want to know that there is a market for your work. The success of your blog posts proves that there is. But there is a catch. Under what contract did you write those guest posts? Did you assign copyright to the site or did you retain it. If you assigned copy...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Are rhymes bad in prose?
What rhymes? None stand out in that piece. Prose is full of words that rhyme with each other, but you only notice when they occur in the same rhythmic position, as they do in poetry. It takes rhythm to make rhyme. EDIT: To demonstrate what I mean, since Neil disagrees: > Old Mrs Smith went to the p...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it needed to add breaks in a depressive story?
I think you should make a very clear distinction between tragedy and futility. Classically literature has recognized both tragedy and comedy as essentially heroic forms. In a tragedy, the hero strives for a goal only to be overcome by opposing forces, or by their own fatal flaw, but still they strive...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Are 'how-to write fiction' books full of it?
Writing is definitely a craft, and as a craft it definitely has technique, and technique can be described and taught. Writing is also all surface. There is nothing hidden underneath. All the techniques that an author uses are there on display, and so you can figure them out for yourself by reading w...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does spending time on Self-Publishing take away from improving my writing skills?
Publishers are in the book marketing business. Their job is to figure out which books will sell and how to sell them. There are three reasons why a publisher may reject a book: - It is not good enough to sell - There is not a big enough market to sell it to - They don't have the knowledge/channel t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to use narcissism productively in writing?
I really doubt that you can. Literature rests fundamentally on the sympathetic observation of human life. Whether you are writing literature or pulp, your success depends on creating convincing characters and without the power of sympathetic observation, I don't see how you achieve that. Writing is ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I keep my dialogue nuanced and informal without breaking the illusion that the story is a translation (from a fictional language)?
In addition to what Chris Sunami said, I would point out that a scene is a lens, not a window. A great scene works by focusing your attention on just one thing. You can have many different things going on in a story, but in each scene you want the focus to be on just one thing. All you have is words,...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How To Develop A Character For A Character-Driven Story?
I've never been entirely sure what the distinction between plot driven and character driven is supposed to mean. Story is the intersection of character and event. Character without events is psychology. Events without character is history. None of the definitions of the concept I have read are reall...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to keep the protagonist from being the only interesting person in the world?
Every character had an arc. This does not mean that every character has their own subplot in your novel. But it means that they are driven in the same way that your hero is driven: they want something and they are exploring just how far they are willing to go to get it. You may not follow their arc, ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What's the Silicon Valley of English language fiction writing?
London and New York are indisputable the places where English language publishing takes place. Traditionally, therefore, they were the places you needed to be to get the attention of a publisher. But while personal relationships still help, it would seem that there are far more avenues now than being...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I improve "beige" text?
Don't focus on vocabulary. It is very hard to change your vocabulary and the only real and natural way to do it is by extensive reading. Any attempt to artificially liven up your prose with exotic vocabulary is only going to sound forced. Rather, focus on what you write about. The real texture of wr...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I accurately represent young adult dialogue?
Dialogue is not realistic. Human being speak very tediously and brokenly. What makes dialogue authentic is not the vocabulary or diction but the motivation. What does this person say, based on who they are, what they want, what they are trying to conceal, and what they want people to think of them. ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I figure out what "challenges/issues" my character could encounter/go through?
The basic shape of any character's story arc is that they want something and there are forces that make it difficult for them to get it. They try the least expensive thing they can to achieve their desire, and are rebuffed. They then try the next least expensive thing and are rebuffed again. This rep...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it bad not to explain things?
The audience that actually cares about worldbuilding is pretty small. Most people who read LOTR, for example, don't care a fig about the whole legendarium. They only care about the story. Most stories with magic in them are very indefinite about how the magic works and what the limits of a character...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Metaphors and other "tricks" in scientific papers
There are two aspects to writing style: there is what does the best job of explaining a concept, and there are the shibboleths that determine if a certain group is going to accept the document. Unfortunately, when submitting a document for publication, you have to consider both how stylistic decision...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write a good fight/action scene?
Setup. Setup. Setup. You can't force the pace in prose. Prose is always asynchronous with action because it takes more words to describe some things and actions than others, and because you can't control the pace as which the reader reads. The way you create an effect is fiction is by building up the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Ways of describing new characters?
The reader is going to form an image of a character or a scene by putting together bits from their own experience. They do this based on the clues you give them, but they use those clues to select from their own repository of images. The key, therefore, is to give them the clues that matter, that wil...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Using more than one enneagram types when developing a character for a novel?
Most stories are not psychological studies, and even those that are are not necessarily accurate. Indeed, many story characters undergo far more trauma than most ordinary people could ever psychologically endure. (What characters in you average police drama would not be invalided out with PTSD after ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What's the best way to describe what an option does in a program?
There is actually not a lot of point in describing what an option does, per se. What you should really focus on in both technical communication and interface design is what do you enable to user to do. The goal is to enable the user to react correctly. So the first question is, given you user base, ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: "The flux capacitor--it's what makes time travel possible." When to keep world-building explanations short
I think there are two basic reasons for describing anything in fiction. One is to give sensual pleasure in its own right. There are all sorts of sensual pleasures that prose might convey, from the erotic to the gastronomic to the social. Tom Clancy's loving descriptions of really big machines with r...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to introduce alien flora/fauna without turning the fiction into a biology book?
Everything is boring unless it has a function in the story. It it is irrelevant, it is boring. There is nothing you can do with language to make irrelevant stuff not be boring. Conversely, if something is relevant to the story, then it is interesting. Describing it beautifully may be icing on the cak...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to show a brief hesitation around a word
My answer is a variation on my answer to the question you linked to: In prose, you cannot act out dialogue. Prose is recieved by the reader asynchronously. Things that take minutes can sometimes be read in seconds. Things that occur instantly or at the same time may take minutes to describe. Dialogue...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why/when should character conflict happen and how do I write it?
Conflict in a story arises from desire. The basic structure of any story is that the protagonist has a desire and there are forces or people who oppose their attaining that desire. The story proceeds as they attempt to fulfil that desire and face increasing obstacles leading to a moment of truth in w...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Mixing dissonance and alliteration?
Alliteration is the repetition of the same letter or sound at the beginning of consecutive words. It is not limited to consonants, and there is nothing in the definition that speaks to its purpose or effect. So, there is no conflict between the terms. You can be both alliterative and dissonant if you...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to make a choice more sadistic?
Few realistic choices are that hard in themselves. What makes them hard is history. Does Spiderman save Mary Jane or a bus load of schoolkids? Easy, save the school kids. The needs of the many, etc. But wait, Spiderman is in love with MJ. Yeah, but still, 30 kids on that bus... But wait, Peter P...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I write well-structured ideas without overusing connectors such as "moreover" and "in addition to"
"moreover" and "in addition to" are the kind of connectors that occur to us when we think of another idea as we are writing. It often happens that as you are writing one idea in support of a point, another one pops into your head, and then another one. In the urgency to get them down before they fly ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should an author have one website or two?
I have four. I now profoundly wish I only had one. The idea of a "site" is now becoming moribund anyway. The essence of a "site" is a home page, but the importance of the home page is diminishing every year simply because, across the board, home pages get less and less traffic each year. People navi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Romance without cliche?
That's a bit of a tough assignment, because there is no precise definition of a cliche. But you may find the advice of George Orwell in his essay "Politics and the English Language" useful. It's not about writing romance, obviously, but it is about avoiding cliche. Lazy writers, Orwell contends, writ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Language specific rhetorical devices and their influence on non-English native writers
English does not have an allergy to adverbs. Bad writing teachers sometimes tell their students not to use adverbs, perhaps because they are not skilled enough to teach them to use them well. Different cultures go through different stylistic periods. These are cultural phenomena more than linguistic...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What do you call someone who is neither/both an antagonist and a protagonist?
In classical theory, this character is known as the trickster. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trickster They are the chaotic character. They create problem for the protagonist because they cannot be relied on, but nor are the necessarily an enemy.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it bad storytelling to have things happen by complete chance?
Life is full of chance occurrences. In many ways, though, our appetite for story is based on our appetite for a more logical, predictable world than we actually live in. We want stories to have the logic that the real world does not. But chance can be made logical simply by foreshadowing. If a picni...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I gain sufficient emotional distance from my work to edit it?
How can you tell whether "yes, this is good" or "okay, this needs work"? These are objective artistic judgments. Emotional distance from the work is certainly part of what you need to make them about your own work, but you also need artistic detachment. What I see very consistently is that the bette...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the main steps to prepare and promote my fiction novel?
If you want to maximize the success of your book, seek professional publication. Being successful with self publishing is like being successful playing the lottery. Even those who win small prizes now and then pay out more than they take in, and the real jackpots are incredibly rare. But is you actu...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Need recommendation re: online resume format
The sad truth is that today, resumes are read by machines. Machines don't care about aesthetics. In fact, machines can be confused by the characters you insert to achieve aesthetic effect. If humans do read your resume, chances are that the submission system will have mangled the text so that your at...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should i have four points of view for my novel?
Point of view is nothing more than it says it is. The place where the story is viewed from. In movie terms, it is the position of the camera. To have a single POV is equivalent to shooting an entire movie from a single camera angle. It is a constraining thing to do. Generally it is easier to show di...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should capitalization be used for emphasis for a character's tone?
Neither of the above. You can't act a scene in prose. Nor can you describe your way into a reaction. What you have to do to get the reader to have a reaction to events it to set them up properly so that they have the reaction you are looking for when the plain words are delivered. If you want "Do yo...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: A long backstory right at the beginning
Every story has a bootstrapping problem. You have to establish characters, a world (fantasy or not), a problem or desire, and the obstacles to that problem or desire, and the story cannot really get going until all of that is done. Starting with action is not particularly effective in itself because ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I know who's my protagonist? EARLY in writing process (maybe complicated, maybe not)
To answer your question, I have to talk about the difference between a plot and a story. A plot is a sequence of events that happen. A story is an arc of rising tension leading to a resolution. (These terms are sometimes defined differently, and even exactly the opposite, but that is what I am using ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it allowed to write a review on every chapter of a book?
Generally speaking, quotation for purposes of criticism is an allowed use under copyright law. That does not necessarily mean all quotation in a review is permitted usage, though. You should make sure it is genuinely done for the sake of critique. But IANAL and there are plenty of better resources on...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Thriller sub-genre
This is the sort of question you can best answer with a stroll down to your local bookstore. But consider: thrills come from danger. You need to be strapped in to ride the roller coaster. A book let's you take a thrill ride with the safety harness off. The roller coaster is probably the preferred sou...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How many books should writers read?
Quite honestly, if you do not read widely and voraciously, you have no business trying to be a writer. To do otherwise would be like a chef who only ate once a week and only at McDonald's. It would be like a actor who hardly went to the theater or a ball player who never went to a ball game. And I d...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing a character that does not share your ethnic background?
Nothing. Everything. In the end, fiction is not about what you have researched, it is about what you have lived. Of course, writers of historicals or space operas have not actually lived in those environments, but thematically and in terms of their characters, they are a reflection of lived experienc...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Creating a story in which the hero(es) lose
Well, consider the term cookie cutter. Now imagine that you love cookies and you want to go into the cookie business. Which do you think would be the best strategy: 1. Bring out a totally original line of rhubarb and pickle cookies. 2. Bring out a line of exceptionally well made chocolate chip cook...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How many rewrites should a writer expect for a novel?
There is not one answer, as others have said. But I would suggest the following: 1. How many rewrites it takes to make a competent writer is a very different question from how many rewrites it takes for a competent writer to write a new book. Writing is a difficult craft and you should expect to hav...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How credible is wikipedia?
I think most of the answers here are missing something important. It is not about credibility (Wikipedia is as credible as most sources, which is to say that it contains a certain number of errors and omissions, just like everything else). It is about traceability. What matters when you cite a source...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much detail when writing technical documentation?
The acid test is this: Will the reader behave differently if they know this? If not, leave it out. The aim of user documentation is to enable the user to act correctly. Any detail that does not contribute to correct action slows the reader down and may reduce their confidence.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What if my story seems too similar to a particular movie?
There are no original plots left. There are no myths that have not been mined and exploited a hundred times over. And coming up with a new mythos is nigh impossible because the elements of myth are elemental -- they speak very deeply to basic human hopes and fears and so even the ancient myths we hav...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much detail is too much?
To answer this question you have to consider the purpose of detail. The purpose of detail is to refine the picture in the reader's head. Readers pull images from their own stock of experiences to build a picture of what they are reading. Each detail you add refines the selection of images they make. ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the steps/plot-points of the Sequel Story?
Let me approach this another way. The idea of a maturation plot occurs in more than one of the various schemas for classifying plots by type. Those schemas divide plots into multiple types, but there are different numbers of types in each. Heros's journey, on the other hand is not part of a classifi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are the steps/plot-points of the Sequel Story?
I would challenge your assertion that the journey is a metaphor for maturation. In today's highly (one might almost say pathologically) individualistic society we do tend to think that the story is all about me: the hero is heroic for the hero's own sake. But the classic hero's journey is not about t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What is subtext?
The term "subtext" seems to be used for a least four things each of which is distinct, and only two of which I will suggest are on topic for this site. 1. It is used as a catchall for literary devices such as symbolism, metaphor, etc. This, I would suggest, is just a mistake. Literary devices are a ...
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over 3 years ago
Question What is subtext?
In this question about creating subtext, Where in the writing process do you work in subtext?, the question of what the word subtext means was raised. This question is to address this issue. Of course, as all good writers know, there are not enough words to go round for all the things we want to say...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How Can I Make a Great Plot?
There are no great plots. There are great stories and there are lousy stories. Great stories and lousy stories can have exactly the same plot. The soundness of a story lies in the rising tension of the story arc. The greatness of a story lies in the telling. There are, I think, different kinds of gr...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Where in the writing process do you work in subtext?
First, I think we need to make a distinction here between what we might call Easter eggs -- little in jokes of the sort of which Stephen Moffat and his cronies are particularly fond. Sherlock and Dr. Who are full of these, and they encourage the fandom to go looking for more, finding many were I am s...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is a male character crying realistic or are his reactions here excessive?
Men do cry, but they are always ashamed of themselves for doing so. They weep, therefore, only when the struggle not to weep is unwinnable. If a male character is coming across as unrealistic when weeping, therefore, it may well be either because it is not convincing that that character could not hol...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it practical to write a novel with two viewpoints and written from different points in time?
Yes, it can be done. But I would think twice about it. A novel should be about telling a story. It should not be about seeing if you can pull off an unconventional storytelling technique. People read novel for stories, not for technique. Generally speaking you should use the most straightforward and...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Reasons to use "red herrings"?
I don't think you quite have the sense of what a red herring is. It really isn't a general plot device. It is more a specific technique in a puzzle kind of plot, such as a who-done-it mystery. It is something that suggest, and leads the reader to believe, that the gardener did it, when in fact it was...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I use contractions in a technical tutorial?
It makes no difference to the reader. Or if it does, they will probably prefer the less formal. It makes a difference to some companies, but most are discovering that a more informal style makes them seem less stuffy and more approachable. The idea that a "formal" style was more appropriate for tech...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I have 97 pages in my book draft. Is it too late to swap to third person from first?
It is never too late to change from first person to third. Writing in first person is almost always a bad idea. It is a confining suffocating point of view. When it does work, it is usually as a frame or a covert form or omniscient. But those are not techniques for beginners to mess with. Change it....
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Do it your own way or inspire in already done ways?
Human being have a inbred psychological need for stories. Like all our other needs, there are specific receptors that have to be matched for the need to be satisfied. If the body does not recognize a story as story, it will reject it. We can't change the reader's need for story, anymore than we can c...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I handle a backstory big enough to be a story of its own?
I think the question you are really asking is, is the backstory the story you want to tell, or is it simply a fable on which the real story is based. None of us can answer that for you. If I had to guess, though, it sounds from the way you ask the question like you regard it as a fable that sets up t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Vanity publishers - authors who have paid for a service- what are our rights?
This is not a copyright question, it is a contract question. You signed a contract with them. The terms of the contract tell you what you can and can't do. No one here can tell you what your contract says. Find it and read it. If you are uncertain how to interpret it, ask a lawyer.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is a bandit ambush a fatal, cliche mistake?
If they can't possibly lose, it is not a battle, it is a spot of exercise. There is nothing exciting about a bandit ambush if the bandits have no chance. Certainly going to win and do is not exciting. Probably going to lose and don't is exciting.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is it good to repeat the same form of event?
I think you can get away with it, using an approach such as Lauren suggests, with one important caveat. You need to make sure that the stakes are higher than last time. If you have not raised the stakes, it is going to seem like a skipping record, the same passage repeating over and over again. (Does...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: To Cut or not to Cut, that is the Question
You are either presenting real science principles or you are writing a novel. You can't do both. You might as well say that you are presenting a symphony concert but first you are starting off with a monster truck rally. It's not the same audience. Even if there is a crossover between the two audienc...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How many subjects in the same story is "too many"? And is it too bad?
You can have as many subjects as you like; you can only have one story arc. Or, at least, you can only have one story arc per character. Do all of these aspects of the protagonist's life contribute to the story arc? Do they inform his desire or frustrate his achievement of his desire? If yes, do they...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I raise the stakes and make a character's decision compelling?
As you rightly perceive, this is about sacrifice. It is about loss. It is about how much the character is willing to bleed for this. The implication of this is that much of the story has to be dedicated to making it very clear how much bleeding would be involved for the character in this situation. ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I Switch Protagonists Between Books?
In the classic model of a story, the protagonist pursues their desire to the limits of their endurance, concluding in some profound change or revelation (depending on whether you think people can change). In some sense, this drains the character of story potential. They have either achieved their des...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I add more characters into my story?
Are you writing this in first person? The choice of first person is the cause of many writing woes because it is a POV that essentially puts the writer in a box. If you are writing first person and your protagonist is withdrawn and friendless, any people she meets are going to be two dimensional to h...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to get a derailed book back on track?
You may be discovering the difference between a plot and a story. A plot is a series of events. A story is an arc of rising tension followed by a resolution. Events intervene in the lives of characters to drive the rise in tension, but the tension itself comes from the characters, who they are, what ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Curbing Self-Indulgent Writing
There is writing and there is storytelling. Writing is about the words. Storytelling is about the event, the people, the sights, sounds, smells, tragedies, joys, births, deaths, surprises, victories, and defeats. Writing does not matter except as a vehicle for telling the story. It is very easy to f...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How should formula variables be formatted in narration?
Don't mention it. Seriously, don't mention it. No one wants to read a short story or a novel with equations in it. Tell us that your character calculated the result if it is really central to your story arc, but seriously do not put the actual equation into the story. If you are writing about the eq...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I describe technology while avoiding problems with scaling?
It doesn't matter. The tech is a McGuffin. It's a device to drive the story. The entire plot of Casablanca revolves around a pair of passes that cannot be revoked by the local Nazi authorities. The passes are a McGuffin. They are absurd on the face of it. Of course any such passes could be cancelled...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I'm shy to let my friends read my books
Here's the thing. You don't write to be admired. You write because there is something burning inside you to be said. The question to your friends is not, do you like it? Do you think it's good? Did I do a good job? The question is, do you get it yet? Do you understand what I am saying? If not, that ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Print runs, unsold books, books by weight and do authors get some compensation for unsold?
Booksbyweight appears to be simply a used bookstore with a bulk pricing model. In the paper world the economic model for books is that the publisher sells copies. The copy then belongs to the person who bought it. They can resell it to whoever they want, including used book stores. The author and pu...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much humour can you afford to have before losing a serious atmosphere?
Any creature that can foresee its own death must learn to laugh or go mad. In other words, it is a mistake to think that humor is the opposite of seriousness. Humor is the way humans deal with the essential grimness of our lives and their inevitable ends. A serious work that is lacking humor is in s...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Am I guilty of bad 'as' writing?
Weak writing is never in the individual word choices. This is the biggest trap in all of writing. Strong writing says interesting things. Weak writing says boring things. Strong writing comes from writers who understand what makes writing interesting. (It's not more explosions.) Weak writing comes fr...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Which canned Licence to use when posting short fiction?
You don't need to licence content to post it on your website. Post it, stick a copyright notice on it, and it remains yours and you can sell it any time you want. A license only comes into effect if you want to give people permission to post it on their sites or include it in their books. While reta...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Dynamic characterization: How do you show development/change in an inherently flawed character, like a psychopath?
Robert McKee maintains that people don't change, and that a story arc is not about them changing, but about showing how far they will go. A story arc, per McKee, consists of a character with a desire meeting a series of increasingly difficult challenges to that desire until they are pushed to the edg...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Characterization: is there any guidance for writing "the romantic interest"?
Are you sure that that criticism came from someone who actually likes romance novels? I ask because "flat, uninteresting and no one would care if they lived or died, death would be better because they wouldn't bore me so much" seems to describe every character in a genre romance novel to anyone who i...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Do men fall "in love" (romantic, sensual or desire) with fictional characters?
I tend to think of the process of writing a novel as follows: Invent a bunch of characters. Spend time with them until you fall in love. Then torture them to the brink of madness. The redeem or condemn them as you choose. It seems to me very difficult to read The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe with...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I get in the Habit of Writing with Twists?
I'll first refer you to my answer to this question: https://writers.stackexchange.com/questions/24551/how-to-determine-whether-or-not-a-plot-twist-is-needed. Now I will point out an implication of that answer: a plot twist is a twist back to the story arc. In its essence, a plot twist occurs when a ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I keep from plagiarizing others?
While ethically correct, giving credit and creating links to other sites would be antithetical to the aims of a content marketing blog, which is to attract potential customers to a site and to demonstrate the expertise of the company. So linking to other sites as the source of information would defea...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there any stylistic reason to avoid the word "got"?
English is a development of Anglo Saxon and old Norse with many borrowings from Latin, mostly via Norman French, thanks to the Norman conquest of 1066. For a long time after the conquest, the nobility spoke French and the peasantry spoke Anglo Saxon. This is the reason our names for animals on the ho...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Who are the most instructive authors to read to improve one's description skills?
Evelyn Waugh and John Steinbeck would be excellent places to start. But while there are no doubt many ways to excel at description, metaphors, broad vocabulary, and figures of speech are not any of them. Great description is not about flowery language, it is about highlighting the telling detail. ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I decide whether to answer questions, or leave them unexplained?
A lot of this depends on where the focus is. If it is a psychological piece, the focus is on the psychology and inconsistencies in the use of technology won't matter much. If it is a love story, dito. But if it is a technical how do we get out of this mess story, then the focus is on the tech, and an...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I know when my work is ready for critique?
It is not so much about the work being ready for critique as about the writer not being able to make it any better without an outside critique. So, a beginning writer, or a poor reader, who can not see the faults in their work needs a critique at the point when the story is in a much weaker form tha...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Style-less writing -- Lack of real structure for blog article
Remember that experiment you did back in grade school with the iron filings and the magnet. I think that is a good illustration of how a good piece of writing works. It is not that everything lines up neatly in rows and columns like a database or a spreadsheet. And it is not that all the elements are...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: If I write a word with a letter that isn't used, will I confuse my reader?
Pronunciation is part of aural speech and cannot be wholly derived from the written form of languages, at least not in English. There are thousands of real place names that people pronounce differently. If you are going to make up place names in a written work that no one will ever hear pronounced, t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What should be done if there is a dispute of opinions within the editorial team?
This does strike me as a general ethical question. A publication represents an interest which sponsors its publication. A journalist who accepts employment at that publication is working for hire to perform services for the interest that owns the paper. The interest is entitled to create an organ th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do speech writers find the contents that make their speeches so impressive?
I would start by making a distinction between a good speechwriter and a good speaker. Ted Sorensen explains it very well in this essay on Smithsonian.com. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ted-sorensen-on-abraham-lincoln-a-man-of-his-words-12048177/ > Lincoln was a better speechwriter than speak...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing a novel, can I do [this or that]?
GLENDOWER I can call spirits from the vasty deep. HOTSPUR Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? -- Henry IV, part 1 | Act 3, Scene 1 In other words, "Can I do ..." is always the wrong question. "Will anyone want to read ..." is ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Ways to avoid repetition of "filler" words in writing?
Everyone has their pet phrases and turns of phrase. That in itself does not matter much. What matters is whether you are expressing repetitive or monotonous ideas. Yes, you can go in and insert synonyms for words you use frequently, but if the real problem is that your ideas are repetitive, that is ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I'm not enjoying my attempt at a science-fiction novella; should I continue?
Longform storytelling (which is what a novel or novella is) is very very difficult. It is also only tangentially related to writing. You can be good at writing and know nothing about longform storytelling. It is rather like the difference between painting a house and painting a mural. You need all th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much and which parts of a manuscript should I submit to an agent?
You submit what their submission guidelines tell you to submit, nothing more, nothing less, nothing different. If you don't follow the guidelines, they won't even look at you. And the guidelines will always, always, always, want the first chapter if they want any chapters at all. No agent, no editor...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Should I send my manuscript again if I forgot the synopsis after sending it to a publisher?
The publisher essentially wants to know two things about you. 1. Can you tell a good story. 2. Can you behave professionally and deliver on your commitments. Omitting the summary obviously reflects badly on the second point. Following up promptly to correct the mistake mitigates the problem as bes...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Will it help you to get published if you have a lot of followers of your writing?
A blog can definitely build an audience for a book, and the existence of that audience can definitely help sell the book to a publisher, and afterwards the blog can help sell the book to the public. That is exactly how I did it with my book Every Page is Page One, which is a book about writing for th...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why is there such strong objection to the use of said-bookisms?
There is a pervasive misunderstanding today about how language works. It is, in its operation, heavily symbolic and analogical. Can a fever rage? Of course it can. Language is naturally analogical, and far more deeply analogical than most people realize when they are claiming things like "technically...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How should I "remind" the reader of something that they may have forgotten?
Storytelling is about sequencing. If you have a big gap between a detail and major events that depend on that detail, that means you have got the sequencing wrong. This is a pervasive problem in writing. Most of the impact lies in how the story unfolds. But often we have put months of work into crea...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is writing only scenes a good way to earn writing skills?
I would be careful. Yes, there is much to be said for learning a complex skill by practicing in parts. But there is a real and pervasive danger of getting caught up in language when you should be focusing on story. As Robert McKee points out, it is easy for writers for fall in love with individual sc...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do you use showing in animal fantasy?
Here's an example to consider: > Peter was most dreadfully frightened; he rushed all over the garden, for he had forgotten the way back to the gate. Now you may be thinking that this example can't possibly be any good since it tells the reader that Peter was frightened, rather than showing his whis...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Impact of views about author on buying book
There seem to be three different parts to this question: 1. Does the author's public reputation affect the sales of books? 2. Do the view expressed in a book affect the sales of the book? 3. Do the private views of an author who is not otherwise a public figure affect the sales of books if they be...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are ways to "Show, don't tell" without simply listing bodily actions?
The question is a good example of why show don't tell is bad advice. It results in all sorts of silly overblown and tedious writing. Give them evidence, let them infer is getting a little closer to the mark, but it still runs afoul of the basic writing rule which is to be a clear and direct as possi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: 1st person story with no dialogue?
Yes, of course it is. What you are describing is merely a story in which nobody speaks. Since it is perfectly possible to have a story in which a character is alone the entire time, why would it be a problem that there is no dialog? Dialog is just the recording of a particular action: speech. You mi...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Alternative to Strunk & White?
I would not have thought S&W was long enough to be tedious, but it is certainly dry. A considerably more lively, and longer, and, I think, better book is Sir Ernest Gowers The Complete Plain Words. Livelier still, and much much shorter, is George Orwell's Politics and the English Language.
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Using alternate quotation marks for 'scare quotes.'
This is an example of direct quoted thought, which is a construct that only occurs in fiction. (Actually, direct quoted putative thought, but that is beside the point.) I do seem to recall seeing cases of single quotes being used to denote direct quoted thought, but I think what is right that the mo...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write more clearly and with shorter sentences?
The sentence that gets away from you is almost always the result of starting in the wrong place. Look at the first clause in your sentence. Everything that follows has to align with that clause, both semantically and syntactically. If it starts off in the wrong place, it is going to require and long ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to figure out if an agent is "on the straight" or "shady"?
By far the best way to find an agent is to go to a writer's conference and pitch to as many of the agents in attendance as you can. This not only pretty much guarantees that the agents are legit (they have been vetted by the conference organizers) it also gets you to the top of their reading pile if ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why are names in fantasy novels often "original"?
Names are part of language. However, they are normally not translated. A Frenchman named Pierre is not referred to as Peter in English, he keeps the French version of his name. We presume that English is not the lingua franca of a fantasy world. Or rather, it would be a very specific kind of fantasy...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why are writers so hung up on "show versus tell"?
Show vs tell is an overblown and misunderstood idea imported into fiction writing from screenwriting. It was originally coined to train novelists to write for the screen. (You can see how novel-like the storytelling was in many early movies. The screen had to struggle to find its own storytelling sty...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Use of past tense in a book about the future
The tense used in a story is relative to the temporal POV (point of view) of the narrator, not to the actual calendar date. The modern novel arises from traditional storytelling, meaning that the default temporal POV is that you are telling a story about things that happened before the story is told....
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is there a revision functionality in LibreOffice Writer?
A program can only show you information that it records as part of its file format (metadata). If LibreOffice records the data on which date each line is written as part of the normal file format, then, in theory, it could show it to you. And if it didn't show it to you in the interface, you could op...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Any suggestions for a new writer?
Let's say that you wanted to become a circus performer. You want your act to be juggling flaming batons blindfolded while riding a unicycle on a tightrope over a tiger cage. You recognize that your first attempt to do any of these things, let alone do them all together, is going to suck. So what do ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why aren't detective stories written in the protagonist's POV?
No one can know the writer's reasons but themselves, but I would point out a couple of things: - If the detective is the star of of the show, you want them in frame. When you see a scene from a character's POV, you see what they see, you don't see them. - The natural way in which you get to know s...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What kinds of skill does writing require?
I think that the hidden question here is, does writing require teachable skills. Of course writing requires skills. You have to be able to make marks on paper with a stick, etc. The real question seems to be, does it require skills you can't just pick up by living life. Do you have to specifically st...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I get inspired to write a story, without any experience beforehand?
If you don't have an idea for a story, you can retell an existing one. There are a few ways to do this. One is to take a song that tells a story (a lot of folk songs and ballads are small stories) and rewrite it as a short story. Obviously this will require you to flesh the story out with additional ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What rights can I claim for a book that compiles selected bible passages?
IANAL but, as an anthologist, you automatically own a copyright on the anthology -- not on the passages themselves, but on the particular collection and arrangement of those passages you have made. The anthology is new and original work even if the pieces in it are not. This is true regardless of whe...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How much science/medical detail is too much?
It's not that it's not acceptable, it's that it is orthogonal. What editors care about is compelling stories in the current taste. There is nothing to say that cannot include scientific detail. That is certainly something that there is a modern taste for. As Emily Gilmore once said, "I don't watch te...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Do you need to end a story with the same perspective you start with?
No. A story stands or falls on the completion of the story arc. POV is simply about camera angles. You choose the camera angle that best frames the part of the story you are telling at the moment. There is no obligation to end on the same camera angle that you opened with. There seems to be an obses...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Do many people even care about "good" grammar in novels?
You have to make a distinction between good grammar and what we might call the grammar of the good. Or perhaps I should say between grammar and the grammar of the good. Grammar is the mechanics of how language works. Every comprehensible sentence is comprehensible because of grammar. Either your lan...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can a novel without any death be taken seriously?
Three words: Pride and Prejudice We could name many others, but P&P is by most reckonings, one of the finest novels ever written, and it is not about death. But it is easy to see why the question might occur to someone. Every story needs stakes. Does it not follow that the higher the stakes the mor...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Where are the best places to hire good editors?
First, you need to decide if you are looking for someone to fix your story, someone to fix your language, or someone to fix your typos. These are very different things requiring very different skills, and probably very different levels of compensation. Second, you need to understand where people adv...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Options for point of view in a story
First of all, don't confuse point of view with person. You can write in the third person and still tell the story from one character's point of view. Second, third person is the normal mode of storytelling. All this stuff about limited vs. omniscient is largely a distraction. It is an analytical sch...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Describing big cities and using slang words while writing
It very much depends on why it is New York or Chicago. Do you want the specific flavor of the city? Do you want locals to find your portrayal convincing? If so, Lauren is right. But if the particular flavor of the city is not important, you may be better off treating it as generic American city. Ther...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Generally would an onomatopoeia come before or after the source action is implied
First, that is not an onomatopoeia. A slap does not sound like the word slap. Second, this technique is ineffective either way. You can't turn up the volume in prose using caps and asterisks. Nor can you do sound effects. This is the page, not the screen. All words are read as the same speed and vol...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Turning normal phrases into gerund phrases: What's the effect in the reader?
While Lauren is correct about the grammatical difference, the actual impact on the reader is virtually nil. It isn't at this level that texts have impact on readers. The levels on which text chiefly impact readers are images and stories. Worrying about the difference between two grammatical structure...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Succinctly indicate that an emotional hug is not sexual
As always in literature, it is all about the setup. In literature as in life, we interpret actions as our previous experience has led us to interpret them. If you want a reader to react to something in a particular way, you set up their expectations such that when the event occurs, they naturally int...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Transfer from first person to third person
Third person is not just a grammatical category, it is the whole angle of attack on the subject matter. Most particularly, the third person brings the protagonist into the frame (assuming, of course, that your narrator is your protagonist, which is usually the case when people start off in first pers...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to develop a more vivid and descriptive writing style
The problem with description is that description is the wrong word for it. The right word is evocation. You are looking to evoke a response in the reader which brings a sense of place flooding into their minds. You can't build it for them; you don't have the materials. You have to pull it out out of ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How Can I Reliably Find Well Written Novels?
Probably the best filter of all is age. Any book that is still around 50 years after is was written is probably around because it is well written. Recent books get liked for all sorts of reasons other than being well written. They express a popular political or social prejudice. They ride on the coat...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do publishers handle bilingual novels?
When you sell a novel to a publisher, you sell them specific right to publish in certain languages and certain countries. Whatever rights you don't sell, you retain and can sell to someone else. Usually publishers want to buy all rights, and usually writers want to sell only limited rights, since the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: First Person when the PoV is not the Protagonist?
I believe you are incorrect. If anything, writing in the first person distances you from the character. First, consider the characters from fiction that you feel like you know well. Harry Potter? Oliver Twist? Frodo Baggins? All described in third person. Second, consider the actual effect of first...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Showing a Brief Hesitation
If you have so many pauses that you feel the need to vary how you describe them, chances are that the reason it feels repetitive is that you are reaching for the same device too many times, not that you are always describing it the same way. The reason could be that you have fallen into the trap of ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How best to handle revealing a main character's name midway through a long story in close-third person?
In fiction (which takes place in a universe much neater than our own), a change of name almost always indicates a change of status. Thus when Strider becomes Aragorn his status changes from vagabond to king. How a character responds to the change of name, therefore, is a signal of how they respond to...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Footnotes when using in-text citation style
The fallacy here is the idea that there are general rules at all. There are no general rules about what is allowed in an academic paper, or any other kind of writing. There are specific style guides -- some public, some specific to a particular institution or publication -- and their rules cover the ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Capitalization after interrupted dialogue
It has nothing to do with who spoke or who interrupted. It only has to do with what is a sentence. Speech tags are part of the same sentence as the dialog the report. Separate actions occurring after the speech are separate sentences. Only the last of your examples is a speech tag, though an awkward ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can you use third person limited in a story that begins before the MC is born?
Third person omniscient and third person limited are analytical categories. They are terms you use if you want to dissect the use of POV in a piece. Don't take them for rules about what you have to do, and don't think you have to even be able to describe what you end up doing in those terms. The fact...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Can we use MadCap Flare with semantic markup?
I'm pretty sure that the answer at the technical level is no. But this is really a question that needs to be addressed another level up. The thing about structured writing is that it factors out certain aspects of the final publication, which then have to be factored back in by algorithms when it co...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I stop my writing sounding like a bad imitation of whatever author I've just been reading?
To write fluently, you have to have a ready of flow of language at your command, and that will come from all you have heard and read. If you binge read one author, their language will invariable be what is flowing in your head for a while. The key to developing your own tone is not isolation from in...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Citing a footnote
Generally speaking, citations refer to the physical page on which the cited content appears. They do not narrow it down to a logical part of the document that appears on that page. Cite the page on which the citation in question occurs. I have never heard of any style guide that does anything other t...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do you write 2 or more characters saying almost the same thing in unison
You don't. That is a TV thing. The page is not the screen. How you tell a story in each medium is an artifice. You are never reproducing all the elements of real conversation, all the halts and tics and repetitions, and all the banalities of everyday speech would be catastrophically boring on the pa...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are some ways of adding deeper meanings to writing?
Oh Dear, no. That is not how it works. You should always make your work as clear to the reader as you possibly can. If your use a symbol or a metaphor, it should be to make your meaning clearer, not more obscure. Yes, I know that in school your English teacher told you that there were deeper meaning...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to create feeling with setting
If we start with the premise that character and feeling are supposed to be at the heart of a story, it follows that the description of setting is not separate, but it related to character and feeling. Man people have a profound love of place that deeply affects their character and motivations. Descr...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Script-style conversations in a book
You certainly can. You can do anything that works. Melville does something very like this at one point in Moby Dick, so there is good precedent for it. The thing is, why are you doing it? Why break convention? Any time you break convention, you call attention to what you are doing. When you follow c...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to present common foreign words in fiction?
Well, whatever you do, don't convolute the the sentences around those words. Voices don't greet. People greet. `"Konnichiwa!" greeted a voice.` is grating and unnatural. There are at least four things you can do that will not sound artificial and grating: 1. Just use the word. People can deduce the...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to excite readers
Excite is the wrong thing to focus on. The real key to successful storytelling is to engage the reader. There are no car chases or gun fights in Pride and Prejudice. It is a story of a courtship, decorously told. And yet is is probably the single most durable and popular novel ever written. There is...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I prevent a structure-breaking character from being seen as a fourth-wall-breaking joke?
This sounds like you are describing a literary device known as Deus Ex Machina (The God in the Machine). It is a device use to get an author out of a plot hole for which there is no satisfactory resolution. The term originates from the Greek theatre in which plays would sometimes be resolved by a god...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Ethics of incorporating a supplier's technical documentation into one's own documentation?
This is not an ethical question. It is a legal question. Ethics deals with professional conduct over and above what is required by law. Copyright is a matter of law, not ethics. In this particular case, however, it is also a matter of contracts. You should be negotiating a licence to use their conte...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Writing a fiction in first and third person. is that acceptable?
Anything is acceptable if you make it work. For an example of a book that makes this work (brilliantly) see Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. But any change in narrative style calls attention to itself and therefore has to be handled with care and skill. It may be more acceptable to the read...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: My book doesn't seem to fall into a clear genre
Genres are literary ghettos. They are places where people with particular and highly specific tastes (cosy mysteries, sword and sorcery, horse stories) can be assure that they get what they paid for and just what they paid for. Not all fiction belongs in these ghettos. Much of it serves an audience w...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: using double negatives and sentence structure
English is not a programming language and negatives are not minus signs. They do not automatically cancel each other out. Double negatives are idioms and, depending on context, the second negative may cancel, weaken, or strengthen the first. `not infrequently` is a case where the second negative wea...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Restrictions On Producing A Playscript
Copyright law covers the creation of derivative works. This is important to authors. For instance, if someone wants to make a movie of a novel, they have to pay the author for a license to create a derivative work. So, you need permission from the copyright holder to create a play based on a book. A...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: As a writer, should I be upset because I couldn't think of an idea?
Fiction is based on observation, not invention. The same stories are told over and over again because the same stories are lived over and over again. If new writers repeat the stories of old writers it is not because they copied them from the old writers, but because both the old writer and the new o...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Typo correction when citing an external source
The usual convention is to quote the source as is but add "(sic)" after the incorrect word to indicate that the error is in the source and is not a transcription error. > christians (sic)
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Best Practices for Getting a Sense of Character
I think it is important to remember that fiction is not primarily a matter or invention but of observation. You are not creating new stories or new characters, you are discovering story and character in nature and sharing them through storytelling. If you discover character in nature, then your read...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Publishing images of paintings
Unless the copyright protection period has expired, those works are copyright and if you use them without permission, you could be sued. Copyrights are property and are part of the estate of a deceased person. The copyright holders are the heirs. Any publisher you approach is going to insist on your ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Appropriate use of outdated vocabulary and terms?
If you are after verity, you have far more to worry about than vocabulary. In the nineteenth century the whole style of writing was different. Paragraphs and sentences were much longer than we typically use today and the overall tone was far more formal. Language usage was far more of a marker of cla...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How to write a character misinterpreting Four Candles as Fork Handles
The fork handles sketch was one of the most brilliant things The Two Ronnies ever did. And it depends for its success not simply on homophones, but on the manipulation of point of view. You can't write down a homophone (by definition, they are things that sound alike but are not written alike). But y...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Is NaNoWriMo necessarily a good thing?
Not necessarily, no. In fact, probably not. NaNoWriMo puts an emphasis on words, and on getting words down on paper. But words are merely a vehicle. What we call "writing" is actually about storytelling, not grammar and vocabulary. The relationship between words and story seems to be different for di...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Starting In The Middle And Flashing Back
Tension within a story does not depend on what the reader knows or does not know. It depends on how much peril the character feels and how much we sympathize with their feelings. Consider the movie Apollo 13. We know exactly what happens because it is based on a real incident. Yet we feel tremendous...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Avoiding -ly Words
Saying that you should use adverbs sparingly is silly. You should use adverbs, and every other part of speech, appropriately. If adverbs are less frequently appropriate that other parts of speech, then they will occur less frequently in good prose as a consequence. But this will not happen because of...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How do I write a story within a story?
The best answer to questions of this kind is to read brilliant examples of the technique from great writers. In this case the preeminent example is probably Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (the book on which Apocalypse Now was based). Technically, the method here is storytelling (outloud to a group...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: What are "good" writing habits?
There is a huge market for simple rules like this. There is a huge appetite for rules and formulas to make writing simple and easy. Whenever there is a huge market for anything, someone steps forward to supply that market, regardless of whether there is any merit to the product they are selling. The...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Describing a Character Traveling: Too much narrative?
For an example of just this being done brilliantly, read Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman. A journey is a rite of passage, a gate between worlds. Handled correctly is it a fantastic way to open a novel. Note that Harper Lee makes it very clear that the journey with which the books opens is a significan...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Description of "Unimportant" Details
The purpose of fiction is to give pleasure. The question, therefore, is not whether a detail is important but whether it gives pleasure. Different types and levels of detail will give different kinds of pleasure in different kinds of works. The details of military technology in Tom Clancey, the detai...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: I'm using the same formula for stakes over and over - is this a problem?
What strikes me about your examples is that the goals are quite abstract. This may be the peril of taking such an analytical approach to developing a story (there are, of course, perils in every approach). Stories are very concrete things. Some very particular person wants some very particular things...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Could I have a writing phobia?
Honestly, if you have not yet the read the writer who makes you say, oh no, I will never ever be able to be that good, you are not ready to start writing. Despair has to be the starting point, because only despair at imitation will break you out of the beginner's habit of pastiche and hesitation and ...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: How can I respond to praise without appearing egotistical?
If someone asks you a writing question, don't answer with reference to your own work. Answer with reference to the works of the greatest writers you have read. This allows you to address the question while tacitly acknowledging that there are better examples out there than your own work. It also show...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does it matter which literary agents one contacts first?
I would advise attending a writer's conference in your genre and booking some pitch sessions with agents. This lets you try out your pitch verbally and does not preclude you approaching the same agent by mail later. And if the agent ask you to submit a sample, then you are a requested submission, rat...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Does a reader care about how realistic a book is?
Some people will only read books if they are gritty and realistic. Some people will only read books if they are about horses. Some people will only read books if they are about dragons. No book is written for the whole world. Every book is written for a specific audience or audiences with specific ta...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Why do Popular Fantasy Novels of Today Feature Teenagers?
I think Lauren's suggested reformulation may be a better way to express the phenomena. YA is a very popular genre today, and much of YA seems to be in the fantasy/sci fi realm. So there is a lot of sci fi/fantasy with adolescent characters out there. I can see two factors that help explain this. Fir...
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over 3 years ago
Answer A: Am I copying an idea too closely?
We are in the business of storytelling, and it is the telling, not the story, that sets us apart. Storytellers tell the same basic stories over and over and over again. Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Friends go on quest for McGuffin. Friends have setbacks. Friends get McGuffin. T...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: In narrative essays, should I make all the paragraphs narrative?
So if you were asked to build a wooden house, would you take that to mean that you could not use glass for the windows of fiberglass for the shingles or nails to fasten all the pieces together? We say a house is a wooden house because it is structurally wooden, not because it contains nothing but wo...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How do I contrast the thought processes of different characters in one scene?
The thing about writing is that everything has to be accomplished with a single stream of words. A narrative can only ever be doing one thing at a time, in stark contrast to movies, where many things can be going on on screen simultaneously. On the screen you can create an 18th century ballroom or a ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Advice on writing horror?
That's a pretty broad question, but they key thing about horror, or any other strong emotion, it that it is all in the build up. What creates the tension in a horror movie, for instance, is not the thing that goes boo, but the quiet period where we keep waiting and waiting and waiting for the thing t...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How does one evaluate his own writing ability?
You evaluate yourself as a professional writer by submitting writing to respected publications and seeing if they offer you money for it. The beauty of writing is that there is no other criteria, no other qualification you need to possess, no licence you need to obtain. If it is good enough, it will ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How can I write a character whom I have no knowledge of?
No one is a rival. Lots of people have a rival. The distinction is crucial. Your protagonist's rival does not think of himself as a rival, and neither should you. He thinks of himself as having a rival. That is how you should write him. This is not to say that there are not characters in fiction tha...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Dialogue and action question
You need to think about where the reader's attention is supposed to be. You are painting a picture with words, asking the reader to build a picture in their head based solely on the words on the page. If your text hops about all over the place that gets to be much more difficult to do. If you want t...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Can I switch from past tense to present tense in an epilogue?
Switching to present tense in the epilogue would suggest that the story is in a frame. That is, the story is a narration in the present of events that took place in the past. The narrator is not relating in real time, but is looking back over the entire story and relating it in hindsight. This is a ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: In multiple narratives, does time have to be in sync?
Stories are not organized according to time sequence, they are organized according to narrative arc. A narrative arc is built on rising tension, not the passage of time. Narrative arc can often be asynchronous. Any story with a flashback in it has an asynchronous narrative arc. A multi narrative sto...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Which Bullet Points to Use First Under Different List Nesting Styles
Logically, no. The headings delineate the hierarchy of the document. Bullets delineate the structure of lists, not matter where they appear in the document hierarchy. If your style is to indent sections based on the document hierarchy, this is going to result in lists occurring at different indentati...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Bibliography/Citation when writing a book
I think your real question here is not about the format of a bibliography but about the requirements for citation in various kinds of work. Some fields have very specific requirements both for what you are supposed to cite and for how you are supposed to cite it. These are laid out in style guides a...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Writing guides for writing like the Oxbridge tradition?
By purest serendipity I came across a reference to a book on writing in the classic style just yesterday. http://classicprose.com/. I have not read it myself, but it was recommended by an acquaintance whose judgement I respect. It might be what you are looking for.
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: When to evaluate whether your book will sell?
You can't. Major publishers publish thousands of books a year that don't sell. Movie studios release hundreds of movies that no one watches. TV Networks create new shows every season that get cancelled after a few episodes because no one watches. We don't know how to evaluate if a book will sell or n...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Program for Tracking Scene Information
I assume that you have googled for outliners and have rejected all of the many version available out there. So here are a couple of thoughts on alternatives. 1. Trello, or something similar. Trello is actually a process management tool, but it basically consists of boards to which you can add lists,...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Reported speech in a dialogue
Grammatical formalisms (as opposed to fundamental grammar) do not apply in dialog. Dialog is a report of what someone actually said. In fiction, what characters actually say and how they say it is part of their characterization. What matters is, does this speech reflect who the character is. If you a...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How can I prevent the ends of my chapters from feeling forced?
It is hard to be sure from such small samples, but I would guess that the problem is not really abruptness. All chapter endings are in some sense abrupt. The action simply stops. The problem is, where should it stop. Every chapter should have a dramatic arc. It should stop at the end of that arc. A ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Best Resources for Improving your craft?
Once you get past the ra ra enthusiasm of the forums, you need genuine criticism, both of your own work and of literature and the writing process in general. That is hard to find online, in part because of the sheer volume of ra ra out there, and also because there is less of an outlet for mature cri...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Investing in the 'wrong' character, is it a problem with the story?
Sci Fi and Fantasy are perhaps the genres least concerned with character. Worldbuilding (so called) is often the central obsession of authors in those genres. (Historical can just the same sometimes, with many authors, and readers, obsessed about getting the buttons right.) Characters in these genre...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Stripping the Main Character's Plot Armour?
The problem with plot armor is not false safety, but false peril. The central peril of a story is always moral, not physical. It is about what a character wants and what they are willing to do to get it. Physical danger may test the character's resolve or complicate their plans, but the real heart o...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Where can I find a market for "offbeat" short stories about God's relationship with us?
Novels are about people. This is true for Christian novelists such as Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Walker Percy, or Flannery O'Connor, just as much as it is true for novelists of no faith. When a novel treats the relationship between God and a character, they do it from the point of view of the chara...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Splicing/Mixing Scenes
A movie can establish a scene very quickly based on visuals. Once a scene has been established visually, you can cut back and forth between scenes very quickly because the viewer instantly recognizes the key visual elements. A novel builds up a scene one word at a time. When you change scenes you ha...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: There's an actor with my lead character's name - how big a problem is this going to be?
There are names and there are brands. Lots of people have the same name and it is not reasonable to expect that no fictional character to have a name that no one else does. Brands, on the other hand, enjoy a degree of uniqueness protection that ordinary names do not. Some actor's names are not only ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Should I follow my instinct or public demand when writing a story?
Let's come at this from a different angle. There is a difference between the ending the reader wants and the ending that they find satisfying. An happy ending can be emotionally empty. A sad ending can be emotionally fulfilling. (There is a reason, a profound reason, why we listen to sad songs. They ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: What Can I Do to Familiarize Myself with my Characters?
I would suggest starting with three very basic questions: 1. What does he want. 2. Why does he want it? 3. Why can't he get it? If you can't give clear and consistent answers to those questions, you don't have a character yet. In a plot-driven story, it is perhaps easy to lose the handle on these...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Making People Unsure which Characters will Survive
It does not matter if the reader expects them to die or not, it matters if they care whether they die or not. Suspense is not mathematical in nature, it is moral. It is not about how likely an event is, but how much you care about it. Every character should have an arc. That is, they should want som...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How can I Avoid Being Frightened by the Horror Story I am Writing?
Human life is ultimately terrifying. We are all going to die, and the thought of our own extinction horrifies us. But it is not just the fact of death, but also the fact that death (if it is not premature) is accompanied by a systematic loss of our abilities and of our friends. Man is uniquely cursed...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How do you avoid unnatural sounding language?
While we may be able to break down a successful long sentence analytically, I'm not sure that this is going to help you write them fluently. Language is about rhythm and balance and how the reader's focus is directed. I think that has to come from training your ear. The best way to train your ear is...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Diagram wider than text width
It depends on the book design. Generally speaking, the width of a text column is kept within certain bounds in order to make the text scannable. A column of text will become much more difficult to read if the text gets wider than the reader can comfortably scan. But many books choose a wider page wid...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How do I make sure my audience is aware of subplots?
You need to be very conscious of the difference between history and story. If you have multiple sub plots that are not obvious, there is a good chance that they are more history than story. History is a bunch of stuff that happens. History consists of many things happening at the same time in indepe...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Runbook template example?
In the end, every technical document should contain whatever information the users need to get their jobs done. This takes precedence over any template or convention. To the extent that there are standard templates for a technical document it is because it is often difficult to tell what information...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Editing an Anthology or Compilation
I am reasonably sure that you need to begin by selling the concept to a publisher, and once you do sell it, I am reasonably sure that the publisher is going to answer all of these question for you. But I also reasonably sure that no traditional publisher is going to even look at you as an anthology ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Should I follow my instinct or public demand when writing a story?
I think this is a false dichotomy. To be sure, there are many reasons to write. You may be writing only for your own amusement or catharsis, in which case merely getting your thoughts down on paper will suffice and you will have no need to consider anybody else. And to be sure, you can write purely...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Chapters - Writing Order
You may or may not be able to pull this off, but this is the danger you face: You may end up writing scenes that you fall in love with as scenes but which do not fit the arc of your story. Robert McKee describes this as one of the great pitfalls of story, and of revision. The first draft of a script...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Will what worked 'back then' work today? (Novels)
The vast majority of the fiction produced in any age is of the type that would generally be called pulp or potboiler. It is simple non-challenging stuff meant to occupy a vacant hour for an reader who is a mood for something light and frothy. Generally pulp does not have much of a shelf life, though...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Section of a book that explains things
You are telling a story, not writing a manual. Everything goes in the story. The order in which it occurs in the story is the order in which it matters to the story. There are two ways to introduce background material into a story. You can tell the reader yourself as narrator, or you can have one ch...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: How to replace "and/or" in sentences with multiple terms?
From a purely stylistic point of view: "any combination of: apples, oranges, pears" But you say this is for a legal document and lawyers may construe ambiguity where ordinary reasonable people would not, so if your question is a "will it hold up in court" kind of question, this is the wrong place to...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: Does it make sense to set a sword & sorcery fantasy in a post-apocalyptic world on Earth?
You can set a story anywhere. The challenge is not to make it consistent with our world but to make it self-consistent within itself. And I think this is a universal literary problem (and therefore I don't think this question belongs on worldbuilding). All stories take place in what Tolkien called a ...
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almost 4 years ago
Answer A: A written action scene, interrupted?
I think this very much depends on the narrative tone and style that have been used up to this point. If this is the first time you have done such a digression in what has otherwise been a straightforward narrative, the result is