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End of Year News (December 2017)

Thu Dec 28, 2017 3:57 am by Adrian

(It's been one year since I made a news thread, oops)

Merry Christmas/Festivus/whatever holiday you do or do not celebrate!

2017 was a pretty busy year IRL for most of us - according to forum statistics, our busiest month was in June with 1671 total posts, meaning our post rate has been a little …

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Forum Bug

Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:18 am by Adrian

Hi all,

We're aware of a peculiar forum glitch that's causing some subforums to be locked.

Due to the lateness at this time, it might be a while before the glitch can be remedied, because despite my best efforts and as far as I can tell, everything seems to be working fine admin-side. It may have …

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Discord News/Update Test

Thu Dec 08, 2016 1:35 am by Adrian

Just a news, update test. Trying to get this thing to work.

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Writing's Guide to Writing

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Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by WritingBookworm on Sun Mar 23, 2014 5:30 pm

Writing's Guide to Writing


Hello, WritingBookworm/writingnecromancer/Writing here. Today I am presenting a guide on how to build a successful story. Right now, though, we're going to focus on the 'story' aspect. Success comes later.

First, ask yourself this--what MAKES a story? What do you have to have?

Now, shall we find out the answer?

I. PIVOTAL ELEMENTS

 1. Character

The character is the most important aspect in a story, so it's only fair that we cover that first. There cannot be a plot without a character to act it out, and what's the point of a setting if there's no one to be in it?

First, let's start by going over making a character. What questions do you first ask yourself for a character? Probably among the lines of:

•Male or female?

When it comes to gender, writers are usually comfortable with writing what they know. As there are more female writers than male, female main characters are more prevelant than male main characters among books, as with the RPG section. And that's perfectly okay. But do try taking a risk and writing about the opposite gender. You'll probably find that the character won't be hard to write--the character might even come more naturally. Because in the end, the gender they happen to be does not completely define their character.

•Name?

Ah, names. Very important. There are cool-sounding names and weak-sounding names. Do be careful with cool-sounding names, though. Oftentimes they sound so exotic that it makes you stop reading for a second and go, "Wait, what?"
For example, the infamous name 'Shadow' in the RPG section. Holy cow, I've seen so many Shadows there. It's probably in an effort to make the character look threatening, but to me, it doesn't. To me, it actually makes you look stupid. Because who on Earth would name their child Shadow?
But I'm not saying to completely avoid it. It can break a character, but sometimes exotic names, if simple enough, can make a character interesting. In a book I read, one of the main characters is a criminal named Day, and the name works pretty well for the character.

•Age?

Age is also important. They're frequently teenagers now.

•What does he/she look like?

Appearances. It's one of the first things you envision about a character. For this, make sure you've got some variety. Not everyone, after all, is going to be extremely beautiful, and chances are that readers aren't just gonna want to read about attractive characters. It's perfectly okay to have attractive characters, because face it, there are indeed some pretty hot people out there in the world. Just. . . Don't make EVERYONE hot. That's what I'm trying to say.
Also, when it comes to appearances, keep the setting into consideration. There aren't many African Americans where I live, so if you were to set it there, it'd make sense to make lots of characters Cacuasian. But in places like New York City? Not so much. And really hot, burning desert settings, there shouldn't be a lot of Cacuasian people.
Get the gist of what I'm saying? Good. Let's move on.

•Personality

Now this is the main thing that makes or breaks a character. It can make a character completely three-dimensional or hopelessly flat.
How do you avoid a flat character? It's simple--avoid making them stereotypical. There are places where you need stereotypes, and it can be a handsome tool for minor characters. But if your main character is stereotypical, than you'll be having some problems.
For example, many female characters can be put into one of two stereotypes--the timid, weak-willed girl who clings onto a hot boyfriend (I'm not saying Bella, but, Bella) or the extremely strong, don't-take-no-for-an-answer, chloric and antisocial girl.
Stereotypes seem to stem from a good-intentioned desire to give characters a weakness. Because characters do need to have weaknesses. Thus the 'attractive but weak' and the 'strong but coldhearted' characters are born.
So how do you give a character weakness without making them extremely stereotypical? That's up to you. But to help you along, here's an example. Let's take a football player. He's physically strong and fairly intelligent. He frequently makes it onto the honor roll. He's even got a good sense of humor. BUT he's extremely awkward. He doesn't know how to interact with people, so he doesn't have too many friends. He's not the most loyal person on the planet simply because he doesn't know HOW to be loyal. He also has a severe case of asthma, so sometimes it's hard to play his games.
In other words, good personalities seem to be filled with contradictions, and the strengths and weaknesses of people are all on different levels--like my skill with computers isn't nearly as good as my writing ability.
But personalities of your characters aren't up to me. They're almost not even up to you. They're up to your characters. Trust me, once you put them down on paper, they WILL have a mind of their own. They get to dictate the personality. And if it's a 'strong but antisocial' or another stereotypical type of personality, continue going for it. They may surprise you by the level of depth they have. But if you're halfway into the book and the personality STILL seems shallow and stereotypical, then you may have some rethinking to do. Or throw stuff at them that really gets the character out of his/her comfort zone. That usually seems to work. Razz
Next, the main character (or one of the major characters--perhaps the main character isn't intended to be likable at the beginning. That's perfectly fine) needs to be likable. Because if your readers don't like any of the characters, they won't like reading the story itself. So they'll stop.
On antagonists--antagonists don't necessarily have to be 'evil'. They're simply someone, or something, that gets in the way of the protagonist's goals. The key to making a good antagonist is this--if the story was told in their point of view, then they'd be the protagonist and the protagonist would be the antagonist. A good example of this that I can think of is the movie Now You See Me. One of the reasons why I like that movie so much is because there's not much of a clear antagonist. The Four Horsemen and the law are simply getting in each other's way.
There's so much more I could cover on characters, but I'll have to stop here. My final piece of advice in this section is this--the character must have changed by the end of the story. Otherwise, what was the point of the journey?

2. Plot

This is almost as important as the character itself. Because if there isn't a problem, there's not going to be a story to tell.
The main element to the plot is the goal. The main character must be trying to get something, to retrieve something, or save something. And of course, your character must be changed by the end of the story.
Now, often when I talk to people about writing, they say they want to start but they don't have a plot. Usually this statement is followed by two questions of mine:
Does your character want something?
Is something getting in the way of getting it?
If the answers are yes, then congratulations. You have a plot.
Now, of course, obstacles should be set up throughout the story, to keep both the reader and the characters on their toes. And many twists and turns, whether they may be something that went wrong or a life-altering revelation, spur your audience to keep reading.
And then all too often there's the romance. Often nowadays it's seen as a subplot. This subplot can either be engaging and a nice tool for character development, or it can completely take over a story and ultimately ruin characters (which, trust me, I've seen a lot of in published works). It can be fun to write, but make sure that you write it well. Also--many people will and do disagree with me on this one, so this is just my own opinion--I believe romance honestly does not work best as a main plot or even subplot. I tend to find that it actually works best as a tetriary plot, and that's becoming increasingly more evident in my stories. However, I know that a majority of the female population WILL disagree with me, and that's natural.
So then why do I not promote it to subplot? Because one of the most essential rules to a story is to DO WHAT YOU WANT. Write the story YOU want to tell, and that originality--your essence in the plot--is a focal point in the story. It's true you may need to make small adjustments here or there, depending on your target audience. But for the most part, keep that originality. DON'T conform to anyone save the editor.
Because if you're writing a story you don't want to read, then why the crap are you writing it?

3. Setting

Here we are. The last of the pivotal elements.
Setting is also very important and something you very much need to flesh out. It has to be vivid enough to make your reader actually experience as though they were there. Using many of the senses is a great way to do this.
And of course, it needs to be fleshed out and realistic. If it's a historical setting, then make sure you do all the research you can to make it accurate. If it's a fantasy setting, then have some fun with it. You can get very deep into the settings of different worlds with the right amount of effort. The different foods, cultures, dress, geography, even languages can make a great fantasy setting stand out from the rest. Just take a look at Middle Earth and the Four Nations.
Then there's modern setting, which is perfectly awesome as well. If it's a fantasy taking place in the modern world, then there may even be elements of it that you can tweak to make your setting a touch more unique. You just gotta look for them.
And I don't think I can finish this topic without mentioning dystopian societies. It's a rising trend nowadays. There are several things you can play around with to make a nice dystopia, particularly geography, culture and government. And explain WHY it became this way, and WHY they have the aspects of the world that they do. I've seen many critiques of dystopian books stating that the said book could have had more potential if the author stated why it became like this.
Setting, again, if vivid enough, can really help bring someone into a story, which makes it very important. Use it well.

Okay, now that we have the three main aspects out of the way, let's move on to some writing stuff.

II. WRITING ELEMENTS

1. Voice

This is the thing that is unique to you and only you. Everyone has a different voice. Harness that. It gives your story flair. Certain language and useage of writing devices, other stuff like that all contribute to this. Don't lose your voice, because that's one of the only things you've got that no one else can have.

2. Mood

Think about your story. Or another story. What's the plot? What're the characters like? The setting? From these you can draw what your mood is going to be like. If it's overall a more serious and dark story, then it should have a serious and dark mood. If it's funny and lighthearted, then the mood should be funny and lighthearted.
Make your writing and vocabulary reflect those moods. For example, if you want a dark mood for a scene, then describing something as sunshiney or colorful or whatever probably isn't going to raise your chances of achieving your goal. However, describing something as so dark that it could hide a monster in it or something, that probably will.

3. Grammar

Grammar is CRITICAL. If you don't have good grammar, then your readers are going to quit reading within a matter of seconds. Because if a story has spelin liek dis, then I'm going to put it down. Make sure your writing is clear and has good grammar. If you use Microsoft Word or something that has a spellcheck system, make sure you read through it again, because it's not going to catch 'The book was blew', now is it?

4. Description

This is also fairy pivotal. Frankly, this can also make or break a story. 'He walked over there.' 'She read this.' Ahem. Are you KIDDING? Would you seriously want to read a story that consists of THAT? I know I don't. So let's give the sentences a little flair.
'He ambled over to the library and let his face bathe in the warm sunlight.' See? Not only is that much better, but it even gives off some details about his character: mainly that he's relaxed, perhaps a little appreciative of the world around him.
'She was hunched over the worn paperback, her bloodshot eyes skittering over the sentences as though her life depended on it.' This sentence clearly illustrates that the girl is really into the book, and 'bloodshot eyes' could imply that she's lost sleep over this book.
Now, as great as these sentences are, it is, in fact, okay to tell sometimes. Not every sentence can be extremely descriptive and stuff. You also need to make sure you don't describe too much. Because seriously, I was reading a classic and the author was going on and on and ON about a city, and I swear, I wanted to simultaniously fall asleep and hurl the book at a wall. Overdescription will do that to a person. So make sure you don't do that.

5. Emotions

Ah, emotions. If used well, it can make a good novel great. You need to desribe these not only clearly. Think about what would happen if you were placed in the same situation as a character. Then describe these emotions. Make sure these emotions are also realistic. I'll give you another example. I was reading a story online and in one of the first chapters the protagonist recieves word that her entire family is dead. In response she sheds a tear.
One. Tear.
Dude, if I heard that my ENTIRE FAMILY had died, I'd be bawling! That, or I'd be in severe shock and denial. Then I'd bawl. And I'd also be angry and a little confused. So even if your character is as emotionless as heck, he/she will probably feel some sort of grief and express it in some sort of way. This is an entire family we're talking about.
See, this is an appropriate moment to cry. Now, at the same time, I read this book and the protagonist ended up heaving buckets of tears just because someone didn't tell her the full truth about his mom. I know I wouldn't cry at that, and if I made my character do that, they'd probably become unlikeable. So watch yourself.
Also, to make emotions realistic, know the difference between male and female pyschology. A male is far less likely to sit down and talk about problems than a female, and a female is far less likely to be looking for a solution than a male. Women are also more likely to cry than a guy is, obviously. Men are also more likely to try to cover their problems up. That doesn't mean that guys won't cry, because they're human and they do sometimes. That doesn't mean women won't cover up their problems, because they're human and they do sometimes.
So yeah, make sure you've got it down with emotions, but also make sure it's natural.

6. Pacing and Flow

For a scene to be effective, you need to have the right pacing. Like, during an action scene, you need to have a fast pace, and during a more relaxed scene, it'd be better to have a slow pace.
I'll give you some tips to help you with pace. If you want faster pace, cut out detail. You really don't want detail during an action scene, because face it, if a gunman was chasing you, you wouldn't stop to contemplate what shade of red the roses on that rosebush looked nearby, you'd too be busy RUNNING FOR YOUR LIFE. And in a more relaxed setting, if you were looking at some great historical monument, you wouldn't want to move on quickly. You'd want to soak up every last detail of the architecture, how great it looks, how tall it is, how it looks in the sunlight.
Another tip deals with structure. Shorter sentences, paragraphs and chapters will make for a fast pace while longer setences, paragraphs and chapters will make for a slow pace.

7. Dialogue

Dialogue can be surprisingly tricky sometimes.
I've got two equally important points to cover with this. I'm going to start with the tags.
You know what your third grade teacher said about never using 'said'? Take that and throw it out the window. You actually want to use 'said' about 80-90% of the time. Use stuff like 'remarked', 'interrupted', 'yelled', etc., only once in a while.
Why? Because using tags like 'remarked', 'interrupted', 'yelled', etc. acually makes your dialogue weaker. The reader is focusing on the tags rather than how good the dialogue sounds itself. Also be careful with 'ly's'. They're a little better than tags, but use them only when it modifies 'said'.
My second point is on the dialogue itself, and how they can reveal character. Like, a casual person is more likely to say, "Hey, what's up?" whereas a more formal one would prefer to use, "Hello. Has there been anything of interest going on in your life?" or something among the lines of that.
Get what I'm saying? Hopefully you do, because we're not only finished with dialogue, but we're finished with the entire second section.

III. THE MOST IMPORTANT WRITING TIP OF ALL

Seriously, if you don't get anything else from this 3000+ word guide, then get this. I want you to know this more than anything else.
Now, guide, guide, on the forum, what it is the most important writing tip of them all?
It is. . .
Practice.
Really. Practice.
Because you can analyze all the writing you want, read all the guides you want, go to all the writing conventions you want, but you will not become a good writer if you do not practice. So basically, yeah, this guide is worth nothing if you don't go out there and put it to use.
Write, and do your characters good. Smile

This, my friends, are some tips on how to make a story. Now, I can't guarentee successful. Great writing isn't always a bestseller. But at the end of the day, that doesn't matter.
Because frankly, if you have the strength to pull through and cross the finish line with your novel--well, let's just say there's quite a bit of success in that.

Happy writing!


Last edited by WritingBookworm on Sun Mar 23, 2014 5:53 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by Ace on Sun Mar 23, 2014 5:45 pm

First post!

Amazing guide, Writing! I bookmarked it for future use. Bravo; I'm sure anybody will be able to understand and use this guide to improve their writing.

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by Hime on Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:21 pm

Oh my gosh. Phenomenal.

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by WritingBookworm on Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:27 pm

Thanks guys. Very Happy I started this clear back in summer, so the comments mean a fair deal.

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by boyhoy on Sun Mar 23, 2014 6:53 pm

Wow. This was amazing. Reading this guide has given me a newfound inspiration to continue my writing, so thank you for that. I will definitely be using all the tips and advice here in the future. Fantastic job!

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by Sal on Sun Mar 23, 2014 7:03 pm

Thank you for the guide!! This will be very helpful!! (:

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by Adrian on Sun Mar 23, 2014 8:15 pm

The wait was worth it. Thanks, Writing!

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Re: Writing's Guide to Writing

Post by ~Dylan Battle~ on Wed Mar 26, 2014 11:56 am

Thanks, Writing! Now I can finally pull myself together and make this next chapter well-done!

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