Writing Advice

So I thought it would be a good idea to make a topic like this. stuck_out_tongue

This is basically a place where we can all exchange pieces of writing advice and tips to other users so that we can all become better writers, etc. You could even ask for advice with your own stories.

To start us off, I'll use the "show don't tell" rule of writing. A lot of times I see people just explaining things in big paragraphs without actually describing anything. This may come in the form of just using the wrong words in a sentence. For example:
"He walked into the room" doesn't tell us anything about the character, whereas "He strode into the room" implies that the character is confident, a pretty important character trait. Just the use of one word over the other can make a big difference in the telling of a story.

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I think this is a good idea! So I'll write down another piece of advice:

If you start 'In media res' (begin when something is already happening.) You first might want to tell a little bit about your characters, not too much, just a little bit. Of course if you use famous or well-known characters, this doesn't imply. But I've seen a lot of stories, where we start 'In media res' and the characters weren't explained it was sometimes hard to follow. Here's an example:

'Bob walked down the street when he was suddenly pulled into a dark alley.'

And now if you present the character first:

'Bob, a man of about, 45 years old, who had a very boring job, walked down the street when he was suddenly pulled into a dark alley.

Now you can interpretate what the main character can think of the situation.

Hope this helps ya'll!

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One of the most important things to pay attention to is to give each character a distinct "voice"--a manner of speaking/thinking that's unique. It's a big help if you have trouble making interesting characters (like I used to (and possibly still do). stuck_out_tongue ) For example, older and smarter characters might speak more formally than a random lowlife who speaks very casually or with a specific dialect.

Make sure you have a clear and exciting 'dramatic question'--
"Will Bob survive the alien attack?'
"Can Sue eat enough Pringles to win the world championship?"
Or to use actual examples,
"Will Odysseus make it home from Troy?"
"Will Hamlet avenge his father?"
"Will the Ring be destroyed?"
Having a good dramatic question will get people interested in your story even if it mostly sucks otherwise. Look at Twilight--the dramatic question of "will they get together" (or whatever it actually is) is enough to get people (or at least teenage girls) to overlook terrible characters, cliches, political correctness, and so on.

Furthermore, if you're writing a short story, limit yourself to one (or maybe two) dramatic question(s). Otherwise, it will be a jumbled mess that doesn't focus on any one question enough to engage the reader. Even in a longer story, it's good not to let yourself get carried away by trying to do too many things at once.

You also want to have interesting themes. If your theme is "love conquers all" or "good will triumph over evil," you should probably revise your story to at least include a secondary theme that's more original. Also, the rule about not trying to do too many things at once applies here, too--if you write a short story with themes about justice, mercy, brotherhood, and pondering the basis of morality, you might want to remove one or two; you won't have enough room to support them all unless you write something longer.

Lastly, use interesting descriptions. Don't just pour on adjectives and call it a day. "He held the soft, green, rectangular paper in his hand" is a terrible sentence. Focus on how your characters respond to an object, or try using metaphors and similes: "He held the paper in his hand. Its smoothness recalled the touch of his lost love; its green hue reminded him of the alimony he still hadn't payed."

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Don't keep the reader in the dark about what genre your story is. Within the first few paragraphs they should know if it's sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc. and the setting. For example, "He strolled the streets of London," seems to denote that the story is set in modern times. "He strolled the streets of 18th century London," however, is a much better sentence. I can tell the setting of the story withing the first sentence. On to the next sentence. "His thoughts were on recent events," isn't optimal. However, "His thoughts were on the recent events across the sea in the colonies," can tell me that the story is most likely going to be historical fiction about the effects of the American Revolution on a patriotic (or perhaps rebellious?) Londoner. I try to use this in everything I write. Also, if you want better examples of this by a master writer, I suggest Orson Scott Card's works on how to write Fantasy and Sci-Fi, they are exemplary, even if you aren't planning on writing a Fantasy or Sci-Fi.

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Personally, what I get wrapped up in is names. They're the face of a character, and need to be chosen well.

Not only do they need to not be generic and dorky sounding (see: Joe, Bob, Jill, Sally) but they also cannot be outlandish and completely out of character. If you have a guy named Zorblog, you know he's not from around Earth. However, Jason is obviously a guy from Earth, and chances are he's white too.
Names reveal a lot about a character (I could get into old superstitions about real names and alchemy and stuff, but that'll get too far off topic) and they need to be used well.

After finding a good name that doesn't make people want to throw you out of a window, what about surnames, and middle names?
Well, you really want it to flow well, and if you can throw a hidden meaning in there, then by all means do it. But mainly, you want your last and middle names to flow well with your first name. If you have Greg, you don't want his name to be McGee. It doesn't flow well. However, Jason Liam flows really well. The same goes with middle names.
Generally with name flow you want to keep them nice and short, a combination of over 8 syllables is probably too much, unless you're a wizard of some kind. (Note, this applies to first and surnames only, if you have middle names you can easily reach over 8)
With middle names, as long as it sounds good, and doesn't come out to an embarrassing acronym or initialism, you really can't go too wrong.

HOWEVER
DO NOT BECOME STAN LEE.
What I mean by this, is do not skip by the whole flow thing by naming your character something like Peter Parker, Reed Richards, J. Jonah Jameson, etc. etc.
This makes your character seem silly most times, and it is really hard to make yourself a good name through alliteration or rhyming.

All of this will help make your name memorable and, hopefully, a good facade for your character. (Facade as in an exterior decoration on a building, not deception. Unless you love hiding meaning in your names, in which case, by all means.)

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Two things about writing from me.

Remember to reread your story. This will help you find stuff that doesn't make sense, misspelled words, and other stuff.

Also, I can't stress this enough, USE QUOTATIONS. This is the thing that gets on my nerves a lot. You never know if a character is talking or not. If you don't know when the characters are talking, it's gonna get confusing.

You'd be surprised how much this helps a story

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I read a book on writing, and it said the most important part of writing is reading. Reading can give you ideas for new stories and can teach you different writing techniques.

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Sometimes the best way to write a story is to sit down spontaniously and start writing something. I did that and I've nearly written 20 pages. Also, don't try to rush writing the book/literature, sometimes the best way to craft a story is to write some, give it a rest and come back to it and see what way you can make it go. If you write a book series, like I am doing, always explain the characters in the first book you write and if you write a prequel, the explaining of characters will not be as much of a neccessity.

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These are all really good pieces of advice! Another thing I remembered is to expand your vocabulary and avoid using the same word or phrase within a short space. So when describing a character doing something don't always use "he", because then it gets very repetitive ("he did this", "he did that", etc.). Actually naming the character or even just putting two of the actions together can make the whole thing flow a lot better.

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Here's one nifty tip: read.

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I feel like I will be good at this as I learned grammar from the Mennonites stuck_out_tongue

I came here expecting some obvious stuff, I left with some legitimate advice that I hadn't thought of before. So thanks everyone. smile

I guess if you're writing essays I could give advice. Otherwise, I don't think I could help much. I'm not the best creative writer...

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Well this is the "Writing Advice" topic, so all kinds of writing advice goes. smiley

Essay writing advice is pretty important as well, particularly for those of us with exams just on the horizon.

Aight

Here's Slime's Advice for Essay Writing:

1) Keep track of your sources. If you use anything from the internet in your paper, ALWAYS keep track of where you found it. Even if your teacher doesn't require an ending citation, it's always good to have your sources on hand if they ask.

2) In general, be careful about where you find your sources. Some teachers won't care where you get your information, but its always good to be thorough. As a general rule, avoid using Wikipedia as a straight source. Look for .gov or .org sites, or if you are really motivated, look through academic databases.

that's all ive got for now

-Source: Being an English Tutor at my school

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Most of my advice has already been said. but some of this is REALLY good! thanks! I am writing a story for my MOCs and this will help a lot! Thanks!

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So I shouldn't use wikipedia? You sound like all of my teachers for the past nine years

The thing about Wikipedia is that is often cites its own sources. When writing for a large project I had to do in school I was often told to actually check the sources Wikipedia uses directly. I guess the main point is, as Slime said, just be careful about where you obtain your sources.

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Says the guy who wrote "How Rise Stole Christmas." XD

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hushedI literally just stole from Dr Suess

That's not creative

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Sure it is. You changed around words to make it about Rise and other Board members, while maintaining the rhyme scheme and keeping the story coherent. That's pretty darn creative in my book. smile

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