Posts tagged fiction
Posts tagged fiction
You should not have a favorite part of your story, as far as writing goes. You can have a favorite part of the plot or favorite character, but if you have a favorite bit of prose, that’s generally not good. Your favorite piece of your own prose probably falls into one of these two categories:
1. The piece of prose is actually bad and you need to cut it, Mr. Purple Barney McGrimacePrune. A lot of people are amazed by their own grandiloquent wordings. English teachers convince them that to make a great story, all they have to do is call a tiger’s fur amber instead of orange. Look over your favorite bit of prose and ask yourself whether it’s necessary and readable. Does it really add something, or is it just a way of patting yourself on the back for being clever at the expense of your readers?
2. The piece of prose is good and you need to make the rest of your story just as good, Sir Lazy O’SitsOnButtocks. Use that part as the standard to measure all your other parts against and don’t stop editing until the other parts are just as good.
When I was younger, I asked my dad why anybody would ever take up smoking. Everyone knew how unhealthy it was, after all.
He said that even though people knew it was bad, they also thought it was worth it to get a temporary pleasure. I had just spent half the day messing around on a Pokemon website, and he pointed out that I was doing pretty much the same thing by playing online. I was making whatever goals I had for the future less likely to happen because I wasn’t pursuing them.
If you want to be a professional writer, every second you spend doing other things (that aren’t necessary) is a second taken away from the future you want to have. The same thing goes for if you want to be a well-known fanfiction author, a great roleplayer, or any other writing-related thing you can think of.
Just something to consider.
Once again, this will focus on actions rather than traits. In this one, however, you will provide causes to certain effects rather than effects to causes. It might take pretty extreme circumstances to get your character to do some of those things, but that doesn’t mean the questions are useless. It’s good to know your character’s limits.
What would cause your character to…
Do you ever think of a couple of really good characters and a great setting, but have no plot to go with them? Maybe you think of a wonderful premise, but can’t think of anything besides the premise. Here are a couple of tips for fleshing out your ideas.
1. Tell somebody else your ideas. While you’re talking, your mind will fill in some of the gaps so that you can present it to them in a coherent way. Sometimes even thinking about how you would explain your ideas to somebody gives them more substance. Saying them out loud also helps solidify some of the details in your mind that you were iffy about before. If you’re lucky, the person you tell your ideas to will ask further questions.
2. Pace while you think. I don’t know why, but it helps me a lot to walk around while I’m trying to flesh out my ideas. Maybe it’s because since the rest of my body is happy and occupied, my brain can focus on my stories better.
3. Think about it right before you go to sleep. My best ideas and plot details come from the times when I’m almost asleep. When I’m lying down with my eyes closed and my brain half-shut, the greatest things pop up in my mind. I don’t know if it’s the same way with you, but it’s worth a shot.
4. Pick a random object and think about how your idea relates to it. If your idea doesn’t relate to it, make it relate. It helps to have something physical to remind you of your idea. Bonus points if your object is complex and makes you think of your idea in a new way.
The follower of the day is anonymouscatastrophe.
I’ve seen several posts about knowing things about your story and characters that won’t actually make it into your writing. Many of them, in my opinion, are utterly worthless (eye color doesn’t affect somebody’s personality atall, guys, and it doesn’t even affect the way they’re treated unless you’re making your own culture where it does. Knowing a character’s eye color is like knowing the exact number of molecules in one of their hairs.)
In contrast, here’s something incredibly useful, in my opinion, if you want to get a full understanding of your characters, your plot, and your setting: the last few hundred years.
Backstory is usually limited to the direct reasons that things are the way they are. What are the reasons for those reasons, though? This is vital information that, though it might not actually make it into the story, you need to know.
Say, for example, you’re writing about hostile aliens attacking the Earth. What makes them hostile? Their very biological structure. Why did their structure evolve that way? In response to fierce competition from other predators. Why was the competition so fierce? There was little prey. Then why did so many predators evolve? A similar line of questions could be asked for why they are invading Earth instead of another planet. Many authors would stop at knowing that the aliens are hostile because it’s in their biology.
For every answer you get, ask another question. Do it for as long as you can. Hundreds of stories had to happen for your story to take place. Ignoring them is kind of sad. There’s always a level deeper. The best stories have thousands of years of history to be hinted at.
The follower of the day is butlerxartemis.
Do you know what one of the biggest draws of zombie apocalypse-style books is? People often read them so that they can later imagine themselves and a group of their friends in a similar situation. The setting just lends itself to such things. How would you rig a house to keep the zombies out? What weapons would you use? Where would you get your food?
There are several other stories that inspire the same kind of thinking. How would your Pokemon journey go? What items would you alchemize in Homestuck? How would you fight if you were picked for the Hunger Games?
The magic of these types of settings is that it makes people think and talk about what you wrote long after they finish reading it. Not every setting lends itself to speculation like this. The standard fantasy setting, for example, only has room for the heroes in the actual story. They are the chosen ones and nobody else can come. What’s worse is when a map is provided at the beginning of the book that only shows the places the characters go. I don’t know about other people, but I certainly love it when there are unexplored areas on the map that I get to fill in with my imagination.
When the story is still being molded and the setting isn’t firm in your mind, try to think of a way that more than just your main characters can be heroes. Aim for a process where people can become heroes so that literally anybody can become one if they really want to. In Homestuck, for example, all somebody has to do is buy Sburb to engage on the journey. In The Hunger Games, people can volunteer themselves.
It also helps to hint that the story world is bigger than just what the characters have to traverse. Give your readers little areas to call their own that your characters haven’t touched.
The follower of the day is kylasedai, who is awesome and also a person that I follow.
Please stop associating an angular face with intelligence and a doughy face with meanness and stupidity. This is a real problem. Most people in fiction who are described as having, say, a “weak chin” end up being unpleasant people. Even in works that otherwise disregard looks when creating personalities, people with fat faces end up being the jerks. Somebody’s face should not be shorthand for their personality. The expression on their face can, but not the face itself.
The follower of the day is moonfox23.
Remember when you were little and watched or read Winnie the Pooh? Eeyore was almost always sad, but occasionally he would experience a small joy or get bored or experience another emotion. Eeyore is probably the most extreme example of a character associated with an emotion, and even he could experience the entire range. He was just usually sad.
Similarly, you should never have a character who is always experiencing a single emotion. Can they be associated with one emotion? Sure! Can they usually be found in that emotional state? Absolutely! Can they experience the same emotion 100% of the time?
Give your depressed people little joys and your happy people small sorrows. It doesn’t matter how many other quirks they have, a character will always be flat and one-dimensional if they can only ever be found in one emotional state. “Emotionless” counts as an emotional state unless they are a robot or similar.
As an added bonus, a character experiencing an emotion that they usually don’t experience can be a good point of drama. These drama points help keep people reading.
The follower of the day is sunnaybunnay. TW: some posts deal with self-harm.