Posts tagged writing help
Posts tagged writing help
Perfect photographic memory is a terrible plot device, and authors need to quit using it. Scientists are unsure whether it actually exists in the real world. If it does, perfect memory most likely lies entirely in the realm of savants and extremely young children. Check out the evidence.
The sheer number of characters with eidetic memory makes me cringe. Half of them only have very good memory and the author tries to spice things up by using big words. The other half perform superhuman feats that literally nobody can do in settings without superheroes.
Photographic memory isn’t a fun quirk or a handy plot device. Unless your story is about aliens, it’s a physical impossibility. Stop it.
If you want a character to stick in readers’ heads for a long time after they finish your story, having a fleshed-out personality helps, but it’s not good enough. There’s an enormous difference between A) a character who is shy, tries to be brave around her boyfriend, wants to break free from society’s constrictions but is too lazy to do so, and can’t figure out how to care about strangers and B) the same character, only this time, she always wears a bright pink scarf and loves the study of insects.
Harry Potter has a scar, Katniss has a pin, John Egbert has a green ghost shirt, and Ash Ketchum and Finn the Human both have special hats. An item of clothing or extremely striking physical feature will stay in a reader’s mind far more easily than “defined cheekbones” or “large, blue eyes.” When you give physical description, try to give an unusual visual marker at least to your main character. Not necessarily to set them apart from the other characters or mark them as special within the story, but to set them apart from the hundreds of people your reader sees every day on their way to work or school.
Likes, dislikes, and obsessions make your characters pop off the page like no other character traits can. Sure, your protagonist is arrogant, but wouldn’t your story be more interesting if he were arrogant and liked pizza more than almost anything else? It doesn’t even have to be a plot point. Hobbies and interests make characters more human. Sadly, I’ve read many stories where the characters were only bundles of traits who only formed opinions about other characters and never on which TV shows deserved to be cancelled. Such characters are not fun to read about and probably need to be fleshed out more.
There are two ways to lose your momentum when writing a story: not knowing enough and knowing too much. Here’s how to keep going if either happens to you.
Most of writer’s block comes from not knowing what happens next. You have point A down, point B lies somewhere over yonder, and between the two is an infinite wordless chasm.
I find the easiest way to prevent this is to stop and think about what I want in that chasm without my computer actually in front of me. The chasm won’t get filled with sentences; it can only be filled by entire plot points, which need outside planning.
If that doesn’t work, try making a list of all the things you don’t want to fill the chasm. Making the list will help you whittle your options down to what you do want.
When all else fails, try ending the chapter at point A, following a different character, and picking up the next chapter at point B. If A and B are far enough away from each other, you’ll still have to explain what happened, but interspersing backstory is easier than tackling narrative. This is the cheater’s way out, so don’t rely on it too much.
If you have a good idea of what each paragraph needs to be, actually laying them out can get tedious. The idea is always more fun than the execution, and sometimes the former can completely clog up the latter with details.
Keep all of your main plot points. A good, detailed outline can help you write faster. Make a concerted effort, however, to change the minor details. The false ambassador could be spineless instead of sarcastic and his pet could be a dog instead of a parakeet. Figuring out how to alter the small things can be as rewarding as thinking them up in the first place.
Pretty much every link you could ever need as a writer, compiled on one website. You’ll need to scroll down a tiny bit to see the links.
A wonderful list of the various groups for professional authors.
If an association has “America” in its name, that does not necessarily mean it’s US exclusive.