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  1.  

    Because you nublars keep making single question threads that die after fifteen posts, it seemed like a good idea for someone to make a thread in which you can ask how you should do [writing thing] and/or tell other people how to do [writing thing].

    This is that thread.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2013 edited
     

    You’re a nublar. hmph

    Seriously, though, to kick off the discussion, will someone please tell me the secret to beginnings? Because I have discovered I am bad at them. I have no less than five mostly-written beginnings for my current WiP (rewrite of last year’s NaNo that I haven’t gotten sick of yet), with many more I could think of that haven’t been written down yet, and I simply don’t know how to tell which one would be best.

    I know the advice about starting as close to the action as possible. The problem is, I’m not sure where exactly that is, and how far in front of the action you should start. Here’s the basic plot of the story’s beginning:

    An enslaved magician named something-or-other is forced to help steal MacGuffin #98762. (this is MMC #1)
    When the theft of said MacGuffin comes out, Astrith (FMC) gets accused of it. Because of the lack of evidence, it’s going to go on her head even though she’s innocent, so her friend Nolus (MMC #2) gets her to go on the run instead.
    Shortly thereafter, Something-Or-Other gets up the courage to escape from his keepers.
    Wild adventures ensue.

    So far, here’s where I’ve tried beginning it:
    1. in the aftermath of the theft, with Astrith and Nolus traveling away from the city
    2. immediately after Astrith and Nolus go on the run, when they’re escaping through the city streets
    3. with Something-Or-Other escaping from his keepers
    4. with Something-Or-Other and his keepers right before the theft
    5. with Astrith and Nolus enjoying peace and quiet right before the theft

    So to make this a more general question (and not just applicable to me), where do you think the best place to start a story is? Right in the middle of the action? (2 and 3) Right after the major action, focusing more on the fallout from it? (1) Or right before the action, giving more time to settle in before the big inciting event comes along? (4 and 5)

    Or does it really all depend on circumstance and I have to figure it out myself? :)

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2013
     

    I think a beginning should be right there in the middle. If you start the action too soon, then the reader is more likely to be confused and you don’t have time for world-building, character development, backstory. Even if you’re really good at hinting and showing these things throughout the book, a beginning that starts with a fight/action scene just seems a little overwhelming to me. Starting something way before the action (#3) can be sort of boring too. I like a book where we’re introduced to the character, the character meets someone/something vital to the plot in the next few chapters, a call to action, maybe a refusal of action, then another call to action and an acceptance, a little bit like the beginning of the hero’s journey plot used in mythology.

    For example, in the first book of His Dark Matierials, the Golden Compass, we are introduced to Lyra and her playing games with her friends. A chapter or two later, she meets Mrs. Coulter, who ends up being important to the plot. A chapter or so later, she moves in with Mrs. Coulter, and the plot sort of starts around there. We’re given enough time to establish who Lyra is (basically), and where she comes from, but the action isn’t drawn out 300 pages in.

    Maybe you could have the wizard introduced, then have him stealing the MacGuffin and end it there with Astrith being charged in a Part One of sorts, then introduce Astrith and Nolus and have them decide to run away?

    •  
      CommentAuthorsanguine
    • CommentTimeSep 12th 2013
     

    I would go with #4. Start out with just before the theft, write the theft, then (if you switch POV in your story), jump to Nolus and relate Astrith’s accusation from his POV (if that works).

  2.  

    Starting right with the action can work if you’re a good enough writer. In a visual medium you can get a lot more across to the audience in a few quick, strong images so it’s easier to do the in medias res thing. It’s tricky for prose stories though, because the reader usually needs some kind of emotional stake for the action to mean anything to them.

    So yeah, it may not be very specific advice, but I’d say give yourself just enough space to provide the reader with a sense of who your characters are and why the reader should care if they’re in a jam, and then hit the gas. This could take ten pages or two paragraphs, depending on your ability to get it to work. I think any of the options you listed could work, depending on your approach.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2013
     

    Would killing a main character be classified as a clichéd plot twist?

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2013 edited
     

    Depends on how you approach it, I suppose. If it’s done only for shock value, then it will be seen as a cheap trick. If it genuinely fits in with the story, i.e. the main character would have to be immortal to survive, then the logical answer is to go with it.

    A really good example of this is from Cynthia Voight’s Wings of A Falcon

    (spoilers)

    A bad example would be the death of Brom from Eragon. Although he’s not the central character, he is the second most important up until then, but his death is handled with little to no tact and comes off as formulaic and forced because the author doesn’t seem to care about the character.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2013
     

    @Taku thanks :) I’ll keep going and hopefully my character death will hit the reader where it hurts. In a good way.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2013
     

    Yeah, Brom’s death seems to happen because it’s the thing that’s supposed to happen—and it doesn’t appear to really have all that big effect on anybody afterward. So avoid that!

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 15th 2013
     

    @swenson Well, my character death is one of those things in the story that should happen- but I don’t want it to be interpreted as formulaic and boring. Should I make sure that I feel the after-effects through the rest of the story?

  3.  

    Should I make sure that I feel the after-effects through the rest of the story?

    YES. Always yes to this question. If your character’s death doesn’t affect anyone (and it needs to affect them longer than just during the death scene), then it’s pointless and probably just for shock value or because it “should” happen.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 16th 2013 edited
     

    Should I make sure that I feel the after-effects through the rest of the story?

    YES. Always yes to this question. If your character’s death doesn’t affect anyone (and it needs to affect them longer than just during the death scene), then it’s pointless and probably just for shock value or because it “should” happen.

    Afgreed, the effects need to be lasting and deep, especially for characters close to the one who dies. For example, Your characters need to react to the death of a loved one the way anybody would react to it. Some people take years to get over it, especially if they blame themselves for it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeSep 16th 2013 edited
     

    Thanks guys, you’re the best! .

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2013
     

    Okay, so I’m looking for some help plotting for NaNoWriMo. I have a set up, but I since I’m planning on writing a mystery, this isn’t the kind of thing I can go into blind.

    Anyway, here’s the basic idea – Dashiell Hammett meets Gary Gygax. A PI gets a letter from a sort-of friend, and the letter contains a geas (magic compulsion, if you don’t know). The PI has to solve his friend’s murder, or he’ll die/go crazy/something bad will happen to him.

    So, who killed this guy, and why? Any thoughts?

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2013
     

    So Gary Gygax was killed? I don’t follow.

    •  
      CommentAuthororganiclead
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2013 edited
     

    So what sort of world are we working with? Obviously a fantasy one with a geass in the working, but are we talking about a world like Greyhawk where everything wonky can be blamed on a wizard and magic is a well known or are we going with a World of Darkness/Dresden Files secret world angle? What era is this set in? How does death work? Is there necromancy?

    A good fantasy detective story needs to take into account everything about the world in question. Even a basic murder story changes drastically when you can cast Speak with Dead on the victim.

  4.  

    Just figure out what kind of ending you want and work backwards.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 3rd 2013
     

    Okay, re: setting. Dashiell Hammett wrote detective stories. His most well-known was probably The Maltese Falcon. So we’re not quite working with an Urban Fantasy setting, but more like D&D crossed with Film Noir – it’s like the 1950’s, but with elves, dwarves, orcs, etc. Guess it’s my fault for assuming you guys knew who I was talking about. My bad.

    Yes, magic exists and is commonly practiced, but I’m putting necromancy and associated stuff as illegal at best, if only to avoid the numerous issues that crop up with being able to raise the dead.

    And sansa, that’s kind of my problem – I don’t have an ending to work back from. That’s why I’m asking for ideas, if only to get me started. I figured now would be a good time to ask, so I can work out a general plot outline by November.

  5.  

    Noir stories tend to end on down notes/Pyrrhic victories, so in that case I’d say it would probably be good if the killer A) had a connection to both the victim and the detective, and B) the case resolves itself in a way that both the reader and the PI wish he could’ve left in unsolved, like the killer ends up being sympathetic and/or the victim deserved it. This would help justify the magical compulsion element’s presence. Perhaps the killer was under a compulsion of his or her own or something, even.

  6.  

    This would help justify the magical compulsion element’s presence. Perhaps the killer was under a compulsion of his or her own or something, even.

    Well, if you can just compel someone to do anything, then things get futile really fast. A geas had better be very expensive, in one way or another.

  7.  

    I agree. It wouldn’t hurt if it were somewhat difficult to inflict on somebody as well, like some kind of condition that needed to be met that prevented people from just dropping a geas on anybody they didn’t like.

    Either way, in order for the PI’s geas to mean something in the story, you need to have it work against him somehow. It can’t just be used as a substitute for the PI’s motivation. “I must solve my friend’s murder or bad shit will happen to me, but he was my friend so hey I guess I don’t mind” isn’t as interesting as “I must solve my friend’s murder or bad shit will happen to me, but I don’t want to because X, but I have to” or “I must solve my enemy’s murder or bad shit will happen to me, but I don’t want to because fuck that guy he had it coming.”

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 4th 2013
     

    Well, I have some thoughts about that. The victim maybe isn’t so much a friend of the PI as he is an underworld contact – the kind who tends to cause more problems than he solves, so him dying wouldn’t be unexpected. And the death might look like a suicide, and due to being a known criminal, the cops wouldn’t be all that interested in digging into it. Plus, then it looks like the friend is screwing with the PI.

    Ooo, there’s an idea. Or at least part of one.

    Also, I’m not intending this kind of compulsion to be all that easy to make.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 4th 2013
     

    “I must solve my enemy’s murder or bad shit will happen to me, but I don’t want to because fuck that guy he had it coming.”

    Otherwise known as the standard Harry Dresden premise. :)

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 4th 2013
     

    Didn’t that only happen the one time? And it was more “I have to help out the guy who would have gleefully executed me a few years ago”?

    Now, “I have to help this person who is at best not actively hostile to me and the only reason I’m doing it is because I’m too scared not to”? Yeah, that’s got Harry Dresden written all over it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 4th 2013
     

    Well… yeah, that’s the one I was thinking of, but it does sound like a generally Harry-ish plot, doesn’t it?

    At any rate, I love the premise in general.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2013
     

    Joined a website where I have to review 4 pieces in two days. The first one I got stuck into reads like badly written fanfiction, except it’s not fanfiction. Any ideas on how I could objectively critique this guy’s writing without ripping my hair out?

  8.  

    One page at a time with breaks in between?

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2013 edited
     

    Remove yourself emotionally from the position of “reader”, e.g. don’t try to read it for enjoyment, but read it as one would read a research paper that you are skimming for essay quotes?

    If you can’t do that, read through it once quickly to get the gist of the story, then go through paragraph by paragraph, as you would a spork, and write your thoughts on a separate bit of paper. When finished, read through your notes, take the three or four most common problems that you picked up and write a bit about that. Throw out your original notes, and then write some bullshit about something nonsepecific (i.e. something nebulous that doesn’t have specific textual examples), you can claim to have liked, e.g. the ‘pacing’ or the ‘voice’ or the ‘theme’.

    That’s what I do, anyway. Unless I’m reading for someone who actually wants constructive feedback, in which case I finish at step two and give them my running notes, grouped into thematic clusters with suggestions for how to improve each problem area.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2013
     

    Thanks guys :)

    But the problem is, this is a really poorly written piece of work. Run on sentences everywhere (there’s a sentence the size of a paragraph that is just riddled with commas), he forgets to capitalise the beginnings of his sentences, proper noun/normal noun confusion, the list just goes on. It’s impossible not to spork this.

    • CommentAuthorSen
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2013
     

    Run on sentences everywhere (there’s a sentence the size of a paragraph that is just riddled with commas), he forgets to capitalise the beginnings of his sentences, proper noun/normal noun confusion, the list just goes on.

    It sounds like you’d have enough for an objective critique if there’s such glaring problems with the writing. It doesn’t look like you’d need to give it the amount of focus to the point that you’d want to rip your hair out.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeOct 27th 2013
     

    It doesn’t look like you’d need to give it the amount of focus to the point that you’d want to rip your hair out.

    Yeah, but add horrible writing to a campaign demonstration outside my house along with incredibly bad techno music louder than a commercial jetliner pounding from speakers across the street AND the fact that I still have 3 more pieces to edit and submit are driving me insane.

  9.  

    Potatoman, if the person’s writing is that bad, and they can’t even get basic grammar right, I would be honest with them. Not in a mean way, but I’d tell them that the grammatical errors are so egregious that they take away from the story to the point that you cannot get into it at all. Then I’d probably write up a grammar lesson for them, containing worst errors. I did that once, and the person didn’t seem offended by it. I usually try to say something positive as well, but if you can’t, you can’t. Unless this a like a ten year old or something, and you don’t want to completely crush their spirit.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013
     

    How do you cite (not using a bibliography) an author’s note that doesn’t have page numbers. I know you cite something with a page number like, “I hate cats,” (Smith 5). But how do you cite something like that without page numbers?

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013 edited
     

    You mean for an article or essay? (author, date.)

    e.g. “The chapter begins with Valentine establishing himself as probably one of the best characters in the whole book, because despite the fact that Clary drew a knife on him, he isn’t even remotely intimidated by her. Nice to have confirmation of that.” (Apep, 2003)

    and then the long form in your citations list will be Pep, A 2003, City of Bones: Chapter 23 – Valentine [review], ImpishIdea. retrieved 29/10/13

    edit: I’m actually not sure where in standard referencing you would use only the author’s last name and a page number. The Harvard system uses the in-text form (author, date, page) or the shorter (author, date) with a standard bibliography, and the Oxford system notes the entire citation in a foot or end note, in the standard form of [author’s last name, initial date, title, publisher, city.]

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013
     

    Thanks, for some reason they’re all hung up on citation in school but never teach us more than one way.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013
     

    you’d be best suited to using the reference format the school gives you, then, but for the sake of further studies/college etc it would be wise to be familiar with the Harvard and Oxford systems so you can use them when necessary.

  10.  

    Resistance, are you using MLA? Because MLA uses the author’s name and the page number (Smith 5).

    If it is MLA, Pudue OWL says to do this for citing notes:

    (Author Page#nNote#)

    For example:
    (Smith 123n6)

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013
     

    I just used Taku’s example from above; the a/n had no page numbers for some reason.

  11.  

    Alright, but I would check on the format you are supposed to use. I can’t remember what country you live in, but if you are an American high school student, odds are you are supposed to use MLA, which does not cite the year in the in-text citations. APA and various other styles do cite the year. All citation styles are not the same.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 28th 2013
     

    Pep, A

    Love it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2013
     

    MLA

    You silly Americans with your obsessive need for multiple redundancies. What’s wrong with the Harvard system? Or the Oxford? Those two aren’t redundant because Harvard is used for scientific or research papers, and Oxford for literary works and analyses.

  12.  

    I like MLA, personally. That’s what we use for analyzing literature. I don’t like APA, which is what we use for most every other discipline. APA looks like the Harvard system to me. There’s also Chicago style, which I know nothing about.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2013
     

    @Taku – I dunno, but in the US, we almost always use either MLA or APA. Or Chicago style, but thankfully I’ve never had to deal with it. It’s weird.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2013
     

    Chicago/Turabian style is not “weird”, it just includes more detail. Since it’s used for history writing, they tend to want information like what version of the text you’re using (assuming there are multiple printings), or when you accessed the website. On the off chance that someone might actually want to check your work.

    Sorry, I used MLA all through high school, and then had to learn Chicago/Turabian in college. Yes, it’s annoying that there’re multiple citation styles.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    I’m attempting to begin a spork here (typical YA paranormal romance fluffy nonsense). Any advice?

    •  
      CommentAuthorsanguine
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    Do it like you would a rough draft, don’t stop until you’ve done the chapter. Then go back and edit. Say what comes out when you read it, not what you think will be funny. Let it be for a while and come back to it and look over it again to see what’s funny and what’s not.
    LIMIT QUOTATIONS. No one likes a huge, text heavy spork. Commentate and keep it short and sweet. I remember after buying Gold of Ophir (Maradonia), and then reading Rorschach’s sporks, there was a lot of things he left out that could have been commented on. Don’t jump at every single thing, pick out the funniest things.

    Good luck sporking! (Can’t wait to see it)

  13.  

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    Make sure you know what you’re talking about if/when you point out something that might not be common knowledge. They might be right.

    Avoid attacking the author as much as possible. It’ll probably be hard, but you don’t want to look like a bully.

    Regarding things like style, you’re going to have to figure that out on your own. Go with what you’re comfortable with. You’ll figure it out as you go. Although reading other people’s sporkings might give you some ideas of what you might like.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    Don’t force humor. Ever.

    x ∞

    Avoid attacking the author as much as possible

    x ∞ +1

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2013
     

    Can’t agree more. Those are probably the two most important parts of a spork.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013 edited
     

    Okay, a bit of a writing-related request: I’ve got a short story (just under 1600 words) that I’d like some feedback on before sending it off to some people. It’s more of the stuff that I sold to that anthology (fantasy/comedy, even has the same protagonists). I’d like to send this out as soon as possible, but since it’s so short, I can’t imagine it taking long too read.

    Any takers?

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    Any takers?

    I’d love to read it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    Cool. Send me your email (either whisper or post on my wall). I know I’ve sent stuff to other people here, but I keep misplacing that info.

    I’ll probably send it out this Friday. Any and all feedback is welcome.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    Having no more money left, and Mr. Antolini the only person he can call (other than Jane Gallagher – a girl he is afraid to call, and his father), he arranges to stay with his old teacher.

    Is the – in the parentheses grammatically correct? The “girl he is afraid to call” part is something I need to put in there, but I’m not sure how to offset it from the parentheses.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    Sure, I’ll have a read of it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    @Resistance: I think so, but don’t quote me on that. Also, I’d put another dash between that and the mention of his father. The “girl he is a afraid to call” bit is a parenthetical statement – you can cut it out without affecting the rest of the sentence, and it should be marked as such.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeDec 4th 2013
     

    Thanks! (Let’s just hope that makes up for my comma abuse).

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeDec 6th 2013
     

    Alright, I just sent my story out to you guys.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeDec 7th 2013
     

    cool, I’ll get back to you in a day or so.

  14.  

    anybody mind looking at my querry

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeDec 7th 2013
     

    Oh shoot, I forgot I was going to look at that. Life has been ridiiiiculously busy. Send it my way and I’ll get back to you, though.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeDec 8th 2013
     

    Hey sansa, I can have a look at your query if you want me to,

  15.  

    How do most of you intrepid a “dark skinned man”? I got in a disagreement with a co-worker over this and I’m curious what the common consensus is.

  16.  

    It really depends on the context.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2013
     

    I usually read it as a POC, yeah. Usually tanned skin is described along the lines of “he had a deep tan from years in the sun” or some bullshit like that. “dark skinned” more often refers to a POC than to a white dude with a suntan.

  17.  

    Me too.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2013
     

    I would read dark-skinned to mean quite dark skin—not dark for a white person, but dark for skin in general. Not necessarily African/Indian, but definitely not just a tan.

    But I guess people do interpret things differently. It’s difficult to write a description that everyone sees the same way.

  18.  

    I would read dark-skinned to mean quite dark skin—not dark for a white person, but dark for skin in general. Not necessarily African/Indian, but definitely not just a tan.

    Pretty much this. I do definitely do not read “dark-skinned” as white person with a tan.

    • CommentAuthorNo One
    • CommentTimeDec 15th 2013
     

    I would read “dark-skinned” as a person with a tan, but that’s just me under the influence of my Asian culture. Like sansa said, I think it depends on the context.

    •  
      CommentAuthorPotatoman
    • CommentTimeDec 21st 2013
     

    Anybody have ideas on how to write a chapter that’s basically filler and exposition, along with character development? I’m stuck.

    •  
      CommentAuthorsansafro187
    • CommentTimeDec 21st 2013 edited
     

    If you’re calling it filler yourself, you probably shouldn’t be writing it.

    e: To give you more helpful advice, if you have story business that absolutely must be done there and not somewhere else, come up with an interesting mechanic or premise for the scene that underlines the exposition being delivered or the characterization you’re trying to get at.

    Find a Thing to Do. Or better yet, ThingS.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeJan 7th 2014 edited
     

    So I have an idea for a world. I want to know if it sounds too far fetched.

  19.  

    Anyone have advice on writing an abstract?

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeApr 1st 2014 edited
     

    I’m trying to write a theme statement in an essay on the role of irony, and I use the short story “Interpreter of Maladies”. What I’m trying to say is that if you see that someone has a position (like a translator to a doctor) and you misunderstand that to mean that they can cure maladies, you will disappointed.

    What I’ve got is, “Irony in “Interpreter of Maladies” is used to help illustrate that misunderstandings/misinterpretations of positions and what people in those positions can do leads to detriment for those who misunderstand.” This is edited from my former phrase,

    “ . . . is used to show that one cannot rely on someone in a certain position to act in another position”

    I don’t know how to consolidate that without sounding like an instruction manual or too wordy.

  20.  

    Holy shit yo. Pare that down. I had to read it like 3 times to parse it as it stands.

    Irony in “thing” illustrates that misinterpretation leads to [detriment for those who misinterpret.]

    I still don’t like the bracketed phrase because it feels roundabout and passive but I’m not gonna rewrite it for you. Besides that, the first version is stuffed with a bunch of useless filler constructions that do nothing but kill the juice.

    Granted, this is for high school English I assume so there’s lots of shitty writing habits being taught and I imagine your teacher may expect you to jump through certain hoops that leads to phrases like “is used to help illustrate” but if you just want to write something clear and effective, clean off the barnacles.

    •  
      CommentAuthorResistance
    • CommentTimeApr 1st 2014
     

    Thanks so much!
    When I compare yours to mine, mine starts to sound like some sort of complex riddle. I think just leaving it at “misinterpretation” too helps give it a broader application than “misinterpretation of a job etc.”.

    •  
      CommentAuthorpugbutter
    • CommentTimeJul 17th 2014
     

    How many stretches of nothing is too much nothing, in a Low Fantasy setting?

    Since realism is generally preferred over arbitrary action/tension, I’ve been describing the journey as mostly slow, with plenty of characterization; out of 130,000 words, there have been maybe 5-6 actual conflicts, and the entire book is building up to one large event.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeJul 17th 2014
     

    Seems like a hard question to answer… it kind of depends on what exactly is going on in the “in-between” segments and how they’re written.

    I guess for me (and tastes can differ), as long as there’s something happening, whether it be plot developments (which don’t always have to be conflicts!) or character development or even just setting up the setting and themes, I’m okay. But if there’s ever a scene where you go “what is accomplished in this scene? What does it add to the story?” and the only answer is “it pads things out”, then it probably should be cut or reworked. Every part of the story has to contribute in some way.

    •  
      CommentAuthorpugbutter
    • CommentTimeJul 17th 2014
     

    From what I can tell (a large grain of salt needed here, as I’ve not done much editing yet), the worst “padding” is during reminiscent moments; since the characters were sent on a mission by an enigmatic character, promised great rewards for success, yet they don’t know his motivations entirely, many quieter moments are spent speculating on what exactly he’s doing with their abilities…how he’s utilizing, and possibly manipulating them.

    • CommentAuthorDeborah
    • CommentTimeAug 7th 2015
     

    When is it right to show important backstory in a flashback?
    I’m telling a short story right now, and I’m trying to figure out whether the hero’s flashback is the right way to tell his backstory. The heroine’s backstory is told in more detail, because its part of the main plot. (This is a fairy-tale retelling. Sleeping Beauty, to be precise). In the current draft, the hero, Keturan, has to go through a series of challenges to rescue the heroine, Mara. One of them is a creepy magical mist, which causes him to go into a flashback of when his home island was destroyed ten years ago. The rest of his backstory gets told to Mara, when she asks where he came from. So does the flashback work as a way to fill in who he is and where he came from, or should I tell it directly? Its also a way for him to face the fears of his past, since each of the challenges is a test of some aspect of his character.
    I’m mentioning this because I did a different short story once that was mostly flashback, where the hero thinks back to events that happened over a thousand years ago. It still directly related to what was happening in the present. But when I submitted it somewhere, it was rejected, and the person who rejected it said that it would have been better if it hadn’t been a flashback.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeAug 7th 2015 edited
     

    Interesting question.

    Given that you’re hero’s having magically-induced flashbacks, I’d say don’t present them as flashbacks – instead, have him think it’s real, then realize, “wait, this has happened before!” Maybe he tries to change things, but it doesn’t work, so he ends up feeling guilty (or more guilty, as the case may be).

    As to whether you should explain it more during the magic flashback or later, I’d say later. The flashback-thing can provide some basic details, and you flesh his backstory out later. The flashback sounds like it’s a very action-focused scene, and adding in a bunch of exposition would slow things down.

    With regards to your other story, whether it being mostly flashbacks being the main problem or not is debatable. If you were told that by several people, it might be true, but if it was just the one, then it could just be an issue of preference. But hey, at least you got custom feedback on it!

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeAug 8th 2015
     

    I like Apep’s idea. Don’t explicitly make it a flashback until afterwards when the hero realises; and don’t try to cram too much exposition into an action-heavy setting.

  21.  
    Um, hello everyone. I feel a bit late to the party but--I have some questions about sporking. I joined this site with the specific intent to write sporkings but I honestly have no idea how to go about it or how strict I should be. I'm a writer as well, so I'm afraid I may be a bit too...lenient...with my counts--I just really need some guidance.
    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2015
     

    Hi, welcome aboard!

    Writing a good spork is like any other kind of writing—it takes practice. My advice is to read a lot of sporks (both good and bad, and read enough of them for you to be able to tell the difference between the two) and then try writing a few. Put them aside for a couple of days, and come back and read what you wrote. Is it still funny? Interesting? Insightful? etc.

    There’s a couple of articles around here on how to write a spork that you might find helpful:

    - Kitty’s A Guide To Sporking which includes a big ol’ list of sporks (some of the links may be broken, but that’s what Google/the Wayback Machine are for)

    - my own Seven Rules of Sporking on the sorts of things I’ve picked up from reading too many sporks over the years. Read the comments too, there’s some good stuff.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeNov 21st 2015
     

    I’d also point out that you don’t have to include counts. Yeah, a lot of sporkers do (including me) but they’re not really required.

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeNov 22nd 2015
     

    Both of the articles swenson linked are great.

    Try to have a balance between serious discussion and jokes, you don’t want to just be cracking quips 90% of the time. I personally prefer sporks that go into a little bit of discussion about why something is wrong (bonus if it also discusses how to avoid the issue) rather than just mockery without substance. Keep the jokes classy, i.e. no personal attacks on the author.

    Regarding “counts”, I agree with Apep that they are not necessary. Sometimes they can actually become a negative if you’re counting too many things or being silly with them. Only count things that are either humorous in their own right, or significantly reoccurring.

    • CommentAuthorDeborah
    • CommentTimeAug 7th 2016
     

    This thread is old, but I just wanted to mention that me and some friends of mine have started a website with writing advice and reviews. Want me to link to it?

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeAug 8th 2016
     

    Yeah, go ahead!

    • CommentAuthorDeborah
    • CommentTimeAug 9th 2016
     

    Here you go:
    https://scrypticablog.wordpress.com/

    • CommentAuthorCmdrNemo
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2016
     
    I'm a little curious. Does ImpishIdea have a general consensus for what a Mary Sue is? How they are different from Author's Darlings? Or are they the same thing?
    I generally think of a Sue as any character that succeeds regardless of logic or the rules of the setting. Where a Darling is a character that the author clearly likes more than the reader. The common Sue traits seem to be a list of the side effects of overlap between the two.
    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeAug 10th 2016
     

    For me, another big indicator of a Sue/Stu is that the world’s morality always matches theirs. If they do something, it is always correct and moral, even if that same action is condemned when other characters do it.

    •  
      CommentAuthorswenson
    • CommentTimeAug 15th 2016
     

    Meh, “Sue” a very vague term. It’s gotten sufficiently bad now that I’ve mostly stopped using it. My interpretation was that it’s a character around whom the world revolves; everything important happens to them, all the other characters either love them or hate them (nobody is just neutral), the rules of the universe are bent to accommodate them, etc. But it’s also used to refer to virtually any power fantasy, any self-insert, any character the author clearly loves, so it’s not a very precise term. These days, I generally prefer to talk about specific things about a character that are problematic, rather than use a potentially confusing blanket term.

    I’ve actually usually heard “author’s darlings” in terms of scenes or lines that an author should cut (but refuses because they like them so much)—not referring to characters. (although the same principle can certainly apply)

    •  
      CommentAuthorMiel
    • CommentTimeAug 22nd 2016
     

    I’ve got a question for those of you who write historical fiction/historical fantasy. How do you deal with the massive amount of research needed? Do you do a bunch of background reading beforehand or just look it up as you go? I’ve been itching to write a Victorian-set urban fantasy for a while now but I’m absolutely obsessed with historical accuracy (thanks academia <.<). Unfortunately I also hate research (again, thanks academia <.<) so I’m put off by the thought of having to do hours of research on my setting before I even get to writing. It doesn’t help that it’s not my time period so I wouldn’t know where to start in terms of finding good source material. Anyone else dealt with this problem who could offer some advice?

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeAug 23rd 2016
     

    I don’t deal in historical fiction, but if I did I would firstly do lots and lots of background reading first, including first-hand source materials like contemporaneous letters and diaries if possible, and my second step would be to go to a Facebook group, a Livejournal group like The Question Club or Little_Details, or another forum devoted to digging out little details for strange questions. My next step would be to go to an academic repository or archive, like the ones in OpenDOAR (or SHERPA), and search for keywords or phrases in their archived/digitised documents.

    If I was after information on a particular day in history, I might check a digitised archive of newspapers for the particular city I’m looking at. For example, in Australia I would go to Trove to get digital facsimiles of newspapers from any date between the start of newsletter printing in the country, and last June.

    Your local library will usually have an “Ask the Librarian” email form on the website for “remote reference enquiries”, where a librarian will receive your question, and utilise their years of experience and specialised research skills to find as much of an answer as they can to your question.

    The last one is especially useful for little obscure details, because they will often have access to old original documents that are not available on the internet (or to the general public), like historical ships logs and accounting logbooks, wage books, unpublished letters and diaries, consignment notes, personal identification letters, and so on.

    •  
      CommentAuthorMiel
    • CommentTimeAug 25th 2016
     

    Thanks for the tips Taku. I will definitive take the opportunity to make the most of my university’s archives before I leave this godforsaken place for good. I’m hoping that hating research is just a phase brought on by doing way too much of it over the last five years. I love the Victorian age but have never studied it so hopefully digging through the archives will be inspiring and not a chore.

  22.  

    ^ Maybe don’t think of it as ‘research’. Just find non-fiction books on topics that are interesting to you, and go from there. (This is coming from someone who’s been having more fun with nonfiction than fiction lately…but to be fair I write fantasy, so I take considerable liberties with any history I encounter.)

    •  
      CommentAuthorMiel
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2016
     

    Here’s a fun one: how do you write a sex scene? I’m asking because I’ve honestly no clue. I just cut to black any time anything in my stories implies the sexy times. Which seems inelegant and counter-productive.

    I’ve read plenty of hilariously bad sex scenes and I think I get some of the do-nots: do not pull metaphors out of a hat; do not be gratuitously over-descriptive; do not include them at all unless they contribute to the narrative/character development; etc. I’m more interested, what are the ‘do’s? The only author I think I’ve read who I remember as being really good at writing sex scenes is Margaret Atwood, and emulating her style is beyond me. So what do you think, fellow writers who are hopefully better at this than me?

    •  
      CommentAuthorTakuGifian
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2016
     

    I would recommend you keep cutting to black. Metaphors and euphemisms will not do you any good, neither will anatomically correct descriptions.

    If you absolutely must have one, do focus more on the psychologies of the character rather than lurid descriptions of the act itself.

    •  
      CommentAuthorApep
    • CommentTimeSep 27th 2016
     

    Yeah, I’d also recommend sticking with what you’re doing. Implication can work in your favor – whatever the reader imagines will always be better than anything you can write.