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Soundslikeponies' Advice and Lesson Thread! Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3348

Welcome to Soundslikeponies' advice and lesson thread!

Seeing as I don't have time for a proper review thread, I'm instead making an advice and lesson thread. The goal of this thread is to teach:
fundamental style, writing habits, learning habits, writing mentality, and storytelling advice
I'll be accepting topic requests, but also writing on my own chosen topics (it'll be about 50/50) so anyone who is seeking advice about an aspect of writing should feel free to submit a topic. However, if I feel the topic was already covered in another lesson, or the topic doesn't merit too much discussion, I may not pick it.
Another method of submission, is to submit a fic and I will skim it for something it needs help with, and write a lesson on that topic.

A short sample lesson:

False Confidence Mentality:

Something you'll need to learn how to do in order to improve your writing, is being able to view your work objectively. Writers are usually blind to the flaws in what they write, but it is possible to remove those rose-tinted glasses and see your own writing almost like a reviewer would. Some writers are so blind to their own writing's flaws that they don't even believe it when they're told something is wrong. Don't be that guy.

Some writers are aware of the flaws in their writing, and the fear of writing and doing poorly leaves them paralyzed from typing more than a 5k one-shot every other month. They spend all their time endlessly revising one piece to the point where there's been twenty iterations of it, and they don't even know their own story anymore. People who don't write out of fear of it not turning out good. Don't be that guy.

Simply put, false confidence is a writer's best friend. Hemingway jokingly said, "write drunk, edit sober" and it went on to be one of the most popular quotes on writing. Well, it's bullshit. You can't write at your 100% while drunk just the same way you can't drive at 100% while drunk. What the beer does give you, however, is enough confidence to hit on that girl across the bar that's totally out of your league. And that's what you need to write.

You don't need to be drunk to actually have confidence, just fake it until the fake confidence becomes real confidence. Personally, I often joke about with mock confidence, saying dickish, cocky things while having it quite obvious that they're just a joke. If you tell your brain something often enough, it eventually starts taking it as truth. Telling yourself "you're handsome" "you're an awesome person" "you're so much more talented than other people" in your head often enough will lead to you having real, not imagined, confidence. This idea of repitition to make your brain do something applies to progression, to staying in shape, and to making sure you write every day. Why do you think drill seargeants have soldiers recite things while training? Why do you think all those self-help seminars encourage you to say things outloud? It's because that stuff actually works.

Tell yourself you're going to improve, that you're going to be somebody. Tell yourself you're going to work on writing every day, and hate yourself when you don't. Tell yourself that you're going to write a story that over a thousand people will like, and then do it. Tell yourself that when you say you're going to do something, you do it. But all the while you have to keep something in mind:

Welcome to Writing; You Suck
This post was edited by its author on .

Breath of Plagues 3359

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This exists! That's awesome! Too bad you're not reviewing, though. You're one of the best in my opinion.

Okay so how about one of these two topics:

What is the appeal and meaning of shipping? I've never understood the big deal about shipping in my little pony fanfics, yet I'm a big fan of romance. Is this maybe because the usual ship fic is shallow and unrealistic or am I just jaded? What am I missing here? How come I can't connect with it? What does it mean to you? (figured you'd be a good person to explain this one)


the ideal plot angles. Garnot has explained to me that the ideal beginning has a kind of BANG or hook then eases up. I recently went writing a scene that was necessary to the story, but after taking a step back, I realized it was boring as hell. How do you keep your plot interesting without going on too long with exposition? How do you keep your story flowing well without writing pointless scenes?

Advice: What's With All the Shipping? Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3363

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I'm going to answer these in an odd order.

>How come I can't connect with it?

Romance in published literature is a genre historically and currently filled with women readers.

The way women and men form bonds is distinctly different in that men are extremely selective about who they open up to emotionally. In general, guys have a much harder time opening up emotionally to someone, whether they're a friend or a romantic partner. A guy could have a bunch of friends he's known for a while, but unless he knows them very well (bros, best friends, etc) then he probably isn't open emotionally to them. This is where women differ. Women are much more emotionally open with friends and to other people in general. This creates the ever-so common situation of a woman having a guy friend who falls for her out of confusion because when he opens up emotionally like that, it's because of love. And when a women does it, it's just because they're friends. This is the chief cause of the friendzone.

The reason I'm saying this first, is that let's apply this to romance literature. Romance literature implies that you are ready to get romantically involved with the characters in a book before reading it. Women are all for building this romantic connection with a book, which is why traditionally they have been the overwhelming majority of romance literature's readers. However, if you were to take something familiar such as characters who aren't strangers, then a male audience would be much more open to reading romance. This is why despite having a largely male fan base, My Little Pony romance fics are still extremely popular. Guys don't really get to read romance because almost none of it is targeted at them, and almost none of them are emotionally willing to invest themselves in a romantic relationship inside a book. Most guys like the well written romances in their favourite action movies or adventure books, they just aren't willing to dive right into the romance, they have to be goaded into it with something else to make them open up.

>What is the appeal and meaning of shipping?

Like any story, proper shipping involves a conflict, a climax, and all the other core elements of a story. Shipping can use a relationship as the conflict (either trying to get the girl or a conflict in two partners' relationship) or it can have the relationship as a core part of a struggle outside of their conflict. For example, in Romeo and Juliet the struggle was their relationship vs the powers that would keep them apart. In almost all stories the main character wants something, and in most romance that something is to "get the girl".

All stories evoke feelings from the reader, whether it's excitement or sadness. Romance stories usually evoke happiness or sadness, coupled with romantic feelings. These intimate feelings it evokes, and the tension created by the conflict, are the appeal of romance stories.

> I've never understood the big deal about shipping in my little pony fanfics, yet I'm a big fan of romance. Is this maybe because the usual ship fic is shallow and unrealistic or am I just jaded? What am I missing here? How come I can't connect with it?

It could just be because the usual ship fic is shallow and unrealistic, in which case you could look up some higher reading ones to see if they're deeper and more realistic. If you are a big fan of romance but can't get into romance fics, then it could be that you just can't think of cartoon ponies romantically, since it shatters your suspension of disbelief as a reader. HiE does the exact same thing for me because I can't picture people in a cartoon world. The mental images clash too heavily. Maybe you just can't buy into cartoon ponies having romantic relationships. Although I'd suggest first making sure that the better romance fics don't do it for you, first. You can easily find some at the recommendation general, or I'm sure someone would love to jump in here and tell you a few of their favourites.

>What does it mean to you?

Well, I liked shipping for the typical reasons stated above. I don't typically like romance, but knowing the characters made me break into it a bit easier. For a while I read a lot of it, and found one fic that stood above the others by a mile: Romance Reports warning, contains clop. After reading several fics where there's little to no conflict in the characters' relationship itself, I decided to write a fic where Rainbow Dash comes out to Twilight Sparkle and Twilight Sparkle yells at her and leaves her in the cold and rain. After that, they do hook up, but their relationship is more or less a train wreck of young love. I personally don't like fics where outside forces are disrupting a relationship, but where the characters' relationship is the conflict. You may notice this in one, or all of my fics.

The second part sounds good, but I'm 3.5k deep in a rewrite I want to finish tonight, so I'll answer it tomorrow.
This post was edited by its author on .


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>on shipping
Damn if I know how you came to know of the female perspective, but that is a very valuable insight you've got there. Thanks for sharing!


File: 1358062224297.gif (43.37 KB, 728x260, 20020502.gif)

>Romance in published literature is a genre historically and currently filled with women readers.
I think a large part of this is that the Romance genre has basically the same stigma attached to it that My Little Pony does. Everyone knows the stereotype (see pic.) Though that's obviously not representative of the genre as a whole; just look at Warm Bodies. Though I must admit that I've only seen trailers for that. The library still hasn't sent a copy of the book yet.

As further proof, let's look to Japan where they do publish stories of romance for a male audience such as: Love Hina, School Rumble, ToraDora, Spice and Wolf, and many many more. So this is obviously more about social biases, than it is about men and women being from completely different planets.

Tactical!fRainBOoMw 3369


>Love Hina

Bitch, if you mar this conversation with another harem anime written in a bygone era by sexist Japanese dudes, I will smack your stupid head.

Breath of Plagues 3378

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Whoa, you went really in depth. I really appreciate that.

Okay, I think I understand it a lot better now, so thank you.

>it could be that you just can't think of cartoon ponies romantically

>It could just be because the usual ship fic is shallow and unrealistic

I think it's a little of both but more of latter than anything (I can get over the pony thing with a little time). I've been around the community around a year, and I spend a lot of time on FIMfiction. For a while, when ships would hit the feature box, I'd read them. They all kind of followed a similar concept: 2 mane six members spend time together for some purpose. During that time, they have a few blush worthy moments then realize they love each other out of the blue and kiss. The end. Every—single—time.

I mean, they were usually written well, sure, but I didn't get the point of such a basic plot and didn't like it. Yet, everyone in the comments were spouting: OMG u guis! this is sooo cute! I love shipping!

So yeah… I gave up, thinking that I just don't understand that stuff. Kind of bummed me out because I like romance, and all of sudden it didn't work anymore.

I think I'll skim around to try and find the better ones because I did find one that I felt did a good job of characterizing what a lovesick Dash might look like. I was able to sympathize with her and feel/understand the situation rather than having 2 pony's just shoved together. It was called Last Chance by The_Incredible_Blunderbolt

I also have one called umm… flying high, falling hard, that I started a little while ago. It's been starting to change my mind. heh.

I think with good examples, I'll be able to get the concept down. Might take a while though. I'm still pretty used to death and grimdark consequences rather than relationship just hurt in shipping.

As for my second question what I think I'm trying to ask is: what don't I know that I should know about storytelling? It's just hard to word that. Anyways, take your time, the first was more important to me anyways.

Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3380

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Flying High, Falling Hard happens to be by me (in case you didn't know)
I'd say in terms of romance, We'll Keep in Touch is a bit cliche, but has a bit deeper feelings (less shallow) than my other shipping fics. Meanwhile if you want realism, there's Let's Find You a Date! which is a comedy about Twilight having a crush on Rarity, which handles the whole dating lead up in a bit more of a modern way than a fairy-tale way (also by me).
I would recommend other people's fics, but I don't read most shipping coming out now because most of it isn't all that good. I really just read a couple adventure fics now.

Anyways, I just posted that rewrite (4.2k, whew that was more than the original version) and will be working on topic number two later today.
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Breath of Plagues 3382

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Haha, I knew FHFH was from you. That was the joke.

Yeah, when I started 'Flying high, falling hard' recently, I was surprised by how well it was written for a ship (specifically with the SDT. dear god, how do you do that so well?) and how it was a lot less shallow than most others. I thought: well hey, maybe it's not just me. Then you post a open advice thread. The rest is self explanatory.

You've hands down helped me out with my writing more than any other community member(it was long time ago. You won't remember most likely) and I've been striving to improve since then so I'll probably be cruising by this thread a lot…and probably be sending plenty of questions.

Lesson: Making Your Story Grab and Hold Your Reader's Attention Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3396

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On Hooks:

Having a slow beginning is usually bad pacing, but not always. There are a couple different ways to hook a reader on your story, and you should most certainly start with one of these (listed in order of effectiveness and ease):
- The action/strife
- The character
- The mystery
- The spectacle

The action one is obvious. Starting your story off with a heated confrontation or physical action is a simple but good way of hooking a reader. All you have to do is think of a way how to. If you can't, simply jump 3/4ths of the way into your story and show half of an action scene/heated confrontation before jumping back and explaining everything that lead up to it. Several famous movies and books have started with a scene showing the main character dying or on the verge of death. It leaves the viewer wondering whether they'll live, or if they die, how they died. Stories are easier to bend and change than most people realize, and you'd be surprised at how you can change a beginning around to fit a more attention grabbing scenario.

If your character broods, is a philosopher, or has a strong personality that you want the reader to become attached to, then you can open with telling them about your character. The first sherlock holmes book does this, despite being a mystery novel series. It sells you on the arrogance, intelligence, but also the uniqueness of Sherlock Holmes, as told by Dr. Watson. If your story centers around a character and their journey to discover themselves or change themselves, then this may be the way to go. This opening hooks the reader by making them like the character, and by making them want to know what happens to them. Books such as Catcher in the Rye and Siddharta, which are about coming of age and enlightenment go this route.

The mystery is anything that leaves the reader wanting answers. The reason I have this listed second, is because it is harder to write a mystery opening that hooks the reader, because unless you make the reader care about finding out the answers, it's useless. Mysteries almost always open with these, for obvious reasons, but so can horror, drama, or even any action or comedy movie that has some twist in it. If you execute this properly, it leaves the reader with a sense of intrigue that makes them much more likely to read the entire book all the way through than the other two starts. The reason for this being; they're going to read until they get their answer.

Spectacle is one that is weird, and despite many of the most famous books starting with it, I can't exactly recommend it. Spectacle is any book that hooks you by first establishing the world, the mood, and the tone of the book before addressing the characters or the conflict. It's a book that opens with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." or "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." These are stories where the author is so experienced with setting mood and tone that they can simply make you keep reading from the language and the clarity with which they establish the atmosphere. Hooking with spectacle can also be done by having an incredibly vivid world your story takes place in, and telling a piece of history of the world relevant to the plot, or describing how completely different the setting is from what the reader is used to. This is primarily the high budget visual medium's hook, and does not as commonly work for writing, so I can't exactly recommend it, either.

Ultimately, you are not limited to one, or even two, of these types of hooks. You can combine them and many of the examples I gave in each section are actually combination hooks.

Things Not To Do:

Try not to write a single paragraph, page, or chapter that does not have meaning to the reader. Never describe a character traveling from one location to another unless something happens along the way; instead use a scene break. Never describe a character's appearance. Just don't do it unless they have a majorly distinguishing feature "An eagle tattoo stretching across her shoulders." "A lightning shaped scar on his forehead." "A pale, glass eye." We don't need to know the color of your character, their hair color, or what they're wearing unless you have a reason to elaborate on it.

"Her legs were hidden by silver and purple silken robes that touched the floor; ceremonious robes that the Princess had given her." Something like that is perfectly fine, because those clothes show something about two characters' relationship with each other.

So seriously, just stop describing people. You can go an entire full-length novel without ever describing what the main character looks like and no one will care, but if you stop the story for a whole paragraph to describe your 'pretty princess' in pedantic paramour and presume people will perpostulate it? Well, then as you may presume, people will place your parchment pillowside and propose posthumourously that you piss off. (This common mistake irks me, if you can't tell.)

So, the best way to write a decent beginning? Pretend that your entire story is the page you are writing on right now. If that page doesn't have interesting content, and is just something you feel is necessary to bridge to something else, it isn't. Do not make your characters speak if they don't have something interesting to say, and leave as much as you can unsaid. The deepest and most moving stories are those that understate everything, and outright say nothing. Out of the 150,000 words of romance I've written, across four stories, I have used the word 'love' once, and in the second to last line of a fic. The characters don't say it, the narration doesn't mention it, and leaving these kind of 'elephants in the room' will create underlying tension in the writing that the reader probably isn't even aware of.

Keeping a Story Interesting:

Your story should dip between moments of tension and moments of rest. To illustrate this, here's a basic pacing curve: http://www.gamasutra.com/db_area/images/feature/3848/image003.png

Keeping your plot interesting just requires knowing how to make things go wrong. And all that requires is for you to lean back and apply Murphy's law to your characters' situation "What could go wrong?" Injuries, miscommunication causing fights, someone finding out something they weren't supposed to know, introduce a new character and situation around that character, the list is endless. In any already established plot there's a hundred or more things that could potentially go wrong at any given time. There's a quote by Raymond Chandler about this that goes, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a loaded gun in his hand." All you need to do is figure something to use.

Another thing you can do to keep the writing interesting, not necessarily the story itself, is to every few paragraphs write the first sentence of that paragraph like it's the opening sentence of your story. Make it something really gripping. Having your writing littered with these sentences can make the world changing difference between whether your story 'pops' or not. By having opening otherwise large blocks of narrative with these gripping sentences, you hold back the reader's boredom, or even get rid of it altogether.

On that topic, if you aren't already making sure your opening sentence is really good, do so.
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Planning Anonymous 3476

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Ugh, it feels like it's been forever since I requested reviews…Well, I won't bug people. At least not yet.

In the meantime, I guess I'll go and try to better myself.

So then… One of my biggest weaknesses has always been planning. I usually get my main concept down, sure, but I find that I get stuck real easy because I don't know how I want scenes to play out. It's been a real hindrance to my writing.

I've always tried to go with the bare bones ideas and maybe a scene objective but I'm starting to see that it's not working for me for some reason. So how much planning and charting out should one do before they dive in? How should one plan? What should one plan? How much planning is too much? And how do you plan your stories?

I've read up through chapter ten of 'Flying High, Falling Hard' now, so feel free to reference that as an example.

Breath of Plagues 3477

*cough* forgot to put my name. Not sure that matters, but whatever.


Not an answer, just an observation on this topic.

Not everyone approaches planning in the same way. It would be really helpful for the discussion if we know our Myers-Briggs codes and can compare them. The second and fourth elements code some pretty substantial differences in how people process information.

I'm an INFP, so I tend towards NP-ish planning. Which makes me more like Pinkie Pie than anypony else.

Breath of Plagues 3479

Yes, of coarse everyone's approach to planning is going to be different. I don't mean to insinuate that there is a right way. However, what I've been doing isn't working so I'm open to suggestion.

You completely lost me there on the myer-briggs but instead of asking and being annoying I decided to do some research. I took the thing and I'm an INTP.

So, what now? Is looking at this supposed to help me because, since I filled the thing out, I didn't learn anything new about myself or how practical literature plans should possibly be done.


One of Brandon Sanderson's lectures was about this topic.


Actually all his lectures are interesting. Go listen to all of them.
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Lesson: Planning in Scope Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3486

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Priming Ideas:

I'm not going to say you should plan a certain amount ahead. I am, however, going to tell that you should not fly completely blind, and you should not plan every last detail.

Planning every last detail makes it very hard to keep your story good in the moment. If all you do is plan ahead, you lost sight of the present, and what you write will not have the quality nor entertainment value that it should have. You also can't plan every last detail because doing so is extremely complex. Mostly around characters and choices they make. It's almost impossible to know your characters before you write them for a little bit, which, for example, is why the mlp characters in the early episodes are a noticeably more rigid.

Flying blind is what I lean more towards, mostly because it's more fun, but also the direction the story goes comes more from decisions made in the moment rather than because the story is on rails. Most of your ideas, and probably some of your best ideas, will come to you while writing, as well. Still, it's a good idea to have at least some vague idea of at least one important thing that's coming up in your story, otherwise you're not working towards anything and you're not building up to anything.

The one thing that almost any author should do though, whether they fly loose or rigid, is to let an idea sit once they have it. Keeping an idea in your head for a while will leave it room to grow, and harry potter and lord of the rings both sat in their respective author's heads for over 5 years before they wrote them. You write notes on this idea if you want to, or you can just keep a loose collection of ideas in your head, everyone does it differently.

The second reason for letting ideas sit is that you are capable of coming up with multiple good ideas. But you're probably not going to write them all. If you let ideas collect and sit in your head, you get to filter through them for which is the best idea. You can compare them against each other and maybe you'll realize that idea you really wanted to write 2 months ago probably wouldn't turn out that great.

But this is all the preconception stage, what you probably want to hear about is:


The level to which you plan may vary. Ultimately everyone plans to write a good story, and a good story is broken up into 2 things: planning in the imediate, the intermediate, and the future. It may help to visualize this as three levels broken down:


We're all familiar with the basic outline of a story; the initial spike of action, the rising action, the climax, and the falling action. But what you may not be familiar with, is that you can break down each of the above elements of your story to also have this. Chapters are a cut off point; someplace for your reader to stop reading. But opening the next chapter after they've set the book down can be difficult. They have to remember what was happening when they left off, but the easier you make this experience on them, the more likely they are to keep reading consecutive chapters you make.

That isn't to say that chapters should start with a recap; no. Actually they should start with something attention grabbing to quickly pull the reader back in. If you left your last chapter off at a climax, this could actually be picking up where you left that off. The point of cliffhangers at the end of a chapter isn't to give the reader a place to break, but actually to add suspense to that particular climax and make them start into the next chapter right away. This jarring break occurs slightly at scene changes as well, and each scene can usually be broken down into an initial spike, rising action, climax, and falling action, sometimes stopping at a cliffhanger as well, to the same effects as listed above.

But that's all a slight tangent. The reason I wanted to explain it though, is that you should try to have the climaxes somewhat figured out for each of those things. You should have some idea of the point your scene is meant to be building to, you should have some idea of the point your chapter is building to, and you should have some idea of where your story is building to. You should probably have some idea of the point your next 1-2 chapters will build to, as you should have some idea of the point that your next 1-2 scenes will build to.

So once we have all these points, around 6 or 7 of them, what we get to do next is the 'fun' part.

This is where it's much easier to write blind. The initial spike of action and the rising action are things that you can make up as you go along, and it's where you should be writing 'in the moment' so that the path there is just as fun for the reader as the destination. And if you noticed, I only said that you should have the build up point of the next 1-2 scenes and next 1-2 chapters, which means you're writing on each of these three different scopes of time with the same level of foresight and planning. Ultimately you can discard the "1-2" for whatever number you feel comfortable with, but you should try to plan ahead roughly the same amount in each of these scopes.

This is all a type of planning that follows a linear path, though. There's another side to things that I refer to as static planning:

- Rainbow Dash doesn't like wearing clothes
- The Dragon's Peak Mountain is a 4 day journey for pegasi, 15 days for earthbound ponies
- There are 5 schools of magic: summoning, alteration, illusion, force, and enchantments/curses

As a writer, you should have rigid rules about your story that the reader doesn't necessarily become privy to. If you don't, you get contradictions, plot holes, too much power creep (which leads to god mode characters), or just weak characterization/world building. I don't recommend having a rigid headcanon about the show (as it stifles creativity) but for your own story you must have a rigid, story-appropriate headcanon. If it's m/m or f/f shipping, you should think about how homosexuality is treated. If it's a character driven story, you should think of backstories for characters, even if you never use them. It'll give them invisible guidelines that make them seem more human, and keep them from acting bipolar (as many bad OCs do).

Between static planning of your characters, your world, and your setting; and the planning of your story/chapters/scenes, you have a solid framework with a good amount of wiggle room.

And if you ever find yourself unable to come up with ideas for any of these things: read something, watch something, or simply enact murphy's law.
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Breath of Plagues 3488

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Thanks, this guy is really helping me conceptualize. Definitely a great resource. This will keep me busy for a while. Now to just find a solid SDT 'resource list.' Can't find them for the life of me. Maybe I'll start one.

Ok great. Thanks for the solid feedback. Ironically we both have the same ideas on planning, and I actually do most of what you say now. I just need to work a little bit on keeping focus on the direction and maintaining that directional focus in each scene, chapter, and so forth. That really helps break it down for me.

I think my real trouble has been in that I'm forcing ideas without really getting them solid first because I'm short on writing time. I'm also trying to work with shipping, which is way out of my natural writing element. I think it'll come together in the end, though. It's coming pretty nice even though I've had to throw out half of the scenes, but hey, I'm doing this so I can learn. It doesn't have to be the next great ship and I'm going to have to throw myself at it and make mistakes.


File: 1358564441679.png (308.67 KB, 720x720, Fluttershy131704755869.png)

I didn't really get Show Don't Tell until one day when it finally clicked. Show Don't Tell isn't an on-off switch; there are layers to it.

>Fluttershy was embarrassed.

>Fluttershy blushed.
>The blood rushed to Fluttershy's cheeks.
Or if we're getting really purple.
>The vital fluid torrented though the veins of Fluttershy's countenance, ceasing upon their destination at her choppers.

sdt Breath of Plagues 3498

I'm starting to feel like we're highjacking this thread but this is about writing help, so it's all good… right?

So yeah, I've gotten the theory and concept down really well, because I've worked on it so much, but that doesn't mean it's gotten all THAT much easier. I understand what it is and how it is used, but the execution is different than the theory. SDT is just such an open ended thing.

This is a resource that has helped me immensely:

It's more of a practical application/idea list. As good as it is, though, it doesn't go over everything, and it could definitely be expanded. I've been looking for something like that but much more in depth. I can't find anything more than blogger blowhards spouting how to do it whilst giving bad examples, though.
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Ion-Sturm 3564

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Been writing, decided my collection of speaking verbs wasn't enough, did a Google search and came across this:
Very handy, in my opinion.

However, that brings me to my reason for posting in here: What is a good ratio of actions at the end of dialogue vs. speaking verbs? Moreover, in terms of speaking verbs, what sort of balance between simple "he/she said" and the more specific ones seen in the link should I be going for? Of course, such a thing is incredibly subjective to the whims of the writer and reader; I prefer too much information over not enough (which is why I don't quite agree with your views on clothing and other physical attributes, but that's best saved for another time) and tend to lean towards using more specialized verbs for dialogue. It's something that has always irked me, having all these words jumbling around in my head, and because someone decided to dub "said" as "the invisible word" I'm discouraged from using them.

Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3570

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I'll hopefully do a write up later tonight. In the meantime…

Clothing and visual descriptions of characters should only really be done when those characteristics are very unique, or very defining of the character in some way.

For example: let's look at Twilight and Pinkie Pie.

If you were to write about these characters to someone who's never seen the show, I would not say you should describe Twilight's colors, the two streaks of color through her mane, or her cutie mark. On the other hand, I would say that you should describe Pinkie Pie's colors, hair, and maybe even cutie mark.

If we look at how the two characters visuals from the show, we can see how their looks match their characters in a fitting way. The only difference, is that Pinkie Pie's is far more defining than Twilight's more subtle design.

Pinkie Pie is bright pink and has crazy hair with three balloons for a cutie mark. If you showed someone who'd never seen pinkie a picture of her, with her huge smile, they would probably be able to say what kind of character she is.

Twilight doesn't have that same effect.

So the trick with visual descriptions (whether they be setting, characters, or things) is to only describe things that are truly defining.

"A lean black stallion wearing a mask dropped down in front of her and began stalking towards her."
Here the description is 'menacing' through and through, so the description quickly tells you that this stallion isn't there to tell her that there's a fire at the mill, he's there to stop her.

See, Pinkie Pie's traits are a very bold depiction and stereotype of her character, while Twilight's aren't so outspoken. Describing how Twilight looks would barely even characterize her. It would still leave things very open. So, it would be better to ignore how she looks (aside from mentioning she's a unicorn) and move on to characterizing her through dialogue.

If you have a protagonist with a brown coat and black mane, whose characterization is somewhat average (which is common characterization of protagonists in an adventure or horror setting) describing his appearance will do almost nothing for your story.

What I said in my other lesson was "Never describe a character's appearance. Just don't do it unless they have a majorly distinguishing feature"

Well, Pinkie Pie's overall look is a pretty distinguishing feature. Twilight's, Rainbow Dash's, and Fluttershy's are however not (except maaaaybe Dash's hair).

For Rarity, I'd make mention of her shiny/clean white coat. For Applejack, I'd mention her hat. And for Pinkie Pie, I'd mention her bright colors. Those are all really defining traits of those characters.

You might still disagree, but I thought I'd try re-arguing the point.

Ion-Sturm 3572

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No, that makes sense. In my story Playing Along, Twilight imagines her toys as being "real", with personalities and whatnot to match. Each one is distinct, representing how old they are (one is based on a Victorian-era doll, another a tin soldier) or their personality (a doll like Barbie, for example, who's a cloying pink and rather vapid). Their clothing is used as a way to show their characteristics, like the soldier flattening a crease in his uniform. I also try to weave it into the narrative, instead of a "She was wearing W, which was X colour, along with Y and Z" info dump.
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Dialogue verbs Breath of Plagues 3574

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>Been writing, decided my collection of speaking verbs wasn't enough.

>However, that brings me to my reason for posting in here: What is a good ratio of actions at the end of dialogue vs. speaking verbs?

I happened by and this question really stuck out to me. I hope you don't mind, SLP, if I jump in for a moment here.

This is what Steven King says about dialogue attrition verbs in his book 'On Writing':

>Some writers try to evade the no-adverb rule by shooting the attribution verb full of steroids. The result is familiar to any reader of pulp fiction or paperback originals:

>"Put down the gun, Utterson!" Jekyll grated.

>"Never stop kissing me!" Shayna gasped.

>"You damned tease!" Bill jerked out.

>Don't do these things. Please oh please. The best form of dialogue attribution is said, as in he said, she said, Bill said, Monica said. If you want to see this put stringently into practice, I urge you to read a novel by Larry McMurtry, the Shane of dialogue attribution. McMurtry has allowed few adverbial dandelions to grow on his lawn. He believe in he said/she said even in moments of emotional crisis. Go and do thou likewise.

>All I can ask you do as well as you can, and remember that, while to write adverbs is human, to write he said she said is divine.

In other words, Stephen King believes that detailed dialogue attribution is weak, telly, writing, and could otherwise be established in narration, or conveyed in their words/actions etc.

While I don't COMPLETELY agree with him, he has a strong point. These kinds of speaking verbs tend to function as a shortcut to what otherwise could be stronger, more descriptive writing.

So in regards to your question on what the ratio should be… well, I'd like to say bare minimum on the speaking verbs and focus on the actions more, I suppose. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Actions don't have to be tacked on to every bit of dialogue.


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I do mind in that you posted before my post. I don't mind that people chip in in addition to what I post as a response, especially if I miss something or say something wrong, but when they preempt me it means that some of my lesson will feel redundant and I might skim a section of my lesson. It also means they're more or less hijacking my thread. Imagine if you were to pop into a review thread and review a fic in queue before the reviewer got to it, and then posted said review in their thread. It would be pretty terrible. Would adding a second opinion after the reviewer has done their review be as invasive? Most likely not. And it's the exact same in this thread.

I need to cover everything I can think of because I plan to add an index of lessons/advices to the OP once I have a few more, and having people preempt me with things I'm probably going to say anyways makes me feel redundant when I do say them anyways (because I have to for the archive).
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Breath of Plagues 3578

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Aw, dude I'm sorry. I kind of jumped in without thinking, because I wanted to help with this one. You're right though. This is your thread, and that was rude of me.

I'll try to stay out of these from now on.


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>And if you ever find yourself unable to come up with ideas for any of these things: read something, watch something, or simply enact murphy's law.
So true. In fact, I should give that a go right now…

Of course, there's also re-reading, finding a minor character, and then making them significant in a "revelation" involving a sibling or something. That way, you get the effect of cunning plotting with half the work!

Lesson: Speech Verbs and Dialogue Tags Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3586

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Said vs. other verbs:
Trying too hard to avoid repeating said by using other speaking verbs is a mistake. Other speaking verbs do, however, have their time and place. (well, some of them, anyways.) And you'd be limiting yourself to try and only use said as often as possible. While said should show up as a majority of your speaking verbs, other speaking verbs have their place in adding emphasis or tone to a dialogue.

"Harry!" Hagrid boomed as he stormed into the castle. "I know that you put laxatives in my tea!"
"We don't know how much longer it'll stay asleep like this," Hermoine hissed.
"You should know better," Professor Mcgonagall tsked.

Different said verbs can add a lot to the delivery of a line, something that's fairly limited in writing compared to theater. For example, you could look at an example where the meaning of the line is entirely dependent on the speaking verb (and the exclemation point):

"I will find you," Liam promised. (someone he cares about deeply is being taken away)
"I will find you," Liam said. (either a cold unshaking threat, or a straightforward statement)
"I will find you," Liam whispered. (a conspiratol meetup, possibly between lovers or mischief makers)
"I will find you!" Liam shouted. (a strong, passionate promise to someone he cares deeply about, who is being taken away)
"I will find you!" Liam roared. (a threat; Liam's blood is boiling)

So to disregard the things we can do with these words is frankly a bit dumb. These words when used on certain lines can sharpen the meaning and emotion behind the characters' words. That being said, (no pun intended) these words should be used sparingly, and only when the tension in the story is nearing or at a peak. There are, however, a couple speaking verbs that are just about as perfectly acceptable as said, and they don't need to only be used for tension. But there are also speaking verbs you just don't want to touch. Ever. For any reason.

What speaking verbs to use:
Here's a list of words that are almost as invisible as said:

Here's a list of only some of the words that you should basically never use outside of for comedic purposes:
retorted (retorts are always self evident)

Here's the one:

The trick with figuring out when to use these, is mostly finding a balance between said and every single other verb. Having 17 'said's in a row can be almost as damning as having an 'ejaculated' somewhere in your story. You don't want to have 6 speaking verbs in a row that aren't said most of the time, either. To find a balance, let me metaphor: If speaking verbs are the decorative topping on the cupcake, then 'said' is the icing, while all the other speaking verbs are the different colors of rainbow sprinkles. You want to have a large amount of said in your story, but you want to sprinkle it with a variety of other speaking verbs to keep things from being monotone. Every speaking verb has its connotation and place, and that's ultimately up to you to figure out over time.

When to use speaking verbs at all:
Speaking verbs are good to have here and there. They serve a purpose in providing clarity, and you may have heard people argue that you should just avoid using them in favor of using action tags to identify speakers. Well, that's the same deal as only using said. Variety is the spice of life, and you're tossing away a huge way to add variety to you writing and flow if you avoid speaking verbs when they aren't necessary. Hell, you should try to go out of your way to fit one in somewhere if you just realized you've gone the last page of dialogue without a speech tag. When you have multiple pages without speech tags, some part in the reader's mind actually forgets that the quotes are characters speaking. The dialogue becomes disconnected from the characters saying it if you don't occasionally tie it back to them by saying "Jennifer said". It's just one of those things with how our brain works.

There are three ways to have dialogue: naked dialogue, speech tag, action tag. Naked dialogue has nothing around it and sits in a paragraph of its own, speech tags have a speech verb, and action tags are an action other than speaking put before or after dialogue.

Any story, every story, should make use of all three of these. A lack of action tags will create talking heads syndrome and white box syndrome, where all your characters do is talk with little to no description of what's happening to them in the meantime. A lack of speech tags will make the dialogue eventually become disjointed (as said above), and a lack of naked dialogue will mean your dialogue is moving too slow. It never ups its tempo or varies its pace. Naked dialogue gives us a sudden spurt of dialogue and a variety of tempo, which in turn tickles our wiring and keeps us reading. The balance between the three is, again, up to the writer.
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Ion-Sturm 3588

So, all things in moderation, eh?
Or should it be some things in moderation?

"Ejaculated" is always a winner in my books, but I'll keep that list in mind.

I would argue the point on "retorted". "Retorted" puts a more formal version of "countered" in mind, or perhaps with extra force.


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>Here's a list of only some of the words that you should basically never use outside of comedic purposes:


I know a certain turn-of-the-century Scottish author who you've set a'rolling in his grave.

Grif 3658

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, perhaps? :P

Lesson: Time in Writing Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3660

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Time in Writing:
Every reader reads at a different speed, so many people underestimate or disregard the impact that the speed of their writing has. It's a common beginning writer's mistake to incorrectly pace their reader's time, resulting in something that the reader has a hard time picturing due to the proportionality of the different parts of their scene or story.

Think about the amount of time it takes to read a line in a book. It varies from reader to reader how long that time is, but when it boils down to it, the speed at which a reader reads doesn't matter too much, because the amount of time it takes them to read is relative to them. What is important is how your sentences, and your actions, vary in length (or time read) from one another.

Read the next two passages in your head:

"A screech. A horn blaring. My legs were swept out from under me and I tumbled into the air as I closed my eyes. By the time I opened them, I was lying on my back in the middle of the street, and people were rushing over to me."

"There was a screech as tires skid. Someone honked their horn and I saw my shadow rapidly change in the light cast from the car behind me's headlights. A knot formed in my stomach and I felt sick. I knew it was going to hit me. My legs were swept out from under me, but there wasn't any pain. I was sent tumbling into the air, and it felt as though I was being tossed by a massive wave. The car passed beneath me, a Sedan, and its bumper was dented from where it had hit me. I couldn't make out its color in the dark.

I landed on the pavement. My head whipped back into the concrete, and as if the blow to the back of my head had woken my brain up to what had just happened, all the pain struck me at once. People watching from the street began to rush over to help me."

In my experience, there's two ways to experience something shocking: either you don't see it coming and it's over in a split second, or you do see it coming and your memory of the event, after the fact, is drastically slowed down. The whole, "life flashing before your eyes" thing.

In the first passage, the sentences are short and the events happen quickly. The amount of time it takes to read it is brief, and so many things happen in that brief amount of time that it paints the image in the reader's head that the moment was over in a flash. Notice that the details in it are light because when something happens quickly you have less time to take in detail. This is the effect of rushed time in writing, and if you incorrectly pace your writing too short, then the reader will feel like they are viewing the story on a vcr in fastforward.

In the second passage the sentences are longer, but still relatively short to give them a bit of punch. The amount of time it takes to read it is much longer than an accident like the one described takes, and it feels as though everything that's happening has been slowed down, and you can see all the details of the scene as the pass slowly by. This is what slowed time looks like in writing, and if you incorrectly pace your writing with too long of sentences and too much detail, then the reader will feel like they are watching the whole story in slow motion.

The reader's speed will ultimately vary whether they read your story feels as though it's written in slow motion or fast motion. People who can read 500 pages in a day will more easily accept an author whose prose is long ended and detailed, while people who read at a lower level more easily accept an author who rushes the details and writes simply.

One last thing to keep in mind, the speed at which your sentence are read depends on not only length, but diction as well.
"Verily, this vichyssoise of verbiage veers most verbose," the masked man said, "so let me simply add that it's my very good honor to meet you and you may call me V."
The first part of the dialogue in the above example takes longer to read for its length than the second part of the dialogue. Just something to keep in mind with sentences are deceptively short due to having all simple words such as:
"Yes, I've been quite well, though I thought I could use some fresh air."

How Time Effects Sentence Length:
You may have noticed that even in the slowed down version of the accident that I used short, punchy sentences. This is because sentence length affects time in a whole different manner than the amount of time you take coverig a single action or subject. If we consider how long the passage is as a representation of how I want the reader to interpret time, then we can interpret a single sentence's length as how I want the reader to interpret literal time. See, the car accident was in slow motion from the character's pov, which is why I made the passage covering the one event so long, while the sentences were short and choppy to indicate action and quickness.

You can also do have the same effect in reverse, have many events covered in one long sentence, giving the effect of long literal time, but fastforwarded from the pov. For example:

"At first Celestia had traveled to the outerlying villages, curing the sick and helping to feed the hungry. As she traveled from village to village, her name spread by carriage across the land: word of the alicorn, a tall and majestic pony who had both horn and wing, whose speed in the air was unrivaled, and whose magic prowess was unmatched. The nobles of the kingdom grew angry with her; roumors spread that she was a princess, destined to bring about a new era of prosperity and peace, and that she would usurp the throne with the ponies support.

The king sat in his study, puzzling over what to do about this new alicorn. . ."

The sentences are longer and more drawn out. Multiple events are covered in each one, and overall a brief recent history is provided in one fairly short paragraph. You could, alternatively, break the above into more sentences, but that would change how the reader reads the passage. Instead of reading through two long sentences, they'd be reading through 5 or 6 shorter sentences, and it would make that part of the story feel longer.

How Sentence Length Affects Impact:
Earlier I mentioned 'punch'. Simply put, each sentence occupies a single space in the reader's brain. Regardless of length. This is why sentence length can affect our interpretation of time. But also, if we store each single sentence in the same amount of space, which will we remember better?:

"Karen's hand slipped from the ledge."
"Karen's hand slipped from the shalestone ledge, her heart leaping into her throat in that moment and her lips parting open in a silent scream as she fell, down, down into the dark."
"Karen had been a baker for just over three years now, downtown at Stephano's Buns at the corner of Hippy-Hacki-Sack Street and Derelict Corner, where their small italian bakery was robbed, at the minimum, twice a month."

The first is a small amount of information in a short sentence. The second is a small amount of information in a long sentence. The third is a lot of information stored in a long sentence. Their impact is as follows:
Karen's Hand (long) < Karen's a Baker < Karen's Hand (short)

The reason that Karen's Hand (long) is last, is beacuse it uses many words to say very few events, giving it the least impact. Meanwhile Karen's a Baker uses many words, but conveys quite a bit of information, still, a single sentence takes up a limited amount of space in our minds, so it comes in second. The sentence with the most impact is Karen's Hand (short). This is because it takes up a whole sentence's worth of space in our mind to say just one thing, so that one thing hits home hard.

The fact that each sentence occupies roughly the same amount of space in our brain (up to a limit of course) means that we have a completely different interpretation of time based on how many sentences there are than we do based on time required to read something.

In summary:
The reader's interpretation of time in your writing is based on three things:
A) the length of your writing
B) how much length is between events
C) sentence length
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Tactical 3662


Hunh. This one is relevant to my particular interests because I've been working with such things in a few of my own works. I lean strongly on the side of "blink of an eye," figuring that I just need to say what there is to say as eloquently as possible, then move on.

To me, the slowed-down version of getting hit by a car feels wrong, like I want to experience the chaos but I'm too busy reading descriptions of things that the first person character should hardly even notice.

If it were me, I might convey a slow-mo effect by making a point of just a few things, like:

>I had enough time to realize that I was about to be hit by a car. A nice car at that, a dark green sedan free of scratches or dents—too bad I was about to ruin its perfect, accident-free record.

It's a gag, so that it's okay for me to "pause" on it for a moment, while still telling the reader "and it happened in a flash." Call it suspension of disbelief, perhaps.

Actually, I just realized that the way I would write that moment is rather unlike both of your ways there. I would've used a couple of highly descriptive sentences, all of which try to convey imagery while also making a "telly" point about how sudden it all was. Perhaps I'll take a minute to write up my own version of the moment and you can tell me what you think.
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Breath of Plagues 3663

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Would you be willing to do a branch off of this subject specifically regarding the timing of action writing? I've heard one is supposed to keep it snappy and quick, much like the nature of action, but nobody has ever elaborated any further than that. I usually just go with my gut and "feel" the timing using bits of what you described here, but is there anything I may need to keep in mind?

Maybe some good examples or references? I'm always eager to study writing techniques.

Rainedash!79F9Y0XQII 3691

Since you've seen to get pretty popular, I figured that you'll be a good person to ask this: What should someone do to get their story noticed?

Aside from getting posted on EQD, it seems to be a complete crapshoot as to what stories take off and which ones almost immediately fads into the background.

As a secondary question, is there any trick to getting readers to actually comment on it? For example, my current main WiP has 66 faves (which I certainly won't complain about since it's better than what a lot of stories get), yet a few days after the new chapter was put up, I have all of three comments.


I'll write something up on this a little bit later.
EDIT: To clarify, it isn't going to be a how to be popular guide, it's going to be a guide about looking at a reader base, finding an idea that people will like, and writing the beginning of your story in a way that draws your reader in.
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Tactical 3696


I'll refrain from commenting. :D


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Lesson: Ideas and Appeal Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3701

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Finding Ideas:
Ideas are incredibly easy to come by. Stephen King has a quote on writing that goes: "you have to kill your darlings". This means ideas, pages you've already written, or even entire stories. You have to be willing to let go of ideas because better ones come along all the time.

Good writers cook. And by that I mean they take ingredients from everywhere else to create something great. Many wildly popular films and books are combinations, or near direct imitations, of something else. Hell, practically every adventure tries to follow the hero's journey format. There are hundreds of millions of storytelling elements out there, and it's very easy to combine them in new ways. I've been able to come up with as many as 10 (good) story ideas in a minute before.

For example: Starwars is medieval fantasy mixed with sci-fi. There's other races, magic, and swords. Firefly is a similar mix of western and sci-fi, and its main character is extremely archetypical while still being a great character. Sometimes you can just mix up the mood/tone of an idea to have something entirely new. The batman trilogy took superheroes and made them extremely dark. While Inception took its idea from a decades old scrooge mcduck comic (right down to how they wake up).

You could take a fairly typical idea such as a romantic pairing and combine it with the hearth's warming eve episode. The result would be a romance the revolves around a play. (You could even do romeo and juliet, if you don't mind be a bit cheesy.) Another you could do is taking the idea from the recent Fluttershy discord episode, and extending it. Celestia finds Fluttershy so successful that she sends all her villains to her to be reformed. "Fluttershy's House of Villains" (Fuck, I actually kind of want to write both of those ideas. Pls do nut steel.)

Just like that you can come up with decent ideas. I don't know whether I will wind up writing the two above ideas, but they're both decent ideas (Shipping can quite easily be overly cliche. It's a leeway with the genre.) I came up with both of the above ideas by picking an episode at random and deciding to expand upon it. Hell, that's somewhat what I did with my first fic (using the sonic rainboom episode).

All you have to do after that is look at the fandom and figure out which ideas will have the most appeal. You can figure this out through trends, knowing the demographic in general, or asking friends what they think. (Make sure your friends don't have awful taste, though.) When doing this step, you will have to weigh the prospects of writing an idea you want to write vs writing an idea that people will like. The two aren't mutually exclusive; you can have an idea you want to write that people will like that's also fairly original, it's just rare. (And everything is "fairly original" at best.) The trade off here is different for different people. I can have fun writing just about anything (I have fun writing these essays, how queer is that?) so the trade off for me is very minimal.

Learn to draw and combine ideas and you can come up with good story ideas easily, and great story ideas won't be too much harder.

The readership of my little pony fanfiction is largely male college/highschool students. They're an electronic generation and when it

comes to entertainment they want entertainment to start entertaining them immediately. Every reader has a point at which they stop reading if nothing is interesting them. For some this point is farther, others shorter. But why cut out part of your readership by waiting? That's the prime idea behind all the emphasis writers put on the opening sentence.

You didn't know there was a lot of emphasis on the opening sentence? Well now it's time that you put some there.

Your opening sentence (or sentences) should be able to stand on its own. It should have punch, and when you read it, it should be awesome.

>Twilight had all the grace of a strangled cockatrice, but Spike couldn't bear to tell her that. "Um…yeah, it looks good."

>The blood moon rises in Equestria once every five hundred years, and the last one rose just over five hundred years ago to the day.
>Favor had been named as such by his parents, hoping to bring him good luck. Unfortunately, as the two guards holding him prisoner could attest, it had had no such effect.
>Never, ever, ever go near the mountain. That was what her mother had always said.
>Dragons are known to be temperamental, quick to anger. Dragon mothers, however, are much worse.

Find an opening that stands on its own merits as being an awesome sentence. Think about the literary devices you know and try to make something of them. In some cases you can afford more than just an opening sentence by having the second sentence play off the first in some way.

After you have an opening sentence, you have your opening page. The first page or so has to have things happening in it. You don't want to have characters getting out of bed, walking someplace, or a report on the weather or the perfectly normal town the character lives in. You could consider "things happening" as a "rate of change". You want to have things changing and progressing within the first page or it won't seem to the reader like your story is going places.

Remember how I mentioned sentences being awesome above? Giving your story pop is making sure your story routinely has awesome sentences or dialogue in it.

>"Well cut me loose from a straight jacket and give my gram back her false teeth! Ah'll be darned, you really did pull it off!"

>A flash in the dark–a knife. The body hits the floor and the rain washes the traces away.
>His wife, his daughters… General Mustang had taken away his life. The only thing left to do was to take the General's.
>Tartarus was warm most times of the year, good neighbourhoods–though it took time to get used to the screams of the damned.

The thing that causes so may authors' writing to fall into background noise is this lack of pop. They forget to write these sentences outside of the occasional end or beginning of a scene. But you should try to have your story littered with these little gems of writing.

It can be hard at first to come up with them, but with practice it becomes easier.

A huge part of pop though is the dialogue. Dialogue is characterization, is action, is always placed a step above narrative. If something is in dialogue the reader pays it more attention than the narration. Being able to come up with smart dialogue can make a character. Take for example Tyrion Lanister (if you watch game of thrones). Sure it's the actor, but it's also the character himself who is sharp, witty, clever, and funny. This is mostly because he has an abundance of great dialogue. Even if you look at a retarded character such as forest gump or rain man, their dialogue is extremely defining. The thing is to not write realistic dialogue, because realism sucks. You want to try having conversations as interesting as possible. Simple, straight-forward back and forth exchanges are boring. Inject humour, tension, or questions for the reader into your dialogue. (Though be subtle on the last one.)

As a cautionary note on the dialogue, don't go out of your way to do something. You should never force something in such a way that it sticks out like a sore thumb. Good humour, and good one-liners or quotes, blend into the storytelling.
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Rainedash!79F9Y0XQII 3703

Hey, any piece of advice that could help, I'll gladly take. Thanks.

Casca!blANCA/Sq2 3706

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> The thing is to not write realistic dialogue, because realism sucks.
Definitely points to ponder. I may just have to bookmark this - oh, wait, I already did.

Advice: Writing Tips Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 3895

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List of Writing Tips:

1) Show; don't tell.

2) Tell: your writing is too long winded and not going anywhere.

3) Don't write too many big blocks of narration, try to tell the story through dialogue.

4) Don't write so much dialogue, people don't want to read a script.

5) Try to constantly keep your fic exciting.

6) Don't make your fic too exciting, you'll wear your reader out.

7) Get rid of all your adverbs.

8) Use some adverbs; it'll vary your writing.

9) Write as much as you can as fast as you can, even if it's garbage, don't stop for anything.

10) Plan and edit thoroughly.

11) Don't open with a weather report.

12) …unless you can do it well.

13) If you find a plot hole, turn it into a chekov's gun.

14) Don't use the chekov's gun principle, it makes your story predictable.

15) Use the chekov's gun principle, the reader should have some idea of what's going to happen next.

16) Rules often times contradict each other; find a balance between the two ends of the scale.
This post was edited by its author on .

Tactical 3896

>Don't make your fic too exciting, you'll wear your reader out.
Is this an actual thing?

>Don't use the chekov's gun principle, it makes your story predictable.

Is THIS an actual thing?


File: 1360116444867.jpg (23.6 KB, 500x218, stevenking.jpg)

Methinks you missed the point. =)


File: 1360120784704.gif (2.79 MB, 340x243, pd7EJ4Q.gif)

Obligatory pointing out that the quote in the picture isn't actually from Stephan King.

For the first one, I believe it more refers to "Don't have the story be a long action scene". You need to provide slower bits for character and plot development, adding tension, and giving the reader time to contemplate what's happened so far.


File: 1360125771953.png (500.05 KB, 900x506, Apple Bloom CMCActionGo.png)

>Don't use the chekov's gun principle, it makes your story predictable.
>Is THIS an actual thing?
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. You know darn well that the gun in Stand By Me The Body is going to get fired in the third act, but you don't know what the target is going to be.

Casca!blANCA/Sq2 4000

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Let's give ya something to work with.

How do you write from a girl's perspective? Rather, how do you get into the mind of a character of the opposite sex?

Advice: Writing Female Characters soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 4009

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Writing Female Characters:
The first thing is that female characters generally have a different set of archetypes. Technically you could have just about any archetype be either gender, but it's more that females have different popularities amongst the archetypes. A male temptress isn't nearly as common in writing as a female one, and a female white knight isn't nearly as common as a male one, but both of the above have come around from time to time.

The second thing is that female characters, while not being as different from male characters as many people believe, do have some differences. Those differences though aren't as much them being different, but the rest of the world being different. Another male character of say "seacaptain archetype" won't interact to a female character who is "young and eager adventurer archetype" the same way as they would a male of the same archetype.


"Please let me on your boat, Captain Breakwater!" she begged.
"I don't got no time t' care for a skirt on my ship. And I don't got no room for idle hooves, either." He sighed, calling over a deck hand and giving him directions to load the rest of the ship before turning back to her. "You best find one of them voyage cruises, missy. I'm sure one'll stop by here in about a week or two."

–––– versus ––––

"Please let me on your boat, Captain Breakwater!" he begged.
"You're scrawnier than a prawn, lad," the Captain said, looking him over. "I won't have no child thinking he's more grown up than he is getting himself backbroken from trying to work aboard my ship." The captain called over a deck hand, giving him directions to load the rest of the ship before turning back to the colt. "Go home to yer mother, lad. She's probably worried sick about ya."


The ideals of a character don't really differ from male to female. Male on male interactions, female on female interactions, and female on male interactions are all different from each other. And depending on the time frame or culture of the world you're writing in, social norms revolving around the genders change how the world treats the character, too. If significant, this way the world treats the character because of their gender can be a huge factor in the character they are. For example, fight club would never happen with female characters, and alice in wonderland wouldn't nearly play out the same way with a boy falling down the rabbit hole instead of a girl.

When it comes down to it, don't write or think in terms of "male characters" and "female characters", just write people. Because it just so happens, women are people, and gender only plays a role in a character as much some other traits like age, physical appearence, or race. And just like any of those, it's a trait that can at times be irrelevant.

The best thing you can do if you're trying to write a female character, is not to try figuring out how they think differently from males, but to try figuring out how everything else acts differently towards them.

(Rather specific topic, so one section's all I really have.)
This post was edited by its author on .


File: 1360578376759.jpg (6.82 KB, 199x253, i_must_go.jpg)

Interesting. I'll definitely chew on that. Thanks!

Azusa!fG2qnvpWXU 4046

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Could you possibly explain varied sentence structure? I'm reviewing a book for a friend and in most of his sentences it feels like he's trying to cram two or three things happening all at once.


File: 1360646316424.gif (1.99 MB, 350x315, b89.gif)


soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 4095

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This picture accurately sums up how I feel about the whole "trying to make your story appeal to people" vs "write what you want to".

Lesson: Sentence Structure, Ideas, and Word Economy soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 4198

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Translating ideas to clauses:
There's many ways to write a sentence. You can use many words—or very few, and you can join two sentences with a wide variety of cojunctions: from the stylistic comma splice to the sentence fragment to the simple (and much more safe) "and".

To figure out what sentence structure to use is something that only comes with practice, but hopefully I can show you some examples so that you start learning it faster.

>Twilight was confident she would pass the Princess' test, having practiced for weeks.

The above sentence structure allows you to add a minor detail prior to the focus of the sentence. However, the above can also be two sentences.

>Twilight was confident she would pass the Princess' test. She had practiced for weeks.

Breaking this into two sentences places more emphasis on the idea overall, and breaking it into three would really make it pack punch. I would not recommend doing this if the reader knows that Twilight has been practicing for weeks, in that case the sentence stating it is redundant and should only be mentioned as a minor note (like in the first example) or not be there at all.

> Twilight was confident. She had practiced for weeks. She would pass the Princess' test.

This three sentence version has the effect of sounding like Twilight is the one thinking these thoughts, trying to boost her confidence before the test. The above sentences can actually be arranged in any order, and since they are related ideas any reordering would further change where the emphasis lies.

You don't really want a minor note to have a lot of emphasis, otherwise you're drawing your reader's attention the wrong way. Sometimes identifying what is a minor note and what isn't can be difficult, but I think Elmore Leonard has pretty sound advice in that regard when he said: "I try to leave out the parts that people skip."

If, however, you must let the reader know of something that doesn't particularly contribute to moving the story forward, you can place the information in an area where it will be skimmed, but the information will still be there. For example:

> Twilight had practiced for weeks, preparing herself for the Princess' test.

The focus of the above sentence is "Twilight had practiced for weeks", while the Princess' test is a side note to that fact. If the test isn't in fact an important note, maybe because something interrupts her practice and the test no longer becomes important, then you may want to downplay it. You should not cut it, however, because it gives a bit more context to Twilight having practiced for weeks.

So when translating ideas to sentences: try to figure out where emphasis should be placed and where it shouldn't, figure out what ideas are relative to each other, and then make a judgement call on whether the two ideas should be combined in one sentence. Also, string the minor details in subordinate clauses (http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/subordinateclause.htm : a link to a list of subordinating conjunctions and a definition).

Becoming familiar with conjunctions and practicing different ones is important to varying your sentences. If all you know is "and", "but", and "or", then your sentence structures will seem very patterned. Note that you can also combine sentences through punctuation, using a colon, semicolon, em-dash, or comma splice (but use the comma splice very sparingly and only use it if you know what you're doing).

Once you start practicing with all the different conjunctions and sentence structures more, you'll develop preferences and an understanding of how you can order your words—which will shape your style.

Run on sentences:
Toss any silly notion about sentences having a limit out the window. Page long sentences have shown up in more than one award winning book, and the only limit to how long a sentence is, is whether or not it works.

As an example, I could write a long sentence that manages to clearly convey meaning and manages to not become cluttered and it would be perfectly fine, but if the reader feels that the sentence is cluttered and difficult to follow, then the sentence should most likely be broken down into smaller ideas so as avoid reader indigestion from shoving it all down his throat at once, with the exception that the rare occasion pops up and you want that kind of effect, though I could never imagine why.

Word Economy:
This is something I see kill talented authors. Word economy has no correlation with word count. Shortskirtsandexplosions has fairly good word economy in his 400k epics that average 30k a chapter, while Device Heretic has somewhat poor word economy with word counts that average half of SS&E's. (He does other things well, though.) Word economy is the art of words well spent. Authors who are wasteful with words, or say very little in very many words, have bad word economy.

>Twilight had, however, managed to acquire the piece of jewelery after allowing Sombra to recant a monologue to her for some time. All the while during his speech, her magic was encapsulated around the Element of Magic, slowly pulling it free from the crystal Sombra had used his magic to embed it in.

The above sentence was painful to write, and has terrible word economy.

>managed to acquire

>the piece of jewelery
the tiara.
>after allowing Sombra to recant a monologue to her for some time
while Sombra was recanting his monologue to her.
>All the while during his speech
During his speech.
>her magic was encapsulated around the Element of Magic, slowly pulling it free from the crystal Sombra had used his magic to embed it in
she had used her magic to pull the Element of Magic free from the crystal Sombra had embedded it in.

The revised:
>Twilight had, however, acquired the tiara while Sombra was recanting his monologue to her. During his speech, she had used her magic to pull the Element of Magic free from the crystal Sombra had embedded it in.

Notice it's shorter, but still covers everything with no real loss of detail.

"But then how does SS&E have really long stories with good word economy?"

Detail. His stories are extremely detailed with relevant detail. It also comes down to how he writes dialogue and how he plays out scenes. He often stretches them quite long, and it isn't rare to see a 5 page conversation between two characters in his stories.
This post was edited by its author on .

Ion-Sturm 4388

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Mucho gracias, SLP! Sorry I didn't reply earlier; I don't know how I missed the post for ten days >_>

Lesson: Synopses Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 4484

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The Goal of a Synopsis:
Synopses are more than just a couple sentences. It's as different a type of writing as journalism or poetry, and I've seen a few good synopses that demand I click on their link. That's really what you want them to do.

>Death tolls.

The above is not a synopsis. No synopsis should rely on its title to convey meaning, and no synopsis should leave you without a clue of what you're getting into. Everyone judges a book by its cover to some extent. There are, after all, many stories to read. So it's up to the synopsis to make the reader choose its story. And it does this by conveying a few things clearly:

1) The conflict.
2) The character (optional).
3) The setting (optional: if there is an exotic or foreign one to introduce, introduce it.)
4) The theme/genre (should be implied a little).
5) The tone of the story.

The last is probably the most difficult to achieve. You don't want rhetoric. You don't want to implicitly nor explicitly state the moral of the fic. And you especially don't want to write any sentences into your synopsis for this sole purpose. You have but a few sentences to build a tone and establish the protagonist and conflict.

>Death tolls in Winterspring. For over three hundred years the villagers have fought to survive the murderous winters north of the mountains. But this winter is colder than any other, and creatures of ice come from the white.

The above is a pretty good synopsis. It doesn't establish a character, but in its case it doesn't need to. Whatever character we're going to be introduced to in the story will obviously be involved in the conflict. It could be a hero from the capital, or a member of Winterspring. The above synopsis is best suited to an adventure story, as what we remember at the end of an adventure story aren't necessarily the heroes, but the battles and the world. When you hear lord of the rings, the first thing you think of is elves, orcs, sauron, and the ring. For starwars: lightsabers, force, tattoine, aliens. Different genres have different points of emphasis you want in a synopsis. For example, a coming of age/romance story might want something more like:

>Rainbow Dash and Applejack decide it's time to bring Fluttershy out of her shell. As she spends more and more time with them, she realizes she's in love with Applejack. And Rainbow Dash is in love with her.

The above doesn't need anything about the setting or world, just the characters and drama, as those are the story's strong points.

Comedy is almost another style of writing apart from normal writing altogether. Rules are whimsical and easily broken for the sake of comedy, and this is the same for a comedy synopsis.

>Fivescore and eleven years ago, a rock farm was bought. On this rock farm, there lived rock farmers, who made their living, as you may imagine, farming rocks. That all changed though, when they discovered a diamond deposit below the farm. But what's a rock farmer to do with diamonds? Why, sell them and start an empire, I suppose. Now at the head of his father's empire, Duke Hayfer, of rock farming descent, wants to do nothing more than run away from it all and start up his own rock farm.

Rhetoric questions, ommitable colloquialisms, and all around, too much fluff.
But it works because of that thing I mentioned earlier:
>5) The tone of the story.
While adventures largely focus on world and setting and dramas on characters, comedies need to have a narrative voice. So all that "fluff" in this case, is establishment of that, and therefor, not wasteful.

The "Don't"s:
Let me preface this section by saying: you can get away with these if you're good. If you aren't that confident though, don't.


>What do you do when you're stuck between a rock and a hard place? When your life has hit a dead end? For Brave Star, he—

And stop right there. The above first two sentences? Don't do things like that. You can better convey, in less words, and with more information, that Brave Star has hit a dead end in life. For example:

>Brave Star has hit a dead end in life.

… Yes. It's really that simple. In more words:

>Brave Star has been stuck as a line cook for almost a decade of his life, earning minimum wage. On his twenty-fifth birthday, he decides to go out and become what his cutie mark destined him to be: a sheriff.

Holy batman that's about five more pieces of information than the first one! It's longer, sure, but has far more information per word than the original version had.

Side note:
As a side note to my other lesson on ideas (>>3701), all the story ideas I came up with for these synopses took little to no time or effort, but could all quite easily be a good story. Just remember that when something doesn't work out that it's easy to come up with something new.

soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 5674

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This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

- Gary Provost

I thought I'd post this as an additional footnote to: >>4198 on the topic of sentence length and rhythm

Anonymous 5974

What's a good wait time between the first and second drafts?

Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6010

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I'm not someone who writes second drafts, typically, but I'll try to answer this best I can.

If you believe the first draft is lacking in some way, then wait a bit before trying a second draft. The risk though, is in waiting too long and either not finishing it or losing the inspiration/enthusiasm you had for the idea before. I can't give you a number because it varies for everyone. All I can say is that if you feel your first draft is okay, but you still want a second, then write the second soon (although not immediately) after the first draft. If you feel like your first draft needs some serious reworking, give yourself a while to stew on it. Write once you're bursting with ideas of what to change. Or, if you feel your interest in the idea decreasing instead of increasing, pen it out immediately.

There isn't much more to it than that.

Advice: How to Become a Better Writer Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6313

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Let me start by saying this isn't some “8 tips every author should know!” shorthand bullshit. What this is about, is how to learn.

I see authors, first time and experienced alike, spend months toiling over a first chapter or a first story, getting caught working at it for weeks on end. Hell, this happened to me. What pains me about it, is that they don’t realize how badly they are sabotaging themselves as writers. They get stuck standing still, and sometime while standing still, their learning grinded to a halt.

I see authors publish a mountain of first drafts, as though they’re blindly throwing a handful of darts at a dartboard and hoping one manages to hit the bullseye. They don’t realize that they’re barely getting anything from writing these stories. That 10 stories later their writing is largely unchanged. They’re usually not trying to improve or change their writing at all.

It’s cruel irony that the second kind of author will wind up better than the agonizer poring over his past work. But it comes down to the simple matter that: if you’re not writing, you’re not writing.

So, to get better at writing, you have to write. I’m not saying the second kind of author is the ideal role model. His actions are almost as bad as the first kind of writer’s.

But most importantly, you have to write new. You will never learn faster than when you first try something. If you apply this to writing:

- write stories in different tenses
- write different types of protagonists
- write with a different PoV (third, first, unreliable)
- write a different genre
- write something with a different tone

Every time I’ve written a new story, I’ve tried something different. Every time I have, I’ve learned more about writing in the first chapter than in five chapters of any one of my ongoing fics.

Just a thought to keep in mind when you start your next story.

EDIT: This also serves to remind people this thread exists. If you could use advice on something, even something story specific, feel free to say so.
This post was edited by its author on .

Writer's_Block!hS9ZjLM/uE 6314

How’s about that tone?

What does it take to keep a tone consistent? What does it take to make a good tone which is appropriate for a story? Can tones ever truly contradict effectively? If so, how? If not, why?

Writer's_Block!hS9ZjLM/uE 6315

Or, how about we dissect plot devices a bit?

When does a plot device become one of convenience (basically, just something that is designed to simply get the plot moving again at all costs of logic and reason) vs. an organic one? (Something that looks and feels like it is a natural extension of the story.)

As a general example of plot device: take the Macguffin.

My thought is that a plot device of convenience is when the Macguffin, out of nowhere, gets a brand new ability that just so happens to be the one needed, even though logically it seems a bit out of the Macguffin’s jurisdiction. (The key to the Water Temple becomes a magic light-sword that is all that can defeat the dark prophet of Norgush.)

An organic plot device would be when the Macguffin does something, but it feels at least more marginally connected to the original intent of the device. (The key to the Water Temple gains the ability to summon tidal waves. This is used to slow down the villain by almost drowning them until the key Macguffin can be found.)

Tactical!fRainBOoMw 6329


The second one's not aimed at me, is it?

Anyway, I've been re-reading all of these, so I wanted to say thank you for posting them. These are some good insights.

Lesson: Tone Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6338

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Tone is in the Dialogue. Tone is in the setting. Tone is in the narrative voice. To keep a tone consistent requires much the same of what it takes to keep a character consistent: a clear understanding of what your tone is. It isn’t something you can really define with a backstory, ticks, or traits. All you can really do is have a clear idea of what emotion you wish your writing to convey, and let it shape your sentences, world, and characters.

Tone can create very different stories out of similar circumstances. A war can be funny (Black Adder IV), a war can be noble (Troy), a war can be disaster (All Quiet on the Western Front). And really it all comes down to the tone which is interwoven into the story. To give a clearer example of tone changing similar circumstances:

“Are you lost?” the eight-foot-long serpent asked. Its fangs dripped venom down its chin as the flames of Tartarus burned in the background behind it.

“I-I’m trying to get home,” Compass said, stepping back only for his hoof to hit the stone wall behind him. He gulped.
“Are you lost?” the rather menacing eight-foot-long serpent asked, with the kind of smile you only see on used car insurance salesmen. Its breath stank like tuna that had been left out in the sun.

“Well, yes,” Compass said, figuring the beast would have eaten him by now if it was planning to. “I got lost on my way to the grocery store.”

“You got lost on the way to the grocery store and instead wound up in the seventh level of Tartarus?”

“Well, I’m pretty sure I took more than a few wrong turns.”
“Are you lost?” the serpent asked, licking its lips.

Compass rolled his eyes, glancing at the flames around them with a bored expression. “Are you?” he asked, drawing his sword.

Three very different stories from three very similar situations. The tone is perhaps the first thing you should figure out after coming up with an idea for the story, since it is an integral part of it.

Any change in tone should be a gradual process. The story gradually becomes darker. The protagonist gradually goes from coward to hero. There are tones that are almost contradictory in nature, such as black comedy, but I wouldn’t call them a contradiction in tone, as they are their own kind of tone. You can quite easily have something turn incredibly dark incredibly fast. An abrupt character death is a common, good example. But in doing an abrupt change in tone, you have to follow through. You can’t just go back after doing that. Not unless you have something like American History X, where it’s contained inside a flashback to a time years ago, and so it gives a sudden weight and context to the present situation. That weight and context should be somewhat evident beforehand, though.

Tones are also free to shift between different characters with different ‘stories’ in the same story. I’m not talking about two characters travelling with one another, I’m talking about one living in a castle and the other being a street rat. In the castle you may have a tone of political intrigue, while in the streets you could have more of a gritty tone to things, where people steal and starve and grow sick. Parallel stories such as the ones in Lord of the Rings. Though they should most likely hold some similarity in tone, as they are in the same world.

In summary: tone is as important to characterize as your protagonist, and like a character’s characterization, should not change drastically and suddenly without due reason.
This post was edited by its author on .

Advice: Contrived Plot Devices Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6363

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The line where a plot device becomes contrived instead of natural is entirely up to the reader. It varies from reader to reader, but generally you should try to avoid that line and make your plot devices as natural feeling as possible. The main thing really is having the plot device aforementioned.

Let’s take your example:
>The key to the Water Temple becomes a magic light-sword that is all that can defeat the dark prophet of Norgush.
This, alone, would seem contrived. But were you to add a prophecy of a magic light-sword that can defeat the prophet of Norgush, and then this sword turned out to in fact be the key, it would feel natural.

One of the most famous and almost painful deus ex machinas is Gandalf. Between Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, Gandalf shows up suddenly and saves everyone about 5-7 times (just a fuzzy guess on my part) and while people have criticized this, it obviously hasn’t been story breaking. The main thing to notice with this example, is that it’s Gandalf. It’s someone who has been travelling in their party the entire time, and as such, his help isn’t seen as too much of a contrivance. Honestly, it’s more the severe repetition of this plot device (Gandalf shows up and saves the day) that earns it scorn.

All in all, a contrived plot device is one that seems born out of convenience. The best way to avoid this, is to make it born earlier. If it is mentioned early, then it isn’t born out of convenience, but rather is an existing element of your story come to light. To give another example, if a god reaches down and lends the hero her power, but this god is riddled throughout the story’s world, dialogue, and narrative, then her existence isn’t born out of convenience of the moment. Its a very real element of the world. It speaks for the character of the hero that this god would lend them aid.
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Tactical 6780

Hey SLP, if you're still doing this thread, I got one: Omni-voice. I have no idea how to do it, and I want to try.

Advice: Omniscient Narrative Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6828

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Omniscient Narrative is a form of Third Person Narrative, meaning that it's from the point of view of an onlooker. The difference with the Omniscient Narrator, is that he is a chronicler or storyteller of sorts. He's a third person with knowledge of every character's thoughts. The benefits of an omniscient narrator is that the reader may hear two parties whispering at either end of a hall, or two characters secret thoughts about one another. It offers the most complete telling of a story.

Here's an example of something only Omniscient Narrative can do:
Under the eaves crept two shadows, drab in black. The lead one crouched and tip-toed his way to below a window, while his companion strolled up behind him. Inside the Count of Edinburrow was discussing a rather lucrative business proposition with a few of his colleagues. Said proposition would see that many of the poor in the southern district would have their homes demolished for some sultry compensation to make way for a new yarn factory. The project would not go through, however, if the two skulking shadows had anything to say about it.

There's a careful line to tread with omniscience. True omniscience will kill tension, but by appropriately using it, you can create plot situations that would be difficult to convey with a more limited PoV. It just takes a slightly different way of storytelling to make use of it.
This post was edited by its author on .

Tactical 6829

I guess my question was how to create something that's pointedly third person omni, avoiding falling into just a failure of normal third person.

Lesson: Some Useful Tricks/Explenations Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6975

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Throughout my time spent writing, I've had several 'epiphany' moments where something just clicked and my writing improved immensely. They mostly came from me gaining a different understanding of advice I’d been told, and being able to describe the advice in my own words. Without further adieu, here are a few of them:

Avoiding “She did this. She did that.”:

This is something I only figured out pretty recently, in fact. I used to spend a lot of time trying to avoid this problem, until I figured out an easy method that can help avoid it. Namely, whenever the character takes an action, they’re likely taking that action on something, so by simply describing that something in its own sentence, you can break up the monotony. For example:

>Fluttershy left her cottage and went to the market. There, she wandered past the various stalls, wondering what to buy. She came across one peculiar stall, set apart from the others with dark letters from a foreign language painted on a board hanging down from its roof. She approached it, swallowing as she noticed the hard stare the owner was giving her. “Um, hello.”

What many beginners do to break up this monotony, is use passive voice, which is most often a mistake. A much easier way to break this up, as well as enrich the setting, is to describe some of the things having actions taken on them.

>Fluttershy left her cottage and Went to the market. It was Saturday; the town square was packed with ponies, as often tourists as they were not. She wandered past the various stalls, wondering what to buy. One peculiar stall caught her eye. It was set apart from the others. Dark letters from a foreign language were painted across a board hanging down from its roof. For some reason, she felt compelled to walk over to it. The owner had an ugly scar on his lip and an unkind stare, looking nothing like a merchant. Fluttershy swallowed. “Um, hello.”

The cases where this sometimes doesn’t work is usually body language, but in those cases, you can usually just try to describe what the character is looking at. If it’s another pony, what are they doing? If it’s a spooky cave, does its walls glisten with dampness? Its depths reek of something foul?

Show; Don’t Tell:

There’s three things I’ve learned about this. The first is that people who spout this three word phrase to new writers without being able to provide proper explanation of its concept ought to have orange juice put in their morning coffee.

The second is a trick for finding the worst cases of show; don’t tell. For those unfamiliar with it, show; don’t tell is shorthand to describe a very muddy (that is, not clearly defined) rule that you should avoid outright stating of emotions or thoughts and try to hint at or indicate them indirectly instead.
>”You mean I can’t go?” Sweetie Belle asked, saddened.
>”You mean I can’t go?” Sweetie Belle asked, her bottom lip quivering.

Now the trick, which works in the above, involves looking for any word which is a variation of an emotion. If you ever find yourself writing the word sad, saddened, sadly, angry, happy, frustrated, bored, or any other word that you can describe as an emotion, stop yourself, and think: am I stating a character’s emotion? If the answer is yes, then figure out a way, either through the character’s actions or dialogue (or if those two fail, their thoughts) to show that emotion.

The third thing I learned is that telling can be acceptable for the sake of brevity. A quick detailing of backstory or telling to establish the scenario to the reader in the simplest way possible are just two of the cases I can think of where telling works. As an example of the latter:

>Jake sighed and reached into his locker for his textbook, only for an elbow to knock it shut on his fingers. He yanked his hand back with a curse, looking to see the elbow belonged to Marcy.

> She grinned a smug grin and leaned against the lockers next to him; he was surprised they could hold the weight. “‘Sup, loser?”

> He hated Marcy ever since she stole his juice box in third grade. She got him in trouble by telling the teacher that he kept lying about her stealing it.

> “Don’t you have somewhere to be? Class… the cafeteria… Mc Donalds?”

> She sneered. “As a matter of fact I was about to go to the food court with my friends—something you should try getting sometime.”

> “Food court? Is that where they send you people?”

Is there a way to show this? Most definitely. He could bring it up when talking to someone, but that would be down the road, and the point of using telling here is establishing for the reader very quickly what kind of relationship these two have, and that they have some kind of history together.

Telling to an effect requires a fair amount of understanding show; don’t tell, so if you don’t have that, I recommend avoiding this like the above for now, and stick to ironing out sloppy tells as I mentioned in the trick.

Sentence Length:
It took this rather famous quote from Gary Provost for me to really understand the impact that varied sentence lengths can have. The example he gives explains the concept well enough, but I’ll just add to it anyways.

Slow readers are who this makes the most impact to, people who read the words aloud with an internal voice. That internal voice gives the words flow and rhythm, but fast readers also have this to a slightly lesser extent. Exposing the reader to varied sentence lengths keep the story fresh, the writing crisp, and the flow of words clean. Every writer has a different average sentence length. Some write more robustly than others. I personally write my common narrative sentence as long as one line on the word writing document I’m currently on.

A thing to note about varying your sentence lengths, is that it’s the short and long sentences that stick out. Not only that, but they can make the whole paragraph they’re in stick out. Sentence length variation may not be as important when, say, you’re detailing the interior of a library, but when you’re reaching a climax, trying to make a point, writing something that says, “Hey, reader! Listen to this!”, you can grab their attention with the change of pace a long/short sentence brings.

Just be careful not to exhaust them on long sentences. Try adding some short ones afterwards as a break.

Details, Details, Details:

You may have heard that you should detail your writing as much as possible, but you’ve also probably heard that you should cut down on details, and you also probably don’t understand the impact detailing can add to your writing. Simply put, if there’s more information per word in your story, it will hold the reader’s attention better. It’s not a matter of detailing everything, it’s about detailing what’s important to the story, setting, and mood and fitting those things together in a way that tells the reader about them succinctly. This is how you get lean writing, which is writing where every sentence feels tightly knit.

Beyond understanding that, the second thing that helped me improve in this regard was a simple three step process that I did until its result became the way I naturally wrote:
1.) Add details
2.) Cut out anything unnecessary
3.) Repeat

Well, anyways, that’s all I have for now. The thread is still open for suggestions/advice. You can post excerpts from your own writing if there's a particular problem with your writing you can't quite figure out.
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