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Writing Advice Thread

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Damask, Jun 3, 2012.

  1. Damask

    Damask Seventh Year

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    I figured DLP might need a thread in which those of us who don't have betas (or can't / don't want to post their entire works in WbA yet) could request help with the technicalities of writing -- a specific wording, a metaphor that might or might not work, britpicks, as well as broader issues like plot tension or realistic character dialogue.

    I placed it in this subforum because that's where the dialogue sticky and the other writing threads are. If a mod doesn't approve of that, or of this thread in general, they shouldn't hesitate to move it or just nuke it into oblivion.

    --

    So, to start off: to what extent can you use repetitive structures without sounding like a broken record? I've seen it used well by better writers than myself, and I might have, more or less consciously, resolved to using that trick more often for that reason. But now I'm looking at a couple of paragraphs totaling about 180 words, in which I could identify 5 such structures, out of which 3 consist of expressions or clauses separated by the word "and". Basically the whole second paragraph consists of just that. And I've just noticed a repetitive structure within a repetitive structure. Yo, dawg, I heard you like repetition...

    This is the fragment in question. (AU alternate guardian fic, beginning of chapter 2, or chapter 1 if you don't count the prologue. Not spoilerific.)
    Time had been kind to the Potters. Months turned to years, grief turned to memories, wounds turned to scars, and once again life brought peace and contentment back into their home. They were delighted to watch Harry grow into a younger version of James, the resemblance so strong that they were sometimes tempted to call him by his middle name – and Mr. Potter often did, jokingly. But Harry was not James, and his green eyes would regard him curiously behind round glasses, and when Grandpa would laugh and ruffle his hair, the messy black locks would reveal a lightning-shaped scar with its own unmentionable history – and Grandpa would fall silent.

    When James had been a little child, it had been different. There had been broken toy brooms, and back-talking, and the occasional sock transfigured into a balloon; there had been sulking that could be vanished with an encouragement and a new toy. Harry, with his quiet demeanour and wild magic and notoriety, was special, and his grandparents often wondered whether they knew just how true that was.
    Did that grate on your nerves, and would you have noticed the repetitiveness if I hadn't pointed it out? Which ones should go?
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  2. Tasoli

    Tasoli Minister of Magic

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    Well someone else could probably give a better advice but some parts grate on my nerves as reader of that paragraph so I will tell them and see if DLP agree with me or not.

    Lets start;
    "Time had been kind to the Potters. Months turned to years, grief turned to memories, wounds turned to scars, and once again life brought peace and contentment back into their home."

    This part didn't bother me, it was alright

    "
    But Harry was not James, and his green eyes would regard him curiously behind round glasses, and when Grandpa would laugh and ruffle his hair, the messy black locks would reveal a lightning-shaped scar with its own unmentionable history – and Grandpa would fall silent."

    Yes too much "and" use if you are going to list few things -like here- just put a comma and move on like this;

    "
    But Harry was not James, his green eyes would regard him curiously behind round glasses, when Grandpa *laugh(s) and ruffle(s?) his hair, the messy black locks would reveal a lightning-shaped scar with its own unmentionable history – Grandpa would fall silent

    A comma is more than enough. Also not sure about times this looks better to me. Probably wrong take another look at this part.

    "
    When James had been a little child, it had been different. There had been broken toy brooms, and back-talking, and the occasional sock transfigured into a balloon; there had been sulking that could be vanished with an encouragement and a new toy. Harry, with his quiet demeanor and wild magic and notoriety, was special, and his grandparents often wondered whether they knew just how true that was."

    Same story here;

    "
    When James had been a little child, it had been different. There had been broken toy brooms, back-talking, the occasional sock transfigured into a balloon; (there had been)* sulking that could be vanished with an encouragement and a new toy. Harry, with his quiet demeanor, wild magic and notoriety, was special."

    Also don't make your sentences too long like here. -Use the dot Luke.- Then you can put this as a separate sentence.

    "
    His grandparents often wondered whether they knew just how true that was."

    * I am not sure about this part is okey or not maybe some one else would know.

    As a reader that jumped at me. Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  3. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

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    Shouldn't it be "turned into" instead of "turned in"?
    I AM a foreigner, but that seems to sound better. At least for me.

    As for the repetition, the above post probably handles it alright. Use dots.


    I'd change the last part to something like "his gradparents often wondered if they saw just how special he was."
    Still don't like it.
    "His grandparents often wondered if they'll ever fully understand just how special he was."

    Don't know - I'd ditch that part, don't really understand the purpose of saying that.
     
  4. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    Drop the 'and's and keep the other two repetitive structures. This is something I use fairly regularly and like in certain types of prose, but 'x and x and x and x' doesn't read well.
     
  5. Damask

    Damask Seventh Year

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    Thanks to all of you -- I've rephrased the last paragraph and eliminated some of the repetitiveness, so that what's left doesn't come off quite as unpleasant.

    No, that doesn't work; you can't use the comma as you would a period. Clauses need to be either linked by conjunctions or separated by periods or other punctuation. Also, I can't (and wouldn't want to) switch to present tense just like that.

    "Turned to", in all of these contexts, returned more Google hits than "turned into". (By the way -- and this is a tip many other ESLers could benefit from -- the number of Google hits for any given exact phrase in English is a damned good indicator of how correct it is to use it. It doesn't work only when the phrase includes very specific words within it.)

    As for the last part, I definitely wasn't meaning that in the "special snowflake" way. :) More like that they sometimes were at a loss with him, but without saying exactly that. Anyway, I've changed that too, to avoid the word "special".
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2012
  6. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 ~ Prestige ~

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    I'm editing a blog entry for someone, and am trying to find a better way of phrasing a sentence such as: "The Red Group gets our message out to our buyers."

    I don't like the "gets our message" phrase. It feels awkward to me. But, I can't think of a way to rephrase it while keeping it simple, so I thought I'd post it here for DLP to take a shot.

    How would you rewrite it?

    ___________
    Edit: necro'd from 2012 - thought it better than polluting the forum with another short-lived thread.
     
  7. Another Empty Frame

    Another Empty Frame Fake Flamingo DLP Supporter

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    "The Red Group delivers information to customers"
    "The Red Group services possible buyers with valuable information"
    "The Red Group broadcasts its/your brand to prospective clients"

    Mix and match at will, hopefully some combination above will help.
     
  8. Ched

    Ched Da Trek Moderator DLP Supporter ⭐⭐

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    My advice: Don't use two words when one word will do.

    The Red Group gets our message out to our buyers.

    Instead of worrying about phrasing, tell yourself that you have to go from 10 words down to 8, or at least 9. Then find ways to make it happen.

    The Red Group passes the information to buyers.

    Our message goes through the Red Group to buyers.

    The Red Group will pass it along.
    (Can we assume they pass it on to the buyers or is that not assumed?)

    And so forth. None of my examples are what I'd call good... but I find that awkward language is often fixed by rewriting and forcing yourself to use fewer (but higher quality) words.
     
  9. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 ~ Prestige ~

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    This is absolutely true. And, actually, it's what I was doing, but kept coming up blank.
     
  10. LinguaManiac

    LinguaManiac Seventh Year

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    I actually disagree with Tasoil and enembee. In doing so, I find myself disagree with enembee, which is sad, because he's written one of my favorite stories. Still, I stand by my conviction. Your first two sentences introduce a semi-archaic story structure. It's the 'Once upon a time' mode, which not just lends itself to but actually demands greater ornamentation of the sentences. More than that, you're talking about recollections, which are rather fleeting, a feeling that your longer, smoother, almost breathless sentences accentuate. I think the 'and's in this sentence are the only way to make it readable without chopping it up. And to chop it up would ruin the flavor.

    A warning and a place of agreement, though. This style is readable in short stories (sometimes) and in introductions focusing on the haze of remembrance, but if you keep the style once you've broken into a present-focused narrative, it will seem cumbersome at best and unreadable at worst.

    But, for this introduction, please keep it.
     
  11. enembee

    enembee The Nicromancer DLP Supporter

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    I was so confused when I got a post quote on this, since I couldn't recall actually saying anything like this— Original post date 2012.

    I don't think Damask is still soliciting opinions on this particular piece of writing Ligua.

    EDIT: On topic, I think there's too much info missing here. How formal/informal is this blog, for instance. Would 'The Red Group distributes our message to buyers' sound too formal?
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2016
  12. wordhammer

    wordhammer Dark Lord DLP Supporter

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    "The Red Group keeps our buyers informed." - trans. as 'we are using the Red Group for distributing marketing materials'. If it means something else, the phrasing should be altered to recharacterize the relationship.
     
  13. Zeitgeist

    Zeitgeist High Inquisitor

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    I got this advice from Vira, Anne Rice's video, and Stephen King's talks. Those three things don't have too much in common, but they do share one common piece of advice:

    Write every day. It doesn't matter whether you write fifty words or fifty thousand words. Writing is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the better you'll become. Don't keep discourage and keep writing. Eventually, you'll get there.

    Regarding sentence structure, use an active voice. Passive word will encumber your prose. "There had been broken toy brooms, and back-talking, and the occasional sock transfigured into a balloon".

    That's passive. Instead, try "shards of broken toy brooms carpeted the floor, which had confetti and the occasional sock that James had transfigured into a balloon". Active voice will strengthen your writing.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2016
  14. Damask

    Damask Seventh Year

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    Oh man, this was abandoned ages ago, I can't believe you guys are trying to help me out with a piece of writing I attempted in goddamn 2012... :lol:

    Everybody should feel free to post their own questions, though. The more, the merrier. Don't pay too much attention to the OP.
     
  15. Joe's Nemesis

    Joe's Nemesis High Score: 2,058 ~ Prestige ~

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    Naa, not everyone. I actually necroed it for my own question. But yeah, it's funny how some miss the time stamps. Not that I've ever been guilty of that.
     
  16. LinguaManiac

    LinguaManiac Seventh Year

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    Eh... yeah... sorry about that. I keep thinking that if a thread's active it means that the thread was recent. Cheers!
     
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