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Writing Advice Thread

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Halt, Jan 18, 2018.

  1. Story Content: [Advice] [Sorrows] The Art of Paragraphing

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator

    Jun 17, 2008

    For some more technical advice there is something that I see that at its worst renders otherwise reasonably written fanfiction stories unreadable, and that is tat new writers often do not consider how they use paragraphs.

    The Art or Paragraphs - Fred D. White

    Skillful paragraphing aids readability.

    In fiction writing, you should consider starting a new paragraph when any of the following occurs:
    • There is a change in perspective.
    • There is a shift in location.
    • A different character speaks (you should create a new paragraph anytime someone different says something).
    • There is a change in focus or thought

    However it also sets the pace of the narrative, generates mood and helps make characters three-dimensional. So ignore the school textbook rules about the so-called well-made paragraph. Keep these three principles in mind instead:

    1. PARAGRAPHS MANAGE CONTENT: A scene can be constructed in any number of ways—it’s up to you to break it down to the most dramatic effect.
    2. PARAGRAPHS AMPLIFY VOICE: How your narrator sounds and thinks affects the rhythm and even the design of the paragraph.
    3. PARAGRAPHS HELP GENERATE MOOD: Is it introspective and thoughtful, or hurried and staccato? Note how the length and type of the paragraphs can maintain or change the mood in a scene.

    Remember that paragraphing is more an element of individual style than of grammar: You are in charge of what a paragraph should do or what shape it should take.

    The Single Sentence Paragraph

    When looking to add emphasis and build suspense, it’s hard to beat this device. Take a look at an example from the thriller The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell:

    Once the scene is set, the character’s revelations are broken into short lines of their own so that each one makes an impact on the reader. This can work well to heighten tension and interest in the middle of a scene, and can also make for a page-turning end to a chapter.
  2. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Outlining vs. Discovery Writing

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    There are two general ways to approach writing.

    Outlining and Discovery Writing (AKA Free Writing).

    Outlining is putting the moments of awesome in some structure (usually but not necessarily chronological), while Discovery Writing is chasing the moments of awesome - writing what you want with little to no plan and seeing where the muse takes you. Stories aren't one or the other, but rather a mix of somewhere in between. All stories are discovery written to a degree - even when you outline, you are discovery writing between the points within your outline.

    Both options have their pro and cons.

    Outlining tends to be more structured, but less flexible and there's a very real risk of "over outlining" something. Spending too much time planning that you never get to the actual writing (which is rather the point) and changes can throw this into total disarray.

    Discovery writing, on the other hand, is a lot more fun to do. Most fanfiction are probably written this way, or start off this way. If you've ever had a cool idea or snarky line of dialogue or epic scene and just went with it, that's discovery writing. These tend to be flexible and more "Wow!". At the same time, it's very easy to forget that stories are not just "a bunch of cool things happening" under this method. Character arcs, development, and plot progression are more difficult with stories that are discovery written and require more editing (usually reverse outlining) to fix these issues.
  3. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Combat

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    They key to good combat scenes is context. Having combat scenes for the sake of "action" and to keep a story "interesting" kills it more likely than not if you don't ground that action in context.

    There are three that are generally applicable:
    1. Plot and Objectives - Fighting is an exhausting task, so if people are to fight, you must answer why they are fighting. What does each side or person want to achieve? What do they gain or lose from each outcome? How important is the fight to them?

      These are all questions that tie your combat into your narrative, and once you understand what each side wants, then you have to make sure they act it. A character trying to escape and a character tying to conquer a city will have very different approaches to a fight and how quickly they'll be willing to run away.

      Few people or armies will fight to the death when the battle seems lost to them. People will rout, morale breaks, armies scatter. You have to know what your character's breakpoint is.

      In general, morale can be thought of as existing on two axes - strength of personality and importance of objective. The more important the outcome of the fight is to that individual (and they must feel strongly about it, don't just have this be some greater good nonsense) and the stronger their personality (courage, bravery, stubbornness), the longer and harder they'll fight.

      And vice versa.

      Objectives can also change in a fight as things develop. Always consider how a character might react to new conditions.

    2. Location - Where are they fighting? What physical features are nearby? Are they in a cramped room, a wide field, a forest or in the middle of the city? Is there anything around that might give one side an advantage? Fights are rarely static events, but dynamic ones where movement should matter as combatants reposition to take advantage of their surroundings. Take the high ground, force your enemy into the open, run into the forest to escape - these things matter.

    3. Personality - Who is fighting and how does that affect them? Do they prefer to be sneaky or daring? Are they quick to flee or undaunted by overwhelming opposition? Are they blunt and brash or do they choose creative, indirect solutions to achieving objectives?
    The OOTP Fight in Harry Potter is iconic because it incorporates these principles.

    Objectives - Harry is trying to save Sirius, which drives him to the Department of Mysteries. When he finds out it’s a trap, his objective shifts from rescue, to escaping with the Prophecy. The Death Eaters, on the other hand, shift their objectives from capturing the Prophecy to escaping when the Ministry employees floo in.

    Location - The scene makes plentiful use of its surroundings, from having characters run through the Ministry (also an excellent tool of worldbuilding by showing us brief glimpses of things and their effects), from collapsing shelves on the death eaters to using the floating brains.

    Personality - Harry is headstrong, but not suicidal. If he was a coward, he would've given up the Prophecy to save his skin. If he was suicidal, he would've fought to the death instead of engaging in a fighting retreat. It was his personality that dictated why he fought the way he did. Personality can also dictate the preferred fighting style of individuals. Voldemort naturally prefers the Dark Arts, whereas Dumbledore uses Transfiguration. Harry's go to are Shield Charms, Stunning Spells, and Disarming Spells. There's a reason for that, and it's not because he doesn't know how to use any other magic.
  4. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Engaging Characters: Motivations

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Why does your character do what they do?

    Whatever the reason, it's probably not in service of some overarching plot. "Because plot" is why you gave the character that motivation (Doylist commentary), but not the "in-universe" explanation (Watsonian commentary).

    Motivation is an essential part of creating engaging characters, easily just as important as asking who your characters are (their characterization).

    1. Motivations should not be superficial.​

    Take Darkseid from DC for example. His goal is to conquer the universe, but we're never told why he wants to do so. MCU-Thanos, on the other hand, wants to kill half the population, and he does it because there isn't enough resources to support everyone. There's a reason.

    In Thanos' mind, he's the good guy. And that's key. Remember: no one ever thinks they're the bad guy.

    2. Objectives and Superobjectives.​

    In theatre, objectives are what characters want in that moment (short term goals) while superobjectives are what characters want over the long term.

    These may not always be consistent with each other and that's okay. People aren't rational beings.

    A person's long term goal may be to lose weight, but right now they just really want to eat that chocolate cake.

    3. People lie.​

    To ourselves most often. Characters will often engage in self-deception over what their true motivations are. Eespecially when these turn out to be ugly truths, but not always the case. People may have such a low opinion of themselves that they interpret everything they do in as negative a light as possible - an argument here can be made for Ciaphas Cain.

    4. People are rarely direct.​

    We obfuscate or imply intentions so much in real life without even realizing it. You might see an ad for a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte and suddenly have a craving for it.

    e.g. Traffic was always so fucking bad at this time of night. The billboard to our right had a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte plastered all over it and I licked my lips.

    "I'm thirsty," I said to my friend who was driving.

    "Mhm," he said. "We'll be home soon."

    I pouted. [FIN]

    People aren't direct, and you can use that to create misunderstanding (and thus, conflict) between characters. This is often what romance stories bank on.

    It is also important to understand that goals are not stakes. Goals (what you want to do) are the result of motivations (why you do what you do). Stakes are what failure looks like for your character.

    So to take our Thanos example, the goal is to kill half the population of the universe (because the universe is overpopulated and does not have the resources to support it). The stake is that everyone dies and the universe devolves into utter chaos.


    Now, sometimes readers won't get your character's motivations despite it being shown on page and there are a host of technical reasons why this may be the case.

    1. Paragraphing - It might simply be that you've dumped the reason in a wall of text and people skimmed over it. Space it out. Remember: Paragraphing can be used to show importance.

    2. Show, don’t tell - You don't want to be too direct about showing character motivations. Writing "I'm mad at Gerry because he fucked my mom." is (in most cases) dry and boring and it doesn't stick in the reader's head as well.

    e.g. Gerry's Cadillac was parked outside my house again. My fists clenched. Probably here to "see" mom again.

    3. When writing it third person, Free Indirect Speech (emulating first person with third person style) can be a useful tool in this regard.​

    Quoted / Direct Speech: Harry laid down besides Fleur and thought of his luck. "What did I do to deserve her?" he thought.

    Reported / Indirect Speech: Harry laid down besides Fleur and thought of his luck He asked himself what he did to deserve her.

    Free Indirect Speech: Harry laid down besides Fleur. What did I do to deserve her?
  5. Story Content: [Resource] [Halt] One

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    As some of you may have noticed, more than a few of my posts are just cannibalized or rephrased advice from other people. So, here are some some resources I usually refer to.

    1) Terrible Writing Advice on Youtube. The title says it all. It's a great way of seeing what not to do in general. It doesn't dig deep into specific examples or dissecting actual passages, but focuses on the big picture stuff.

    2) Writing Excuses Podcast. Short, episodic discussions (15 minutes long, because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart). It has a panel of 4 writers (the most famous being Brandon Sanderson) and I lift a lot of the material in this thread from their different episodes. A lot of the advice you hear on this podcast will end up repeating itself inevitably (probably doesn't help that people end up asking the same questions, and that a lot of writing tips tend to have intersections), although their latest seasons have been trying to diversify more (including bringing in other writers).

    Occasionally, you'll find some gems of insight in their discussions (one of their episodes on horror completely changed how I understood the genre for example).

    3) Obligatory posts by Lungs and Newcomb in the Harry/Fleur Thread which I reread every so often that highlight why romance (and relationships in general) are difficult to write about, and the importance of developing interesting characters.

    4) The original How to Write Dialogue Thread from 2008 which, in my opinion, does a better job at explaining tags vs beats than I do in this thread.

    5) On Writing by Stephen King. A crossover between his memoirs and writing advice as he frequently points to his own life as an example. Very good read in my opinion and something I go back to every so often.

    6) How to Write Summaries workshop. Never really took off, but I learned a lot from this thread personally.

    Other stuff on DLP about Writing I found
    1) Writing Believable Mistakes here on DLP is also a good thing to read when you need a character to fuck up somehow and not have people call you on your bullshit.

    2)On Cliffhangers

    3) Tons of good stuff (Compilation of Writing Advice, not unlike this thread).

    4) Even more stuff (Another compilation).

    5) Jim Butcher's writing bloc

    Tangentially Related to Writing

    1) Writing and Motivation by Joe. The hardest part about writing is really motivation (or rather, Discipline), to grit your teeth and just do it. Some people turn to alcohol. Others turn to more alcohol.

    2) Not my own cup of tea, personally, but a discussion on Fonts and how they convey certain impressions on readers that fit the theme of your story. Personally, I'm of the opinion that the vast majority of writers are better off shoring up fundamentals (and just writing more in general) than getting too caught up on what font to use. Nonetheless, it may be of interest to some of you.

    3) Similarly, music for writing. I myself basically can't write a fight scene without blasting some Sabaton nowadays.

    4) DLP discusses how writers plan
  6. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

    Apr 28, 2007
    I tend to like to listen to either Synth or some decent hip-hop. Something that's got decent rhythm and vocals. If its got too many words its kinda hard to focus, and if its got too few I can't really listen to it. And the non-vocal stuff I listen to, I really like it to fade into the background so when I come out of my writing state I can pick up where I left off and not have to think about it. Its just ambient noise, something that isn't Television, that isn't someone talking, that isn't just white noise.

    I think music also helps me engage the more creative aspects of my own mind. I (used to)draw, design, and paint, etc. I went to art school when I was younger, and it helps me stay focused having that going. I don't like having other people there to entertain discussion about what I'm doing, because that's an immediate way to kill any momentum I have.

    Another thing, it applies more to real life than to writing, but having a theme song, or a tune to go about your day with makes things easier. I used to listen to all kinds of music in the back at the restaurant. I had the doors sound proofed just so I could blast it as loud as I wanted without polluting the floors.

    Your actions become automatic then. You don't need verbal cues to direct, if you're in the moment, you just get it. My whole team was like that. Learning how to communicate with gestures and action versus spoken word.

    From the quoted thread. I tend to go this way. I don't have a creative process. I get an idea in my head and I just sit down and write about six variations of it until I'm happy with one. Usually, I start with something, and then I go back and edit it drastically. Its also more the idea than a scene that really sticks with me. Something that I want to work towards.
  7. Sorrows

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator

    Jun 17, 2008
    I would add the YouTube channel Overly Sarcastic Productions as a great source of writing advice. They go into things like tropes and why they are used as well as breaking down a lot of myths and classic stories.
  8. contra

    contra Third Year

    Jan 16, 2018
    The Moon

    Ted Talk by the guy who wrote
    John Carter.
    And Toy Story and Finding Nemo and WALL-E.

    Fun hook, watch the rest if you like it.

    Most of it is likely not new, but the presentation is great. General notes of what he says are here regardless.

    • Make me (the audience) care. Then they'll listen.
    • Storytelling~joketelling. Your story leads up to the end goal of the punchline~theme~climax.
    • Make a promise in the beginning for what's to come (hook). But stories aren't exact or predictable. Drama is anticipation mingled with uncertainty.
    • The audience wants to work for their meal. Show 2+2, don't tell 4.
    • Well drawn characters have a dominant unconscious goal—an itch they can't scratch, a singular goal. They are motivated. Characters with "bad" traits to be "fixed" can be made relatable by being comfortable with the status quo, then have their baseline motivations or needs violated to bring out their bad side.
    • Change must happen, and the themes are more powerful if they are truths that deepen understanding of who we are.
    • The rules for stories are guidelines. In the end, it works best if you merely invoke a sense of wonder in the reader.
  9. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Shout out to @BTT . Great discussion going on right now about how to get better at Critical Reading: Here

    And from last year, here

    Critical Reading is an important facet for writers and it can be an invaluable skill on the road to improvement. Being able to break down the nuances of why a scene works or doesn't work allows you to apply the same diagnostic skills to your own writing (provided you can distance yourself emotionally).

    Indexing stuff below so it never gets lost.

  10. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Character Arcs - DREAM Model

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Source: Writing Excuses 13.22

    Character Arcs is the transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story. In other words, it begins when a character is dissatisfied / unhappy / desires a thing / is in trouble and ends when it is resolved.

    Originally used by Elizabeth Boyle to describe romance arcs and expanded on by Marie Robinette Kowal (in Writing Excuses 13.22) too all character arcs, the DREAM model is one such way of analyzing at what stage a character is in their transformation
    1. Denial - Problem? What problem?
      "Harry Potter?" Fleur sneered. "'e is a leetle boi. Not worth my time."
    2. Resist - I know I have a problem, but it's not a big deal. I got this.
      "Well, some girls seem to like him for whatever reason."
    3. Explore - Maybe this is worth thinking about.
      "I guess one date couldn't hurt."
    4. Accept - Fuck me. I'm an alcoholic.
      "He's actually pretty fun once you get to know him."
    5. Manifestation - The steps taking after something is accepted. e.g. I'm not drinking anymore.
      Fleur becomes Harry's girlfriend.
    (If this strikes one as similar to the 5 Stages of Grief, it's because it was inspired by it.)

    Changes in a character roughly follow this step-by-step. The length of time spent on each step may vary, but each step is critical to a natural progression of change. Thus, the DREAM model can be a useful tool in diagnosing why a character arc may feel off. Problems with a character arc may simply be the result of skipped steps.

    Not all character arcs must begin with a negative state and end with a positive state. It's entirely possible to have an arc begin and end with a negative state.

    In DREAM model terms, instead of the Manifestation being "Fleur becomes Harry's girlfriend", it's "I love him, but I can't be with him because he isn't a Male Veela."

    Other characters change from one state to another without being necessarily better or worse off (sideways character arcs) or from positive states and end in negative ones - these we typically call downward spirals or tragedies. For example, that would be:
    1. Grindelwald was wrong.
    2. He was too extreme in his views.
    3. His philosophy isn't all bad.
    4. Grindelwald did nothing wrong.
    5. Dark Lord Potter.
    To people who are less inclined to figure out each step, there's a shortcut to this for downward spirals.

    Figuring out a character's tragic flaw (Pride, Obsessions, a Savior Complex, etc.) helps here. A character may want something for most of the story, but realizes at the end that it makes things worse (someone dies, it didn't actually solve anything, the cure is worse than the cancer). Then, during the turning point where a character is presented what they want, they have a choice.

    In heroic character arcs, they would choose to reject this thing.
    In downward spirals, they take it anyway and let the world burn.

    Previously, we've discussed Try-Fail Cycles (Yes, But; No, And) and this can also be used to analyzed downward spirals.
    1. Yes, but! As a character arc, this is where a character succeeds but his successes are superficial in a sense. They don't actually solve anything, or end up making things worse somehow. Essentially, their victory is a house of cards; unsteady and upturned at any moment. When overused, this can leave readers incredibly dissatisfied.
    2. No, and! They fail, and things get even worse for them. Overuse of this can leave readers with a feeling that there's no forward progression in the character arc.
  11. Story Content: [Advice] [Microwave] Writing Numbers

    Microwave Professor

    Oct 21, 2017
    Alright, I'm going to start the dumbest post in this entire thread.

    Writing Numbers

    Sounds simple enough, doesn't it? Small numbers are spelled out using words, and large numbers are spelled out using digits.

    sort of.

    Spelling out numbers

    So, what types of numbers are we supposed to spell out? Because English doesn't have a single regulating body for this, different sources will give you different answers, so a lot of this generally comes from personal preference. There's no consistency in this, but most of it boils down to a few methods of doing this.
    1. Only single digit numbers should be spelled out using digits.
      This one is basically a blanket rule. Using this technically isn't grammatically incorrect, but it does create a lot of awkward sentences.
    2. Spell out numbers from zero to a hundred and everything except for whole numbers.
      Example: A hundred and thirty would be "130", but two hundred would be spelled out.
    3. Spell out everything under a million.
      This is also a crappy blanket rule that creates awkward sentences.
    4. Generalise numbers above a million with a combination of words and digits.
      Example: There are 7.6 billion people on earth.
      This rule only works with generalisations.
    All of this also applies to rank.
    Example: First, Eightieth, 222nd, etc.

    None of these rules actually work in all cases. Ideally, they should be blended together to insure the most natural-looking sentences. The most important part is not to contradict yourself while writing. Don't write "two million" in one sentence and "7 million" in another.

    There are a few definite rules for spelling out numbers, however.
    1. Numbers at the beginning of a sentence are always spelled out, no matter how long and awkward it can be.
    2. Approximations are always spelled out.
      During the eleventh century, William the Conqueror invaded England with a force of about ten thousand.
      I owe around ten billion dollars.
    3. Years are never spelled out, but specific dates can be.
      In 2018, Arthellion was banned.
      I am busy on the first of January.
    4. Use digits while writing out decimals, but spell out fractions.

    Punctuation in numbers actually make sense. The SI hates people that use commas and periods in their numbers, but they're twats, and using commas and periods prevent the numbers from looking unnatural.
    1. Commas to separate numbers by each thousand, and periods to indicate decimals.
      This doesn't need much explaining, but might as well.
      Example: One thousand and one-half = 1,000.5
    2. Hyphens are relatively straightforward. Just put them between two-digit numbers and fractions.
      Example: Thirty-five thousand twenty-nine and one-third. *this does not apply when using "a" or "an" as an article for fractions.
    3. Don't use multiple apostrophes.
      Either use "Smash Mouth was the pinnacle of music in the '90s." or "Smash Mouth was the pinnacle of music in the 90's." never use '90's.
    4. Percentages should be written out unless you're writing some sort of statistic.
    You probably now have even more questions after reading this than you did before. Numbers are confusing, don't worry. As long as it doesn't look too awkward ninety-five percent of the time you'll be fine.

    Was I supposed to spell that out?
    See, even I don't know.
  12. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Narration

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    So we had a thread here by @momo recently asking about the pros and cons of the different PoVs in writing and I thought I'd weight in. Then I remembered I could just make a post about it here and kill two birds with one stone.

    I'll be expanding on the discussion by tackling the most common styles: First Person, First Person Narrator, Second Person, Third Person Omniscient and Third Person Limited.

    Some of the below points may feel repetitive, and that's because the advantages and disadvantages of a viewpoint stem from the same features essentially.

    First Person
    Example: There's no mistaking it - I am amazing.
    • Natural Voice - First Person is our "everyday voice" with the use of I, me, mine and so on. It's the most immediately natural way to convey a story that's happened to you.
    • Character Deep Dive - Given you're in the headspace of one character, this can create a lot of nuance in how you characterize them and explore that character more deeply
      • Counterpoint - This can backfire against you sometimes. If your character isn't interesting or nuanced enough, it could end up hurting your story due to lack of variety.
    • Distinct Voice - In the same vein, a more "distinct" voice can arise when you're pouring all of your effort into nailing that one character. The fact that other characters are not explored as much also helps to prevent diluting your main character's voice if there's some crossover of traits.
    • Intimacy with reader - Since this reads like someone telling you of their day, it can create a sense of intimacy with the character, as if a friend were telling you about what's happened
    • Biased viewpoint - It's more immediately obvious with this style that there is intentional bias in the story presented. For example, a character whose very self-conscious about how he looks may choose to forego describing any bad traits of what he looks like, or frames the narrative of the story to make himself appear to be the good guy (even if he's not).
    • Immediate - We see the story unfolding as it occurs, which can help hook the reader in.
    • Limited Viewpoint - You are limited to what your narrator can view, see, and think about. Thus, you are not always free to convey certain pieces of information to your readers (such as what other character's are thinking or motivated by). For larger scale stories, it can hamper your plot as the narrator must be "on screen" or it won't be shown.
      • Counterpoint - The simplest solution, of course, is to simply expand the number of viewpoint characters you use (To have Alternating Characters as your viewpoint character). There's no rule that says you can't write multiple characters from first person - just be aware that this does counteract some of the natural advantages of first person (Distinct voice, Character Deep Dive)
      • Counterpoint - The ability to "not show" something can be an advantage sometimes, such as in mysteries, to heighten anxiety in readers, or to control the release of information
    • Separation of Author and Character - This writing style can be harder for some authors as they may forget that they are not the character. It can be easy to turn someone into a Self-Insert In All But Name under this style.
    First Person Narrator

    This is a subtype of First Person rather than a distinctly separate style in itself. First Person Narrator is the term I use to describe an older, wiser (?), version of the same character narrating past events.

    Example: I used to think I was amazing. I was a fool in those days.

    Comparison with First Person
    • Character Deep Dive - This style can create even more nuance than First Person as you can show not only the character's present (that is, the character during the events of the story), but also the character after the story. This lets you show how the character has evolved or changed and create a sense of mystery in the reader of how they got from Point A to Point B (such as in Name of the Wind).
      • Counterpoint - This style of writing does require you to give a lot of thought into your character's development and lends itself more to a "planning" than "pantsing" (writing as it comes to you) mindset
    • Biased viewpoint - It has all the advantages of above, but gives you the option to inject a bit more objectivity into it (as it is now an older character narrating past events).
    • Less Immediate - When you use this style, having an older narrator looking back on events can remove some of the urgency and immediacy of a scene. It feels less like the reader sees things as it unfolds, which is part of the excitement. Essentially, this concept boils down to how much distance of time is there between the narrator and the events.
    Second Person

    Example: You think you are amazing.
    • Reader Centric - As a style, second person invites the reader into being part of the narrative. It is inclusive and, if done right, can give the impression that the reader is the main character. If one accepts that fiction is meant to be escapism, then this is the ultimate form of that.
    • Interactive - In the same vein, it's far easier to make this an interactive story, which is the reason why the style is popular in Quests , Choose Your Own Adventures, and (to an extent) the Silent Protagonists in Games.
    • Better Suited for Short Pieces - Done well, this can create a unique atmosphere in short stories (Quests / CYOAs are an exemption to this). Done well.
    • Difficulty - This is easily one of the hardest styles to get right and has a steep learning curve. Whereas with First or Third Person, it's possible to be mediocre and passable, Second Person either succeeds or fails, there is no "passable middle ground" to it.
    • Characterization - You're always on a fine fine with this style. Characterize too much and you dictate to the reader what they feel and think, which can remove the agency and the earlier advantages we discussed. It may also cause the reader to "fight back" against you, and when that happens you've lost them. On the other hand, characterize too little and you're left with a bland, undeveloped character which will eventually bore your readers.
    • Quirky - It's an uncommon style in the field which can come across as being different for the sake of it. It's also almost always amateurish in execution.
    • Better Suited for Short Pieces - Well, yeah, even done well that same atmosphere doesn't necessarily translate to a good novel (or longer) length story. (Quests / CYOAs are an exemption to this)
    Third Person Omniscient
    Example: He thought he was amazing. Little did he know that absolutely no one agreed.
    • Contrasting Viewpoints - Omniscient style (or the God Narrator) lets you show all the viewpoints of every character. Thus, in terms of information to the reader, this is the least restrictive of any style.
    • Broader Scope - This allows you to jump settings (time and distance), switching between scenes as needed to progress the story
    • Objectivity - As a third party and having all the facts, narrators of this style tend to be more objective since the opinions and feelings of one character can be balanced out by that of others.
    • Less Condensed - You're not constrained to one (or a few) characters or a few locations. You can jump around as you please.
    • Immediate - Given you can appear any time and show whatever scene you prefer as needed, there's never a danger that you can't show a scene as it happens. As discussed earlier, it's generally preferable (although there are exceptions) to showing things to the reader as they happen since it creates more immersion.
    • Less Distinctive Voices - Having multiple voices going on at the same time can muddle the distinctiveness of your character's voices (or even the narrator's). If you're not skilled at created distinction in voice and tone, use this with caution.
    • Diffuse Flow of Story - Zooming around the world can be fun, but it can also be jarring for the reader to experience. There has to be an element of transition to the story. If we're being tossed into new situations and context without being eased into it, it can make for an unpleasant reader experience.
    • Easy to become Lazy - With no limitations on the release of information to the reader, it's easy to jump bombard them with infodumps and walls of text.

    Third Person Limited
    Example: He thought he was amazing.

    Comparison with Third Person Omniscient

    There are very few weaknesses to Third Person Limited, and this is mostly due to how flexible a narrative style it is. Third Person Limited is also the most common style in modern story telling. The meta is the meta for a reason, as they say.
    • Contrasting Viewpoints and Broader Scope/Less Condensed/Immediate - This can be achieved with Third Person Limited quite easily by simply having your narrator "follow" other characters as necessary. The only limitation is that you cannot mash together different characters' thoughts and feelings in the same scene, but this isn't really a disadvantage as doing so can cause confusion among readers.
    • Objectivity/Subjectivity - Again, same solution as above. By showing how different characters feel about something, a layer of objectivity can be added. At the same time, if the intent is to have a more subjective (and therefore more personal) tone to the story, such as with first person, all one needs to do is use Free Indirect Speech and limit the narration to fewer characters.

    The point being that as long as you're careful to enforce POV discipline on yourself, Third Person Limited's Flexibility can mitigate any disadvantage it has while keeping it's advantages.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
  13. Roarian

    Roarian High Inquisitor

    Jun 11, 2011
    Obligatory anti-merging post!
  14. Story Content: [Workshop: Summary] [Halt] Harry Potter and the Mystical Pursuit | The Magnate

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    [Workshop: Summary] Harry Potter and the Mystical Pursuit | The Magnate​

    We've had threads asking for Summary Critique previously (here and here) and we've even discussed how to Write Summaries briefly in this thread. But, it occurs to me that what we're really lacking is a Case Study to deepen our understanding of the principles surrounding good summaries. We could certainly improve on the summaries of many people, but the endgame is to equip people with the tools they need to succeed on their own.

    That's what DLP is for after all: A community of writers teaching writers.

    What I'm hoping to achieve is that we can begin collating the best feedback for improving Summaries here and create a kind of knowledge pool from which future authors might draw from and study.

    First - a quick review of the principles

    Summaries don't Summarize
    - You're not meant to tell us a TLDR of the story, so much as to seduce us into reading with your sexy words.
    Unique Selling Point - You're supposed to tell us why this story. What's unique about it? Why can't I just read Angst Post OOTP Harry Story #3611 over this? Is it something about your story? Are you selling your mastery of prose? Your style of writing?
    Efficiency of Words - You're limited. You have to have impact. And you need to do it in a limited amount of words. I'll be taking FFN's 384 limit as the standard for this thread.

    Case Study: Harry Potter and the Mystical Pursuit

    Version 1 - Momo's Thingie

    • Summarizes the theme rather than the events of the story (and doesn't spoil the outcomes!)
    • Introduces the main characters
    • There are not real unique elements in the summary. It doesn't have a hook, and perhaps critically, would not be a story most on DLP would read based on the summary alone. The closest thing to a hook is the use of Voldemort's phrase "Magic is Might", but it comes too little, too late to make an impact. In a word, generic.
    • It also spends a lot of words essentially restating the same points, or not adding anything meaningful (that is, the same idea can be expressed just as well with fewer characters).
    Blue Text - the two goals stated are too similar, and putting them together weakens both instead of strengthens them (never a good thing). The goals essentially boil down to get ALL the knowledge. Furthermore, "quest to become the best" is so criminally overused.

    Red Text - Struggle, consolidation of power, and manipulating wizards are all similar ideas. Consolidating power almost always implies struggle is involved. Also, the HP fandom is so riddled with summaries involving "Manipulative Dumbledore" that the very word is persona non grata for HP FFN summaries.

    Version 2 - Saezot's Reduction

    Saezot has the right idea here by reducing some of the bloat and taking out the cliched bits, but it doesn't fix the bigger problem that is the summary has no real hook.

    Version 3 - Jeram's Rewrite (and becomes an absolute BOSS)

    Beautifully composed if I may say so myself.
    • Jeram understands that the "Magic is Might"phrase is the most unique bit of it all. Not knowing the rest of the story, he reorganizes the summary so that this phrase becomes the introduction and therefore the focus. The result? We have our hook, ladies and gents.
    • The rest of the summary writes itself after his initial choice for the lesson allusion. Lessons have teachers (Dumbledore & Flamel) and students (Harry).
    • By splitting up these elements, it also allows him to refer to these characters by their shorter fandom names rather than their full names without coming across as awkward phrasing (what I suspect was the original reason behind using "Starring Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, and Nicholas Flamel" vs "Starring Harry, Dumbledore and Flamel").
    • The choice to include "the world their stage" is to expand the scale of the story into the continental struggle of the original. While it breaks with the allusions to a lesson, it does include new elements to the summary such as there being an audience (and therefore, what they embark on as a quest is important and potentially world changing).
    • Usually, I think just using AU (or Massive AU) is sufficient, but given Jeram's reduced the length of the summary, using "An alternate take on the Potterverse" is a clever way of differentiating from other AUs by presenting itself as different in phrasing rather than what the fandom expects. It creates, I believe, a subconscious expectation that the story is different in different ways.
    Case Study: The Magnate

    Version 1 - Halt's Words

    Now, this thread isn't meant to be just Halt shitting on all the poor noobs, so to give y'all a break, Imma shit on myself as well.

    Red Text - this is a bit overboard in explanation given this is a summary. One would have been enough in both cases. (In Grindelwald's perhaps "ideology" instead of what I wrote).

    Blue Text - Decent hook, juxtaposes that Harry is on the rise and must make a choice of which Path to Greatness he'd rather follow.

    Orange Text - Basically all just tags. It does put my story in a certain box from the word go. Which can be double edged - on one hand it appeals to that demographic which liked those stories, on the other, it kinds of sets up expectations that my story is a clone and doesn't really distinguish it as it's own thing.

    Version 2 - Newcomb's Alteration

    Red Text - A bit more in depth, but the specific phrasing makes these stand out a bit more than Version 1. It does go on for a bit before getting to the point though.

    Blue Text - Same idea as the first version, but altered. "Singing for us today" is kind of strange, and brings up images of American Idol, also suggests a kind of omniscient observer that takes pleasure in watching events unfold.

    Orange Text - Reduces tags, removes the box while keeping the most essential elements (Durmstrang!Harry is such a limited subgenre in the fandom that it can get away with this).

    Version 3 - Eilyfe's Reduction

    Red Text - Further fine tuning, reducing two attributes to one in both cases and using the more distinctive of the attributes. Also allows us to get to the point faster less we bore the readers.

    Blue Text - A return to the original phrase in some ways. Removes the American Idol-y-ness of Newcomb's Version. I'll admit it still sounds a bit awkward to me when I read that bit out loud, but I'm unsure how it could be further refined.

    Orange Text- No differences here.
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
  15. Solfege

    Solfege Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

    Nov 21, 2008
    East Coast & the South
    mmm. I would observe that a summary is where both quality and essence of a person's writing is to stand out most. The hallmark of a good writer is her ability to make any subject interesting, to collect and dichotomise the details that create riveting drama.

    That, in combination with the sparseness with which to express oneself, is what makes a summary so challenging.

    As usual, the writer needs to balance between that which is stated and that which is implied. Most writers, especially in fanfiction, aren't very comfortable with implications. It is an art. And it wants for transposing one's PoV to a variety of perceptual angles — a hard ask when the premise of so many stories is naive wish-fulfillment.
  16. Selethe

    Selethe normalphobe

    Feb 13, 2012

    I agree there's some awkwardness to it, I actually prefer Newcomb's original line here. The current line flows too well from the previous two sentences-- it makes me feel like the entire thing should be in dialogue tags. If you want to preserve the format, a suggestion could be changing the question to: "Very good. Next! So, have you had any thoughts about what you would like to do once you leave Durmstrang, Mr. Potter?" this line is a mix between Newcomb's bit and McGonagall's line from canon, when she's asking Harry about what career paths interest him. I realize your Harry doesn't go to Hogwarts, but you get the general jist of what i'm saying. It also keeps some interesting ambiguity about Harry's future.

    The "Now, which one will it be for you, Mr. Potter?" feels too stifling imo.
  17. Story Content: [Notes] [Newcomb] Planning and Plotting

    Newcomb Minister of Magic

    Sep 28, 2013
    The Evergreen State
    So, this is probably going to raise a few eyebrows, but the "planning" part of writing WYLB is pretty minimal for me.

    Here's the outline I had for the chapter I just posted, Ch: 7:

    Pretty much every scene in any given chapter is one of two things: it's a scene that I've had in the back of my mind for a while and have been looking for a way to work in, or it's a scene that moves toward the former by advancing the plot.

    Now, a scene that is simply there to advance the plot is bad writing, which is why scenes pull double, triple, or quadruple duty by doing worldbuilding, characterization, foreshadowing, etc.

    A good example of this is the last bit of this chapter, with Harry on the train back from Christmas going to stay with Cedric and getting the letter from Fleur. As you can see above, the only thing I really had planned was "some kind of scene where Cedric invites Harry to stay with him for Christmas and he also gets a letter from Fleur inviting him to visit her in London during the summer."

    But that's just setup, right? In this chapter he doesn't actually go to Cedric's house and he doesn't meet Fleur, it's just saying what's going to happen. That in and of itself is pretty static, pretty stale, pretty boring. It's a scene that happens at the very end of the chapter, and it's not very long, so it doesn't have to be some huge, powerful moment - nor should it - but there's room to do other things here, even in this relatively small beat.

    So I start adding beats. First, where does the scene happen? On the train, which has a built in canon feel of a transitional moment. You're kind of used to scenes on the Hogwarts Express setting things up, being relatively small, leading somewhere as opposed to being something. So right away that's a natural fit. What would the train ride back for Christmas be like? How does it feel?

    This is always a good starting point. Start with what you're trying to get done, and set that action in a place. Then forget about what you're trying to get done, and ask yourself how that place feels. The world moves on independent of your PoV character - people go about their lives, in other words. The Hogwarts Express feels quiet, because - and here we pull double duty by reminding readers of the upper-years party established in chapter 3 - a bunch of people have hangovers. Then we pull triple duty - foreshadowing - by having Harry make an offhand comment to Cedric about how Cedric will feel about being able to attend himself next year, which invites the reader to think that Harry himself might attend a year later. Then, since it's Fred and George, we have a bit of humor, and a bit of "plot work" where they mention a possible pickup Quidditch game over the holidays.

    That's the basic idea. I plan by having a kernel of an idea for a scene, and then expanding it and seeing what other work I can get it to do, see how it fits into the overall story I'm trying to tell.

    Let's take the scene in question, the transfiguration scene.

    So just on a mechanical level, you can see that I ended up ignoring the second half of this. There was at one point an idea there, but it never happened because I was happy with how the classroom scene went on its own - it did everything I wanted it to do. I think it's very kosher to improvise and adapt on the fly when you're writing. Forcing something to happen just because it's part of the plan is a great recipe for boring, dull writing. If the only reason you're writing a scene is because you need that scene to happen to advance the plot, it's gonna show.

    Also on a mechanical level: why did this scene have to happen? Why was this an idea in the first place?

    Let's just go through a rough approximation of the mental steps I went through thinking up this scene. It'll probably be a little off, since I wrote it literally years ago, but:

    STAGE 1

    - Classes are a pretty important part of going to Hogwarts, and I haven't written any yet
    - A classroom scene is a good opportunity to show how Harry is learning about magic, how advanced he is
    - Bad Fanfiction Alert: this is starting to sound like a scene from a terrible indy!Harry fic where Harry shows everyone up and ALL CAPS yells at teachers
    - What if Harry did something that showed his approach to magic, but not in a way that would be showing off to anyone?
    - What if the thing he did was a moment that only he and the professor would recognize? Unspoken recognition moments are cool.
    - Okay, better yet, what if the thing he does actually publicly is kind of a fuckup / bad thing, but the underlying magic going on is internally showing how advanced he is? Like a mad scientist who does something that looks fucked up but is actually brilliant.

    STAGE 2

    -Okay, there's the skeleton of the scene. Harry does something in class that looks like a fuckup but shows how advanced he is. Get into details. Where does this happen? Which really means: what class? Could come up with something for any class, but easier if it's Transfiguration / Charms / Defense, since you directly cast spells. Nix Defense, because the Doge thing is too much double duty for one scene to pull. Charms or Transfiguration.
    (brainstorm ways to showcase magic in a way that's publicly a screw-up but privately an insight)
    Transfiguration. Harry goes off-script with the "X into Y" format and uses the container X came in in a creative way, only he takes it too far and it explodes / does something embarrassing / has some kind of unforeseen event

    STAGE 3

    What kind of other work can a scene like this do?

    - Well, now that we know where it is, who else is there? McGonagall, and Gryffindors and Slytherins from Harry's year. Start listing characters: Katie Bell, McLaggen, Vaisey are the ones who've had any real screen time / attention. What work can we do with them? We can remind readers, generally, where Harry stands and what is going on outside of this scene. Example:

    What "work" is happening in this short exchange?

    Top level, the "important" bit: showing that Harry is more advanced than his peers. That's the spine.


    - Reminding us that Harry is practicing Quidditch and that he and Katie have that bond, bolstered by a specific detail (the Bludger to the head) that works as both a beat of comedy and a small detail that makes the off-screen action (Quidditch practice in general) ring true.

    - Reminding us that Katie and Harry have a generally cordial relationship but she thinks he's a bit weird.

    - Evoking canon by drawing a connection to similar scenes in HP where students in this class don't quite nail a transfiguration and the object is humorously half-transfigured, as seen in PoA's Ch 16 (and elsewhere) with mice incorrectly transfigured into snuffboxes that retain their whiskers.

    The "secondary" stuff here is what gives the scene its depth. In my view, plot is only meaningful if we care about the characters, and we only care about the characters if we're invested in them, and we become invested in them by understanding them and empathizing with them, and we do that not by the grand huge moments, but by the small, human ones.

    That... maybe got a bit off track there. What was I talking about? Planning, right.

    So yeah. Basic process is to know what work the scene is trying to accomplish, and to leave yourself enough room to do other work while staying inside the parameters of the scene. Like, for the scene to feel cohesive, you can't just throw in those "secondary work" beats - it's a requirement that they're integrated into the overall "point" of the scene. So looking at the Katie example above, it would be bad to just have her offhanded ask Harry how he was fairing after the Bludger hit in Quidditch practice, while they were both transfiguring their beetles. That's not cohesive. You could probably get away with it, in that specific case, but it would probably always feel a little awkward transitioning into it and back out of it. So having her ask about that in the context of Harry talking about magic integrates them.

    If you had Katie just ask about it straight-up, that's a signal to the reader that there's going to be more of an extended conversation with Katie, that we're now pivoting away from the Transfiguration lesson and going into something else.

    The name of the game is "reader expectations", here. A lot of planning, tbh, is asking yourself what you're leading the reader to believe with your last 4-5 paragraphs and then asking yourself if that's what you want or not.

    Does that answer your question, sort of?

    I know it sounds like it's a pretty loose, improvisational process, but a lot of it comes from knowing the material backwards and forwards. I've read the HP books, like... many, many times. I'm not Taure or anything and it's actually been a few years since I read them, but I've read them enough where I have an instinctual, habitual "getting it" level of knowledge there. So I don't have to think about, say, what McGonagall would do in this hypothetical classroom scene as I'm planning it out - I can kind of mentally model her behavior and just have a few seconds considering like, "ok, if Harry does X to the bowl, she'd do something like Y" and evaluate/judge how much I like that result. That kind of mental mapping really helps for planning, because I really do like to improvise / leave a lot of room to just invent stuff on the fly, and it can really get you into trouble if you don't have a foundation to ground you.
  18. Story Content: [Advice] [Sorrows] Romance

    Sorrows Queen of the Flamingos Moderator

    Jun 17, 2008
    Writing Romance

    In light of our new Story Competition prompt, Romance. I have typed up this handy guide for folks who are hesitant to in the face of an unfamiliar genre.

    Ok to start off. When you are writing a romance story (rather than a romance sub-plot). The relationship is the centre of your story. That is not to say it needs to be all there is to a story, but it is ultimately, the thing that your readers are invested in (if you are doing it right.) Therefore you need to plot the progression of the core relationship as you would any other major element of the story. Plot out the emotional roller coaster you plan to put your characters on and mirror or contrast it to the beats of your wider story for double duty emotional impact.

    Romance stories are not all Nicholas Sparks novels, in fact they are more pervasive than you think in media consumed by men. As I said before, romance means putting the relationship and its development at the centre of the story. Other stuff happens around it but it is distinctly secondary, this is particularly prevalent in crime/monster of the week TV. The through thread that keeps the audience engaged is the relationship. Now off the top of my head: Castle, The X Files, Bones, Covert Affairs, Revenge etc etc. (Don't agree? I'll fite u RL) It’s a mechanism through which the story is told.

    Hints and Tips

    Caveat: All rules can be broken, but if you want to break them its better to know why they exist.

    Play both sides.
    The relationship should make emotional sense from both perspectives. X didn’t cheat on your protagonist just because she’s a bitch. X cheated because she craves validation or because the thrill excites her, or because she and protagonist had a fight. In turn she reacted in that way because of her own history/behavioural patterns/ thoughts/beliefs etc. People always have reasons (even if they’re shitty ones.)The relationship and their behaviour within it needs to make emotional sense on both sides.​

    Don’t hop between the POV’s of the couple.
    It has been pointed out this is not hard and fast rule, it could be used with great effect. I stand by it though. Particularly when it comes to most traditional relationship progressions (star crossed lovers, enemies to lovers etc.) It can work. However more often than not it ends up killing any tension born of uncertainty (wich is a staple of RL and fictional relationships.) Plus it often devolves into him thinking of her then her thinking of him and can get tedious and repetitive fast.

    There has to be an emotional pay-off.
    The point of a romance story (rather than a side plot.) Is the relationship is at the core of the narrative. It has to pay off, it can do this tragically or happily but if it gets lost amid the climax of the wider plot the impact of this core element of your story is lost.​

    Keep things moving.
    Most people spend a lot of time of mental space obsessing over a new crush or relationship but god is it tedious to read. Devoting pages to someone wondering whether sempai noticed me is a serious engagement killer. Give them real plot or relationship conflict to worry about and move on from it quickly. This is also why few romances are written in 1st person, infatuated people tend to be dumb and unbearable even when you don't have to share headspace with them.​

    At least one side of this couple needs to be sympathetic.
    Again this is not entirely hard and fast. You could also write an awful couple and set their or other people’s lives on fire for the enjoyment of the audience. But in storylines like that there are usually a B-couple who are sympathetic and get their happy ending. Point is most of the time people don't want to read about a pair of cunts. There needs to be something, however small that lets you emotionally connect with at least one of them.​

    They need to grow.
    Both the characters and the relationship have to be tested and develop during the story. Or else what is the point? It can crash and burn or end happily ever after but it must change.​

    Don't make one side of the couple passive.
    This is almost always the girl in western stories, but it can be the guy. Basically this is when one half is getting exclusively pursued/ rescued/ fought over etc without ever actually having any agency or will of their own within the relationship. Equally a G/BF is not a prize automatically awarded when the protagonist completes their quest/task/mission.​

    Convey attraction.
    This can be physical, sexual, mental, emotional etc. Basically the reader needs to see that the protagonist sees in their love interest. What they see will also convey what kind of relationship is developing. Do they notice the way she smiles, the way she can hold her own in a debate on magical theory or how amazingly big her tits are? Each one conveys a difference message to the reader. This doesn’t mean wax lyrical about their cherry read lips(unless the protagonist is that kind of person) but if you don’t convey what makes them want to be with their love interest the reader isn’t going to understand when they stick around when things take a nosedive.​

    Try not to romanticize abusive or controlling behaviours.
    You would think this was a no-brainer but this one is seriously prevalent, especially in Y/A romances. The infamous one being sparkily Edward's 'I break into your bedroom to watch you sleep.' That's not to say you can't write toxic or shitty relationships, just try not to frame that shit as romantic to the reader. It can be tricky to do since a lot of old romantic tropes fall firmly on the sketchy side when applied to real life people.​

    The exception to this is if you are firmly in your characters head rather than omnipotent narrator and they think these shitty controlling behaviours are romantic. That can be really interesting but it's a fine line to walk to simultaneously show how bad it is even as the POV characters finds it romantic.​

    Try to think of the balance of power in a relationship also and navigate accordingly.
    We all love our Snape/Hermione smut here of course but as (mostly) adults we can also see why its wrong for 13 year old Hermione to get her some slimy P even though she’s so so curious. Hand waving troublesome implications because they get in the way of the OTP is going to put off a fair chunk of your readership (not all of course, this is still fanfiction.)​

    Sex scenes should serve a purpose.
    Usually in romance it is an emotional purpose. It can be the release of tension, the climax (lol) of a high or low point, comfort, confirmation, revenge etc etc. Occasionally it can be a plot driven purpose, but that rarely comes across as anything but deeply contrived. Also if you are writing a sex scene from the POV of a charecter that is not your gender I'd recommend doing some research (I'm sure that will be a terrible imposition) the way male writers think women experience sex (and I imagine visa-versa) can sometimes be hilariously off base.​

    Also while you don’t need to go into gynecological detail, at least make the audience believe that you have had some practical experience with the mechanics.

    The Story

    As for the rest of the story. There are two ways to go about it. The plot is driven by the romance or the romance is shaped by the plot. These are both subtypes of your usual plot driven vs charecter driven writing.

    Romance driven plot
    Romeo and Juliet or the Great Gatsby. Everything that happens in the story happens because the couple met and fell in love. The major conflicts and events are shaped by the relationship and it's develoent. The characters motivations tend to primarially focus on the relationship also. These sort of relationships tend to involve a lot of high and low points since the the stakes of the story is the outcome of the relationship.

    Plot driven romance
    This will probably appeal more to you guys since it tends to widen the scope of the story. It is also the common template for stories with a romantic subplot or a cross-genre romance such as paranormal romance. The progression of the couple’s relationship is driven largely by outside forces.

    Though even with the most plot driven romance there tends to be both an internal plot (the romance) and usually an external plot (which might be a mystery or basically any other type of story). These plots influence one another an interact.

    The internal plot, the romance, has a set outcome: happily ever after/ we can't be together—like a plot-driven story. But the plot itself has more to do with the character’s inherent attributes, growth and change than about specific events and actions, like a character-driven story.

    Conversely, the external plot, often does not have a set outcome: can they fix up this old hotel? Can they win over his domineering invalid mother? Can they overcome their business rivalry—or might they both lose/quit their jobs? This plot line is driven by events, making it plot-driven. But without a set outcome, it may or may not ultimately be a plot-driven storyline


    With fanfiction you are likely starting with already established relationships, at least to some degree. This is a blessing and a curse, in some ways it constrains you (if you don’t want to essentially write a original story with FF names slapped on) in other ways it forces you to be inventive when it comes to working out how your established characters react/end up in this relationship. The way I see it you can approach it three ways.

    1. I have a storyline: You have a tale you want to tell and you then choose the two charecters that would be most interesting to tell the story with.
    Example: I want to write a story where a Death Eater turncoat and a DA member must work together to stop Voldemort achieving ultimate immortality. Who could I use? How would their dynamic change and what challenges would they face etc? How would their circumstances and their relationship slowly evolve into a romantic one? Internal/external pressures/ baggage etc​

    2. It would be interesting if A and B ended up in a relationship, in what intriguing ways could that happen. How can you connect A+B? What reservations would they have about dating the other character and how would it effect them and the people/situations around them? If they are not initially that compatible how would they have to develop/grow before a relationship makes emotional sense?
    Example: Professor McGonagall never really appreciated how much being a cat affected her psych until Crookshanks swaggered into her life. Now a certain rat needs to be captured and they are the best cats for the job.​

    3. I'd like to explore a canon established relationship by giving it more nuance and depth or a different spin to what is already known.
    Example: How did Fleur meet Bill and how did he finally get her to agree to go for some Butterbeer?
    Now here’s a list of all the common starting points. Yeah they are cliche but you will have to work hard to avoid them all together. Each set up comes with its own points of tension and drama that need to be solved (or not.)

    The Setup
    Try not to get diabetes.

    Is a fairly long list so I'll put it in tags.
    . Love at First Sight
    The typical fairytale/standard romance.. They fall in love fast, but some outside force is keeping them apart rather than tension within the couple.​

    2. Oops
    A strong-willed or career-minded character doesn’t intend to fall in love, the consequences could destroy their dreams/career…undercover cop falls for a criminal, etc. Conflict comes from the percived need to choose one or the other.​

    3. Forbidden Love/"Romeo and Juliet"
    No need to explain this one.​

    4. Love/Hate, Protagonist vs. Antagonist
    The characters start off disliking each other. Or as rivals.​

    5. Best Friends/ Friends First
    The characters all ready know everything about each other but something is keeping them from realizing their true feelings​

    6. Love Triangle
    The main character has to choose between two suitors. The conflict is built in however it is very easy to end up with a passive protagonist.​

    7. Taken
    Usually, this one involves a couple that seems perfect for each other, but one of the subjects already has a nasty/ boyfriend or girlfriend or spouse.​

    8. In Disguise
    Shakespeare came up with it first. Think of Twelfth Night. Character forms the relationship while pretending to be someone they're not.​

    9. Different Worlds
    Not necessarily forbidden, but this couple struggles with bridging the gap between their two worlds (metaphorical or not,) sometimes causing friction when they don’t understand each other.​

    10. Second time around
    Two lovers who already knew each other (and lost contact or broke up) prior to the beginning of the story, meet again.​

    11. Tragic Past
    Two characters click well, but one character cannot get over the tragic past of losing a loved one, ect. Usually one of the subjects lost a lover or spouse who died years before meeting their love interest.​

    12. The Unobtainable Love Interest
    Usually, one character immediately knows who they want and why they want them but the other character doesn't seem interested, or has a secret reason for not expressing their interest.​

    13. Passionate Lovers
    Revolves mostly around intense physical attraction/lust at first and sometimes develops into something more.​

    14. Sweethearts Forever?
    Lovers that just click, seem sugary sweet, and almost too perfect for each other, usually one or both is/are hiding something.​

    15. Opposites Attract/ Similarities Attract.
    Two different characters click and deal with each others differences at the same time. OR Characters act very much alike, causing both tension and infatuation.​

    16. Partners in Crime
    Two characters who work as a “bad guy” team…often do malicious things to those who get in their way, but are actually a loyal and devoted couple.Think Bonnie and Clyde.

    17. Arranged Marriage/Date
    Two characters are set-up and forced to be together by politics or family pressure.​

    18. First Love
    Usually a YA trope, the subjects need to figure out how to handle a relationship while trying to discover their own identities at the same time.​

    19. Long-term lovers
    The couple has already been together for awhile, sometimes married. However, something other than another love interest (kids, adventure situation, family drama) either them closer together or causes tension. Think Mr. and Mrs. Smith​

    Despite the pervasiveness of some of these storylines there is one thing this story competition has that make things interesting. Most written romance is written by women for women. Writing for the mostly male audience of DLP is going to mean people use these staples in ways that are not nearly as common as more traditional female focused written romance. So you got that going for you.

    I hope that’s helpful. I might come back and add bits too it later.
    Last edited: Oct 19, 2018
  19. contra

    contra Third Year

    Jan 16, 2018
    The Moon
  20. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Just found this youtube channel hello future me. Really good analysis on the more world-building aspects of writing.