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Writing Advice Thread

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

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  1. pbluekan

    pbluekan Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    These two are basically par for the course in technical and academic copyediting in my experience.

    @Agent One

    For editing an actual story, read it aloud. Pause appropriately for commas, periods, etc. That always helps me. If it doesn't sound right, it probably isn't.
     
  2. Stenstyren

    Stenstyren Professor

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    Can just add that if you have a University nearby they usually have a printing shop where they make their PhD-thesises (what's the plural of a thesis?) and they can usually make you a really nice book for a cheap price.
     
  3. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~

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    Crisis -- crises

    Thesis -- theses
     
  4. Agent

    Agent Groundskeeper DLP Supporter

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    Pretty much exactly what I'm looking for, thanks man.

    Not really many major changes. More like circling a paragraph and writing something like "Is there a need for this?" or "Why would Ray do this when he already has the Earth Eater?" or "This seems out of character".

    I did actually download it as an ePub and reading it aloud on my phone but by the end of the first chapter, my voice was quite hoarse. Best course of action is probably to take a break every now and then.
     
  5. Download

    Download Second Year ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Downstairs and down stairs.

    Downstairs is the place, while going down stairs is the action? But at the same going downstairs could mean you are going to the location that is downstairs.

    Thoughts?
     
  6. Zombie

    Zombie John Waynes Teeth Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I would say downstairs is the place and down the stairs is the action. But I could be wrong.
     
  7. Jeram

    Jeram Elder of Zion DLP Supporter

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    Downstairs is either a place ("I'm walking to downstairs") or an adverb ("I'm walking downstairs"). You could also say "I'm walking down the stairs" but you should not say "I'm walking to down the stairs").
     
  8. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~

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    "Walking to downstairs" where downstairs is a noun is wrong though, isn't it? As in "going home," not "going to home". It's just "I'm going downstairs".
     
  9. Story Content: [Advice] [Misc.] The technical aspects of characterising persons in your story
    Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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  10. Agent

    Agent Groundskeeper DLP Supporter

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    What's the procedure for having incorrect technical writing for a character that does not know any better?

    For example, if Ron said "Me and him will go to the train." Now, that isn't grammatically correctly but hearing Ron say "He and I" doesn't fit his character either.

    Just something that's been sat in my mind for the last decade ever since my English teacher gave me shit for writing "me and him" for a story based on Of Mice and Men where Lenny says it.
     
  11. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    Generally, rules of writing are fairly loose for dialogue and doubly so when those rules relate to grammar. So long as it's understandable, anything goes. Trying to adhere to all the rules of grammar for the sake of it (ie it's not part of the characters' personality), is not only of no benefit, but actively detrimental to your writing.

    Tldr; fuck the English textbooks. If your readers aren't complaining, the English teachers can fuck right off. You are here first and foremost to entertain, not to educate.
     
  12. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign ~ Prestige ~

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    @Agent Zero

    The procedure is you do your best to spellcheck your shit and post a clean draft, so that when you do mess with grammar on purpose your readers are more likely to assume you did this on purpose rather than this being just another one of your typos.
     
  13. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Dialogue Series: Introduction
    Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    Dialogue is one of the most potent tools you have as a writer.

    Done well, it can reveal so much about the story you're telling - characterization, emotion, conflict, events, worldbuilding, foreshadowing…but done poorly, and it will murder your story in its crib. Throughout this series, we will be covering how to write dialogue, the pitfalls to avoid, and help you get better at it.

    As always, the Golden Rule of Writing applies: Something is "bad" when it makes the story harder to read.

    Dialogue should:
    1. Flow - It should be easy to read, appear effortless, and look good on the page. This section covers the technical aspect of writing.
      1. Speech Tags, Action Beats, and Speaker Clarity
      2. Length
      3. Formatting and Punctuation
    2. Serve a Purpose (Why) - Anything written down must have a point. What is it your dialogue does in service of the story you tell?
      1. Plot (What)
      2. Characterization (Who)
      3. Worldbuilding (When and Where)
      4. Entertain (How) - Surprise the reader
    3. Simulates reality (but not too closely) - Good writing is like real life with all the boring bits cut out.
      1. Too close to reality
        1. Speech characteristics
          1. Filler Sounds
          2. Foreign Languages
        2. Failing to finish
          1. Interruptions
          2. Jumping topics
        3. Rambling
      2. Wooden Dialogue - Too far from reality
        1. One note dialogue - Responsive, Descriptive, Instructive, and Expressive
        2. Overformality
          1. Lack of abbreviations
          2. Slavish obedience to grammar
        3. Perfected - lack of tension
        4. Predictable
      3. Written vs Visual Mediums
    4. Be a Conversation - All dialogue involves two, or more, people. Some of those people might not say much, some of them might not be talking at all! It's possible what one person says to another is really meant for the ears of a third person listening in.
      1. Tension - Characters have agendas in conflict
      2. Subtext - Better left Unsaid
        1. Excavating Emotion
        2. Goals and Desires
        3. Denials and Biases
        4. Context - Clue in your Readers
     
  14. Otters

    Otters Squib ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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  15. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Dialogue Series: Flow
    Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    Dialogue should:

    Flow - It should be easy to read, appear effortless, and look good on the page. This section covers the technical aspect of writing.

    a. Speech Tags, Action Beats, and Speaker Clarity

    1. Speech Tags and Action Beats

    A speech tag is anything which describes the actual talking (he said, he questioned, her interjected, etc.). Since this punctuates the dialogue, this is not considered a new sentence even when it ends in a question mark or exclamation point. Hence, you do not capitalize the dialogue tag if it does not need it.

    Furthermore, you should use commas (not periods) to end dialogue for speech tag.

    WRONG:

    "What are you so angry, boy?" He asked.

    "I don't know!" The boy exclaimed.

    "Fucking psycho." Murmured the first man.

    RIGHT:

    "What are you so angry, boy?" he asked.

    "I don't know!" the boy exclaimed.

    "Fucking psycho," murmured the first man.

    An Action Beat, on the other hand, is some action interspersed between the dialogue (he walked, he laughed, he smiled, etc.). As this does not directly describe the actual talking, you must treat this like a separate sentence and capitalize the first letter!

    For however awesome your protagonist is, he cannot smile or glare words.

    WRONG:

    "Is that your wand, or are you just happy to see me?" she smiled.

    "It's definitely" he leaned closer, pulling out an honest to god stick from his pocket "my wand."

    RIGHT:

    "Is that your wand, or are you just happy to see me?" She smiled.

    "It's definitely"--he leaned closer, pulling out an honest to god stick from his pocket--"my wand."

    2. Speech Tags and Adverbs as Modifiers

    "I know what it's like to write dialogue. To feel so desperately that you should modify, yet to suck nonetheless. It's frightening. Turns the writing to shit. I ask you, to what end? Read it. Revise it. Readers will judge all the same. And now, it's here. Or should I say, said is." -Thanos, probably.

    It may seem to you that more accurate or colorful words -like snarled, shouted, interjected, questioned, retorted, complained- would be a better choice in place of the humble "said".

    Here's a secret: it makes you look like an amateur.

    "Said" is a true wingman. It stays sober so you ingrates have a driver at the end of the night. It talks you up to that person you've been hitting on all night. "Said" should be your best fucking friend when you're writing dialogue.

    Repeated occurrences of "said" don't really register in a reader's head. It's an important, invisible cog in writing.

    "Now," Halt said suddenly, "before some of you get clever and start using 'said' and 'adverb' pairs," said Halt seriously, "this is just as bad, if not worse," he said emphatically, "than using alternative speech tags," said Halt matter-of-factly.

    If "said" isn't 80% (Eighty! Not eight you hear me ya shits!) of your speech tags, you're doing something wrong. As a rule of thumb, consider whether that line of dialogue really needs that speech tag. Not want, need.

    Can you rephrase the dialogue so that the emotion is clearer?
    Can an action be included to show what's being felt or implied?
    Does the context and situation make it clear without modification?

    Non-said speech tags and adverbs are like spices: use sparingly, so that the flavors are heightened. Use too much and ruin your scene.

    3. Setting and Action

    "Your characters, in most cases, aren't going to just be sitting down and talking most of the time." Halt shifted in his crappy plastic chair.

    "They won't be?" asked Ri Ter.

    Halt rolled his eyes. "They're people too."

    You can low-key sneak in action beats during dialogue, while readers are paying attention to something else. They can interact with things around them (where they are, what's around them) to help the world come to life and establish setting.

    Actions can also convey subtext, emotions, and context in ways dialogue can't.

    4. Who's who?

    Speaker clarity is one of those things people often forget. It can be easy to assume readers will know who's talking.

    Here's the thing, Sherlock. Have you actually written it down?

    Some of the worst ways this occurs are scenes that start with dialogue, but do not mention (through speech tags or associated actions) who is talking! Listen, even Charles Xavier could only read your mind when you were in front of him, and the rest of us poor schmucks don't have a Cerebro (or telepathy for that matter).

    "One other thing, Halt," she said.

    "No, this section is perfect as is." He crossed his arms.

    "No it's not, Halt, and you know it," she said. "Halt."

    Don't have characters address other characters in their dialogue too often. Once in a scene is usually more than enough, and most times, I never do at all. It's just plain better to use speech tags and action beats to signify who's talking.

    b. Length

    "Now one more thing," Halt said.

    "Is this about especially longer pieces of witty repartee?" Ri Ter asked.

    "Yup, kinda like what we're doing now. Make sure the length of the lines aren't uniform. See? I'm making this sentence longer on purpose."

    "Why is that important?"

    "Because variety is the spice of life," Halt said.

    Ri crossed his arms. "Get out of here with that wise man bullshit and get to the point."

    Halt sighed. "When your sentences are roughly uniform in length-"

    "-like what you're doing right now?"

    "Stop interrupting." Halt looked at his notes. "Uniform lengths make people skim."

    "They do?" Ri asked.

    Halt bobbed his head. "Not as much as walls of text of course," he said, shuddering, "but make it long enough and it starts to get stale. It's not so bad here, but be sure to look out for it in your own writing."

    c. Formatting and Punctuation

    One of the cardinal sins of dialogue is to mix the dialogue of two characters together. That's like pairing red wine with fish, or Harry Potter with Severus Snape.

    People like that disgust me. Personal bubbles, people!

    This doesn't just apply to dialogue, but also to actions of characters. One way to think about it is in visual terms. Imagine yourself as the camera man. Each time you have to turn the camera away from one character to another, you should have a new paragraph.

    "Do you understand now?" Halt asked.

    Ri Ter stared at his feet.

    Halt sighed. "Okay, let's take this from the top. Should punctuations fall inside or outside of quotation marks"?

    "Inside," Ri said. "Even commas, question marks, and exclamation points."

    "Good," Halt said, "and what's the difference between--"

    "--Em dashes are for cutting people off," Ri recited. "Ellipses are for trailing off…"

    "You're very rude," Halt said. "Finally, when you have a really long speech to write, and please don't do this often in writing as it's an eyesore to read, you can omit some quotation marks to make it look snappier. See here how I omit the end of the quotation mark at the end of this paragraph.

    "Then continue the next paragraph with a quotation mark? Seamless transition! Now, class dismissed."
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2019
  16. pbluekan

    pbluekan Headmaster DLP Supporter

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    @Halt your formatting got away from you. Great post. I’ve always been unsure about how to treat speech tags after question and exclamation marks. Thanks for clearing that up.
     
  17. DR

    DR Secret Squirrel ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    As a point of grammar, there are three types of dashes:

    1. The hyphen.
    2. The en dash.
    3. The em dash.

    For dialogue, you should be using em dashes, with no spaces!
     
  18. Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

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    Correct, although word of warning that the em dash is not compatible with some browsers or forums.
     
  19. DR

    DR Secret Squirrel ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    True, but in that case, they're easily replaced by a double hyphen. In any case, most importantly, no spaces!

     
  20. MrBucket

    MrBucket Fifth Year

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    Why? I've seen plenty of books use spaces with them.
     
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