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Writing Advice Thread

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

  1. DR

    DR Secret Squirrel –§ Prestigious §– DLP Supporter

    Mar 13, 2006
    Inside the Beltway
    High Score:
    Specifically with em dashes in interrupted speech?

    "If you see it like" --this, it's poor editing.

    "You shouldn't have any space"--when using an em dash--"either in normal usage--such as this--or in dialogue asides."
  2. MrBucket

    MrBucket Fifth Year

    Jan 22, 2018
    Yes. The Harry Potter books use spaces for example. Seems like a style choice to me.
  3. Sey

    Sey Not Worth the Notice DLP Supporter

    Aug 9, 2016
    High Score:
    It's either way, depending on the stylistic convention your adhering too. MLA does no spaces, Chicago does spaces (I believe).
  4. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Dialogue Series: Serve a Purpose

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Dialogue should:

    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)

      Does your dialogue advance the story's progression of events? This tends to be one of the more straight forward uses of dialogue, and generally advancement of plot through dialogue is much smoother than through prose. So long as the dialogue isn't just a sequential listing of events A, B, and C, it tends to be a subtler way to show plot, whereas prose tells the plot.

    2. Characterization (Who)

      Does your dialogue reveal something about who your character's are? This works on several levels.

      Background - This includes things like where they grew up, their socio-economic class, their age.

      While in general it is not recommended that you heavily accent the dialogue of characters who will have plenty of lines in your story (and instead heavily accent a line or two, and let the reader's mind do the hard work for you), that does not mean you should just ignore it.

      Accent can be used to show where someone grew up, and conveys a rich amount of detail compactly.

      Word Choice is another tool to help establish character background. How do your characters describe something? People are not perfect narrators, and tend to interpret the world around them through a specific lens shaped by their experiences.

      For example, Bran (a young boy) in A Song of Ice and Fire, upon witnessing Jaime and Cersei's infidelity does not describe it as adultery or sex. Instead, he describes it as "wrestling".

      An academically intellectual character (such as Gellert Grindelwald) would likely have a large and expansive vocabulary, words like indubitably, admonish, facetious, etc. A character who never finished high school would speak with simpler words -- no doubt, scold, joke.

      Turn of Phrase / Catchphrase is more a tool to help distinguish a specific character voice rather than convey information about who they are. Tonks greets people with "Wotcher!" while Harry Dresden is known for swearing with "Hell's Bells". An unusual way of speaking helps solidify that character's voice in the reader's head (though this should generally be kept to select characters).

      2. Values - What is it that characters value as important? Is it their religious beliefs? Their intellectual superiority? Their sense of right and wrong? For that matter, what version of right and wrong do they prescribe to? Utilitarian ethics? Justice theory? Consequentialism? Kantian ethics?

      Characters in conflict, even characters ostensibly on the same side and with the same goals, can differ in how they might achieve those goals.

      Remember that everyone is the hero in their own story, and so must believe that what they're doing is the "right" thing. In fact, most individuals tend to believe that what they're doing is in service to some good.

      That mafia boss who runs the drug trade? Well, he doesn't allow his men to sell to kids, he keeps violence off the streets, and he provides for the community. These might be self-deceptions to justify their actions, but they're important self-deceptions.

      Two protagonists in conflict, on the other hand, might arise from a difference in how they think justice ought to be executed. A classic example of this in heroic stories are "heroes who do not kill" and "anti-heroes who will kill a villain to prevent future casualties."

      It's important, of course, that these values aren't stated outright or risk feeling cheap and fake (unless you want a character to come across ingenuine).

      Rather, these things should be implied by the dialogue.

      "We have to defuse the bomb," Halt said.

      "If we defuse this one, we won't have time to get to the one on Main Street," Ri Ter said.

      "We can't just leave my family to die!"

      "You have to consider the greater good."

      Compare above to this:

      "We have to defuse the bomb," Halt said.

      "My utilitarian ethics tells me that we can save more people if we defuse the bomb at Main Street."

    3. Worldbuilding (When and Where)

      Does your dialogue provide information about the setting?

      Perhaps the easiest means of doing this is by characters mentioning something in reference - either an approaching event, some past historical event, a past personal experience, the name of a location, etc. These do not necessarily have to be explained right away, so long as the name is evocative enough.

      In my own story (What Wicked Warthings), characters mentions "Bastion Cities" which brings up images of city fortresses, and further suggests humanity as a whole is under threat from something, possibly even on the backfoot of a war and so have resorted to hiding in select, heavily fortified locations.

      Referencing known events not unique to your world helps ground the reader in when the story is taking place.

      "Anything new on the news today?" Halt asked.

      Ri shook his head. "Just that German fellow demanding Sudetenland again."

      "Adolf Hitler? Ha! Not like we'll bloody let him take it."

    4. Entertain (How)

      Is your dialogue fun to read?

      This is one of the more difficult things to master in writing in general, and can't really be taught, so much as practiced.

      There are some authors who are capable of writing back-and-forth that is genuinely funny and endearing to read about, even without any narrative advancement. The ability to write chemistry and humor. These are the "It Factors" which elevate writing from an intellectual experience of reading, to an emotional experience of connecting with the characters.

      Humor is a complex topic I find little use in discussing the theoretical practices of as all the theory in the world won't help you become funny as a writer. The best advice here is to hang out with genuinely funny people, and study them. But generally, it boils down to setup (creating expectations) and subversion (going down an unexpected path).

      Chemistry is the energetic exchange between two characters - whether it's romantic, familial, friendly, or casual.

      Now, the basis of all chemistry is having good characters to begin with. Do they have motivations and goals? Complexities? Are they active? Without good characters, chemistry cannot exist.

      Second, it is a dance of opposition and harmony. Chemistry is not a static state of affair, but something which shifts continuously with every line. Banter is a perfect example of this. The playful exchange which appears like argument, in which parties attempt to one-up each other verbally. This can have undertones from lighthearted, inconsequential playfulness, to real disputes with grave stakes.

      Much like a dance, this back and forth must be just that, a back and forth. One character cannot completely dominate the conversation or it will kill the delicate balance you have. Each has to have some jabs of their own they can use, allowing them to give as good as they get.

      The key to great dialogue? If you can let it accomplish multiple purposes at the same time.
  5. Villanelle

    Villanelle Groundskeeper

    Jun 30, 2017
    High Score:
    On the subject of interrupting speech with em dashes...

    I've found this blog post to be helpful.
  6. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Dialogue Series: Simulate reality

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Dialogue should:

    Simulate reality (but not too closely) - Good writing is like real life with all the boring bits cut out.

    All good writing is about walking a fine balance between two extremes, whether it be showing vs telling, planning vs pantsing, minimalism vs embellishment. Dialogue is no different in that regard.

    Too close to reality - Dialogue should simulate reality, but not too closely.

    Speech characteristics

    Filler Sounds - It is all well and good for dialogue to be something we can "see happening in real life", but one should not slavishly transcribe conversations and think it good dialogue. The truth is our brains are wonderfully complex organs that automatically filter out things - such as your nose from vision, the word "said" in a story, and filler sounds.

    These are your 'um's , 'uh's , 'you see's, 'well's and many more - words that we use to fill the dead space when speaking with others as we desperately buy ourselves time to think.

    Your ears do mostly tune these out (unless they're too repetitive), but your eyes don't.

    You should generally not include these things in your dialogue unless they fulfill a specific purpose such as showing social ineptitude, bumbling, or nervousness.

    Foreign Languages and Accents - As a rule, less is more when it comes to depicting accents. A dash of dropped h's here and a sprinkling of the odd French word, and voila, your character is delightfully French in your reader's mind.

    But don't get caught into the trap of having to add an accent to every other word of your foreign character's dialogue. Doing so not only draws too much attention, and becomes annoying to read about, but it can actually actively harm comprehension. When your readers have to reread a line in order to understand your character's thick accent, you have not succeeded at giving them a thick accent, you have just failed to write.

    Instead, play with the perspectives of your characters, telling or showing incomprehension (if you do not intend to have your character understand), or later have them realize the meaning, de-accentified (if you do intend your characters to understand).

    The same rule applies for foreign languages. No need to write down every line in German or Essossi or Numenorean if your character doesn't understand (and indeed, only write down lines which might become extremely important later on).

    Your readers are here to be entertained, not to gape at your mastery of foreign fantasy languages like French.

    Failing to finish

    Interruptions - In everyday life, we are interrupted constantly by other people, honking cars, accidents, and the like.

    These should generally be cut out of writing, unless you are specifically using this as a means to restrict key pieces of information from the reader or to show a specific aspect of setting.

    Otherwise, interruptions for the sake of mimicking reality should be cut out. These don't serve much purpose except padding your word count, slowing down pace, and generally making your story more boring to read.

    Jumping topics - Similarly, listening to conversations reveals how quickly people jump between topics. This rapid fire pace works great in real life between people who know each other, or even in visual mediums (Sorkin and Wes Anderson come to mind here), but keep in mind the medium you work with.

    Thus, the rules for jumping, non-sequitur topics is not to do so, unless like interruptions you intend to restrict information from readers, or show a certain dynamic your characters have. By this, I do not mean your characters cannot change topics, just that they should do so when a certain topic has been exhausted.

    These should not, however, be taken as carte blanche to do it excessively in your story.

    Rambling - Which is to say, having your characters go on and on and on without really getting to the point. Readers have no patience for that, and even your characters who tend to ramble ought to get to the point quicker than a real person would.

    Dialogue should be sharp, short, and simple.

    Wooden Dialogue - What is it we mean when we say "you have wooden dialogue"? It's a broad, all-encompassing term, but generally it boils down to this: Your dialogue doesn't sound realistic enough.

    One note dialogue - This is dialogue which is formulaic in its pattern, and thus unnatural. Whether it’s a question-answer-question-answer, an overabundance of obvious exposition, or boring chit-chat which doesn't seem to ever get to the point.

    Rather, your dialogue should be a mix of things, evolving as the characters' dynamic does. Dialogue can be responsive, descriptive, instructive, and expressive - you shouldn't feel limited to just using one of these in a scene.

    Mix it up!

    Overformality - Writing one character who speaks in perfect grammar, formality, and politeness is good characterization. Writing all of them that way is bad characterization, because most people don't talk that way. This is also called "stilted dialogue".

    Some of the more common traps to fall into are:

    Lack of abbreviations - can't, don't, gonna, coulda, shoulda. I'm not saying use all of them all the time, but throwing a few into the mix won't hurt.

    Slavish obedience to grammar - I'm of the opinion that so long as your average reader can understand what is being expressed without difficulty, then you can go burn your grammar textbook in the deepest pits of hell.

    Perfected - Perfected lack of tension is dialogue which has no conflict built into it. When all your dialogue sounds like two people commenting on the weather and how nice it is, resolves the potential conflicts before it has a chance to build, then your story will leave people wondering: What's the point of this all?

    Predictable - This isn't to say that your dialogue should be balls to the walls wild, jumping into non-sequiturs at the turn of the dime (we just spoke of the dangers of that, after all). Rather, when your reader can figure out every step of your dialogue chain, perhaps you ought to throw in a surprise or two in there.

    After all, why should they bother reading a story that can't surprise them even once?

    Written vs Visual Mediums - Writing, and reading of writing, is a necessarily linear flow of information. Where the real world (and visual mediums) allow for things to happen concurrently, in writing we can only hope to come close to replicating such an effect in certain ways.

    Thus, one should pay special attention to how they arrange their words.

    A common mistake I often see is in action-dialogue sequences like this:

    "You." Halt narrowed his eyes.


    Halt narrowed his eyes. "You."

    Think about how you imagine it in your head, and you'll soon realize the first comes across strange. In both cases, no doubt, the writer wishes to establish both of these things happening at once, but due to the limitation of our medium it doesn't translate as well.

    As a rule of thumb, any action and dialogue sequence where the action should naturally occur first as a reaction should have the action come before the dialogue.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2019
  7. Sey

    Sey Not Worth the Notice DLP Supporter

    Aug 9, 2016
    High Score:
    Theme exist, my guy.
  8. Archinist

    Archinist Hαn Sαlsæd First

    Jun 30, 2019
    Holy Terra
    This is the best thread in the universe.
  9. Story Content: [Advice] [Halt] Dialogue Series: Be a Conversation

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Dialogue should:

    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.
    Remember that good writing is like real life with all the boring bits cut out. What does dialogue which acts simply as a way to dump information onto your reader and dialogue which have no importance share?

    A lack of tension. There has to be conflict between the two parties speaking, a reason for us to care and to expect that things won't go perfectly for all involved without effort.

    Why is it more interesting this way?

    First, tension creates uncertainty. Uncertainty creates mystery. Mystery creates interest.

    Second, tension allows for exploration of character dynamic. Like the advice that says to travel with your girlfriend before you marry them, putting your characters in situations where they might be opposed to each other gives their relationship a chance to grow, or fail.

    Third, it allows for exploration of character. How a person deals with adversity tells you a lot more about who they are than when everything is swell and the world is great. Do your character become defensive? Do they stay quiet and reserved? Are they angry, violent, and prone to outburst?

    So how do we go about creating tension in our dialogue?

    Length - Keep your exchanges short and curt. This is not to say that you should never have a character go on the occasional, long-winded outburst, but keeping the barbs short gives the writing a feeling of a quick back-and-forth verbal spar, preventing either side from gaining an upper hand for long.

    Action - Interspersing action in between dialogue, especially sudden, violent action, can be a way to show the simmering conflict without it being said.

    Contradiction - This is the easiest tool to use. Harry believes Veelas are This is the easiest tool to use. Harry believes the Chudley Cannons are going to suck this year, and Ron disagrees.

    Interruption - When characters cut across each other, there's a suggestion there of people struggling to say their piece and be heard. This is especially effective in conversations involving more than two people.

    Tone - How something is said can imply more than what is actually said. The use of italics is a favorite of mine to inject terseness and emphasis with minimal need to explain.

    Uses of short, sharp, and blunt responses or questions can also lend dialogue a tense tone "What?" "Why?" and every teenager's favorite response: "Fine.".

    To which authoritative figures response with imperative commands, which make them sound angrier. "Don't sass me, boy. Go to your room."

    Finally, and laziest of all, is to simply describe the quality of voice. "His voice acquired a threatening tone."
    1. Subtext - Better left Unsaid.

      Subtext is such a tricky subject to write about and explain. It's something that comes to you with experience, empathy, and practice. As Kakashi is fond of saying, understanding subtext is to "look underneath the underneath".

      Essentially, these are the things better left unsaid.

      Subtext makes your dialogue richer, more meaningful, and ultimately more enjoyable to reread.

      e.g. An example of dialogue without subtext:
      Fleur stood to leave.

      e.g. An example of dialogue with subtext:

    2. Excavating Emotion - Subtext, by its nature of relying of readers to infer rather be spoon fed, is hard. It's one of the larger leaps of faith we as authors have to take. But you have to.

      Subtext isn't a nice to have in dialogue, but a critical component in order to make your dialogue feel authentic, and the most obvious way this applies is with emotion.

      Dialogue that spells out exactly how a character things and feels strikes us fake, grand emotional "I love you"s aside, because in the real world, people aren't so transparent about these things. We obfuscate, we hide, and we rely on the other person to pick up on cues. And, sometimes, we might not even know what to say and saying the wrong thing could end a friendship, or get you fired, or hurt a loved one.

      In Captain America, this scene in particular is a masterful use of dialogue of the third party as a means of suggesting emotions.

      Steve doesn't say a word throughout this exchange. And yet, while it's Peggy and Bucky doing all the talking, one can't help but understand it's really Steve Peggy is speaking to here, and Bucky is the odd man out.

    3. Goals and Desires - What is it your character is looking to get from the other person in the conversation? Do they want to convince them of something? Get them to reveal information? Encourage them to act in a certain way? Whatever it is, they rarely go about it the direct way.
    4. Denials and Biases - Consider too what are the base assumptions, denials, and biases your characters might have. Slughorn in Half Blood Prince is not some malicious, muggle hating, mudblood killing Death Eater, yet he still shows his bias against muggleborns during his conversations with Harry about his mother.

      What are the things your characters assume to be true about the world, but aren't wholly aware that they believe such things?
    5. Context - This is perhaps key. The decision of whether to clue your reader in, and by how much, will determine how much hidden meaning they'll be able to understand. In traditional novels, writers have the option of withholding information, allowing readers to reread certain scenes with the full context and understanding more of what's going on and being implied in the rereading.

      Fanfiction, in general, lacks this option unless you have planned your story out in advance and stick with it.

      e.g. From one of the more recent chapters of my story Zero Requiem, I encounter this very problem.

      She pouted. "Do you dislike my company? Or perhaps…" She put a finger to the side of her lip. "Your cousin Donnall tells me you've a horse named Seamoke. Do you prefer riding?"

      Lelouch blinked. The only Seasmoke with stories to speak of was a dragon his great grandfather’s great grandfather had ridden before the Dance. According to Mushroom’s Testimony, Laenor sought the company of handsome men, enjoyed them more than was appropriate. Was she implying what he thought she was? "I am better with a bow and a target to hit, but best with a book in hand."

      Joanna's implications here can only be understood by understanding some particular obscure lore about Lelouch's family history - something that most readers are likely not to have. Thus, there's a need to spell things out. Thus, while the dialogue itself obscures a lot, it was necessary for me to include a lot of detail so that the reader can themselves follow along.
  10. Story Content: [Advice] [Blorcyn] Descriptive Writing, Dialogue, and Scene Construction

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    A post by @Blorcyn I thought particularly enlightening from the "Describing Persons in a way that conveys impressions to the reader" thread. I've rephrased, reformatted, reorganized, and trimmed it down, but the words (and all credit) are still Blorcyn's.

    If I'm not hooked by the time I reach your '"Dialogue, speech and conversation," Harry smiled savantly', we're probably not going to go much further.

    1) Observing the world:

    To say the least about this, because it's the most time-intensive and thoughtful and obvious part.

    One of the biggest parts of good descriptive writing of both people and settings is to pay attention to those around you. When I was reading the review on the description of gossip and Sesc questioned whether it was a distinct phenomenon that could be identified, it struck a note in me. I absolutely see what he means, yet at the same time I can distinctly identify a spectrum of woman I'd call a 'gossip', just as I can (more clearly) for a dweeb, a jock or a class clown. Thinking about how you can identify an archetype for readers from media you consume and people you see in the world is fantastically helpful.

    For example, a jock is multifaceted and in many situations it won't be very apparent in a person - but, for them at least, throw a letterman jacket on them and it's very easy to pluck at that cultural resonance in someone's head, if you don't have a scene in which you can describe the behaviours they're going to display quickly.

    2) Images, painting a little at a time:

    An image is not just an image. An image should be a little quantum of emotion that you have been able to put into words. Suitably fluffy?

    More specifically, I think the challenge is to describe something in our stories as images "that have developed a life of their own in [your] senses". The challenge is to use one sense to evoke more than one sense.

    The images I'm most proud of writing, and most keen to read in other works, are always those that I feel captures the feelings I experienced when I first encountered something similar. For me, the reason I come back to HP is that sense of wonder at a magical world, and the feelings I got when Hagrid first appeared or when we first went to Diagon Alley. If you can tap into some emotion of the reader you've got the best chance of completely engaging them - and the best chance you've got is by tapping into something that really made you feel something.

    The tip regarding images and how to check if you've got something you can build into a story, is to think of the example from your own life you think could be useful, and just see if you can describe it frankly to another, and see if doing so triggers that same feeling in you or the person you're discussing it with (we have #writing on Discord for example). To start with an image and an emotion for your story can be better than starting with an idea because you can build tone off an emotion much more easily than off an idea.

    Ok, so I think that's a really important distinction but I imagine it's come off a bit pretentious and you want the concrete so here's the bullet points:
    • Trust the reader - Language doesn't need to "fancy" to be effective. Wordsworth said, "A language arising out of repeated experience and regular feelings is a more permanent and far more philosophical language than that which is frequently substituted for it".
    - What I mean is: don't go purple and don't go on. A big emotion and a big image shouldn't need big words or big paragraphs. Conciseness is key, finding the simplest, quickest most essential way to express the essence of your image. Consider the following:

    If it's not the key thematic image of your character and story, you quickly suffer from marginal gains, while it compromises your pace and directs too much attention from your reader to something that they could get much, much quicker. Even if it is the keystone, don't linger.

    It's hard to cut the descriptions you really like, even if they don't serve the story. Be kind to your future self. Save yourself the heartache.
    • Sensory vs. editorial - a reskinning of that confusing aphorism "Show, don't tell" which I find to be much more intuitive when I think of it in these terms.
    When keeping your descriptions as concise and essential as possible, how do you find the most sensory, specific language you can? How do you recognise editorial language? Well, editorial language is what an editor does, what a director would to his actors, what a particularly angry Sey in WbA does: it tells you how to feel.

    It hands downs a ruling on the behaviour or picture in question from the writer's mind, into the readers. But this is bad because it strikes at the general and diverse rule of reading: everyone is bringing their own context to your words. You're going to lose them if you tell them your context and understanding of emotion. This may seem contradictory to my earlier spiel - but think if it like the general idea of colours. Your colour blue is not a Roman's colour blue, nor your neighbour's. You may agree to describe something with that word but the phenomenon is actually something different to everyone. Let them relate the scene to their own emotional repertoire, it's going to a very fine variance, but it is a real one.

    In fact, the worst thing is that editorial language doesn't make you more specific. It makes you more vague.

    If you tell someone that X is bitchy, but don't display it, you're going to jolt them out of the narrative. If you show X being bitchy on multiple occasions, your reader and author understanding will align in most cases, without you having to tell them what you're trying to create and possibly having the reader suffer an internal contradiction in their definitions of 'catty', 'bitchy' and 'playful' as regards to yours.

    The word river, Mendelsund suggests, contains within it all the rivers you've experienced and read about, and a few words together can trigger all those ancillary associations that build a scene you can hang a hat off. It is easier to access those associations by making the reader think about the experience of being in a river than being told something is wet.


    This may seem facetious it's so gratuitous, but once you start looking and using adverbs and adjectives as a measure - this shit is everywhere.

    What we need to do then is make things sensory. This part is actually quite simple: when you write 'the sunset made her happy'. Stop. Insert yourself opposite your character in that image and look at her behaviours and expressions. Decide what she'd be doing that would show she is happy that you could see. What evidence can you tender to the reader? Write that. Take away the judgement.

    Lastly, as always, take a step back from your finished project for a good while and come back after you've forgotten the fugue state of writing.

    • Humans vs. Cliche - So apparently cliche comes from the french for 'click' which was the noise you'd get when you'd drop a load of moveable type into press at the same time - which you'd do for often repeated words or phrases where you kept all the letters together so you could throw it in and out quickly.
    Cliche isn't always something to avoid. To be specific, we're talking about narrative here, of course dialogue can be filled with cliche depending on the character. Sometimes it can underscore an emotion because it treads familiar ground. A cliche has worn a groove into a particular sentiment or emotion.

    However, in general, it's best to avoid cliche. If you're going to the effort of describing something, cliche undoes your work, precisely because of the above. It doesn't offer any unique insight into an event when described because it's so generic and broadly applicable. If you describe a wedding as 'the happiest day of their lives', you've missed a ripe opportunity to express something about the people, or the scene, or the importance of the event to the story. You can guarantee the eyes will skim over it and it will not land with any relevance. If you need it to land then don't use a cliched or hackneyed phrase.

    This advice is particularly of relevance in fanfic. Popular tropes are cliches. Think about how you apply them so that the reader is reading your story, not all the other WBWLs.

    3) Dialogue & scenes:
    • Symphonic dialogue - In John Truby's The Anatomy of Story, which is excellent, he is principally concerned with story structure, organic symbolism and the like. He does, however, have a couple of excellent sections on dialogue however and how to use it in service of describing a character.
    He points out two ends that people often turn dialogue toward - both of which would be better serviced by the events of the story or the narrative itself - which are dissecting the action of the plot rather than just getting on with it, and, reactionary discussion of character change. You could argue that these are just a function of the same problem.

    He advises to instead think of dialogue as a layered symphony of different sections of different weights. He actually advises compartmentalising things and layering in below as you revise.

    - Melody; Story dialogue: This is the story expressed through talk.

    It is talk about what they characters are actually doing. In this case action does not speak louder than words. This is where the characters talk about the main action line of the plot, and can progress the plot for a short period of time before the next event. This is people expressing their desires and the usual combatative talk between people with conflicting desires (there's not much too much to gain regarding description here, I suppose).

    - Harmony; Moral dialogue: This is where you begin to describe the character by their speech and the values which they express.

    Again returning to a gossip, this is the way in which you get to hint at that characterisation by their gossiping that aren't just plot-relevant and, also, their cavalier attitude to the secrets and feelings of others. In this section, you need to make it frank - but the key is that you're showing these traits inside the speech marks, rather than outside them with an action tag. Here, either the character themselves or the character opposing them, highlights the values character 1 is expressing by support or opposition.

    Think Dumbledore and McGonagall discussing the suitability of the Dursleys as people, how it moves from the plot reasons for it to their moral reasons for and against it, respectively.

    - Leitmotif; Repetition and variation: This is where you might stick in the character 'tagline' or the unique cliche (I know, I know. Shutup.) that will become their thing.

    This is the "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" or the "it wasn't just business to me." This is how you hammer home, over repeated encounters, the character's key traits and their manner of interacting with that world, that you set out earlier in more detail. Repetition of their moral position in brief is the key to making someone unique and identifiable. If they don't have a unique perspective - why are they in your story?
    • Scenes, and setting place - Choosing a setting, for many of us, has already been done to an extent. We're writing in an established universe. But, still, within that universe you have to think about how your character is being presented by the environment in which we're seeing them. Thinking about the gossip again - can you really show who they are if you put them in a one-on-one with Harry in the library? If so, how and what can the library offer you that nowhere else can?
    Both scene construction and setting have to do with consequence. By the very nature of events, it's going to have to carry a lot of weight, and if the reader doesn't have a good grasp of space and time it can be difficult for them to adequately follow the events of the scene. I'm sure we all have examples in our head, of the time you were reading an opening that didn't explain what and where it was and you had to keep re-evaluating your mental image while the characters talked about the Dark Lord and his magic dildo or whatever, because you had to keep filling in where they were - oh, they're in a castle hall. Oh, ok, they're seated at a feast. Oh, ok, it's actually just them having a private dinner. Oh, ok, they're actually being sucked off by an AU submissive!Snape.

    - Place: Deciding when to describe your place, knowing when to stop describing it and figuring out how to keep it brief while at the same time making it weighty is a function of experience, I expect. However, what you're trying to do is to reflect character in setting, to show challenges to character in setting and to use symbolism to hint at more about the world and the characters than you can with pure dialogue and narrative (without coming across as verbose and editorial).

    - For example, if you were bringing a gossip to Harry in the library - perhaps she's learnt something so juicy that she can't wait to share it, and ruin the esteem of some other character.

    Perhaps the library and Mrs. Pince represent a challenge to her ability to gossip, while also demonstrating her commitment to delivering the scoop. Maybe some book is titled How to guard your secrets from malicious intruders. Maybe she spills Harry's inkpot over his notes on wandless magic - try as he might, he can't lose himself in magic and ignore the social challenges of his peer-group. Lastly, maybe the narrow rows of the bookshelves and his decision to sit himself in the farthest corner hems him in, while she looms over him. Him seated, her standing. The library traps him, adrift in a sea of words, just as she does.

    - Scenes: "If images are the building blocks of a piece of writing, scenes are the next size larger". They should have a beginning, middle and end of their own and use the images within to show and describe a wider context. This is perfect for character description - because the character can be the common thread through a collection of images. They can tie it all together by showing a facet of themselves, like the gossip above.

    - Often, when layering scenes together, or creating one, the problems come from not knowing enough about when it/they are happening, both in terms of setting but also in terms of how time is flowing through them. This fluffiness translates to the reader and creates a morass. Specificity is what we want.

    - The two layers of time in a story are 1) the immediate and 2) the ongoing. The first is apparent. The second refers to the story world that is traveling on in the vicinity of the events we're currently experiencing, and both applies to the whole world, but also to the plot. It is the orientation between the immediate and the ongoing that you need to specify and pin down as you're writing to allow the reader to avoid the quagmire of not knowing how quickly/when events are progressing.

    - In terms of putting it into practice: Scenes need action that allows an intuitive measure of time, regardless of what that is. For the length of a conversation, having Ron and Dobby chat in the kitchen while the house-elves prepare a sandwich vs. a feast gives you a very different impression of time. Obviously, best practice is not a singular action. While that's going on, Ron could drink a hot cup of tea, and Dobby could darn a sock, while the other house-elves give the sock a wary distance.

    - This is not a precise art, but if you're considering it while you write your scene it will translate through and that extra effort will be rewarded by character engagment. I think difficulties often arise when it's not even thought about.

    - A good sense of time and the frenetic energy level of a character says a good amount about them.

    - However, most importantly in terms of character description, how can you focus on a character if all your mental effort is turned to figure out what's happening well. A well paced chapter is fertile ground for reader engagement with your characters and all the stuff that actually excited you when you were writing it.


    The Writer's Eye: Observation & Inspiration for Creative Writers
    by Amy E. Weldon, where most of my thinking on the subject matter comes from. She's an English Professor from Stateside, and her book deals with various topics and in typical academic style states nothing without referencing or quoting another body on it, which is ideal.
  11. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Supreme Mugwump

    May 27, 2014
    Good write-up. Since I'm in a contrarian kind-of mood, however, I've to point out that the comparison between


    seems a bit unfair.

    I get that the point is not to oversell the image -- more isn't necessarily better and all that -- but you do mention earlier on that the important part for an image is to get at the essence of what you want to convey. And both of these do only superficially share in conveying the image of old age and being wheathered.

    The first is quick, to the point, and describes normal old age as I'd expect it. The second veers far more towards evoking actual disgust, and if that is the essence you're going for, the second example (while it could certainly be trimmed a lot) is far stronger.

    Put the second, slightly changed, in the context of an actual story to utilize the disgust, and it becomes far more potent than in isolation.

    I guess it's not even that contrarian an opinion, since you did mention that the main point should be to consider what you actually want to achieve with your description. I just found the comparison to be strange.

    Anyway, this is a treasure trove of writing aid, so keep it going!
  12. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Chief Warlock DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    @Eilyfe I think you note the essential point though. And I don’t think you’re necessarily being contrarian, just pointing out something that does need clarifying. It’s about emphasis.

    A story can support a few weighty descriptions, or a chapter perhaps, depending on your story. If it’s very important to tone and structure then more power to you. But the description has to be essential to those things. And a tone like my over-exaggerated example is something that’s going to impact everything in your story - pacing, characterisations, action-line. You can’t write that in a story that is not mainly internally focussed, really.

    And, I think even with your rephrasing we can see the problem, it needs to be in a moment of great significance. A remembrance or inspection in a scene without sequence-level or act-level climactic intensity isn’t that.

    There are styles that thrive on this, to be fair. The naturalistic style of Sebastian Faulks, for example. But I despise him, and he’s not much in common with the fandoms most of us write for or read.

    I think then, my essential point, was more that it should not be a recurring thing. You can’t have every description be super heavy. And furthermore, that everything I wrote is a suggestion for people to avoid, rather than an absolute rule, because there are no absolute rules, really. It’s about good judgement for your story.

    Also, you are right to note that with my discussion regarding the importance of impactful imagery, the example might be confusing and seem contradictory, but I intended the quote from Wordsworth to essentially say that long run-on paragraphs aren’t necessarily the way you achieve impactful description, in my mind. You don’t have to be purple or verbose to paint colours.
  13. Story Content: [Resource] [the-phony-pony] Naming

    the-phony-pony Muggle

    Jul 19, 2019
    This is more resource than advice, but here is a guide to online name generators that I have created. This isn't how to name characters, but more what tools can help you name.

    One: Behind the Name
    Behind the Name (BTN) is your everyday etymology site. Type in a first name, and bam! Get history! Meanings! Alternate spelling! Or, if you know that you want a name of German descent, you can click on the “German” category, filter by preferred gender, and scroll the lists.

    My favorite tool on BTN, however, is the random generator found at the bottom of the homepage. Here’s a full list of all your options available with that tool:
    • Zero to three middle names generated with your first name
    • View one or five randomly generated names
    • Select masculine, feminine, ambiguous, or either as your gender
    • You can enter your own surname or generate a random one
    Now, we’ll look at those last three checkboxes in reverse order. A diminutive is a shortened form of a name - Deborah to Deb, for example. If you check this, you’ll get long forms of names only. In the middle, you can select to see more common names than rare. Last in my explanation but first on the list is the “generate life story” box. This will generate for each name:
    • Gender
    • Type
    • Nationality
    • Location
    • Language
    • Age
    • Birthday
    • Height
    • Weight
    • Handedness
    • Blood Type
    • Death Date
    • Age
    • Cause of Death
    You can see an example here. This is incredibly useful for your background characters. The last neat bit of BTN’s random generator is that you can click on the name generated (in this case, İbrahim) and see detailed information on those randomly generated names.

    Finally, BTN has a sub-site called Behind the Surname. Here, you can research surnames of a given nationality, especially if you’re unsure what that random generator gave you.

    Two: Fantasy Name Generators
    This is the motherlode of name generators, with one catch - all of the items for each generator have been provided by real humans. This means that they’re more limited compared to something randomly generated by an algorithm. Most of the links have somewhere between 500-2000 possible outputs inside the randomizer. I’ve had pretty good success either using the names as a starting point or combining outputs to get what I want. With this many options, it can be a bit difficult to learn where to start, so here’s a few generators that I often use for my projects.

    Three: Rinkworks
    Where in the world do I start. Rinkworks is the holy grail of fantasy authors. It uses the power of morphemes to create utterly new (and sometimes horrifying) words. It’s truly incredible.

    First, let me define morphemes. In a linguistic sense, morphemes are word parts that cannot be broken down further. In the word incoming, the morphemes are in-, come, and -ing. Rinkworks has broken down the English language into naming morphemes. You can then use special characters to determine how you want these naming morphemes to be combined to create your own names.

    (It is important to note there is a simple interface that uses preset code to develop names. The simple interface includes insults, mushy names, stupid names, and a few other generators based on various fandoms. I won’t be going over that. The true power of Rinkworks lies in the codes you customize.)

    First: Morphemes. There are six that I will go over for purposes of creating fantasy names. Note that case is important! Lowercase and uppercase letters do different things.
    • s: denotes single syllable (kel, lor, bel, ack, ir, yer, ny)
    • v: single vowel (a, e, i, o, u, y)
    • V: vowel combination (ey, ay, oo, ui, oi, ae)
    • c: a single consonant (h, j, w, t, v, b, q, p)
    • B: a single consonant or combination for the beginning of a word (k, sl, h, s,sch, z, c) [referred to as beginning consonant]
    • C: a single consonant of combination for anywhere in a word (ch, nt, r, rd, lt, ph, k) [referred to as anywhere consonant]
    Second: Operators. There are five operators that change how the code creates names.
    • ‘: creates a literal apostrophe at that point in the word
    • -: creates a literal hyphen at that point in the word
    • (): denotes a literal letter or phrase in the word
    • <>: denotes that anything inside is a morpheme from above
    • |: the OR operator inside parentheses or carrots (shift+\ on your keyboard)

    Now what? You can combine morphemes and operators to create simple or complex codes to generate names. Here are some simple codes:
    • Bs: beginning consonant, syllable
    • sVC: syllable, vowel combination, anywhere consonant
    • s’vCv: syllable, apostrophe, vowel, anywhere consonant, vowel
    To get more complicated, you can have the generator pick between two or more morphemes with the |, or OR operator.
    • B<s|ss>C: beginning consonant, single syllable OR two syllables, anywhere consonant
    You also can denote literal letters using parentheses.
    • (Ma)<s|ss>C: the word will begin with “Ma”, single syllable OR two syllable, anywhere consonant. Note that you can also use these at the end of the word.
    The OR operator can also be used inside parentheses.
    • (Ma|Da)sC: the word will begin with either “Ma” or “Da”, single syllable, anywhere consonant
    You can nest carrots and parentheses together.
    • <B|(Dr)>: the generator will choose a beginning consonant OR the literal “Dr”
    Lastly, you can influence the generator to favor a choice when using the OR operator. By leaving one side of the operator blank, the generator will either include your choice or not include it.
    • B<|s>vC: beginning consonant, nothing OR single syllable, vowel, anywhere consonant
    You also can influence the generator to pick options equally or favor one side of the operator over the other.
    • <s|ss|sss>: the generator will choose one, two, or three syllables with equal weight
    • <s||ss>: the generator will choose one, two, or no syllables with equal weight
    • (a|(b|c)): the generator will pull A 50% of the time, B 25% of the time, and C 25% of the time
    • <V|((o|u)i)>: this code will choose either a vowel combination OR literally “oi” OR “ui”. This a 50% for V and 25% for the literal “oi” or “ui”.
    This is the basis of Rinkwork’s powerful generator. There is an explanation very similar to this on Rinkwork’s website, so this is essentially a rehash of what the website has to say. However, I find this generator amazing. I used it to create a creature name, as I knew I wanted it to start with “lu” and end in “i”. The generator was able to help me discover the name I needed.

    These three are the tools I use most often when trying to name characters, places, and details in my writing. I hope these can help you too!
  14. Story Content: [Advice] [Lungs & Newcomb] Relationships

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    The following pieces regarding relationships were written a long, long time ago by Lungs (first) and Newcomb (expounding on the topic years later), two well-respected authors on DLP. While these focus in on the specific difficulties of writing Harry / Fleur, the things being spoken of here apply to relationships in general.

    Why the only good Harry/Fleur fic will need to be written by you.
    (and why it might still be mediocre)
    Okay, let's talk shop about relationships in writing, first.

    I've said this like, twice before in posts, several times on irc to various people, easily, writing relationships is hard.

    The less mystical and equally difficult parallel: writing dialogue.

    You say things every day to different people (assuming you are, if not possessing of a social life, are possessing of some kind of professional life. If not, you still probably trade insults with 10 year olds on Xbox Live). Yet when it comes down to writing dialogue, everyone who starts out flounders. I consider myself not too bad at writing in terms of its technical aspects, but I still fuck up my dialogue consistently to the point in which I rewrite it 4-5 times per chapter.

    You get a bunch of styles - the minimalist-not-by-choice people who have a checklist of "these things need to happen for this dialogue to be cool". Then you get the other (the most major culprit, for the fanfiction-savvy would be someone like gabriel blessing) who word-vomits with an obedience to structure I'd love to have in a debate round.

    And then you have people like me, who try to write out things as you can imagine the characters saying them, and then realize that holy-shit-that's-too-much-bullshit-for-written-word or maybe-I-can-be-this-curt-irl-but-just-not-here-not-now.

    Now, after that sidenote, we can talk about writing relationships.

    For every million words that tumble out of your mouth you've probably had one relationship. Some of you maybe more, if you're old and wise. Some of you maybe less, if you dig the fun. Some of you maybe none at all, because you have a League of Legend waifu.

    So, as a distinctly human trait, you don't like making the hard decisions necessary to realize that a relationship can not be healthy. You don't like believing that She Might Not Be The Golden One.

    So how does this come out to the readers? We have pet peeves about relationships in fanfiction (and lots of non-fan fiction). Someone starts a relationship sometime. It lasts for years, ends in marriage and kids. Check the pet peeves thread(s). I promise you they're there. I might have posted some.

    This is cringe-worthy to the reader because of this one. damn. rule. I find so fucking hard to remember when I'm actually writing - one that I actively resist:

    The Reader Does Not Have The Same Attachment To Your Character As You Do.

    Especially if you've created a large and sprawling AU like I'm prone to do - in fact, if they're reading fanfiction and not writing it, they probably don't like the canonverse as much as you do. I'm not saying for certain they don't - I'm just saying that the proportion of people who care who care enough to write about things compared to people who care enough to spend a bunch of hours of free times reading the product of this caring is closer to zero than to one. (mathanalogiesi'msolame)

    Harry/Ginny - Girl falls in love with her prince charming. They marry and have kids. They name their kids after people they don't know very well, some of which have screwed them rather directly.

    Harry/Hermione - Girl falls in love with her best friend.

    Harry/Hufflepuff - Guy falls in love with the nice girl.

    Harry/Ravenclaw - Guy falls in love with brainy girl who isn't Hermione? Author likes Asian Amateur porn.

    Harry/Slytherin - Hatesex is glorious.

    These happen. These aren't hyper difficult. These are tropes which are all over our literary works, our culture, all over our every day life, in our relationships and others. We have a POINT OF CONNECTION to them.

    Now... then it gets a bit... Harrier. Bwahahaha.

    Harry/Tonks - Guy digs the police chick. They have kinky shapeshifting sex and fight crime. Author might like pegging.

    Harry/Luna - Guy falls in love with the insane girl.

    Harry/Sue - Guy inherits magical powers from the four founders and has a massive penis that the prepz hate.

    The quality severely deteriorates. You have to jump through holes. Tonks may have a personality that's young, but Harry and her have to find a point of connection. Easy, he joins the Unspeakables for an unforgettable summer in being cleared to use the Killing Curse. Ugh. Luna is insane. How many of you know insane girls like Luna? Well, I have a friend who's a little bit of a schizophrenic, maybe she's like him? I have a bunch of Morning Glory seeds to chomp on, maybe I can replicate schizo in my head? Mary Sue? That one's a joke.


    We have... the ships that are fucking really, really difficult.

    Harry/Blaise's Mom - Harry becomes the Don. He kills people. He enjoys cocaine with his afternoon tea.

    Harry/fem!character - You'd best explain how genderbending's going to work out, dude.

    etc etc.

    And then. We have THE ship.



    Good. Fucking. Luck.

    Ever date a girl substantially less mediocre and more physically attractive than you? I have. It didn't work out. We're still in a weird place and I certainly like her more than she likes me. Maybe it'll be kinda like that.

    But do you guys really, really want to hear about Lung's adventure with Continuously Drained Self-Esteem?


    Okay. So what does Harry have going for him?

    He's the Chosen One. He's the Protagonist. He fights Voldemort. He can potentially be a Quidditch champion, the Master of Death, etc etc.

    Pretty cool.

    Also pretty disconnected from canon!Harry, who - if he went to college with me - would be my roomate from last year. And all around extremely nice guy who smoked weed twice a week, got drunk on Fridays, and goes to a rave or two with me once in a while.

    So... what stories can possibly segue into a realistic relationship between Harry and Fleur?

    Harry Potter, Groundhog Day Hero of Time?

    Harry Potter, Secret Agent Losing His Baggage?

    Harry Potter, Time Traveling Avatar of Grimdark?

    What do these things have in common?

    Mental. Maturity. If you're dating a supermodel without an infinite supply of Bolivian Marching Powder, you'd have to be pretty good on a shit ton of counts.

    We can conceptualize Harry as attractive. That's not enough. Plenty of dudes at the bar could match that.

    We can conceptualize Harry as powerful. That's not enough. Plenty of people can gain power in magic.

    We can conceptualize Harry as rich, famous, etc etc. Not enough.

    Strength of character. Not. Being. Boring. (Considering canon!Fleur married canon!Indiana Jones with Dragonleather boots.) Being academically/intellectually excellent. (said Indiana was also Head Boy).

    So what have we got here:

    1. Author's end: You have to let go of your personal experience and try to find experience that might not belong to you and hope you write it realistically.

    2. Author's end: You have to have the hallmarks of a good story to begin with (no overwhelming piles of fail - like, make-it-into-the-library quality of writing, even if just barely)

    3. Character end: A very specific Harry who needs to not only match expectations set by one of the most awesome characters in the story (per the proper interpretation of Bill) - but exceed them. Because he's younger.

    (edit) 4. Also, she can throw fireballs. And turn into a bird.

    Yer fucked, mate.

    It's not that writing Harry/Fleur is hard, it's that writing anyone/anyone is hard, because writing a compelling relationship is hard as shit. It's basically drama < humor < love.

    I mean, writing in general is hard. Just getting to the stage where you have this mental map of "what happens" and being able to write words that put that approximate mental map in somebody else's head is a significant achievement.

    Drama isn't that hard - everyone understands problems and pathos. Humor is way harder, because you're adding a degree of subjectivity and the nuance of "what is funny?" sometimes hangs on a single word, to the point where you just need to intuitively grasp it sometimes.

    Ah, but romance... now that's a tough cookie. It's got all the subjectivity problems of humor, but this time you're tacking on the fact that there's this thing called chemistry, and there's no roadmap for it. What makes a good love story varies so much and depends entirely on your writing style, your characters, your setup... context, in other words. Basically, you can learn a lot about drama and humor from reading how other people approach it. Romance, you learn a lot less, because when you inevitably get to the part with the kissing, you'll find that an attempt to borrow from other writers or other styles (which is totally an okay thing to do) leeches chemistry and intimacy from a scene until you get something like Heart and Soul, and that's at the top end.

    So with that in mind, it's not surprising that there are so few good Harry/Fleur fics. You're taking a task that's pretty damn challenging in the first place (writing compelling romance) and then handicapping yourself by picking a universe in which the characters you want to write about aren't well situated in time and space to even interact a lot, never mind actually have a relationship.

    - Not the same age, so experiencing different things at different times (in general.)
    - Don't go to the same school.
    - Don't live in the same country.
    - Only kinda speak the same language.

    (And if you start post-DH to solve those problems, you introduce another one: she's fucking married.)

    Then there's Fleur's characterization. She's got just enough of it in canon for it to be an issue: we don't really see enough of her to paint a complete picture. It's more of a sketch. Yet she's not a complete blank slate like Daphne. It's a tough middle ground for authors - there's just enough there to put a fence around "getting her character right" without there being enough to really help you actually get her right.

    (This situation is also why you so frequently see the same beats hit for secondary characters. "Luna mentions crazy animals! Tonks is clumsy! Charlie only talks in dragon metaphors!")

    Given these issues, is it any surprise that anyone taking a whack at Harry/Fleur approaches it from the starting point of a pretty big contrivance?

    The Lie I've Lived gives Harry an adult's memories and some of his personality. Wastelands of Time makes Harry an insane immortal. When A Veela Cries literally murders 90% of Hogwarts to clear the way. Knowledge is Power ages him 2 years and gives him the personality of a young Dr. House.

    I mean, Steelbadger, I think it would be awesome if you could pull it off, but I just don't see 4th year canon!Harry/canon!Fleur as at all possible. Harry freaks out about asking a girl to the ball - he jokes about rather facing the dragon again, but it's not really a joke. Fleur is confident enough to fool around with Rodger Davies and not give a single fuck about setting her sights on Bill a couple months later. It's not an age thing (at least not directly), it's an attitude thing. She's not a Beginner Level Girlfriend, and Harry couldn't even handle Intro To Understanding Female Emotions with Cho. Sometimes it's hard to remember just how much of a dork Harry was before 6th year.

    Holy shit, that got long. I think this is one of those posts where I kind of forgot what I was talking about midway through.

    Short version: romance in hard, canon is not friendly to this pairing in particular, and like Inert said, doing it well is a matter of patience, talent, and creativity.

    Or you could just say "fuck it" and do Veela sex magic / life debt soul bonds.
  15. Archinist

    Archinist Hαn Sαlsæd First

    Jun 30, 2019
    Holy Terra
    Something that I've mulled over for a while is the flow of writing.

    I've never thought of it too much until I came across this story.

    Something I think is a recurring error among some writers is that, well, their technical skills work. Grammar, spelling, commas, etc., but in another section (I often hate to think it) they screw up.

    I just want to compare a paragraph from the linked story above and a paragraph from one of @Taure 's stories.

    I admit my comparisons may be a bit shifty, at worst unreliable, as the first paragraph contains dialogue. The paragraph from Taure's story does not, obviously.

    Let's take the first paragraph, and you can really get how, choppy it is.

    The paragraph without the dialogue, for the sake of fairness:

    You can really get a sense of how rushed the paragraph is, how the writer of these lines doesn't care about his story being 'more than words' as I pompously like to think.

    It's stuff like that which really breaks the immersion of a story that could be good, but ultimately breaks down because one of the fundamentals: --story flow-- is absent from it.

    I suppose I've been a bit of a dick with the first paragraph thing, but in this case it's just an example. This shit extends beyond the important 'first glance' at the story.

    Another paragraph, same author different story:

    The thing about storytelling is that writing goes beyond words on a page. It has to flow. It has to be coherent, and it has to work. Imagine a pocket-watch, only the gears are all put in the wrong places.

    On the other hand, when the cogs of the story fit snugly you have writing like this:

    The two by the author I'm using as an example (not Taure) have no care given to the way they flow, thus, are unreadable unless the hypothetical reader is truly desperate for a story.

    Taure knows how to write a story that flows, the other writer I'm mentioning does not.

    There's a reason why commas exist, there's a reason why the writing, the paragraphs have to be arranged in a certain way. Otherwise you don't have a 'story', you have an unidentifiable blob of words, description, and actions (without a coherence to them).
  16. contra

    contra Third Year

    Jan 16, 2018
    The Moon
    To point out the specific flaws: run-ons, so ironically that person's issues are that commas exist, and too much detail. TMI boring or could at least be tossed into a different paragraph altogether, ergo fully describing the armor then how the armor is enhanced. Flow, yes, but pointing to the word as a blanket term isn't very helpful if you don't even know the feel of the beat--which if the writer is producing such work, obviously are missing the tempo.
  17. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

    Jun 26, 2018
    Behind you
    I don't think its necessarily an issue of too much detail, but rather ease of reading. Apart from run-on sentences, as you point out, and the underuse of paragraphs, this author seems to forgo usual sentence structuring, making it much harder than it needs to be to understand what is going on.

    Using your first example:

    We have speech, then three descriptions of the speaker, then the speech tag, then an action. I think the 'flow' feels off to you @Salsa, because you as the reader have to remember what was said as you simultaneously try to figure out who the speaker is. You are then confused by not being able to pick out one descriptor to establish the speaker by (we are offered three; 'taller than average', 'dark haired', 'broad-shouldered'). Finally, in the case that you manage to figure things out, you are bombarded with even more confusing information; namely, that the character is in fact humming and not muttering, and that the muttered words were probably a reference to some song, making the initial effort to remember them entirely pointless.

    Thinking about it in depth, it's actually quite the whooper of a phrase. But what if we arranged the sentence into a more sensible order? After all there are no obvious grammatical mistakes, there is no reason why the sentence could not be rebuilt with a few minor changes.

    Edit. 1:

    "I don't mind spending everyday..." the dark haired teen muttered to himself, as he casually walked across the rooftop of one of the high rise buildings in Manhattan. He trailed his hand along the cement balustrade beside him, absentmindedly humming along to the music coming out of his earphones.

    Taller than average, with broad shoulders ...

    Move a few things around, change the tense of one verb and voila.

    Now admittedly this sentence is still quite confusing, mainly due to the in-text contradiction (again: is the speaker muttering to himself, or is he humming along to the music?) but at least you understand of what is being said, by whom, and where, and in that order.

    Edit 2:

    "I don't mind spending everyday... " the boy sang, stood on the balustrade, arms extended beneath the falling skies.

    "...out on your corner in the pouring rain..."

    Around him the tall buildings of Manhattan twinkled with light, shining upon the procession of tiny umbrellas beneath them.

    "..please don't try so hard to say good-bye..." The teenager balanced on one foot, as the wind blew him forwards, dark locks covering his face.

    "... or you'll make me wanna die."

    Is this something that I would read? No, not really. The protagonist looks like a proper emo twat, and I don't enjoy stories that remind me about my past. But at least now, you (the reader) can make that determination, instead of being confused about what the fuck is going on, and wallow on why Taure will never finish 'The One He Feared' instead.

    Also, yes, I'm not the best of writers. Blow me.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
  18. Eilyfe

    Eilyfe Supreme Mugwump

    May 27, 2014
    In a defence of long sentences: they can enhance stories, and frequently do if they're done the right way. Sentence structure should vary, of course, but there's nothing wrong with having an elaborate sentence that leaves you out of breath at the end of it. Placed at the right time they can be quite valuable to show an emotional state, confusion, chaos, quick happenings.

    An example from Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. The protagonist has just told his family that he hears voices, declaring them to be from an Archangel and hoping that, in his search for meaning, he has found his destiny at last.

    As you'll notice, that is one long sentence, slightly on the rambly side, but, to my mind, also quite powerful. It doesn't commit the cardinal sin of being boring in subject matter, and there's a good cadence to it that pulls you through until the end. In many regards, if you leave out content and only focus on sound, writing is like making music. If there's a good rhythm you know it instantly. It's hard to capture something like that, and it takes a lot of training. Someone who's too afraid to touch long sentences will never become good at them, ultimately missing out on an incredible tool that can give their writing some spice and versatility. Which is why I would encourage every writer to try their hand and practice them. Play with language, that's the fun of it.

    That aside, I don't want to read about dragon hide boots in such detail if Riddle isn't being brained with them later on in the story. Long sentences and paragraphs are the least of that example's problem.

    Edit: Not the only such sentence in Midnight's Children by the way. Rushdie has at times some really complex prose, including one sentence that goes across three pages and fits the mood beautifully (and tragically).
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2019
  19. Story Content: [Workshop: Summary] [Halt] The Adventure of the Velvet Room

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros. Moderator

    May 27, 2010
    Another sample @BTT and I were working on earlier today. Feel free to suggest improvements.

    3 was particularly difficult for us to tackle because the main difference between the original Sherlock and the BBC Sherlock is the time period (set in the 1900s vs the 2010s). Short of outright stating the year, something I dislike under most circumstances, the easiest way to frame setting is by referencing an event or a person famous enough your reader will be familiar with them. The challenge then is using a reference that can be woven into your narrative without seeming too abrupt (which is much the same problem with just stating the year).

    2 has more to do with hinting that the crossover material has something to do with the psyche / Jungian psychology.

    Queen Victoria was a natural choice in addressing 3, being one of the most famous monarchs in British history and Sherlock's own history working (at times) for the government.

    With respect to 2, adding in a few buzz words and hinting that this is a story beyond the typical Sherlock-ian style was enough, which also serves as a slightly stronger hook than the first draft by being a Unique Selling Point.
  20. Niez

    Niez Competition Winner CHAMPION ⭐⭐

    Jun 26, 2018
    Behind you
    Is it necessary to inform the reader of the time period in the summary? I mean, as soon as they start to read about horse carriages or the like , they are going to realise that Dorothy ain't in Kansas anymore. In any case, I agree that making a time specific reference is classier than just stating the year. The thing is that 'Queen Victoria's finest' sounds... eh, to me.

    I think this is due to two reasons. One, it's a play on the common saying 'New York's finest', which is however not very commonly used in Britain (I've never heard the Met police called 'London's finest' for instance -- though that could be for a multitude of reasons). And two, it sounds like a tag for a cop movie. Sherlock Holmes is a private detective. He solves crimes, yes, sometimes even with the police, but he isn't really Queen Victoria's, at least not in any meaningful way. Besides, Queen Victoria died in 1901 and Sir Arthur Conan Dole wrote Sherlock Holmes stories up until World War One. (EDIT: Ignore the crossed out part, I'm an idiot who doesn't know how to read).

    As I'm not a Negative Nelly, or at least not only, let me propose an alternative. Instead of making a reference to the time period, something that can come off as forced unless done perfectly, you could make a reference to an event that features in the original stories, but not on the T.V show. For instance;

    "Two years after his final confrontation with Moriarty atop the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock Holmes has resumed his daily routine as a private detective. Thinking his greatest challenge behind him, he is forced to reconsider after a long string of crimes that leaves the police -- and more worryingly, himself -- utterly baffled. What can even the world's greatest detective do, when faced against a criminal that leaves no physical clues?
    Welcome, one and all, to the Velvet Room.
    (Perhaps: 'Welcome, Mr. Holmes, to the Velvet Room', if that makes any sense. I admit I am not familiar with the source material.)

    There are many other possibilities though, if @BTT remains unconvinced. Like putting the story in the relevant fanfiction category (TV Show >Sherlock vs. Books > Sherlock Holmes). :)
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2019