Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

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Oddball
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Oddball » Tue Nov 27, 2012 5:27 pm

This is script fic.
Misha: Hi, I'm Misha.
Don't do this.

This is better.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha.

But we can still do better than that. Let's toss in a simple adverb to describe HOW the character is saying something.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily.
Now you not only have the character and the dialogue, but you've established some mood.

Add some actions and/or a location and you've got a much more clear picture of what's going on.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily as she sat at her desk and chewed on her pencil.

With that said, most KS fiction follows a 1st person narrative, which tells the story for a certain characters point of view. It let's the reader inside the narrator's head and shows how they feel and react to certain things.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily as she sat at her desk and chewed on her pencil. I think she looked silly doing that, but she was still pretty cute.

Any Questions?
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Helbereth
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Helbereth » Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:52 pm

Oddball wrote:This is script fic.
Misha: Hi, I'm Misha.
Don't do this.

This is better.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha.

But we can still do better than that. Let's toss in a simple adverb to describe HOW the character is saying something.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily.
Now you not only have the character and the dialogue, but you've established some mood.

Add some actions and/or a location and you've got a much more clear picture of what's going on.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily as she sat at her desk and chewed on her pencil.

With that said, most KS fiction follows a 1st person narrative, which tells the story for a certain characters point of view. It let's the reader inside the narrator's head and shows how they feel and react to certain things.
"Hi, I'm Misha," said Misha happily as she sat at her desk and chewed on her pencil. I think she looked silly doing that, but she was still pretty cute.

Any Questions?
Actually, if I may:

"Hi, I'm Misha~!" the pink-haired girl greeted loudly as she sat at her desk chewing a pencil into oblivion. The volume level left a shrill echo in my ears, but I can forgive that coming from someone so adorably innocent-looking.


The reuse of words like 'said' can reduce the quality of your writing and make parts of it feel repetitive. There are plenty of more specific descriptive words for how people say things that can stand in its place: greeted, chided, sighed, groaned, chirped, intoned, replied, recounted, commanded, balked, etc.. Remember to use exclamation points and other appropriate punctuation for speech, as they can establish character just as well as a witty comment in prose.

Also, since this is an introductory greeting, the character in question is more likely to use a reference to appearance, tone, or something similar, rather than their name when describing the speaker. In the case of someone like Misha, where one of her more commonly addressed traits is the volume of her speech, it's good to establish that early. Thus, when you reinforce it later, the audience remembers why.

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DaGarver
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by DaGarver » Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:11 pm

Helbereth wrote:Actually, if I may:

"Hi, I'm Misha~!" the pink-haired girl greeted loudly as she sat at her desk chewing a pencil into oblivion. The volume level left a shrill echo in my ears, but I can forgive that coming from someone so adorably innocent-looking.


The reuse of words like 'said' can reduce the quality of your writing and make parts of it feel repetitive. There are plenty of more specific descriptive words for how people say things that can stand in its place: greeted, chided, sighed, groaned, chirped, intoned, replied, recounted, commanded, balked, etc.. Remember to use exclamation points and other appropriate punctuation for speech, as they can establish character just as well as a witty comment in prose.

Also, since this is an introductory greeting, the character in question is more likely to use a reference to appearance, tone, or something similar, rather than their name when describing the speaker. In the case of someone like Misha, where one of her more commonly addressed traits is the volume of her speech, it's good to establish that early. Thus, when you reinforce it later, the audience remembers why.
Disagree with not using words like 'said'. If your dialogue is crafted correctly, said is the only verb you need (within reason, of course). The rest will come from context.

Further, when dialogue is only between two individuals, you can just put in a little reminder every now and then of who's speaking. Like so:
"Hey! I'm talking to you!" Emi shouted.

"Huh?" I answered. "Oh, me?"

"Yes, you! Who else, numbskull, we're the only two characters here!"

"Wow. What a lonely life we lead."

"Yeah.... lonely." Emi kicked her feet into the ground.
You get the idea.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Fray » Mon Feb 25, 2013 8:54 pm

Helbereth wrote:The reuse of words like 'said' can reduce the quality of your writing and make parts of it feel repetitive. There are plenty of more specific descriptive words for how people say things that can stand in its place: greeted, chided, sighed, groaned, chirped, intoned, replied, recounted, commanded, balked, etc.. Remember to use exclamation points and other appropriate punctuation for speech, as they can establish character just as well as a witty comment in prose
DaGarver wrote:Disagree with not using words like 'said'. If your dialogue is crafted correctly, said is the only verb you need (within reason, of course). The rest will come from context.

I've always found that it is in a writer's best interest to use both 'said' and other descriptive words. If someone is speaking a certain way, then you might wish to point that out, because you can easily overuse 'said.' On the other hand, if you avoid 'said,' it can become jarring. Another useful word I've found is 'responded,' but again, watch your usage.
"What do you think you're doing?" she said, sounding annoyed.
He spun around to face her. "Nothing," he mumbled, a guilty expression flickering across his face.
She crossed her arms in exasperation. "Don't let mum and dad catch you," she reprimanded him. "Otherwise we'll both get in trouble."
"Alright, alright," he said, standing up and brushing off his jeans.
It's a good way to keep your writing descriptive and flowing well. Don't force it, or people will think you're reading out of a thesaurus, but if someone is speaking in a certain way, you can use a word that matches!

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Catgirl Kleptocracy
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Catgirl Kleptocracy » Sat Mar 02, 2013 12:50 am

I'm going to have to agree with DaGarver. 'Said' is a very invisible word. It's not as easy to overuse as you might think. For speech tags, things like 'said' or 'asked' can be reused quite a bit before they start to draw too much attention, while words like "bellowed" or "balked" draw attention to themselves immediately.

If your writing is strong you don't need a descriptive word for the reader to know how something is being said. That comes from context. There may be situations where another word could be used to tell how the dialogue was spoken, but I'd argue 9/10 times that 'said' is the best choice.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Doomish » Sun Mar 03, 2013 2:40 am

Alright, I think I feel the need to voice a complaint that seemingly only I have, and that is

STOP HAVING YOUR OC STORIES START WITH THE CHARACTER BEING SENT TO YAMAKU FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM X LOCATION, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

I have only seen a small handful of OC fics that don't start off with "My name is X I found out I have Y disability better go to this craaaazy school for disabled people because my parents say so!" Like, okay, I understand that's the traditional 'what if it was my character instead!' scenario, but it's okay to have a little bit of originality. Yamaku is an entire school full of people. Why not have your character transfer from another class, or hell, have the story be about a group of original characters in a class yet unseen? The beginning of the story does not have to be a copy/paste from Hisao's.

This is not targeted at anyone specifically, but that's only because I've seen it like a dozen-and-a-half times now. Again, I understand that Hisao is completely interchangeable with whichever character you've decided to create, but it seriously wouldn't hurt to try some other way of introducing your guy into the KS world. There are loads of other possibilities!

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Oddball » Sun Mar 03, 2013 12:59 pm

Doomish wrote:Alright, I think I feel the need to voice a complaint that seemingly only I have, and that is

STOP HAVING YOUR OC STORIES START WITH THE CHARACTER BEING SENT TO YAMAKU FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM X LOCATION, PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

I have only seen a small handful of OC fics that don't start off with "My name is X I found out I have Y disability better go to this craaaazy school for disabled people because my parents say so!" Like, okay, I understand that's the traditional 'what if it was my character instead!' scenario, but it's okay to have a little bit of originality. Yamaku is an entire school full of people. Why not have your character transfer from another class, or hell, have the story be about a group of original characters in a class yet unseen? The beginning of the story does not have to be a copy/paste from Hisao's.

This is not targeted at anyone specifically, but that's only because I've seen it like a dozen-and-a-half times now. Again, I understand that Hisao is completely interchangeable with whichever character you've decided to create, but it seriously wouldn't hurt to try some other way of introducing your guy into the KS world. There are loads of other possibilities!
Let me expand on that.

If they are starting at the school, don't make them late on their first day. Don't have them meet Mutou outside of class, and don't have them immediately assigned to work with Shizune and Misha. That was Hisao's story. Everyone here has read it.

And really, what's wrong with being in class with Emi and Rin? Or maybe your OC shows up to class on one of those days where Shizune and Misha are skipping, so he's told to work with another student that has good grades.

One other note, if you really feel he need to put them in the same class as Hisao there's another easily used option. In the finished game there's a student in class that is not identified at all. Earlier versions had Lelouche there but the final game gives you a blank slate. Why not make that your OC?
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Helbereth
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Helbereth » Sun Mar 03, 2013 1:00 pm

Doomish wrote:Why not have your character transfer from another class, or hell, have the story be about a group of original characters in a class yet unseen?
Considering this is almost, to the letter, exactly what I set out to accomplish, allow me to elaborate.

I did the math once before, and I'm not particularly good at it, but think of it this way:

Yamaku has ~17 students per class, 4 classes per grade level and 3 grades (1st 2nd and 3rd year). That puts the total number of active students somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 (rounding down). Class 3-3 contains 18 students with the addition of Hisao, which means there are around 180 other students at Yamaku. Consider then that each of those classrooms has its own teacher, add janitorial staff, cafeteria staff, security staff, utilities and maintenance staff, physical education staff, specialty staff (art, music, etc.) as well as whoever the principal is, medical personnel (other than Nurse) up to and including physical and mental therapy staff, and there are probably close to 400 people (staff and students) roaming the halls of Yamaku on a daily basis. Add in parents and other family members and you have a potential cast of over 1000 people.

Not all the students live in the dorms; some commute from nearby neighborhoods or ride in from the city. Not all Yamaku students even have a disability (Misha doesn't, technically). There are more facilities on campus than are ever seen in the VN, including most of the faculty buildings, the pool area, and any other amenities you can imagine would exist at a well-funded special academy in Japan. Yamaku stands atop a mountain of sorts, secluded and in a wooded area; it's surrounded by forest in which you could create all manner of possible destinations.

Basically, what I'm saying is that if you're going to create an original character who attends Yamaku, there are plenty of options available to finagle them into the existing student body with as little or as much exposure to the existing cast as you like.

Writing in a character that simply takes the place of Hisao might be easier, but it's also a bit lazy. Having read several introductory chapters in which an OC takes Hisao's place, I usually find myself looking for the copy-pasta rather than getting involved with the new face. It's so ridiculously formulaic in most cases, that it almost feels like a bad rewrite with a different name for the main character, rather than its own story. That might sound cruel, but that doesn't make it any less true.

Instead, why not take your character, leave them exactly as they are--same disability (or not), same background, etc.--and set them up at Yamaku with a few minor changes. Instead of slapping them with their new condition and throwing them at the gates of Yamaku, alter their diagnosis date or their admission date; preferably both. Make them a first year or second year student if you're so inclined, and maybe turn the clock back (or forward) from the original starting point. Bring them to Yamaku at the beginning of the school year (March, I think) and have them sent to a different classroom. Maybe they could wind up in 3-2 with Lilly and Kenji, or maybe 3-4 with Rin and Emi (nobody has done either of those to my knowledge).

Do something different! Yamaku is a big place, there's plenty of room for the fanon to grow!

Personally, I read a snippet about class 3-1 being a no-mans land of mostly deaf students and decided to use that angle to create a room full of people; half of which haven't appeared anywhere in my narrative, but they exist. According to my story notes, almost every chair in 3-1 has a person in it, and the few empty chairs at least have a name. Most of them have basic appearance and personality biographies, and a few have evolved into main cast members. The interactions my characters have with the original cast are based on proximity, convenience and a few instances of clever timing. Apart from that, they exist as their own universe, carving out a corner of Yamaku.

You don't have to wedge your character into room 3-3 for them to end up interacting with the original cast; they're strong characters whose presence is quite noticeable. Shizune, namely, probably has her agile hands in almost everyone's business somehow, and her pink-haired cohort is hard for anyone not to notice. Emi, the fastest thing on no legs, is a curiosity, even at a school full of multiple amputees. Lilly is her class representative, and Kenji is out of his mind, so they're both prone to exposure throughout the school. Rin is just too weird for people not to notice, and her mural is easily one of the most notable things about the school grounds once it's painted. Perhaps Hanako is the odd one out in this respect, but even though she isn't radiant in her presence, she's distinct and habitual, so there's plenty of potential for meetings even if not in class 3-3.

I really was not planning to write this much, but I did use the word 'elaborate' in my introduction...

Just keep it in mind; there is plenty of potential throughout the school without resorting to the ham-fisted 'replace Hisao' scenario.

Edit:
Oddball wrote:stuff
This too. You literally posted about a minute before me...

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Wed Mar 06, 2013 8:55 am

I have to admit I'm guilty of this. When I go back and read my OC story now, all I see is the original cast of KS hacked apart and their various personality traits sewn onto characters with flimsy backstories and different appearances. For instance, my Naomi is essentially a Mishanako, while Miko is an Eminako. The Daisuke/Yamato dynamic is a reskinned Shizune/Lilly dynamic, and the first notable character to appear, Seto, ends up being completely useless to the overarching plot. Overall, it's shitty writing.

But one can learn from that. While you guys are right in saying you probably shouldn't just palette-swap story events, that doesn't mean you can't borrow from other ideas at all. There was a quote I read once that said something to the effect of "nothing is ever original because someone else at some point in time has already thought of it". I have no idea who said it, but the point is you shouldn't try so hard to be original that you end up writing shit anyway. It's okay to be similar to something else. Just make sure that your "similar to" isn't actually "the same as" in disguise.
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Helbereth » Wed Mar 06, 2013 4:34 pm

BlackWaltzTheThird wrote:I have to admit I'm guilty of this. When I go back and read my OC story now, all I see is the original cast of KS hacked apart and their various personality traits sewn onto characters with flimsy backstories and different appearances. For instance, my Naomi is essentially a Mishanako, while Miko is an Eminako. The Daisuke/Yamato dynamic is a reskinned Shizune/Lilly dynamic, and the first notable character to appear, Seto, ends up being completely useless to the overarching plot. Overall, it's shitty writing.

But one can learn from that. While you guys are right in saying you probably shouldn't just palette-swap story events, that doesn't mean you can't borrow from other ideas at all. There was a quote I read once that said something to the effect of "nothing is ever original because someone else at some point in time has already thought of it". I have no idea who said it, but the point is you shouldn't try so hard to be original that you end up writing shit anyway. It's okay to be similar to something else. Just make sure that your "similar to" isn't actually "the same as" in disguise.
Admittedly, all characters are archetypal in some ways. When you create a character, you should end up cherry-picking positive and negative traits from several different sources. When I 'created' my TD cast, I drew mostly on people I've known in my life. Aiko herself shares a number of my own opinions, which makes writing her internal monologue a little easier, but the majority of her outlook is based on a childhood friend. Her physical description is a cross between my first crush, and the "popular" girl in my High School graduating class (it feels mean putting that in quotes, but she deserves it). Incidentally, Yoko inherited my childhood friend's physical description, but I stole her personality from my first crush - there's something psychological there.

When I think of how a particular character would respond to a situation, I'm drawing on my knowledge of the person (or persons) on which they're based. Amaya's reactions are based on a former co-worker, Tadao is based on a member of my immediate family (none of whom read TD), and Kenta is derived from aspects of two friends from my days working at Wal-Mart. When the need was found, I sat down and wrote a syllabus for each character; their description, habits, background, and some dialogue snippets. As I've added aspects to their personality and personal history, they've been added to the syllabus.

What was I talking about? Archetypes! Right...

Anyway, it can be tempting to just take the personality of an established character and perform a body-swap. Creating complete, diverse characters is a lot of work, so the body-swap is a common practice among novices. The trap is that eventually people are going to catch on, and then you're screwed.

In a world like KS, it might be tempting to take the personality from, say, Shizune, and place it in the body of a first-year student whose only physical limitation is a missing left foot. That might work for a while, and you could pass off the zeal and gamesmanship as resulting from her struggle with an alcoholic mother and gender-confused older brother (this is me thinking as I write). However, eventually your reader will have a eureka moment when you describe how she wins the Class President position by challenging her competition to a game of Risk and defeating him by securing Australia.

Then what? Now every person who was enjoying your plucky go-getter feels ashamed for having been duped, and becomes completely ambivalent about your story to the point of indifference. Besides that, eventually you'll probably become bored with reusing tropes from the original work to move your plot along, and end up abandoning the project after only a few chapters. Weeks of work and tens of hours spent writing something that falls into a black hole of pointlessness, and you only have yourself to blame.

Wow, that sounded cynical...

To avoid that trap, if you're going to make an OC, don't base their personality on the world they're from. Use people you know instead. Nobody reading will have any idea whom they're based on, and if said person ever reads it, they're more likely to be flattered, unless it's an unflattering character; in which case, don't have them read it unless you're a cruel bastard. Write down everything you can think of about the character in a separate file (we went over front-loading information in an earlier post of mine) and use it as reference. Keeping track of things like eye and hair color, physical quirks and stuff like that will save you a lot of time reading through previous chapters searching for those details (so much wasted time).

I'm just gonna post this now... I'll be in my cave if you need me.

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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by BlackWaltzTheThird » Wed Apr 17, 2013 9:19 pm

Another little thing to note; when using a sentence that involves a clause in the form "...X, Y, and Z", where "Z" is the person making the statement, always make sure to use the correct word out of "me" and "I". While the actual difference lies in the realm of subject vs. object, but the easy way to look at it is to remove all the other pronouns (that is, "X" and "Y"). Whichever of the two first-person pronouns fits best there is the one that fits best with the others included. For example;
neio wrote:He (subject) sent it to me (object).
He (subjects) sent it to Helbereth and me (objects).

I (subject) sent it to him (object).
Helbereth and I (subjects) sent it to him (object).
There's also the issue of when to use "myself". Myself comes in when the first-person pronoun appears in both the subject and the object. In the latter example above, "Helbereth and I" is the subject and "him" is the object. If we wanted to change the object to refer to the "I" in the subject, then and only then do we use "myself".
I (subject) sent it to myself (object).
Helbereth and I (subjects) sent it to myself (object).
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by neio » Wed Apr 24, 2013 8:09 pm

If I may...

Reduce redundancy. DO NOT do this:
"Oh yeah, well, your face!" he exclaimed with a joking tone.
Trust your readers. They should all be able to figure out from context and content that the person above is joking. Spelling it out for them adds words, cheapens the story, and obstructs flow. Read The Case Against Adverbs.

Furthermore, explicitly pointing out literary elements is almost never a good thing. If you have to emphasize that you're foreshadowing something ("I wonder why that happened; that's unusual... There's something going on here!"), then you're not doing a good job of foreshadowing.

Required reading: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway. You don't need to use the Theory of Omission in your writing, but you should cut out unnecessary explanations.
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Tips on pacing.

Post by Helbereth » Wed May 15, 2013 5:03 am

As many well know, I have a tendency to write at great length, and with somewhat verbose language. However, I've seen very few complaints about the length of my tales, and that, I believe, comes down to one very simple concept: pacing.

Although I didn't really know what I was doing when I started, I established a few rules for the structure of my writing early on, and I've decided to compile them here. Admittedly, most of this advice is for long-form storytelling, but it contains plenty of wisdom for short stories.

1) Consistency in paragraph structure is strangely important. Whether you're writing a short story, a long report, or a book, you need to ensure your reader stays with you, and doesn't get lost in the middle of a paragraph.

To accomplish this I follow a few loose rules:
  • 1) Break paragraphs into reasonably sized chunks, and utilize your time editing to make exposition sections flow with approximately equal breaks. Usually, the way I write, I only include 3-5 sentences in a paragraph--anywhere from 80 to 120 words, depending on the subject. Similar to how the character limit on Twitter and other sites work, this allows readers to stop between and comprehend what's going on, so when they start the next paragraph, they're not lost.

    2) Make prodigious use of commas, semi-colons, double-hyphens and other punctuation marks to break your sentences into little chunks. As much as using them for a list is important, commas are your best tool against losing your reader in a sea of words. They provide a pause in the communication, allow the absorption of information, and ultimately contribute to retention, but also help break up the monotony, which makes your readers less likely to become fatigued.

    3) Avoid reusing words to start and end your paragraphs. This is something you can accomplish better in editing, but starting each paragraph with a different word, or at least not the same one twice in a row, works as an eye catch, and your reader can find where they left off with ease.
2) Dialogue should be communicating things of importance, and preferably not repeating concepts. Everyone has gotten into a conversation where all the important things are discussed within the first five minutes, and the rest is just repetition, inane babble, or meaningless banter. Knowing when to start and end a conversation theatrically, so that it only shows the important part of the conversation, is something you learn how to do over time.

Still, here are some tips:
  • 1) Know what the point of the conversation is before you start writing it. Think it out while you're making breakfast, imagine the characters talking, and try to make them reach the conclusion you intend. How people react and banter with each other comes from their personality, but also their level of familiarity. If you need their decision to ultimately result in going to the movies, plot out how they arrive at that notion, and balance the give and take around arriving at that goal.

    2) Know when the conversation is no longer pertinent. Unless you're adding dialogue just to show character, or how they interact with each other, you can usually end the conversation after the decision, and just describe how they continued conversing about weather balloons--or whatever suits your fancy--in the follow-up exposition.

    3) Know when to enter the conversation. If you have two people that are already talking, then one of them decides to bring up how they just murdered their brother, you can probably skip the preamble and jump straight to them blurting out their confession. Although, in this particular case, it might serve you to show part of the prelude conversation whilst overlaying it with the murderous character's internal monologue about whether or not to confess. Knowing when something like that is actually worth while will save you a lot of pointless "Hello" exchanges, followed by discussions about the weather and other impertinent subjects.
3) Not everyone needs a lot of description. This relates to my diatribe on information dumping, but needs its own section as part of pacing. There are several kinds of characters and places in a story: primary (hero) characters, secondary characters, tertiary characters, peripheral characters, and crowds. As you get further down the list, the amount of detail you really need declines.

Think of it this way:
  • --Primary (Hero) Characters are your main protagonist, and the main antagonist, as well as the love interest (in the case of romantic tales). These characters should be clearly described in detail, as they're chiefly important to the story. Your reader will eventually want to have a clear image in their head of what these characters look like, dress like, sound like, how they behave, who they're friends with, who their enemies are, etc.. Not all of that needs to come out all at once (remember, don't just dump information) but as the story focuses on them, they should receive the most page-time being described.

    --Secondary Characters are the people and places nearest and dearest to the protagonist. These include their closest friends, family, co-workers, pets, and the places they visit the most, whether they be classrooms, museums, gymnasiums, soccer fields, or anything that's part of their daily routine. Since they're so important, these characters and places should be well-described, perhaps not down to minutia, but enough that your reader can see them in their head and understand why they might be important to the protagonist.

    --Tertiary Characters are people and places that exist on the edges of their closest friends. A few examples might be their teachers, other classmates, frequent acquaintances, and also places they visit infrequently, like the nurse's office, a concert hall, or someplace mundane like a train station or an airport. Most of them only need a basic description--a basis for the reader to extrapolate and form their own image. These tertiary characters can become secondary characters over the course of the story, but typically they appear to express a point about the primary or secondary characters. If they do become secondary characters, their description should be expanded when it becomes meaningful to do so.

    --Peripheral Characters exist in the far corners of the protagonist's vision. These can be a local dog that barks in the distance all the time, or an old man sitting on a park bench feeding bread to the birds who we never really meet, a lecherous divorcee eying young men from a bar stool, a little girl passing by on the street, or something equally impertinent. Usually their appearance is to either inspire the protagonist into some revelation, cause them to reveal something through casual observation, or something similar, then disappear into the ether. A fleeting description of the basics is all you really need here.

    --Crowds are related to peripheral characters, but are due special mention. A crowd, or mob of people can tend to appear as though wearing a similar uniform depending on the situation. Out on a beach boardwalk, you might expect to see tanned older men in t-shirts, cutoff jeans, and sandals with socks, with zinc oxide on their nose, grinning and sipping on cans of beer while laughing and talking in exaggerated fashion. On a lonely street-corner at dusk, you might see a flock of scantily-clad women in too much make-up trying to smile demurely at passers by, and offering their services to whomsoever decides to stop long enough to examine them more closely. Those are basic examples of generalized, though enlightening crowd descriptions--you can usually knock out the full description in a single sentence.
4) Keep track of time. This might sound precarious, but if you underplay the importance of conversation time especially, you can end up messing with your time-table. If your characters have somewhere to be, or if they're walking to a destination as they converse, try to keep in mind how long that should take and plan your conversational flow appropriately.

How I make that happen:
  • 1) Know what the point of their conversation is and truncate the excess banter. Have them get to the point sooner, or urge the conversation to move along faster if there's a deadline. If they're walking and talking, mention the pace of their walk, as that can greatly effect the time available. Having them leave in the middle of the conversation is also an option, though you need to be cautious about how that can effect their relationship with whoever they're talking to.

    2) Make use of natural reflexes in association with time. If they know they have to be somewhere, have them check their watch, glance at a clock, or something like that in the middle of the conversation. People tend to look at clocks and such under two circumstances: when they're running late, or think they might, and when they're stuck in a place, presumably wasting precious time--like a detention. Use that as a cue if you can for them to wrap up the conversation.

    3) Play out the conversation in real time, including pauses and such, and see how long it takes. If you know how long they have to talk, you can adjust the flow appropriately to trim back if it's too long, or perhaps expand on some points if you have enough time.

    4) Don't mention actual time in your exposition unless necessary. Say 'almost ten o'clock' instead of 'five minutes 'til ten', as it allows you leeway. Being approximate can trick your readers into suspending disbelief about a ten minute conversation fitting in a five minute window.
5) Avoid redundancy as much as possible. This point ought to probably be closer to number one, but I wrote this as I recalled the pertinent points, and this one ought to be obvious. Nothing kills pacing faster than repeating the same idea you just got across a thousand words previously.

Some things to remember:
  • 1) Reiterating a point and expanding on an idea is fine. This is the kind of thing that happens over time as the narrator gains more experience on a subject (this is mostly for first person perspective, mind you). However, unless you're expressing new angles, you're just being redundant.

    2) Words can be the enemy of redundancy. English has a lot of words, many of which have several related terms, and part of your job as a writer is finding the right word to use, so make use of your full vocabulary, and expand on it as often as possible--with a thesaurus. Repeating the same word within the same sentence, even if you're using two different meanings, will ultimately confuse your readers, or at least make your writing look sloppy. Usually, I try to avoid reusing nouns, adjectives, and verbs even within the same paragraph. Articles and such are unavoidably redundant, but they serve a necessary purpose, and aren't subject to the same redundancy policy.

    3) Use contractions, they're awesome! Constantly having the separated words can make your writing look redundant and overly technical. For technical writing, contractions are frowned upon, but in fiction they can show character as much as vocabulary patterns, nervous tics, and voice changes. They can also express emphasis when they're not used. Write a sentence using "I'm", then write it again using "I am", and you'll see the difference; "I am" sounds more commanding and direct than "I'm", which sounds familiar and more casual.
I don't really have a conclusion to write for this, but basically this is what I do when I approach writing. I reserve the right to come back and add to this as I think of additions to make, but for my purposes I'm out of ideas for now (I just spent an hour writing this).

ProfAllister
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by ProfAllister » Mon May 20, 2013 3:34 pm

Helbereth's bit made me twitch a little, so here's a follow-up:

Try to use the primary definition in the dictionary for a given word. While the secondary definition for "impertinent" is "Not pertinent to a particular matter; irrelevant," most people are more familiar with the primary definition: "Not showing proper respect; rude."

Another good example is "Enormity" - 1. The great or extreme scale, seriousness, or extent of something perceived as bad or morally wrong. 2. (in neutral use) The large size or scale of something: "the enormity of his intellect".

While either usage is technically acceptable, the secondary definition can confuse people and, generally speaking, kind of diminishes the effect of the primary definition.

An impertinent comment shouldn't just be something irrelevant - it should be a snide remark. When a man is stunned by the enormity of his actions, it should lead to major soul searching, not simply the realization that he did a lot.
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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Tips for fanfiction writers (that means YOU)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue May 21, 2013 11:32 am

While I generally agree with you, I don't think "enormous" is a good example, since here, the neutral use is the more common one.
enormous
1. (obsolete) Deviating from the norm; unusual, extraordinary.
2. (obsolete) Exceedingly wicked; atrocious or outrageous.
3. Extremely large; greatly exceeding the common size, extent, etc.
The word derives from the latin "ex norma" (outside of the norm) and has no inherent negative connotation.
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