Questions tagged [technique]

Common, repeatable methods of achieving particular storytelling effects or of avoiding narrative pitfalls.

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211
votes
26answers
29k views

The "Rules" of Writing

There are a lot of axioms that get tossed around in creative writing courses, books on writing, and of course, the Internet. Often, these little gems are explained to new writers as though they were ...
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20answers
14k views

How do you write a Stack Exchange answer?

Over my years on StackExchange I've come to view answering SE questions as its own, highly specialized writing subgenre, with its own demands, and its own ideal format. By trial and error, and ...
78
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9answers
15k views

The Good, the Bad, and the Semicolon

I completed my novel and an editor friend graciously offered to assist me with formatting. As a former scientist, I am more familiar with technical or academic writing, so formatting fiction can be a ...
61
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4answers
13k views

What kind of protagonist or writing style is Jack Sparrow?

I want to ask about a certain style on how to present a character. I know Jack Sparrow is from a movie (and I've only watched the movies too) but I want to integrate in my writing how he was presented ...
54
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10answers
17k views

How can I write an attention-grabbing first line?

So, the beginning of any story needs to capture the attention of the reader, so he continues and wants to find out what's happening. A Confederacy of Dunces starts "A green hunting cap squeezed the ...
53
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15answers
13k views

How to make the reader think that the *character's* logic is flawed instead of the author's?

Following up on my previous question, "How to make the villain's motives understandable if his logic is flawed?", how can I let the reader know that the lack of logic is on the character's side, ...
51
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17answers
9k views

How to creep the reader out with what seems like a normal person?

The person in question, though this is yet unknown, is not actually a person. Instead, they are some form of eldritch being of which we cannot comprehend. Though, they seem for all appearances and ...
42
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14answers
10k views

What can a novel do that film and TV cannot?

I have enjoyed writing prose for years and have a few short stories penned. I would like to build up to a novel but believe I have identified a potential weakness in my storytelling. My style is ...
42
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12answers
12k views

Averting Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses

Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses is when writers portray female characters possessing traditional feminine qualities as being less desirable, competent and reliable instead of their tomboy foils. They ...
41
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5answers
1k views

Editors: Edit on first read, or read and edit on second round?

I edit novels (among other works). I was having a discussion with someone (not an editor) who didn't understand my technique. What I do is read through the document, and the moment something occurs ...
40
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21answers
7k views

How can I catch more errors when I proofread?

I have a problem where I often proof my own writing and I don't catch all the errors while I am reading through it. I often miss entire words out of sentences or find myself repeating words. I can ...
40
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12answers
9k views

How can I explain my world if the character is technologically not yet capable of understanding it?

One feature of my world is a plant that lives in a magmaous (rather than "volcanic") cave. It photosynthesizes by absorbing infrared radiation from the magma. However, the world is roughly at a ...
40
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13answers
12k views

How do I hide Chekhov's Gun?

If there is a gun on the mantelpiece in the Act 1, then in Act 2, that gun must be fired. Background I'm a big believer in Chekhov's Gun. I try not to do anything or introduce any new plot point ...
39
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4answers
3k views

How do you avoid purple prose?

I try to watch out for bland, overused adjectives and I keep adverbs to a minimum but -- I hear this phrase a lot and I'm not even sure what it means?
39
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6answers
9k views

Is it expected that a reader will skip parts of what you write?

I have given multiple things I have written to a friend of mine, who is something of a writer himself, to get feedback on them from him. One of these was a piece of mystery-style fiction, and the ...
39
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8answers
7k views

Avoiding the "as you know" trope in exposition

When writing fiction, especially in universes other than our own such as sci-fi/fantasy genres, the reader often has to be given a piece of information about how the world works in order for what's ...
39
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5answers
2k views

How to write a nice frame challenge?

When answering questions on Stack Exchange, some of us challenge the assumptions of the author. These frame challenges can often be quite popular answers. This popularity, however, can simply be a ...
37
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12answers
6k views

How does the 10,000 hour rule apply to writing?

The 10,000 hour rule, popularised by Malcolm Gladwell, says that: the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours ...
37
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8answers
5k views

What is the balance between 'stating a problem clearly' and Hemingway's literary iceberg?

At a writer's critique group, one piece of feedback to me was: people didn't understand where I was going until the very end. They suggested stating something explicit at the very beginning so they ...
36
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13answers
18k views

How to represent jealousy in a cute way?

The main character (which is a girl) of the first romance I'm writing would feel jealous sometimes of her love interest, but I want it to be a cute trait or even a setup for funny scenes, not a very ...
36
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12answers
8k views

Want to write, have ideas, no story telling techniques or experience, feeling lost?

I have developed a sci-fi/fantasy mixed universe with many characters, good amount of background lore and I have a plot for at least two different stories each for a single/multi novel length. So far ...
34
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13answers
8k views

How can you write when you're upset?

I mean exactly this. Writing needs focus, to some extent. Even if you may fall into a state were words flow naturally on the keyboard almost without effort, you still have to reach that condition. ...
33
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12answers
6k views

How can I convince my reader that I will not use a certain trope?

Imagine a fantasy story in which there once was a very powerful evil divine being, but it was defeated long before the beginning of the story. For the story it is very important that it was defeated, ...
32
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14answers
6k views

How can I get into the mindset to write?

Depending on the weather, the days events, and other factors, I find myself with a different emotion everyday when I write which I'm afraid is making my novel a little bit choppy. For example, one ...
31
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11answers
6k views

Why are writers so hung up on "show versus tell"?

I write primarily science, which I readily admit can be very bland. On occasion I read fiction, but have found over the years that my tastes have changed considerably. Overly descriptive scenes leave ...
31
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10answers
1k views

How can one make technical issues more accessible to a non-technical audience?

Most of what I write is non-fiction -- technical books, blog posts on open source topics, political stuff, etc. Lately, I find that some of the topics I am trying to present are much more technical ...
30
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6answers
6k views

How to "Start as close to the end as possible", and why to do so?

Kurt Vonnegut has 8 tips on how to write a good story Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted. Give the reader at least one character he or she ...
30
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9answers
6k views

How to avoid constantly starting paragraphs with "The character did this" "The character did that"?

This is one of the tics I've noticed in my writing recently, and it's starting to bug me. Almost every single one of my paragraphs, particularly during dialogue sequences, starts with "The ...
30
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4answers
61k views

How to write a prophecy?

No, I'm not actually asking you to tell me how to predict the future! Several pieces of fiction I've read/watched recently have prophecies. One of my favourites is On the fields of Trenzalore, at ...
29
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10answers
6k views

Mixing humour with horror in fiction

I got into trouble last year for submitting an assignment (Masters in Creative Writing) that included a story that sprinkled elements of humour (think Despicable Me) into a gritty and frankly ...
28
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12answers
5k views

Tiptoe or tiphoof? Adjusting words to better fit fantasy races

English is a language invented by humans, for humans. Which means some words don't fit well when you're writing about characters who aren't human. For example: Suppose I write "The demon tiptoed ...
28
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7answers
4k views

Help! My Character is too much for her story!

A while ago, I started writing a short story for a competition. It was supposed to be about four girls in a shared student apartment. The plan was to have everyone conflict with everyone until they ...
27
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6answers
923 views

Writing discipline

In today's frenetic, fast-paced lifestyle (especially if writing is not currently your career or means of earning an income), it can be extremely difficult to "make" or find the time that can be set ...
27
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4answers
3k views

How does one implement effective foreshadowing?

I am a "reread reader" - that is, I like to read the same book more than once. The books I have the most fun reading again are the ones that effectively foreshadow what comes later in the book. This ...
26
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12answers
6k views

How do I define smells I have never experienced?

I am a lifelong writer, who was also born without an ability to smell. I have been trained to engage the reader by applying the five senses, or as many of the five as is practical without becoming ...
26
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4answers
4k views

How to know if your own story is surprising?

After much world building I begin to feel the need to write short stories set in my world. In other people's fantasy novels I particularly enjoy twists and surprises. I have started paying attention ...
25
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7answers
6k views

How can I make "acts of patience" exciting?

This answer to the question Averting Real Women Don’t Wear Dresses introduces a distinction between acts of patience and acts of daring. [...] when it comes to telling a story [...] acts of daring ...
25
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12answers
3k views

What does Show don't Tell actually mean

I am asking this question because I think we need a precise definition of what Show Don't Tell means if we are to decide if it is good advice or bad, or if it is a valid suggestion for certain ...
25
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14answers
3k views

How to deal with self-criticism?

I write non-fiction articles for my website and a weekly paid newsletter, and I’m doing that for some time now. However, I still struggle a lot with self-criticism, and find it hard to regard an ...
25
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8answers
15k views

What is a discovery writer?

From an answer to this question: How do I successfully structure a long fiction piece? I think I can infer the meaning from the usage but some elaboration would be helpful.
25
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4answers
7k views

How to Write an Eldritch Abomination?

My trilogy features an otherworldly monstrosity called Fenrisúlfr as it's primary antagonist, whose characterisation takes cues from Nyarlathotep, Sauron, Showa!King Ghidorah, Sutekh, Makuta Teridax ...
24
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7answers
3k views

How do I know what I'm writing is interesting to the reader?

I'm starting to wrap up the gestation period of my first book - right now I have a notebook filled with a lot of observations of life and topics I want to deal with in my book. I'm now starting to ...
24
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11answers
7k views

Is there any way to get around having everyone in the world speak the same language? [closed]

You see this a lot in fantasy fiction, where everyone on the planet (and sometimes beyond) speaks the same language, even though it makes absolutely no logical sense for them to have any knowledge of ...
24
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5answers
13k views

How to describe the point-of-view character without using mirrors

In fiction, the main character is often the first person we meet in the story. Given that the story is written from his/her point of view, how would you describe what they look like? The classical ...
24
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3answers
6k views

Chekhov's gun, but it's just "useless" background info

We all know how Chekhov's gun works: in short, it's the "rule" that whatever is explicitly shown to the audience should be important later, otherwise you should get rid of it. Don't show us a gun if ...
23
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11answers
6k views

Don't look at what I did there

This question is about hiding from the reader the fact that I am skipping some steps. Worse, perhaps, I don't want to show them, and I may have no clue or intention of figuring out how these steps ...
23
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8answers
5k views

What can I do with a part that I feel is necessary to a story but it's an absolute drudgery?

I've just written such a paragraph: He turned around and started walking to the nearby store. He bought a bread and a yoghurt. Then he came back and gave the groceries to the homeless guy. There are ...
22
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9answers
11k views

What breaks suspension of disbelief?

So much of Sci-Fi and Fantasy requires the viewer (or reader) to suspend their disbelief: The speed of light can be circumvented, magic works, vampires are real (and may or may not sparkle), etc. ...
22
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5answers
3k views

How to write cleanly even if my character uses expletive language?

I'm writing a story that I'd like younger readers to pick up. I and they know and understand that some situations are far better expressed with one f-word than a thousand milder ones. I'm keeping my ...
22
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3answers
3k views

How do you make a character quintessential, but not cliched or cartoony?

I think it's hard to make a character standout and embody their traits without becoming cliched or cartoony. How do you do this? What are some tips to enlivening a character and making them memorable?

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