All Questions

177
votes
25answers
23k 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 ...
128
votes
19answers
13k 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 ...
88
votes
16answers
8k views

What's the modern way to handle gender in tech writing?

Back in my day, I was taught to use masculine pronouns. The user chooses a password, and then he types it in the text box. I'm fine with that. but a male coworker insists on using he/she, which ...
84
votes
12answers
15k views

How can I write about historical realities that readers mistakenly believe are unrealistic?

Readers have certain expectations about locations and time periods, things they "know". For example, people "know" that everybody in the Persian Empire was brown-skinned, that houses in Ancient Rome ...
82
votes
12answers
2.8m views

How to write a polite reminder email?

What guidelines and language should be used to write a polite reminder email. Ideally I would like it to be: Respectful Not too formal In particular I am thinking in terms of business, and ...
74
votes
21answers
7k views

Do You Use Any Version Controlling Software/Methods As Writers? [closed]

As writers, do you use any version controlling software to track and monitor what you write? For example, if you accidentally deleted or overwritten a paragraph that you'd like to have it back? ...
72
votes
12answers
13k views

How do I translate into a gendered language where the gender would be a spoiler?

I'm (amateurly) writing the subtitles for an English TV show. I'll illustrate my question using a small example, but I'm hoping to receive answers as general as possible. One episode has a sentence ...
71
votes
9answers
14k views

Using real words from a foreign culture feels like 'Calling a rabbit a “smeerp”'

I'm working on a novel, that's set in pre-Islamic Persia, in the same general way that The Lord of the Rings is set in Britain. (Meaning, it's set in a world all its own, but there's this source of ...
70
votes
25answers
15k views

Is there a special software for writers?

Whenever I attempt to write something, I do it in a common word processor (like Microsoft Word), but I was wondering if there is a special software for it. Something that would help me keep track of ...
69
votes
21answers
5k views

How to overcome the fact that I can't write?

My problem is that I basically suck at writing. Especially prose. Part of it is basically because I don't practice as much as I could. Part of it is because I'm just not talented in that way. ...
67
votes
25answers
20k views

The protagonist can't defeat the antagonist without the antagonist being stupid

What should I do if my story's plot is built around the antagonist being extremely strong, and by the end it's clear that the protagonist cannot possibly defeat the antagonist, unless the antagonist ...
67
votes
12answers
18k views

A critic made a comment that my female character sounds like she was written by a man

I'm a man. Working on my sci-fi novel. It's meant to be a light-hearted heist caper. My main character is a woman. She's a strong and sassy character based on the women in my life, and the story ...
63
votes
8answers
12k 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 ...
63
votes
12answers
10k views

How do you communicate to people that writing is a job and prevent interruptions?

I’ve been a writer for fifteen years, five as a full-time writer, and still haven’t figured out how to get the people in my life to view it as a job. Right now, I’m editing a novel to a very tight ...
63
votes
8answers
8k views

How to avoid turning dialogue into Q&A session?

I noticed a problem I have in my fictional writing. My dialogues quickly turn into interrogations. Here is an exaggerated example. "How did you do it?" he asked. "..." "Will it kill us ...
61
votes
22answers
20k views

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

In my story's world, witchcraft is a respected institution, with the most powerful practitioners being at the top echelons of society. Due to this, society traces its lineage through matrilineal lines....
60
votes
9answers
15k views

How to write a story without conflict, like “My Neighbour Totoro”?

We are used to stories being about conflict. There can be an antagonist, or a hostile environment, or even an internal problem (like depression), but conflict is there. The story arc involves dealing ...
59
votes
41answers
3k views

What are good reads about writing?

What do you recommend as reading material to improve writing for beginners? If one recommendation is put per answer and can be voted separately a good list of resources should build up.
58
votes
12answers
18k views

What's the least distracting method to inform editors I'm a woman?

I have a gender-neutral name, so people often assume I'm a man. However, a portion of the writing I do is for tech companies. Because of the lack of diversity in the tech industry, many of these ...
57
votes
23answers
7k views

Choosing character names is a constant difficulty

I find it hard to name my characters. Every normal name sounds funny if applied to a product of my fantasy. If I take a common name, I may get the image of someone I know into my head. And that may ...
56
votes
4answers
10k 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 ...
55
votes
17answers
12k views

Is Wikipedia Trustworthy?

So in elementary school, I was told not to use Wikipedia too much because you can't trust what they write. So then for all the projects, I used the Canadian Encyclopedia, but then now, I really would ...
54
votes
10answers
12k views

Traits of Bad Writers - Analysing Popular Authors

I realise that this question can fall in the scope of personal opinion but I am looking for something concrete. Very often, not only on this site but other writing related sites, I find people ...
53
votes
16answers
7k views

Should you use two spaces after a period, or just a single one?

I had heard some debate on this topic, and I had always learned to use two spaces after a period. But it would seem there is an argument against it. However, I do not understand what the issue is ...
52
votes
14answers
18k views

Is the “hero guy saves girl” trope misogynistic?

(Question about my hacker (hacking??) novel.) Just an FYI, I am a woman. Edward is a cyber spy and works with an organization named Vox Populi to curate and release all data online, especially the ...
52
votes
8answers
20k views

“All of a sudden…” ?

I am writing a manuscript for a novel. It's my first attempt, and often I find myself wanting to write "suddenly" or "all of a sudden". I do this when I want the scene to change in an instant, or ...
51
votes
10answers
14k 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 ...
50
votes
12answers
9k views

How to write a character that knows a lot about explosives?

I'm writing a story where the main character makes and detonates bombs. The character could be considered a terrorist. I want to portray the character as an expert, but I don't know a way to more ...
49
votes
13answers
12k 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, ...
49
votes
10answers
4k views

How does one deal with world builder's syndrome?

I am a planner in the extreme. I tend to drift toward fantasy oriented novels when writing; it's just what comes out. This means that I do quite a bit of planning for the world that the story will be ...
48
votes
5answers
7k views

“The flux capacitor--it's what makes time travel possible.” When to keep world-building explanations short

Gosh, I really think I'm quite clever sometimes. But what about those situations where the readers (audience) can be told, and they feel completely satiated and entertained by not going into the nuts ...
48
votes
16answers
31k views

Is there any good time-line software out there?

I write mostly speculative fiction, and use Scrivener for writing and note-taking. But I'm looking to start crafting timelines to keep track of the exact year and months events in the distant and ...
47
votes
10answers
9k views

My kid's first story

So, my 11-year son has just written his first literature work yesterday: A short fantasy story about werewolves in a forest chased by a group of courageous men. Half-full of mistakes of all kinds, ...
46
votes
12answers
9k views

Convincing argument about something I don't agree with

In my dystopian novel, Day, the son of a fascist dictator, is trying to convince Analise, a young genetic mutant oppressed under said fascist dictator, that the dictatorship's laws allowing censorship ...
46
votes
10answers
13k views

I wrote a novel, now what?

I'm new here, so, please, bear with me. I had a look at previous answers to similar questions, but my case is (possibly) a bit different. I am not a professional writer, so I wrote this (long) novel ...
45
votes
15answers
19k views

If I'm writing in US English, am I not allowed to use the metric system?

For example, can I say this if my book is written in US English (in non-dialog): The car was going at least 140 kilometers per hour! Or should I convert them to miles or what have you? It's for a ...
45
votes
14answers
10k views

Avoiding spectacle creep

It's common in stories for spectacle to build over time. Each story arc, the stakes get higher, the drama gets more intense, the villains get more dangerous, and so on. For a story with a fixed ...
45
votes
20answers
11k views

What are good places to post your work where it will be read by others?

Seeing this site and reading some of my ridiculous stories that I wrote a while ago makes me want to start writing again. I know I'll be more enthusiastic if I have people reading my work and ...
44
votes
10answers
15k views

'The Chosen One' paradox

In many books novels or other forms of fictional writing, the reader is introduced to a so called 'chosen one'. This character or being is of higher power or in general, of different nature than other ...
43
votes
14answers
9k views

How to perpetuate the plot-driving riddle without frustrating the reader?

Usually, at the end of a crime, thriller, horror, fantasy, science fiction, or other action genre novel, the identity of the antagonist is uncovered and the riddle that drives the plot is resolved: ...
43
votes
6answers
8k views

How to avoid mentioning the name of a character?

I am writing a short story which features a character known only as Old Man, but there is a part of the story where someone calls the Old Man by his name. Only once, and I was wondering if there was a ...
43
votes
12answers
17k views

Uh oh - My book stinks. Now what?

The question pretty much sums it up. I'm a freelance author without much of a platform. It's not that I don't like the story - I spent a great deal of time on it - but after taking a cooling off ...
43
votes
7answers
7k views

What makes a poem a poem?

Warning: long question. To start it off lightheartedly, here is the topic as doggerel. There are plenty of questions with titles like these: "What is this form?" — "Can I do this in poems?" — "How ...
42
votes
13answers
12k views

How unadvisable is it to flip the protagonist into a villain?

Essentially, I have a protagonist who I set up as a 'main' good guy in one of my series. However, in my final series, I intend to make him turn to the dark side and oppose my other protagonists (from ...
42
votes
8answers
3k views

I have written my first novel and I think it's ready. What next?

I've completed my first novel and done as much editing as I think I can as the author. What should I do next in order to get this out there?
41
votes
24answers
3k views

Help! I've got Writer's Block

I really want to write, but as soon as I sit down and set pen to paper, my mind goes blank. I can't think of anything to write. Sometimes I stare at my screen for hours; doesn't help. If I do think ...
41
votes
12answers
8k views

How long can a fantasy novel stay in metaphorical Kansas?

I am writing a novel with the basic Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland or the Matrix if you want structure. The novel begins in perfect modern day, and at some point in a very sharp way takes a turn ...
41
votes
7answers
7k views

I'm producing a play with a character who the audience isn't supposed to know is alive, can I credit the actor in the program?

There isn't a theater SE so this seems like the best place to ask, but feel free to suggest a better place. I'm producing a community play with a character who's believed to be dead, but turns out to ...
40
votes
10answers
7k views

Is it a bad idea to have multiple bad endings and only one good ending?

Background: I'm working on a game that has multiple paths for players to choose from. The choices the players make can lead them to very different endings. There are many bad endings but only one true ...
40
votes
13answers
20k views

Killing the protagonist - should it be done?

I am an aspiring author, but I have written several short 'test novels.' With each of those, it became increasingly clear how you have to develop the main character, the protagonist. After all, the ...

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