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

If this detail is important enough that readers should get it, you can have your characters make guesses at the truth close enough that (at least some) readers can connect the dots, while the ...
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  • 4,400
59 votes
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How often should I remind my readers of the setting?

Each time it makes sense, no more, no less. You do not need to make recalls. Consider your character's POV. When does he think about the weather ? Closing the door of my house, I looked at the sky....
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46 votes
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How do I say that someone is black?

Describe them. There's nothing wrong with mentioning that he is black. However, in that segment, you're missing an opportunity to actually describe them, which will both make for a more interesting ...
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  • 1,564
44 votes

How to describe a female character's figure without comedy?

Don't describe the character's body. Let the action and the other characters do it for you. "Have you met Lydia yet?" "No, why?" John and Andy exchanged a knowing look. "Let me just say ...
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  • 1,692
44 votes
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How can I make a character who isn't a jerk seem like one?

Such characters are often found, from the works of Jane Austen to those of Tolstoy. People are perceived as what they appear to others either through actions or words. In Pride and Prejudice, ...
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  • 12.4k
42 votes

How often should I remind my readers of the setting?

+1 Stephane. My own take is that if you are mentioning something like the weather, an emotional state, an article of clothing, a weapon, anything, it should have consequences in the story. So yes, ...
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  • 91k
40 votes
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What information about a fictional world is unnecessary?

You have made a common mistake about world-building: believing that it all has to go on the page. World-building is for you, the author, to help you craft a story in a setting that feels real and ...
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38 votes
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Avoiding repetition when there are two unidentified individuals

You have a few choices here: 1. You can group each person's actions together more (I've also edited a couple errors). The tall figure was overwhelmingly tall. It stood in the corner of the room ...
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36 votes

How do I say that someone is black?

A few points, in no particular order: "A black man" paints a very different picture from "an elderly black gentleman" or "a tall, black-skinned young man". In the first case, the skin colour is the ...
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36 votes
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Protagonist's race is hidden - should I reveal it?

Welcome to Writing SE - great first question. There is nothing wrong with being silent on race. You have a character who is - presumably - fully fleshed and three dimensional and that is what matters....
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35 votes
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How to make clear what a part-humanoid character looks like when they're quite common in their world?

If you were describing a human being, you wouldn't say "she had two arms, each the same length and ending just below her hips." That description is assumed for everyone (if it's wrong for an ...
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34 votes
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What are the limits to description in story writing? How do I know if I have crossed them?

First, let me start by saying...wow! Your command of the English language is impressive. Some people think purple prose can be boring and unnecessary, but when done well, I think it can really make ...
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33 votes

How to describe skin colour, if "white" is not the point of reference?

I have had many friends from the Middle East and their skin tones ranged from essentially white to soft brown. I found a more telling feature that seemed to set them apart were some slight ...
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  • 12.4k
33 votes

Should a narrator ever describe things based on a character's view instead of facts?

Jane Austen is the master of Free Indirect Speech, a 3rd-person style where the narrative voice becomes the direct thoughts of a character. In your example it would work something like: John ...
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  • 24.2k
33 votes
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Is it bad to describe a character long after their introduction?

Personally the dissonance whenever I have imagined a character for hours and maybe thought about their stories throughout some days because I can't read a book straight in one go is the biggest ...
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  • 5,586
32 votes
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Describing a chess game in a novel

I'm finding your use of "Black" and "White" as character names to be distracting. I realize that it's meant to be more straight-forward to use the chess sides as names, but it throws me off. Give ...
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32 votes

Writing "hahaha" versus describing the laugh

Dialogue quotes are for things a character actually says. If your character says "hahaha" then fine. But I've never heard anyone do that. You might get a single "ha!" but that's an exclamation not ...
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31 votes

Is it ok to reference something modern to give the reader a better idea of what something looks like if the book is set in the Middle Ages?

Attempting To Keep Readers' Minds Inside Our Story As authors we attempt to do everything we can to keep our readers' minds in our story. In most stories, as authors, we also want to disappear so ...
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  • 6,440
31 votes
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Should a narrator ever describe things based on a character's view instead of facts?

This depends on the narration. If you have a third person omniscient narrator then they usually would describe things in a fair and even way. Most modern writing though does not use an omniscient ...
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  • 3,729
30 votes

When is a lack of long, sophisticated words to describe an otherwise simple concept bad?

You're looking for sophistication in the wrong places. The thesaurus is all well and good, but you want variable sentence lengths and structures, proof of a command of the grammar of the language more ...
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  • 9,527
28 votes
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Should I repeat character descriptions if a character reappears the second time too far into the story?

Elaborate or remind, but try not to repeat yourself. Let's say you introduce a character early on in your story: Protagonist opened for a handshake, but Character simply stared at their hand, as ...
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25 votes

Pregnancy in writing - A bit difficult

As someone else has said, every pregnancy is different. I am currently eight months pregnant, have been pregnant before, and pretty much every woman my age I know seems to be pregnant right now, so ...
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25 votes
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What are some ways of extending a description of a scenery?

When describing the scenery, your goal isn't only to convey dry information (there are houses, there are trees, etc.). Your goal is to evoke some emotion, some feeling. Your key to extending the ...
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25 votes

How do I say that someone is black?

Just say he is an elderly black man! Since the skin covers most of the body, it would be the first thing the narrator notices about them, especially if they consider the fact worthy of remark (e.g. ...
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  • 990
24 votes

Is it ok to reference something modern to give the reader a better idea of what something looks like if the book is set in the Middle Ages?

No, because you'd want your story to be as realistic and logical to the timeline your story is in. If you re-read that sentence, it would sound very weird because cars and swords were not used in the ...
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24 votes

Avoiding repetition when there are two unidentified individuals

You can look for other ways to identify the characters. For example: The tall figure stood in the corner, towering over the unmoving skinny figure in the chair beside it. It moved away from the ...
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24 votes

How to describe POV characters?

Have other people comment on their appearance. If they are an underdog, a random stranger could be judgmental either to be cruel or out of ignorance. You can easily get broad strokes from an epithet: ...
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  • 24.2k
23 votes

How do I write about nerdy concepts without sounding like a tryhard?

Nerdy gobbledygook isn't actually nerdy gobbledygook - they're actually saying things using technical words, acronyms, and abbreviations. It's very similar to medical speech in that way. You'll only ...
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  • 1,574
23 votes
Accepted

How long should I mention an injured character’s pain?

It's a fine balance you're trying to strike, between "unrealistically resistant to pain", and "we get it, get on with the story". I'd say, try to use the reminders that "character is in pain" to ...
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