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76

YES, the first page is vitally important. But probably not in the way you think. Don't bring the "thriller" up first. The first page (and first sentence, and paragraph) is important in the same way your first meeting with somebody new is important. An agent or publisher (or indeed a customer thinking of buying your book) is going to read the opening line, ...


61

There is more than one way racism can be present in a work. For example, when Star Trek have on the bridge of the Enterprise an Asian pilot, a Russian navigator and a black Communications Officer, and they all get along swimmingly, all at the time of the Cold War, the Yellow Peril and the Civil Rights Movement, the show deliberately confronts the viewers' ...


54

Screenplays are collaborative, whether you like it or not. Actors will say the lines. Directors will alter the tone. The photographer will create their own vision. And the producers will hire other screenwriters to "fix" your screenplay because they have spent a great deal of money and will hire more experts than they need. The star will have some demands. ...


50

It is perfectly fine for your story to end with the "bad guy" winning. Consider for example George Orwell's 1984: He loved Big Brother Complete and utter defeat. 1984 is one of last century's masterpieces. @Wetcircuit mentions tragedy in a comment, for good reason. Tragedy does not necessarily imply that the "bad guys" win, but it does imply the "good ...


42

It might be jarring for the reader if it happens in the middle of the text and your text is otherwise in the perspective of the character and not directed at the reader. It is often better to have the character speak to someone else or to use inner monologue. However, there are other ways to adress the reader directly, for example Terry Pratchett ...


39

A work of fiction that exists only to promote a particular point of view is not actually fiction, but rather a polemic. Some of these have been successful and influential, from Plato to Rand, but they tend to have a different audience than fiction, and are read primarily for their ideas rather than their artistic value. Your best bet, in this case, may be ...


37

Finish the story. Don't worry about the word count. When it comes time to do revision, rewriting, and editing you can look at ways of possibly splitting it into two or more volumes. Stories need satisfying endings. They're what sells the reader on reading your next book. Sell them short shrift and they won't be back. You will only be able to find the ...


35

That Star Wars crawl is affectatious nonsense. It is there for the same reason Harrison Ford's voice-overs were in the original cut of Blade Runner. They borrowed a stylistic element from Old Hollywood to signal to the audience the retro-inspired framing of the story. It is communicating information, but it's not an infodump. It's communicating style and ...


33

A message and a theme are not the same thing A story need not have a coherent message to be successful. Look at Disney's take on The Little Mermaid - what was the message? If you sign away your soul to chase after a cute guy, you might get to keep your soul AND reconcile the stormy relationship you've got with your father? When striking deals with dark, ...


32

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 them names, give them genders (different genders is helpful for following things if it otherwise doesn't matter). Why? Because your reader cares about the ...


32

There are exceptions to the "no illustrations" trend. For example, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrel is filled with black-and-white illustrations reminiscent of the wood engravings that would have accompanied 19th-century books. This is in line with the novel's general style, a tribute to 19th century literature. However, in general, you ...


31

It is totally possible to become a writer with a mental illness, even Schizoaffective Disorder. I'd suggest that you may have greater self-awareness and coping strategies as a result. Time Commitment Whatever works for you. But start with a manageable and reproducible target. Even if it's one hour per day. Start there and grow to suit your situation. If I ...


31

Yes, if it's the Grinch A unique creature, which is the Manananggal (effectively THAT creature's name), should be capitalized. No, if it's a fairy Even if your creature is rare, if you are likely to ever refer to it as a manananggal (a member of a group or species), then don't capitalize it.


30

Depending on the forum you post your fanfiction you will get those comments no matter what you do. It's a sad fact, but there are many people out there who just want to make others feel miserable and growing a thick skin when posting on the internet is a skill that you might need. Other than that it depends on the specifics of your fanfiction. For example ...


30

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 than its lexicon, and a distinctive voice or two. Is one character narrating? How they speak there and in dialogue each say something, and can differ. The way ...


29

Expanding my comment into a full answer as OP indicated it was helpful. I can’t drag the antagonist into a Poirot/Sherlock Holmes style Q&A as he's already in jail. Sure you can. Just have the protagonist, or some other major character, visit the antagonist in jail and hold the Q&A session there. This has the added advantage that the infodump is ...


29

This is an odd question, but not for the reason you likely think I say that. Let me explain. It doesn't matter how good your opening line is, if it isn't completely in line (or in tune) with the rest of your novel. If I were to write an epic tale about three friends who need to save the world, and I open with: The tortoise, how marvellous creature it ...


29

Screenplays are also very difficult to sell, for a first-timer. Books are quite a bit easier. Unlike a screenplay, a book is in its final form, and relatively easy to produce, big publishers can do it cheap, in the single-digit thousands, and have the contacts to get it reviewed and advertised. Screenplays can cost tens of millions to produce, they are a ...


29

Foreshadowing is your friend. Your example of Harry Potter isn't quite right. Chapter One is titled The Boy Who Lived. Now that's a bit ominous. Magic is hinted at on page 1* and is outright on page 2. "You-Know-Who" is first mentioned on page 5. By page 11, when the name Voldemort is first mentioned, we already know he was a danger and now believed to ...


28

Neither being powerful, nor reflecting the author is an insurmountable problem for a character. What you want to avoid is a character who faces no significant problems on her path to success, whose character flaws are all overlooked, and who is unjustifiably treated as intrinsically lovable. Self-insertion isn't the problem, it's the explanation. If it was ...


28

As a frequent beta-reader, often for friends, I struggled with this question -- and I'm pretty happy with the answers I've figured out. Don't pronounce judgment; help the author level up It makes a lot of sense to tell an author, "Listen, I don't think this is ready for publication." Because, really, isn't that the most important thing? Well, it is, kind ...


27

The way you open a novel largely depends on what kind of novel you're writing. If you're writing a humorous novel, there should be something humorous right on the first page. Look, for example, at Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's Good Omens: It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain ...


27

The most likely explanation is that your queries are poorly written, or the agents you are querying are poorly suited to your work (or feel they are after reading your query). If you are getting rubber-stamp rejections, look online for lessons in writing queries; one example is at Query Letter, but there are many such sites. I would also look for agents ...


27

The answer to your question depends on how strongly the set of names is associated with the preexisting work of fiction. Not just the individual names, but the set of names together. For example, individually Romeo and Juliet are common enough names, if you set your story in Italy. However, if you name the main characters in your story Juliet and Romeo, it ...


27

The first page of your novel is vitally important, but not necessarily because the action starts there. The first page, and first several pages, should: set your tone and reader expectations. In a thriller, that means establishing a rhythm that will push forward rather than linger, and maybe having some sort of stakes already in play, even if they're ...


26

Many will say what you're striving to do is impossible because you won't have seen enough tricks of the trade in use, but I'll do my best to suggest a way forward that doesn't boil down to, "read N books because that sounds like enough". I'll still end up telling you to do some reading (by which I mean "or use an audiobook if you prefer; I'm not your mother")...


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