62 votes

How to tactfully inform readers of differences in the book world to the real world?

As the wagon bounced along the rutted road, Prax was objecting to Lis's notion that they should both run away to start a new life in the city. "I can think of seven reasons that won't work," Prax ...
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62 votes
Accepted

How to show a character being bored for multiple chapters without boring the reader

Use film and other literature to inspire you--in particular this song Do you Want to Build a Snow Man. The character is bored. There's empty hallways, but time passes and that's communicated in a ...
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  • 2,718
61 votes

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

The narrator knows about the thoughts. And the narrator will know that the thoughts are illogical, and can distance himself/herself from the thoughts. Of course that only works if the narrator isn't ...
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  • 4,007
48 votes

How do I write "Show, Don't Tell" as a person with Asperger Syndrome?

I also have Asperger Syndrome. Before I explain how I "write around it", let me talk a little about showing and telling. Writing isn't what it used to be, and I don't mean that in a bad way. ...
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  • 9,527
46 votes

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

"Show don't tell," as a three-word directive, is pithy and simplistic. But it's used because it's one of the fundamentals of writing well, and one of the things new writers understand least. As ...
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  • 28k
46 votes
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How do I convey that a relationship is platonic?

I agree that establishing the platonic nature of the relationship is important. There are a number of ways to approach it, as in David Doyle's answer. But additionally, I wanted to point out a ...
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46 votes

How do I provide exposition on a magic system when no character has an objective or complete understanding of it?

Some people will believe they know how things work, even if they don't If you were to ask a highly educated person 2,000 years ago why things fall down, they'd have an answer. (It just wouldn't be a ...
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  • 7,883
43 votes

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

You are confused about what's being shown. "Show, don't tell" means "show us that the hero is confused by describing the look on his face and how he stutters and drops things" rather than saying in ...
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37 votes

Is straight-up writing someone's opinions telling?

You're taking "show, don't tell" too strictly. There's no rules in writing - they're more what you'd call guidelines. If you're in doubt about a passage, write it both ways. Then see which one feels ...
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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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35 votes
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Making him into a bully (how to show mild violence)

When I was a kid, I was bullied a lot, and I don't usually see accurate depictions of bullying in the media. The bullying I suffered was mostly verbal, but some was physical. What adults don't ...
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  • 8,733
30 votes

How do you keep a villainous character from being offensive to a particular group?

Don't focus on him being a "veteran". Yes, he was in a war, blah blah. You don't ever have to use the word "veteran." If you do, have him use it to game the system or seek sympathy; even veterans ...
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  • 91k
27 votes

How to show a character being bored for multiple chapters without boring the reader

Plot doesn't have to move at an even speed. Just as you can slow-motion over an important battle, you can speed up over long periods of time. A couple of paragraphs evoking boredom: staring at the ...
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26 votes

How do I convey that a relationship is platonic?

The best way to illuminate a boundary is to cross it. Barring that, the second best way is almost cross it. Have your characters accomplish some major task together, despite long odds. Then, as ...
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  • 10.7k
23 votes

How to tactfully inform readers of differences in the book world to the real world?

There are several techniques: Have a narrator voice explicitly stating the relevant differences. Take everything for granted and hint changes indirectly (e.g.: if your aliens have seven fingers ...
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  • 973
22 votes

How do I write "Show, Don't Tell" as a person with Asperger Syndrome?

I'm a professional scientist; my point of view might help. The only way I can think of is to approach it analytically. Body language is a language you don't know. There are books on it, some ...
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  • 91k
22 votes

How do I provide exposition on a magic system when no character has an objective or complete understanding of it?

My answer is fundamentally similar to JonStonecash's, but comes at it from a different angle. You mentioned the following: the narrative intent behind this is to lower the reader's guard by making ...
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  • 9,126
21 votes

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

Without having seen your piece, of course, I can only speculate, but I wonder if what you were doing was the opposite of predictability: You signaled you were going straight, or right, when your goal ...
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19 votes

Describing something that doesn't exist

The thing with an imaginary object is this: people aren't going to see the exact same thing as you see in your mind, no matter how many words you pour on it. Each reader is going to imagine what you ...
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19 votes
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How to help the reader wrestle through historical atrocities which would be considered normal to the POV character

"Sadly, women in ancient China had no sense of self-respect." I'd like to disagree with this statement. When you say this, you are already thinking in modern terms. My area is European Middle Ages ...
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19 votes
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How to "show" a "Yes" head confirmation

The word you are looking for is "nod". Mike nods his head, confirming that he was okay. "Shakes" his head would be used for negation. It's usually a good idea to include context that reinforces ...
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19 votes

How can I show that a character does something without thinking?

Start with understanding what character motivation or complication you want to describe. "Without Thinking..." can imply a huge range of motivations or complications from instinctive ...
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  • 7,525
18 votes

How can I write a street-smart character?

Make sure your character remembers things. A street-smart person is someone who has noticed a pattern in life and uses that to their advantage. He noticed that a gang always hangs out in a certain ...
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18 votes

How do I convey that a relationship is platonic?

Well. There are ways to handle this. The simplest is never address it. They're friends, they get along, and they work well together. People may/will ship them, but that isn't how you wrote them. ...
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  • 5,431
18 votes

Is straight-up writing someone's opinions telling?

Agree with Galastel's answer, most writing "rules" are just guides so you understand the general effect on the reader. However, just picking the one that "feels natural" isn't very objective, so I'...
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  • 24.2k
17 votes
Accepted

Ways to show someone is whispering without using "he whispered"

The "rule" is overhyped. The important thing to remember is that you should not use "said" substitutes that are not actually special cases of "said." (This usually ...
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  • 5,228

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