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123

Bollocks. (That's a technical term.) The semicolon is the correct punctuation for a particular kind of sentence structure. So on the face of it, if you want to outlaw something, it should be that sentence structure, not the punctuation that is necessary to it. But this is one of those rules like kill all the adverbs. Many writers today do not give ...


106

There are several ways to think of Jack because he takes on many, many roles depending on what the movie needs. In general, he's a walking plot device and only very rarely does he develop anything along a character arc. If he does develop, he may not be faithful to it. And his role changes from point to point as the movie has different demands. Primarily: ...


77

Structure your answer properly This is something that is relevant across all sites. You should be used to markdown and know at least the basics: Using headings Paragraphs and soft linebreaks lists numbered and unnumbered Put your most relevant points in the start and make them bold so that people will know at a first glance whether they share your ...


62

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 the villain in first-person. For example, you might write something like: Dick thought about his problem. How on earth could he lock a door that did not even ...


60

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 characters can't and remain puzzled. For example, two especially educated explorers in your world could discuss the plants, and how all other plants they know need ...


55

Many readers definitely will skim over parts of your writing. In my experience there are three primary reasons for this. Your writing is boring or drags. If a book spends too much time describing seemingly irrelevant details, I think I can predict exactly what is going to happen, or I don't feel invested in the characters in the scene, I'm liable to skim ...


53

Something is very off about this being, and everyone knows it. Except it's not. When someone is very off, people steer clear. The creepy guy who hangs out in front of the supermarket makes his creepiness known by asking out any woman unfortunate enough to engage him in conversation for 5 seconds. The creepy little girl likes to talk in depth about dead ...


51

Explain what needs to be explained as it becomes relevant rather than trying to present all the information in one go. This has certain advantages: it avoids dumping all the information on the audience in one indigestible lump. it actually makes the world feel bigger. Info-dumps tend to bore readers to tears so avoid them: instead tell your readers the ...


46

"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 Lauren says,"showing" doesn't entail endless description of minutiae, or attempting to convey a cinematic level of visual detail using text alone. What is means is ...


44

You could try reading the final draft out loud either to yourself or to another person. (That's what I have always had my own children do when they're working on school essays.) Reading out loud slows you down so that you are less likely to read over a duplicated word and it will be more obvious when a word is left out. It is also a good method for ...


44

Take a dimly lit corner of your universe and one of your lesser characters and start writing some of their backstory as an in-the-moment adventure, not an aspect of someone's history. You know by the character's present-day traits that they had an experience like this, so jump back in time and walk the younger, more innocent version of them along the hard ...


43

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 narration "He was confused." It doesn't mean "don't describe the room he's in." If you don't like a lot of scenery being described, there's nothing wrong with ...


41

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 ...


40

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 unique, even though fictional. The actual details that make it to the page are only what the characters and reader need to know. Knowing details like the actual ...


39

I like Secespitus' answer, and I also like Sphennings' point about actually answering the question. But I didn't see an answer which combined those two things, and addressed everything I've found important. So I'll write that answer. Answer the Question Not to steal any thunder from sphennings, but I believe this is probably the most important criteria ...


39

You want to spend as little time as possible on "setup". Even one page of nothing but setup is too much. The reason for that is that the reader is not yet invested in your story. You'd be forcing a reader to read something akin to a fantasy-encyclopedia about something he has no reason to care for. That's boring, readers aren't going to do that. Instead, ...


39

Adapt to the culture. If it's a town of demons and the narrator is implied to be well familiarized with them, then you can go with 'tiphoof' and other such expressions, coining new idioms for the culture, replacing common phrases with more suitable counterparts, often playing puns with the expressions. On the other hand, if there is a culture clash, with ...


38

Inarticulate speech or sounds is an instance where I tell, I do not show. Shriek, Screech, Scream, Howl ... It can help if it startles somebody that comes bursting into the room to protect her, or she wakes up already screaming, if it echoes off the walls, if it pains her throat, if there is some other consequences of this action. But I don't try to write ...


38

Each usage has its place. #1 is most commonly used in such situations. Even if you're not writing for children, you don't necessarily want every bit of cursing. Sometimes telling that the character used a strong word is enough, or even more effective, than actually spelling out what exactly he said. #2 has place when you're writing for adults, who would ...


36

The problem here is that by giving him a clearly understandable (even if evil, misantropic) goal, you're making your Fenrisúlfr more human-like. Sure, we can say - by rough sketch - that it wants to eradicate life. But to be truly "so far from human comprehension" we need to cut off any human understandable explanation from his actions. Your question ...


35

As everyone has said already, writing is ultimately the key. The more you write the better you will be at it. But I would like to also address the reading aspect of your question. You are right that most people, at some point in their lives, will have read 10,000 hours worth. But how many people think critically about it? How many people say, "Wow, I ...


35

This seems to be an increasingly common problem and my belief is that it results from the writer consciously or unconsciously seeing the movie in his head and trying to transfer it to the page. Thus they give what are essentially stage directions at every verse end. To break this habit, you have to remember that a novel is not a movie. A movie is, in some ...


35

I try to always answer in 3 paragraphs whenever possible. Less is often too little for a substantive answer, and more becomes less and less likely for people to read. The first paragraph should always be the most direct answer to the main question in the original post, as asked, with a minimum of editorializing. It should generally cite a reputable source,...


35

Sir Terry Pratchett had several characters who, like Jack Sparrow, were used sparingly in the stories of others, but had a strong presence both in terms of their impact on the story, and in terms of the way the audience saw them. Pratchett wrote: Like Death and the Librarian, I tend to use Vetinari sparingly, lest he take over every plot. (The Art of ...


34

Two additional techniques... Character Reaction. A character might react in a way that reveals some of the information: "Mother! What the heck are you doing here?" Now we know that the person who just entered the room is the character's mother. Disagreement. You can have characters argue about it. They might disagree about: The facts The meaning of ...


34

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 plain words come alive. Considering we're always told that good writing requires you to cut out the excess fat however, that usually means doing away with all ...


33

This is an interesting question. The answer, I believe, lies in remembering that people read for pleasure. And when it comes to our pleasures, we value predictability very highly. This is not to say that surprise has no role in pleasure, but it is a very confined one. When we read a mystery, we want to be surprised when we find out who the killer is, but we ...


33

If X gets hurt in a fight, recovers, gets hurt in a new fight, recovers again, etc. that is going to start to get boring. If you want to avoid boring your readers, fights need to have consequences. In your story, that's not death, but it could be a lasting injury, or a damaged plot relevant item. X doesn't have to recover, or not completely. Especially if ...


33

Lack of proofreading has been the bane of writing in many locations over the last few years. Do you remember back when newspapers came to your house and you paid to subscribe? Okay, maybe you don't, due to age or location, but it was a thing. Most people (at least among the college-educated folks I knew) subscribed to the daily local paper which was ...


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