Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
135

Sexism isn't a yes/no kind of thing, and it's a mistake to treat it as such. Saying that a story or an idea is "sexist" is shorthand. What it means is that it creates, encourages, or reinforces sexist stereotypes, and that those stereotypes have real-world consequences. So, a good way to come at this issue is to use these: Guiding Questions What are the ...


62

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 said, holding up all seven fingers of his right hand. Curling in his outer thumb, he said, "First, we've never been to the city, and we have no idea if it's ...


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' ...


59

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 ...


54

I think my answer may be a tad tinted by my atheism, as I believe every faith and pantheon operates as a function of how a culture interacts with nature, the difficult-to-predict, and the unknown, but I would say a good starting point would be the environment your fictional society inhabits. For example, Ancient Egyptian gods are numerous yet orderly, ...


53

Personally, I don't need to identify with the characters to enjoy a story, whether in literature or in cinema. What I do need is to identify the characters as realistic constructs with human reactions and quirks. As a young teenager, I discovered one of my favourite authors ever. The Portuguese Miguel Torga wrote plenty of short stories whose protagonists ...


46

For many years --decades actually --my goal with every piece of writing I wrote was that it be read and appreciated by someone. There were plenty of things I wrote that didn't achieve that goal, and ended up moldering away in some corner of my hard-drive, but I viewed those projects as failures. I write to connect with other people, and anything that doesn't ...


44

Jane Austen routinely did what it sounds like you want to do: she kept the big places intact (London, Bath), but the estates mentioned in her stories (e.g. Pemberly) are fictional, with only their general location given. The estate was fictional, but culturally it was set in its time, in England, which is all that she needed. Similarly, you can invent a ...


41

Assuming you aren't a woman yourself, I would suggest talking this idea through with several women to see how it strikes them. It can be difficult to see through the eyes of a group you don't belong to, and all too easy to overlook your own biases. On the other hand that doesn't mean you need to take every piece of feedback as gospel truth. "Women" are ...


40

Waving a wand and wiggling the fingers while magic happens is theatrics. In Faust, Goethe has the Devil make fun of a witch for being too precious and ceremonious with her magic, so you are in good company cutting out the silly hand gestures. Addressing copyright fears, wands are "stock items" in stories with magicians and wizards. No one can claim to own ...


39

I am a woman, and I don't find this sexist. It is only sexist if the implication is that women are somehow inferior because this process renders them infertile. I don't read that into this idea; merely that there is a cost for summoning a familiar. You could think of it this way: if males can't summon familiars, then is that sexist towards males that ...


36

Does the reader need to know the rules to understand the story? For example, is there any point where a character "bluffs" and the reader must understand the rules to recognize that he is making the "wrong" play? My advice is to consider how the game "fits" into the story, and treat it as a meta narrative device presented in the way it is meant to be ...


35

It's perfectly fine to leave details up to the reader's imagination. But those comparisons are neither doing work for you nor for the reader. They have the look and feel of descriptions, but they are empty. Let's look at some ways of potentially using this technique: "The trees were full of lillahi birds." I think this is okay --the reader gets an ...


34

The concept of the 'Magic Wand' predates Harry Potter by at least a handful of millennia. Consider the 'Rod of Circe' in Homer's Odyssey which is used to magically transform Odysseus's men into pigs. A wand appears again in C. S. Lewis' 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe', where it is the eponymous Witch's most powerful weapon. Wands are a common idea ...


30

At first I thought it was a call-back but, as explained at that link, even those are usually relevant later. So I think what we really have here is a continuity nod.


29

This is not uncommon. When writers want to refer to real people, places or events, but they don't want to stick to the facts, they just rename them. Most readers adjust pretty easily. This is particularly true if the genre is Science Fiction, where it's easy enough to assume an Earthlike planet, or an alternate reality, even when that isn't spelled out. In ...


28

"Possible?" sure... sort of. I mean, everything that happens in your story is building the world. The characters themselves are products of whatever that world is, and a lot can and will be inferred by the types of people that they are. I guess the answer depends on why you're asking this question. If you're asking if you can get away with writing a story ...


26

The answer is research, research, and more research. I'm not an expert on horseback riding, or sword-fighting, or ruling a country. The only way I can write convincingly about those subjects is by doing research. Research can take many forms. It can be reading about the subject, both guides and first-hand accounts. It can be talking to people who do the ...


23

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 describe one "wearing an inordinately expensive ring on his seventh finger") Describe the world giving "hind-reasons" (e.g.: "He looked at the clock's fourteen hours,...


22

The question largely depends on whether the game and its particular rules are important to the story or not. Take, for example, Quidditch, from the Harry Potter series. The game constitutes a major story element in the first six books, and the key to a plot coupon in the seventh. So much story-time is devoted to it, that the readers need to understand what'...


21

It's a Your Mileage May Vary situation, but I think there are two good rules of thumb: 1) Explain only as much as you need for the story to make sense. This will vary depending on your audience, but roughly, anything specialized to your world or your story will need a minimum of explanation. Your readers are, at a baseline, familiar with 2017 (today's) ...


21

I don't often disagree with Mark, but I will here. This can be done in world, and can add elements to the story. A number of successful authors, particularly in fiction, do this as a way of introducing their world and highlighting the differences between Earth and their setting. Trudi Cannavan, Brandon Sanderson, Ian McClelland, JRR Tolkien, Raymond E Feist ...


21

I would go with characters have dead siblings; but that happens off-screen. Showing it on-screen, and in-period-realistic, might be off-putting itself. Everything you are talking about is a statistical distribution; averages, a bell-curve of sorts. Nothing says your character have to reside in the center of it. So child-deaths can happen primarily to ...


21

The easiest way is to have someone say the name while looking at the animal and having a frame in your comic where the animal is the center. If you have an animal that plays the role that cats play in our real world for example you could have someone angrily say "Get the damn qutie from our table!" with a frame where this person is getting a water spray ...


21

For me, writing is a passion. Not writing is an impossibility. There are stories in my mind; I need to tell them. I need to find out where they go, how they go, what they mean. I have something in mind when I start a story, but it changes, mutates, I do not fully understand it until it is written and finished. I find out what I think and how I feel about ...


19

Ask an expert. Obviously, research is an important first step. But there's only a finite amount of research you can do, and without intimate knowledge of the subject, you have no way of knowing whether the research you're doing is the right research. So find an expert, and convince them to be a beta reader. They'll be able to spot the things that stand ...


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