144 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

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 ...
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70 votes

For a fantasy world, what word can I use instead of "human" in order to include elves, dwarves, etc.?

Honestly, it sounds that the best word for the inhabitants of your world - humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, merfolk, all together - would be... People.
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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 ...
61 votes

Should I add racism in my book's world or have my world have no racism?

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, ...
59 votes
Accepted

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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58 votes
Accepted

How do I write "fantasy counterpart cultures" without being accused of cultural appropriation?

The phrase "cultural appropriation" can make it seem that the sole issue is just who is using the culture. From my point of view, the deeper question how good a job they're doing at ...
  • 56.3k
54 votes
Accepted

Do readers need to identify with fictional characters?

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 ...
54 votes
Accepted

Avoiding cliches when writing gods

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 ...
  • 9,144
47 votes

Is it Ok to make up places if I want the reader to think it’s set in the real world?

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 ...
46 votes

What's the point of writing that I know will never be used or read?

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 ...
  • 56.3k
41 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

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 ...
  • 56.3k
41 votes

How do I know if a concept is sexist or not?

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; ...
  • 631
39 votes

Are wands in any sort of book going to be too much like Harry Potter?

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 ...
  • 25.7k
39 votes

For a fantasy world, what word can I use instead of "human" in order to include elves, dwarves, etc.?

The word "mortals" would probably be a good fit in this context. "She is the goddess who blessed mortals with..." Other words that could work in this context might be: living ...
36 votes

Is it a good idea to leave minor world details to the reader's imagination?

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 ...
  • 56.3k
35 votes
Accepted

Explaining made up card game

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 "...
  • 25.7k
34 votes

Are wands in any sort of book going to be too much like Harry Potter?

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. ...
32 votes
Accepted

Character is an expert on something I'm not

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 ...
31 votes
Accepted

Chekhov's gun, but it's just "useless" background info

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.
  • 9,507
30 votes
Accepted

Is there a method to determining how many books long your series needs to be?

I would first point out that beginning writers with no commercial success will approximately never sell a multi-book series. The rule for a multiple-book story is relatively simple: The first book ...
  • 97.4k
29 votes
Accepted

How feasible is it to write a story without any worldbuilding?

"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 ...
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29 votes

How can my story take place on Earth without referring to our existing cities and countries?

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 ...
  • 56.3k
26 votes

Is it okay if my fictional country is like a real country?

Absolutely. Many sci fi and fantasy authors have done it openly. The Shire was rural England. Ankh-Morpork is London. Prydain was more or less Wales. The thing to decide is if you are commenting on ...
26 votes
Accepted

Do I need to create fictional places to make things work?

Yes, absolutely, don't worry about Railway fans. You make places up by "pastiche". They don't have to actually exist, in fact it is better if you invent small towns and features that don't ...
  • 97.4k
26 votes
Accepted

How do you prevent yourself from neglecting scientific accuracy in a sci-fi-fantasy story without telling?

There's always the "Star Trek" version. If it makes the drama work, don't sweat it. Just be consistent across your story. So if "warp drive" works a particular way, keep it working ...
  • 1,333
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 ...
  • 1,003
23 votes
Accepted

Can I leave out details I don’t understand?

Generally, most readers won't care... and the ones who do are weird. "Going to the Bathroom" is only brought up for low brow humor or plot points (such as a detail of an escape). You can ...
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