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Is no religion a bad thing?
Accepted answer
131 votes

You're looking at this from the wrong side. Your goal isn't to include or to represent. Your goal is to tell a story. The story should contain all the elements that it requires, and nothing but the ...

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My kid's first story
83 votes

What is "the right way"? Why do you consider it better than some other way to write a story? What do you consider "mistakes"? You can ask your son about why he has made certain stylistic choices or ...

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My story is written in English, but is set in my home country. What language should I use for the dialogue?
75 votes

You have read books like this, or at least are familiar with books like this: Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls is set in Spain, and it is indicated, repeatedly, that the dialogue is in ...

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Is it bad if I don't like the "best" books in my chosen genre?
65 votes

Short answer: J.K. Rowling claims never to have read a fantasy book in her life, and she did just fine. For that matter, J.R.R. Tolkien hadn't read much fantasy either. Long answer: who considers the ...

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

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, ...

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Do hard to pronounce names break immersion?
Accepted answer
60 votes

Hard-to-pronounce names suggest a different culture. If War and Peace had its characters named not Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky and Pierre Kirillovich Bezukhov, but Andrew Bolk and Peter Bek; or if ...

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How do I avoid the "chosen hero" feeling?
Accepted answer
56 votes

To answer this question, I think it would be useful to look at The Lord of the Rings. We are explicitly told that Frodo is "chosen" for the task: Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its ...

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Should we add a character in a story for realistic effect?
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56 votes

You have a realistic effect that follows from the situation that you've put your character in, but that effect isn't interesting, nor does it affect the story in any significant way. The solution is ...

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What are the Pros and Cons of long names?
55 votes

Let me start with a disclaimer: some languages are naturally more tolerant of long names (and long words) than others. In Finnish, you've got names like Väinämöinen. In Hebrew, if something has more ...

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Does everything have to be accurate?
Accepted answer
53 votes

Generally, @MichaelKjörling and @HenryTaylor are right. Let me, however, look at the issue from a slightly different perspective. If you explain something, it has to make sense. If you don't explain, ...

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English - Acceptable use of parentheses in an author's name
52 votes

If your editor says something might look unprofessional, you should listen to your editor. Your editor is a professional, whose task is precisely to make your work appear at its best. We, on the other ...

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Can a successful book series let the bad guy win?
50 votes

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 ...

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Is there such a thing as too inconvenient?
Accepted answer
47 votes

The twin tropes you are referring to are Deus ex Machina and Diabolus es Machina. In both cases an event comes out of nowhere, not foreshadowed, to effect a drastic change. Both tropes are frowned ...

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

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 ...

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Using font to highlight a god's speech in dialogue
46 votes

Visually distinguishing a character's dialogue is not a bad idea. Sir Terry Pratchett used this tool quite a lot. Most notably, his Death spoke in ALL CAPS, including small caps when needed. (Small ...

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I feel like most of my characters are the same, what can I do?
42 votes

You talk of your characters as one or two basic characteristics, and that's it. That's where your problem is. There is more to a person than a short tag. Think about your friends. Chances are, you can ...

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How to make readers know that my work has used a hidden constraint?
Accepted answer
41 votes

You do not. Nowhere in Green Eggs and Ham does Dr. Seuss tell you that the whole thing is written using exactly 50 different words. It's an "Easter Egg" as @Alexander points out in a comment. It's ...

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How to write female characters with agency?
41 votes

Woman here. :) I think what your female character would struggle with most is that suddenly she does need her man beside her - for safety, for being treated a certain way by other people, etc. It ...

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How to write cleanly even if my character uses expletive language?
Accepted answer
40 votes

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 ...

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How should a big universe be introduced without being boring?
39 votes

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 ...

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What makes a character irredeemable?
38 votes

The trait that makes Dolores Umbridge, and other characters, repulsive, is sadism. Enjoying the suffering of others, enjoying causing pain - we find that unforgivable. A villain who hurts others due ...

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How best to avoid the appearance of stereotype?
38 votes

There is nothing wrong with having a person who is a member of a minority, and extremely annoying. 'Minority' can be sexual orientation, it can be disability, it can be religion or skin colour - ...

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Are connotations with certain names inevitable?
38 votes

While names have connotations, those are, most of the time, different connotations for different people. Hearing the name 'Brad' one person can think of Brad Pitt, another of Brad who bullied them at ...

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Is straight-up writing someone's opinions telling?
37 votes

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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Mixing humour with horror in fiction
37 votes

Horror works on building tension. Humour breaks it. On the face of it, you've got two cardinally opposed directions here. How do you mix the two? First, there's gallows humour. Gallows humour doesn't ...

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How do I say that someone is black?
36 votes

A few points, in no particular order: "A black man" paints a very different picture from "an elderly black gentleman" or "a tall, black-skinned young man". In the first case, the skin colour is the ...

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How to differentiate between two people with the same name in a story?
35 votes

In a written medium, your readers can only identify your characters by what you give them. We cannot "see" your characters. So, if at any point in the story there's a John, and then again there's a ...

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A children's book that takes 25 minutes to read out loud - is it too long?
Accepted answer
35 votes

If anything, I'd say your book is too short for that age. 3rd grade is 8-years-olds, right? At that age, 25 minutes to read out loud is closer to one chapter of a book they'd be reading. At 8 years ...

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What kind of protagonist or writing style is Jack Sparrow?
35 votes

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 ...

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Do living authors still get paid royalties for their old work?
34 votes

In the US, an author holds the copyright to his work for all his life, and his heirs hold it for 70 years after his death, at which point the work becomes public domain. (source) In other countries ...

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