- Over-explanation. This includes prologues. “Prologues are never needed. You can usually throw them in the garbage. They’re usually put on as a patch.”
- Too much data. “You’re trying to seduce your reader, not burden them,” Friedman said.
- Over-writing, or “trying too hard.” “We think the more description we add, the more vivid it will be; but we don’t want to be distracted from the story” we open the book for.
- Beginning the novel with an interior monologue or reflection. Usually this is written as the thoughts of a character who is sitting alone, musing and thinking back on a story. Just start with the story.
- Beginning the novel with a flashback. Friedman isn’t entirely anti-flashback, but the novel’s opening page is the wrong place for one.
- Beginning a novel with the “waking up sequence” of a character waking, getting out of bed, putting on slippers, heading for the kitchen and coffee…a cliche
- Related cliche: beginning the novel with an alarm clock or a ringing phone
- Starting out with an “ordinary day’s routine” for the main character
- Beginning with “crisis moments” that aren’t unique: “When the doctor said ‘malignant,’ my life changed forever…” or “The day my father left us I was seven years old…”
- Don’t start with a dialogue that doesn’t have any context. Building characterization through dialogue is okay anywhere else but there.
- Starting with backstory, or “going back, then going forward.”
- Info dump. More formally called “exposition.”
- Character dump, which is four or more characters on the first page.
This is like the Story Beginnings Bible.
this is how i tell fics i’m going to read from fics i ain’t.
"I was set free because my greatest fear had been realized, and I still had a daughter who I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life."
Happy Birthday Joanne Rowling (7/31/1965) and Harry James Potter (7/31/1980)
Anonymous said: Do you perhaps have any tips for someone working on their first fic? :) It's okay if you don't, I just really love your stories and thought I'd ask because I'm just really nervous about mine!!
Sure, I’ll be happy to pass on some of the knowledge I’ve gained, though I’m still learning a lot about writing myself. I actually had drafted a “writing tips” post long ago, but I never got around to finishing it.
1. Tense and POV: Most of the time it doesn’t serve you well to write things in first person or second person, because they are somewhat awkward writing styles. Same with first tense. There’s a time and place for these, but it’s very difficult to do them well. I wrote my first fic in first/second person, first tense, so believe me, I know. [So what should you write then? Third person past tense, either from a character’s POV or omniscient.]
2. Description: Don’t write too much description unless it serves a purpose. An entire paragraph about what someone is wearing doesn’t help the reader— it bores them. If you want to spend a whole paragraph describing how someone looks, say, if they are sleeping, make it mean something. Ask yourself: why am I describing this? What does it add? Does it reveal something about the person who is describing it?
3. Dialogue: The styling is sometimes difficult, especially when you’re starting out. Very basic rules: don’t put more than one speaker on the same line. You also don’t always have to put in “he said” (or whatever). Sometimes, you can just have the dialogue “hanging” and the readers will get the gist:
"Where are we going?" John asked.
"Obvious," Sherlock replied, walking briskly toward the door.
"Um, okay." John sounded a bit annoyed.
"You are more intelligent than you give yourself credit for, just deduce it."
Since they are switching off, we know that the second to last line was John and the last line was Sherlock. Also, using words other than “said” are good if used in moderation.
4. Characterization: This is a huge one for fanfic (vs. original writing, that is) since you are writing established characters. There are certain things that a specific character would do or say, and some things they wouldn’t. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read fics that are OOC for me (that is, out of character). For fanfic, you are TRYING to emulate the characters as written as much as possible. That means things like tone of voice and style of speaking— for example, Sherlock speaks more formally than John most of the time. That’s what’s great about fanfic, though, in my opinion. You have characters who are already created for you, and a world that’s already established (unless it’s an AU). If you’re not sure whether or not that character would do or say what you’re writing, just run it by someone else in your fandom and see what they think.
5. Plot: I often don’t have a plot already planned out before I write a fic, but sometimes I do just to make the entire thing seem more smooth. Here is a very basic plot chart that shows how a story should go. Sometimes you can have a mini climax somewhere in the middle of a story, but most of the time there’s an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.
What does that all even mean? Well, basically, the exposition tells us what the story is going to be about (i.e., Sherlock gets a case about terrorists). The rising action is the buildup of suspense (i.e., John gets kidnapped by the terrorists for leverage while Sherlock is out investigating leads). The Climax is where the story comes to a head, or where the protagonist’s story comes to a turning point; also known as the “big reveal” or the moment where everything comes to a head (Sherlock realizes John’s been kidnapped and goes to save him). The falling action is where the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist unravels (i.e.,Moran tries to kill John, and Sherlock defeats him). The Denouement or Resolution is the cathartic wrapping up of the story (John wakes up in the hospital, and there’s a happy ending where they end up back at Baker Street).
That’s super basic, but you get the gist of it.
6. Common mistakes on the first page: This is a fascinating post that I found after I’d already written a few fics which fall into these exact traps.
7. Word Choice and sentence structure: Just vary your sentence structures and choice of words as much as possible. For example, I tend to use “slightly” FAR too often, so I have to keep my eye out for it. Repeating sentence structures too often also makes the writing seem heavy handed.
And always have someone beta your fic before you post it. Another set of eyes is really great.
The most important thing, though, is to just write. Making mistakes was how I learned. When I go back and read some of my earliest works now and I can see clearly how much my writing has evolved.
More than that, writing fics is about having fun and bringing joy to yourself and other people, which is why I love it so much. So just go out there and have fun, nonnie :)
I would add - write and edit at separate times. If you start editing while you write, it can really inhibit your creativity.
It sometimes helps with dialogue to read it out loud.
Published on Jul 24, 2014
"Do humans use only 10 percent of their brains? In the new movie "Lucy," starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman, a mysterious drug allows Lucy to use 100 percent of her brain’s capacity instead of the typical 10 percent (according to the film’s sci-fi logic), giving her access to a range of amazing powers. In this latest installment of Emory Looks at Hollywood, Emory University neurologist Krish Sathian debunks the lingering yet popular myth that people use only 10 percent of their brains."