1. Another story competition is beginning! (Q1 2018)

    "You're bleeding on my floor."

    We've moved to a quarterly format, so you really have no excuse not to participate this time.

    So check out the new thread discussing scoring, rules, and other such matters in the in the Story Competitions forum and get cracking.

    Dismiss Notice

Writing Advice and Resource Thread

Discussion in 'FanFic Discussion' started by Halt, Jan 18, 2018.

Loading...
  1. Sorrows

    Sorrows Professor Prestige DLP Supporter

    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2008
    Messages:
    474
    Gender:
    Female
    Location:
    Edinburgh
    High Score:
    1,819
    [​IMG]

    For some more technical advice there is something that I see that at its worst renders otherwise reasonably written fanfiction stories unreadable, and that is tat new writers often do not consider how they use paragraphs.

    The Art or Paragraphs - Fred D. White

    Skillful paragraphing aids readability.

    In fiction writing, you should consider starting a new paragraph when any of the following occurs:
    • There is a change in perspective.
    • There is a shift in location.
    • A different character speaks (you should create a new paragraph anytime someone different says something).
    • There is a change in focus or thought

    However it also sets the pace of the narrative, generates mood and helps make characters three-dimensional. So ignore the school textbook rules about the so-called well-made paragraph. Keep these three principles in mind instead:

    1. PARAGRAPHS MANAGE CONTENT: A scene can be constructed in any number of ways—it’s up to you to break it down to the most dramatic effect.
    2. PARAGRAPHS AMPLIFY VOICE: How your narrator sounds and thinks affects the rhythm and even the design of the paragraph.
    3. PARAGRAPHS HELP GENERATE MOOD: Is it introspective and thoughtful, or hurried and staccato? Note how the length and type of the paragraphs can maintain or change the mood in a scene.

    Remember that paragraphing is more an element of individual style than of grammar: You are in charge of what a paragraph should do or what shape it should take.

    The Single Sentence Paragraph

    When looking to add emphasis and build suspense, it’s hard to beat this device. Take a look at an example from the thriller The Blood Gospel by James Rollins and Rebecca Cantrell:

    Once the scene is set, the character’s revelations are broken into short lines of their own so that each one makes an impact on the reader. This can work well to heighten tension and interest in the middle of a scene, and can also make for a page-turning end to a chapter.
     
  2. Story Content: Outlining vs. Discovery Writing
    Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

    Joined:
    May 27, 2010
    Messages:
    739
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Philippines
    There are two general ways to approach writing.

    Outlining and Discovery Writing (AKA Free Writing).

    Outlining is putting the moments of awesome in some structure (usually but not necessarily chronological), while Discovery Writing is chasing the moments of awesome - writing what you want with little to no plan and seeing where the muse takes you. Stories aren't one or the other, but rather a mix of somewhere in between. All stories are discovery written to a degree - even when you outline, you are discovery writing between the points within your outline.

    Both options have their pro and cons.

    Outlining tends to be more structured, but less flexible and there's a very real risk of "over outlining" something. Spending too much time planning that you never get to the actual writing (which is rather the point) and changes can throw this into total disarray.

    Discovery writing, on the other hand, is a lot more fun to do. Most fanfiction are probably written this way, or start off this way. If you've ever had a cool idea or snarky line of dialogue or epic scene and just went with it, that's discovery writing. These tend to be flexible and more "Wow!". At the same time, it's very easy to forget that stories are not just "a bunch of cool things happening" under this method. Character arcs, development, and plot progression are more difficult with stories that are discovery written and require more editing (usually reverse outlining) to fix these issues.
     
  3. Story Content: Combat
    Halt

    Halt 1/3 of the Note Bros.

    Joined:
    May 27, 2010
    Messages:
    739
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Philippines
    They key to good combat scenes is context. Having combat scenes for the sake of "action" and to keep a story "interesting" kills it more likely than not if you don't ground that action in context.

    There are three that are generally applicable:
    1. Plot and Objectives - Fighting is an exhausting task, so if people are to fight, you must answer why they are fighting. What does each side or person want to achieve? What do they gain or lose from each outcome? How important is the fight to them?

      These are all questions that tie your combat into your narrative, and once you understand what each side wants, then you have to make sure they act it. A character trying to escape and a character tying to conquer a city will have very different approaches to a fight and how quickly they'll be willing to run away.

      Few people or armies will fight to the death when the battle seems lost to them. People will rout, morale breaks, armies scatter. You have to know what your character's breakpoint is.

      In general, morale can be thought of as existing on two axes - strength of personality and importance of objective. The more important the outcome of the fight is to that individual (and they must feel strongly about it, don't just have this be some greater good nonsense) and the stronger their personality (courage, bravery, stubbornness), the longer and harder they'll fight.

      And vice versa.

      Objectives can also change in a fight as things develop. Always consider how a character might react to new conditions.

    2. Location - Where are they fighting? What physical features are nearby? Are they in a cramped room, a wide field, a forest or in the middle of the city? Is there anything around that might give one side an advantage? Fights are rarely static events, but dynamic ones where movement should matter as combatants reposition to take advantage of their surroundings. Take the high ground, force your enemy into the open, run into the forest to escape - these things matter.

    3. Personality - Who is fighting and how does that affect them? Do they prefer to be sneaky or daring? Are they quick to flee or undaunted by overwhelming opposition? Are they blunt and brash or do they choose creative, indirect solutions to achieving objectives?
    The OOTP Fight in Harry Potter is iconic because it incorporates these principles.

    Objectives - Harry is trying to save Sirius, which drives him to the Department of Mysteries. When he finds out it’s a trap, his objective shifts from rescue, to escaping with the Prophecy. The Death Eaters, on the other hand, shift their objectives from capturing the Prophecy to escaping when the Ministry employees floo in.

    Location - The scene makes plentiful use of its surroundings, from having characters run through the Ministry (also an excellent tool of worldbuilding by showing us brief glimpses of things and their effects), from collapsing shelves on the death eaters to using the floating brains.

    Personality - Harry is headstrong, but not suicidal. If he was a coward, he would've given up the Prophecy to save his skin. If he was suicidal, he would've fought to the death instead of engaging in a fighting retreat. It was his personality that dictated why he fought the way he did. Personality can also dictate the preferred fighting style of individuals. Voldemort naturally prefers the Dark Arts, whereas Dumbledore uses Transfiguration. Harry's go to are Shield Charms, Stunning Spells, and Disarming Spells. There's a reason for that, and it's not because he doesn't know how to use any other magic.
     
Loading...