It is what keeps readers from asking "Where is this story going? Because it seems like it is rambling on endlessly..."
Plot is the harmonic design of the actions or events in your story. It is the pattern and frame, also the destination. Every good story has a plot. This means it has a clear beginning, middle and END. Your plot is the structure that keeps you from going wildly off topic. Plot is the answer to "What comes next?" and "Why did this happen?"
The protagonist is your hero and the key figure of your plot. This character has a destiny, something that must be done and will face challenges in the story that work toward that goal.
A weak plot is one where outside forces have to fix everything and resolve your story. For example, God steps in and flattens the enemies for the hero, end of story. People will be disappointed and say, "So what?" Your plot should encourage people to CARE about what happens to your characters and what goes on in your story. Another characteristic of a weak plot is when the plot is unbelievable. The events and actions have to be believable for people to care about them. If they are unbelievable, people will doubt the possibility of the story, and again stop caring about what happens in it. So, a weak plot is that which is unrealistic, unmotivated, and unbelievable. Solution: research and make your story seem real!!
Strong plots are tied into your hero's flaws and faults as well as his/her/its merits. A hero with a problem faces challenges that may be physical, mental, emotional, and/or spiritual.
BASIC PLOT STRUCTURE (p. 5)
Beginning: The initial action of a situation. Often a problem that has to be solved is introduced.
Middle: The part of the story that shows the hero's attempts to solve the problem.
Ending: The natural result of what has happened in the middle. At this point, the hero either succeeds or fails at solving the problem.
ELEMENTS OF CLASSIC PLOTS (p. 5)
Reverals: events occur which move the hero from good to bad and from bad to good situations.
Dicoveries: Various revelations throughout the middle of the story. The hero learns about themselves.
Emotions: the reversals and discoveries should stir strong emotions.
Complications: suspenseful incidents that occur and help move the story along, turning points that are followed by change, the challenges your hero faces.
Catastrophe: the lowest point in the story that shows your character at "rock bottom" their greatest despair. The only way to go from there... is UP!
Climax: The AHA! moment or the turning point in your story. This is tied to the catastrophe and the recognition scene.
Recognition Scene: Key scenes where the hero understand the problem and knows where to go. This might also be called revelation scenes. Your hero comes to understand his place in the universe.
Resolution: This is the aftermath of the turning point in your story.
SUBPLOTS Sometimes a story has several smaller plots that are tied into the main big plot of the story. If the subplot does not connect to the main plot then it is useless or worse, confusing to your reader.
COMPLICATIONS These are the dramatic challenges or barriers your hero must face. They are the obstacles in your story that must be overcome to get to the goal. Consider them as hurdles. The introduce conflict and help increase suspense. They help teach your hero what he needs to achieve his goal.
SIMPLE PLOT This is good for something short. It carries your story up to a single truning point (the climax/epiphany) and concludes with realization.
EPISODIC PLOT This is a plot with several highs and several lows. These high turning points are large climaxes but they keep the story rolling with your hero moving into and out of small challenges.
HOURGLASS PLOT This is a plot that deals with two people's lives that eventually intersect.
CIRCLE PLOT This is where an event is the focus of the story and wee how each character perceives the event.
FINALLY, a last note... your characters (especially your hero) are defined by their actions. They live an imitation of life. Bring them to life with realistic or believable events and actions and a plot that can be followed.
Read a novel, story, watch a movie or a TV show (series). Note the first challenges. How did the hero overcome them? What is the hero's ultimate goal? What are the turning points? What is the climax of this story? Was it a strong and clear plot? Why? Was it a weak plot? Why?
Read a collection of short stories. Can you pinpoint the epiphanies or clamaxes?
Watch a film about an event and see if it is a circular plot? Who are the characters and what are their main perspectives of the event? (LOST is a good TV series like that)
Read a novel. Can you identify the subplots within the main plot? What are the relationships of the subplots to the main plot?
Who will experience the events in the story? Viewpoint is the answer to who will record these events happening to your character. Viewpoint is the angle of the vision. Through whose eyes do we see the events? Choosing your main character and your viewpoint are critical to your story.
Step back... Choose your main character...
Who do you sympathize with most? Who do you have the greatest connection with? Who are your secondary characters? These are the important people that work alongside (for or against) your main character. Be sure to keep your focus on your main character. If you stray too far into the stories of the other characters, you might lose focus and the viewpoint and goal might get confused and lost. Looking at the other characters should always lead back to your main character.
The narrator is not the author. The author is the person writing the story. The narrator is the person telling the story, the viewpoint the author chooses to take.
FIRST-PERSON NARRATOR This is an eye-witness to the events. All first-person stories are written with "I". I saw this. I did that. I thought such-and-such. It is the main character telling his or her own story.
A peripheral first-person narrator is not the main character telling the story, but someone close to the main character who is witness to everything. This might be a secondary character. It is like you telling a story about what you saw happen to your friend.
ADVANTAGES (p. 20)
easy to write with your own voice and experience
you are the hero, you know what happens directly
you can explore the inner mind of the hero
DISADVANTAGES (p. 20)
risk of rambling on
easy to lose control of the dramatic structure
boring style of just telling exactly what happened and the audience doesn't get to FEEL it (there is no suspense and no climax)
SECOND-PERSON NARRATOR This is the viewpoint where you talk directly to the audience. The audience is part of the events, or the reader is the hero. This works real well for RPG where the story master says, "You walk into the room and see..." It is also the viewpoint where you ask questions of the audience. "Have you ever...?" It is difficult to keep to the YOU viewpoint. It is an interesting challenge. But as I said, it works best for such things as RPG's.
THIRD-PERSON NARRATOR This is where you the storyteller are an onlooker to the events though not part of them. You as an author use HE, SHE, IT. You are an observer to the events happening to the characters. It is like you are a can really looking on at various angles.
FIXED VIEWPOINT The story is told from only one camera angle. It is an external observation. OR, from this fixed viewpoint, you can see into the mind of that one character. This is also sometimes called central intelligence where you are showing the psyche and thoughts and emotions of your character.
STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS This is a stream of thoughts that may or may not be wholly coherent. They are the random thoughts going through your character's mind. Great for such things as flashback, memories, dreams, or thinking scenes.
INTERIOR MONOLOGUE Here the character is talking or thinking to himself. It is different from the stream of consciousness in that it is coherent with complete sentences. It is not random.
EFFACED / OMNISCIENT NARRATOR The omniscient storyteller is the viewpoint that you as the author takes whereby you are looking down at the events happening and describing them as an observer, but you are also in the heads of your characters. It is the most difficult viewpoint to hold smoothly as you shift back and forth from the internal viewpoint of your character(s) and the god-like third party looking on. It is like a hidden camera that con weave into any location and see into the mind of anyone.
SHIFTING VIEWPOINTS This can lend great depth to your story... or completely lose your audience. The shift interrupts the flow of the story. Try to keep viewpoint shifts to chapter changes. It is not advised to change viewpoint in the middle of a chapter. This can make it difficult for the reader to follow. Always ask yourself if this viewpoint shift necessary for your story.
HIATUS or LINE BREAKS If you must shift the focus of your story in a single chapter or change the viewpoint in a single chapter, or change the time (skip back in time to show what is going on elsewhere at the same time or skip several hours ahead) then use some way to mark this. You cane use a larger space between the previous paragraph and the newly shifted paragraph. You can use a line (dashed------, solid _____, stars *******... whatever). This tells the reader there is a shift of some sort.
OTHER VIEWPOINT STYLES
EPISTOLARY This is a series of letters. Someone are several someones write letters and these letters become the story. This works well if the letters are with more than one person so you can see an exchange.
MONOLOGUE This is great for short bits of your story, but exhausting for the reader if it is your entire story. No one like to be talked at for too long. Just think of when your parents gave you LONG LECTURES! They are helpful in short bouts but can lose your audience if they are too long.
JOURNAL / DIARY This is fun. I did a whole Star Wars fanfic based on this style (http://sfdj-corbantis.blogspot.com/). This is where your story is told in through a diary or confessional journal. It is the memoirs of your hero.
ADVICE You might be omniscient, but remember that your characters and hero are not.
Describe the scenery of a location without using "I".
Describe the same scenery from your point of view using "I".
Describe the same scenery as if you are walking your friend through it.
Write a stream of consciousness... the random thoughts going through your head for maybe an hour.
Write an interior monologue. What is your opinion on something? What does it make you think of and how do you feel about it?
Keep a journal from the point of view of one of your characters. If your character had a diary, what would be in it?
Exchange letters between two characters in your story.
Last edited by scarletcougar on Thu Nov 23, 2006 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
OPENINGS OR HOOKS How to start your story and have people read past the first page! How to get them HOOKED to your story!
This is probably the most important part of your story. You have to catch your audience's attention in the first page in a way that has them hooked and wanting to read more. The first page is like a showcase of your writing style.
NARRATIVE HOOK 5 W's + H Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How. Who is the hero? What is the situation or problem? Where does the story take place? (locale & culture) When does the story take place? (place it in history) Why did the situation happen? Why must the hero deal with it? How did it happen? (what is the background?)
The condensed hook, strives to have these two elements: (p. 35)
1- create an overwhelming curiosity about what is going to happen in the story 2- pose a question that has to be answered
BEGINNING VS OPENING The beginning of the story is not necessarily the opening to your story. The beginning of your story is when the actions start to take shape. The opening may just be the lead to the beginning.
OPENING Here is where you HOOK your reader. Your opening should promise that something different and exciting is going to happen. It should not feel contrived. This means it should not feel obviously planned or forced, artificial or strained. It should be graceful. Your opening should hook the reader in these six ways: (p. 36)
present compelling events
present an unusual character
present a vivid setting
use striking language (not vulgarity or swearing)
an unusual presentation of ideas
using striking technical devices (um... what? getting to that...)
COMPELLING EVENTS Action is the key for this. You need a high action scene.
UNUSUAL CHARACTERS Here you involve the reader with an interesting personality.
SETTING / ATMOSPHERE A vivid image sets the scene and the mood.
STRIKING LANGUAGE In this, you are overlapping ideas and concepts with captivating words and metaphors. The written word is important. Striking words become poetic. Use poetic language or poetry, or an interesting quote that is key to your story.
UNUSUAL IDEAS This is the use of philosophic ideas.
STRIKING TECHNICAL DEVICES This is where you hook your reader with an unconventional appraoch to writing. Experiment with different writing styles, viewpoints, etc.
BEST HOOK! The best hook involves the reader in the action, either physical or psychological. Always remember that the reader will identify with the first person you bring into the story. Make it your hero. Always hint at the pending problem. Captivate the reader with your descriptions. They should feel like they are right there and deeply feel like that NEED to know what come next.
AVOID THESE Avoid promising something you cannot carry through. Avoid hooks with dialogue. Avoid being overly longwinded in your description. (It might have worked for Tolkein... but he is about the only one.) Avoid introducing an interesting character that is not a major part of the story. Avoid philosophic arguments that don't involve a character.
Write an opening in each of the six opening types.
Write an introduction what incorporates the 5W's + H.
Last edited by scarletcougar on Fri Nov 24, 2006 8:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
What makes a character believable? What makes the character credible? MOTIVATION. This means that it is what is in a character's nature... what makes him/her/it WANT to do anything?
MOTIVATING CHARACTERS Motivation begins with a character sketch, picture or word description. This includes specfic traits, clothing, speech, mannerism of actions, their physical makeup, background, psychological nature, merits and flaws. All the things that make your character have depth and personality.
In my own stories, if I have named a character, then that character (no matter how small the role played in the story) has a complete character sketch and background.
Why do we do this? Because your reader needs to be able to picture the details of the character. because you need to understand your character in order to know how your character will react in different situations. Because you want your reader to be INTERESTED in your character. Your reader needs to feel for your characters, love them, hate them, be angry/joyful/crying with them.
DESCRIPTION BASICS It is important to paint a picture of your character. It helps the reader envision the character. Also, the physical description may lend to the personality of the character. A short fat character my have feelings of inadequacy. A tall muscular character might be cocky and pompous.
Here are some basics to include in your descriptions:
hair color and length and texture
It is all in the descriptive adjectives you use.
EX. 1- She has blond hair and brown eyes. 2- She is a vibrant red-head with snapping blue eyes. 3- Her midnight black hair fell in playful ringlets over her mischievous green eyes. 4- His eyes held a dangerous fiery orange glint as he pushed back his scruffy brown hair.
You can see how the descriptives helped. If you use a very flat description, like in #1, then you might fall prey to stereotyping. This is where your description is too flat or vague or over-used that the reader pictures the stereotypical vision of your character. It means you have not taken the time to really look at your character. Thus, your reader does not see the small intricate details that help make your character unique from everyone else.
Create a character using traits that bring out that uniqueness, like you can see in #2-4. You get a sense of the personality or type of person through the description that you used. Character traits are those small catch words or phrases that capture the essence of your character. "Every feature of our body is an outward manifestation of our deepest thoughts and attitudes." (p. 58)
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH SETTING
Sometimes the setting or scene in which you find a character gives the reader an idea of who the character is.
EX #1 He knelt on a silken cushion before the exquisite mahogany carved low meditation table. The finest beeswax candles were lit in a perfect row upon it. Rich deep reds and velvety blacks and glowing golds covered the walls as neat tapestries. Everything had its place and he preferred it thus. He breathed slowly trying to shut out the world of the metal ship around him.
This is a description of Zuko when he was meditating on board of his ship, when he had one. You get the sense from the setting that he is used to finery and comfort like a nobleman. You also get the sense that he is intense, needs exactness, must have what he wants and how he wants it and when. You also sense he is stressed and seeking, though perhaps not succeeding in finding some sort of inner peace. All that from just the description of the scenery.
It would make a huge difference if it were the serene setting of a temple with its gentle breezes and its simplicity. You might think I was talking about Aang and not Zuko then... and yet I would not have said their names. Their personalities, their characters are reflected in their environment.
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH SYMBOLS
Take the symbols of the four nations in Avatar: Earth, Air, Fire and water.
---- Iroh: Fire is the element of power. The people of the Fire Nation have desire and will, and the energy and drive to achieve what they want. Earth is the element of substance. The people of the Earth Kingdom are diverse and strong. They are persistent and enduring. Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom. Also, they apparently had pretty good senses of humor! (Iroh smiles widely, but Zuko doesn't react.) Water is the element of change. The people of the Water Tribe are capable of adapting to many things. They have a deep sense of community and love that holds them together through anything.
Zuko: Why are you telling me these things? ----
In this passage Uncle Iroh describes the four nations and their symbols. And through this, you can see Zuko, Katara, Aang, and Toph are like pure expressions of their nations and their elements.
Other symbols can be just about anything. From my own fanfiction, I used animals:
EX "When Zuko opened his eyes, Faelin could see an overlay of his spirit form in his body. Zuko was like a bright fiery orange dragon. He raised his arms to either side as his spirit self unfolded great wings that only adult dragons possessed."
This is from Zuko's rite of passage into manhood. I used a dragon for its mystery, its power, its strength and the many other symbolic meanings in Chinese/Japanese mythology. Zuko is a dragon of fire.
You see this pattern of symbols used when we meet Toph for the first time in The Bli9nd Bandit episode. Each person in the fighting arena is names something that symbolizes them, like The Boulder.
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH BACKGROUND
Your character's background, their personal history is very important in understanding your character. Sometimes in a story you can help the reader understand your character by showing the reader your character's background.
EX #1 In season one of Avatar, Iroh describes to the crew how Zuko ended up banished and why.
EX #2 In season two, we see flashbacks of Zuko's childhood.
What was your character's home life? What kind of life were they born into? What was their upbringing? What kind of education did they have? What was their place in society? What is their colour, race, creed or religion? Did they follow any traditions? What did they do for personal amusement? What were their hobbies? What were their strengths and weaknesses (their merits and flaws)? What were their dreams?
All this leads to a character's personality and temperment. You will understand how they will react to various situations.
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH ACTIONS
Actions speak louder than words. Describe what your character does and HOW. Also, describe the little actions like facial expressions and gestures. These are the unconscious actions that give away your character's emotions and thoughts.
Don't tell the reader about the character. SHOW THE CHARACTER IN ACTION!
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH SPEECH
"The way people talk reveals a great deal about their personality." (p. 68) Zuko would never use slang for instance. A small child does not know how to use long complex sentences. Speech patters, accents, vocabulary and spoken grammar all give your reader an idea of your character's personality.
The very first words your character speaks should give the reader a hint into who your character is.
DEVELOPING CHARACTER THROUGH CLOTHING
What your character wears also reveals your character's personality. Here you need to pay attention to style, color, texture. Also, you need to show such things as cleanliness or lack thereof and the state of the clothing. Is it well kept or is it frayed at all the edges?
Block descriptions are when a character is introduces you take a small block in a paragraph or a whole new paragraph and give the reader a description in 3-5 sentences. This is good for less important characters or as an introduction to your character but should not be relied upon to give your reader the whole story of your character. Characters should grow and develop through your story.
WEAVING CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT THROUGHOUT STORY
This is where you give your reader tidbits of information and insight into your character throughout the story. It is as if the reader is discovering a new person a little at a time as they would in real life.
"When you intersperse description throughout, make sure that you use enough description to make the character real. It isn't enough to describe a character once in the beginning of the book. Sixty pages later (maybe three or four chapters later), the reader may forget what your character looked like." (P. 72) Remind the reader by repeating a trait or some previous description and then adding to it.
FIRST PERSON CHALLENGE
It is most difficult what you are writing in the first person. You might have your character remember things about themselves. You might give a description as the character passed his or her reflection. Here is where actions especially become important in describing your character. Also, the reader is getting the character idea about him/herself.
Write a biography for each character. This may never be used in its entirety in your story, but it will help you understand your character better
Write up a character chart/sheet for your character. Any roleplaying format or system has one that can help.
DIALOGUE BASICS There are three kinds of dialogue: cliche dialogue, good dialogue and bad dialogue... ok, well actually there are two kinds of dialogue as cliche dialogue often falls into bad dialogue. But this advice doesn't really help you.
All dialogue should be INSIDE quotation marks. " ... "
There are two kinds of dialogue: mechanical fabricated dialogue and natural revealing dialogue. One of the best ways to master dialogue is to listen to people speaking, not just what they say, but HOW they say it. Most people do not speak in grammatically correct ways or even with complete sentences. A noble will speak very differently from a peasant, even if ATLA doesn't make that clear distinction. For example, Zuko was raised as a noble with the very best education. He would speak with better grammar and a more advance vocabulary. Aang, too has had a good education and probably has a wide vocabulary and would speak with many spiritual references. Katara and Sokka came from a small village tribe with no school and were likely educated by family members. They would be able to read and write, but likely speak with more colloquialisms (meaning local words or phrases that are common to their tribe only). Also be aware of cadence (the rhythm) of speech. Nationalities, races, dialects all have their own different rhythms or cadence. Your characters' dialogue should sound natural for who each character is and reveal a bit about them through how they speak, not just what they say. Also, some characters may actually speak using cliches. What is that character's personality?
Try speaking your dialogue out loud to see if it sounds right. Does your dialogue suit your character? Your goal is to sound IC (In Character) and not OOC (Out Of Character), especially when working on a fanfic where there are already established characters and personalities.
WARNING: You should not use too much of this kind of writing. An all dialogue fanfic is both hard to read and loses the actions going on around the conversation.
STRIVE TO BE NATURAL!
Avoid he said / she said and pingpong dialogue. Use actions instead to indicate the tone and mood of who is speaking, or descriptive adjectives and adverbs. The words you use to identify who is speaking are called dialogue tags. They need to be creative and staggered in your dialogue. Also, a bit of narrative will also help break up the long dialogue.
http://theavatarportal.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=42&t=1520#p65581 This chapter needs to have more staggered tags. all the tags happen after the quoted dialogue. Also there is lots of he said / she said type of tags or what we call pingpong dialogue where two people go back and forth without much idea of what they are doing but talking.
POV or Play-writer's Dialogue Some fanfic writers use POV (Point of View) dialogue writing which is similar to writing a drama script. This only works if the tone of each character is established beforehand.
Adjectives & Adverbs These are words that describe nouns or verbs. They help set the mood and tone and take away from the bland he said / she said.
EX. ADJECTIVE Faelin's quiet voice was still heard in through the noise of the busy market square as she spoke in Zuko's ear, "Where to now?"
EX. ADVERB Zuko snapped angrily, "I am NOT angry! I am perfectly calm and in control!"
AVOID THESE Avoid using too much dialogue. Avoid using too many short tags. Avoid irrelevant dialogue. Avoid he said / she said and ping pong dialogue. Avoid unnatural or contrived dialogue. Avoid too much jargon.
ADVICE Dialogue can punctuate an action or smoothly lead into a new scene. For example, in the episodes, you might have Team Avatar talking and wondered what Zuko is up to. Then there will be the switch over to Zuko so we can actually SEE what is going on in the next scene. The conversation lead to the scene switch so it didn't seem like a sudden jump, but a smooth transition instead.
Dialog brings a breath of life to large chunks of textual narrative. "It is a good rule of thumb to have at least a line of dialogue on every page or use thoughts which can act as dialogue." (p. 89)
THOUGHTS AS DIALOGUE Thoughts are the talking that goers on inside your character's head. It shows us what he is thinking and feeling. It gives the reader insight into your character. The reader can then imagine your character's mood and expressions through this. Just remember, the other characters in your story can't hear those thoughts. It is good to indicate thoughts through the use of italics instead of in quotes, quotation marks indicate to the reader that your character has spoken out loud.
"Style is the unique expression of a writer - the way he or she says a thing." (p. 91)
Things that Ruin your Style
What can weaken or ruin your writing style?
Language Traps (tricky)
Poor Spelling (no excuse... use a spellchecker or reread it)
Poor Grammar and Punctuation
Grammar and punctuation require that you practice and maybe use a style guide. There are many style guide out there, Chicago Manual of Style is one. MLA or APA are more formal academic style guides. And there are others depending on what you are writing and who you are writing for. If you are sending to a particular publisher, it is a good idea to find out what style guide that are using or if they have their own. Also, pay attention in class or go take some extra classes in writing and editing. Or, find an editor who can go through your work.
GENERALIZATION TRAP This is one of the most common traps. This means using words or phrases that are loaded or general or can be interpreted in too many ways. For example, the word beautiful means something different to every reader but does not really convey the actual description of the character. You want to use unique descriptions to captivate and excite your reader so they want to keep reading.
A hint to avoiding this trap is to try to paint a picture with your words. Get hold of a thesaurus and dictionary and really describe the scene, people, actions. Just be sure the words you choose are appropriate. Always cross-reference the words you find in the thesaurus to be sure they mean what you want them to.
TRAP OF EXCESSIVE ADJECTIVES Too many adjectives in a sentence to describe a scene makes for long, over-wordy sentences that lose the reader. Too many adjectives can also lead to run-on sentences.
You want to pepper the sentences with a few well chosen adjectives mixed in with some good nouns and expressive verbs.
TRAP OF EXCESSIVE ADVERBS Adverbs are modifiers of verbs and other adjectives (like "very" or words ending in -LY). Be very careful not to over use them. You only need one per paragraph and even then, not always necessary. Instead, use the right noun instead.
CLICHE TRAP Sometimes a cliche will get your point across and may be part of your style. They are better used in the form of dialogue, as in a character speaks using cliches. "Cliches - trite, overused phrases - rob the paragraph of its power.
Here are some links to help you know cliche phrases to avoid.
TRAP OF ARCHAIC WORDS Archaic words are older words that are just not used anymore. To use them in your writing will most likely confuse your reader when you could use a better, more modern word to say the same thing. Write for today. The only time to use archaic words is of you are writing a period (time period) piece, have a character that speaks using archaic terms, or have taken your story into the past (1800's or before).
Here is a link to archaic words and their meanings. Do your best to avoid using them.
INFLATED LANGUAGE TRAP Ever read something and think, "What the heck did that person say? Why are they using big complex and convoluted words? Are they trying to show off their vocabulary? I have to read their work with a dictionary for ever sentences!" This is often how graduate research writing is like. You are writing fiction. Don't show off a big vocabulary of try to impress people with the new big words you found in the thesaurus. Occasionally they are common or appropriate. However, you do not need your readers breaking the flow of what they are reading to keep looking up your words in a dictionary. Your reader will get fed up and lose interest fast.
SLANG TRAP Avoid slang in your writing unless it is the dialogue of a character that speaks in slang. Your regular writing should not have slang in it. Slang is very specific to a location or time and not every reader will understand. Not to mention, it often make you look very uneducated.
FLAT-PHRASE TRAP These are phrases that are made up of cliches. (Go back and read what I said about cliches.) They say nothing new and come across as flat, evoking no new ideas or emotions. Drop the cliche and use some more specific descriptions.
SURFACE-GLAZE TRAP These are prahses and paragraphs that subtle say nothing at all. They skim the surface of what you are trying to say. Often, you can drop them entirely or reword them to be more catchy.
PUNCTUATION TRAP Some punctuation can be a trap. Punctuation sets the pace of the story. Short sentences with periods makes the story very fast paces, which is excellent for action or fight scenes. Longer sentences with occasional commas makes for a slower or more leisurely paced story. Punctuation can help create atmospheric pauses or sharp stops.
Ellipses An ellipsis has three dots ( ... ) with a space on either side. It can be used like a word. In dialogue, it indicated when the voice trails off or pauses in thought. If an ellipsis is at the end of the sentence, it must be followed by a forth dot, the period of the sentence. Do not use this too often. It stalls the story or causes it to drag.
ScarletCougar falls prey to this trap ALOT! Just go read her fanfiction and see if you can spot where the ellipses are over used.
Dash The dash is an interruption in the writing. It is good in dialogue when the speaker is suddenly cut off or interrupted. Sometimes people use it to interrupt their description with a piece of information. In that case, it really is not necessary. Use it sparingly.
Do not confuse the dash with the hyphen. The hyphen is a short dash that combines words (like twenty-four). A dash is a longer line like a double or triple hyphen for interruptions.
Comma There is nothing wrong with using a comma. There is when you overuse it. Commas are used to connect phrases or create a smaller interruption. It can be used to insert a reading breath. The serial comma is used when you are listing a few things. Too many commas means too many breaths and the reader might feel like they are hyperventilating. Or, too many commas will create run-on sentences. Refer to a grammar book to advise you on the proper use of a comma.
This is one of the best online grammar sites I have come across! It discusses everything you need to know about punctuation use.
SENTENCE MONOTONY TRAP This is where a paragraph is made up of all the same type of sentences. They are either always short sentences, always long sentences, or a very long run-on sentence. Don't construct all your sentences the same way. Make some long, some short, some with descriptives, and some with action. Varying length and style will make your writing interesting as opposed to monotonous. Break up the monotony!
WAS AND WERE TRAP This trap is also known as the VERB TO BE TRAP or the PASSIVITY TRAP. This is where you use the verb "to be" (is, are, was, were) instead of an action verb. Action verbs give your story a more active and involving feel.
Example: The cost of production was miscalculated. VS TaoGong miscalculated the cost of production.
Simile & Metaphor This gives you another couple of methods of description.
A simile uses the words "like, as, as if, and seemed" as it provides more depth and additional imagery to your writing.
"Metaphor links two dissimilar things together to form a new insight, a new feeling." (p. 104) It doesn't use the word "like" and does not say something is LIKE something else; it says that something IS something else.
Last edited by scarletcougar on Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
Your setting is your location of your story in the broad sense and the environment for a specific scene in the narrow sense. Settings for scenes are a matter of careful detail and description. Take a moment to write on the side a full description of every item and placement, style and color, shape and size of a room or scenery where your scene takes place. When you know these places as though you were there, then tidbits will creep into your story to help show your reader what you know. Lace a paragraph with some of the descriptions. Use just enough to get the idea of a space, but not so much that the description dominates the paragraph. The scenes should lend to your story not the other way around.
A setting, however, refers more to the overall story. Where does your story take place? What is the scenic backdrop?
EX - Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se (which is where most of my fanfic takes place) during the time of Avatar Aang and Fire Lord Ozai.
This however is not enough to go on and I can't just start a story like that or say so plainly without the story feeling choped the second it starts.
Elements of Settings When Does the Setting Occur? The setting shows up usually in the first page of your story. It includes the time as well. Time is shown through various clues:
means of transportation
The setting gives you a feel for the time, atmosphere, tone and places in your story.
ATMOSPHERE "Atmosphere is the feeling of a particular place; and the writer should try to catch in the initial images those sensations that this particular place evokes." (p. 108) How does a place make you feel? How do you want your reader to feel about the place your story occurs in?
Example: In my fanfic, I am based in the Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se. I try to capture the feeling or poverty by describing crowded, busy, dark, dirty, hungry, refugee. The Lower Ring of Ba Sing Se is where the refugees come in and where the lower income working classes are for the huge metropolis. People struggle for jobs and housing and sometimes are on the streets begging. The darker elements of life (thieves and assassins) are also about. And there is the sense of forced secrecy and oppression as people are reminded to be hushed about certain subjects or they get taken away. Remember Jet when he fought with Zuko? I try to show all that feeling in the descriptions of the location in which my story takes place.
TONE "Tone is the central mood of the story, reveals the author's attitude that shapes the material." (p. 109) It partly defines the genre of the story. Is it a comedy full of humor? Is is a mystery or an adventure. Is it scary and horrific? Is it a romance? Is it dark or bright and optimistic? Is it full of sarcasm and irony? These are things you have to consider for your story and try to be consistent with that tone throughout your story. many good stories mix the tines but there is an overlying greater tone that remains throughout.
SPECIFIC DESCRIPTION OF PLACE Think about your locale and consider the absolute essential things that will help your reader imagine the place. You want to consider historical period, season, time of day, and mood.
You can show the historical period without saying so directly. Describe it in the clothing and furniture and architecture. Mention the means of transportation or technologies in the environment.
Season can also be shown through clothing and and description. Are the characters wearing sweaters or thin clothing? What is the weather like? Is the sky grey and smelling of an icy chill dampness that seeps to the bones or is the heat causing little mirages above the darker stones and causing sweat to dampen the shirt of your character? Does snow collect in the corners of doorways?
Time of day can be describes in the shades around your characters or in their actions. Is there a pale glow in the predawn? Are your characters doing lunch? Is the sun low in the sky stretching the shadows? Does your character yawn with midnight exhaustion?
What is the central mood of a particular scene? This can be captured in unusual imagery. use vivid and precise imagery.
Example: a lonely early morning mood Zuko walks through a vacant street in the silvery grey of morning long before shops and tea houses open. He passes a pygmy panther draped lazily over a fence and ignoring all passers by. The silence blankets the Lower Ring and hushes some of the turmoil in his mind. He stops to notice the perfection of an imperfect spidermouse's web glinting with fresh dew, the spidermouse curled in a tiny ball with an ear twitching at the disturbance of his breath on the web. He walks on through the street like a ghost in a vacant town.
The central mood is both of the story and the character. They reflect each other and help your ready feel for both and imagine all the things you did not describe.
Uses of Setting AS A MEANS OF ESTABLISHING CHARACTER Environment shapes your character and your character's personality, defines how your character developed and how s/he will react with others.
AS A CHARACTER Sometimes the very environment is like a character that other characters interact with. This is the classic Man VS Nature theme.
AS A MEANS OF ESTABLISHING A HISTORICAL PERIOD Your description give the feel for when in time your story takes place. If you are working in a fictional world, this is especially important to help your reader understand the environment and time.
AS DESTINY Your setting can be the destiny or trap in which your character has no escape or is struggling to escape from.
AS A NARRATIVE ELEMENT Here the setting is given is smaller bits that lead into the meat or actions of the story. You will get tidbits of setting sprinkled throughout the story.
AS A SOCIAL PROTEST The setting should be part of your story's theme or message to your readers. It can be used to foreshadow the action in your story. In a movie, or a video game, you hear a particular music that clues you into what is about to happen. Your descriptions of setting can do the same in a written story.
AS A SYMBOL OF THEME Your setting can symbolize the theme of your story. This is a more complex project for writers. Here the very setting is symbolic for the main points in the story.
Develop an opening paragraph for a horror story or love story
Lightly place setting elements between the dialogue of a character
Create a setting with a comedic tone
Talk two paragraphs to develop the setting for your favorite place, including how you feel in that place
Write a setting that reveals the historical period of your story
Foreshadow something to come using setting
Last edited by scarletcougar on Sun Jan 06, 2008 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
HOW TO CREATE THE STORY: Scene, Summary, & Transition
HOW TO DEVELOP THE SCENE A story is told through changing scenes and the summary of events, as well as the revealing of characters. Important events are detailed while the unimportant ones are glassed over, summarized or skipped. The readers don't need to know every time your character takes a piss unless something important for the actual story or character development happens at some point while your character pisses. The summarizing you do between the important nuggets of your story is like a string that ties the story pieces together.
I recommend making an outline of your story in point form listing the key scenes that happen in your story.
Scene Scenes focus on key information and characters interacting with each other or their environment. The reader should feel like they are there seeing and feeling what the characters see and feel, witnessing in person the discussions, drawn in to live the characters' lives. "Scenes must also build up to some kind of insight or revelation. avoid scenes that go no place." (p. 118)
Scenes are like mini stories. They have a beginning, middle and an end. The mini stories link together and form the overall story. You have to decide the purpose of the scene. Will it reveal character? Will it reveal important information? Will it reveal the problems the character is facing? A good scene must have:
Well-described and developed characters
Clearly define conflict (might be an encounter, questions, or internal thoughts)
describe the locale
give a sense of time
specify the emotions expressed
show a definite purpose that moves the story forward or reveals character
have a climax, either major or minor, in which the characters attain insight, reveal goals, or achieve something. It can also be a scene where the reader is more aware of the goals than the actual characters.
The end of the scene should point to the next scene or encourage you to wonder what comes next. Try not to jump scenes too often. That kind of back and forth can sometimes be perfect to reveal things happening simultaneously, but to do that too often only confuses the reader or makes a story choppy and hard to read.
When planning a scene make a list in point form of the key things that must happen in that scene. The points must follow logical order. This becomes your guideline for the scene.
EXAMPLE: Scene - Palace Surprise
Uncle Iroh is excited about invitation he received to the Palace to serve tea to the king
Iroh shares news with Zuko
Zuko is pleased to see his Uncle happy but continues his work in the Jasmine Dragon Tea House
Both travel with tea supplies to the palace
When they enter the throne room, they discover there is no king but Azula sitting on the throne
Azula welcomes them with a scheming expression
These points can become the individual paragraphs of the scene. The scene needed to be broken down to pictures, like in a comic book. Each point is one square picture of that comic. Each square picture can be described in a paragraph. So, this scene has six paragraphs. Each paragraph is different idea or a different perspective. You change paragraphs when you change ideas, point of view, or a different person's dialogue.
Key scenes are large important points in your story. They don't resolve the story, but they help determine the outcome of the story.
How to Show & Not Tell Dramatize your event or scene. Don't tell it.
They did this and then that and then that and feel like this and feel like that
That was telling. You want to describe the scene. You want to show what they did through the actions and events and dialogue. You want to show how the feel with descriptive words and facial expressions. Your characters, viewpoints, settings, and actions will be more clearly defined. Good use of adjectives will help paint the pictures with words and help the reader feel what your characters feel.
How does your character feel? What is your character thinking? Instead of saying they ate dinner, say they sat at a fine black lacquered table as the delicate aroma of steaming dumplings rose from the dim sum baskets before them. Instead of saying they had kissed/had sex, play the scene out. You can use metaphors if you are writing for a PG rated audience. But if you are writing for adults, you want to capture the experience. Know your audience. Young teens focus on shipping and falling in love. Adults focus on romance and deeper intimacy. Do not make kissing scenes or sex scenes the dominant or frequently.
SUMMARY/NARRATION Narration fills in the gaps, bridges the the bits of scenery and helps provide clarity. It can also be used to show time passing. Use narration to describe a locale, give background to a situation, provide new information, offer a glimpse into the motivations of characters or the events to follow.
Too much summary or narration is boring. It needs to be broken by key scenes, enlivened with dialogue, thoughts, mini scene's, brief character interactions.
Design of the Work Everything important should be shown in a scene. Balance narration with scenes. Too much narration is coring. Too many scenes loses the story structure. Sometimes you can look at a bit of narration and transform it into a scene. Sometimes, a scene is not really that important and you can change it for narration instead.
TRANSITION Transitions are the smooth words or phrases that move the reader from scene to scene. You don't want to jump around and make sudden shifts, not too often. You want one idea to lead into the next. The story should not feel jerky. One of the big challenges of a story is the passage of time, where you especially need careful transitions to help the reader understand this. The next challenge is to write so "the reader anticipates transitions." (p. 124)
Some ways of making transitions are through:
the hiatus (4 blank lines)
the one-sentence transition
the standard phrase
the longer passage transition
The Hiatus This indicates a major change in place, time, or point of view. To use this, simple put four blanks lines between the last paragraph and the next. Sometimes a little line indicator for decoration can also be used. Overuse of the hiatus makes a very jerky story, use it sparingly.
EX: This is the last line of my last scene and I want to use a hiatus to show a major shift .
And now I can start the next paragraph...
The One-Sentence Transition You can use a single sentence to show a short change.
EX: Aang saddled Appa and the Gaang flew to the Western Air Temple.
This shows a change in both time and place. We can go from the scene in the Fire Islands to the scene in the Western Air Temple and know that time has also passed for that journey.
The Standard Phrase A standard phrase is not a complete sentence. It is a short few words that are added to the beginning of a sentence or at the end. They are called standard because they are very common indicators that are also extremely clear.
EX: the next morning that afternoon in spring by summer at dawn
They are simple bridges for time. Try not to over use these either as that will only show that you are a lazy writer with a lack of imagination. Vary the types of transitions you use throughout your story.
The Longer Passage transition This is where you write a small paragraph about the transition. It helps create atmosphere and develop characters. Try not to let it become the norm or long narrative, though.
An example of this kind of transition would include the time we see the gaang walking to the Western Air Temple and Sokka is complaining about his feet. We see that there is a transition of both time and location, but also get to see hints of what is going on in that transition.
Transition Through Dialogue You can have the characters interact and converse as they move from place to place. They can suggest to one another about where to go and decide where and when to meet through dialogue.
Transition Through Thought In this form of transition, you have one character thinking through a variety of issues to pass the time and use some key words to lead into the next scene. You character might be wondering where someone is, then you can switch scenes to the person s/he was thinking about.
Transition Through Emotion Expressing a character's emotions about something can lead into the actions that person will then take, thus changing scene and moving the story long. This is like when Aang reminisced with excitement about riding Giant Koi that lead to the Gaang doing exactly that.
Transition Through Objects This form of transition involves describing changes to an object in your story. The state of the object changes and thus indicates the passage of time or the change in some kind of state in your story. Some easy objects to use to show time passing are drinks, food, and trees.
Transition Through Time In this type of transition, you can state the time directly.
EX: Scarlet glanced at her computer and noticed that she had been working far to late for it was two o'clock in the morning.
Zuko stood on the bow of his ship as the noon sun beat down upon him.
Transition Through Weather You can use seasonal weather to show change in time, even smaller changes in the weather of a day. Indicate in one sentence with the state of the weather (The grey sky threatened rain all evening.) and in a further sentence indicate the change (The rain beat against the roof still when I woke at dawn, not that you could remotely tell it was dawn.)
Transition Through Narration Narration is like a brief summary of the changes that have occurred. Summary should not be a common use of transition. You want to show people the changes not tell them in summary. Summary is helpful when a length of time happens with little of actual interest for the story or character development occurs, then summarize in a few sentences.
Transition Through Name Naming a character can help with transition, too. Mentioning a character not in the scene can lead to the next scene that includes the character.
EXERCISES 1- Write three different scenes involving your character, then use three different types of transitions to tie them together 2- Write a short summary of events highlighting the small but useful notes in the lives of a character. 3- Try each of these transitions.
Last edited by scarletcougar on Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
Stories can be told in many different ways: Chronological A series of flashbacks Time shifts Frame Structure
Chronological Time This is a challenging means of writing your story because it is too easy to relate boring details and lose your reader. You have to be sure that the points in time you write about are both pertinent and interesting.
The advantage of chronological time is that your readers are carried along with your characters as the story moves. background points and interesting tidbits can be slipped in without losing the pace of your story or halting your action.
*my fanfic is an example of a story done in chronological order*
Stories in chronological order work best if you include some other time elements along the way, like the occasional flashback. Also, if there is a section of time where little of interest happens, then a time jump is needed.
Series of Flashbacks There are three kinds of flashbacks. Reflecting, remembering, and actual experience. Reflecting flashbacks are when a character is thinking internally about the present with past examples. Remembering flashbacks are when a character is thinking back and remembering something, focusing on a past experience. Actual experience flashbacks are a little bit more tricky as they take the reader right back into the scene of the past to re-experience something.
There are important hinge phrases to indicate to your reader that you are about to engage in a flashback.
- Iroh thought back to the days he and Zuko played in a field, how proud he was then of his nephew in the sun. He was just as proud now seeing him on the stairs. - Sokka remembered the day his father left... - Zuko's head hit the dusty rocks in his defense of Lee. How long had it been since his rock or the rock splashed in the pool at the turtleducks...
There are also hinge phrases for when you return from a flashback to let your reader know the flashback is over.
- Now, almost 10 years later, Zuko was the fugitive fighting for the rights of the innocent, as his mother argued for the rights of a helpless baby turtleduck.
- Iroh knelt in prayer under the tree gazing at the picture of his son. He could not believe that it had been nearly 10 years since his son's death.
BEWARE of HAD-itis. This is when you overuse the word HAD in a flashback. You should not use the word HAD more than twice in your flashback.
Flashback Through Narrative In the narration, you use a hinge or a time reference and continue with narrating a vivid scene in the past.
Zuko stood on the shore next to Aang. Not more than six months ago, they were dire nemeses. Zuko had hunted Aang across the world. Aang smiled over now with his usual goofy grin to break Zuko of his seriousness. The corner of Zuko's mouth twitched up to Aang's satisfaction.
Flashback Through Reverie
Alone on the cliff, Sokka stared up at the moon. He closed his eyes and basked in its soft glow as he reflected on how Yue's gentle hands had held his. Her last kiss was but a ghosting on his lips. Suki's hand on his shoulder broke his dream and he sighed. They turned to walk back to the camp together.
Flashback Through Dialogue
A good example of this is shown in the episode of The Storm where Iroh tells the crew of Zuko's ship what had actually happened to the teen and how Zuko got his scar.
Flashback Through Self-Analysis In the depths of the crystal cave prison he shared with Katara, she yelled at him for the cruelties his people had taken out on her people,on her personally. "They took my mother away from me," she said brokenly through her tears as she touched her mother's necklace at her throat.
Zuko watched over her shoulder, regretting how he had used that necklace against her to try to get information about the avatar. At least, though, she had something of her mother. He had nothing of his but the memory as he admitted to Katara, "That's something we have in common."
Flashback By Comparing Past with Present
Zuko had scoffed at the peasants and regarded their simple lives and crude and primitive. Now, he slept in a peasant's barn marveling at their inner strength to make so little mean so much.
Flashback Through Reminiscing Iroh laughed heartily over his cup of tea. "When I was a young man," he told Toph, "I too wanted my freedom. I joined the army and traveled the world! But there is no harm in knowing that there are people, friends and even family, not far away who can help you up when you fall."
Toph smiled blindly as she understood this old man's implications to her own situation. "Your nephew is very lucky to have someone like you. You should let him know though, that you need him too. Thank you for the tea. I think I am ready to go back to my friends now."
Flashback By Using Objects to Evoke the Past
Zuko thumbed the inscription on the dagger. He remembered when he first received the dagger from his uncle so many years ago. He was no older than the boy standing in front of him now and no less excited. He handed the dagger to the boy hoping it would given him a fighting chance that he didn't otherwise have in this war.
Flashback By Using Letters or Diaries to Reveal the Past
Your character might be keeping a diary that someone peruses early entries and thus the readers discover something of the character's past. Or, maybe your character has a shoebox under the bed containing love letter.
Ever wonder what Iroh's youth was like? If he had a diary, oh man! The stories it would reveal. Maybe we would find out he had a love affair with Ursa and that Zuko was actually the product of that secret love and not a product of Ozai. Wouldn't that explain a lot?!
Time Shifts / Jumps While flashbacks are clearly marked by hinge words or statements, the time shift is a graceful or smooth slip into the past. It is gradual and then delicately bridged back to the present. The text slips in a way into the past before the reader realizes it and then almost makes a double-take to reread and realize it was a small time shift. You can expand the small time shift into a mini scene even (called a scenette).
The Frame This is where you intro a story at the present time, however the story itself is entirely in the past and the conclusion of the story is again in the present. This works well for someone telling of a past history. The present frames the story of the past.
Montage A montage is a series of small descriptives to slowly show the passage of time when simply saying a year passed will not adequately do, especially if there are some important benchmarks in the story that need to be identified to understand the story or move it alone. It is a series of sentences or paragraphs that jump through time like looking through a series of photos and gleaning the important events of each small scene.
Write a scene where the hero faces a problem and flashback to the events that caused the problem.
Write a scene using a flashback trigger, like an object.
Write a framed short story.
Write a paragraph montage showing several months passing.
Last edited by scarletcougar on Mon Mar 02, 2009 11:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The theme is the message that permeates the entire storyline. "What is the MEANING of the story? (p. 137)
INTENTION Stories have a life of their own sometimes, their own meaning or intention for being written. It may or may not be the author's intention for writing it. The intention an author has for writing a story is often just the spark of creativity as the meaning or intention of the story unfolds.
Every element must reflect the theme. The theme is the glue that holds the story together. It must touch the plot, the characters, the tone, the atmosphere, the style... everything. It is the idea that is felt and experienced by the reader, however simple or complex.
How do you go about finding the theme? Generally characters reveal them. (p. 138) Clues to discovery are:
Why did I write this?
What emotions do I feel?
What did I want to show?
Why did I choose this particular person for my main character? What does this person represent?
What is the meaning behind the character's main speeches?
DEVELOPMENT I have a theme! Now what? Now you go back through your story and make sure your theme is reflected throughout. Edit out superfluous or irrelevant scenes. Make sure the story drives to the goal and addresses the minor and major theme points.
Write the theme somewhere to use like a reference or a mantra. It should be a complete sentence and should be very precise.
THEME WORK Theme can be revealed through dialogue. Let the main character state the theme directly, or have another character state it to the main character.
Theme can be revealed through a character, through the descriptions and actions of the character.
Theme can be revealed through action. It can be implied through the actions taking place within the story.
Theme can be revealed through motif. This is an image that is repeated in the story, like the chorus of a song repeats throughout a song.
Theme can be revealed through atmosphere. This is the feeling that a location or scenery surrounding an event takes place.
Theme can be revealed through symbols. Symbols stand for other things, like gold means wealth. Symbols are think with layers of meaning and can thus be used to reveal the many aspects of the theme every time they arise in the story. They can be subtly added to descriptions or boldly made blatant to characters and readers alike.
LAST PARAGRAPH TIE-IN This is very important for your theme. It is here that you punctuate the theme or even openly state it. The story builds to this point. You round off your story and conclude it with the clarification of the theme. This can be done through directly stating the theme or showing it through a scene or image description.