Some advice for when you’re writing and find yourself stuck in the middle of a scene:
- kill someone
- ask this question: “What could go wrong?” and write exactly how it goes wrong
- switch the POV from your current character to another - a minor character, the antagonist, anyone
- stop writing whatever scene you’re struggling with and skip to the next one you want to write
- write the ending
- write a sex scene
- use a scene prompt
- use sentence starters
- read someone else’s writing
Never delete. Never read what you’ve already written. Pass Go, collect your $200, and keep going.
sonelucyjane said: Hey there! I have this issue with the first book in a series I'm writing, so I'm asking around a bit for advice. It's because the series is set in a fictional country, and I'm worried about how I could put across that it's a made up place existing in the real world without laying descriptions of it on too thick (especially in chapter one) or confusing the reader as to what's going on. Advice would be very helpful!
Remember, your characters live in this world, so they’re going to describe it to someone else as if they are at least somewhat familiar with the world as well. Even in the third person, you want to keep the feeling that the environment is familiar to the characters, because it will be. A few things to keep in mind.
- Bare Bones It. People read Tolkien for Tolkien, but very few books can come across as travelogues anymore when it comes to descriptions. You may have a painted picture of a setting, but you want to leave room for the reader’s imagination. Break it down to the essential bits that captures the character of a place - sharp rocks in frightening terrain, gentle slopes in friendly hills - and don’t feel like you have to list every flower. Your reader will get it.
- Places in Novels Have Character. As I mention, capturing the character of a place is important and fun to do when making up worlds. You can do this by using lighting, climate, character emotions and mood to really make the place stand out. Somewhere where the characters are frightened and scared may have hostile features; if the characters return later, calmed down at happy, those features will seem completely different. Pick up your favorite books and note how places are described depending on how the characters feel.
- Don’t Rely on Maps. I have never once glanced at a map included in a book when reading it. I know there are those that do, but the inclusion of a map the reader may have to flip to during reading will hinder. Instead, be sure to give the readers a sense of direction and change when characters move to different places. Traveling north will replace the farmland with mountains and valleys, traveling south will bring warmer weather. This helps you as well.
- Don’t worry about getting it all right at once. Dump as much description as you want in the first draft - it’s easier to cut it down to what truly captures the setting later than to struggle to fill things in. Remember, you have many opportunities to get it right, so don’t fret it going in. Set the world for you, then fix it tight for your reader.
First off, let me say that I’m writing this because I have been having Harry Potter post-Battle of Hogwarts feels recently and because I just caught up on the Naruto manga today. One thing that is done really well in both of them and that can sometimes work really well is this idea of a multigenerational mirror.
This is a little bit simpler in Harry Potter, where there are two generations that you see. The first generation is that of the original Order of the Phoenix and—even before that—the Marauders. James Potter, Remus Lupin, and Sirius Black are the first set, with Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley being their second-generation mirror images. I’ve seen the argument that Neville Longbottom is the second-generation mirror image of Peter Pettigrew, or would have been, had his character been slightly different. Beyond that, the first generation is the original Order of the Phoenix, and the second-generation mirror image is Dumbledore’s Army or, debatably, the new Order of the Phoenix.
It’s a bit more blatant in Naruto, especially when they show the images actually transitioning into each other. It’s more multi-generational in Naruto. The clearest set starts at generation one with the team run by Hiruzen (third Hokage) and contains Orochimaru, Jiraiya, and Tsunade. Generation two has the team run by Jiraiya and contains Minato (fourth Hokage) and two other unnamed people (one male and one female). Generation three has the team run by Minato and contains Kakashi, Obito, and Rin. Generation four has the team run by Kakashi and contains Sasuke, Naruto, and Sakura. Long story short, each team (possibly other than the gen 2 team) contains a male with innate ability, a clumsy male who works hard and wants to impress the female. In two of the four generations, the male with innate ability defects.
Long story short, the generations mirror each other, but with different results each time.
If you’re going to do this, it can be great, or it can be terrible. In one way, it’s like bookends to a story—you end the same way you started, but with some difference, something that makes it clear what has changed between the beginning and the end. It’s a time-honored tool to end stories, poems, and everything else. If you do it badly, though, it just looks like laziness.
The first thing to remember is that you need two (or more) generations. This may sound really obvious, but you need to actually have both ends of the bookend.
Second thing is that there needs to be a connection between the two generations. In Harry Potter, the connection is a war. Depending on how you look at it, it was either one war or two, given that there was one enemy both times, but it’s easier to look at it as two wars for the sake of this. The first generation fought in the war and then it ended when they thought they won. The next generation starts in some ways at the same place that the first generation did—before a war. The difference is that the second generation comes out of the ashes of one war and as a result they are just different enough for the end result to be different.
It’s a lot more complicated in Naruto, in large part because Naruto is hugely complicated (and just released chapter 692), but one of the more superficial similarities is that a member of each generation taught the next generation. There are wars that tie the generations to each other, but that would literally take 692 chapters to explain fully, so I’m not going to try here.
Wars or some other sort of traumatic event, especially ones that can/are repeated, are often the best sort of connection. Especially if the first one ends in a loss or only partial win, you can show the second generation winning because the first generation lost, rising up out of the ashes as a slightly changed phoenix. (The pun was accidental).
Next, you need the mirror. It’s one thing to say that one generation works after the other one and succeeds where the previous one failed. That’s not what we’re looking for. Instead, the idea is that the generations reflect each other, that the second generation looks like the first generation, but there are differences, enough warps and cracks and flaws in the mirror that it’s just different enough to win when the previous generation lost. Orphans are a clear way to do this. One major difference between James Potter and Harry Potter: James grew up with a loving family while Harry did not. The Peter/Neville mirror is an interesting one to look at, too. It could be argued that Neville is different than Peter directly because of the first war against Voldemort; he knew his parents were heroes, and that was why he was so loyal. Especially if you’re coming out of a war, there should be orphans, and children with broken parents and broken families, and children whose parents might have been on the wrong side of the war.
The biggest thing to avoid is making the mirror too obvious. Naruto does this a bit, but try to make sure that you don’t spend all of your time talking about how similar character from gen. 2 is to character form gen. 1. Make it as subtle as you can without making it so it’ll go over everyone’s head. Lupin and Hermione are both bookworms who are from backgrounds that led to discrimination, but Rowling doesn’t spend her time writing Lupin=Hermione. If you follow the mirror logic, though, that is exactly how it works.
I have these friends and they’re really close but they aren’t in love. How do I make sure the audience doesn’t think they’re a couple?
Your close friends are going to do the following:
- Feel: differently based on what their friend is feeling, jealous if someone else is with their friend, extreme sympathy/empathy for whatever their friend is feeling, anxious when they are parted from their friend, that their friend is attractive (if they are)
- Know: what the other is feeling, what the other means when they say a certain thing, each others’ body language, almost everything about them
- Touch: hug, snuggle, hold hands, sit on each others’ laps, maybe even kiss
- Speak: talk about their relationship (where it’s been, where it’s heading, where it is), announce their love for each other, tease/flirt with each other, tell each other they want to spend 5ever together, comfort each other in times of distress
- Trust: tell each other secrets, let them manage each others’ affairs
- Want: their friend’s attention, to be in their life, to be the best companion they possibly can be, their friend to socialize with their children (if any) like another parent
OMG THEY ARE ♡♡COUPLE♡♡?!
Not quite. Your close friends are not going to do the following:
- Find their friend’s appearance sexually appealing
- Want to have sex with their friend
- Want to date/marry their friend
- Want to take the place of their friend’s romantic/sexual partner (if any)/feel jealous of that partner because they are romantically/sexually involved with the friend
- Want to touch their friend in a romantic/sexual way
People (inside and outside the book) are always going to think your friends are romantically involved, and there’s not much you can do about it. As long as you know they’re friends and you’ve tried the best you can to indicate that, you’ve done your job.
"I wish I wasn’t here- I wish I wasn’t human anymore"
"He leaned against the crumbling wall with a look that said he had been waiting for her"
Anonymous said: Hello! I've been thinking about writing a story that includes magic and weaponry (I have the characters and scenes kind of floating about in my head) but when I try to put it in a genre, it seems that it fits in medieval fantasy, and I'm not too familiar writing such a genre. What should I do?
You only have to worry about genre when you’re trying to write a smaller, more specific genre (such as steampunk) or when you’re trying to sell your story.
Don’t worry what genre it is right now. If you do want to write a medieval fantasy, you’ll have to research the time period and culture you’re writing about (even if you make up a place you’ll have to research some stuff) and read a lot of medieval fantasy.
However, here is a list of fantasy genres (keep in mind that many fantasy novels can fit into more than one category):
- Alternate World: A setting that is not our world, but may be similar. This can include a character traveling to another world or a setting that is simply an alternate version of ours.
- Arabian: Fantasy that is based in or on the Middle East and North Africa. This also includes folk tales and epic poems, which make up the majority of this genre.
- Arthurian: Set in Camelot (most of the time) and deals with Arthurian mythology and legends.
- Celtic: Fantasy that is based on the Celtic people and culture, most often post La Tene culture.
- Christian: This genre has Christian themes and elements alongside fantasy elements.
- Classical: Based on Roman and Greek myths. Sometimes it includes Kemetism.
- Contemporary/Modern: This genre takes place in modern society in which paranormal and magical creatures live among us. An example would be the Harry Potter series.
- Dark: This genre combines fantasy and horror elements. The tone or feel of dark fantasy is often gloomy, bleak, and gothic.
- Epic: This genre is long and, as the name says, epic. Epic is similar to high fantasy, but has more importance, meaning, or depth. Epic fantasy is most often in a medieval setting.
- Gaslamp: Also known as gaslight, this genre has a Victorian or Edwardian setting.
- Gunpowder: Gunpowder crosses epic or high fantasy with “rifles and railroads”, but the technology remains realistic unlike the similar genre of steampunk. It’s like putting elves on a pirate ship or putting werewolves in the Wild West.
- Heroic: Centers on one or more heroes who start out as humble, unlikely heroes thrown into a plot that challenges them.
- High: This is considered the “classic” fantasy genre. High fantasy contains the general fantasy elements and is set in a fictional world. It is often heroic or epic as well.
- Historical: The setting in this genre is any time period within our world that has fantasy elements added.
- Medieval: Typically set in Europe during the early to late middle ages.
- Mythic: Fantasy involving or based on myths, folklore, and fairy tales.
- Paranormal/Supernatural: Involves supernatural and paranormal creatures as the source of fantasy, such as werewolves, vampires, and ghosts. Romance is often present.
- Portal: Involves a portal, doorway, or other entryway that leads the protagonist from the “normal world” to the “magical world”.
- Quest: As the name suggests, the protagonist in this genre sets out on a quest. The protagonist most frequently searches for an object of importance and returns home with it or with a prize.
- Science Fantasy: A genre that combines science fiction and fantasy. An example is Star Wars.
- Sword and Sorcery: Settings in which the characters use swords and engage in action-packed plots. Magic is also an element, as is romance. These can be set in many time periods.
- Sword and Soul: Similar to Sword and Sorcery and heroic fantasy, but African-inspired. However, the genre is spreading to other subgenres of fantasy.
- Urban: Has a modern or urban setting in which magic and paranormal creatures exist, often in secret. It also has elements of horror.
- Wuxia: A genre in which the protagonist learns a martial art and follows a code. This genre is popular in Chinese speaking areas.