Author Topic: Writing Tips  (Read 20262 times)

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Merlandese

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Writing Tips
« on: February 29, 2012, 05:26:49 PM »
I've been writing for school a lot recently, and I noticed that I was using the word "utilize" a bit too often. Despite having heard it in context a million times, I couldn't think of an appropriate definition and figured it was a synonym for "use." That made me wonder why I was using "utilize" when I could just as easily have been using "use." So I looked it up and got a rather satisfactory answer.

I wanted to make this thread so that we can all share our writing tips with each other, hopefully to better our abilities as writers. If you think you know something about writing and care to explain, please do! Also, if you have writing preferences or certain things you do or don't like to read, place it here! Evidence for writing rules are always welcome.

Of all of the articles differentiating "use" and "utilize," I found this to be the most succinct: Here

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"Use" is to employ objects for the purposes they were designed for.

"Utilize," on the other hand, is to employ objects for unintended purposes.


Also, as some personal advice, I abstain from using the word "began" as much as possible. Read through some poor writing and you might notice that things "begin" a lot. "The water began dripping," "the earth began to rumble," etc.

I find that there are many words and many ways to re-structure a sentence that make it sound good. If most sentences have the word "began" in them, the structure of the sentence also falls within two bland variations. Overuse can make it seem like the author has a sentence-shaped cookie cutter with Began filling.

« Last Edit: February 29, 2012, 06:58:14 PM by Merlandese »

Just Lance

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2012, 06:07:25 PM »
Mmm that's interesting. If you keep with this I could utilize this and finally begin to conquer and defeat my writing block.
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Cef

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2012, 08:09:24 PM »
Hey cool~!

I think it helps if you have people go over the first draft of your stuff before considering it done. Or, better yet, you read it out loud yourself. Your mistakes in the grammar and styling of the writing becomes more noticeable that way since you get a different perspective over the writing. It's a technique my prof employs in our essay writing class, and, I have to say, it's extremely effective.

For creative writing tips, I suggest giving Limyaael a look. She's better at giving advice than me lol.
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Merlandese

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2012, 08:22:04 PM »
That's a great tip, and I completely agree with it.

Vasha

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #4 on: February 29, 2012, 11:25:25 PM »
Advice on stereotypes: If they're too obvious, they're extremely annoying. But if done well or subverted or whatnot, they can be kind of fun.

Also, don't be too informal in your writing. This goes mostly for creative writing, cuz essays you shouldn't be informal at all, but if you're too relaxed when you're writing, it looks just kind of sloppy. Give your paragraphs/dialogue/story/everything good structure. (I still cringe when I remember the first time I ever wrote something, and anything that wasn't speech was dictated through closed-captioning-like speech, like *whistling* and *singing in the shower*)

ALSO, that reminds me. PARAGRAPHS ARE YOU FRIENDS. It's one of the most basic things we learn when learning about Grammar, that EVERY TIME A NEW PERSON SPEAKS YOU HAVE A PARAGRAPH BREAK. So many of the people that I've seen who experiment with writing just seem to have totally thrown that rule out of their mind. I did, too, when I first started back in elementary school, but it is SO IMPORTANT.

Also (Wow, I was planning on saying only one thing here), lay off the crazy names. Just because it's a fictional world, that doesn't give you an excuse to have your characters named Asfsa, Zaaaajcqu, and Flynrdl (and Bob). Stick with names that people can actually pronounce.

Mmm that's interesting. If you keep with this I could utilize this and finally begin to conquer and defeat my writing block.

Haha, utilize :P

Cef

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2012, 03:14:29 AM »
Advice on stereotypes: If they're too obvious, they're extremely annoying. But if done well or subverted or whatnot, they can be kind of fun.

Also, don't be too informal in your writing. This goes mostly for creative writing, cuz essays you shouldn't be informal at all, but if you're too relaxed when you're writing, it looks just kind of sloppy. Give your paragraphs/dialogue/story/everything good structure. (I still cringe when I remember the first time I ever wrote something, and anything that wasn't speech was dictated through closed-captioning-like speech, like *whistling* and *singing in the shower*)

ALSO, that reminds me. PARAGRAPHS ARE YOU FRIENDS. It's one of the most basic things we learn when learning about Grammar, that EVERY TIME A NEW PERSON SPEAKS YOU HAVE A PARAGRAPH BREAK. So many of the people that I've seen who experiment with writing just seem to have totally thrown that rule out of their mind. I did, too, when I first started back in elementary school, but it is SO IMPORTANT.

Also (Wow, I was planning on saying only one thing here), lay off the crazy names. Just because it's a fictional world, that doesn't give you an excuse to have your characters named Asfsa, Zaaaajcqu, and Flynrdl (and Bob). Stick with names that people can actually pronounce.


Points that I agreed with strongly are bolded. Initially, I've been avoiding those things since I realized how tacky those were in serious writing, but after some time, I've come to realize some things:


- Subverting cliches and stereotypes and/or remaking them is the best. The reason they're cliches now is because someone once used them RIGHT, and hack jobs think that if they do that too, they'd be awesome too. The thing about cliches is that when done right, they can be genuinely interesting.

For example, docile, beautiful princesses can just be as good as wild, rebellious princesses, you just have to actually give her a personality and develop her character. It can be big, like the docile princess standing up to her evil uncle and asserting her rule, or small things, like learning to press flowers from a servant. Wild princesses can be done horribly wrong as well. It's HOW you present them that determines their effectiveness.

The 'chosen hero' cliche is probably one of my favorite cliches to work with, simply because there's a wide range of possibilities for that. The 'chosen one' status may actually be a bad thing, like in Tales of Symphonia, or is something that's totally different from the implied purpose, or was played out to be a BAD THING, like in Scrapped Princess. The only thing you have to think about when making a 'chosen one' plot is what exactly is the hero chosen to do? Who chose them and why?

- The thing about paragraphs is that they really are like people in that can be your best friends, but if you abuse them, it gets ugly real fast.

Some people go overboard in paragraph breaks.

And don't realize that just because you put a break, it doesn't mean that it looks good.

And that it actually makes it harder to read.

Other people use paragraphs too much to the point that you just wanna cry from the eyestrain. Sure, they're good for information, but they tend to get overboard and include every comment they can think of in the paragraph. It looks hella ugly as well. Amateur writers must learn how to differentiate appropriate breaks from inappropriate breaks because of this. Usually, reading it over either out loud or with a friend works, because you can see how the paragraph flows, and you can see whether it's appropriate or not. Same with really long sentences that lose sight of the subject in that it just goes on and on and on and on until you forget what you're writing about. Sure long sentences are awesome but they have massive drawbacks as well, and the smae goes for short sentences, much like my point with the paragraph things because separation is a vital thing in writing after all.

(lol self-demonstrating)

- Truth be told, I love crazy names, especially ones with good meanings. But it only works when A) You can pronounce it, and B) You can make a plausible, nicer sounding nickname out of it, or C) It's actually a pretty simple name.

For example, my character is named Dagrun Blaire. The first name really does exist, BTW. His friends always call him 'Dee' or 'Blaire', or sometimes even 'DB'. So learn to work with nicknames before you decide to give them a crazy name.

An example of a good, simple, crazy name is (and I apologize for the Homestuck) Karkat Vantas. Easy to pronounce, simple, and still strange enough to be counted as a crazy name.

I can understand the urge to give characters long, ridiculous names, but when making a long name, consider this: Is that the character's full name? How many 'names' make up their full name? Are some of them simply titles given to them? How ridiculous and hard is it to remember? And finally, what do they tell people to call them?

[/rant]
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Vasha

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2012, 11:22:23 PM »
Personally, I think that as you add characterization to a cliche, it's not really a cliche anymore. Cliches are pretty much stock characters: you recognize "oh, this is the idiot hero" right away, and then you never both giving them more backstory.

Or the thing that I addmitedly have a problem with is actually stock backstories :P I think "hmm... this person needs some emotional connection... I KNOW, let's kill of their parents!" XD I do that a lot, though I'm trying to kick the habit.

Cef

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2012, 06:19:52 AM »
Personally, I think that as you add characterization to a cliche, it's not really a cliche anymore. Cliches are pretty much stock characters: you recognize "oh, this is the idiot hero" right away, and then you never both giving them more backstory.

Or the thing that I addmitedly have a problem with is actually stock backstories :P I think "hmm... this person needs some emotional connection... I KNOW, let's kill of their parents!" XD I do that a lot, though I'm trying to kick the habit.

Well, to me, a cliche means 'overused', or 'overly popular'.

I have a bad habit of giving my characters unusual backstories, though not all of them are tragic. But giving each character tragic or boring backstories can be done interestingly as well. One kid whose parents were brutally murdered won't react the same way another kid who experienced the same does. Each person reacts and develops differently in similar tragedies, so taking that in account would really help with their development and make them genuine people, and not just walking stencils with dialogue.

One fun think I like doing is mixing and matching cliche tragic backstories with some regular life stuff and some weird things. Then afterwards, I try and see what direction that character's personality develops into. Usually the end result can be pretty surprising. Some of my most unusual results were a necromantic grimdark healer mage who's partially dead (because his blood and flesh have more or less been replaced with venom and/or diseases), a green-haired vampire who has the personality of a smug internet troll, and a master of runic magic who's both extremely off-kilter and extremely forgetful.

Try it, and see what weirdo you end up with!
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Vasha

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2012, 06:15:41 PM »
I have a bad habit of giving my characters unusual backstories, though not all of them are tragic. But giving each character tragic or boring backstories can be done interestingly as well. One kid whose parents were brutally murdered won't react the same way another kid who experienced the same does. Each person reacts and develops differently in similar tragedies, so taking that in account would really help with their development and make them genuine people, and not just walking stencils with dialogue.

While, that's true, I do it a bit too much. I have... at least three I can think of just off the top of my head who all had their parents die (ooh, wait, four, though that one had rather different circumstances), but there probably are/might be more.

Cef

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2012, 07:11:59 PM »
I have a bad habit of giving my characters unusual backstories, though not all of them are tragic. But giving each character tragic or boring backstories can be done interestingly as well. One kid whose parents were brutally murdered won't react the same way another kid who experienced the same does. Each person reacts and develops differently in similar tragedies, so taking that in account would really help with their development and make them genuine people, and not just walking stencils with dialogue.

While, that's true, I do it a bit too much. I have... at least three I can think of just off the top of my head who all had their parents die (ooh, wait, four, though that one had rather different circumstances), but there probably are/might be more.

I have at least five that I can immediately recall, though their parents did not all die the same ways. In fact, a few of them are old enough to see their parents die of old age, and one, who was raised by a single mother, saw her parent die from illness. Not all parents have to be brutally murdered in front of them.

And besides, I have the excuse of a very large cast list in a somewhat crapsack-y world. >=P
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Vasha

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #10 on: March 03, 2012, 03:10:18 PM »
Here's the ones I was thinking of.

1)  Sara Lingerman - Her parents died off-page; she doesn't know how; it was pretty much just to torture her, because she 'needed to have a ~troubled past~
2)  Some dude from one of my first ever stories who I don't even know how they died the just died. ~Emotional appeal!~
3)  Judas - One parent may be alive, Judas got the other parent killed when he was like 12 or something.
4)  Kai - Parents murdered in a lycan/lycanthrope/werewolf attack. This one actually works well into his story, though, it wasn't just a throw-in.

...And I really thought that I did this more often. Huh. Weird.

Merlandese

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 06:19:47 PM »
Here's personal opinion of point of view (POV). It's less a tip and more of an insight; something to be wary of. It came to mind while reading Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

First Person (FP) has its perk (such as inner-thought mechanics, emotional attachment, casual writing, and keeping the reader "in the dark"), but it also has some crazy drawbacks that should be considered heavily before deciding to narrate in that POV.

Data collection suffers a lot in FP. In any book with a mystery element, the main character must figure out that mystery actively. Third Person allows the author to expose information to the reader without informing the characters, but in FP, the main character must learn something if the author wants the reader to learn something.

This leads to the most predictably contrived written circumstances. In order to get hidden information, the main character either has to be sneaky or lucky. Often the character will creep down a hall (sneaky), peep through a conveniently cracked door, just barely hear part of a rare and important conversation (lucky), and get away with the knowledge. Other examples include picking up the phone to call someone and hearing other people on the line (lucky), tripping over a piece of evidence (lucky), and hacking into emails or the boss' computer (sneaky).

Since having other characters tell the main character plot points can get boring quick, the author must one-up the circumstances of the data collection throughout the length of the writing, typically relying on "lucky" in the end and detailing the most ridiculous and unbelievable of situations.

I recommend choosing FP only in genres thin in mystery elements. If they have mystery elements, I suggest reconsidering the POV, or attempting to write more than one character through which the reader may experience FP POV.

[/thought]

Vasha

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 08:05:10 PM »
I'm having a problem recently that maybe you guys can help me with.

A while back I only wrote in past tense. And then I tried past tense. It was really fun. So I kept writing like that.

AND NOW I CAN'T GET OUT D: I keep trying to write past tense, and it either doesn't stay that way for long (aka: I keep accidentally switching back to present tense), or it just seems horrible or blegh to me. Any tips?

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2012, 02:29:05 AM »
Good writing advice--do not make it sound like this:
Spiderses - Dramatic Reading (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

Merlandese

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Re: Writing Tips
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2012, 02:47:00 AM »
What!? It really turned into spider porn? Haha! This is the worst fanfic ever because it's about spiders! I mean, the main hook of My Little Ponies is that it's about ponies, and the first thing that happens is Twilight becomes a spider! Why even write about ponies if you turn them into spiders!?