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#writing advice
deniselavestal · 2 days ago
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Writers, it's okay:
to be proud of your own writing
to write something self-indulgent
to celebrate your achievements
to have a bad day of writing
to hype up your own writing
to be kind to your characters once in a while. ok? it's ok
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writingdotcoffee · 2 days ago
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Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.
David Foster Wallace
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septembercfawkes · a day ago
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[Credit: Dramatica Theory]
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stygianpen · 2 days ago
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World Building 101
World building! How many other hobbies or careers involve creating an entire world all your own? Not many.
There’s nothing quite like setting out to create your fictional world. Drawing maps, deciding which civilizations live where, throwing in crazy kinds of solar systems and vegetation if you’re really going all out… it can be a ton of fun.
However, one of the writer’s most exciting tasks is also one of their most intimidating.
On one hand: you get to build your own world. On the other hand… you have to build your own whole entire WORLD?! Where do you even start??
Well, you can start right here. Today I’m going to walk you through some basic pointers to get your world up and running.
World Building and World Building
Right off the bat, you should be aware that there are two kinds of world building. There’s the large-scale fantasy world building which I will be talking about today, and there is also world building that goes into other story genres.
Every writer is going to do some level of world-building, whether you’re painting a verbal picture of the lake your character goes to to get some peace of mind, pulling a reader into an important event and making them feel like they’re actually attending, or creating a whole new planet for your space pirate to fly to.
The Top 6
When you have a massive task ahead of you it’s always best to start by breaking it down. So, let’s take a look at the top 6 features you’re going to be focusing on when building your world.
WHO
Ask yourself: who lives in your world?Most likely there is a variety of species and races. Or, you could decide on a world where every creature is exactly alike — it is of course, your world.
Do the creatures of your planet have different cultures or are these homogeneous?
It will be easiest to start off with your main characters and work out from there. What is their species and race, and what does their culture look like?
For each species in your world, jot down the following:
Species name
Race names
Physical description
Language
Cultural notes
Special abilities
WHAT
Ask yourself: what social structures exist in your society? Again, start with your main characters and work out from there. For each species within your world, you’re going to need to determine how they manage their society.
What beliefs do they have? Are they religious, or more philosophical? Is there a divide between the two? What do their political structures look like? How strict are their laws?
You’ll want to consider trade and economy as well. Do they have a money system? A barter system?
You may not need to go too in depth with every single species in your world, but you’ll want a basic note or two about each in case it comes up in your writing.
For each species in your world, decide at least one point about each of the following:
Religion
Philosophies
Politics and laws
Economy
WHERE
Ask yourself: where does your species exist?Finally, we get to the physical world of your world building. What is the geography like? The biomes? Is your world bountiful with resources or is it a dying planet with species’ in desperate search of new sustenance?
For some writers, they will take years fleshing out the ‘where’ of their world, including the cosmos surrounding it. For others, a map with the basic locations of the story will suffice. It is up to you how in-depth you would like to go.
At the very least, you should outline one or two notes about each of the following:
Solar system (does your world exist near ours or is it completely fabricated?)
Geography (this one can be split per species — forest elves live in the woods, nymphs live near the sea, etc.)
Biomes (split by species region)
Resources (split by species region)
WHEN
Ask yourself: when do the events of your story occur?The story you are telling may be the main focus of your book, but what happened to lead up to it? What has your main character’s species and world been through that is causing the story to occur? Even if the events of the world do not impact your story much, they will have had at least some level of ripple effect that reflects on your characters’ day-to-day. Was this civilization a warring one and the story takes place in a broken society? Or, has their society reached its peak of enterprise?
For each region in your world, establish the following:
Founding events
Defining events
Recent events
(if relevant) Future events
WHY
Ask yourself: why do the species in your world behave as they do?The why of your story will tie in with many of the previous points you’ve outlined, but it gets more to the point in a way that can directly apply to your story and characters. Why are things happening as they are today? What evolution did this society go through? Do they share common goals now or are your characters going against the grain of their people? What conflicts exist in this world, and is your main character involved in those conflicts or attempting to avoid involvement?
A few pertinent notes to take per species would be:
Social evolution
Societal goals
Societal conflicts
HOW
Ask yourself: how do the species in your world solve problems? In the category of ‘who’, you will have outlined your main characters’ abilities. These could be magical or technological or maybe they are super strong, or super smart. Now, you can get deeper into the magical or technological systems of your world. Start with your main characters and work outwards. Is everyone magical here? Do different species and races have different abilities? Is there a human or human-related race, and at what point are they at with their technology?
Figure out the following (for each species and race if applicable):
Magic abilities
Technological advancements
Scientific knowledge
Militaristic power
The World is yours: Command it
An author with a strong command of the world they are writing within will have at their fingertips an endless landscape of possibility. Look to authors such as J.R.R. Tokien or George R.R. Martin — it’s no wonder their works are so successful. They perfectly encapsulate what fantasy readers are looking for in a novel: escapism. The worlds don’t need to be pretty, they need to be fully formed; realistic in their mysticism.
World-building can seem like a lot of work, and it is. But do it bit by bit, and try to keep it fun. Don’t sit down in one day expecting to create your whole world. It’ll take time. But that time spent will be well worth it in the end!
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yellowocaballero · a day ago
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Character Work
Got an ask the other day that asked me how I developed a character, and there was no room to go into it on that ask at all, but I did want to note something. As a fic writer I feel pretty unqualified to write on how to create a character, but I do have something specific I want to say that I've been thinking for a while. I'll keep it just to that. I'll also say that I'm talking exclusively about writing, and not how you engage with fandom. It is, in fact, extremely fun to make an endless series of meaningless headcanons for random dudes. I'm just talking about in terms of how you approach the character from a writing perspective. Which is...
Your OC makes a bad character.
I mean your Dungeons and Dragons character. I mean the character you have a character sheet for, the character you've thought about for years, the one that you are extremely fond of and who feels like a real person to you. The character that is the character, and to change them would feel like changing a person.
Characters should feel like real people to the reader, but as the writer you cannot think of them as people. They are plot devices and a function of the story. They don't need to be fleshed out before you start writing. The actual creation of the character should take place in the outlining and drafting process.
I'm not saying you aren't allowed to stop and think about their favorite grilled cheeses or their sign. There's a few lists of good questions to ask yourself about your characters before you start writing them, such as their desires and their home lives, but the list of actual questions you need to answer are short. And you should try to stop there, because otherwise you're going to over-develop your character and it's going to get in the way of the story.
Assuming you're writing a character focused story, the character's journey is the plot's journey. But the character and the plot exist in relationship to each other. I think of them as two interlocking gears - some things in the plot just can't happen because Character A wouldn't do that, but some things need to happen for the plot to work, so Character A needs to be the kind of person who would do that. Both the character and the plot are in service of what the story is about (Theme, moral, message, etc). These three things have to line up, and they can't overpower each other. You shouldn't try and make round pegs fit in square holes. If a character doesn't fit in with what you want the story to be about (if the story's about vanity and your character doesn't care about vanity) then you need to change one of those things. You can bend the entire plot and meaning of the story around the character, but damn you better have a character who makes a really fantastic story.
You need a character that makes a good story. Some characters don't make good stories, and you need to work super hard to create a story that fits them. That's fine - that can create a unique and great story. Your character has to be consistent and work along their own internal logic. That is shit you absolutely have to stop and work out in the outlining process. Your character needs to make decisions that feel right to the reader - really good stories have the character making the worst possible decision, but in a way that makes the reader understand that they couldn't have done anything else and still been that character. And, like, obviously, give your characters faults and have them make mistakes. A character who does not do that cannot carry a plot.
Fic writers struggle with this. Of course you...shouldn't...be me and completely disregard every characterization, but I do think you can run into the same problem with your blorbo as your D&D character.
Your blorbos aren't actual guys.
This feels kind of obvious, but sometimes I think people don't feel that way. We write fanfic because we like the characters, and we'd rather use these characters and this setting than use our own. I see people projecting on these characters a lot. Like, a lot a lot. It gets to the point where an attack on the character feels like a personal attack - where people defend the character as if they're a real person because they ID so much w/the character. We all know this is dumb, but it also makes for some really shitty fic. The writer becomes completely unwilling to bend the character at all. And they don't try to make the character good for a story, because that kind of involves a lot of faults and mistakes that they don't like seeing their blorbos make. I sound dismissive but it's pervasive. The character becomes a character who makes them feel good instead of a well-written function of the story. The story suffers. Which is alright for some stories, but if you're writing a heavily character focused story like a lot of fic, then nothing is really propping up this story or making it engaging.
None of that is how I develop a character but that is what I wanted to say about characters lol (fwiw, how an OC is created for me is: "I need a character in this spot or representing this thing. Yoink!"). Of course I spoke hyperbolically and took a hard stance on all of that, haha, and of course all of this is rule of thumb. I'm sure your OC is wonderful. Just don't get caught up in them, okay? Go write. The best possible OC is an OC who is born from a good story. That's how you get rich and real characters.
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charm-mander · a day ago
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I have created a new storytelling principle, I am calling it Phoenix Wright’s Spoon:
If there is a simple, direct explanation for an event to occur in your story, but a more complicated explanation would be funnier, more interesting, and/or would create better opportunities in the narrative, then go with the more complicated one
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pastafossa · a day ago
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as someone who has written over 130 chapters for TRT (big fan ofc omg i love you and your writing and your story so much) what's your advice for someone who's feeling burnt out after only the 3rd chapter. Like the plot is clear and I want to write it so bad but I just...don't write. And it's getting annoying
is this like a substance you're injected with? Is it the same as the determination in undertale? what keeps you going?
I am indeed an experimental subject, injected early on with a proprietary blend of ADHD Hyperfixation and Crow Brain Wanting To Show Readers The Shiny Thing conveyed into my brain by a base blend of high-caffeine coffee, you too can have this blend for the low low price of Procrastinating Household Tasks While Also Being Distracted By Shiny Things. Act now and we'll give you the free gift of Insomnia (tm)!
Ok but in reality - first, thank you so much anon! I'm so happy you enjoy the story!
First, I have good news - on TRT's full page index, you'll see: I burned out early on when things got busy in my life. I went almost two years after chapter four before I came back in Jan 2021 and began updating every week. So it happens to everyone sometimes, me included!
There are a couple of things I learned to help prevent burnout though, little things that have helped me keep going this long:
For me one of the blocks was perfectionism. I was editing as I wrote, essentially, judging the literally unfinished product before I was done, and that was stressful and exhausting. It's a bit like moping over a cake's appearance while all the ingredients are still in the bowl. 'This doesn't look like a cake, it's going to taste terrible, why do I bother' but I haven't even baked or frosted it yet! Once I learned, truly, that it's ok to have a messy rough draft, things got easier and less stressful, and it made burnout less likely.
I like to think happy thoughts about the chapter! I think about how exciting it will be for readers to read a romantic moment, or what they'll do with clues I leave, or how they'll react to a wicked cliffhanger. I basically pump myself up for chapters when needed the same way I would when I'm going to give someone a surprise gift or cook them something.
Include in the fic tropes you want to see! It's no secret with TRT that along with the more serious plotlines and romance, it's also me exploring some of my absolute favorite tropes - cuddle for warmth, slow burn, drunken almost-kiss, the Big Declaration Of Love While Unconscious, the mad scientist, etc. I get so excited about the chance to write those tropes, and because I've outlined the plot, I know how close they are, and I try to sprinkle them through at regular intervals as a treat for myself. These are carrots for you to help prevent burnout because holy shit you want to get to the treat, you want to chase it like a cat with a laser pointer, it's right there, all you need to do is go through a few more chapters, go get it! gogogogogogogogo
This is the hard one - there are some days I'm just like ggrrrr don't want to. And whenever possible, I force myself to do it anyway. It's miserable and it sucks, each word is like pulling teeth in the beginning. But the good thing I've found is that once I pushed through it early on, I was able to build momentum, and it got easier. It was like my brain figured out, 'well she's going to make me write anyway so I may as well just get it over with.' It's very important to remember point 1 when you do this - a chapter you're struggling on will most likely feel bad or terrible, you'll be convinced no one will read it. BUT everything can be fixed in editing, and most people will have no idea you struggled with it. I've got some chapters I wrote out like that in TRT and they fit in perfectly!
Outlineeee, outline outline outline. I hate outlining but it's important for a reason - because when I'm like 'I LITERALLY DO NOT HAVE THE BRAIN CAPACITY TO PLAN THIS' I don't actually have to. Because I have the outline, the roadmap, and I've already figured out what needs to happen. All I have to do is write down what happens, and then make it pretty, the same way going by a recipe is easier than trying to come up with a new dish yourself. <3
Honestly I don't judge anyone who struggles with chapter fics, and what I've done with TRT is very unusual. I won't lie though, it teaches you TONS about writing. This is most of the stuff I've learned and use to avoid burnout!
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projecttreehouse · 20 hours ago
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How do I make all my main characters not feel like self-inserts?
This is going to sound counter-intuitive, but make your character a self-insert.
Just let them be.
Let them exist, if only for a little while.
Okay, now that you’ve gotten some of that self-insert character out onto the page, let’s take them apart. Ask yourself:
- How can I differentiate them from myself? What are some qualities I can add that will make the story more compelling? What are some qualities that have no impact on the story whatsoever? How can I change those or switch them out?
- How is their background different than mine? Get into the mindset of your character. You may have been raised in similar environments; maybe not. Think about how their culture, caretakers, friends, and environment shaped them. How do THEY see the world?
- How is the story impacting them? How do they impact the story? What qualities do I need to give them to ensure that the plot seems natural/reasonable? A good example of this is hubris: Walter White ultimately becomes Heisenberg not due to reasons claimed (money for cancer, supporting his family, etc.), but because of hubris. The catalyst is his cancer, but his ultimate downfall occurs because of his hubris.
- How can I make their voice different than mine? Think syntax, dialect, etc. Or you can study others, too. Study other characters, other people, etc. What is the focus of their attention? What are they interested in? Are they timid, loud? Think about how these would affect their narrative voice.
Ultimately, think of this as a dress-up doll game. Your job isn’t to make your character look like you or even look like someone you’d like to be, although your character certainly can be either of those. Think about how you can create a character that best suits your story.
It’s okay if you mess up or diverge from your original intention or plan. That’s what editing is for! It’s also okay to let your character change and choose the direction of your story.
Good luck with your writing! If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask away!
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sourpatch-encouragement · 3 hours ago
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// D
Shoutout to @queerlilchinchin's too. This message's for her too.
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deniselavestal · 22 hours ago
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Reasons to keep writing:
it brings you joy
somebody has to take care of the characters
you have a lesson to teach
it gets you through everyday life
there's people excited for the next chapter
to provide hope for yourself and others
if you don't tell the story, no one else will
it's a way of expressing yourself / what you go through
to make yourself and others feel less alone
people adore your writing
your characters would miss you if you left
nobody can take your place / write your stories for you
to leave something behind to be remembered by
to release your emotions
to inspire other people
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writingdotcoffee · 22 hours ago
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[Where ideas come from?] My standard answer is ‘I don’t know where they come from, but I know where they come to, they come to my desk.’ If I’m not there, they go away again, so you’ve got to sit and think.
Philip Pullman
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theplottery · 2 days ago
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Portraying LGBTQ+ youth in our books
Can we reshape the way we portray LGBTQ+ youth in books?
Here’s an important topic to discuss! How can you do your part to reshape the future of LGBTQ+ in literature and media?
Recently, Alice Osman’s Heartstopper has stopped some hearts, so to speak. What is so special about this book/show? Why does it warm so many souls?
Heartstopper is a breath of fresh air in a culture that’s filled with dark LGBTQ+ storylines. It’s a sad reality that in recent years, the depiction of queer minorities has focused largely on the hardships of being queer, or pushing the needle in the opposite direction, with oversexualization and fetishizing of queer characters.
It’s so important to note that the normalization of queer culture is NOT where it should be. We can express the struggles, but we need to make space to show how normal and special the community is to our society.
Reframing QUEER COMING-OF-AGE as simply COMING-OF-AGE stories might seem like a really subtle shift, but it’s a huge step for normalizing queer storylines.
Just because your story has a queer character doesn’t mean their default plotline should focus on “coming out”, or struggling with being oppressed. These are important themes to discuss, of course! However-
Let’s remember the old saying: life imitates art.
As writers, we have the power to shift the narrative of our world. So if you have this opportunity, think of how you might be able to include the very normalcy of queer relationships in your work.
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scriptwriters-network · a day ago
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You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
Octavia E. Butler
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lady-fey · 17 hours ago
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How to handle info dumps that are rehashes for the audience, but needed for the characters
It’s incredibly common to tell a story where character A goes through something that deeply affects them. However, no one but character A and the audience know about this thing. A good portion of the story’s tension will come from the audience waiting to see character A confess the truth of The Thing to another character or even to a larger cast.
However, such info dumps often take a long time to write out in dialogue format and that presents a conundrum for the writer: you need to let character A tell their story in full, but the audience will be bored if you do that. Because the audience already knows the full story and they don’t really want to read a summary of it.
So what do you do?
You use one of my favorite writing techniques! I’ve never seen a name for this thing, so I’m going to call it “emotional exposition”. You can call it whatever you like. The basic idea is this: you skip the dialogue and focus on summarizing the events in an extremely short fashion that evokes the right emotions in the audience.
For example, say Alice saw someone get murdered and she’s kept that secret for a long time. This scene was the book’s opening, though, so the audience knows the full details. Alice is now confessing what happened to her friend, Sarah. Sarah gets the full dialogue and detailed information. The audience gets this:
Sarah watched in silence as Alice rose to her feet and crossed the room, coming to a stop beside the window. For a long while, the young woman didn’t say a word. She just stared out into the night. Finally, just as Sarah was considering saying something, Alice started to talk.
Her voice never rose above a whisper and yet Sarah could hear every word with perfect clarity. She sat there, horror growing, as her best friend spoke of a little girl hiding in a closet, smothering her sobs as a villain took away the only family she’d ever known.
Because the audience already knows what happened, they don’t need to know exactly what Alice is saying. What they need to know is how Sarah is reacting to what she’s being told. That’s why you can do this dialogue skipping thing and just give a brief callback to the events that are being discussed. It’s enough to remind the audience of what happened, but you trust them to remember the important stuff. Then you can move straight to the fallout of Sarah’s reaction to Alice’s confession without bogging the story down by rehashing things the audience already knows.
I use this technique and similar stuff all the time when I’m writing and I highly, highly recommend it. It allows for these emotional moments to be far more impactful because they’re not bogged down in unnecessary details. It also lets you skip over explaining the same thing 10 times even though the characters might need to.
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love-me-a-good-prompt · 5 months ago
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50 WORDS TO USE INSTEAD OF “SAID”
Do you ever find yourself over-using the word “said” in your writing? Try using these words/phrases instead:
stated
commented
declared
spoke
responded
voiced
noted
uttered
iterated
explained
remarked
acknowledged
mentioned
announced
shouted
expressed
articulated
exclaimed
proclaimed
whispered
babbled
observed
deadpanned
joked
hinted
informed
coaxed
offered
cried
affirmed
vocalized
laughed
ordered
suggested
admitted
verbalized
indicated
confirmed
apologized
muttered
proposed
chatted
lied
rambled
talked
pointed out
blurted out
chimed in
brought up
wondered aloud
(NOTE: Keep in mind that all of these words have slightly different meanings and are associated with different emotions/scenarios.)
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lyralit · 5 months ago
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show, don't tell:
anticipation - bouncing legs - darting eyes - breathing deeply - useless / mindless tasks - eyes on the clock - checking and re-checking
frustration - grumbling - heavy footsteps - hot flush - narrowed eyes - pointing fingers - pacing / stomping
sadness - eyes filling up with tears - blinking quickly - hiccuped breaths - face turned away - red / burning cheeks - short sentences with gulps
happiness - smiling / cheeks hurting - animated - chest hurts from laughing - rapid movements - eye contact - quick speaking
boredom - complaining - sighing - grumbling - pacing - leg bouncing - picking at nails
fear - quick heartbeat - shaking / clammy hands - pinching self - tuck away - closing eyes - clenched hands
disappointment - no eye contact - hard swallow - clenched hands - tears, occasionally - mhm-hmm
tiredness - spacing out - eyes closing - nodding head absently - long sighs - no eye contact - grim smile
confidence - prolonged eye contact - appreciates instead of apologizing - active listening - shoulders back - micro reactions
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