Tag Archives: tags

Writing: Tumblr Mythbusting

So, despite the fact it isn’t linked to my WordPress website (for good reason), I do have a tumblr that I use, mostly to follow some fanfic writers. Some are pretty honest about themselves. They write fanfic to relax, or to take a break from their original fiction. It’s the latter ones that can sometimes post some pretty protentious crap, most of it things that I know are wrong.

First things first: what works for someone else may not work for you in terms of the writing process. There are outliners, there are pantsers, there are a combo (me!). I recommend everyone keep notes, even if you are a pantser, so you can keep track of what you’ve done and have something to look at. But here is why some of the most common advice that I see floating around are such really bad ideas, I (almost) have no words. I kept myself at five, or else I would be here all night. If you want my opinion on others though, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or make a comment and I might do a sequel post if I get four more (Ginny already suggested one).

Don’t use descriptions such as “the short one” or “the blonde” in place of pronouns or names, it’s demeaning/lazy/childish/etc.

Okay, no. There’s this thing in writing called tags, which are physical traits of the character that, when you put all the tags together, help you put a mental picture of the character’s appearance together and make them more than, as Deborah Chester puts it, “talking heads.” So using those are important ways to sneak tags in, because the reader eventually sort of skims over things, but their subconscious acknowledges this tag and knows who is speaking without using a pronoun or a name. And more importantly? Sometimes you have two characters that identify as the same gender in a scene. Using their names back and forth is just annoying, so you need other ways of referring to them, and using pronouns can get really confusing depending on paragraph and sentence structure.

Don’t use *insert type of language here, from made up names for artificial hair colors to she/he/they variations*, it’s not how grammar works!

I have an English degree. You know what I spent four years learning? Language evolves, and changes. Especially in story telling mediums, and double especially with the English language because ours is the language that bastardizes every language it encounters. Most languages don’t have words for someone with pink hair, so writers make it up, using words like pinkette, rosette, etc. Riders of horses know some of the strange noises/actions horses make that can’t be classified in usual language, so they make up a word to describe it. And let’s not go into how gender-specific pronouns is having to rapidly change to keep up with our new comfort in having people’s gender identity confirmed. Get off your damn high horse.

Don’t reread your stuff as you’re writing it, it will just stall you out as you spend all your time editing the same five pages!

To a certain degree, I agree. You gotta let the red pen go as your writing. But I also stand by that sometimes you need to walk away from your book. See how long it’s taken me to do Ten? That’s because at the halfway point I reread, realized my plot was getting sidetracked, and had to do some serious gutting to get back on track for the second half. If you reread every, oh, five or so chapters, it will help you see if you need to re-outline, or if you need to redo what you’ve done because the stupid thing has gone down a weird-ass road that is just all sorts of wrong. Also, you may find that a character revealed something important, and you need to make sure to make a note of it so it’s important. (Forgot Violet was afraid of horses, thank God I caught it this last time…)

Get stuck? Kill a character, it causes emotional impact and is a great way to raise the stakes!

Do you want to know why it takes so long for G.R.R. Martin to get the next Song of Ice and Fire book out? Because the dumbass (no offense, dude, this is just how much I hate this habit of yours) keeps killing off characters, gets 2/3rd of the way through the next book, writes himself into corners that only those now-dead characters could get him out of, and he has to scrap it and start over. I would die, just die, if I kept having this easily preventable problem. You want to kill off characters, fine. But if you are going to cause that kind of drama, you cannot do it just for shock value. We have to love this character, they have to mean something to us. And then when they die, there has to be a reason for it. Now, I don’t mean the person killing them has to have a good reason. I mean this needs to do something, set a fire under her pants, give him a reason to step up to the plate, give a necessary clue, something.

Have an ending in mind and stick to it, no matter what!

I agree with having an ending in mind, in the sense of your character needs to have a goal. But that goal can change depending on circumstances, on how your characters reacts to the types of pressures you put on them. If your antagonists have a plan, it may change depending on what your protagonists do. Be open to your ending needing to change as the story develops. Your main couple may not get the happily ever after if it turns out your heroine has more chemistry with this other guy. The antagonist might not get caught, just found out, which is great sequel bait. Just be open because characters and thus their stories have ways of taking on lives of their own.

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Forum RP: Formatting Posts, A Nightmare

So, I am a notorious skim reader when it comes to RP posts. Not because I don’t love all the itty bitty details, but because I got really excited to see what’s going on. Also, because let’s be honest. My character(s) have no idea what is going through the other person’s character(s) head(s), so all I really need to know at least at first glance are what physical and vocal cues I’ve got to react to. I can reread for thoughts once I get that initial reaction done. Even if I have the time and attention to read a post from beginning to end, when I’m writing my own reply, there are certain parts that I need my attention to be dragged to immediately more than any other.

The problem: most people don’t know how to format their posts for readability.

Now, some forums have rules that help with this, though how formal the rules are tend to vary. My main site only has requirements on dialogue, so I have to set it off in a specific color (usually white, or another color off of a set list if I have an NPC speaking). Others I’ve been on have required dialogue be in bold, or haven’t worried about it at all. But if my current site has rules, why do I claim that some posts are harder to read than others?

It comes down to how the post flows for the eye, something that even as writers of novels rather than of RP  posts, we have to be aware of. What I mean is how much we mess around with the font of a post and in what ways we do so. Bold fonts tend to leap out at the eye pretty much no matter what (thus why it was used to help set off dialogue on my older sites). If it’s used just throughout the text at random for emphasis, that’s what my eye is going to be drawn to, even if I really need to be paying attention to something else that follows afterwards. It can be a huge distraction. The same for all caps. Bold and all caps are also used in today’s generation to indication shouting, which can make it come across as very harsh. (I know, most younger people already know this, but people like my mom don’t, so it seems like something important to mention.)

Italics are a better alternative for emphasis. They are subtler, and while reading they stand out, they don’t jump out and demand your immediate attention, ASAP. For novel writers, this is what you have to use (editors won’t let bold font or all caps go to print, pretty much universally). But it has it’s own problems. If every other word is italics, not only does the point of emphasizing get completely lost, but it makes the page look very busy. Just because italics are more subtle doesn’t mean they are completely unnoticeable, especially if you have several of them bunched up together. It gets really annoying.

Colors are another big thing to pay attention to. Nobody likes the player who uses neon pink or yellow on a white background where it is nearly impossible to read it, while at the same time, using a super dark color on black is also a really bad idea. Pay attention to how the color appears on the color of the site as a while. For example, my main site is two different shades of blue. Believe it or not, my signature purple is nearly impossible to read on it. That left me with indigo, which was a darker purple that even still on the darker of the two blues was a little iffy, or a pale purple called plum. I went with the plum for  my personal font color so this way it would actually be readable. (Greens are also pretty nightmarish. Blues are easier, which seems kinda contradictory.)

How all of this goes into the site is part of what makes this a nightmare for writing. Setting off bold and italics is fine, the colors though…ugh. Some use the [color=] format, some use the [colorname] format… And the color names are just weird. They are long, they are sometimes really silly to try and remember how they are even spelled. I’d prefer a drop down menu, but there are so many different colors that it would be nearly impossible to program anything that even worked. I’ve long since gotten into the habit of doing emphasis as I go, and then when I pause to gather my thoughts or I finish, I go back through and do the dialogue color changes. Otherwise, it would drive me crazy. And I still mess it up 9 times out of 10.

These aren’t hard and set rules, mind you. In full-blown arguments between characters, I’ll use bold and all caps and italics all over the place if I feel it’s necessary. (Some of my characters are very passionate hot heads.) My Rose Weasley’s posts are often littered with italics because she gets horribly excited about just about everything. It is all a matter of character voice. But before I post something or when I’m formatting my novels, I always think about whether or not the format is going to irk somebody or be hard on the eyes to read. It’s something I think every writer should consider, regardless of the format.