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#1 Athena


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 02:27 PM

This topic will contain tips for writing. Add your own to it, so everyone can profit from it.

- So first off, actually getting a story started. Think of a plot, and the ending (that way you know what goal you’re trying to reach from the beginning). Plan the basic plot and write it down (if neccesary).

- Don’t make up a title yet, since your story might change along the way, however if you think up one, write it down, you can always change it. Also, do not make your title too long, a couple of words (ie five) will do.

- Write a piece and then reread and rewrite it, not at the same day but after some time. Writing is not just about writing, but also about rewriting. Asking people to read your story and give comments also helps.

- Spelling, grammar and punctuation of course are important, not in the first draft however. As long as you go back through and correct EVERY mistake at a later time. Otherwise no publisher will look at it twice.

- Don't make ueberlong sentences, but also not too short.

NOTE: Credit also goes to ComradeJerkov, who wrote some of the above tips.

Edited by Blaat85, 23 August 2005 - 02:59 PM.

#2 AdmiralGT


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 02:50 PM

Paragraphs, Paragraphs, Paragraphs. Quite possibly the single most important aspect of any story. Nobody like to read one large block of text. Paragraphs make text easier to read and also make it look better.

Also, Blaat, what is interpunction? Do you mean punctuation?

#3 Athena


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 02:58 PM

Oh yes, sorry. In Dutch it's 'interpunctie' so I thought it was 'interpuntion' in English :rolleyes:. Now you mention it I remember, post edited.

Good tip btw, paragraphs are very important indeed.

#4 Ash


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 03:02 PM

Say lots while telling little.

To clarify this, you need only look at even average novels. Use a lot of description when setting a scene. Describe the smells, tastes, the feel of the air (particularly appropriate in a horror novel where you're trying to make the reader feel small...oppressed...like the very air itself is watching them), any sounds, senses, the awesomeness of the environment.

"The street lay deserted and devoid, a wilderness in the great urban jungle. The blackness and coldness of the night seemed to drown out the ranks and files of streetlamps that ran down the empty sidewalks.

Not a sound uttered down the road, save for the splashes of the raindrops that dusted the ground. The asphalt was slick with water, which served as the only life and movement of the roadway. The droplets slithered and rolled their way together, merging and morphing until they became strong enough to roll and slosh their way downhill. Their low gurgle conveyed a glee at being reunited with more of their kind as they pushed their way downward, meeting more and more raindrops and bringing them into the group, forming a trickle that bubbled all the way down the pavement."

Sounds quite a bit better than:

"There was an empty street, and it was raining really hard."


You'll notice that absolutely nothing has happened in the quote. No plot or character development. There is actually MORE to that description than I have posted here (this opening scene is about 1 page of A4 out of 8 or 16 that I did for my AS-level English coursework. I got an A for my coursework...it was my exam that let me down), but still, you see my point. This not only makes your passage much longer, it also immerses the reader in your environment. While you shouldn't go to this length with actions, your use of verbs and adverbs can make or break your story.

For example, why use 'said', when 'whispered', 'uttered', 'mumbled', 'muttered', 'screeched', 'smarmed', or other similar words will convey a much more effective idea of what the character is doing? Better still, add an adverb.

"Hi!" he said.
"Hi!" he called out happily.

Even the second sentence is a bit dull, but it's more interesting than 'said'.

Edited by Comrade Jerkov, 23 August 2005 - 03:05 PM.

#5 Ash


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Posted 23 August 2005 - 03:07 PM

I know I doublepost, but this is important enough to get a separate post:


It's worth even taking a notepad and putting it next to your bed. If you have a really cool dream and wake up remembering it, and it inspires you, better you jot down what happened than forget it. Many writers take one wherever they go, because inspiration comes without warning, and can disappear just as fast.

Also, if you have some points you want to happen, be sure to write all those down too. But don't be afraid to mix and match and let your story evolve. A piece of the plot you planned for the beginning might end up not appearing till chapter 6 or something. It's just like a movie editor; Things change, new better ideas form and you swap and change. :rolleyes:

Edited by Comrade Jerkov, 23 August 2005 - 03:08 PM.

#6 Ash


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 10:12 AM

Triplepost! kthx! :lol:

Play music while you write. Ensure that the music has very little words in it, as it totally destroys your ability to work with language if you're distracted by language pouring into your ears.

Ensure that this music is related to the mood you want to imply. I actually find game music to be best for this sorta thing.

If I want to describe a peaceful setting, I'll listen to some Unreal or UT sounds (classics are 'Enigma' and 'Botmca', as they're peaceful). Most of Unreal 1's music is all done on reed and woodwind instruments anyway...you can't really go wrong.

If I want to do an action scene, Halo OST is second to none. 'Rock Anthem for Saving The World' or even just the main Halo theme work delightfully. UT offers 'Into the Darkness' and the one that plays on Deck 16 and HyperBlast (can't remember the name...I'll get it, though), amongst others. 2k4's HyperBlastRedux is even better still.

A depressing scene where somebody's died tragically, Halo comes up trumps again, with such sounds as 'The Maw', 'Remembrance' or 'Heavy Price Paid'. Homeworld's 'Agnus Dei' is also wonderful for this.

Basically, any sounds from any games that have a similar theme. Classical...anything that really inspires you or creates a picture in your mind that you're actually trying to get down on paper. It also will release the necessary endorphins to stimulate your very emotion...a powerful, action-y piece of music will get adrenaline going so you actually want to go out and kick some serious ass, and this can then be transferred easily to your writing. The depressive, tragic and mournful mood will similarly bring you down a little, the same way that it does in a movie. Ever notice how the music slows down and goes to violins, pianos etc when somebody dies? Well, there ya go.

Of course, this may not transfer to the end reader, but the emotion that you convey in the words as a result will surely be more effective than if you wrote in total silence.

Just keep lyrics out of the equation and listen to theme-related music...anything that sets your mood, and you should be good to go :grin: Just experiment :)

Edited by Comrade Jerkov, 26 September 2005 - 10:14 AM.

#7 SilvR3

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 02:48 PM

I agree with every tip given here, though I have to add one more. The one which for my areas is most usefull and most important. I had to learn it the hard way. It's a thing which is called Emotion try to keep the emotions in your writing work high. Overusing it is not bad, in fact I recommend it if for instance the story line isn't very interesting. It doesn't matter if you use it for long stories, poetry, game plots, movie scripts, music lyrics or school projects. Ensure you have the emotions straightened and you have done half of the delivery.

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, music holds a good example for it. Compare for yourself Eminem's "Lose Yourself" (who doesn't know that one) and for example any Backstreet Boys song. Which one has the biggest effect if you forget their fame? That's Eminem's, the reason is simple. BSB make mostly woman orientated songs, which lose emotion when you make it to often. Eminem's song is completely different. When you hear it you feel a certain kind of energy flowing which he created by his voice. Not because of the lyrics, not because of the beat. That is emotion.

To bring that emotion into any of your works is really very simple if you have used it before. I have in my lyrical works and such. How you call upon the emotion really depends on the person. As you write more you get in some kind of pattern, little habits which you follow to write well. Those already know how to give that emotional energy. Here are a good starting points if you are new to the whole emotion scene.

- Before you even begin of thinking of a topic, think of what you want to reach; world changing, thought provoking, confidence, strength, pity? Now if you have thaught about that, use your memory to refind a situation where you felt that certain emotion strong. Like your first crush, being dumped, a loved one falling away, flawing school. Whatever makes you mad, sappy or any other mood. Now start to write and do not stop in between. Let it flow from your fingers and when you read it later you will feel that certain emotion stronger.
(If you are writing a large piece, write for about 1,5 - 2 hours per day and reread it before you follow the writing the next time.)

- Flowing/Originality. I have to remind you, writing is a field of creativity. Because words maybe the most powerfull things on Earth. Don't laugh about it. Words can degrade, make you, break you. Can bring tears in your eyes, smiles on your faces. Can have the adreneline flowing, depress or prais people. That is how you should see them. As the most powerfull tool known to us. Now as it is a creative subject, do not and I repeat do not be afraid to disregard anything people tell you. Good writings all come from the heart, no tutorial on Earth can teach you how to do that. You cannot hide it or fake it. Play with the words as if they are little Lego blocks. Individual they are nothing, combined they can become great and wonderfull. A good example is this:

"After placing his magicwand on the table, the blue wizard closed the door after him. The snow and the freezing air, the cause of why it is so hard to breathe, are now locked outside. He says to the witch who is warming her hands to the fire that he got the Chili Peppers she requested for. Upon streching his arm to her, she takes it from his hand. She felt the coldness in his fingertips and begins to laugh. Dancing over her air, as if it a showcase of humor. The blue wizard looks suprised and ask the laughing broomstick-flyer what it was that made her laugh so much. She replied: "You can't even come warm, even if you worked it with chili peppers."

It holds wordplay, I have italic'ed that for you. Try to bring such creativity into your works. Practice with it first making small chapters full of them. You'll master them soon.

- Follow your heart... not more to say about that, is there? Just write down how you feel is the best way to it.

#8 Ash


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 05:31 PM

Sounds like a fair bunch o tips. I'll do a (long-winded) grammar post now. Something that prolly should've been done first, but neither Blaat nor I could be bothered :)

So sit your asses down, class, here comes GRAMMAR.

Standard and Non-Standard Grammar
In any form of prose (ie, not poetry), the general form is to use standard grammar. There are rare occasions when non-standard might be adopted at author's discretion (usually in speech, as someone might have a particular dialect you wish to vocalise), but on the whole, the standard should be used. I can only document standard grammar here.

Sentence Structure
The typical English sentence defies the conventions set out by many other languages. Usually, it follows Subject, Verb, Object, Adverbial in ALL tenses, unlike some languages (although some deviate slightly) To make clear:

The car drives down the street quickly.

Subject = The car
Verb = drives down
Object = the street
Adverbial = quickly

The same applies in past tense:

The car drove down the street quickly.

And future:

The car will drive down the street quickly.

Every sentence must at LEAST have a subject and a verb. I won't bore you by going into the in's and out's of what a verb is (if you don't know that, you shouldn't really be attempting to write, but learn language). But the subject is the thing that is conducting the action. The object is anythingthat is having something done TO it. They can be swapped around, but this requires the swapping of other words, adding of more punctuation and a whole host of other things. You'll see more clearly if you read on that sentences can be structured a whole number of ways, but this is the standard. If you swap, you make work for yourself, but it'll certainly make your piece more interesting. People like a bit of complexity when they read.

While all this is dumbass-obvious stuff to most native speakers, other languages follow different sets of rules, and therefore this is primarily for the foreigners amongst us. :)

General Conventions
I'm sick and tired of writings that don't follow this standard (I myself am a bit of a grammar Nazi. I can tolerate genuine mistakes, but people who deliberately flout even the most basic rules absolutely make me livid), so here goes:

Capital Letters:
They must be used at the start of EVERY sentence, or for emphasis. They must also be used on proper nouns (ie, the name of a person or a place, or organisation). Eg:
Alfa Romeo

Full Stops:
They must be used at the end of EVERY sentence. They mark a close of the sentence. Simple as that. Please, please PLEASE use these, even in forum posts. If you don't, I rather fancy I'll kick your ass. Above ALL ELSE, please ensure that your sentences are coherent. If using a pen, it's a simple dot on the page. If using a keyboard, it means moving your right index (or pinkie) 1.1 inches down from its usual typing position. Therefore it really shouldn't be too much like hard work to make it easier for yourself and everybody else to know where one sentence begins and another ends.

They mark a break in a clause, perhaps to join two clauses together, or to form a list. Think of it as where you might stop for breath if you were reading it out. Simply put, it's easier than just reeling off a constant line of text without pausing for breath. Double commas can, oddly, be used to surround an adverb that is not totally necessary to the sentence. The previous sentence can easily be read without the word 'oddly'. Think of it as where you would use a different tone of voice if reading it out.
Oh, they also have a hell of a lot of use in direct speech, but I'll cover that later.

Colons are used to mark a list, usually, or in the manner as I have used them through this text, to define a subheading with a clarification underneath.

Rarely used, and even more rarely understood, the semicolon is used to join two clauses together where a conjunction could otherwise be used. Basically, if you could use 'and' there, you can use a semicolon. They are not to be confused with colons.

It's amazing how many people screw these up. They are used in possessives, and in where 'is' could otherwise be there. For example:
John's pen. (The pen belongs to John)
It's time to go. (It is)
That's the way! (That is)

Also, they can count as quotation marks if placed on both sides.

The exception to this rule is 'Its', which is the possessive of 'it' (that is, where the subject is not named), and does NOT have an apostrophe.
Its tail was long and slender, able to reach its mouth with ease.

If you can replace 'it' with a name, then it does not have an apostrophe. If 'it is', then you can remove the I from 'is' and give an apostrophe in its place.

There's another exception to apostrophe rules: If the word ends in 's', and you're going to make it a plural, then the apostrophe comes after the 's', and you don't add another 's'. Example:
Marcus' pen. (The pen belongs to Marcus)

Parentheses (aka brackets)
Placed around a clause that clarifies, but does is not totally necessary (that is to say, the sentence could easily be read without it). ALWAYS PLACE THE FULL STOP AFTER THE END-PARENTHESIS, in order to clarify that the bracketed clause relates to the sentence before it, and not the sentence after it.

Trailing Dots:
NEVER DO MORE THAN THREE. And don't do them every other sentence, otherwise it sounds like you don't know what you're talking about... Their use is to show that a sentence or speech is concluding when there is still more to be said (but you aren't saying it for a reason...eg, if your character is being evasive, or if you want to keep the reader hanging on your words). If overused, it not only gets very annoying, but you look retarded. So don't do it.

Exclamation marks show surprise or shock, or are used for emphasis of a particular point. To use them every other sentence is extremely annoying (as is using more than one at a time)!

The humble question mark is often forgotten. If your sentence is intended to await an answer (or is a rhetorical question), put one on the end. Is that too much to ask?

Quotation (aka Speech) Marks:
"" or ''
To be used in all direct speech.
"Where did you go?" Paul asked.
"Nowhere," Anne replied, "I've been here all along."
A comma ALWAYS comes before the final quotation mark, unless a question is being asked, an exclamative is being used, or it's AFTER the speaker has been identified. As a sidenote, the second section of speech in Anne's reply has only been capitalised because I is a proper noun. Take the next example:

"Where is she?" Paul asked.
"I'm right here, silly," Anne replied, "where did you think I was?"

Note that 'where' has not been capitalised.

Contrary to their usual Internet-related use regarding actions in chat-rooms and as a substitute to the multiplication symbol, the asterisk is properly used to refer to text elsewhere in a document. The number of asterisks always matches up. For example, if there are TWO asterisks together, be on the look-out for two asterisks later, as the two will be related. Usually, the clarification (the reason for the asterisk being there in the first place) will be at the bottom of the page.

\ /
As far as I know, there's no difference between the two in regular English (although Linux and the Internet use / as a path indicator, while Windows uses \ to be awkward), but they are used mostly where two interchangeable words can be put in the same place, and/or a form is being created where the form filler must delete as appropriate.

Used where two words are conjoined, but not always. Some words can be bolted together wholly and as such don't require hyphenation. If the two words stand independently, you can be forgiven for hyphenating. On the whole, they aren't totally necessary, but they can be used if you want to make it easier on the eye.

Direct and Indirect Speech
Bored yet? You will be.

Direct speech is speech inside quotation marks. The most common sort of written speech you will see. A rule with it is that when a new speaker begins to speak, you move to a new line. It just makes it easier to know who's speaking.

"Where is she?" Paul asked.
"I'm right here, silly," Anne replied, "where did you think I was?"

Anne's second clause was not moved down a line because it's still Anne speaking.
Incidentally, you can leave the speaker unnamed if nobody new has entered the conversation. Observe:

"Where is she?" Paul asked.
"I'm right here, silly," Anne replied, "where did you think I was?"
"Sorry, I thought you'd gone and left me."

You can easily surmise that it's Paul speaking again. There's no need to say 'Paul said' again. Since nobody new has entered the conversation, there's no need to say anyone else. Also, since you know that a new line denotes a new speaker, you know it's not Anne speaking.

Indirect speech is rarely used, but can be used in the same context, but only if you don't want to put much emphasis on the conversation. Observe:

Paul asked where she was. Anne, hearing this, giggled and said, "I'm right here, silly, where did you think I was?" Upon hearing this, Paul promptly apologised, explaining that he thought she'd gone and left him.

CRAZY stuff, there, eh? The direct speech is needed to prevent it sounding totally retarded. However notice that she hasn't been moved onto a new line. The emphasis is on her speech, and Paul's words are just a sidenote, but they were nevertheless said. However, it's the same conversation as the previous direct speech example. They can be used if you need to put emphasis on one speaker, or if you just wanna move it along.

The oft-confused words
Where, Were and Wear:
Where refers to a place, eg, 'Where are they?'
Were is a past-tense verb, eg, 'They were over there.'
Wear is a present-tense verb, eg, 'I wear jeans a lot.'

Effect and Affect:
Effect is the subject form: 'I had a big effect on him.'
Affect is the verb form: 'He was greatly affected by me.'
The two cannot be swapped. You cannot 'effect' someone, and you cannot have an 'affect' on someone.

There, Their and They're:
There refers to a place: 'He's over there!'
Their is a plural possessive (ie, owned by more than one person): 'It's their car.'
They're is a shortened version of 'They are': 'They're in a car!'

Not and Knot:
Not is a negative: 'He's not there.'
Knot is a noun, usually meaning either something tied in rope, or a blemish or flaw in wood: 'Tie that knot.'

You're and Your:
Not mentioning 'Yore', which is a folklore-ish word I know fuck all about :) :
You're is a shortening of 'you are': 'You're an idiot.'
Your is a possessive, meaning it belongs to you: 'That's your phone.'

Unlike many things, instructions usually begin with the verb. In the sentence show before, 'Tie that knot', the 'subject-verb-object' rule doesn't apply, as it is a command. The infinitive is used ('tie', as opposed to 'tied' or 'tying'), and then goes on to say what is to be subjected to the tying. In this case, 'that knot'. Confusing, but common knowledge.

[b]Starting sentences with 'And', 'But', 'Because' or 'So'[/i]
Generally frowned-upon by English teachers, I used to do it as often as I could just to piss them off. The only real time this should be done is if you want to sound harsh, abrasive, or hammer a point home. Why does this work? Because people don't actually expect it. And your deviation from the standard comes as a bit of a shock, therefore it catches attention. But don't do it all the time, as it grates on the mind, and gets annoying. Technically, these words are conjunctions, and using them as a sentence-start disrupts the flow. It makes the sentence harsh and abrasive or important. Any conjunction falls into this. So try and avoid doing it, unless you're making a very serious point.
Because otherwise, people will think you're a bit weird ;)

I think that's enough for today. My head hurts too...but you need to know to do all these things. I found it hard to write this post, as I'm so used to following the rules that I do it without thinking. I actually had to make note of everything I was doing.

Best bet is to follow the examples' example. :p But please, do try and follow the rules. There's nothing that makes me want to press the little red X in the corner of the screen more than bad grammar.

Thanks for reading. :lol:

Edited by Comrade Jerkov, 19 October 2005 - 04:03 PM.

#9 Athena


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 06:11 PM

Wow Ash, that's a good post. I knew most stuff, but you put it down nicely.
Even though English is not my first language, I do most things by instinct, not by rules (instinct is mostly correct though, I've read and heard a lot of English, tv, books (yeah I read English books for fun even though it freaks out my mom), internet, etc.) Fact is, some rules I do not even know literally, I just write and talk by instinct.
Good post :). It should have been done earlier, but I forgot :). Well you probably wrote it better than I ever could, since English is not my first language. Thanks :).

#10 MSpencer


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 06:20 PM

My only tip, do not take the grammar checker and spell checker as always right! I've seen people "Wright" a story, or "pome" (Which I believe spell checker will accept...).
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#11 Ash


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 06:23 PM

One q...why does it freak your mum out that you read English books? Can she not speak/read English herself (no disrespect to her, just wondering)?

EDIT: And yes, what Spencer says is very true.

Edited by Comrade Jerkov, 26 September 2005 - 06:47 PM.

#12 Athena


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Posted 26 September 2005 - 07:10 PM

@ MSpencer
Agreed. I always turn off spellchecker anyway, because it annoys me a lot. It messes up with some of the things I write. And also, it always, always asks for my name to be written as 'gaai' (Dutch spellchecker), which is some sort of bird in Dutch.

@ Ash
Well she just sees it as odd I read it for my own fun. She sees it as something she doesn't like but has to be done for her work. She can read and write English (not as good as I can though :)). She just can't really imagine I read them for fun. To me, it feels like I'm reading Dutch, except for some minor words now and then. I don't even notice the English anymore. When a Dutch person once posted a link with English text under it on MSN (before that the convo had been in Dutch), I replied in English and I didn't even notice it at first :).
It has became so natural I hardly notice it, except when the words have to leave my mouth. Then I shut up like the shy girl I used to be. Shy Dutch talking girl is gone, but not the English one :).

Edited by Blaat85, 26 September 2005 - 07:10 PM.

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Posted 26 September 2005 - 10:25 PM

Oh noes, t3h spellch3x0r doenst rex0rnize t3h my naem! You can add words, did you know that? :p

#14 Athena


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Posted 27 September 2005 - 06:50 AM

No, I did not :p. Anyhow it is still annoying, I have Dutch and English documents yet I have to tell MS Word every time which language it is else the whole document will go red :p.
Anyhow I better use my own knowledge and if I doubt about things I use a small electronical dictionary. Did I ever mention I was good at Dutch spelling :blush:, I'm the person everyone asked when they had to know some word's spelling. I've read so many books I can even find spelling errors in books sometimes. English might be a slightly different case but I'm still pretty good at spelling in comparison to some other Dutch (and non-Dutch) people (I mean my sister always asks me to correct her English homework if nessecary, not my parents :cool:). I'm fine without it, yet if someone has a lot of problems with it then be my guest and turn it on. I'm just getting annoyed by the red lines. In my posts are not that much spelling errors as far as I know (especially compared to some noobs), so I'm doing fine right :lol:. I have never used spelling checker that much. Now in comparison to other stories here (keep in mind English is not my first language) I'm not doing too bad I think. I use punctuation, capitals in the right place and only there, etc. When I reread what I wrote I usually find most of the errors I made and correct them. All without any spelling checker. It's just annoying me, usually the 'errors' it finds are not even errors, it just sees them as such. Now be honest, for someone who's first language is not Dutch, my typings could be a lot worse (no, I shall not mention names here on this forum, but we have quite some noobs here who go omg my ra2 does not work anyone help plz). They could be better too, of course, but I'm happy with it. It could be worse :lol:. If you ever notice an error in my story or something though, do notify me please so I can learn from it and correct it.
Ok, that was a long boring post about me, thanks for reading :lol:.

#15 Ash


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Posted 27 September 2005 - 09:39 AM

Funnily enough, I'm the walking English dictionary :p Who do you think Tom comes to every time he makes a post that's intended to be vaguely intellectual? :p

#16 Rattuskid


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Posted 18 November 2005 - 03:44 AM

Er, just my 2 cents. This guy has EXCELLENT advice for writers who are about the "Bobby went to work and shot zombies!" level, but are unclear where to go after.


Just ignore the furry crap, all the good adivce is in his 'writing' subsections. Also, PLEASE read the dialogue bit for your own benefit. It's one of the most important bits of advice I read on that in a while.

Also, sorry if this is a post necroing.
Being a total douche.

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Posted 18 November 2005 - 04:30 AM

Nice commentary. I'm glad you posted that. I've read it also and find it VERY relevant...

#18 Athena


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Posted 18 November 2005 - 10:00 AM

Looks really good, thanks :rolleyes:.

#19 Ash


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Posted 18 November 2005 - 11:24 AM

Yeah, thanks for that also :) I'll give it a proper read when I get home. I have the urge to start a story, but not the inspiration as to what to do the story ABOUT.

CURSES! :rolleyes:

#20 MSpencer


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Posted 04 February 2006 - 12:17 AM

New tips:
1. Use "vivid" verbs, verbs that accurately and vividly paint a picture of what you're trying to talk about. Hated isn't as good as despised, etc.
2. Don't use words that don't fit with the theme of your piece. Using a word like "bubbles" in a dark poem or story just doesn't fit and disrupts the flow of the story.
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