Spoopy Lit (as in “it was lit”) Fire (as in “this is fire”) Emojis (and the word emoji itself) Bae Boomer (“Ok boomer”) Low-key Yeet Dead-ass (to be continued too groggy to remember more banned words)
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Blog Entries posted by Stone Cold Steve Tuna
(Or, words I will never ever use in a story)
Spoopy Lit (as in “it was lit”) Fire (as in “this is fire”) Emojis (and the word emoji itself) Bae Boomer (“Ok boomer”) Low-key Yeet Dead-ass (to be continued too groggy to remember more banned words)
(Unless you positively nail it)
Skaters Misunderstood edgy characters Bleeding heart overly sad characters Retconning “It was only a dream.” Perfect fighters Everything must end in romance Dark and stormy nights Villainous parents The Chosen One Gods who cannot defeat non-God related villains Plot armor (parenthetical rants) Misunderstood fighters/heroes/musicians who instantly have a huge fan base Immediate love, platonic or otherwise Immediately good at everything characters Overly large rarely words used in a narrative (when there’s a common, smaller alternative) Blood fucking everywhere Deus ex machina Mary Sues in general Characters in horror stories lack common sense Gasoline explodes if you so much as think of fire The good guy can do no wrong The bad guy can do no good Censoring curse words Amnesia Too much TLC Characters who have suffered over the top abuse from friends, family, guardians, etc. *using asterisks to denote an action like we're role playing* Amnesia A character is dead and gone permanently as decided by the story, only to come back through some unforseen loop hole three episodes later (I'm looking at you, Dragonball) The bad guy is bad because he's bad. The good guy is good because we're supposed to root for him. Amnesia The Happy Ending Override (see 90% of sequels) Alarm clock wake-ups “Screw our orders! Those are our men out there!” Self sacrifice, doubly so when it is the thing that destroys plot armor Good guy and bad guy team up to stop a mutual threat cliché Rehashing Fourth wall breaking Opposites attract cliché Bad guy too powerful. Time for weakness ex machina. Anything shiny You make an original character for a fan fiction who is a rare breed of animal/warrior/marsupial because reasons ”So my friends and I were...” Kiss of Death cliché (characters kiss, at least one perishes shortly thereafter) Romance ex machina If I can figure out how to quickly find my blog then I will add more to this with time. Do you have anything I can add?
Approximately 5 billion years ago, there was a supernova.
Supernovae occur often throughout the universe, and are believed to occur somewhere on the order of once every 50 years in our Milky Way. Supernovae help illustrate the stellar circle of life. When one star dies, it can bring about the birth of many more.
It may be odd to think of such a violent death bringing forth life. Indeed, if a supernova occurred too close to the Solar System, it would be lights out for us Earthlings.
And yet, it was thanks to a supernova occurring reasonably close by that our solar system exists at all. Our story begins at the end, with a star dying in a massive explosion. The explosion generates a shockwave, this shockwave slams into anything in its way...
Like a cloud of dust and gas, for instance.
This shockwave can result in the cloud "clumping" together in places, and these clumps begin to attract more gas and dust. This process continues until they begin to heat up.
As time passes, a star is born. Like this one, for instance:
This is our sun. Some call it Sol. It is from this name that we derive Solar System. It may look quite brilliant now, but the sun is actually a relatively dim star! Here is what it would look like from about 40 light years away:
It's hard to believe that speck is responsible for life here. And yet without it we're nothing.
There are 8 planets (that we know of) in our Solar System, all born from the same cloud as our sun: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. But that list says nothing of asteroids, comets, dwarf planets, ices, or moons. It gives no indication of the immensity and relativistic small size of the solar system. There is so much to talk about, but we must start somewhere.
So why not start close to our Sun?
Mercury is the closest planet to the sun, the smallest in the solar system, and as of this posting, the least explored planet in our stellar neighborhood.
At approximately 46.6 million km (28 million miles), Mercury completes an orbit around our star once every 88 days. It boasts extreme temperature differences, little to no atmosphere, and an unusually strong magnetic field for its size and history.
Did I mention its also quite toasty on the day side?
The side facing the sun enjoys a warm 700K day. This works out to approximately 427 C, or 800 F. And yet, on the night side things are not so hot. In fact, they're quite cold! Bone chilling, even.
The side not facing the sun is usually around 100K (-173C, -280F). The poles are always below 180K. (-93C, -136F). These temperature variances are the most extreme on any known planet in our solar system.
So, quite hot in the sun! The hottest in the solar system for sure, right?
Mercury may be the closest to the sun, but the hottest planet in our solar system is this beauty:
It's Earth's sister planet, and the second from the sun, Venus.
Named after the Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty, Venus is often considered Earth's sister planet. Before we got around to further studies of it, there was a popular theory that Venus' surface was a gorgeous and comfortable paradise of water, extraterrestrial grass, insects, animals and just life in general. It was, we supposed, a beauty both inside and out.
Venus' surface is rendered above. Not a drop of water. The temperatures are a scathing 462 C (863 F, 735 K), atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, it rains sulfuric acid, and as of early 2020, evidence has emerged that Venus is volcanically active.
Due to some type of uncertain event in its past, Venus is the only planet in the solar system to rotate clockwise, and it rotates so slowly that one day on Venus is longer than its year.
With extremely hostile surface conditions, a remarkably slow rotation, and a toxic atmosphere, survival time at the surface of Venus unprotected would most likely be less than two minutes. There is a reason Carl Sagan referred to Venus as "the planet most like Hell."
Our next stop is going to be a place you may have grown somewhat familiar with.
Earth! (You are here)
What is there to say about Earth? Well, do you have the whole day? No? You've got things to do?
Well, in that case, let's just talk a little about it and a little friend of ours too. Spoilsport.
The Earth is the veritable Goldilocks planet, in the Goldilocks zone. This basically means it's got just the right temperature for liquid water to exist, just the right magnetic field to help protect it from the solar wind, and just the right satellite to help stabilize it on its axis. Earth's official name is Terra, but its most used name is Earth. And nobody's quite sure who named Earth "Earth" for that matter.
The average distance between the Earth and the Sun is a cozy 150 million km, or 93 million miles. Because distances in our solar system become quite vast, I will also include AU measurements from here on out. An AU is an Astronomical Unit. 1 AU is equal to 1 Earth-Sun distance.
Our Earth is a beautiful place, and life is quite strong as our home is quite durable. But even our mighty Earth can be wounded or changed forever. Lest we regret it, it's in our best interest to do what we can to preserve its beauty, preserve its health, and protect its ecosystem.
Except for mosquitoes. They can go.
In the distance towards the bottom, we see Earth's most famous satellite: The Moon.
It was given the name "Luna" by the Romans, and "Selene" by the Greeks. It is from the former that we derive the name "Lunar eclipse" or "Lunatic." The Moon is responsible for our tides and is also known to help stabilize the Earth's axis. If the moon was not present, Earth would wobble much more than it does now. It has been suggested that, the last time the Earth's axis altered a tenth of a degree, the Sahara Rainforest became the Sahara Desert. This, however, should be taken with a grain of salt. Bold claim!
The moon is essentially tidally locked to its parent body. This means the moon rotates at just about the exact speed required to ensure the same side is always facing its parent body, save for the occasional libration. If it didn't rotate at all, we'd see the back on occasion! The moon's sunny side enjoys a toasty daytime temperature of 260 F, or 127 C (399 K). It's night side can dip to -280 F, or -173 C (This works out to about 100 K). The Far Side (not the comic) was first directly observed in c. 1959.
The Moon's formation is likely to have been caused at least in part by the collision of a roughly Mars-sized planet with the Earth, known as Theia. We may cover Theia and the impact hypothesis in the future. For now, it's time to say farewell to our home and one of our best planetary friends, and say hello to our final inner planet...
Mars. In the above picture we have the Martian family portrait- the planet itself, and its two moons: Phobos, and Deimos.
Named after the Roman God of War and affectionately nicknamed "The Red Planet" Mars and Earth have a long history together. Mounting evidence suggests that, early in its existence, Mars hosted liquid water on its surface. But something happened to the planet, and it's now an inhospitable place. The mean temperature on Mars is around -80 F, -60 C, or 210 K. The poles can get down to -195 F, -125 C, or a little under 150 K. However, Mars has been known to get above freezing. Sometimes the temperature can be like that of a spring day on Earth!
Mars averages approximately 142 million miles from the sun, or 228 million km. This works out to 1.5 AU, so 1.5 times the average Earth-Sun distance. We will cover its periapsis (closest point) and apoapsis (farthest) as well as go more in depth another time. In the meantime, there's more to this beauty we have to talk about!
Did you know that Mars is home to the largest known volcano in the Solar System?
This is Olympus Mons, an enormous shield volcano that makes Earth's own Mount Everest look like an anthill. At nearly 22 km (13.6 mi) in height, Olympus Mons is about two and a half times the height of Mount Everest at sea level.
This is the volcano itself from a distance. Olympus Mons is a relatively young volcano, and it may still be active and have the potential to erupt in the future.
This is the sky from the top of the volcano. I don't know about you but I spy Earth waving to us from the horizon!
But we're not through yet! Did you know that Mars is also home to the largest known canyon system in our solar system? It puts the Grand Canyon to shame!
This is Valles Marineris. It stretches more than 4,000 km long, 600 km wide in parts (average width is 200 km), and up to 7 km deep. For the imperial readers out there, that's almost 2,500 miles long, 372/124 miles wide, and almost 4.5 miles in depth. The Grand Canyon is around 277 miles long (446 km), 18 miles (29 km) wide, and its depth is a little over a mile (1.8 km). Valles Marineris positively dwarfs it!
Finally, we have the moons.
There is an old myth that they were named such because their discoverer's wife threatened to keep supper from him if he didn't locate something interesting in the sky. So he named them after his wife: Phobos, meaning fear, and Deimos, meaning terror/panic.
In reality, however, their names are derived from the chariot that the Roman God Mars was said to ride into battle. It was guided by two horses: Phobos (again, "Fear") and Deimos ("Panic"). Phobos and Deimos are two irregularly shaped objects whose origins remain controversial. Some think they accreted together, and others believe they are captured asteroids.
Phobos has a radius of approximately 11 km, or 7 mi. It orbits very close to Mars at approximately 6,000 km, or 3,700 mi. Deimos is smaller and considerably more distant. Its radius is around 6.2 km (3.9 mi) and it orbits at an average distance of almost 23,500 km (approx. 14,500 mi) from the Martian surface.
Both Phobos and Deimos are orbiting too close to Mars, and are expected to either collide with the Martian surface in the next 30-50 million years, or will be torn apart by tidal forces into a ring system.
This whole thing has gone on for quite a while, wouldn't you say? I think it's time we call it for now. But above we see our first visit for the next entry. Some call it Earth's big brother...
I hope to see you guys then! Until then, keep looking up!
We've talked a lot about the standard mechanics of story writing. I think it's time for us to start to explore the world of script writing.
I know what you're thinking. "Mr. Tuna! I know how to script write. It's so easy! You just write the character name, then the dialogue!"
I'm afraid not. If you write a script like that and try to send it to someone, they'll take one look at it and they will toss it in the garbage.
However, since it's a lot easier to picture something by showing it, why don't I show you my meaning? First and foremost, however, I should recommend a script writing software.
The one I've used most is called Celtx. I've used it for approximately 10 years. It's still free but as I understand requires an account now and you can't just download it to your computer any more unfortunately. That being said, I've moved over to another reasonable choice called Trelby. It's simplistic and if you're already a Celtx user you can transfer your files over to Trelby as needed.
So let's get started with the TITLE PAGE!
First and foremost, if you're using a script writing software, it's going to probably shave a good amount of time off this part. It must be formatted as you see here. Otherwise, down the trash chute it goes. "Written By" is fairly optional. As long as you write "By" followed by your FULL NAME. No nicknames. The bottom right side of the script can be used for copywriting if you wish, but it's optional, and you can alternate where your identifiable information goes as well, as long as its in one of the bottom corners.
If your phone number, address, and email address are not in one of the bottom corners, your script will probably be thrown out. If not, and they decide they really like it, they'll just steal your work and pass it off as their own. Happens all the time, and you won't win that fight. As the writer, you're the second LOWEST tier on the totem pole. You have no say in who plays what. You have no influence over how your work is imagined. The only person lower on the chain of command then you is the craft services guy. Just be forewarned. If you become a screen writer and you aren't someone like Quentin Tarantino, you have no power.
But you WILL make bank. Because you're selling your work.
If you become a play writer, you'll probably make less money, but you will have ALL the power. Because in that case you are renting your work out. If you don't like how the set designer is doing things, you can threaten to take away their right to use the play. It won't make you any friends, but you'll have more leeway in that field, even if you're making less money. So if you're in this to stroke your ego, go theater. We will cover play writing in another update. It's fairly straightforward.
Next, let's get started on the actual writing! So let's address our slugline, sort our actions, and form some dialogue!
What the hell am I talking about? Well... Let's start with the SLUGLINE:
A slugline, also known as your scene heading, is your main transition and how you define the current location and time of the scene you're about to cover. Every slugline should include these three things, in this order:
WHETHER THE SCENE TAKES PLACE INSIDE OR OUT, THE LOCATION IT TAKES PLACE IN, AND THE GENERAL TIME FRAME.
For example: Suppose we were writing a scene that takes places inside a convenience store in the day. We would signify that as follows:
If the scene took place outside a house at night, it would be written as follows:
YOU ARE EXPECTED TO ABBREVIATE INTERIOR OR EXTERIOR.
In some cases, you can belay the use of the day/night selection. For instance:
In space, the day/night cycle is probably not going to be quite as important, so it's understandable to excuse it here.
If you need to include additional information in your slugline, you can add a small description after your location. But KEEP IT DOWN TO A FEW WORDS:
Your slugline is how each scene is expected to open, and by using a new slugline you'll be suggesting to the reader that you are now in a different scene. After the slugline, you can either use dialogue or actions. It's generally better and more accepted to BEGIN WITH ACTIONS:
Your actions are the meat and potatoes of your script. You will always write actions in the PRESENT TENSE. Additionally, you can not make any off comments about who you would like to see play which character, or the music you want in the scene. Nobody cares, and your script will be tossed if you do so. Say what needs to be said and move on:
This sample defines what actions this character will be taking. It says nothing of where to put the camera because that much will be more up to the crew. You can suggest where the camera goes, but I usually leave that out. It's easier on you that way.
If you have something happening in this action that is important, you can CAPITALIZE IT. When a character is first introduced in the narrative, his or her name should be CAPITALIZED. Afterwards, you can write the name normally if you'd like. I personally like to capitalize it all throughout the script though. It's just easier to pick out that way and there's no harm either way.
Now we know the basics of narrative focus and action writing. But take this to heart:
INCLUDE NOTHING IN YOUR SCRIPT THAT CAN NOT BE EITHER DIRECTLY SEEN OR HEARD.
This means you can't include smells, taste, or touch. Why? Because the audience can not sense smells, tastes, or touch that the characters will sense.
First of all, props for going for that top quality humor. But how is the viewer supposed to know that Jim stepped on a duck if we don't hear anything from him? We just see a guy widen his eyes.
So what are your options?
You can have Jim say what happened. "I farted."
Or you can do it the smart way and play to the actions:
Dialogue ought to be centered on its own personal line, and the character's name is the first thing you should see. The parenthesis are optional in the middle there. Use them only if you need to convey something specific... like how a line should be delivered. Or if two lines are said simultaneously:
If you have a lot of dialogue for one character to cover, you may be required to write "CONT'D" next to the subject name. This is only needed when the dialogue is, well, continuous:
If your character is narrating, you can signify this by including the abbreviation of V.O, which stands for "voice over."
If a character is participating in dialogue but they are not on screen at the time, you can signify that by including "O.S", which stands for "off-screen." Deep stuff, I know.
Here's an example page of some of what we covered:
We see two sluglines here, meaning there are two scenes here. Note that we never use "CUT TO." It's not that we aren't allowed to. It's just that we don't need it here. You should also avoid writing "CUT TO" after each piece of dialogue for obvious reasons.
There is so much more for us to cover... but I don't think putting it all in one blog post is such a wise idea. So instead, I'm going to include some sample writing. Only I'm going to write it in the exact way you SHOULDN'T write it. Your job will be to pick out the errors.
There is, as I said, a LOT more to cover in this field. We will discuss that another time. In the meantime, I hope this helped if you're in the field for script writing!
Criticism is a good writer’s best friend and a bad writer’s bane of existence. Some people use it as an excuse to just be an ass about your writing. Others legitimately want to help you. So let’s play a game. Is the following excerpt an example of constructive criticism or being an asshat:
Woah, okay. Your pacing is way too fast here. What happened? Why does everything feel wonky here? You were doing okay before. Slow it down some.
Critique Asshat Let’s try another one:
You suck! This is hardly even a story!
Critique Asshat Pretty easy to tell the difference. Good criticism tells you “This is what you’re doing wrong. This is how I think you should fix it.” It is a sign of respectful readers who appreciate what you’re making and want to see you better yourself in your craft. They’re offering you suggestions, not making an attack on your personal character. If you lash out to someone offering you critiques or advice, you will risk the respect of your readers and will not grow from the experience as you should.
What about flaming? When someone starts talking to you like you’re a bad person or otherwise blatantly insults both you and your story, you can let them have it then, right?
Not really. You should just ignore people like that. If anything, you should be laughing and giddy when you get responses in this manner on occasion. If you get them constantly then something might be wrong. But if you get hate sparsely, it usually means you’re doing something right.
Critiques never tend to feel very good, but they help build your skill as a writer. If you make a huge mistake and the readers point it out, it’s something you can learn to avoid in the future. But if you only get “nice!” Or “Cool!” in response to your work you learn nothing but to feed your ego. Want to see a bad storm? Tell a writer with an overinflated ego their work is bad.
You don’t have to listen to criticism. That’s your prerogative. All it is meant to be is a suggestion for you. Whether or not you take it is at your discretion. But treat your readers with the proper respect, and you should especially be grateful to those going out of their way to offer you advice on your story.
So now you’ve finished writing a chapter or a story. You’re tired, fried, you want to rest and let your mind wander. If you’re a hobbyist, you’re tempted to just upload what you made and be done with it.
What about editing?
Editing is a mostly lost art nowadays. Most people just assume their work is fine and they would have caught any errors while writing. I speak from experience when I say unedited material may seem okay from memory, but you can have a whole different animal in execution. I have re-read things I’ve written that I figured were close enough, only to gawk at the errors I’d made and wonder what in God’s name was wrong with me. I still wonder what is wrong with me, but I also edit now.
So how do you edit? What are you looking for? How long does it take? What are your options?
There are two main ways to edit a story: You can self-edit or you can get someone else to do it. If you get someone else to do it, you should still be self-editing as well. The other guy is there to give you a hand and help filter out mistakes you made. He/she is not there to rewrite your entire piece for you. So either way you have to read your own work. If you’re not willing to read your own work, then nobody else will be either.
You should read your writing a minimum of 3 times: Once for its own sake so you can get the feel of what story points you covered. Twice to locate glaring mistakes. Three times to pick up the stragglers. I like to do my first read while I am writing what I am writing. This helps prevent plot holes and acquaints you with what you have left to talk about.
If you’re really obsessive, you can take notes on your own work and what kinds of errors you found. Your goal is to eliminate as many errors before you send/publish as you can. Don’t just assume the editor (if you have one) will make everything better. You do NOT want to piss off an editor.
One of the most refreshing things I’ve found as a writer is the ability to add in references to outside media, current events, etc. A well placed reference is fun to toss in, rewarding when found by the reader, and can give your ego a good pat when it’s recognized by the reader. Most of the time trivia and references are just added for extra “flavor,” though building a plot using a simple reference is not unheard of.
However, as with everything else, it’s possible to overdo or ham up a reference. If you make it really in your face, then it fails because it becomes too obvious and self serving. Its an amateur mistake that I make far too often. It’s not the end of the world if something goes unnoticed. If they want to get the reference, they will.
With the exception of inside jokes, there aren’t often reasons to repeat references throughout the story. If the reference is important to the plot, repetition can be important. Otherwise, repetition has roughly the same effect as making the reference too obvious.
All in all, it’s a fairly simple balance to meet, but can pack a lot of extra flavor for the story, which is nice. Just remember that less is more in most cases.
Side note: I hid one in here somewhere.
Sometimes less is more.
A proper description in the right spot can help make a story. Too much description, however, can cost you.
Oddly enough, it can really cost you in a horror story. The trap beginners fall into is the idea that gore = fear. That’s not necessarily true.
The right amount of blood, the right amount of description, and the right amount of direct action can make a horror story. The wrong amount can leave you with something like Jeff the Killer.
Why does less tend to be more in a horror story? Well, the reason boils down to the psyche of the person. Meaning derived is meaning described. For the average person, the things the mind comes up with tend to be scarier than whatever you actively describe.
Consider, for instance, the famous shower scene of Psycho. Each shot is deliberately cut such that we rarely, if at all, see the victim being stabbed:
Additionally, there’s far less blood here. This has the effect of keeping us in the dark as to the extent of the injuries. Less blood can bring us more alarm.
Too much blood and too much gore, however, has the opposite effect. Take a story like Jeff the Killer. You get more a feel of something written by an edgy 12-year old. The story becomes satire and loses its horror element. It becomes something that you may fear or take seriously as a child but does not age. As a writer, you’re constantly striving for what you can’t quite achieve: ageless.
In many cases, the less blood and gore you use, the better off you’re going to be. The exception tends to be satire. Generally speaking, using less blood is better enjoyed because blood has become almost a cliche these days. This by no means is to say you should never use a drop of the stuff. But toe the line. It will help you greatly. Lay the ground work, but let your reader’s mind do the rest.
Grammar is mad important and u need 2 tak it srsly cuz no1 wants 2 reed a story when it looks like dis. We’ve talked about plot lines, we’ve talked about characterization, and we have talked about Writers Block. Now we should talk about the thing everyone loves to make fun of, and that’s grammar. You could have a great idea for a plot, but it means nothing if you can not convey it properly. If the plot is the life of everything you’re doing, the grammar is the frame work.
It should not hurt my eyes to read what you’re writing. That means no walls of text (like above), proper spelling and punctuation, and the knowledge of how to write dialogue. That seems to be a main issue for a lot of new writers. It takes some getting used to but it is fairly straightforward.
So let’s go over examples of how NOT to write dialogue:
A story is a story. A script is a script. There is no middle ground.
Bob: I relli luv tis blog
Bill: I h8 it it sux nd so duz the guy writing it
Bob shoves Bill, Bill shoves Bob, and tempers rise.
This is an excerpt from the story How To Lose A Reader In Three Lines.
You will not get far with this format. It’s not the correct way to write dialogue and were you to use it in school or a major publication you would fail or be embarrassed. This is not even the correct scriptwriting format either, poor grammar aside.
SENTENCE FRAGMENTS AND RUN-ONS
“I really love apples” said ted
“That nice but we should see other people” said teds friend apples
We’re getting closer now. We see some quotation marks which is a good sign, but we are still missing a few fairly important punctuation marks. As is we have run on sentences galore. These become confusing and annoying. Sooner or later your reader may throw in the towel here, but you will probably get a few pointers from some critics which will be good.
”I did not hit her. It’s not true. It’s bulls%#@! I did not hit her! I did not! Oh, hi Mark.” said Johnny.
”Oh hey Johnny, what’s happening?” asked Mark.
We almost have it. Here we see much better grammar for the most part but we still have a few mistakes.
First of all, you don’t censor or bleep out a curse word in a story. It’s not reality tv. Just write out the fucking thing you’re trying to say.
Second is one of the most common errors I see in dialogue: the period ending a character’s spoken words.
“Oh hi Mark.” said Johnny.
Here we have two incomplete thoughts thanks to the period in the middle: ‘Oh hi Mark’ and ‘said Johnny’.
To fix this is simple: replace the period with a comma:
”Oh hi Mark,” said Johnny.
The comma tells us to pause a moment but not for a full stop like a period. Therefore we have a complete thought.
But what about Mark’s response? He got it right. There’s nothing wrong there. The question mark is excused because we need it to help understand that the statement is really a question.
THE WRITE WAY
“Oh my God!” exclaimed Malory. “What shade is that?”
”You have metal shards in your hand and you’re gushing arterial blood. I’m the only guy here who can save your hand, and probably your life,” said Michael.
”I like you just the way you are.”
”Did you know that the foam remembers me?” asked Tobias. “That’s why they call it ‘memory foam!’”
If you’re not sure of how to proceed, look at a book you may have lying around. Otherwise, these will usually get you through what you’re trying to write. A well polished story always looks nicer than a story that forsakes grammar and spelling.
Who could ever forget writers block? It’s the unseen phantom that plagues us as writers and drains us of our ability to progress our stories because we can’t think of how to proceed. It’s a real story killer that has ended more than a few really promising works of fiction.
It’s just too bad writers block does not exist.
What do I mean by that? Well, is there really a faceless phantom out there actively hunting down writers and keeping them from proceeding with a story? No, of course not! It’s a state of mind. It’s self defeat. It’s boredom and disinterest all rolled into one. Writers block is procrastination. That’s all it ever was and all it ever will be.
The problem is, most people do not like to admit that they procrastinate. We are all guilty of it from time to time. Writers especially tend not to like admitting they are procrastinating because it adds pressure. They begin to jump down their own throats by telling themselves those who read their work are waiting and they wind up tapping themselves out. So they say they’re having trouble coming up with more to write. This turns into a hiatus more often than not. Usually this type of hiatus is followed with the writer promising he or she will not let the story go unfinished. “I will come back to it. I promise. I will not let this story go until I complete it!”
When I see a promising writer go on hiatus and/or see a message like that, I don’t believe that the writer will come back. I am right almost every time, if you’ll pardon my cynical boasting.
8 times out of 10 they don’t return and the story remains unfinished. This is because procrastination gets harder to escape the longer you let it go on.
1 time out of 10 you WILL hear from the hiatus writer again in the form of an update. This update is usually just an apology message and a formal cancellation of said story. Every so often in lieu of a notification, the writer quietly deletes the story. Very rarely do people who go on these hiatuses return to complete the work. Those that do are the disciplined ones who recognize that there really was nothing stopping them from continuing their work.
So is there a way to prevent procrastination? Well, yes and no. You can make things become part of a routine. If you make a goal for yourself, the story as a whole becomes less looming. Outline the plot of your story first so you know what to do in which chapter. Maybe make yourself a goal based on word count: 1000 words per day, 500 words per day... even 100 if you’re really struggling and then just build up over time. If you outline your story and set goals for yourself “Writers block” is no excuse.
Does every hiatus mean procrastination? Of course not. Your life comes first and you never know what will happen. Be it an illness or death, vacation or celebration, some things pull you away from the keyboard or paper longer than you would like. In those cases make sure you outlined the story so you can get back in as soon as you’re able.
Finally, the cure for writers block. I’ve found it, you guys. I had to go through a jungle, over the sea, through a swamp and I had to ride through a desert on a horse with no name but six warrants in three different countries. But damn it I found the cure!
All you have to do is take a glass of cold water, and drink it. Then, go sit down and write. Force it if you have to.
It doesn’t sound much fun does it? Well, when you’re writing through procrastination it isn’t fun. You’re going to keep looking back and you will want to redo what you have written. Nothing will be good enough. Fortunately that’s why you re read your draft three times before you do anything with it. Don’t get into your own head. Just let the words flow and when it’s time to reread you can make corrections along the way. The only way to beat “writers block” is to just write.
Everyone procrastinates every now and again, but it does not have to define you. Work through it and don’t let your work fall into the graveyard of unfinished stories.
If the plot is the thing you are writing for, your characters are some of your main driving forces to achieve your goal. It’s impossible to write a story without at least one character, as a first person or omnipotent narrator can be considered a character themselves.
A plot-line often uses the characters in its universe to tell its story. We see the story unfold with them, for them, through them, and at their expense. Whatever must be done must be done to tell your story. There is very little middle ground.
A common error in characterization is the failure to admit fault or weaknesses. Nobody likes to acknowledge their flaws, and nobody really likes writing a flawed character. However, flaws are generally what makes your character “alive” to the reader. Nobody is perfect, therefore we often relate more to an imperfect character than a perfect one. We refer to characters without weakness who are seemingly perfect in every regard as “Mary Sues” or “Gary Stus.” These types of characters are rarely ever taken seriously and if you’re writing a story that demands to be taken seriously, you will fail. A Mary Sue can, however, be used well in certain circumstances. For instance, in a satire or a comedy, these characters can earn many a laugh because the reader does not take them seriously. They are parodies of themselves, and that makes them work in comedic storytelling.
A well rounded character is one with a back story, a personality, strengths and weaknesses. A character should generally not have a horrific depressing back story because it gets in the way of the narrative and defines it. Unless that is the intention, I would stay away from it. Characters designed to gain sympathy from other characters or the readers tend to be banal, and the opposite tends to happen. Instead of loving and feeling sympathy for these characters, we feel no connection whatsoever. We don’t feel connected to the character, and therefore do not have an investment in this storyline. I call overly negative characterization the “Bleeding Heart Effect”.
It is okay to have a few bad things happen in the backstory. It is okay to have some really bad things happen. Be sure to balance them out with some positives too. Hell, make the character a go lucky person, even in the face of negativity. You can earn a strong connection to the character that way.
It’s a gamble to treat them like your friends or family. I generally recommend you do not. They are tools meant to be used and discarded when they are no longer useful. There are a few reasons why:
First of all, when you form an attachment to your character, you’re going to want them to be great. You won’t want them to have weaknesses and you will desire for your readers to see them in the same light. Ironically, getting the reader to see your character that way works better when you treat said characters as pawns. An undisciplined or new writer will tend to turn these characters into author’s pets. Nobody likes those.
Another issue is this: Your character is only important until the plot dictates otherwise. If the plot demands your character die, you’re going to have to take it behind the barn. This is where the gamble comes into play: When you are attached to the character and love it and you’re going to have to kill it, one of a few things will happen:
If you’re well disciplined and will do what you have to do even with the attachment, then the character dies and you channel the emotions you’re going to feel into the narrative. This allows a greater impact on the reader, because they can feel what you are feeling. However, you’re probably going to feel like crap for a while.
If you are NOT willing to kill your character if the plot dictates it, you’re going to go to great lengths to find a loop hole. Sometimes you will succeed but at great cost to the plot; you may have to completely revamp the narrative so that this can happen, or you’ll find something that you think works, but it ruins the flow of the story. So you wind up with the character intact but the plot either changed or no longer possible to achieve.
The best thing, therefore, is to consider a character nothing more than a tool meant to forward the story. It still might suck to kill someone off, but it’s not as bad and you avoid a lot of problems in the long run.
As always, take this with a grain of salt. Maybe it helps you, maybe not. Respect your character as much as is needed, but do not confuse respect with love.
The most important part of a narrative story is the plot. It is the central focus of your writing and the reason you write in the first place. You are trying to fit a plot to your story to fulfill it and complete it. If you have a weak or incomplete plot, there is only so much to be done for the writing.
Everything in your story exists to serve a purpose; to tell the story of the plot. This means you may come to aspects of your writing with a degree of callous. You can not let your emotions get in the way. Whatever the plot demands, you have to provide. If the plot says something good happens to a character, let that something good happen. If the plot demands a character die, you must kill it. Your job as the writer is to tell the story presented by the plot line you have chosen, and you can not do that if you compromise the story.
It’s generally not a good idea to go into a story with no clue of where you will wind up. This is because you will be striving to write a story about nothing, which is not possible. It’s been attempted before and a lack of storyline leads things to fall apart at the seams. I personally like to start with a few sentences describing the story; a treatment. You then refine the treatment until you have chapters and a breakdown of pivotal points, and then outline the story.
Does this mean your plot line has to be bold and strong, firm and inflexible? Absolutely not. Even if you are writing a series of unrelated events, or “episodes” of a story with no interconnecting plot, you are making a narrative to follow in these mini stories. And if you’re thinking experimental writing, well, there is a difference between narrative storytelling and essay writing.
In short: Your plot line can be malleable or firm, bold or simple. Whatever you choose, a narrative story is nothing without it.