Resource Fanfic Writer's Desk: Your Place for Writing Discussion, Questions, and Advice

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Luna_Nightshade, Nov 24, 2011.

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  1. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    TF.N is full of gifted and talented writers of many varied fandoms and original fiction. This is the place where you get to chat with them!

    This thread is for discussing any writing topic, question, concern, or roadblock that you are currently experiencing in your fanfic writing.

    It is especially designed for you if you do not have a beta or a master, are really hitting a wall, and need a friend?s hand to help you climb over it.

    Such questions could be:


    How do you guys write conversations about others?
    I?m having a hard time with a lightsaber duel?how do you guys visualize a scene?
    I?m writing a story about (insert obscure planet). How do you think this species would act?
    Asking for someone to read a particular scene of yours for advice. (Not the entire story; for that, you would want to hook yourself up with a beta reader.)
    Etc. Etc.



    This is a very open-ended thread. If there is a different thread that is centered specifically on that character, topic, or situation that would be better suited for your question, the mods will direct you there. But this is your writer?s resource?ask away, and there is an entire community with advice, opinions, and guidance.

    Remember to be polite and respectful to your fellow writers, and remember?advice is advice. Writing is an art, not a science. Tolkien and Rowling have/had very different writing styles, but they are both wildly popular.

    To start things off, I will move over a great conversation that has been going on in the Fanfic Pet Peeves thread. (But feel free to start a new conversation, ask a question. That's what it is for!)

    How do you write conversations between characters without saying ?he said? and ?she said? and going crazy?!?

    Enjoy!
  2. Jedi_Lover Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    I have a question about point of view. Lets say I am writing in Mara's point of view where the reader sees her thoughts, but then I want the reader to know that Luke is feeling a certain way about something she said. Do I just describe his facial features, do I have Mara speculate on what he is thinking, or do I in another chapter do Luke's point of view? If Mara leaves the room can I switch to Luke's point of view? I guess what I want to know is when it is appropriate to switch from one point of view to another?

    Oh yeah, thanks for setting up this thread Luna Nightshade!
  3. LexiLupin Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 27, 2011
    star 4
    Jedi_Lover:

    The cool thing about this question (well, given your hypothetical, anyway) is that you're talking about Jedi and the Force. Theoretically, Mara could actually feel what Luke is feeling through the Force, and that could very well be a part of her PoV as she realizes that her words (hurt/excited/scared) him.

    Otherwise... in such a situation where either you don't want to go that route/aren't talking about Jedi, I personally would stick with speculation based on actions/facial features. I've read stories which literally have one chapter be a scene from character X's PoV and the next chapter will be the SAME scene from character Y's PoV- and that really annoys me, to be honest. But if the emotional impact is really important where you NEED both character's thoughts/feelings... finding a more subtle way to work in the PoV switch would be my preference. You mentioned Mara leaving the room- that would be a good transition point indeed, in my opinion.

    Are you writing in first person? The PoV transition concept is a lot smoother, I feel, if handled exclusively in third person. And it lends itself to less reader confusion.


    Ditto on the thanks to Luna! ;)
  4. DarthIshtar Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 26, 2001
    star 9
    Jedi_Lover, it can be done effectively both ways. I once wrote the verdict of Darth Vader's war crimes trial from the POV of Han Solo. But I wasn't satisfied. So I got to the sentence before the verdict, did a scene break and then wrote it from the POV of the judge reading the verdict. Both went into the fic. On the other hand, there is great mystery in the unknown. Do whatever feels right for the particular situation, even if it takes a few tries.
  5. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    Since the focus is on the reader knowing Luke's response, either will do. If your already inside Mara's head, stay there and
    describe Luke's reaction from her pov. This works especially well if you're shifting from one pov to another... it could turn
    out that Mara's impressions were way off the mark, and you can use this misinterpretation in your story.

    Switch povs at paragraphs, chapter breaks or end of chapters, but don't change them within the same paragraph;
    you're almost certain to confuse the reader.


    =D=
  6. Jedi_Lover Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    Thanks everybody for your help. I guess I should just read a profic and figure these things out, but when you read a good profic you don't notice these things. Everything just flows. I just bought a book called the Creative Writer's phrase-finder. It actually has thousands of example phrases to describe people, nature, urban areas, actions and behavior. Some of the phrases are a little corny. "His blue eyes took on a smokey look." Okay, you may see me describe Luke that way in my next fic. Man I am pathetic. [face_worried]

    My son told me he no longer wanted my help with his creative writing project. Why? Because I wanted him to work on it during his vacation. He said "It's not due until next Friday and the teacher is giving us the entire class period to complete it." I said, "I'm not going to be in your classroom on Friday." So he said, "That's okay, I'll do it then." I guess the PS3 won this battle.:_|

    I am happy that this thread was started. I'm sure I am not the only writer who has questions.
  7. ardavenport Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 16, 2004
    star 4
    The usual ways I get around 'he said'/'she said' while still making it clear who is speaking are:

    - break out the thesaurus and use synonyms for 'said'; these can add description about how the feel/speak as well
    - add description of how they're speaking or what people are doing while they're talking
    - limit the conversation to one or two people
    - have one person use another person's name
    - give characters very distinctive speaking styles

    For example:

    "This would appear to be our only option," Qui-Gon Jinn stated, his eyes sadly scanning the dark corners of the transport cabin.

    "Master, you cannot be serious!" Obi-Wan Kenobi's voice rose to an alarmed pitch. "This ship is completely unacceptable!"

    Scratching his neck, Qui-Gon pulled out a nit. "I agree that the sanitary conditions are severely lacking."

    Held firmly between the thumb and forefinger, the nit glared back at him. He flicked it away. "But this is the only ship available that is going to Thazwat. We do not have time to find another."

    Master Yoda's walking stick rapped the young Padawan on the shin. "Much worse conditions, have I endured, for much longer than the few hours on this ship we will be."

    "It will not be long, my young apprentice. In the meantime, I suggest we meditate - - " looking down at the gray deck plates, he saw a long, very thin, multi-legged creature dart between his heavy boots.

    Obi-Wan looked up at his Master. "I think I'll stand."






  8. JediMara77 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 5, 2004
    star 4
    Re: dialogue tags - I took a writing workshop and Aaron Allston and Mike Stackpole said to never use them. They're not necessary. Of course my mind boggled and I had to go read through my latest fic and edit them out as much as possible. I try to use dialogue tags as little as possible now, only when I feel it's absolutely necessary. Otherwise, I try to let the dialogue speak for itself - for example, Yoda's speech doesn't need to be identified because it's so unique. Or I have the character do something, like roll their eyes, and then put in the dialogue.

    Jedi Lover - I switch POVs whenever I deem it necessary. I usually try to write a scene from one person's POV only. But when I'm trying to create tension, like in an action scene, I'll switch POVs a lot. Just make sure that the POV switch it clearly indicated by a scene break.
  9. ginchy Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 25, 2005
    star 4
    ^^ Ever since you told me that I've tried with my nano novel to not use them as much, but dang it, I like dialogue tags. It's a sickness. [face_laugh][face_laugh]
  10. Jade_Pilot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2005
    star 5
    That's what the professors in my writing classes say, too. Use them sparingly. They also say to not add actions with them. That you want them to become nonexistant in your writing.

    IE:

    "I don't care," said Mara, slapping the table with her hand.

    "I don't care," said Mara. She slapped the table with her hand.

    That's particularly hard for me, as I like combining them.

    Great idea, Luna!!!
  11. Jedi_Lover Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    So what would be the best way? Just write:

    Mara slapped the table with her hand. "I don't care!"
  12. DaenaBenjen42 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2005
    star 5
    I'm putting my $0.02 in about dialogue tags: if it's a group meeting, you need 'em, but can also be creative with said tags.
  13. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    Well, do everything your professors say so you'll pass the class, but keep in mind that tags, cliches, stereotypes, etc.,
    although universally reviled in the classroom, are devices commonly used by most published authors. They tend to make
    clumsy reading, however, and if employed too often will increase your audience's 'cringe factor' substantially.
  14. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    See, I once had this writing professor who made us bring our short stories to his office once weekly as part of our grade. Where he would slice, dice, tear apart, toss, and torture every. single. word. using a red gel-tip pen. You were required to stand. Literally stand. Your story would be on a pedestal in front of you and the professor, and there would be no chair. The door would be shut. You'd be in there for at least an hour as your defenseless story was slaughtered until it looked like something written by the paragon of writing, the sole author of renown, the pinnacle of short-storydom, the Greek god of Perfectly Written Short Stories, the Only Author of the Only Texts in the Entire Course... JD Salinger.

    What was the question again?

    Oh yes. Dialogue tags. Like any literary "cliche" (which, by the way, were guaranteed to be summarily decimated by the wrath of the red pen), they should be used sparingly. But that does not mean that they should not be used at all. The complete lack of dialogue tags can be just as disorienting to a reader as the excess of them. They can also be a "crutch" that keeps you from writing something with much more descriptive power to the reader.

    Look at it this way. Any scene, particularly a dialogue scene, is not a Google road map. It is not supposed to tell your reader to "turn left here and listen to Mara," "turn right there and listen to Luke." It is supposed to be an image of the scene. Any way you can give the author a "feel" of what the scene looks like as opposed to "telling" them what it looks like will be more powerful and appreciated. Of course, there will be times when you have no choice but to grab the reader by the shoulder and shove them in the general direction of Mara for the dialogue's sake. But if you can nudge them with images, unique language patterns, descriptors of what the speaker is doing, etc. etc.--it will always be a more complete scene than "Luke said... Mara said... Luke said angrily." etc.
    gracesonnet likes this.
  15. serendipityaey Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 24, 2004
    star 4
    Great conversations! Sadly I don't have anything new to add to these questions, but this is a great thread idea :) Though I'm not doing Nano I made a commitment to write everyday, and it's certainly been challenging, but really fun. I'm definitely *stuck* right now on my main project (so I've been working on side ones). Writing ahead has been difficult for me. Not as much time to figure out where the story is going next, I guess. What does everyone do when they get stuck?
  16. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Since we're still on the subject of dialogue and speech tags...

    I circumvent dialogue tags by using actions and body language, such as in the following dialogue exchange from The Devil You Know:

    Karastee leaned forward. "Talk to me, Zuckuss. What do you hear?"

    It took a long moment, but Zuckuss found his voice. "Nothing..." His throat felt dry and his breathing was only beginning to calm. "He... he hears nothing." He paused and awaited his reply, but none came. Even the pain in his head had vanished.

    Karastee glanced at the mirror for a moment, then returned her gaze. "What did you see? In the mirror?"

    The tightness returned to his chest. Zuckuss began to lift his gaze to meet Karastee, but the mirror caught his eye. He swallowed and risked a glimpse. His reflection stared back with the look of a frightened animal. Quickly, Zuckuss averted his eyes. He could feel his hands shake and he clasped them together to keep them still. He swallowed again and drew in a long, slow breath. "Just... just his reflection..."


    Body language in place of speech tags, in my opinion, work wonderfully. They help to convey the meaning when there is an action behind them. Study closely how people posture themselves, gesture, tilt their heads, move their eyes, and incorporate it into your writing. Once I started doing that, I found myself using dialogue tags very rarely. If I do use them, it's usually worded as "said simply," "deadpanned," "snapped," etc. I'd advise against digging out the thesaurus for variations on "said," as "Obi-Wan animadverted" just sounds awkward.

    Oh, and since we're on the subject of the thesaurus... While its wealth of words and phrases can seem like a treasure trove, and one would be remiss not to have a new version of "fire" every time it appears in the story... try to rely more on your mental thesaurus. Use the book to jog your memory, but if "blazing inferno" still has more punch than "conflagration," then use the former. It really doesn't matter if you used it two paragraphs ago, the reader will forgive you because you stuck to something more familiar and more effective. To say that the "the room was refulgent" would only serve to befuddle.

    Basically, the thesaurus is very useful for when you need the right word and can't think of it, but don't rely on it for everything.
  17. Jedi_Lover Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 1, 2004
    star 5
    Nice descriptions TrakNar. I am going through my fic and trying to do this but I have a heck of a time. Everybody is either smiling or frowning. I can't seem to describe anything in between. LOL!

    I had another questions about chapters and timelines.

    Lets say I have Leia say something like "I'll call Luke." and we end the chapter on that note. Then in the next chapter we go to Luke and what he is doing. Can we start that scene an hour before Leia's call and somewhere near the end of the chapter Luke gets the call. Or is there some type of rule to this? I would assume it should be close to the timeline of the previous chapter unless specified at the beginning with something like "One week earlier".
  18. Jade_Pilot Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Dec 10, 2005
    star 5
    That's what I do. :)
  19. CloneUncleOwen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 30, 2009
    star 4
    Sure... as long as it's clear what's happening. You don't need to write pages of exposition to establish
    it, either. (e.g.) If Leia was calling at 1:00 PM, start the next chapter with 'It was already noon when
    Luke arrived, etc.', then go on with the chapter. At chapter's end, Luke gets the call.

    Again, as long as it's clear what you're doing, just about anything goes. Look at the timelines in PULP FICTION
    and SLAUGHTERTHOUSE FIVE.

  20. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    When I first started writing, my descriptions were limited to smiles and frowns. Then, I started watching how people move and posture themselves. Soon, I had a nod that could mean fifteen different things, people tilting their heads, rolling their eyes, touching their faces, grimacing, pursing their lips, pouting, snorting, grunting, messing with their hair, looking around, fidgeting, etc. When people speak, they're certainly not stationary when they do so.

    This falls into the realm of pacing. It really depends on how fast you want the scene to move (and thus that part of the story) and whether or not the information contained within that call is pertinent at that moment. If the call contains information that can be used later, then have the call happen off-screen. And you can tie the scenes together with the call; Leia going to call and Luke ending the call. I had a similar scene in Breakfast in Bedlam, where a character called her son from prison. However, I started the scene at the very end of her call. Her call wasn't important to the story, I just needed to set the stage for the action that was to follow.

    The general rule of thumb is to start the scene as close to the action as possible. And by action, I don't mean the punch. For example, you have a couple at a restaurant and the woman throws her drink in the man's face. You could start off by them each arriving, they park their vehicles, enter, go to their table, and start to eat. But, that's pretty dull. So, have the woman throw her drink in the man's face and storm out. Everything before that point can be summed up with "I don't know why I agreed to meet you here in the first place! You'll just throw the same old accusations in my face!" Then progress from there with them arguing on the street.

    Now, if that call from Leia has some riveting drama in it, go ahead and include it, but I advise starting in the middle of the call. Drama is action and you want to start the scene as close to it as possible to maintain interest.

    So, unless that phonecall has some really riveting and pertinant information in it, I'd personally have it happen off-screen.
  21. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    You snuck your question in there and I didn't see it right away! Found it, though!

    I did Nano for about the first half of the month, but I have discovered that I am not a prolific one-time writer. Despite much pushing, about the most that comes out at once when writing is 2500, and that's probably because I haven't figured out how to turn off my natural editor. I took a break for the rest of November, which was good since I had a lot of stuff going on, but now I'm ready to play with the story idea again.

    I think what it really comes down to is falling back in love with either your story, your characters, or writing in general. Just like any relationship, sometimes that means taking a few days apart, but sometimes that means going "out on a date." Reading a favorite story from years ago with that character in it, watching a movie or a few fan videos on Youtube, or looking at some fan art are all helpful "date" ideas for me to get excited in a story again. Then you just write the part you're excited about. If you're really dragging in a portion that leads up to the part you're excited about... write what you're excited about, and tie the pieces together after the fact once you've got the good stuff and are suddenly excited to post it. These are all things that help me get out of the rut.
  22. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Considering that I'm still stuck on my NaNo fic, then I really can't suggest anything. What have worked for me in the past, though, were watching movies, reading, working on other side projects, and just staying away from the fic I'm stuck on. After a while of that, when I read through the stubborn thing and make tweaks here and there, that sometimes entices my muse to return.
  23. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    Also...

    My muse's status is pretty much always directly connected to my...mental? emotional? status at the time. If I'm stressed, worried, tired, or otherwise preoccupied, Muse is in hiding. I don't want to do things that I normally enjoy if I'm having a rough time of things for whatever reason.

    So I've also found that it can help to take a mental stockpile of how you're doing, and try to see if you're avoiding something that is bothering you or whatever. You might think you're just fine, but if you really sit down and think about it, maybe you're really stressed about xyz or you've been saying yes to too many projects at work or whatever. Dealing with it not only helps you, but also helps your muse. If I get myself back into a good place... the muse usually comes right back.
  24. LexiLupin Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 27, 2011
    star 4
    For me, this is a horrible idea. And I know that, because I've been doing it way too much on the story I'm currently working on. [face_laugh] I've had a rule about writing in order, which helps keep me focused chapter by chapter, but ALSO helps me build up my own anticipation for those dramatic, climactic scenes. And by the time I'm ready to write them, I've got them planned out nicely in my head, and it flows easily because I've been looking forward to getting that exciting part down on paper/screen.

    For my current story, I was having trouble organizing my thoughts from the get-go. I knew how the story would END, but struggled to figure out how to open it, how to balance numerous story lines, etc. But I knew just how a couple of dramatic parts in the middle would play out, and then towards the end. So I started the story by writing those. And it's gotten me horribly in the habit of getting bored with what I'm doing and jumping to a part that's been bouncing around my head. Consequently, when I should be plotting connecting action, figuring out the best way to get from A to B, I just go right to B. And once it's already out there, I lose interest in getting there in the first place.

    Obviously, that's my own experience with focus and attention span, and everyone else may feel differently. But I will say also- beware jumping because you never know what small details you'll come up with that might be relevant later in the story- but you then forget about because you've already written the exciting scene. Don't let continuity suffer by writing at the end FIRST and omitting details you LATER put into the beginning and middle. I can already tell that lots of re-writing will be required for things I've jotted for the end of my story.
  25. Luna_Nightshade Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 25, 2006
    star 5
    [face_laugh] That's exactly why I like to write it backwards on occasions, even if only in my own head--because I come up with those little plot details for earlier chapters better if I think of the destination before the road! To each his own. :p
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