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Submitted on
July 2, 2013


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This started because of fanfiction, but it has other roots. Sometimes I really enjoy the story. But...but

"Description begins in the writer's imagination, but should finish in the reader's."
― Stephen King, On Writing

Okay, do you guys know what this means?

Here's the first paragraph of fifty shades of grey.

"I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror. Damn my hair it just won't behave, and damn Katherine Kavanagh for being ill and subjecting me to this ordeal. I should be studying for my final exams, which are next week, yet here I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet. Reciting this mantra several times, I attempt, once more, to bring it under control with the brush. I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable."

Without the superfluous information:

"I scowl at myself in the mirror. I should be studying for my final exams, yet here I am brushing my hair into submission. I roll my eyes in exasperation and give up. My only option is to restrain my wayward hair in a ponytail and hope that I look semi-presentable."

It stills makes sense and it gets to the point, which is what a lot of writers believe is the most important thing.

It means that more than 3/4 of that entire paragraph is pointless. It's not necessary and terrible. Obviously this is an extreme example, but guy, You don't need to hammer in what every single little thing looks like. Wouldn't you get tired of someone holding your hand and pointing out every little thing. You'd be thinking, '"Get on with it? What this story even about anyways?"

I'm not trying to say I know everything. I'm saying that when you get in there to write fanfiction, a personal story, I don't care, you don't have to change every "said" to a synonym of said. I had a professor that despised this with a fiery passion, and I'm not quite as passionate about it, but I understand his point.Steven Kin expands on that in On Writing.

He said, "I can't be here anymore."
She said, "But, John."

as opposed to :

He shouted, "I can't be here anymore."
She cried, "But, John."
He replied quietly, "Stop."

Obviously isn't not terrible to use 'shouted' or 'cried' every once in awhile or to show emphasis, but it disrupts the readers flow because your telling them exactly what to hear instead of them hearing it themselves. Your narrowing the emotion in the word by putting a label on it, so to speak. Just keep that in mind and use them wisely.

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."
― Stephen King, On Writing

In case you're like me and don't remember what adverbs are. Most adverbs end in "-ly"

"The woman busily brushed her surprisingly short hair into a bun savagely."
(Thanks :iconsycamoresea:) Unless it's important to the story, don't worry about it.

Another thing I've noticed, and a lot of bad anime will do this. I didn't think anyone did it in real life, but after sitting through several writing classes I've discovered I'm wrong.

Exposition in dialogue.

"No! My sister whom I haven't seen in ten years since our parents were killed!"

It sounds stupid and it's shoving information down the readers throat.

Show don't tell.

That's something that every creative field tells you to do. Film making, story boarding, writing, Illustration, it's important to all of them.

I'm not pulling this out of my ass. This is information that's been taught to me, and things I've noticed in my reading adventures. If you do these things, I'm not telling you you're terrible. I'm telling you this to share what I know. You can choose to ignore it and keep writing how you've been writing. There is no wrong way.

I just wanted to share, because it seriously helped me. Looking back at my writing from 8 years ago, I've definitely improved and the reason is because of these guidelines.

I just needed to get that out there. Sometimes I find a story that's actually really interesting, but they do the thing. One or not all of what I mentioned above.

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TerhuneLass Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Hobbyist

THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS. As in incoming creative writing major, I cannot think you enough for educating people about how to write more effectively. I'm looking forward to being able to find these kinds of mistakes in my own writing - new or old - and completely fixing it. :)
Blackpassion777 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Same same lol In the middle of fixing things sometimes I go back and read some old shit and it actually has some parts that make me jealous of past me. Learnin, learnin, learnin, even from ourselves lol
TerhuneLass Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Hobbyist
So true. :) There's always something about yourself that can be improved and educated, haha!
nebulousbeast Featured By Owner Jul 7, 2013  Hobbyist
This is exactly why I bought the Eragon novels from used bins. They're terrible and insipid, but when I want to read a book of "what not to write, ever" I just have to bust them out and amuse myself over such gems as:

"Get ready," he whispered, his whole body vibrating.


If I had less patience I would've stopped reading fanfiction by now, but I just can't bring myself to. The 10% of amazing fics that exist out there are worth every page of overindulgent physical descriptions and horrid, choppy characterizations that the other 90% display.
Blackpassion777 Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
haha that's exactly right. I remember thinking that I was pretty sure he watched anime because some of the plot devices were just like anime. Like trying to say your special weapon attack and you keep being interrupted. It was hilarious.

And I agree with you on the fanfiction. At least you can usually tell if it's going to suck by the first two or three paragraphs.
nebulousbeast Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2013  Hobbyist
I always thought he was just a big LotR/Star Wars fan and couldn't seem to stop borrowing from them since he was such a sheltered kid, but you're right, there are a lot of anime parallels.

Exactly! I usually only have to gage a fic's quality by the first descriptions that come up. If an author uses the word "orbs" to talk about eyes I usually just hit the back button reflexively and look for something else.
Lyrak Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Honestly I feel like many people just try too hard, as it were. Just... write. Let it flow instead of obsessing. If you read it over and it flows, you should be good.

I'm getting myself back into writing a bit and some pieces are rougher than others (I am debating yet on whether I will ever upload any of the old fanfics here LOL) but I'm getting there. My biggest complaint about my own works are that some parts feel too dialogue-driven. But then, my writing is usually all about the characters more than anything else. I'm a sucker for character development. It's why I freaking love Snape so much in the Harry Potter books. You just uncover more about him as the books go along. I mean, I still want to punch him in the face for being such an ass, like "dude I know you have some issues and all but that's no excuse to take it out on EVERYONE holy crap". But you at least find out that he DOES have stuff in his history that drove him to be the way he is.
madame-bellatrix Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2013
-I actually own and read that book and it helps.I believe only important details should be described. I try yo keep said descriptions no more than a paragraph. Show not tell is a very important rule and the adverb advice oz gospel, excessive use makes your writing obnoxious.
-now as far as show, don't tell, a lot of people don't realize the importance of body language.
Lucern7 Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013  Student General Artist
Eh I don't pay attention to fanart but I've read "On Writing" it was a nice read even though I'm not planning to be a writer, I use the tips however, to keep internet comments to the point~!
Kanirou Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2013
All excellent points. I probably couldn't even calculate how many words of fanfiction I've read over the years, and as much as I love it, it is unfortunately the textbook example of Sturgeon's Law: 90% of it sucks (but the 10% is worth dying for). It's just finding that 10% that can be trying haha. Ignoring "show, don't tell", is a *huge* mistake I see a lot. I think much of this stems from people obsessing over designing a character but not fleshing one out. They've spent hours on her hair style, hair color, the way her bangs fall, her two-toned eyes, her shirt, her jacket, her pants, her scarf, her accessories, ETC that when it comes to introducing the character, that's all they can talk about. So you get a 50 word physical description that tells you absolutely nothing. That is what that horrific "pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face" line just screams all over to me. I literally cringed when I read that. Resisting the urge to tell can be hard, but it really is so important.

And yes, adverbs can be great--when used with discretion. Otherwise they can become downright obnoxious. However, I will admit to falling into the "use synonyms!" trap when writing myself, as in your example with replacing "said" with "shout." Unfortunately, once I've read a word a few times within close proximity to each other, I just lose a taste for it and have to replace it. This is often necessary when in prosy areas of writing, but when dealing with back-and-forth exchanges that are expected to sound similar (such as dialogue) it really can become jarring, and of course creates unnecessary work for the writer.

Just goes to show that everyone can stand to hear the basic tips again. We're always learning, and can always be reminded ;)
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