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Monday, April 24, 2017

Breaking Writing Rules Right: "Don't Use 'Was'"




A common piece of writing advice is to avoid using "was" or any "to-be" word in your writing. But most professionals use them in their writing--so what gives? Over my years editing, I've seen stories that were crippled from the author's quest to avoid using "was," and I knew I needed to do a post on it. Here is the "was" rule, why it's a rule, and why you (probably) shouldn't follow it religiously--with some of the most common problems I see in avoiding it.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Context vs. Subtext (Context Should Not Become Subtext)


Context First, Subtext Second


Subtext, especially good subtext, can be tricky to write. But in order to write good subtext, you need to have context first. And in order to do that, you need to understand the difference between them and where each one fits in storytelling.

Some writers make the mistake of trying to make the context into subtext. This is a problem for several reasons, one of the main being that it makes the story very vague. In vague writing, the audience can't really tell what is going on. Without proper context, they aren't sure how to interpret information and actions. Often, this sort of writing manifests when the writer is trying to follow the "show, don't tell" rule too religiously, which usually leads to writing that is too cinematic.

However, creating context does not necessarily mean you have to "tell" straight-out all the time. It can also come from taking advantage of connotations, words with specific feelings attached to them. With that said, though, it's impossible for most stories to have proper context without some telling.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Character Traits that Hike up Tension

 

Weeks ago, I did this post on the difference between tension and conflict. As a short recap, I mentioned that tension is not necessarily conflict, and I like to think of it as the promise of conflict, that anticipation and worry of what will happen.

As writers, we should definitely take advantage at the elements in our plot, world, and (yes) our conflicts to create tension. But over the years I've noticed that some smart writers really hike up the tension of a book through the traits of their viewpoint characters.

You see, some traits are natural tension-hikers.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Writing What's Evil >:D (without Promoting it)




Last week, I did a post on why it's important that the world has fiction stories with dark content. You can read that post here. Today I'm going to talk about how to handle dark content--without promoting it.

Long ago, in my first year of blogging, I did a series of posts about the value of shock in writing, explaining that not all shock is bad. Today's topic overlaps with some of those ideas and is yet different from them.

Handling Dark Content Correctly


Before I get into how to deal with evil behavior, I want to explain why it's important we handle dark content correctly. In the writing world, you may have heard of "gratuitous" content. Gratuitous content is graphic violent, sexual (or any other dark subject matter) content that is thrown into a story for little to no purpose other than to shock the audience. Sometimes it might be thrown in because the creators want to be taken more seriously, which is, ironically, the equivalent of a middle-schooler throwing out cuss words because he wants to sound "mature." It might be thrown in just to get a PG-13 or R rating. Sometimes it might be thrown in because the creators think that it's what their audience wants.

There is a poor way of handling graphic or dark content and there is a right way.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Why We Need Stories about Dark Things




One of the things I get tired of from time to time is the perspective that if something shows evil behavior then that means the story, song, game, whatever, is inherently bad. But there is a difference between illustrating evil behavior and promoting it.

Not all appearances of bad behavior invite bad behavior.

While one purpose of storytelling is to entertain, another purpose is to teach or educate--a purpose that in today's world, most people seem to have forgotten.