|I Am Frustrated
Author: TheEmberRaven PM
You'll have to find out, won't you?Rated: Fiction T - English - Words: 1,542 - Reviews: 4 - Published: 02-17-13 - Status: Complete - id: 3101945
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How to Write Better Fiction (and Fan Fiction)
Summary: I think the title says it all. How to write well, not just in fiction, but in any kind of writing.
Below are a list of common mistakes writers tend to make.
Mistake 1: Short paragraphs and chapters.
For me, at least, it's very annoying when I read tiny, broken paragraphs, and the chapters of a story are one or two pages long. One, it makes the story seem rushed and thrown together. If you can't find enough material to flesh out your story for a couple of pages, you either need to think about it some more, or write about something else. And short chapters are the same way. It screams rushed and choppy, like you're just throwing your ideas out there instead of developing them. I think the shortest chapter I've ever written was about six or seven pages.
But anyway, the point is,
It's very weird, to read stories where the sentences are short.
And each sentence needs its own line.
It's annoying as hell.
Please save this technique for poetry.
Mistake 2: Spelling/Grammar Errors
This is the mother of all mistakes for me. I'm a grammar nazi (or at least I think I am), and while my stories may have the occasional error because I hate editing them, they're pretty well written. I die inside when I catch a spelling mistake or an incorrect apostrophe in my writing, and it just drives me nuts when I see it in other people's writing. I know we all make mistakes in our writing, and that's fine. But when I see stuff like this, I cringe:
I was walking down town and their was this great red car. I stopped too look at it, wondering who's car it was. The windows were down, and i saw some thing shiney on the floor. I reached in and picked the object off of the floor. It was the key. So i looked around for a moment, jumped in the car, and put hte key in the ignition. The car was mine. Yeah fools! I cried, and drove away.
Doesn't that hurt to look at? Doesn't it? Ok so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but I've seen writing almost this bad before. Honestly. But the point is, writing like that just screams sloppy AND uneducated. I mean, come on, if you can't get your to, too, and twos straight and don't know that I IS ALWAYS CAPITALIZED then you may need to work on your grammar a bit.
So just in case you need a brief review, here are the most common mistakes I see:
-Their, there, and they're: There usually refers to a place. "Take me there." Their is possessive. "Their unicorn threw-up a rainbow." They're is the contracted form of "they are", and if you didn't know that, you need to review some high school grammar.
-Too, to, and two: Too is basically "in addition". "Peter came with us, too." To is a preposition, which usually gives a direction of some kind. "I gave the cat to Lisa." "We went to the store." Two is the number, obviously. I'm hoping no one needs to see it used in a sentence….
-Affect and effect: Affect is the result something has on another. "The hurricane affected everyone." Effect is to cause something, but it's also a result. Very confusing, I'll admit. "The destructive effects of pollution are obvious in nature around cities."
-Who and whom: Who is a subjective pronoun, like "he" and "she". Whom is an objective pronoun, like "him" and "her". The best way to remember the difference is switch out the pronoun in the sentence. "Who wants the cat?" "He wants the cat." So who is correct. But if you had the sentence "To whom were you just talking?" you could check by saying, "I was talking to him."
Fewer and less: This one really bothers me, and almost everyone gets it wrong. Fewer refers to a quantitative amount of something, like marbles, cars, or pieces of broccoli. "I have fewer cards than you do." Less refers to estimated amounts. Less jello, soup, dark energy…. "He drank less arsenic than she did, so he might live."
Mistake 3: Undeveloped Ideas
Similar to mistake # 1, this is all about clarity in writing. When trying to set the mood or tone of a story, you can't skimp on the details. Readers need their senses to be engaged, and that means giving them visual, auditory, and even tangible details. Check out this paragraph to see what not to do:
It was late at night and I was walking down the street when I heard something behind me. So I turned around and there was this guy following me, or I thought he was. He wasn't far away and I thought he was getting closer. I couldn't see his face, and it scared me.
What this paragraph needs is some extra details to bring it to life. Right now, it's boring as hell, because we can't picture this scene in our mind very well. Also, the writer is falling prey to the ultimate writing error: telling, not showing. Instead of saying, "it scared me", it's far more ideal to show the readers the fear through tone changes and descriptive adjectives. Let's see how this scene could be improved:
The sun was slowly sinking behind the jagged horizon, leaving the streets empty and dark. I walked down the sidewalk quickly, keeping my head low and my hands in my pockets. As I walked, an uneasy feeling built up in my chest. I was almost too scared, but I made myself glance over my shoulder. There! About fifty feet behind me was a shadowy figure, hooded and bent. My heart leapt into my throat. I couldn't see his face, but I felt like he (or she?) was staring right at me. My heartrate increased, and I started to walk faster. Keep calm, girl. Don't panic, I told myself. I wouldn't run until I had to.
It's still a rushed paragraph, but at least it's a detailed rushed paragraph, right? Same scene, more descriptions. It makes such a difference. Adding some adjectives, action verbs, and dialogue (even if its internal) makes a story more interesting.
Mistake 4: Writing a story where the character's behaviors don't make sense (A lack of motive).
This one may seem minor, but it's not. The key to writing a compelling story that makes sense is to 1) keep everyone in character and 2) give people reasonable motives. My favorite example of this mistake is cartoon shows or crappy books where the "bad guy" is just bad for no reason. Maybe you've seen this before? While it's not the most degrading thing in the world, it can be highly aggravating for the people who ask "Why?". When writing a good story, you need to flesh out people's backgrounds a bit. If you're writing fan fiction, and show/book/movie you're writing about already has assumed backgrounds for characters, that's fine, but just reminding readers of those backgrounds can be helpful. If you're working with a character of your own creating , this step is particularly important. Suppose you want a deranged man to stalk your hero or heroine and attempt to kill him or her. You can't just have this happen without a reason. Maybe your hero killed this guy's brother, and so this is a form of revenge. Or maybe this guy was hired by a government agency to take out certain people (but then you have to explain why your hero is on this death-list….). Anyway, the point is, every action a person makes is determined by what's happened to them before, and if we don't know what they've been through, it hard to know what they're going to do. Make sense?
Mistake 5: The Cliché Story Plot
I'm sure you've all seen the classic example of this. Dumb pretty girl meets a hunky guy, they fall in love, overcome some danger-fraught test of their love, and ride off into a golden sunset. Sound familiar? I'm pretty sure 90% of those trashy romance novels follow this basic plot. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, if you're going to throw your characters into a story of your own creation, make it original. And—hey, let's face it—the hot guys, passionate romance, and intense violence may attract more readers in the short run, but original, thoughtful story line will be better remembered and ultimately more loved. You think Twilight will be around forever? Probably not. But The Tempest, Atonement, and The Giver probably will be. Why? Because they're unique and interesting.
And that's it, guys. Hope it was somewhat helpful. If not, just leave me an angry comment. ("I just wasted 10 minutes of my life, dammit!")
-The Ember Raven