Super General Advice (the thread for advice without making a thread)

Discussion in 'General Advice' started by NevermorePoe, May 8, 2017.

  1. TheOwlet

    TheOwlet A feathered pillow filled with salt and science

    Yeah that's what I meant.

    Find a base for what you're writing - a plot, a character, a scene - that YOU really want to see out there in the world and then move from there. You don't have to reinvent the wheel , you just need it to be something that makes you go 'hey i actually WANT to write this and share it with people'
    • Like x 2
  2. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    I understand that, but I haven't been able to come up with ANY conflict of ANY interest level. That's the problem. I don't understand what is meant by "what kind of story".
  3. sirsparklepants

    sirsparklepants feral mom energies

    Okay, maybe you need to get to know your characters better if you can't come up with any conflict at all. Have you tried RP? That really helped solidify mine for me, and as you get to know them, places of potential conflict should emerge.

    Edit: on some of the writing challenges I've been a part of, there's been a discord bot that you could get to give you prompts or ask you random questions about your story and characters. Do you think that might help you?
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
    • Useful x 1
  4. TwoBrokenMirrors

    TwoBrokenMirrors Succulent Vex Belly

    there's nothing whatsoever you'd wanna bang out just 'cause it's cool? makes you giggle? gets you a bit hot under the collar? feels cathartic?

    for example, i'm playing mass effect: andromeda, and it won't let you romance more than one person but my boy deserves at least three partners so i might bang out a bit of writing along those lines for no other reason than it pleases me in my soul parts
    • Like x 1
  5. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    There is also always the option of looking at the main characters and going, "what can I do to this person to make them react in ways that are interesting to me?" and reverse-engineering antagonists from the things necessary to cause that character to have the arc you want. If you want to watch a character have to learn to live independently of the people they rely on, you can have the bad guys knock their support networks away so they have to build themselves back up. If you want to watch a character turn into an angry revenge monster, you can have the bad guys steal away everything they value. If you want to watch a character become an expert vampire slayer there's gotta be some vampires that need to be slain. Find a track you want to take a character down and make somebody up to throw the switch.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
  6. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    I want to write about certain characters, I want to write interactions between them, and I want to use certain themes which I enjoy. I do not know how to express those themes or what the characters could be doing that's actually interesting and allows them to demonstrate their personalities.
  7. TwoBrokenMirrors

    TwoBrokenMirrors Succulent Vex Belly

    chuck the characters into a situation that fits the theme and see how they respond. or at least that's how i do it. i often don't know certain details about my OCs until i write them having conversations with others. @sirsparklepants is right that rp is good for that, but if it's not your cup of tea, just throwing characters in at the deep end also works.
    well, it works for me, anyway. as always, ymmv.

    EDIT: as for it being 'interesting', you won't know if it's interesting until you write it. i once wrote a piece that's literally just a character lying in bed and thinking fondly of his boyfriend, and it still gets kudos every so often.
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2020
  8. Aondeug

    Aondeug Cringe Annoying Ass Female Lobster

    At this point I'd honestly say you just need to write. Like even if they're not doing anything in particular that is interesting and even if you don't finish it. You just need to write. That's how you learn how to express things that you want to express.
    • Agree x 9
  9. Verily

    Verily a very ineffective hitman

    I’m not a writer and have figured that I probably won’t ever be because I don’t actually enjoy writing fiction very much. But every time I have enjoyed writing prose, I was bouncing ideas around with someone else. A++++ would recommend.

    I’ve coauthored an entire original short story with someone who was much better at structure than me. She kept the scenes moving. I’ve also helped write a fanfic as a part of a round robin google doc where everyone added one sentence when it was their turn, and was glad that the person most in charge had a really good sense of when to cut the scene. Both of these were comedy pieces, which doesn’t make them easier exactly, but does tend to help people ease out of their comfort zone a little because if the joke lands at all, you win even if everything is honestly a disaster.

    I think it works as part of a conversation or group exercise for me but not so much as a solo activity because I don’t have anything I need to say that needs to be in that format unless that’s how we’re having a conversation right now. I believe it was the author’s introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness where the author wrote that if she could have said what she needed to say without writing a whole novel, she would have just fucking done that in a heartbeat. The novel exists because she couldn’t. I’m sure that’s not the only way to approach fiction writing, but it’s very close to my own approach. I just happen to be coming from a different direction and traveling at such an angle that I will never intersect storytelling. By the time I have a clear enough idea of what I want to say that it would make a coherent basis for a story, the story is extraneous. I know what the skeleton is now, but I can’t get the flesh to go back on. It makes me a good essayist but a lousy fiction writer, and you know what? That’s okay.

    Do you have something to say that requires a story? Does the act of writing itself give you something you’re looking for? If no and no, you could still probably be a good author with practice, but why put yourself through that hell? If so, do what you need to fan that ember and rock the fuck on.
    • Like x 2
    • Agree x 1
    • Informative x 1
  10. 3strim

    3strim Professional Accidental Rater

    Alright. I'm still salty as hell but I'll add to the mountain of advice you've already collected but the teal deer is:

    Just write Chel. You want to write the characters? Just write the characters. Just do it.

    So. I currently have two writing projects mapped out. I have an advantage since both are fanworks in the... let's say Furuba-verse to anonymize my stuff (but iykyk)

    Now, let's break that down into what the plot is at its most basic to explain the verse and how my two fanworks play into it. Furuba (Fruits Basket) is a manga/anime about the zodiac myth. One family is cursed so that members of its family transform into their respective animals when embraced by the opposite sex or when under extreme stress (only demonstrated once or twice I believe. It's been over a decade, it just got a revival). Along with these twelve, there's an additional member who is incredibly ostracized even within the family as the cat of the zodiac (with bonus monster form) and one who serves as God. Many cursed members of the family are either incredibly beloved or rejected by their non-cursed family members (read as: parents) and the older cursed family members step up to raise them and usually anyone who knows about the secrets gets their memories wiped. Story revolves around an outsider girl who's been camping in the backyard of the Rat, Dog, and Cat household.

    So where's the antagonist fit in? Who is the bad guy? In the original run, while the God was the antagonist, it was very much about accepting the cat even though he was a monster and the antagonist was all very secondary. The manga and second run of the anime expand on the plot a lot (a Lot) more, but the other goal is breaking the curse so that everyone gets a happily ever after. Because even the antagonist is just a big ol' ball of trauma we don't have time to unpack right now.

    So how does this tie in?

    Well my two works are a zodiac-swap and one where it's a bunch of OCs using sun signs instead. Same idea, different execution to still be technically canon compliant because that's just how I roll.

    So let's start with the swap. Let's say I want to make the ox, Hatsuharu, the God. Do I keep his bastardized portrayal of DID? Maybe I should make it a more accurate depiction. Maybe instead of the 'white half/black half' side he has going on (bi-colored because holstein cow in the original) maybe I'll give him more alters. Maybe a grey which is a little version of himself, which withdrew and froze when his mother screamed that everyone was fawning over her son more than they did her. He bears the trauma she put him through. White is an ANP, black is a persecutor who believes every person is fair game for punishing, self included.

    Alright. Now, even that trauma? Could be similar to him being rejected for his mother for being a creature when held instead of an infant. That age is when it finally broke her and, in turn, broke him. So now I have a thing I desperately want to include, or I could work on the characterization. Maybe a ficlet, or maybe I could challenge myself to a drabble.

    And a drabble actually already came into play for the OC version, where I already wrote one to get a feel for the character's (the antagonist's, ironically enough) motivations and feelings about the situation. I know other things about this character too. He has the hots for someone's girlfriend (and when you can wipe memories, that gets into creepy territory quick), that same power amplified some of the worst in him when he thought he was immune. Will those two facts make it into the story? Probably not. But they make for a great playlist building project to set me in the right mood.

    Notice how even though I've identified the antagonists, I haven't even touched how they impact the story? Just how I want to explore their characterization? It's almost like that's the same spot you're at! So now once we feel like we've got a good sense of this character's head, we can move onto another. Maybe just jot-notes (I like to do something called the Sims challenge, where I condense their personality to 3-5 traits. If it's too easy, they need more work to make them complex. Too hard, I need to focus on what makes them them), maybe another drabble (because condensing things into 100 words is fucking hard, yo).

    So let's take another of my characters that I only have jot-notes for. She's a heavy take on the 'cat burglar' trope, a bit of phantom thief, and a liar. Anyone who reads is going to be aware of the mystery *immediately*, even though the source (not Furuba, real source) is good about keeping these reveals a shock. But she's genuinely good, and wants to do the best she can despite her situation. Her talents just lend themselves to a multitude of applications (I mean, think of all the skills needed to pull off a heist and how you could use them elsewhere) and since saying she enjoys teasing people about how she's gonna take something and there's nothing they can do to stop her is uh. A pretty negative thing. So she's used to extolling the positive sides (like 'oh yeah, you know us fire signs. Can't sit down for ten seconds so I took up free-running and now I can scale up buildings. Locked yourself out of your apartment? No big deal, give me five minutes, don't look up my skirt, and I'll get your window open'). Now we have the character, a bit of what she's like, and now I can either throw her with my antagonist (or another character), put her into the setting and see how she meshes (because again, she's very obvious when the series typically isn't and I don't know if I want that), or do another drabble as exactly a hundred words of her. Rinse, repeat.

    (Side note: despite that situation having nothing to do with the story as it stands, I now want to write that exact situation for the sake of writing it. I'm also going to make her a Leo Just Because I'm The Author And I Can.)

    Now I have solid characters. I know their motivations. Antagonist is part of a bigger problem the protagonists can't solve. Leo girl up there is doing her best to take down the system or so help her God, she'll go down trying (even proposing that if God bears the burden of their curse, then as much as it wounds every fibre of her being, she'll try killing him to free them all). I'd say more but it'd spoip things for what I'm writing/the real fandom and I'm not about that life. In the swap, maybe the child-like rabbit, Momiji, is the accursed Cat. He wants his curse to break so he can finally live with his family and see his sister again, without being reminded he will always be unloved and unwanted. That's it. That's the motivation. Antagonist doesn't even come into this.

    Same with the side note pretend situation about breaking into an apartment. There's no antagonist. There's no big plot or conflict or greater theme. The character motivation is 'she wants to get into that apartment [to help others]/[to steal something]'. That's it, that's all. She can interact with others, or I can show off her personality just from either a first or third person POV. Her eyes flicking across the balconies, checking how many people have their curtains open and how likely she is to have the police called. The twitch of a smile as her eyes fall on the seventh floor and she feels her heart pound with anticipation now that she has the goal literally within her sight.

    From even that snippet, we know: she's cautious enough to want to avoid arrest. She's also a bit of a daredevil, viewing the task of climbing over 25m to be fun and exhilarating (seen by the twitch of her smile). Two sentences outside of a story context and I am demonstrating her personality.

    Would this work for a full story? Maybe! Maybe she runs an agency where she uses her thief powers for good (see: breaking into the seventh floor apartment because someone locked themselves out). But it's probably better as a self-indulgent one shot and that's okay too. People, especially those who can't read multi-chaptered fics, love those too! I've written loads of one shots that just expand on a character, and the people I pass them to? Enjoy them.

    And before you get hung up over getting it published, it's called an anthology. Collections of one shots are just as valid as a series and don't you dare pretend otherwise.

    Now, next time you ask for free labour, I'm going to quote this post and where you did this song and dance a year ago and tell you to just fucking write.
    • Agree x 5
  11. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    Okay, talking to writing coaches on Fiverr. I think the problem is the thing is way too open, there are infinite things characters could potentially do and narrowing it down is a struggle, so I'm gonna go through my books and find commonalities and see if that works, and I'm gonna get a pro to help me.
  12. 3strim

    3strim Professional Accidental Rater

    Chel, not to cause drama in a public space but we are literally rehashing Mar 2019 down to you not engaging or even acknowledging posts so that in a few months time you'll say I've never spoken two words to you when I call you out on your bullshit
    • Agree x 4
    • Witnessed x 3
  13. TwoBrokenMirrors

    TwoBrokenMirrors Succulent Vex Belly

    i realise you might not want or appreciate this answer but i'm going to give it anyway because you don't have to read it.

    You said you had both characters and themes you wanted to write. This narrows down those infinite possibilities two ways:

    a) the personalities of the characters narrow down the choices, because, for example, if you wanted to write character A doing something they normally do and character A is very quiet and law-abiding, you're not going to have the option to write them going on a dramatic car chase after robbing a bank. If, however, you have the urge to write them doing something they don't normally do, you can get ideas by figuring out how someone quiet and law-abiding would end up in a dramatic car chase after robbing a bank.

    b) the themes provide structure. Say you really want to write a piece on, I don't know, class warfare. Kick a character into a situation where they're not from the dominant class and the social norms are different! How would they respond to that? Maybe you want to write something about terminal illness- now that character has cancer, or that character's mother has cancer, or their dog has cancer, or their favourite apple tree has cancer. Immediately fewer options for events exist, because one way or another they're going to revolve around the cancer, because that's the theme.

    Not everything you write has to be objectively good, or objectively publishable, or even objectively interesting to anyone but you. I know starting writing is hard, and I know it's terrifying to feel you're not good enough to do your ideas justice; I haven't written anything beyond rp for months now and I have my own stupid, pointless mental blocks I'm struggling to get past. I feel you, I really do. But in the end, if you really do want to write things, you have to write things. If choice is overwhelming, print out a prompt list and leave it outside and do whatever prompt the nearest bird happens to shit on, I don't know.
    • Agree x 9
    • Like x 1
  14. ChelG

    ChelG Well-Known Member

    Personalities and the world it's set in restrict the possibilities to some extent but picking from the options still left over is confusing, so what I'm trying to do now is pick out patterns for the idea to run along. If "just write" worked, I'd already be doing it. I need some kind of structure to work with, and I'm trying to make one now.
  15. I dunno man like, I saw someone make a rly long comic that finally got two characters who hate each other to hug each other and be friends
    Like she set "they'll become friends and hug" as one of the character goals and an interesting story of their growth like, built up to that. The end goal doesn't have to be complicated. The situation just has to change? (Like not all stories have change but of you're thinking abt, a lot of world etc then maybe stories with change is what you want)
    Like start small, always start small
  16. latitans

    latitans zounds, scoob

    Also Chel, from your posts elsewhere on the site, it seems like you read a lot of things that you don't particularly like to try to dissect them, or read other people's dissections of bad fiction. I think you would be better served by reading things that you actually like and think are good. Imitation is great practice.
    • Agree x 13
  17. hyrax

    hyrax we'll ride 'till the planets collide

    what themes are you interested in exploring? what aspects of the characters' personalities do you want to bring out? people keep giving fairly generic advice, and you seem like you're angling for a more specific answer.

    you shouldn't be just "picking" options for what your characters do. the characters' motivations and personalities should inform what they do-- it doesn't just restrict the possibilities "somewhat," if you know what a character wants and how a character feels, that's basically a road map right there. and if there are multiple ways a character might react in a given situation, you should go for the one that pushes the plot forward the best. just choosing story beat options out of a hat is a recipe for generic unmotivated boring characters.
    • Agree x 3
  18. Guh

    Guh New Member

    Could this thread not become yet another Chel-writing-back-and-forth thread?
    • Agree x 7
  19. LadyNighteyes

    LadyNighteyes Wicked Witch of the Radiant Historia Fandom

    Yeah, it should at least go to the writing advice thread.
    • Agree x 4
  20. vuatson

    vuatson [delurks]

    anyone used the site OfferUp before? I’m making eyes at various Switches on offer for cheap - a few for $250, some with games included - but I don’t know how likely it is to be scammed on there. they have a shipping protection thing where you can get a refund if the item doesn’t show up, but idk if there are loopholes in that.
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