We have all seen those stories that get no comments and those stories that regularly get a handful of comments per chapter. This series will focus on providing tips on how to be one of the latter, not the former!
Newest Segment: Developing Minor and Supporting Characters
Admin Only Characters:
Jan 19, 2015 Updated:
Nov 29, 2015
1. The Basics by Redone
2. It's the little things that count by Redone
3. The Significance of Research by Redone
4. Resources for information about Michael - Updated 2/7 by Redone
5. Going back to Square 1 by Redone
6. Pacing: Striking the balance by Redone
7. Knowing Your POV: Who's on First? by Redone
8. Formatting - It makes a big difference by Redone
9. The Female Lead - A call for suggestions! by Redone
10. Using Real Women as Leading Females by Redone
11. Developing a strong female lead character - UPDATED by Redone
12. Portraying Michael: The basics by Redone
13. Portraying Michael: When Michael isn't Michael by Redone
14. The Dos and Don'ts of Advertising Your FanFic by Redone
15. Advertising, Continued....... by Redone
16. Summaries: A Case Example by Redone
17. Keeping Readers/Getting Reviews by Redone
18. Topic Ideas? by Redone
19. Let's Talk About Sex by Redone
20. UPDATED: The Keyword that All Authors Need to Remember, Consistency by Redone
21. Writer's Block - Defeating it, once and for all by Redone
22. Writing Science Fiction/Fantasy - Material Added by Redone
23. Writing Hurt/Comfort by Redone
24. Writing Suspense into your Fiction by Redone
25. Case Example - Using Repetition to Increase Suspense by Redone
26. Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens by Redone
27. When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings by Redone
28. When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings PT2 (Updated) by Redone
29. The Dog Bit. The Bee Stung. P3 by Redone
30. Developing Minor and Supporting Characters by Redone
31. Points to Ponder in Developing Any Character by Redone
32. Writing about Sensitive Issues by Redone
33. Discussing Dialogue by Redone
This should be about how to advertise your story, right? WRONG. Yes, that is important, but it's far from the most important detail. Here's why:
- Chapter length: Don't be that person who has 10 chapters and has yet to hit 3000 words. It may look like a lot on you smartphone screen, but those short chapters are sorely lacking in content. I used to say that 1000 words (4 pages, double spaced) should be a minimum in average chapter length, but I've waivered on that recently. Think about the last time you read a great book - how long were those chapters? I thought about this and decided to set a reasonable marker. Harry Potter (hey, it was aimed at 9-12 year olds, so you can't say I'm aiming too high). The first book had 320pgs and 17 chapters. That's roughly 4,550 words/chapter. Now, I'm not saying that is the ideal chapter length, but it sure does make 1000 words look pithy.
Each writer will differ on their ideal chapter length, but keep in mind that it will need to be long enough in order to adequately address these points:
- Character development: No, pictures and names aren't enough. How are you going to introduce these people? Will it be gradual, and occur as the plot unfolds? Or will it be sudden, in a chapter devoted to the cast?
Don't forget that for a reader to get into a story, they have to feel the characters. They have to become real. That isn't accomplished through a picture. That comes with conveying their thoughts, their personalities, and describing them. Don't rely too heavily on pictures. Let your readers use their imaginations. Just give them some material to work with.
- Dialogue: This is an art - and it can be learned. Think about your day to day interactions. How do you know someone is upset? Tense? Chances are you'll mention both their speech, their tone, speech volume, speech rate, and their body language. How do you know where someone is from/their culture? Listen to their speech. Idioms and slang differ dramatically, and can have a big impact on how believable your characters will sound.
This shouldn't be any different in a story.
- Point of View: Is it third person? One of the characters?
Be consistent and make this clear.
- Setting the scene: Umm. Where is everyone? What's going on around them? Note, those questions can't really be answered in two lines. To make a scene real, it needs to be interwoven throughout a chapter. That doesn't mean huge paragraphs. But if the characters are getting into the car, it might help to put in a line about how they are sitting, the area they are driving through, who turns on the radio, etc.
We don't live in vacuums. Neither should the characters in stories.
- Plot development: This wasn't the first thing I listed, as it is important, but it's hard to attend to this if the previously mentioned details are neglected. Readers are much more likely to put up with a slowly developing plot or mistakes in the plot if they are invested in the characters and believe the interactions. Each person will vary how they pace the plot, but I suggest having an outline to begin with so that you are less likely to hit writer's block or run out of ideas.
Well, that's it for this chapter/issue of the series. Please comment and let me know if there is anything you want me to write more about and/or something you think I missed. I'd love to hear your feedback!
It's the little things that count by Redone
It's The Little Things That Count
The last chapter/issue was about the basics of organizing your chapters and story. This chapter/issue will be about those smaller but very fundamental elements.
- Spelling: And by "spelling", I don't mean to discount or discourage the use of slang. I mean righting so that uther poeple can easliy understand wut u r tryin too say - without getting a headache. If there is one awesome thing that most email hosts and word processors have in common, it's spellcheck. Oh, glorious, spellcheck! This can easily help any spelling-challenged (or modern-day Kerouac) writer catch glaring mistakes that might distract readers from their awesome plot and beautifully organized chapters. It will also easily rid you of accidental "text-speak", which can be a quick way of ridding you of readers. Now it isn't always perfect, which is why grammar check can also be amazingly helpful. Combined, the two should catch most of the times you write "will" instead of "well", "right" instead of "write", "your" instead of "you're", and "its" instead of "it's".
At the end of the day, nothing beats rereading what you've written. If you trust someone enough to edit your work, ask/let them help.
- Diction: Besides being a word that can sound rather comical to the less mature, diction is a great way of saying word choice. It can easily get monotonous saying the same word over and over again. I know having a hardcover thesaurus is out of vogue, but Google is your friend. You can pretty much Google any word and get a ton of ideas. Or, if writing a more urban Michael, urban dictionary may be more your speed ;) For instance, "said" can easily be changed to:
stated responded argued retorted reiterated verbalized uttered articulated shouted replied exclaimed answered screamed whispered swore preached told dropped ranted lectured agreed
A good writer is constantly growing. Don't think a strong plot will cause readers to overlook flat prose. Keep expanding upon your knowledge and your vocabulary.
- Grammar: Ugh. This is not my strong suit. I tend to write in long run-ons with waaay too many commas or short fragments. So if your weakness is here, know that you aren't alone (and that somewhere in a distant, far off land, Red is trying to decide if what she is writing should be in first or third person, passive or active voice, and past or present tense). That being said, here are some key points that I want to highlight:
Read what you write out loud. You'll find that your pauses will quickly tell you where a comma belongs and when a sentence needs to end. If you are breathless mid-sentence, it's not a good sign.
Make sure that your personal pronouns match your subject. I can't tell you how many times I've seen Michael mistaking referred to as "her" or "she". This can get become very confusing to readers.
Remember that "I ate, Michael" is not the same as "I ate Michael". While humorous, I beg you to please never ever forget that.
Grammar is a huge topic in and of itself. Writing a story doesn't mean you need to get a degree, always write grammatically-correct sentences, or have your characters speak "proper English". However, it does need to consistently make sense to your readers, or else they won't be your readers for long.
Please let me know what you'd like to hear about next.
The Significance of Research by Redone
Here is a brief overview of how doing research can enhance your story.
Regardless of whether you are writing an AU story or trying to adhere closely to Michael's reality, research is something that is necessary if you expect your story to have substance. While easily overlooked, research is what can take a story from "pretty good" to "this story is so real that I feel like I'm actually hearing Michael's thoughts!"
Some thoughts on how research can enhance your story:
firstname.lastname@example.org is great for this.
Not doing at least cursory research into that faith could mean missing a huge aspect of "Michael's" essence.
NOTE: In saying that, I am not suggesting to take from the plot.
- Setting the scene. I'll never forget reading of a NYC in which cars could race down the streets at 80mph. Or someone driving from Santa Barbara to San Jose on a daily basis. Or Neverland being 30 minutes from LA.
These are all lapses in research. Did they break the stories? No, but they were jarring enough that I still remember them.
Stick to what you know (or can reasonably learn). Part of doing research is understanding what you don't know. Say, for instance, Michael is being charged with something and has to go to court. Look up the phrasing of such charges, the ordering of procedures, and/or the type of lawyer that would be appropriate. I've been asked to assist on everything from legal and criminal issues to expected behavioral patterns. I love it when an author asks for help from readers. Before a show goes on TV, it's shown to a selected group of viewers and their feedback is solicited to help shape the direction of the show. That doesn't mean the screen writers and actors give up their views, it just means they have more ideas to draw from in order to make the show a success.
Like watching Michael read musical notes, acting like a man from a middle class WASP family, getting details wrong kills the flow and leaves the reader thinking,
Often it's tempting to simply not do the research, because this is for fun, and saying to oneself, "I'm here to write my story, not read a bunch of stuff and make notes for junk, after all this is for fun!" But many stories have been ruined by not doing the research ahead of time. This may not be obvious to the writer, but it's often obvious to the reader who decides to stop reading without ever commenting.
Thank you to KerenOlivero and TutThreeSevens for suggesting this topic!
Please let me know if there is a point I've missed or a point you'd like addressed. Questions are also welcome!
Resources for information about Michael - Updated 2/7 by Redone
By popular request, here is a compilation of a few of my favorite sites for information on Michael's life/some controversial topics
Timeline of his life
Bloggers who do a lot of fact checking/covering of lesser known information about Michael
- lacienegasmiled.wordpress.com / rhythmofthetide.com
Everything you could want to know about Neverland
A compilation of some of the many wonderful things Michael did
- You Are Not Alone - Jermaine Jackson
- Remember The Time - Beard & Whitfield
- The King of Style - Michael Bush
- My Friend Michael - Frank Cascio (with some hesitance)
Note: I am not affiliated with any of these sites. Nor can I guarantee the veracity of everything on these sites. What I can state without qualms is that I have found some very credible information from them.
Going back to Square 1 by Redone
Preparing to write your story.
There is no real "right" way to approach writing a story. An outline, be it a bulleted list or a mind map, is something that can help provide a guideline for your story and your chapter breakdown. These can take on a variety of formats, including:
More of a mind mapvs. a formal outline
I bet most of us are taken back to something done in English class growing up, and perhaps a few feel outlines are too constricting, but having an outline is there to help you. An outline is what keeps you from ending up confusing the length of your chapters with actual passage of time, from pouring too much plot into a single chapter, and from feeling "stuck" before you are ready to end your story. At the same time, one doesn't want to over-plot the story and feel stuck to something when perhaps more creativity strikes around chapter 15.
Over-plotting: when you find yourself forcing your characters to go through certain pre-determined motions that may not fit into how their personalities have developed, simply because you are trying to fit into your already-established, overly-planned plotline.
Outlining but not Over-Outlining: Tips to Strike the Balance
1. Write your synopsis first, so that you have a clear idea where the story will end before you even begin. This helps you get an idea of where each character's development will need to be by the end and what will need to happen before the end so that the reader is able to take away certain points about the character (e.g. what struggle are they going to have to overcome/deal with to get to the end point? What will that character or relationship be like in the ending?
Basics of a synopsis: Major plot points (no detail need be included), characters, and a basic outline that conveys the gist of what will happen without going into details that might inhibit later sparks of creativity.
2. Insert Chapters into your outline - a few sentences at most - that'll just help you establish and maintain a focus for each chapter. This will help you know the point of a chapter so that writing the next feels more natural. This will also help you set your pace. This way you won't end up with everything happening super quickly or having things move too slowly. Oh, and for this to work, stick to it. Don't let a chapter end until it's completed it's purpose.
For the more ambitious authors:
3. Outline your main characters. Develop their personalities beyond the unidimensional norm. Look back at the beginning of your outline and the conclusion, think about how their personalities/way of being might change during that time. Then look back at the events you have outlined and think about how each will contribute to the development of that character. Perhaps add in the outline "X is upset" or "x begins questioning her sanity". Something to give you a guide on how your character(s) will react to the event.
Caveat: Refrain from adding more conflicts for your main character/OG to overcome. Adding too much stuff/drama just weakens the plot and makes an eventual pairing with Michael (as is the most frequent premise), more unlikely.
Thanks to @wonderfultonight for the suggestion!
Pacing: Striking the balance by Redone
Story Pacing: the speed at which your story moves. Too slow and your reader will leave out of boredom; too fast and frantic and they'll be scratching their head and leave from discomfort.
Ultimately, pacing is up to the author. Some appreciate a faster-paced plotline to get from point A to point B, whereas others like to take a slower approach and look around and explore the area between A and B.
Pacing is an art. It's a very individual choice, but it's also something that can alienate a lot of readers if rushed or dragged out too slowly. One type of story was highlighted in the comments as a common misstep in pacing:
Chapter 1: Michael and OG meet. There are sparks
Chapter 2: Michael and OG fall in love
Chapter 3: Michael and OG have sex and announce their undying love for one another
Note: Chapter 2 & 3 are often switched.
Personally, I can't read stories with that quick of a relationship development. It's too fast and contrived. In fact, it's so fast that rather than earning the "OMG how sweet!" response that the author often wants, my response is "OMG, this is troubling!" Talk to any domestic violence counselor and they'll probably tell you the same thing.
Which brings me to what this segment is about - accurately conveying what you want to convey through the pacing of the story. In the example I gave, I showed how improperly pacing a story can lead the reader to draw conclusions that are dramatically different than what the author intended. Now, the same is true for when the story is paced too slow and the author feels the need to add in extra events in order to keep the reader from getting bored. For instance, the following is an example of when an author might commit the error of not trusting in his/her own ability to hold the reader's attention by throwing in a mess of cumbersome and unnecessary action:
Chapter 1: OG and Michael meet
Chapter 2: OG and Michael start to flirt
Chapter 4: OG and Michael start to have a conflict of some sort
Chapters 5-15: Random supporting characters who are added just to keep things interesting, conveniently appear. OG has a tryst with 1+ and Michael has trysts with 1+. Author makes it clear that OG and Michael still desire each other
Chapters 15-25: Rinse and repeat 5-15.
Chapter 26: Michael and OG start to get back together
Now, perhaps spanning that over years might make it less...extreme soap opera-esque, then a few months. However, regardless of how it plays out, that is much more like a soap opera than reality. The author is likely to find that the actions in chapters 5-25 leave just as many (if not more) readers feeling disheartened by the leads than interested in them actually being together. Whereas the author started with a believable pace, he/she became so set on dragging out the courtship that he/she introduced irrelevant characters in an effort to accomplish this feat. This can be done well (usually by introducing necessary characters), but when dragged too slowly and with too much detail, it can get to the point where the reader can't fathom the OG and Michael realistically reuniting for a healthy relationship.
SO the question is: How does one avoid such pitfalls?
- As mentioned in a previous segment, plan. Outline your chapters, so that you can focus on building suspense for one or two significant moments, rather than overloading the reader with tons of forced drama. Be sure to include the timeline as well as the major events in the chapter.
- Don't rush things. If you take the water out of the kettle too soon, has it reached boiling temperature? No. Similarly, if you have your couple solidify too soon, the vast majority of readers won't believe they're ready.
- Don't just tell, SHOW. This may not be the first one on the list, but it is the one that I notice more authors than not, forget. When you show what is happening, you engage your readers in a blow-by-blow account, thus heightening the tension of the scene. This is great for creating the sense of drama without actually overwhelming a reader with pointless actions. At the same time, if you do this throughout every chapter, you'll exhaust your readers. Find your balance, remembering to never solely stick with one.
- Switch up your sentence structure. For instance, if I write each sentence using flowery, elitist, articulate language with half a dozen commas, I convey one message. When I write brief and concise sentences, I'm sending a different message. The rule of thumb is:
short sentences = reads as faster paced
long sentences = read as slower paced.
- You know that saying "variety is the spice of life"? The same is true about your chapters. Having tons of action each chapter gets....old. Vary between having conversation-dense chapters and thought-dense chapters. Consider changing character perspectives.
Just as I recommended in the previous chapter to writers, I did my research for this segment. Below are some of the sites I consulted:
As always, let me know if there is something you would like me to address. Next will be on the OG.
Knowing Your POV: Who's on First? by Redone
How to use Point of View effectively to enhance your story.
Why am I harping more on POV when I already touched upon it in the first segment? Well, the more I read different stories the more aware I am of inconsistencies in POV. Writing from each POV has it's upsides and downsides. As the author, one often sees all different POVs, which you might immediately want to share with everyone. However, that can lead to a confused POV in which the reader is never quite sure whose perspective they are getting. Which Point of View you use is one of the most important decisions you'll make in writing your piece. It will shape how your story is told and has the potential to either add realism to your piece, or completely turn off your reader.
First, an Introduction
First Person POV: written through the "I, We" perspective
Second Person POV: written through the "you" perspective
Third Person POV: (here is where it can get a little tricky)
Limited: written through the "He, She, They" perspective.
Limited (rotating): written through the "He, She, They" perspective.
Omniscient: written through the (you guessed it) "He, She, They" perspective.
As we can see from the breakdown of the third person POV, this isn't as simple as one might first think it is.
First Person POV
It adds a personal feel to your story and interspersing it with their inner monologue can feel natural. The reader gets a better idea of what makes the person tick, and can see firsthand when thoughts and speech/actions don't match up. This can create more tension without having to add in ridiculous superficial drama. It's also great if you want to have your readers empathize with one character in particular.
You can't explore the perspectives of others and you are limited to that person's POV (usually).
I gazed out on the crowd, listening to their intense roar. I could feel my whole body ignite with energy and my heart racing, as I slowly stepped forward in the stiff and heavy space suit.
Second Person POV
This probably has the fewest. If done right, it can make the reader feel like they are the main person. It can be good for one shots.
A lot. For the sake of brevity, your reader may totally disagree with the personality or acts being commited by the main person. It's easier to dislike an OG when the author isn't insinuating that you are that OG. It's also not as easy to switch POVs without it feeling incredibly awkward. To be completely honest, it's more often done horribly wrong than well done.
You spin around, startled and not yet ready to meet the future in-laws, only to come face to face with an unfamiliar man. His eyes would likely seem vaguely familiar if you actually looked at them, but instead you find yourself mesmerized by his tall, greasy, stiff looking jet black hair. Before you know it, he has you in an embrace so tight that you can smell the coconut oil in his hair product.
Third Person POV - Limited
Like with the First Person POV, the reader gets a more personal understanding of the main character. Unlike the First Person POV, with this POV the author can also describe what other characters appear to be thinking about (see last sentence in the example).
The reader only knows what the character knows and only experiences what the character experiences.
Karen knew without even having to ask that Michael was uninterested in her. He'd fired her enough times and gotten mad at her so often that she knew she had been "friend-zoned". Still, no other woman was good enough for him! Should I fake being happy for him, or tell him what I honestly think? She mused as she pretended to be focused on his makeup. "I don't know about Lisa....", she said, before trailing off at the frustrated glint in his eye.
Third Person POV - Limited (Rotating)
Over time, the reader knows and experiences different characters' knowledge and experiences. This is relatively simple and straightforward to write, but can still be very powerful. The author can add tension to the story simply by switching the character whose viewpoint is guiding the narrative. For instance, in one section/chapter, the reader can hear about the OG's internal anxiety about being around MJ, whereas in the next they can hear about MJ's confusion as to whether the OG likes him or not.
There is not all-knowing narrator. An author can also confuse readers if there isn't enough indication that they've changed the character whose perspective is being detailed. Moreover, the effect is lost if the author can't stay in one character's perspective for the length intended. This is a significant, and common, faux pas.
[Michael as lead]
A smirk slowly creeped onto Michael's faces. She thought she was so subtle. Her nervousness was attractive and an indication that despite his insecurities, women found him to be sexy. She wasn't Hollywood-ish or marred by this superficial town in the least. She was notably different from the women he is used to encountering professionally. "God bless you, Laura. I appreciate that. However, the creative process can't be limited to such a narrow frame of time without compromising the songs. My fans deserve better."
"They do; they also deserve to experience your musical talent on a more frequent basis," she said smartly. "I am very familiar with how loyal you are to your fans, as well as their loyalty to you. As a fan of many artists, I know the disappointment of hearing that an album release has been delayed."
Michael frowned. He didn't want to disappoint his fans and he resented her taking that approach. "My fans would understand if it meant they'd get a better album; one of the quality that they've come to expect from me."
[Lauren as lead]
Lauren was so uncomfortable with how this meeting had turned out that she was ready to hide under the table. Here she was, face to face with her idol, and she was obviously angering him. She watched his neutral facial expression as she finished her comment "....has been delayed."
"I'm sorry, but it's not possible. My fans will understand," he replied with a note of finality to his tone.
She felt her muscles tighten. He was shooting her down. So this is what they meant when they said that he has a way of shutting down the other side when upset by them. She had thought she would be different. It was such an odd experience, him behind his classic aviators, her feeling vulnerable. This is supposed to be her domain! How is she to get ahead in this business if she both annoys The King of Pop and disappoints her higher ups, all in the same meeting? "I understand that if this is delayed, future albums would likely be delayed, and that would put you in violation with the very lucrative contract you signed with Sony Music."
She watched as his tapping fingers stopped abruptly and his shoulders tensed.
Note that the first scene is told from Michael's POV, with the reader able to see his thoughts and some inkling of what Lauren is thinking. However, her thoughts aren't really known until the second scene, which is told from her POV.
Third Person POV - Omniscient
The reader sees what happens through all of the characters' perspectives, including their thoughts. The narrator is in this instance all-knowing, so readers can track all the different characters. The author can also say things about the present, future, and past, because the narrative isn't depending on what the characters are thinking.
It's complicated (in case you missed that message in the benefits section). If the author isn't very attentive to detail, who is being described, the owner of the thoughts being expressed, who is making an action, what is taking place....it can all get lost and become a jumbled mess that is a headache for both the author and the readers. Plus, it can be impersonal. There is no exactly "main" POV that the reader gets to sink into, so the reader may become less engaged.
Michael watched each brother as he walked onto the stage. Jermaine noticed that Michael looked tired. Tito noticed that Michael had put on weight. Jermaine reached Michael and embraced him, including an extra squeeze in an attempt to keep his concern from reaching his mouth. Walking past his embracing brothers, a focused Tito walked over to his guitar and started testing the tightness of each string. It wasn't that he lacked Jermaine's concern, he'd just talk to Michael later. Back in the hug, Michael had immediately gotten the message and begun to feel uncomfortable. This was not going to be fun.
that was annoying to write.
If you can pull that off on a regular basis
and produce chapters that sound good,
I will applaud you.
I just may not read consistently.
The Faux Pas that Keeps Happening (and how to avoid it)
A common mistake is blurring Third Person Limited (rotating) and Third Person- Occasional Omniscience, so that multiple characters' POV are shown in one chapter, with occassional blatant foreshadowing by an omniscient narrator. I've pointed this out before to fanfiction writers, and they commonly have said things like "I want to show what both of them are feeling." That's all fine and dandy, but one has to know the limits of the viewpoint they are attempting. Doing a hybrid version of these two POV will only lead to confused and frustrated readers. Which, given enough repetition, can translate into former readers. On top of being confusing, taking this hybrid approach means that half of the drama that the author could be creating (without relying on absurd plot twists), is lost.
SO, what does that leave an author with, if they want to show what multiple characters are feeling?
- Third Person POV - Limited (writing overlapping scenes that differ in whose view is being used)
- Third Person POV- Omniscient
- Accept that it can be too awkward to show each/both person's view of each event. Especially if you are showing too many character POVs (Don't do that!). Instead focus on writing one viewpoint of a given event and enough information for the reader to infer the other character's POV.
Finally, I know that this shouldn't have to be said, but I'll say it anyway:
- Keep the author notes separate from the story. They aren't part of the POV (or POV changes).
- Don't switch POVs without a break/separator. Pressing "return" a few times is not remotely adequate.
Some points to ponder:
- Which POV do you usually use?
- Have you committed a faux pas in this domain?
- What are your pet peeves when it comes to POV?
- Which POV do you prefer to read stories being told from?
Formatting - It makes a big difference by Redone
How your formatting your story doesn't really matter, right? Wrong. Ask anyone if they enjoy reading a wall of text and they are likely to answer with a side-eye and a straight No!. How you format your story can change how clear your story is, how likely a reader is to find their eyes getting tired, and how likely that same reader is to feel wrapped up in the dialogue. Rather than wax prosaic about this topic, I'm going to make this segment fairly simple by listing some "Oh noes" and how to remedy them.
1. The Wall Of Text:Well written or not, without breaks, it's easy for perspective to get lost and dialogues to become confusing. (Note: this can also appear when dialogue is on different lines, but there is absolutely no spacing between lines). I already know some are saying "but that's my style". That's fine, just know that you lost a fair amount of readers because of a style, rather than your actual content. I peruse multiple resources in writing each segment, and this one is by far the most noted and despised faux pas.
Before we knew it, the terminal attendant was making the announcement for the final boarding group to make their way onto the plane, spurring us both pause in surprise. How had time passed so quickly? It felt like we had only just started to talk. "Um....." He looked around uncomfortably, "...I guess that I need to be going". "Me too...I'm sure that my plane will be boarding soon". The moment was awkward. Neither of us seemed eager to say goodbye, but at the same time, neither of us knowing exactly what to say. What do you say to someone you may never see again? Rolling slightly from his heels to his toes, Michael shifted his perfectly positioned hat, as though it had somehow fallen askew. This motion seemed to remind me of my own slightly clammy, fidgeting hands. "I had a great time...." Self conscious, I look down as though suddenly interested in a hangnail, only to realize with this motion that perhaps he was as nervous as me. Maybe his interest went deeper than I had imagined. Ha! No. He's probably just lost as to how to politely say goodbye.
2. There is a valley between each line: When a reader has to constantly scroll to see the next line, it means that they are more likely to notice gaps in the story/dialogue and less prone to getting caught up in the momentum of the plot.
Before we knew it, the terminal attendant was making the announcement for the final boarding group to make their way onto the plane, spurring us both pause in surprise.
How had time passed so quickly? It felt like we had only just started to talk.
"Um....." He looked around uncomfortably, "...I guess that I need to be going".
"Me too...I'm sure that my plane will be boarding soon".
The moment was awkward. Neither of us seemed eager to say goodbye, but at the same time, neither of us knowing exactly what to say. What do you say to someone you may never see again?
Rolling slightly from his heels to his toes, Michael shifted his perfectly positioned hat, as though it had somehow fallen askew. This motion seemed to remind me of my own slightly clammy, fidgeting hands.
"I had a great time....," I stated, trailing off as I grew uncomfortable with the heavy silence.
Self conscious, I look down as though suddenly interested in a hangnail, only to realize with this motion that perhaps he was as nervous as me. Maybe his interest went deeper than I had imagined. Ha! No. He's probably just lost as to how to politely say goodbye.
3. The Scene Changes Without Warning: without a visible and distinct break between POVs and scenes, readers can get left in the land of "wtf".
He wrapped his arms gently around my torso for what at first felt like an impersonal hug. Then, just as I was about to pull away, his grip tightened with urgency for a split second. If I had been distracted, I might not have even noticed it. As I walked away, I found myself kidding myself for trying to make something out of nothing. This was all in my head. It had to be.
Finally I was out of that airport. Thankfully my green, battered suitcase had been one of the first to get unloaded, so I might actually make my shuttle in time. Looking around me at the wall with directions as to where to find my AirStop shuttle, I notice a man holding up a sign with my name on it. Ha. I guess it isn't all that uncommon. I momentarily contemplated hanging around to see what she looked like when....
4. Everything looks the same.
la dee dah dee dah
la dee dah dee dah
la dee dah dee dah
1. One speaker per paragraph. This helps provide clarity as to who is saying what.
2. Provide a visible break between scenes. If you switch perspectives, settings, characters, you name it. Essentially any time you suddenly and dramatically switch scenes or POV, make a distinct marker. This helps prepare the reader to switch perspectives, making it less likely that they'll be stuck scratching their head. Pressing 'enter' a few times does not cut it. Think about putting a divider such as:
//// ~~~ "MJ's POV" "December 3rd" ~*~*~* - - - - "after far too much shopping" o0o0o0o
3. Provide some spacing between paragraphs/speakers. This is usually accomplished by simply hitting the return button while typing on mjfiction
4. Use quotation marks around dialogue, remembering to close the quotation marks when the verbalized statement ends.
5. If including an author's note, put it in the opening chapter notes or the end notes. I've seen it put in the actual story text, which is a huge no-no. When an author does that, even when it is at the end of the chapter but still in the text, they disrupt the scene.
6. If doing a flashback, alter the text in someway. This will add to the reader's ability to differentiate past from present, so that eventually you can switch between past and present without actually having to use an explicit warning. The easiest way to do this is to establish that flashbacks are in italics, underlined, a different font, or preceded and followed by a horizontal ruler.
As always, let me know if I missed something or was too brief in covering a point. Thanks!
The Female Lead - A call for suggestions! by Redone
I've been pondering the content of this segment (or segments, as it is a big topic) and want to make sure that I address every point that is of concern. So far I have:
-Using women that were actually in his life (e.g. Diana, Brooke, Shana, Lisa, etc) - Chapter 7
-Using images to display the lead female/ OG (The benefits vs the risks) - Chapter 8
-Developing an OG/female lead with substance (aka avoiding a complete Mary Sue) - chapter 6
-Things one must consider in choosing a leading lady (e.g. age, race, back story)
Does this cover it?
Please let me know if you want anything covered and/or what your experiences have taught you. As authors, you guys have had more experience writing stories than I have!
Using Real Women as Leading Females by Redone
Whether or not your lead female is an OG modeled after a leading actress/singer or you are using a woman who was really in Michael's life as the protagonist, there are several things authors must keep in mind. Before getting into the nitty gritty on how to approach canon figures, I'll begin by addressing why I feel that this deserves its own segment.
If you are attempting to write canon or include canon figures, then you have to know that your readers come with their own viewpoints on the figures you write about. That doesn't mean that you necessarily have to change how you write a character, but it is something to keep in mind. For instance, if you portray Tatum, Diana, Tatiana, Brooke, Jane, Elizabeth, Lisa Marie, etc in negative or positive likes, you are likely to run across at least one reader who decides to stop reading or takes offense. To be completely upfront, I'm the first to admit that I'm nowhere near a fan of Tatum, Diana, Tatiana, Lisa Marie, or Brooke. Thus, when these characters are used as a protagonist or shown in a very positive light by an author, I'm unlikely to even start the story. I know, I know, . You may like them. As a reader, I don't want to read stories that emphasize these women, so I simply don't. Why am I saying this? Because I'm not the only one. More often than not, when I mention to MJ friends than I read fanfic, they begin to go off on their opinions of fanfic faux pas.
Just as you, the writer, compose your story with a certain image of these real women (and MJ's male friends), readers approach stories with preconceived opinions on these characters. If you want to maximize your readership, handle these characters with care. If you want to stick with your artistic freedom and don't mind alienating a few readers, write as you see fit.
IF you want to write canon and/or include canon figures, while still maximizing your readership, here are some suggestions:
I feel like a broken record. Research. Sticking with what really happened can save you from offending readers. You may LOVE X or HATE Y, but conveying that whilst using a canon figure and not researching their personality or historical interactions with Michael and/or statements about him? This can get you in hot water.
Now, I should note that sticking with fact as much as possible can help you acquire readers, such as myself, who have preconceived notions. For instance, I'm always watching for updates by wonderfultonight because she made it known in her first chapter that her goal was to make Life: A work in progress historically-accurate, when possible.
Balance the Good with the Bad
If you are going to portray the person's great character traits, also show the bad ones. Just as this is a common step in writing OGs (especialy Mary Sues) and Michael, it is a common error in writing canon figures. For more on that, see the previous segment.
Don't undervalue the power of a disclaimer
So you've decided that you want to use a canon figure but convey them differently than how you believe they really acted (aka OOC or Out of Character)? Put up a disclaimer in your first chapter and/or your story summary. That way readers know what they are getting into, so they have no valid reason to get mad at you later on. Just also know that most readers don't want to reader fanfics with characters acting OOC unless it is an AU story, and even then the hesitancy prevails.
Please let me know if I'm missing anything. Thank you to KerenOlivero for the idea.
Developing a strong female lead character - UPDATED by Redone
1. Reconsider overdescribing her appearance or posting (regular) pictures of the lead female. How many of us are walking runway models? Or perfect depictions of the leading actresses/singers? Very few. Making your female PERFECT means alienating a lot of readers. It also means that you quickly fall into the risk of a "Mary Sue" lead. Now, this isn't a hard and fast rule, but there are certain things that I look at when I'm reading.
I can't speak for all readers, but since I'm writing this, I'll put a few of my pet peeves here:
- Pictures of the lead female - call me old fashioned, but I love to use my imagination
- Detailed descriptions of what the female lead is wearing and how her clothes fit her body. I'm all for this scattered throughout chapters, but when the description lasts several lines/a paragraph. Not so much. I'm reading the story for the plot, not the lead girl's body ;)
2. Give your lead female/OG some flaws. I know, I know, everyone can say that their lead female has some flaws. But I am probably referring to something different than what most assume to be flaws. I'm not talking about things like “moody” or “she’s too compassionate” or "she's guarded". I'm talking about flaws that will not help her at all. Is she very insecure about her body? Does she have a mental illness? Does she have gas? You need not mention them obsessively, but you should come up with some things that make her human.
Don’t make a world for your lead female/OG; make her part of the world.
3. Give her real problems. I'm not talking about "all these guys love me and won't stop chasing after me", or, "all these women are so jealous of me because I'm perfect". Give her more than frustrated love or parents who don’t understand her. Those are super common problems and in assuming them you are essentially limiting yourself to a common storyline. This is cool if you are fine with it. However, it won't set your story apart. If you’re going to give her a romantic problem, try to make it more general than “I really like him but my parents don't!” Or "My parents are abusive" or "they don't understand me". Consider drawing from other common, but less played problems.
- Severe financial problems
- Bullying sibling/sibling rivalry
- Family Secrets
- A longterm illness
- Dead end job
- Being worn ragged with school
4. Reconsider making her sharp, and witty, with a comeback to everyone. I love a character with spunk, but she has to be human. I think we all have times when we don't know what to say, can't come up with a sharp comeback, and well....prove that we are human.
5. Have your lead female make mistakes. This may seem like it goes with #2, but I'm giving it it's own number because I really want to drive this point home. Perfect people are boring. They are also alienating. To err is human. Remember that.
6. Have your lead female/OG interact with other characters. Have her engage in some conversations, some give and take, that don't always end up being about her, and where she actually learns things about the other characters.
7. Do not identify too closely with your lead female. PLEASE don't give her your name. Please don't make her "you". I get the draw, I do. But the closer you make her to "you", the more it'll feel like people's comments are comments about you. It is also often transparent to readers and makes them a bit uncomfortable. For example, when you call her "your baby", that's a red flag to readers. I'm talking police siren red. Or when she works in your field, has a family like yours, etc etc.
8. Finally, think about age. How close in age is she to Michael? Would their relationship be illegal/ bordering on pedophilia? Might the age pairing bring to readers' minds' the impropriety insinuated by past allegations?
~*~ UPDATED ~*~
@wonderfultonight posted an interesting link of questions related to OCs, which got me thinking about some of the aspects I neglected to touch upon here. Namely, some questions you might want to play around with in developing your OG (guy or girl). I'll include a few links at the bottom, but I've gone ahead and selected (and developed) a few questions that I feel are either commonly left unanswered or that can add a lot of depth to the character.
Note: These are in no specific order. All are important.
- What does the OG's name mean?
- What are the OG's nicknames? How did they come about?
- When faced with conflict, how does the OG respond?
- How does the OG see his/herself?
- How does each of the supporting characters perceive the OG?
- What embarrasses the OG?
- What are the OG's biggest shortcomings?
- How much confidence does the OG have in his/herself?
- What does the OG get upset about? What are his/her pet peeves?
- What is the OG's temperament like?
- What calms the OG?
- Who is the OG closest to?
- Who does the OG confide in?
- What is the OG's dream/goal?
- Does the OG have a specific catch phrase?
- What kind of things does the OG do that might hurt others?
- What is the OG fearful of?
- What does the OG do in his/her free time?
- How well does your OG interact with and understand others?
- How well does your OG understand his/herself?
- What divides your OG's definition of good and bad?
- How does your OG act most of the time? Is he/she irritable? Contemplative? Quiet? Outgoing?
- How does your OG respond to stress?
- How does your OG tend to see the world?
- Is your OG spiritual? Religious? Atheist?
- How educated is your OG?
- What is your OG's likes/dislikes? (e.g. food, place, fashion, tv show, music, movie, etc)
- What is your OG's personality like? (e.g. sense of humor, emotional stability, egotistical or humble, etc)
- What economic class is your OG in?
- What kind of career does your OG have?
- How does your OG define a friend vs an acquaintance vs family?
- How is your OG's health?
- What does your OG smell like?
- What features does your OG look for in a mate?
- What types of mates does your OG attract?
- What is your OG's culture?
- What is your OG's voice like? Think: volume, rate, accents, pitch.
- What was the OG's upbringing and later life, like?
- Ages 0-3
- Ages 4-12
- Ages 13-18
- Ages 19-29
- (and each decade thereafter)
- What are the defining moments in your OG's life?
- What about the OG attracts Michael?
- How does your OG express sexual arousal?
- How does your OG prefer to be courted?
Let me know what you think and/or what I neglected.
Portraying Michael: The basics by Redone
The basics of writing canon and within character depictions of Michael
Fanfiction is not written based on original characters. MJ fanfiction is written based on Michael, so it stands to reason that getting Michael "right" is a fundamental task for any writer of MJ fanfic. Thus, regardless of whether you are writing a very AU story, readers will constantly compare your take on Michael to what they know of him. Thus, many will be livid if you turn him into a murderer, a rapist, and child molester....or even a ridiculously innocent naive adult. For this reason, you shouldn’t go changing much about his personality unless you’re going to write a disclaimer and commit to that alteration 100%.
Know the man
In Depth: If you are going to write canon (or something very similar to it), do your research. I am not joking. Do it. If you don't want people like me butting in, finding yourself flustered, or just plain overwhelmed, then do your research. From the procedures he had done to the nicknames he used to the people he avoided to the volume of his voice in certain situations to his drinks of choice to the foods he actually regularly ate in different eras. Many of us readers would like to help and will help if/when asked. At the same time, we can't be your sole source of information.
Think about it this way, how often was Michael portrayed in a false light by the media? By people who didn't like him? Even by fans, themselves? Enough that he had to develop "elephant skin". Do you want to be part of that group that perpetuated falsehoods? If not, do your homework. If you do not want to do true canon, add in an author's note at the beginning of your story denoting the fact that you are taking some creative liberties, specifying in which ways you are. If you can give a reasonable explanation of why you changed his personality, most readers will forgive you.
Know what you don't know
Summary: None of us are Michael, so all of us have at least some significant gaps in knowledge. Know yours.
In Depth: if you ever find yourself guessing or making something up, realize that that is what you are doing. If you are writing canon, these instances should be as minimal as possible. How do you accomplish this? Research. Get a sense of Michael's personality so that you can make a reasonable guess as to what he might say or do in a given situation.
Stop the glorification ( or the infantilization)
Summary: Michael was The Man. That doesn't make him perfect. Mmmkay?
In Depth: He was human. He wasn't always naive and innocent. He also wasn't always perfect. He sometimes made off color jokes to fans. He also sometimes swore. He drank during different times of his life...and sometimes got wasted. He sometimes avoided his siblings and he sometimes invited fans into his house. He wasn't always sequestered or always reachable. Shoot, he pursued at least one married woman. He was human. Let that shine through.
Write his Bio (first!)
Summary: Reread my last few points. Now use them to write his bio.
In Depth: And by "first!", I mean, before you start writing him in your story. Then, whenever you have a question about his dialogue or something he does, refer back to that bio. Is it consistent?
Read what you write out loud
Summary: Read some of the dialogue out loud to make sure that each character doesn't sound the same.
In Depth: People use different phrasing, disclose different amounts of information, and have different speech patterns. This isn't all distinguished by simply giving the OG and Michael different types of pet names to say. Reading snippets of the dialogue aloud can help you hear if they sound different without having to change your tone of voice. When you read out loud you can actually hear how bad things sound. Some people use bigger words, others use more slang, others speak different types of slang.
Listen to your feedback
Summary: Sometimes we all slip up. Sometimes someone else knows more. Listen, question, and reconsider if the feedback is valid and/or appropriate.
In Depth: Readers in general tend to tip toe around what they don't like, keep comments short, and just encourage. When someone actually points out a canon/near-canon Michael acting out of character in your fanfic, then I'd suggest going back and looking over the chapter/story again to see if a fix needs to happen (whether by actually editing the chapter or addressing it in an upcoming chapter). Since you can interact with readers in the comments, you might even ask them questions if you are unclear how it is OOC. Now, if you don't agree with some things that's perfectly fine, but do take into account that their may be other readers who have the same thoughts as the person who spoke up. If nothing else, file this in the back of your mind under "things to consider" as you move forward in your story.
Got this up a LOT sooner than I was expecting. Please let me know your thoughts :)
Portraying Michael: When Michael isn't Michael by Redone
First, a refresher:
OOC: Out of Character. When a real figure is portrayed without of character personality traits/behaviors.
AU: When canonical facts of a setting, characterization of the universe, and/or a character (e.g. Michael) that are being depicted, are purposefully altered. For example, an author might change a timeline, change the context, or some details having to do with the character (e.g. career, income, etc). Note: I'm not very interested in the technicalities/nuances of fanfiction terms.
Wait, so AU doesn't mean Michael is OOC?
Long story short, No. Writing an AU MJ fanfiction doesn't mean that you, the writer, can drastically alter Michael's character without any pushback from readers. Rather, one of the points of writing an AU MJ fanfiction is that MJ's personality remains as close to reality as possible, only changing factors around him.
How OOC is too OOC?
Honestly, this varies. Some authors have been able to get away with going very OOC. Then again, I've also probably heard just as many grumbles about those stories as I have seen positive reviews for the stories. By this I mean everything from having him as a serial rapist, murderer, including incest, a kidnapper..... to him as being perpetually rude or a womanizer. That's quite the spectrum, and the latter two are by no means comparable to the former four. However, all get a notable uproar. If your "Michael" spends more time OOC - or even as much time - it's too much. We are all here because of Michael, so not paying appropriate attention to that fact will have repercussions.
So you decided to go OOC. What now?
Be creative but don't push it. As the summary I gave of AU shows, there are many ways you can exert creativity in a story other than by altering Michael's personality. These include the era, locale, even some of his physical features. As shown by the sheer volume of reviews some stories on here get, the MJ fanfic community is all for exerting creativity and stretching limits. But please take caution: don’t change the personality traits and characteristics of Michael so much that readers can only recognize him by his eyes and lean frame.
Remember that at the end of the day, you are posting for ff on a site that is populated by MJ fans. If you make MJ an ambiguous figure that could be almost any person, then you might find better reception if you just changed his name and posted on a regular ff forum (e.g. archiveofourown, fanfiction.net, etc). If you are posting on MJFiction or another MJ fanfic forum/subforum, think of your writing as if you were writing the next episode/an alternate version of his life or an alternate ending to his life. Readers here will want to connect the Michael they know and love to the creative plots, scenarios, and twists you’ve dreamed up. If they can't see Michael in your story as being the same Michael who they admire, love, and respect, then you will likely lose a good amount of readers and reviewers.
Guidelines for going OOC
All caveats aside, here are some basic suggestions/rules to guide writers who want as many readers, reviewers, and support as possible:
- Go OOC as little as possible. Each time you have Michael go OOC, you test the believability of your story. Whether it is just Michael being perfect or him being disrespectful and a player, you are testing your readers' willingness to suspend reality.
- If you must go OOC, give some explanation for why. This is easily shown through writing Michael's thoughts as he goes OOC, or having another character comment on how his actions are OOC.
- Gradually progress to the place in which Michael is OOC. This way when he is OOC, it doesn't stand out like a sore thumb. For instance, if you going to have Michael start cussing out folks in Chapter 8, have him show signs of sleep deprivation, increased stress, in combination with make others more irritating in chapters 6 and 7.
- Preceed the OOC moment with an event that would reasonably have a huge effect on Michael and spur him to act in an atypical manner. Drawing from real life, one can easily see this in Michael's presentation to court in his pajamas during his trial. He had fallen in the shower that morning and been rushed to the hospital, only to have the judge reject that excuse for not presenting to court (event). Thus, he did not present in his normally impeccable attire (OOC moment).
Thanks to @KerenOlivero @TutThreeSevens @Coco @2DreamFire @HoneyToTheBee for your input/ideas.
I'm content with ending review of MJ as depicted in AU fics with this segment. Please let me know if there is a point that I didn't touch on here that you feel would warrant further coverage.
Thanks for all your feedback!
The Dos and Don'ts of Advertising Your FanFic by Redone
- Be Active: this is a great way to get attention. It will give you visibility, create relationships on this site, give authority to your name, highlight your writing style, and in general it can make you more well-known and well-respected. This is especially so if you review others’ work, because good and/or constructive reviews will make people think you are helpful and nice and will probably make them more likely to return the favor.
- Be creative with your summary: One option is to put a quote in from the story - it shows your writing style (which can immediately interest the reader.) Another option is to pose a question or teaser in your summary, such as
Nia is used to her beautiful sister, Lara, attracting the attention of others.
When a rant on her Youtube grabs national attention, she is thrust into the spotlight and her simple life becomes anything but.
Alienated and insecure, will she accept the perks of the attention, with all the pain he brings, or will being once bitten make her twice shy?
- Check your grammar and spelling: Use full sentences, make sure there aren't any spelling mistakes, and/or word omissions. Sounds simple, but it's not at all uncommon to see such errors in the summary.
- Carefully think about your banner: This should stay the same, at most, going under minor reconstruction. Consider the size of your banner (e.g. how many page lengths must the reader scroll through to pass it?), the images you portray, and the phrasing of your summary. Do they accurately depict your story? Some quick pointers:
Not showing the OG's face --> Readers rely more on their imagination
Using a poorly drawn/childish graphic --> immature tone for your story
Using a highly sexual graphic --> very sexual/smut-like tone for your story
Using a celebrity's image --> readers will apply his/her personality and their own opinions of the person
No graphic --> readers are more likely to miss updates
- Post massive banners in your summary: You may think that this will get more eyes on you, but in all likelihood they will be eye rolls. Just as "something" is good, "too much" is bad. If your banner is massive, it can easily become obnoxious to those scrolling through the front page, as people will have to scroll more simply to get past your banner. I've seen some "summaries" run the length of a 1,000 word chapter. That's not a summary - it's an annoyance. This effect is made worse when the banner is animated in any way. For instance, if it flashes, or sparkles, or has some kind of choppy animation on it, it’s going to start really rubbing people the wrong way. Yeah, it captures the attention of potential readers. It also usually annoys them for that specific purpose.
- Keep changing your summary and/or banner pic: People strive on consistency. We also often look for the familiar when scrolling through the "Most Recent" page. Changing things up constantly makes that difficult....it also looks like you are trying really hard to get attention. Just as in dating, that's a turnoff in writing.
- Mentioning your fic(s) in each review you post: We get it. You are proud. Be proud. Just also know that people can click on your username and look up the fics you have written. People will ask if they are interested. Yes, being active is a great way to get attention, but constantly mentioning your own work can come off as pretentious.
- Be too vague: You know that search bar at the top right? Well, it's useful for searching stories by certain terms. However, it is rendered useless if you are incredibly vague in your summary. Similarly, being vague in your summary doesn't help potential readers get even a grasp of what your story will be about. How will it be different than the rest? What stands out about it to you? Think about those questions when you write your summary.
- Be too specific: Keep the summary relevant to the story, but don't give an outline as to how the story will go. It may be known as a "summary", but consider it more as the front and back jackets of a book. Those do not mirror an actual story summary or prologue.
As always, please let me know if I'm missing anything and/or anything you'd like me to expand upon.
Advertising, Continued....... by Redone
I realize that I omitted some topics in my previous chapter, so I will continue to update as those come to mind.
The About Me Post
I have noticed a trend of people starting "stories" that are essentially biographies of the author or self-advertisements of their youtubes/fanfics/kik/etc. Personally, I am not a fan of these. We all have a “bio” page, so it is reasonable to consider that such self-advertisements could go there. While it is true that not everyone looks there, one could easily direct readers there using the intro/conclusion of their chapter updates. Chances are that that will translate to more quality (e.g. people with actual interest) clicks to one's "bio" page than starting a "story". In the case of the latter, it is more likely the case that people will roll their eyes than actually read them and follow up on the link.
The Trailer Post
Now, there has been one trend that I’ve been noticing that I’m a bit perplexed about. The story trailer. Don't get me wrong, I get the idea behind it. The problem is that so many stories get a trailer, only for the reader to wait weeks to see the story actually get posted. That is, if it ever gets posted. Thus, a story trailer is unlikely to translate over into actual quality readers (e.g. people who read and comment) unless the author has demonstrated that they are consistent with their updates. One excellent example of this paying off is HoneyToTheBee, but I'd argue that a good reason this works for her she has a consistent history of regularly updating her stories with quality content. No "I don't know when/if I'll get a chance to update in -insert weeks/months-. Now, there may be other exceptions to this rule that aren’t coming to mind at the moment (Tinker13?), but the point is that these are exceptions. As such, if you are a new author, have a history of not completing stories, or taking months to post a chapter update, this is unlikely to work in your favor.
--> What to Do? <--
There is benefit to advertising a story before the first chapter, however, doing so needs to be done carefully and be followed by regular updates. Off the top of my head, these might include:
- A prologue (shout out to SkyWriter and TutThreeSevens)
- A thread of 1-3 page excerpts from potential story topics with a request for readers to vote on which they’d like to see appear (shout out to Tinker13)
- Bits about your upcoming story at the ends of chapters in a current story. These could include a graphic, questions having to do with the upcoming story, and/or notice of when the first chapter will get posted.
Summaries: A Case Example by Redone
Ms. TutThreeSevens was nice enough to agree to let me use her story summary and story and construct a couple alternative options to demo different ways of writing a summary.
Currently it looks like:
Michael Jackson became the biggest super star on the planet with his music. What happens when he desides to walk away from it and tackle his other passion? He meets a young tattoo apprentice and the chase ensues...Will it be love or pure regret?
I previously mentioned one as using lines from the story itself. Here's an example of mixing in a fairly classic line from the text into the summary:
First Thriller now MJJ Ink™
He's a good boy gone playa, with a list a mile long.
She's a new apprentice who just wants to perfect her craft.
Create beautiful art and make me money people. I'm out see y'all later.
Realistically, there is so much one can do with the summary. A summary is essentially meant to convey 1-3 points that you wish to convey about your story. It doesn't require a play-by-play of the drama to come, nor will one sentence adequately convey enough information to attract most readers.
While brief, summaries can vary dramatically whilst still being of great quality. After all, how much you want to set up and/or elaborate upon those 1-3 points is up to you. While I only did one example here, there are many ways to write summaries (e.g. poem, first person POV, third person POV, like on the back jacket of a book). This is simply one of them.....and as someone who doesn't write fic, it's one that I find to be both the easiest and the biggest tease.
-Online sources for information on Michael's life
-Consistency is Key
(Let me know if you think of more and/or if I forgot one)
Keeping Readers/Getting Reviews by Redone
You've now gotten some readers and reviewers. How do you keep them? How do you increase them?
- Consistency: this could be a segment unto itself. In fact, it will be. For the abbreviated purpose of this segment, I'll leave it at this: If you take a lot of time between updates, you are likely to lose readers. Either they will stop reading and/or reviewing because they stop visiting the site out of impatience, or they prioritize other stories before yours. Similarly, if you keep throwing in random twists and/or tangents in your stories, readers and/or reviewers are likely to miss the reason they started following your story. Inconsistency breeds inconsistency....if not complete absence.
Michael's quality of his performances are a lesson in consistency.
- Respond to them: This is a basic but fatal error that many writers make. Consistently posting quality chapters is enough to get consistent readers, but reviewers take a bit more. I know, it feels like you have to keep giving and get so little in return. You already wrote those 2-6,000 words, so you should be done, right? Wrong. If a reader leaves you a response, don't leave them hanging. Even if it is just "thanks!" of "you're welcome!" that little bit lets them know that you actually read and care about your reviews. I do check back on the comments I leave, to see if the writer has responded. Quite often we'll engage in a back-and-forth. I don't get the point of continuing to review if the writer doesn't seem to care what I say.
As busy as he was, Michael was known for calling fans and taking an extra moment to talk to them.
- Know how to take (constructive) criticism: Yeah, not being perfect sucks. I mean, jeez, you posted something. Shouldn't that come with 100% accolades or at least "thanks"? The fact is that if you are posting your fics in a public space, then you are inviting people to comment on your work. Does that mean people have the right to rip you to pieces and tell you that you are a horrible author? Frankly, yes. Should they? No, that is just mean. Now, if you really are writing to become better at writing, then listening to your audience is very important. You could get compliments, complaints, helpful constructive criticism, or get horribly flamed. Whatever you receive, it is important that you analyze the comment carefully, and see if you think it applies to your writing or not. Don't just throw it aside because it isn't what you want to hear. If a few people mention a similar flaw in your writing, or someone whose comments you respect brings something up, then you should pay heed. Think of it as free inspiration and help.
When he got backlash over certain things (e.g. BoW short film, TDCAU), he listened and took the feedback into consideration.
- Don't ignore your roots: If you find that your chapters increase in length and/or your writing significantly improves as time goes on, go back and adjust your earlier chapter accordingly. A lot of people improve as they proceed in their story, however readers won't know that unless they get past X number of chapters. If the writing was of significantly poorer quality in the beginning, chances are the reader won't bother continuing. In my mind, this is one of the biggest problems authors face and many get upset about their lack of reviewers despite improvements in their writing. This frustration isn't unwarranted. At the same time, the person who reads chapter one and sees it barely scrapes 1000 words (if that), is superficial, and very "he said, she said" in it's delivery, is unlikely to stick around so that they discover the richly written chapter 10. Note that this doesn't mean you change your plot, just that you add richness to your chapters.
Now for the Don'ts:
- Beg for more: Begging for reviews may work to get some readers to review, but trust that you will likely also put others off. Those might include some of your previous reviewers. Instead, try more subtle ways of encouragement.
- Hold your story hostage: Saying that you won't post another chapter until you get a certain number of reviews will put people off. Some may post, but it won't be because they want to. Forcing someone's hand doesn't leave them with a warm feeling in their stomach. Trust that some may dip.
- Whine about not getting enough people reviewing: Look at stories that get a bigger number of reviewers and checkout the things I've already mentioned about their writing, but also check out how they interact with readers. Chances are that they engage with their readers consistently and have some fun with it. If you still don't know, leave a comment here and I'll try to help.
- Comment on others' stories and include plugs for your story. It is tacky and people see right through that. It doesn't let an author know that you liked their chapter so much as it says "I sorta read your chapter so that I could ask you to read mine".
- Bump your story: People notice that and it looks tacky. If you didn't add anything of substance or make significant changes to something, then it isn't like you are trying to spread new info. Rather, you are just telling everyone who posted after you that you think their efforts are unimportant and you have no respect for other authors. It's the efiction equivalent of Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift. Now, I get doing it in some cases (e.g. when someone who virtually spams the board posts 50-200 word updates on all their stories at once, or a ton of people post journal updates of no substance), but at the end of the day it is still in poor taste and can turn off even regular reviewers.
Take Home Message:
As an author of publicly posted fan fiction, keep in mind that your goal is to have your audience actually read your story. This isn't simply accomplished by posting a picture and a summary. Rather it involves multiple phases.
- Finding your audience
- Convincing your audience to give your story a chance
- Keeping that audience engaged
- Getting your audience to speak up.
I like to think about ideas well before I post chapters, so I thought I'd better start brainstorming asap. On the docket:
--> A 'How-To" Guide to Research
-->Writing a Supporting Cast Thanks to @2DreamFire for the idea
--> Approaching Writing Thanks to @wonderfultonight for the suggestion
--> Soundbytes/the little bits (expanding making an outline, formatting your story, etc). Thanks to @HoneyToTheBee for that last one
--> How to approach writing genre's. and making them feel authentic. Romance, etc. Thanks to @TutThreeSevens
I'd appreciate any help you can give in adding to/expanding upon those points, so that I have a better idea of what you guys would like covered. Also, as always, ideas are more than welcome. You guys have more fic writing experience than I do, so you guys know first-hand more of the pains fan fic writers must work through.
As always - thanks to everyone who has contributed :)
Let's Talk About Sex by Redone
This is a controversial topic. Some people hate seeing it in fan fics, others refuse to read a story if it doesn't involve sex. In my opinion, if you are writing for an adult audience and it focuses around a romantic relationship, then sex is a factor. Sex is a healthy part of a romantic adult relationship. Ignoring or skipping over it means downplaying a major form of connection/intimacy.
The big question is: How do you portray it? I'm not going to pretend that I have all of the answers. Different readers have different tastes. That being said, I've gone through various threads, articles, and posts to try to compile a list of points that I feel are relevant.
How often is too often? In relationships, the number ebbs and flows. When it's novel and the relationship is newer, it'll be more frequent. As a couple reaches another level of intimacy, it may drop down a little. Add young kids to the equation, and well.....
So, how to convey this in a story? Well, I think a common rule of thumb is that if you do not want your story to become something out of a porno, don't write about it in every chapter. People will get bored. A loyal reader is more likely to read a story because the story line is good, than because the story is about . If that's what your story is about, then chances are, eventually at least a few readers will go When that happens, something went wrong. Novelty wears off. It is better to have no sex scene than one that doesn't further your plot. If you are going to have a sex scene, make it have a purpose. If it doesn't fit, don't write it.
Pearl. Heart. Pussy. Vag. Love. Spot. Mound. Treasure. Get the point? There are a lot of words that one could use when writing a sex scene, but that doesn't mean you need to use them all. Remember that your choice in words sends a subtle (or bold) message to your readers. Dick. Penis. Sword. Spear. Member. Rod. Dagger. Trunk. Cock. One sounds factual and direct, another sounds like one is stuck in a harlequin romance novel, another like a furry story, another, like a porno. Make sure the words you choose are consistent with the message you want to convey. This is the same for your characters' actual dialogue.
Real life sex is funny, soft, clumsy, loving, passionate, hard at times, quick and much more.
It's not always perfect and sometimes it's just like . If the chemistry is good, more often than not it is like . Yes, most authors know that people want to know what happens, but don't forget that there is more to writing such a scene than simply Action A, Action B, Action C.
Think about other details, such as the senses (taste, touch, sight, smell, sound) and where your characters are in space. It's a little hard for him to kiss her stomach if he is behind her, so don't write that. Make sure what they are doing is physically possible without major Frankenstein-ish surgery. Also, sex involves more than just the sex organs. Sure, there are the main attractions, but don't forget the side-roads. Think: hands, feet, back, stomach, etc. Think foreplay before you even think about listing exact sizes (on him or her). Scratch that, don't list exact sizes, period.
Now, if you end there you have a basic sex scene. It's okay, but it's a bit flat and dry. Internal introspection can go a long way to adding depth to your scene. Sex is more than just physical and great sex also involves the exchange of emotions.
I've just described a lot, but I want you to keep one thing in mind: a longer scene doesn't mean that it is more believable, just as more frequent sex doesn't mean that the plot is better.
But you haven't answered the question: When?
Actually, I did in the first segment, but it is worth mentioning again. Rushing to sex doesn't make the story sexier. It just makes the pairing look shallow, the attracton more superficial, (usually) makes the story less believable, and lessens the actual sexual tension that should preceed the act. Point being: give the characters some time to develop. And by "time", I mean chapterS. Going back to my opinion: a dozen, two dozen, even three dozen +, aren't too many chapters to wait if the plot and delivery are on point. That doesn't mean that you need to constantly tease your readers. That's fun at first, but at a certain point it gets manipulative and turns readers off. If there are any flaws in your delivery, they will become magnified and your number of reviewers will drop off. What waiting for the first sex scene does mean, is that you have the time to create a pairing that is so convincing and tangible that the readers can see the chemistry without you having to throw it in their faces.
Thanks to @SkyWriter and @TutThreeSevens for the suggestion
UPDATED: The Keyword that All Authors Need to Remember, Consistency by Redone
Common Points of Inconsistency and How to Fix Them
1. Taking Michael OOC without meaning to: As an author, it is hard to not inject your own POV or personality into Michael. Still, don't. Ditto for your boyfriend or your ex. If you are trying to stay within character and/or haven't set the reader up for an OOC moment, going with how you would respond in that situation isn't valid. People respond in all sorts of idiosyncratic manners, but each is usually consistent with that person's personality. Thus, defending a choice as it being something that you would do, is not a legitimate defense. I know that sounds weird, but people projecting their own responses onto Michael's character appears to be the most common mistake. Just because you would respond in one way, doesn't mean he would....even if you RP as Michael.
The Fix: Know when it is you and when it is Michael. Do your research: How did he respond in similar circumstances? If at a total loss, make a list of possible responses and try to figure out which is most consistent with his character.
2. Character Personalities/Traits: Essentially this is a continuation of point one, but applied to other characters. It is not uncommon to read about a shy and demure OG who is suddenly dressed in a highly-sexual manner without any precursor. Or to have a virgin have sex for the first time and immediately be experienced. Better yet - to wake up without any soreness. This also extends to supporting characters. If the character has been portrayed as easy, vindictive, and trying to steal MJ from the OG, it doesn't make sense for her to suddenly be caring, uninterested in MJ, and want to be the OG's best friend.
The Fix: Map out your characters' personalities before you throw them into the story. Make sure that if actions contradict with the personalities you've described, that there is a lead up that justifies that change.
3. Context: Know your context. If your setting is in NYC, then you probably won't have people speeding at 70mph down city streets. If you are set in SF or Seattle, you probably won't call the transit system a "subway". If you start out with the characters in college, it shouldn't magically become a grad school. If your character is on probation or parole, they shouldn't be traveling all over. If your character is a psychologist or a PO, don't involve them in a friendship or sexual relationship with his/her client. If your character is a native Southerner or Californian, don't have them use the Queen's English. Know their commonly used slang.
The Fix: Let's all say it together - RESEARCH.
I know Brandy is laughing right now, but seriously, . And by look it up, I mean don't just go with whatever pops up. I know that that makes things simpler, but know that you can't trust whatever comes up. Take for instance, Wikipedia pages for celebrities. Trust that their people go in and edit that stuff. Ditto for some companies. Some questions to ask yourself when doing research:
- Is there an official source that I can look to? (e.g. Medscape, a state/govt/transit official page, apa.org, a school's website)
- Does more than one source agree with this?
- Is this relevant to the area/population I'm addressing?
- Do I know somebody who might know the answer?
- Does this site have scholarly and relevant references, if it isn't an official site?
Know that this shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
You get more efficient with practice.
4. Characters: I'm talking about the actual supporting characters. Overloading readers with a constant flow of new characters or ones who appear at convenient times, it not realistic. How often do you know of long lost siblings reappearing that you've never heard of? How often does a person randomly have 5-6 new friends appear without changing a job, locale, or doing a dating site?
The Fix: Plan them ahead of time. Develop the ones you use.
5. Storyline: Picture this: Chapter 1. Michael is alone and lonely. Chapter 3. Michael is in love with the OG. Chapter 5. Michael is a player. Chapter 7. Michael wants to forever be with the OG
You are probably chuckling right now .....but not from shock. We've probably all seen this happen in a FF, at least half of us have gone , and several have closed the story never to return.
The Fix: I want to be upfront when I say that, doing that does NOT make you a bad author. You can be a great author and make that faux pas. If you've done that, just recognize it as a mistake that you made that you'd like to improve upon in the future. Nothing more, nothing less. I won't go into the steps to avoid this here, as I've touched upon them in previous segments.
6. Updates: Yes, this could be number one, but I wanted to make it the last thing people see. Update when you say you will. If you have regular readers and/or reviewers, know that you have something most people strive for. Don't throw that away. If you don't update for random long spans of time, know that you are making readers (and especially reviewers) wonder why they bothered.
The Fix: Plan beforehand and make character bios to help you later on when you are struggling (see previous segments). Ask readers to share what they think/would like to see happen, when stuck. Use your resources. It's better to post something than nothing. Readers are more likely to forgive (and appreciate) a filler chapter than a couple months without an update. Also, regardless of how fast you write, try staggering the actual updates at a regular interval. That could be every other day, every few days, every week, or every two weeks. Know that two weeks or longer is....a long time for a reader to wait. Think of your favorite book. Do you wait two weeks between chapters?
As my goal here is to support authors, feel free to comment with requests for links to resources/information. Just as I will point out discrepancies, I'm more than happy to help you avoid them.
Thanks @TutThreeSevens and @HoneyToTheBee and @brandyandMJ
As always, let me know what I'm missing, where I'm wrong, and what you think.
Writer's Block - Defeating it, once and for all by Redone
Thanks to everyone who is reading this and causing me to do a double-take each time I go to update. Not to forget, a *special* Thank YOU to each of my lovely reviewers. I love reading your input. You guys are always giving me new ideas, causing me to rethink what I wrote, and motivating me to do my research. Oh, and the laughs are plentiful. For anyone who is reading this, I suggest reading the reviews as they contain some excellent nuggets of information.
We've all heard of it. We've all probably experienced it.
How To Deal (a visual guide)
1. Write something else. Sometimes it helps to step away from whatever has you blocked and write something else. This could be a later scene in your story, a different story, free writing, or even building on your character development or outline. Personally, when I'm blocked, I skip to a different section/chapter or start outlining what it is that I'm trying to convey. Then, after a bit of time, reread what you have written and try again.
We won't judge you on what goes through your mind in these moments
2. Review your plot. It happens to the best of us. We get caught up in the detail we are writing and lose track of the bigger picture. The result is that you feel like you are getting dragged along and have no
real sense of where you are going. This can be addressed by looking at your outline and/or stepping away from your notebook or computer and mentally running through your story.
3. Research Michael. Yeah, I managed to fit my favorite word in again and make it relevant.
Doing this could mean reading about him during that time in his life. Watching his short films, listening to his music, watching old interviews, and/or youtubes that other fans have posted. He was your initial inspiration, so it makes sense that going back to him when you are unsure, will help spark your future work.
4. Read other fanfictions. Look at how other authors manage twists, frame dialogue, and write prose. Notice the difference between what works and what doesn't. Think about what they wrote and what you might have written. In general, draw upon others to exercise your
Caveat: Do not plagiarize. People will recognize it when you do. I could rattle off stories and examples, but that's neither here nor there. Suffice it to say, it is disrespectful.
5. Phone a friend. This could mean asking readers what they think will happen, bouncing ideas off of a friend, giving readers options and asking them to vote, etc. Use your audience.
6. Figure out what you don't need. Okay, you did the research, so now what? Do you need to post it all? NO. If you start getting bogged down in all the details you need to include and/or trying to show your readers that you did all your research, then you aren't necessarily writing your fanfiction. Yes, do it so that you can back up your choices and better develop your characters, but don't feel like you need to write out ALL the facts. Too much unnecessary information isn't a good thing.
7. Establish a schedule (and stick to it). Set aside time that is for writing your fanfiction and stick to that schedule, whether it is 15 minutes or an hour. Train your body to do it and your mind will follow. Part of this involves knowing when you should not write. If writing late at night keeps you up, try waking up extra early or ending writing earlier.
8. Set deadlines (and keep them). Tell your readers when they can expect the next chapter and follow through. As with point 8, consistency breeds consistency. If you make yourself accountable to someone else, you are more likely to follow through. It's the same with diets, exercise, and work deadlines. This is no different.
Get it done.
9. Carry something to take notes with. Whether it is your smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or a paper and pencil, taking notes when inspiration strikes can help give you fuel during those moments when you feel as though you are at a standstill.
10. Keep writing. If you've done all of the above or found them to be unhelpful, push through. Sometimes there really is no fun cure. If you ask most fulltime writers what they do when they have writer's block, they'll tell you that they keep writing. You may throw away what you write, you may not. Remember that something is better than nothing.
"Well, the best songs that are written write themselves. You don't ask for them, they just drop into your lap. Then there are those songs that, you know, you kind of uh, incubate. You know, you plant the seed, let the subconscious take its course, and within time you hope something comes, and most the time it does. I don't believe in the concept of writer's block -- that is a bad word. You create it when you say it. There's no such thing."
(M. Jackson, audio chat, October 26, 2001)
And remember, if all else fails, grab a slinky
Agree with me / Put me on Blast / Suggest a Topic
Writing Science Fiction/Fantasy - Material Added by Redone
Part 1 of a subseries on writing genres.
If you read nothing else, read the end.
Having gone over the basics of preparing to write a story, I'll now take this segment to talk more specifically about fantasy/science fiction fan fiction. Now, before I get any further, I want to emphasize that this genre is not my forte, and as such, I'd especially appreciate feedback from those of you who are well versed in writing such fanfics. That being said, I've decided to start with the hardest (for me) genre, and move forward from there (also a great approach when you feel as though you are facing a writing barrier).
Picture this - you have an idea for a sci-fi/fantasy fanfic. You really want to write it......but you are quickly finding that this isn't like writing a canon fic or even a fanfic in which Michael is himself but in a different real-world setting. Welcome to sci-fi/fantasy fanfics. While it doesn't necessarily have to be more complicated, it is different in many ways. For example, if it is set in a different world, you'll have to think about the rules of that world and how to convey them. The following are a select collection of points that writers of sci-fi/fantasy fics should attend to when writing their fics.
Research: This can look a little different here. For instance, as science fiction often builds upon real world and attention-getting scientific developments, knowing a bit more about these can add to the foundation of a story. Also, if drawing from a series (e.g. Twilight, Hitchhiker's Guide), then having a solid understanding of the language used in each, the limitations of their abilities (e.g. magic, strength, Achilles' heels), and the characters' personalities, will all be very important to the believability of your fiction. Reading or watching good series can become both inspiration and research if you are attentive to the details.
Check out the news: Remember that science fiction is often used to teach readers about their contemporary world. This can also be the case for fantasy. By packaging current events into an alternative universe or species, you add a touch of reality to unreality and infuse current events that you are interested in, in a way that removes some of the biases that people may have. Such current events can include current advances in science.
(Very much kidding.)
Think about the message you want to convey: Science Fiction is often known for the meaning it is trying to convey. From 1984 to Star Trek, the message is often just as powerful as a romance that the story might contain. Having a message can also help guide your plot, so that it isn't solely developed on a romance (if you do/don't even include one). Stories with a meaning often have a greater impact on readers.
Make your world relatable: Remember that many people have a hard time following a world that is very different than the one they live in. This is a problem that all writers deal with to some extent, but fantasy and science fiction writers face extra hurdles when they describe a world/species that dramatically different than can often look wildly different than what is found on Earth. For many people, they have a hard time following and understanding a world so different from their own. So, in between creating your super species, parallel universes, or magical creatures, think about how you can make it relatable to a mere mortal. If you can ground your creativity in a setting or context that you can reasonably expect readers to be familiar with, then that is one less thing you have to create and explain. That common ground can help the world you describe, come alive for your readers.
Don't forget the culture: We all have a culture. If you are going to set your story in a different world or a different Earth, consider what the culture of the alien/animals/earthlings is like. This will add realism and depth to your story. Things to think about: music, favorite past times, beliefs, politics, history, race, economics, genders, social stratification.
No joke and not a gif, but I bet you still found yourself interested.
Color the environment: Part of writing science fiction (and one of the parts readers often enjoy the most), is the creation of a different world. It's novel, interesting, and different from the reader's reality. So, if you do write sci-fi or fantasy, please remember to pay a lot of attention to the environment. Paint a portrait with your words. Think about if it is based in a city, countryside, underwater, or in a station. Is it humid, wet, dry, hot, or cold? Is the land flat, mountainous, filled with valleys?
Imagine describing that environment ^
Select your struggle: Conflict, struggle, battle, hurdle...all words for what should ultimately be at least one of the major drivers of any story. Is yours survival of the fittest? Is a kingdom under attack? Is there a scientific advancement gone wrong?
Place and Pace your story: When is it occurring? Is it happening or has it already happened? Review the segments on POV and preparing to write.
>>>If you read nothing else, READ THIS<<<
AKA: And now, the flaky crumbs that didn't stick with the above:
- Don't think that all sci-fi or fantasy stories must end up with a series or a trilogy
- Do recognize that sometimes one story is enough
- Don't do tons of infodumps OR write tons of awkward dialogue just so that you can fit in the history/back story/rules of the land
- Do balance them. Sometimes infodumps are helpful if they keep you from burying your reader in awkward dialogue. Gregory Maguire puts a map in the front pages of his story, Ann Rice posts a family tree, etc. Maybe you could begin with a vague timeline before you put in the first chapter. Maybe your prologue could be a series of journal entries. Maybe you could weave in articles from periodicals. Get creative.
- Don't think that you need to juggle a lot of characters
- Do cut yourself some slack. You've already decided to go fantasy and/or sci-fi. Think about who is necessary and who isn't. Neither you nor the reader want it to end up reading as though there is a hall of people waiting to get called in, with nothing better to do than watch the leads
- Don't bury yourself in sci-fi cliches
- Do use them sparingly, if at all. Aliens/the enemy doesn't always need to be bigger and more powerful. Rethink armor that is unbreakable or having people with advanced weaponry always resort to the basics in fighting. Reconsider having Alien races being strictly monocultural. Remember that the last minute rescue has been done...and done.
- Don't bury yourself in fantasy cliches
- Do think about how you could twist them/make them different, if you do intend on using them. When I say cliches, I'm thinking of: prophecies; one of the leads being an orphan; the wise old ____ figure (wizard, vampire, witch, etc); the unjustified villain; good vs evil; unrealistic fighting (one against 10? No); limitless magic; or a novice harnessing a power that even the most advanced struggle with.
- Don't make up new powers as you go along
- Do your research. If you are using a specific story as your guideline, know the rules of that story and the boundaries of the characters' abilities.
- Don't put pictures of your world up along with pictures of each weapon, each spell, each tree, each piece of armor, each....
- Do describe. Show the scene with your words.
- Don't rush ______ (the plot, the writing, the outlining)
- Do wait to post it until at least two of these are hammered out. Sci-fi and fantasy require more thought and more of the details that might be considered extraneous in a different genre. The Night Circus was conceptualized years before it was written, and the writing itself took years...only for it to be first rejected by publishers. Then when Morgenstern added onto it....the result? Her first story was a huge and immediate success. Points being, don't give up if you can't immediately make it perfect, don't rush it, and be open to feedback that might make your story stronger. I'm not saying you have to want to be a published novelist, just that even they struggle.
- Don't write something just because you think fantasy and/or sci-fi would be a nice challenge
- Do write it because you love the concept and you will see it to completion.
Thanks to @TutThreeSevens for the idea. Please let me know what you guys agree with, disagree with, hate, and/or want clarification on. A reminder that sci-fi/fantasy are a mile away from a cross-country trip from my forte.
Writing Hurt/Comfort by Redone
Part 2 in a subseries on genre writing.
Note: If nothing else, read the end.
Fanfiction that involves one character experiencing the physical pain or emotional distress, and being cared for by another character. The author uses the injury, sickness or other kind of hurt, to explore the characters and their relationship.
Hurt/comfort is a form of fanfiction that has the potential to add a lot of depth to any MJ fanfic. It allows for a low point in which one or more characters becomes vulnerable. The author can show a character flaw or two, add drama without making the fic cliche, and bring dimension to one or both characters. Now, just as with any other genre, there are ways to make it cliche and superficial, rather than the depth that H/C is known for.
How H/C can Strengthen Your Story
Pain and Anguish make for an Interesting Plot
You know the saying, "to err is human"? Well, the same is true about pain. Illness, death, and misfortune are all parts of the human existence. I'll spare you the related philosophical discussion (albeit interesting, it's irrelevent to this segment), but all are touched by these three to some degree. Whether it is chronic pain, acute disease, a car accident, or missing out on a job, they can infuse tension, disappointment, and hurt into our lives. They can do the same to a story. At the more extreme end, there’s nothing quite like a story where you have to wonder if a character is going to survive, for putting readers on edge. When the reader feels the pain of that character or those who are watching, they can often relate to some degree. When someone can relate to something you've written, they can become more invested in its outcome. As an author, you also create an opportunity to portray an emotional trauma, that can make your characters stronger. These can cause shifts in their behavior (though, having the character do a 180 may be a bit much), so that you can ultimately take the characters and plot in a direction that wasn't immediately apparent to the reader when they started the story. That brings us to the element of surprise; often sought, but not often attained.
A Moment in the Spotlight
One of the pro's of H/C is that it gives characters a chance to be the center of attention. On the one hand, one character gets to be fretted over, worried, about, (and if awake), try to cope with their experience. Meanwhile, an author can also make other characters shine by having them express concern, fret over the person, and go out of their way to be of support. For instance, if one of the Jacksons is ill, a specific figure can step into the spotlight when they step up to take care of the person who is ill.
Taking Characters in Different Directions Without going OOC
Before I expand upon this, by "OOC" I mean outside of the character you have already established. Not simply outside of what they are like in real life. A huge faux pas in fanfic is authors taking a character OOC without intending to. Using hurt/comfort can be a way to stretch the character you've established without actually going OOC. Consider how people respond to near death experiences, severe illness, or loss of an important figure in their lives. They change. Don't get me wrong - very rarely do they become completely different, but they do change. Stoic men become more sentimental/emotionally expressive. Very sensitive figures may toughen up. Because of this, when writing H/C an author can have their characters say and do things they may not normally, because the situation calls for it.
Create a Journey Within one Person, Without Ever Having to Travel
One of the hallmarks of H/C is stripping a character down (through physical, emotional, or psychological pain), only to put them back together. In doing so, the reader gets to observe the process and live it with the character. This can be healing. For instance, if writing about Michael and the accusations, the person can take an A/U route and focus on his healing after the experience.
What Does this Look Like?
Common Forms of H/C in FF
- Bathing scenes - one person bathes another
- Bed sharing - when the coupling has yet to occur
- Camping/in the outdoors - when two people share a sleeping bag or sleep together to stay warm
- Disability - with one figure serving providing some form of care (e.g. their eyes if blind, pushing a wheelchair if unable to walk, etc)
- Coma - one of the partners is in a coma for a short/long period of time
- Rape - one is raped/almost raped and the other provides support
- Attempted suicide - one person stops the other from committing suicide
- Major illness - one has a degenerative condition and the other is their "nurse"
- Amateur surgery - one is injured and due to the need for immediate intervention and/or absence of a doctor, the other performs the procedure.
- The Ex - coming back to cause hurt
"But it's been overdone"
Yeah, just about any of these could be considered played. That's where you, the author, come onto the scene. Depending on how you approach something, it can be cliche or it can enhance your story. How to do this?
>>>If you read nothing else, READ THIS<<<
(aka How to avoid writing a cliche H/C)
- Don't have someone do a complete 180. Those aren't sustainable.
- DO: Make the change subtle to noteworthy. A small change can induce another change, and another change, and another. Think of it as a gradual ripple effect.
- Don't always pair retrograde amnesia with a coma. Unless it was a head injury, this is particularly unlikely.
- DO: Rethink using a coma or amnesia. Particularly as a pair. When you combine these, you are asking the reader to suspend disbelief twice.
- Don't always make the shooter/killer a stalker or actually targeting the victim. This isn't necessary.
- DO: Think about shootings happening in the wrong place, wrong time. Depending on where the character is, that isn't too rare.
- Don't rush the recovery/change
- DO: Give it time. Healing takes time. Change takes time. If you are dealing with rape, remember that most survivors will avoid those who remind them of the perpetrator/the offense for a good while, afterwards.
- Don't flood people with the hurt
- DO: Space it out and use it sparingly, as a little goes a long way. Also, don't forget to balance it with comfort. Well...unless you want to lose a lot of readers. Remember, we all feel the hurt and loss of Michael, and most read MJ fanfic for comfort from that hurt.
- Don't throw in hurt on impulse
- DO: follow the ripple effect. What will be the repercussions (if appropriate, research these)? Having someone get repeated head injuries is okay. Having them be fine a week later? Less likely. Know why and know what one should expect to see, before you write it.
- Don't have your characters cry at the drop of a hat.
- DO: Ask yourself first if it is a credible response to the scene. Is it melodramatic or is it consistent with the character? If you decide to have the person cry, show rather than tell.
- Don't bring back more than one ex.
- DO: Think outside the box. Not all exes want the person back, and even if they do, few are crazy. Why would Michael or another character date someone that crazy? Remember the actual odds of being stalked are low. Michael being stalked by a fan is more likely than him being stalked by an ex. Ditto for other characters. And exes conspiring together to break an OG/Michael pairing up. Please. I beg you. NO.
What are your limits for H/C?
Do you enjoy reading H/C?
Thanks to all of the awesome reviewers. You guys always leave me thinking!
Writing Suspense into your Fiction by Redone
Segment 3 in a subseries on Writing Genres
I'm going about this segment a bit differently. Where as the one on fantasy/sci-fi focused on those as pertaining to a general genre, suspense is often something that you see sprinkled in stories across genres. Like hurt/comfort, it isn't entirely relegated to ONE genre. As such, I'll focus on providing a breakdown of methods of infusing suspense into a story. So let's go ahead and give this sucker a shot.
Integrating Suspense into your Story
1. Intersperse some action. Make it intense. Suspenseful action helps move a plot and keep readers engaged. Does Michael suddenly leave the room in anger and not say anything? Will she suddenly refuse to take his calls? Will Lassie get to them in time to save Timmy?
2. If the scene calls for danger, try to make it feel real. Don't cut away for backstory right as the tension is rising. If you need to include it, you can always weave it in, if it adds to the fear or suspense of the moment. For instance, Michael is caught out in a crowded location when his disguise falls. That's not the moment to describe his logic in coming out. That's a time to focus on his anxiety at that moment, his heart pounding, his palms sweating, and the swell of people around him. Now, you could weave those together.
E.g. (written in 1st POV)
I feel my breathe catch as I notice one pair of eyes zoom in on me, then another, leading my heart beat to start speeding up. What's wrong? I'd come prepared for Central Park's crowd, going so far as a fake beard, moustache, and turban. I know that I'd taken off my glasses to clean them, but are my eyes really that noticeable? I hadn't worn any eye makeup today, just in case. Despite the loud thumping of my pulse in my ears, I can't miss hearing the murmurs around me. Fearful of catching a gaze, I look down and gasp. Oh no!! There, between my canvas slippers lay the small, thin strip of black hairs that had previously wrested on my upper lip. Shitshitshitshitshit. Immediately I'm cognizant of how far I am from the entryway to the park, where my driver presides, waiting for me despite his rightful trepidation. At the same time, I am acutely aware of how many people are on each side of me and how close they are to me. What am I going to do?
3. Remember that suspense doesn't just come with action. One of the best (and most under-utilized) sources of suspense is emotion. Feelings are realistic and powerful ways of adding suspense to a story. Moreover, putting emotions at the core of your fanfic adds importance to the situation. Take my previous example. Note that nothing actually happens. No one attacks him, no one even approaches him. The moustache has already fallen. He's just realizing that it is falling and reacting (internally) to the situation at hand.
When I say "feelings" that add suspense, I think of:
betrayal . . . rage . . . lust . . . fear. . .
desire . . . surprise . . . anger . . . excitement
. . . dread . . . anxiety . . . shock . . . hope . . .
4. Repetition of a same action/dialogue topic, creates a more intense reaction in the reader when done with repetition (but use caution!). Think about it this way:
1st time - you draw the readers' attention to the topic/action
2nd time - readers can now see that the action/topic is important. They may not know why, but they get a sense that it might foreshadow a future event.
3rd time - think of this as the most intense visit of the action/topic. This is when everything comes to a climax and readers are biting their nails.
NOTE: Avoid excessive repetition.
5. Withold some of the information. By withholding information, readers can attempt to draw their own conclusions and make their own hypotheses on what will happen. This is a big one, so get ready for me to lay down some information about the benefits of witholding infomation and how you can implement this tactic:
- Withold some of the backstory/information about characters. Think about Alfred Hitchcock and how he put together his films. The audience is drawn to make hypotheses, but helpless to do anything about them.
- Withold what others are thinking. However, because they don't know the full backstory/what everyone is thinking, they don't know each person's motives. Hidden motives will affect how a character acts, so including them can clue readers into what's really happening. At the same time, they will require that your readers feel that they must stay alert and attend to the details in your story. An example of this might be having Michael rub his temple. The OG might take this to think he is upset, but really he has a headache. Don't immediately reveal that he has a headache. Let some time lapse in which she worries.
- Implementation is key. When you are outlining your story, give thought to when details will be revealed. Think about spacing them out across chapters so as to maintain reader interest and suspence. Be confident and sure of what will happen, because changing it halfway through could confuse readers. Also, go easy on the teasers at the ends of your chapters. If you are already doing suspense, there is no reason to add suspense at the ends of chapters.
6. Don't neglect your chapter endings. Cliffhangers can be a powerful tool. Used sparingly, they leave your readers on the edges of their seats. Used in every chapter/every other chapter, they make them frustrated and annoyed. So, every once and a while, try ending a chapter right before something is supposed to happen or before a character can respond to an important question.
Now, I neglected pacing and foreshadowing in this segment, as despite being huge tools in creating suspense, I've already covered them. So, if you are needing a refresher on those, take a look at some of the early segments.
As always, I love reading your rants/raves/reactions and thank all of you who have shared your piece.
-if you think of something that you want to see addressed, but hasn't been, please peruse the list of previous segments and mosy on up to the "Topic Ideas?" segment. Let me know if you'd like something additional added.
-This is an opinion/advice piece. I am not getting paid for doing this. So, I will not be posting my CV or my resume. Suffice it to say that I am or have been a: teacher; student; supervisor; supervisee; an editor; writer; and most of all, a reader. Now, if you have a problem with something that I've written, please let me know, along with a cut+paste of the offending passage. I am interested in learning and growing. That being said, just as I invite you all to do to anything I write, I may or may not implement your feedback into my future writings. That doesn't mean that I don't want to hear your criticisms.
Case Example - Using Repetition to Increase Suspense by Redone
RECAP FROM PREVIOUS SEGMENT
Repetition of a same action/dialogue topic, creates a more intense reaction in the reader when done with repetition (but use caution!). Think about it this way:
1st time - you draw the readers' attention to the topic/action
2nd time - readers can now see that the action/topic is important. They may not know why, but they get a sense that it might foreshadow a future event.
3rd time - think of this as the most intense visit of the action/topic. This is when everything comes to a climax and readers are biting their nails.
NOTE: Avoid excessive repetition.
Now, the question was essentially: What does this look like in application?
This is a hard question to answer, as I could easily draw on some FFs...and ruin them for people who haven't read them. Instead, I'll list some plot twists and how one might use repetition to build suspense leading up to them.
Plot Twist: She's a stripper.
1st time: She can't do anything in the evening
2nd time: Again, she turns down Michael for an evening date, yet seems to want to see him. Gives him a crappy excuse.
3rd time: He either goes to the club, calls her and hears the music/chatter in the background, hears word, or finds an article of her stage wear.
Plot Twist: Michael is a vampire.
1st time: He is never to be found during the day
2nd time: He gets anxious when the OG suggests an early breakfast after a long night of dancing. He keeps glancing at the sky.
3rd time: She gives him an ultimatum, he freaks out as the sun starts to go up, or he gets sick from the sun so she takes him back to his place...and all is revealed.
Plot Twist: Michael is using drugs.
1st time: He has trouble waking up in the morning
2nd time: He is feeling under the weather, so he flies in a doctor
3rd time: While rehearsing for the VMAs, he collapses and the OG finds out when she visits him in the hospital.
Plot Twist: The OG is going to disappear.
1st time: She starts being less lovey-dovey
2nd time: She doesn't engage in a routine thoughtful gesture, like she normally does
3rd time: He calls her phone and it's been disconnected.
I hope this helps clarify how this might appear!
Side note: does it bug anyone else that MJF has misspelled "suspense"?
Raindrops on Roses and Whiskers on Kittens by Redone
A break to highlight some of the things that make me smile as a MJ FF reader
- the author gets (or tries to get) Michael.
- as a reader, I want to nudge the author to put Michael and the OG together (as this means the chemistry is apparent and the author isn't rushing things).
- the main characters are well-developed
- it is clear from how the author wrote Michael, that they respect him.
- Michael has human flaws.
- it isn't the same old story.
- an outside threat, a death, a pregnancy scare, etc isn't needed to make me feel as though I am on pins and needles whilst reading.
- the commas are largely where they should be and the words are spelled (at least for the most part) as they should be (unless the character is speaking in slang).
- authors put in plugs for one another.
- pictures are minimal and my imagination can run wild.
- reading a chapter makes me want to listen to Michael.
- the author shows, not tells.
- the OG makes a mistake.
- I learn something.
- I feel like I have a better sense of Michael from having read the story.
- an AU story has me legitimately believing Michael could be like that if he was in such a context.
- that wonderful reunion happens after a good length of seeing the main characters struggle
- I discover a new great story
- authors who support one another.
- authors try to help each other become better writers.
- I can easily infer who is talking and/or thinking.
- I really have no clue what will happen next.
- the story is grounded in a plausible premise.
- (not sci-fi) the rules of the world are followed (e.g. city layout, travel, etc)
- authors ask for ideas (makes my role as a reviewer more interactive!)
- I can tell, just from reading it, that the author put a lot of thought into what s/he was going to write.
- an author really engages with me as a reviewer.
- an author doesn't get upset with me because I don't post flowers on their wall (note: I will never be purposefully mean in a review.)
- I get that "awwww!" feeling.
- I get a little down after the story has ended.
- even though the story ended on a sad note, I have to reread it.
- that sexy chapter has been built up to, and lives up to the expectations.
- that update gets posted!
I know I've been focusing on mainly 'what to do'/'what not to do', so I thought I'd add a little list of some of the things that make me light up as a reader of MJ FF.
What makes you light up when you read MJFF? Is there a certain story that causes you to do so, at the moment?
When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings by Redone
Story cliches, word fumbles, cringes.....and fixes. Part 1.
*NOTE: If you find this offensive, know that is not my intention*
We've all had those moments when we are trying to get into a fanfic/reading a fanfic that we love and all of a sudden we're like . This segment is for those moments. However, this isn't meant to trash people or choices. TBH, some of my favorite stories have some really cliche parts....the author just carries them very well. At the same time, using too many of them and/or poor execution can bring down a story. So, along with listing a few of those moments, I'll include some possible alternatives. I appreciate any help that those of you reading can give in identifying more. I'm sure that I'm going to leave out a cringe-worthy moment or two, as well as a few fixes. Pay it forward, peeps, because we are all constantly improving and learning.
It's been less than a dozen chapters and in that time the OG and Michael have met, fallen in love, had sex, and developed cutesy nicknames for one another
- Have one person get cold feet, back them off and start again slowly
- Reveal that this is a pattern for one character, thus lessening the readers' disbelief and adding another layer to the plot
Michael and/or the OG is/are PERFECT
- Poke a hole. Make the other suddenly start realizing that person's flaws.
- Make the person confess that they've been awkwardly on pins and needles, trying to be perfect. < lead up to this.
The story goes from conversation to conversation to...X weeks/months later, thus disrupting the flow of the story and skipping over a good chunk of the momentum the author had built up.
- Insert flashbacks
- Make a couple extra scenes/deleted scenes/interludes and parse them out. This can be especially beneficial if you are writing H/C and the H scenes go on for a while. Throwing in a happy/C interlude can help tide your readers over.
The plausibility of a good relationship between the OG and Michael is under serious doubt by readers.
- First: don't ignore readers when they point this out. You know what is in your head and that influences how you see your writing. They just know what they are reading, making them a more objective source of information.
- Second: the correction. Either have them not get together, or show a veerrrrry gradual change in them. I'm not talking 4-5 chapters. Think 10. Maybe more, depending on how off track the relationship got.
- Third: Admit defeat. Take down what you've written, carefully revise, and repost.
Most/all of the periphery characters in the story are "bad" guys/girls or have slept with the OG and/or Michael
- Unless you want to convey that Michael and/or the OG are super slutty, rethink how many exes hang out with them. As to the bad guys, keep in mind that usually someone has to do something for another person to not like them. Not all the time, but most of the time. Why should we root for an OG if she inspires so much hate?
The OG alienates herself from every single person but Michael, and he encourages that. This makes the OG look like a fair-weather friend and Michael look controlling.
- Have one of them realize this and increase the prominence of a supporting character or two.
- Have this cause drama between the OG and her old friends
The OG is very naive and innocent; Michael is wise and experienced and assumes the role of father parental partner. He helps the OG continuously, often as an almost heroic/savior-type figure, making her dependent on him and unable to handle adversity herself. While not biologically related, the relationship feels almost incestuous.
- Have one of them point it out and split up for a while. Maybe she moves away to live on her own for a bit.
- Have them fight and break up, leaving her to face the reality of the world and develop as an individual. After a decent span of time (months to years), they can reconcile.
The story has a ginormous banner, long summary, tons of individual shout outs, and/or something else that causes your display to take up a considerable amount of screen space
- Downsize. Yes, it is that simple. Chances are that if this applies to you, you are annoying readers and authors alike. Longer displays mean that other authors' stories go farther down in the screen, sometimes by several page scrolls per one updated story. This doesn't make people more likely to read your story.
A storyline unintentionally breaks a serious real-life rule (e.g. a character somehow attends medical or law school while in college, a psychologist has a relationship with a client, a minor has a romantic/sexual relationship with an adult and it doesn't raise an eyebrow or have consequences) or in some way defies what happened in a rather obvious way (e.g. Michael does a non-US tour in the US in the wrong era w/the wrong songs, Michael is able to go around without fans/press stalking him, Michael meets strangers and invites them to stay at his house for unlimited periods of time, Michael hires incompetent women just to watch their asses/have threesomes with them, etc) <- Yes, I had to cut myself off.
- These are harder and need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis. With most of these, I'd argue that it has to be completely rewritten unless the author doesn't care about plausibility/alienating more readers than they'll have reviewers. In some cases, it is possible to alter the course of the story to avoid the huge faux pas, if the point of no-return hasn't been met (e.g. statuatory rape has yet to occur and the author waits until the girl is of a reasonable age; the psychologist ends up losing their license, all credibility in the field, and facing ethics hearings; and/or the area in which Michael is walking around is locked to the public). Again, it is a case-by-case call.
They forgot a condom/the birth control failed. It's a one night stand and....she is now pregnant (bonus points if the pregnancy test magically shows this within a week of them having sex)
- Make the way this happens (or the after effects) less played. Off the top of my head:
- They enter into negotiations for child support or a fake marriage
- She hides it from him b/c she doesn't want to risk losing custody
- Have a miscarriage
Here are some of the common within text problems:
What was written... what was meant
sense (as in smell) .... since (because)
consitent (not a word).... consistent (occurring at regular intervals)
collage (as in a form of art) .... college (a level of schooling)
mines (multiple weapons or sites for digging).... mine (possessive 'my')
is (singular) .... are (plural)
will (is going to) .... well (healthy or a source of water)
were (past tense of 'are') .... where (location) or we're (we are)
ganster (not a word) .... gangster (aka gangsta)
there (place) .... their (possessive of 'they') or they're (they are)
to (destination) .... too (also)
half (1/2) .... have (to possess)
your (possessive 'you') .... you're (you are)
its (possessive 'it') .... it's (it is)
loose (aka baggy).... lose (aka go missing)
And because no one piece on the usefulness of punctuation would be sufficient, I'll leave you all with this:
What fanfic moments make YOU cringe? (taking ideas for Part 2)
Thanks as always for your feedback :)
When the Dog Bites. When the Bee Stings PT2 (Updated) by Redone
Story cliches, word fumbles, cringes.....and fixes. Part 2
Part 2 of 3.
A reminder, these are my opinion on what are cliché aspects of MJ FF. If you find this offensive, you don't have to read. My goal is to essentially get authors' minds to start to play with ways they can make some of these things unique and/or an idea of what they might want to avoid. As such, I am including some suggestions on how to avoid them/remedy them. Remember that clichés aren't necessarily bad. Too many clichés can kill a story, but used sparingly, they can be fun.
Please note that the ideas for this compilation were not solely from my imagination. They also come from reader feedback and pieces across the interwebz.
The Love Triangle (insert ex). An ex comes back, reappears, or suddenly has renewed interest in MJ or the OG. What follows is a fight by the ex (who may have cheated on the OG/MJ and been disinterested in her/him until the MJ-OG pairing) to break the two of them up.
- Add a twist to it.
- Avoid: having the exes join forces to break them up. This just gets to be too much imo.
Going OOC Without a Cause. This is a bunch of clichés rolled into one. Suddenly canon Michael is beating people up and/or being nasty to fans. No lead up, no explanation. Or Michael, who's generally guarded, is spilling everything to the OG and it's not even three chapters in. Or the once nerdy OG who had no interest in makeup, is suddenly ditsy and solely focused on her looks. It's like context-free theatre.
- Set your character to go OOC (from the personality you've given him/her). Think of circumstances that might lead to behavioral changes. This could mean showing patience for a given action, and building up to it much later than you'd originally planned.
The Dream Sequence. There is debate over this one. Some like it as a way for increasing tension and foreshadowing. I'm not so big on it unless in small dribbles, at most. I'm much more appreciative of Henry James' quote "Tell a dream, lose a reader". To me, this walks the line of cheating, a cheap way of providing an info dump, and/or can be redundant. As such, I can honestly say that I can't recall a time when I didn't skim over or stop reading a story during a dream sequence.
- Use a dream to enhance realism, but never use one to accomplish something that should've been accomplished in actual interactions/thoughts.
- If your concern is that you aren't eloquent enough in the normal narrative, don't turn to a dream sequence. Focus more on line editing, reading great writing, and finding beta readers you trust.
- Have the character reflect back on a dream. This way the dream sequence avoids cheating...it just helps the reader understand a shift in the character's behavior.
- If you still choose to use one, add a twist that only a dream would have. For instance, people swimming in air, someone walking around naked, a random person acting completely OOC, dancing elephant man bones, Michael turning into a werewolf, everything in black and white, or thoughts being broadcast. Remember, dreams aren't bound by the same laws of reality.
The Codependent Couple. When one character continually messes with the other, and the other makes excuses for that character. This could involve cheating, messing with the other's emotions, leading the other on only to pull away, etc. This is commonly done with Michael cheating/being a jerk and the OG downplaying it. This only works if you are trying to build a dysfunctional relationship, so as to give them something to improve upon. However, if you want your readers to like the pairing and fight for them to stay together, don't expect this to encourage that response. UPDATED: my main issue with this is when it appears as though the author is glamorizing such a relationship and assumes this type of a relationship is something couples should strive for.
- This is hopefully something that was looked at during your outlining and story planning. However, chances are that if it happened, a reader will point it out. If you are unsure of whether to trust that reader, ask a friend. Look at the dynamics. If you end up agreeing with the reader and it was not intentional, don't give up on your story. Maybe you could have a character point it out or have the hurt party finally draw a line.
The Watergun Fight. I know I'm going to get flack for this, but I'm going there. Yes, Michael loved these, but that doesn't mean that they need to be pushed into a story.
- Think about where they might fit and how they might get included. If it is a scene with kids (and especially, if the kid brings up the idea), it can work. However, less believable is when two adults who were just sharing a romantic scene in an apartment, suddenly grab Super Soakers.
The Thesaurus/Synonyms Addict. In an effort to vary the word choice, the author heavily relies on a thesaurus. Yes, changing up your words is a good idea, but remember that just because the word is different doesn't mean it is a good choice. Changing a word could mean making the story less relatable, because the language isn't language people commonly use (e.g. visage vs face).Often changing a word changes the meaning of a sentence. For instance, saying: "she proclaimed" gives the sense that the person is declaring something with emphasis. In contrast, "she stated" just gives the sense that the person said something clearly. On the more extreme end, this can appear with blatantly inappropriately used words in a story. For instance:
"His flaccid tendrils danced alongside his face as he probed the crowd, viewing for her." (FYI: this is close to some things that I've seen). This is clearly a case of when language can actually detract from a story.
- One: congrats, you took the first step in diversifying your language. This is a good thing.
- Two: having taken that step, don't forget to take another step and see whether the message of the sentence changed with the word change. Is this change appropriate? If it isn't, maybe you are better off using the original word.
On that note.....
(more) Common Errors in Diction
Sometimes Confused on MJFiction
Rap (as in lyrics and music) vs. wrap (as in a scarf around a neck or your mind around information)
Threw (as in a ball) vs. through (as in looking through a window)
Sweat (as in the stuff that comes with strenuous exercise or a hot day) vs. sweet (as in like the taste of candy or chocolate)
Quiet (as in silent) vs. Quite (as in very) vs. Quit (as in leave your job)
Claws (like on a cat) vs Clause (like in a contract)
Im (not a word) vs. I’m (I am)
Fall through (one’s plans don’t end up happening) vs Follow through (sees a task to completion)
Right (la derecha; correct or the direction) vs. Rite (of passage; rito) vs Write (escribir; pen on paper)
And for the sake of comedy: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/misspelling
Gripe. Gloat. Rage. Rave.
Part 3 is coming. What have I missed?
Thanks as always for your feedback :)
The Dog Bit. The Bee Stung. P3 by Redone
Story cliches, word fumbles, cringes.....and fixes. Part 3
Part 3 of 3.
A reminder, these are my opinion on what are cliché aspects of MJ FF. If you find this offensive, you don't have to read. My goal is to essentially get authors' minds to start to play with ways they can make some of these things unique and/or an idea of what they might want to avoid. As such, I am including some suggestions on how to avoid them/remedy them. Remember that a cliché isn't necessarily bad. Too many clichés can kill a story, but used sparingly, they can be fun.
Please note that the ideas for this compilation were not solely from my imagination. They also come from reader feedback and pieces across the interwebz.
The One-dimensional Villain. So often this is Diana, Joseph, an ex, Jermaine, etc. This character is frequently described in terms that leave the reader assuming that he/she is "all bad". The character is ruthless, with minimal attention to moral codes, and constantly inflicts pain upon the OG and/or Michael.
- Flesh out this character. Give the character a reason to be this way. Try to show sensitive moments involving this character and/or moments in which it is apparent that the character is more than just "bad".
Damsel in Distress. The OG/lead female is constantly in need of rescuing and incapable of handling her own problems. Often this overlaps with Michael paying off her debts, taking care of legal issues, handling familial problems for her, giving her a job, etc. This is distinguished from a healthy relationship in that it never seems like Michael gets as much back and the female always relies on him to have her troubles managed.
- Have one of them point it out. Just as with the Codependent Couple, this is an excellent opportunity to show one or more of your characters assuming responsibility and maturing. In other words - character development. Different from the CC, this damsel doesn't have to be his girlfriend or wife. This could be a sibling, a friend, an orphan he looks after, or a daughter.
The Blatant Foreshadowing. Common lead-ins to this are "little did he know", "he missed the sparkle in X's eye", or a blatant hint in the author's note at the end of the chapter. Yes, it's an easy way to clue the reader into a plot twist, but it's also a way to quickly undercut suspense. In essence, it breaks scene.
- Use other tools to create suspense or hint at what is happening. If out of ideas, look at my segment on suspense.
Hello, I'm Michael. What's your name? I want to Marry You. This is when the OG and Michael barely know each other/have barely entered into their relationship, and already they are in love. The sweet-nothings are layered on during sex, despite the superficiality of the relationship.
- Outlining, planning, character development, and most of all, pacing. Review the earlier segments
Conflict, Where Art Thou? There's no conflict. Conflict drives a story and maintains reader interest. A story may have a GREAT OG or excellent portrayal of Michael, some lively dialogue, and be written brilliantly, but if there is no conflict, interest will dwindle.
- Stop updating until you find one. When you think up a conflict, try to fully understand the details, connotations, and consequences of this conflict. For instance:
- What does this mean for each character?
- What do you want to see happen to each character?
- How should you portray the conflict if you expect for that result to happen (believably)?
- What needs to happen before the conflict can happen?
- How is the conflict going to unfold?
- After all of this: Is the conflict still plausible?
Too Many. This is essentially the summary of the story, as it is a lesson in excess. There are too many characters, too many scenes, too many POVs, too many similar names, too many plot lines..... basically, too many too many-s.
- Hit the chopping block. Find the center of your story, and examine what adds to it, and what is just excessive.
Theeee Seeeeex Sceeeeeene with tooooooo maaaaaaaany vowels. I get it. The author meant to emphasize how much both (each?) persons are enjoying having sex, but somewhere along the way, the author grabbed a few too many vowels and wouldn't let them go. Remember that dropping the vowels doesn't mean you are dropping the emphasis.
- Think of using words like "more" or "faster".
- Italicize the words you want to emphasize.
- Pick and choose the words you will use rather than just "say". Changing that to "moaned" or "screamed", will give the same effect as all the extra vowels.
The Far-Fetched Run In. When multiple characters run into each other at a random location, leading to secrets being revealed, conflict, and hurt. Before continuing I will note that yes, this does happen in smaller towns, but it happens at a greater frequency in FF than in reality. Sometimes this even happens during a vacation/trip.
- Rethink it. Could it happen in a more believable setting?
- In the case of an affair or a hidden relationship, could it be that a bunch of signs ultimately tip one person off that something is amiss?
Even more words that are confused on MJFiction
(please note that these only come from fics and NOT RPs.)
Said vs. Meant
Alleviated (relieved) vs. Elevated (raised)
Creek (stream of water) vs. Creak (a noise)
Ranged (Their ages ranged from 16 to 20) vs. Rang (past tense of ‘ring')
Diffidently (shyly) vs. Definitely (absolutely)
Word (what each of these are) vs. World (the universe)
Entrepreneur (a person who starts a business) vs. Businessperson (a person who works in business)
For a ridiculously large collection of these, see: http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/errors.html
Gripe. Gloat. Rage. Rave.
Thanks as always for your feedback and ideas :)
Developing Minor and Supporting Characters by Redone
Sidekick, supporting character, minor character, "the friend".... they're all accessory characters. Some may be more important to the story than others, and their development will vary. However, just because they aren't the OG or Michael, doesn't mean that they can easily be glossed over. From being a sounding board, to the superego, to the troublemaker, to the nosy neighbor, to a person walking down the street, supporting characters have the potential to add bring life to your main characters and the plot. They can also be hindrances, if too shallow, unbelievable, overly detailed, or numerous. Having written on the OG/Canon lead, this segment will detail ways to make sure that your cast of supporting characters (large and small) is conducive to the needs and goals of your main characters and plot.
Adding Authenticity to your Fiction.
One common misstep is thinking that all or most of the minor characters need to have names and backstories. To be honest, that's not true. Think about the situations in which you come into contact with people who you know nothing/next to nothing about: at the grocery store, in the Ladies room, at the mall, walking across campus, walking through another department at work, etc. Yes, Michael led a life that was often plentiful in employees, but still. I doubt he knew a ton about each employee or shared his innermost feelings with each backup dancer. As such, having some characters that are just there to fulfill a role (e.g. waitress, cashier, fan, pedestrian, bartender, assistant to a manager, etc) is fine. Sidewalks have people, streets have cars, stores have shoppers, and Michael had fans that followed him around on a daily basis.
With regard to these individuals, don't get carried away with description. Some may have names, some may not; some may need a two sentence introduction while some only need one. Organize these details into shorthand that also conveys a note on the context. For instance:
Hearing the nearing sound of wheels on uneven sidewalk, she quickly leaned against the chain-link fence. A second later the skateboarder sagging and a black baseball hat zoomed by.
Note that I only described an action, with three things - a skateboarder, a chain-link fence, and a sidewalk. However, I bet most people found that their minds filled in the blanks. Having these walk-ons means adding people to your story without making them all major characters or developed supporting characters. Without them your characters are trapped in a bubble.
This may look like fun, but it's also undeniably awkward
Introducing your Minor and Supporting Characters.
When introducing minor characters, do so with care. By that I mean, have them make an impression, but don't make them the center of attention. After all, they are "minor", right? For instance, if introducing a best friend do it in the context of the person doing something a best friend would do. Give the person a bit of dialogue and an action, but don't get sucked into the trap of telling a long backstory of how they met or inch-by-inch details of their body. If the backstory is important, weave it into the story gradually or have a character reflect upon it when the time is right. Remember that with supporting characters, the focus is on them, but in how they play off the protagonist and further the plot.
Of note: thus far I have used the term ‘minor' and ‘supporting' interchangeably. Some ‘minor' characters might actually not be so minor. These would be considered more as ‘supporting' characters. While these supporting characters may be more visible and developed in your story, make no mistake: the sole purpose of a supporting character is to interact with and/or otherwise engage with the main character(s). They can have more developed personalities than a minor character, but they are still there to support the main characters (note: I use this term interchangeably with the terms OG and Michael. In the context of MJ ff, they're generally one and the same). These supporting characters exist, make statements, and take actions that are intended to affect the OG and/or Michael in a way that will give us a better understanding of that main character.
My Name is....
Please, please, please, do not give characters very similar names. When that happens, it becomes easy to confuse them, and the reader will often become annoyed by the fact that they can't keep the characters straight. Think about the character's personality before you name them. This could result in the character having a nickname based on their personality, surname, first name, heritage, etc. Remember that the more characters there are, the harder it is for the reader to keep their names straight. As such, please do not alternate between nicknames for the same person. Also, vary the name lengths. It's harder to confuse a Jose with a Ricardo than it is to mistake a Jessica for a Monica. Pick names that vary in length, first letter, and sound. Finally, we don't need to know everyone's middle name. Remember that including that can be too much, as it is one more name for your reader to remember.
Developing your Supporting Cast.
While I don't recommend putting a character's full history when introducing them, it is important to add depth and baggage to the more present supporting characters. Just as when choosing character traits one needs to be mindful of the OG and MJ's character traits, the same is true in fleshing out a supporting character's baggage. Remember that each element comes with consequences. For instance, if a character has kids, those kids can't suddenly disappear or be without care. Ditto for pets, spouses, family members, etc. It might help to start them out as a stereotype, but then develop them alongside your main characters, so that they can better play off each other and add depth to your main characters.
The thing is, if you do decide to develop and include a supporting character, be careful that it doesn't overpower the OG or Michael and that you pick and choose which supporting character gets this extra time. If you make the fatal mistake of developing too many supporting characters, your readers will be left trying to remember names, histories, and get bored when the story deviates from the reason they began reading: the OG and Michael.
Balancing your Characters' Traits
Every story needs this, whether it is a fanfic or a classic novel. If Michael is naïve, then having an assistant that is wary, can work to balance him out. If Michael is arrogant and has a tendency to get wrapped up in himself and his problems, a manager or bodyguard that will challenge him and make attempts to distract him from himself, will lessen these traits. These opposing character traits rely on the basic cliché that opposites attract. So why does this cliché work so well, when others can fail? Because, including opposing character traits can create realistic chemistry and further character development. When characters are constantly in agreement, things get boring and no one really needs to change. Moreover, having a supporting character that contrasts with a main character can intensify some of the main character's traits without the author having to appear as though they are constantly complimenting him/her. For instance, it's unlikely people would read Sherlock Holmes as being so smart, if he didn't have a dim Watson by his side. So, when approaching writing a best friend, an assistant, or some other version of a side kick, begin by thinking about the OG or Michael's personality and what kinds of opposites would best work in your story.
Just as your main character could use someone who balances his/her traits, he/she could use an antagonist. Now, I'm not talking about a villain, just someone who opposes the main character. Essentially, I am talking about an adversary for the main character to knock heads with, to push his/her buttons, and otherwise add conflict to the main character's life.
Adversaries often aren't utter and complete enemies.
This can be accomplished in a number of ways. It could be a manager who likes everyone to be on time and micromanages everything. It could be an overprotective family member. It could be an attorney or police officer that is too stuck in their ways to listen to others or examine different angles. It could be a broke reporter who needs something that can make them money, regardless of whether it is true. There are a number of different approaches that you, as an author, can take, that avoid the classic "this person is evil" cliché. Regardless of how you develop this, keep in mind that this character should have opportunity to get in your main character's way.
What are your challenges in creating realistic supporting characters?
Is there a place where you feel you fall short?
Next up will be a segment full of questions to ask yourself when developing supporting characters. I'm also considering adding in a list or supporting character archetypes, if there is interest. Feel free to list a few of your own, if you'd like me to post them.
Thanks as always for your comments/reviews/rants!
Points to Ponder in Developing Any Character by Redone
Having gone over the OG/lead female and Michael and done an overview of supporting characters, I'll now present some questions for writers to ponder in creating their cast of characters. As I've said, each character should have a purpose, whether it be to challenge the OG/Michael or to add realism to a scene.
With those warnings in mind, I present first, a question to ask each supporting character:
What is your relationship to the main character(s)?
What is your favorite thing about each main character?
How are you similar to the main character(s)?
How are you different from them?
These questions should give you a basic understanding of each supporting character. Note that in some circumstances, the character may be ambivalent because he is just a skateboarder passing buy or another person in the grocery store.
Now that the basics are out of the way, I'll list some very vague, but purposeful character roles. Keep in mind that one character may have more than one role and that not all roles need to be filled.
Character Roles (Fill in the blank)
_______1________ overcomes a challenge.
_______2________ gives up.
_______3________ supports 1 in overcoming the challenge.
_______4________ gets in the way/discourages 1.
_______5________ prompts a character/main character to consider a decision/action.
_______6________ encourages the character to reconsider that decision/action.
_______7________ is overly controlled or always on top of things.
_______8________ always seems to be overrun by life.
_______9________ is driven by temptation and/or emotions
_______10_______ is driven by logic and/or his/her conscience
_______11_______ has faith in the main character(s)
_______12_______ doubts the main character(s)
_______13_______ is optimistic
_______14_______ is pessimistic
Now, each of these can play out differently depending on the personality of the character you have filling the role(s). For instance, a character who is introverted, might be overly controlled in his/her own behaviors, whereas an extroverted character might attempt to exert control over others.
I apologize for the gap. Between other things on the site and the insanity that is my life off the site, I've been pressed for time. That being said, I'm eager to hear your responses to this segment. Do you feel as though your characters address these categories, or is there one you may omit? Is there a category that I omitted?
I'm also in need of ideas from you guys:
What would you like me to address that I haven't already?
Writing about Sensitive Issues by Redone
FYI: I made a few significant additions to the segment on Keeping Readers/Getting Reviews.
Including sensitive issues can add suspense, hurt/comfort, and in general, depth to one's story. At the same time, it is not without its risks. Issues such as rape, child abuse, murder, self-harm, suicide, death, abortion, and domestic violence should never be taken lightly. Countless people experience one or more of these, including your readers, so addressing them in a flippant manner is highly discouraged. In this segment I will address some points to consider and tips for those who choose to include these elements in their stories.
First, if you are not confident in your ability to write them do not include them in your story. This is something that I cannot emphasize enough. Please, do not feel as though you have to or feel ashamed that this is not your forte. Know your limits and know your strengths. Respect them. Even professional writers are challenged in writing such scenes. Be aware that writing such scenes or acts without adequate compassion, awareness, and thoughtfulness can deeply offend others. Yes, this is fanfiction and it is for fun, but also know that these are elements that can trigger painful memories in some people and can quickly alienate readers if not prefaced by adequate warning or written with caution. Rape, domestic violence, child abuse, and murder are all acts of evil that are meant to invoke some pretty awful feelings.
I urge everyone who is reading to sit with that last line. Think about it, and the weight of these actions, before you include them in your story.
Are you ready to deal with the fallout of including one or more of them, within your story?
Is writing them within your skill set?
Second, while I have just touched on knowing your limits as a writer, I also want to highlight that you must know your limits in knowledge. Going through Psych 101 doesn't mean you are well-versed in mental health and psychopathology, just like serving food to the homeless or volunteering in a domestic violence shelter doesn't mean you know what it is like to experience either. Similarly, knowing someone who has committed suicide is very different from having survived an attempt yourself, having observed someone commit suicide, or having found someone's body after a completed suicide. Am I saying that you shouldn't approach any of these unless you have lived experience - NO. What I'm saying is that one must need to know what they don't know, and attempt to fill in that knowledge, if they are to do an adequate job. One will often find huge gaps between what textbooks and webmd and the like say about an experience, and the reality.
Do you have adequate understanding of how people commonly respond to such traumas?
Are you familiar with how these look in real life?
What don't you know? What do you know?
What do you need to learn in order to approach this sensitive topic in a believable manner?
Give warnings. I mean it. I'll say it again because I am that serious. Give warnings. Let your readers know if there is going to be some material that might be commonly perceived as triggering or offensive. You don't need to give details at the onset, but a FYI can go a long way. In those warnings, you might advise readers that you will include a summary of the scene at the end of the chapter so that they can get the gist without having to read something that they feel unsafe reading. I'm sure some people are side eyeing this as they read it or giggling. I mean, its just fanfic, right? Wrong. Even seemingly little things can trigger flashbacks of horrible memories. Respect that.
This chapter contains [insert here].
If this is a topic that hits too close to home, please feel free to skip to the end. I've included a summary for anyone who wants to keep reading but is worried about getting triggered
TIPS for addressing some of these sensitive issues
Child Abuse: Major pet peeve here. If the parents regularly abuse a child, the child witnesses DV even as an infant, or experiences sexual abuse, that child does not magically become well-adjusted as soon as he/she enters a new environment (commonly seen in stories with Michael as the savior). How the child acts depends on a number of factors (duration of the abuse, age of exposure, personality, exposure to early treatment, etc), but the most important thing all authors should know is that such a child isn't perfectly fine as soon as he/she is moved to a safe environment.
Murder: In general, how one approaches this varies depending on the context (e.g. murder-ridden neighborhood versus freak event). Regardless of this, if the perp isn't a pure psychopath, don't have them forget about the murder a day or week later. People who kill others or witness murders are often deeply impacted. Ditto for the loved ones of the killed individual. Many on both sides, never really move on.
Rape and Sexual Abuse: avoid sexualizing the scene; yes, it isn't strange for a male or female victim to perform during rape, that's biological. However, the shame, hurt, and humiliation shouldn't be minimized. Using terms such as "love hole" or highlighting the offender's/rapist's attractiveness is inappropriate. Also, if you follow it up with an investigation, know that this in and of itself can be highly traumatizing - particularly the rape kit. Even more traumatizing is the emotional abuse many experience when they are blamed for being raped or accused of lying. This last could also be said for those who are falsely accused of committing a sexual assault.
Self-harm: for a while there (I don't know if this is still the case), it was popular to write characters cutting themselves to music in full emo fashion. Honestly, this romanticizes and trivializes the act. Self-harm is often linked to anger, a deep hate for oneself, and an inability to appropriately deal with sadness. It usually isn't a cry for attention, as most do it in secret. Keep those concepts in mind.
Let me know if I missed anything and/or if there is something you'd like me to add.
Otherwise, I'd love to hear your thoughts on writing about sensitive issues.
If you've used them, would you change anything about how you approached them?
Discussing Dialogue by Redone
This is brief, but I wanted to get this up before the end of the year.
Up until now, I've briefly touched upon the need to vary speech style amongst characters, the eye-glazing wall-of-text, the need for quotation marks, ...and little else that is directly related to how to write dialogue. You see, the other basic general questions lead to basic answers:
Why? Because it adds life to a story.
When? When it helps to move the plot forward, adds depth to a character, or provides important information.
If a given passage of dialogue doesn't further any of these points, then it either needs to be modified so that it does, or cut out.
In order to not refer too much to previous chapters, I'll summarize the major points (with some minor additions):
Start a new paragraph each time a speaker changes. This isn't a place to get creative or take pride in doing it differently. Yes, sometimes this may mean that a paragraph can be as short as "No". Deal with it. If that's all the person says before someone else speaks, then that's how long that paragraph needs to be. Ignoring this fundamental rule will have a cascade of costs to your readership. Regardless of how many times you write "he said" or "she said", blurring speakers within a single paragraph will eventually confuse readers. It also makes your dialogue instantly more difficult to read. A lot of readers read right before bed or while relaxing - there is nothing relaxing about reading a paragraph in which there are multiple speakers. You may think it looks "prettier", but ignoring this rule is like getting Lasik when your vision is perfect. Don't spite your readers to feed your own vanity. If you really like your readers, add a space between speakers. Note the difference it has on the eyes:
"I think..." She trailed off as she became seemingly fascinated by a loose thread on the pillow.
"I can't hear you when you don't speak." He chuckled uncomfortably.
"I think I'm.... I mean, I'm pretty sure... I mean, I haven't tested yet but......I'm late."
"You're late for?" Michael froze and his eyes widened as it dawned on him. His voice sounded constricted when he next spoke. "I haven't seen you in four months because you were too busy to visit me on tour. You don't look four months pregnant...."
"I think..." She trailed off as she became seemingly fascinated by a loose thread on the pillow.
"I can't hear you when you don't speak." He chuckled uncomfortably.
"I think I'm.... I mean, I'm pretty sure... I mean, I haven't tested yet but......I'm late."
"You're late for?" Michael froze and his eyes widened as it dawned on him. His voice sounded constricted when he next spoke. "I haven't seen you in four months because you were too busy to visit me on tour. You don't look four months pregnant...."
Use appropriate punctuation. This means apostrophes to distinguish what is being said. In a back and forth between two people, this can make a few repetitions of said, responded, told, etc. extraneous. Remember that each time you open a statement with quotation marks, you must end it with quotation marks. If you throw a movement in the middle of a sentence, make sure to close the statement before the gesture, and reopen it after.
"There you are! He playfully patted her butt. I was beginning to think you'd disappeared on me again."
This is comical and confusing (not to mention a little disturbing) when imagined coming out of Michael's mouth. It also disrupts the flow of your story and detracts from the quality of your work.
Consider your dialogue tags. Words such as said, told, reported, and called are useful, but they can be overused. For instance:
"What did you say?" Michael asked.
"I'm going out," Sarah repeated.
"What for?" Michael asked.
"I just am," she stated.
Besides Sarah sounding guarded/defensive/annoyed (i.e. the intended goal), the dialogue itself sounds like a game of Ping-Pong. Now, let's try it again:
"What did you say?" Michael asked.
"I'm going out," Sarah repeated.
"I just am."
"What do you mean, ‘seriously?'" She responded, hand on hip and dragging out the final word for emphasis.
While this still sounds like a rapid back and forth, it also reads as less repetitive without leaving a huge question as to who is speaking. Be cautious to not do this for too long without reminding the reader of who is speaking.
Finally, while I love varying word choice, don't rely too heavily on that. Using a different adverb each time to show the character's affect can be helpful. What's even better is when that isn't necessary because the character's action already conveyed that message.
Break up dialogue with actions. Avoid talking heads. People move around and conversations are often broken up as people go in and out of rooms, fiddle with objects, and otherwise multitask. This can also add realism as most communication is nonverbal, so just because one character asks a question verbally, doesn't mean another character won't respond nonverbally. To that end, if one character swears frequently, it doesn't mean an expletive needs to appear each time they speak. Swear words tend to ring in a reader's mind, so even using a few will give your reader the idea the character will swear a lot.
Remember to keep the dialogue personal. If the OG has a manner of speaking, Michael shouldn't suddenly speak the same way. The same goes for the language used in their thoughts. This isn't just in their flow and rate of speech, but also their vocabulary.
Vary the length of lines of dialogue. If everyone speaks in brief phrases or everyone speaks in novel length pieces of dialogue, it all starts sounding like it is the same. Break it up and throw in some variety. It'll help your reader distinguish between personalities.
More Confused Words (and some that have been mentioned before but are very common)
Surly (grumpily) vs Surely (for sure)
You're (you are) vs Your (belonging to you)
Their (It belongs to them) vs They're (they are) vs There (a location)
Butted (interrupted) vs Budded (what shooted, germinated)
I don't know when I'll find time to coherently add to this. As always, let me know what I missed, what needs elaboration, and any questions you might have.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.