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A Simple Guide to Fan Fiction and Writing in General


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[spoiler= It's a Long Guide] (I do not in any way claim authorship or rights to the ideas expressed)


Amateur to Amateur:


A Non-expert's Guide to Expert Writing


(Adapted for Writing Fan Fiction)




Wayne Schmidt


24 June 2000








I had three seconds to take his money.


He didn't know he was my next target as he wandered innocently among the bookstore's shelves toward my favorite corner. My hunting ground.


The store manager had obligingly arranged the displays so this spot was out of sight of the cashier and the front window. Someone could be murdered here and not found for hours.


My target bent at the waist to read a title. His wallet bulged richly in the pocket of his jeans.


I was close now.


He pulled the book from the shelf.


Careful! Not too close.


He opened the book.


Would he sense my presence?


He'd take three seconds to read the first sentence.


My three seconds.


He smiled and reached for his wallet.


I'd done it.


In three seconds I'd taken his money.


I wrote that book.




That book is this book. The passage you just read uses a powerful writing technique called misdirection to surprise and entertain. That and one hundred and eighty-three other tricks of the writer's craft are presented in this guide designed specifically for anyone writing fan fiction for the Internet.


What separates this text from others? I wrote it while learning how to write my first fan fiction novel. Notes and questions recorded during those years preserved the point of view of someone completely new to the craft of writing. In addition to providing numerous guidelines for effective writing, this text also addresses questions unique to first-time writers such as, "How often should the word and be used?" or "How many howevers are found in best-selling novels?" There are no hard and fast rules for these sorts of questions. Yet all new writers struggle with uncertainties about whether they use too many of this or that particular word or writing device. This manual gives specific numerical answers to many such questions based on how often top-selling contemporary authors use them. With these numbers a writer can determine if he or she has any habits that are likely to grate on a reader's ear.


This guide combines information from seventeen writing manuals and analyses of five novels by award-winning, best-selling authors universally recognized as masters at their craft: Stephen King's The Dark Tower, (suspense/fantasy), John Grisham's The Chamber (suspense), Robert Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (science fiction), Ed McBain's Mischief (mystery), and Connie Willis's Dooms Day Book (science fiction).


Each of the book's seven chapters is written as a collection of short, easily understood, numbered suggestions. These are followed by appendices providing a unique approach to building a personalized thesaurus, a list of the most common beats (see Hint 97), a list of sounds and a suggested reading list.


This book is written informally in the first person from me (the author) to you (the reader). We're going to be together for quite a few hours so why should we dance around with phrases like it is said and one should.


If you're wondering if you want to take up writing fan fiction consider this, writing is the world's best hobby. It's inexpensive, interesting, unaffected by weather, and bestows more prestige than any other activity.




"So, Joe. What'd ya do last week?"






"Oh yeah?" Yawn.








"So, Joe. What'd ya do last week?"


"I finished a sixty-five thousand word science fiction novel where mineral eating aliens infest the Earth and devour our planet."


"You wrote a book! You're kidding! When can I read it?"




Need I say more? Let's get started.


















This chapter presents the basic format used for fan fiction on the net. Since what you write will most likely stay on your own web pages, feel free to use any format you prefer. If you're going to archive your stories on other sites these guidelines will help.




1. LIMIT LINES TO 65 CHARACTERS WIDE. Computer monitors are so wide that tracking from one side to the other can strain a reader's eyes and patience. Using a narrower format will make your stories more reader-freindly. Also, many archives use narrow windows for displaying fan fiction. Lines longer than 65 characters may extend beyond the page forcing readers to scroll back and forth.


2. SKIP A LINE BETWEEN PARAGRAPHS. It makes reading your stories easier. The debate is on-going as to whether this means the first line doesn't have to be indented.


3. USE LEFT JUSTIFICATION ONLY. Justifying both edges of print looks nice but it makes it harder for readers to track from one line to the next.


4. USE BOOKMARKS FOR LONG STORIES. They help readers jump quickly to the area where they left off.


5. USE DISCLAIMERS. Some organizations are very aggressive about protecting their literary property. If you are writing fan fiction based on an established series, like Star Trek or The X-Files, make sure you have a disclaimer that states who owns the rights to that series and that only the characters and storyline particular to your story belong to you.


Here is an example:


Star Trek is owned by Paramount Pictures, a division of Viacom. All the copyrights associated with Star Trek belong to them. Only the ideas contained within this story are the property of the author. No profit is being earned by the writer of this story.


6. RATE YOUR STORY. Give the G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, or Adult (X) rating for your story right up front. This is a courtesy so you don't alienate your readers once they've started into your story.


7. USE "SLASH" WARNINGS. In addition to posting ratings, if your story contains SLASH (same-sex pairings) warn readers up front that this is the case even if the story is otherwise rated as mild as G.


8. PROHIBIT YOUNG READERS FROM READING "R" AND ABOVE RATED OR "SLASH" STORIES. This is for your own protection. Parents of young readers have sued fan fiction writers who failed to do this. It's also a good idea to make readers use at least one link after the warning to get to these sorts of stories. This shows that they sought out the story rather than came across it accidentally.


9. USE "THE END". Skip four lines and type The End in the center of the last page of your novel. This prevents readers from asking themselves if there's anything more to read. Questions like that weaken the ending's emotional impact.









NEW!!! A new hint!


10a. Avoid switching back and forth between units. If you are describing a scene, avoid jumping back and forth between feet, yards, meters, and inches. It forces the reader to focus on converting the varying units to recognizable distances. Select one, yards for example, and use it consistently.


The following suggestions address a variety of subjects on the process and efficiency of learning how to write and writing itself.


10b. THINK! Strive to put yourself in the reader's position to understand what a particular hint is trying to accomplish. This enables you to use them more effectively and develop your own techniques.


11. READ BEST SELLERS IN YOUR FIELD. Whether you consciously study them for writing techniques or not, you'll absorb a lot of useful information. Appendix E lists a few good titles and what techniques they demonstrate.


12. READ BEST SELLERS OUTSIDE OF YOUR FIELD. Like cross training in sports, studying other types of fiction will strengthen your chosen area. See Appendix E.


13. READ TEXTS. There are hundreds of excellent writing texts. Read as many as possible. A subject that's obtuse in one book will be clear in the next. Newly published texts are best because their recommendations reflect the latest trends.


14. USE A WORD PROCESSOR. They have better spell-checking and grammar-checking capabilities than web page construction wizards. Once your story's polished up on the word processor, paste it into your website.


15. WRITE A LOT. Writing is like long distance running, it takes a lot of practice. So write! Write! Write!


A good pattern to follow is to read a text on how to write a novel, read a current best seller, and then write a novel of your own or rewrite one you've already finished. This sequence provides knowledge, example, and experience. Repeat these three steps a couple of times and you'll soon be writing great novels.


What should you write about? Whatever subject you know best. If your not familiar with something, study it, do it (if practical and legal), then write about it.


16. READ OTHER AUTHOR'S FANFICTION. It's usually terrible but it will help you to see how mistakes ruin a story. Also, if you don't read theirs, how can you expect them to read yours? If you do read someone else's work, send them an email with positive comments about it. Remember, even if you hated it they put a lot of work into writing the story so be considerate in your comments.


17. DON'T COPY ANOTHER AUTHOR'S STYLE. Using stylistic devices borrowed from another author always sounds forced. It's better to concentrate your attention on what you want to say and express it in a way that feels natural to you.


18. DON'T PLAGIARIZE. Never take someone else's words or ideas and pass them off as your own. That's plagiarism and illegal. If you're quoting someone's work be sure to acknowledge the source.


19. CARRY A NOTEBOOK. Use it to record ideas for dialog, plots, or scenes. Many times ideas come out of the blue and flit away just as suddenly. Write them down immediately. You may get a great idea only to forget it a minute later in the crush of daily life.


20. IF YOU TRY WRITING A NOVEL, FIGURE ON IT TAKING SEVEN HUNDRED HOURS. That includes time for a 5000 word chapter-by-chapter outline (see Hint 73), an 80,000 word draft, which even a two-finger typist can pound out at 500 words per hour, and three rewrites. Second novels take half as long.


21. WRITE IN THE MORNING. Most writers do their best and most productive work in the morning after a good night's sleep. If your work schedule permits, try it.


22. WRITE EVERY DAY. Even if it's a token effort. Breaks of even a few days result in a mental lethargy difficult to overcome. A good pace is to write one-thousand words a day. Do more if you want but discipline yourself to this minimum.


23. LIVE HEALTHY. Productivity and creativity are strongly affected by lifestyle. Good sleeping, eating, and exercising habits increase productivity and creativity. It's true that some great writers were drunks but they would have been even greater had they been sober so don't emulate their poor examples.


24. RITUALS HELP. Wearing a special writing hat, setting aside a specific place to work, and rewarding yourself every time a chapter's completed help maintain motivation and satisfaction. Think up your own rituals and they'll pay surprising dividends.


25. IF SOMEONE READS YOUR FAN FICTION, RECIPROCATE. Reading one of their stories in return, if they have any, is courteous. and may also encourage them to return and read more of yours.


If someone has read your work and sends you a strongly negative critique that reads more like a personal attack than constructive criticism (sometimes called "flaming"), don't respond in kind. It'll only tell them they got to you, which is what they wanted in the first place. Either ignore them or politely, but not haughtily, thank them and ask what specifically they would change if it were their story. If your take the second tack you might get a useful answer.


26. RESEARCH. Some research is necessary for every story. Keep in mind that the goal of research is to give your story the feel of realism. Don't use research to lecture the reader about a subject.


If you're not sure where to begin you research try writing the STORY first. Leave blanks where you feel you want to insert background. Once the draft is complete use these blank areas to focus your research.


27. WRITER'S BLOCK. If you ever freeze up and can't think of a single word to write you're suffering from writer's block. How you attack it depends on how you view yourself as a writer. If you write for just for the fun of it, the simplest solution do is stop. Put the story away for a day, or a year, until you want to write and new ideas start coming. If you consider yourself a professional there are many ways to overcome this malady.


The best way to beat writer's block is to prevent it. Stop writing each day in the middle of a sentence. This accomplishes three things: it provides a leg up on the next day's work, it encourages new ideas as you think about how to finish the sentence, and it drives you crazy because you left something undone. The last point is the most effective. By the time you begin your next writing session your skin will be crawling with eagerness to finish that sentence.


If writer's block hits anyway, try writing something else for awhile. A variation on this is to write one-thousand made-up words or gibberish. Your subconscious will decide writing something real is preferable to such an tiresome task. Try writing something you'd never imagine like profanity or a sexually explicit scene. Shock treatments like this are effective but don't let copies of it get loose or you'll get talked about. If your interest is profanity or sex, try writing something boring like a detailed description of changing a flat tire. Some other ideas are: write a detailed description of your last dream, the last time something angered you, or the revenge you'd like to inflict on the cause of that anger. Lastly, go someplace new or do something you've never done before. Exposing your subconscious to new experiences shocks it into being creative.


28. USE WORD LISTS TO BREAK MINI-BLOCKS. A mini-block is where you're writing stalls because you can't think of the right word or phrase. An easy way to break such a block is to refer to one of the lists at the end of this text or create similar lists of your own ahead of time.


29. IF YOU ARE WRITING A NOVEL, YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD IT WILL EVOLVE. The first four chapters of a first novel incite exuberance from the excitement that accompanies the beginning of any big job. A quarter of the way through this excitement gives way to euphoria with the realization you're going to succeed. You hit the half-way mark and fatigue sets in. The slow business of grinding out eighty thousand words weighs heavy. The rush of newness is gone. You wonder if you'll ever finish.


Hang in there. You will.


During the last quarter of the novel excitement builds again as the light at the end of the tunnel brightens. The last two chapters pour out of your fingers in a painful rush. When the last word is typed you feel like a mountain climber with his foot on Everest's peak. Masterpiece or not, you've written a novel. Less than one out of every thousand people succeed in writing a book so, CONGRATULATIONS! Take yourself out to dinner! Buy a new toy!


You deserve it.











Don't skip this chapter! There are several punctuation tips that can greatly increase the dramatic impact of your writing. I'm not talking about commas or semicolons but line skips, italics, and point-of-view punctuation. Learn these tricks. They'll sharpen up your stories.


However, having said that I also have to state the punctuation is a complex field worthy of extended study. When you have time, get a good text and dive in. Until then the simplified rules in this chapter cover most of what you need to know. For a detailed treatment see The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White or The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer.




30. SKIP A LINE TO INDICATE TIME HAS PASSED. If you have someone drive in silence for an hour, an extra blank line gives your reader a sense of elapsed time. After the skip, start the next paragraph with an interesting transition statement to let the reader know how long the break lasted and any other information the reader needs. Avoid anything trite.


An hour later they reached the town.


This is trite and dull.


An hour's desperate skidding over I-15's rain-slicked surface brought Jacksonville's outskirts flashing past the car's windows.


This is better because it expresses action and conveys specific information.




31. SKIP A LINE FOR DRAMATIC EMPHASIS. This focuses attention on the last sentence before the line skip and is especially effective if the final statement is short, pithy, and unexpected. Be careful not to use this technique more than twice or the reader will start thinking about it as a stylistic device instead of being captured by the drama of the moment. Be careful about using this technique if your format already places a line skip between every paragraph.


32. CENTERED "+++" SIGNALS A POINT OF VIEW CHANGE. Use three centered "+" marks or dots with a skipped line above and below the marks to tell the reader there's been a change in the point of view within a chapter.


33. COMMAS. Use commas to: separate names or titles from the rest of the sentence; separate degrees or titles from each other; after yes, no or however, at the beginning of a sentence; set off a mild exclamation (Oh,); or whenever you need to control the rhythm of the sentence.


Using too many commas can irritate a reader. Top authors average six commas for every two-hundred and fifty words.


34. "..." MEANS A VOICE TRAIL-OFF. Use three dots to express a speaker's voice trailing off or waiting for an answer.


"You know I love you, Beatrice. And I do want to marry you. It's just that, well..."




35. "-" MEANS AN INTERRUPTION. Use a dash to express an interrupted conversation.


"But, Marty-"


"I said that's enough!"




36. STRENGTHS OF PUNCTUATIONS. Periods, semicolons, and commas force the reader to pause. The punctuation used determines the length of the pause. Periods create the longest pauses, semicolons the second longest, and commas the shortest.


37. AVOID COLONS AND SEMICOLONS. In the five novels researched for this guide, colons and semicolons were only used four times and in each case the sentence could have been broken into two sentences with no ill effect. Because the average American reader isn't an expert on punctuation, many look at colons and semicolons as a sign the writer is showing off.


If you have the irresistible urge to use either the colon or semicolon follow these rules:




Use a colon to precede a list.


He needed three tools: a hammer, screwdriver and pliers.




Use a semicolon between two, complete, related sentences which you want to join into one sentence.




He shouted he was going to jump off the bridge; exclamations like that made him feel everyone was watching him.




This sentence can be legally written two other ways:




He shouted he was going to jump off the bridge because exclamations like that made him feel everyone was watching him.




He shouted he was going to jump off the bridge. Exclamations like that made him feel everyone was watching him.




Which one should be used? The one that sounds best to you.




38. AVOID USING DASHES, ITALICS, ETC. Dashes, words enclosed in parenthesis or with all their letters capitalized, italics, and exclamation points remind the reader he's reading a story instead of living an adventure. It's better to write words that give the effect you want without these crutches. Use these highlighting techniques when needed but go easy. Top writers average one of these emphasizing devices every 800 words.


There are times when using italics is mandatory. Always italicize the names of ships, book and magazine titles, foreign words, and foreign titles. Words representing sounds as they happen may also be italicized.




The elevator pinged its readiness.




39. DIALOG PUNCTUATION. Use the following guides for punctuating dialog:




"--------," John said, "-------."


"--------," John said.


John said, "-----."




"--------?" John asked.


"--------," John asked, "------?"


John asked, "----------?"




Of these forms, the first is used fifty-five percent of the time, the second forty-five percent of the time, and the third almost never. The first question form is used in seventy-five percent of all questions; the second takes up the remaining twenty-five percent. The third question form is rarely seen.











Interesting characters with rich backgrounds are essential for a successful novel. The following guidelines will help you populate your story with people that jump out of the story and grab your reader by the throat.






a. Decide the character's purpose.


b. Determine what main characteristics he needs to accomplish

this purpose.


c. Add personal and external conflicts for depth.


d. Add attitudes and values.


e. Make up specific details to flesh out the character (write a





41. WRITE BIOGRAPHIES. Each character in you story needs a biography that defines who they are. Identify critical events in their lives and how these affected them. Define their ethnic, cultural, socio-economic status, and attitudes. Give them friends and prize possessions. Main characters should have biographies at least a thousand words long. Minor characters only need a couple of lines. Make up ten times more information than you'll use in the book. This makes your characters come alive in your mind and provides insights as to how they'll act in specific situations.


Write biographies even if your story is based on existing characters in established series like Star Trek. It'll help you firm up your concept of the characters.


Remember that characters consist of three parts: physical, psychological and sociological. All of these effect each other. A character's antisocial behavior may be the result of some physical flaw.


42. GO TO A MALL FOR CHARACTERS. An excellent location to get ideas for characters is an indoor mall on Friday evenings. No place else offers a wider cross section of people.


43. GROUPS NEED PURPOSE. Whether it's two little old ladies or an angry mob, every group that plays a significant role in a novel needs a purpose that brought them together, a conflict to keep them in tension, contrasting qualities, and the ability to affect each other. Without these attributes a group is a one dimensional entity that'll bore the reader.


44. REVIEW BIOGRAPHIES REGULARLY. Constant review of each character's biography keeps the details of their lives fresh in your mind. This enables you to write their actions and conversations spontaneously.


45. GIVE EACH CHARACTER HIS OWN VOICE. You should be able hear a difference in the way each character talks. Techniques used to create unique voices are: have one character use a lot of contractions while another uses few; one talks in short, simple sentences and the other speaks in long, complex sentences; one character likes short words whereas the second prefers long ones.


46. POSSESSIONS HELP DEFINE CHARACTERS. A person's house, car, hobbies, toys, and friends define him. A well waxed Mercedes implies a successful, fastidious personality. An old, rusted Chevy inspires images of a slob or someone trapped in poverty. Mentioning a character's possessions enables you to describe him without explicitly stating what the reader can see for himself.


47. PRESENT CHARACTERS SLOWLY. In the real world we get to know people slowly, bit by bit. Introduce characters the same way. Let the reader discover the character as your story unfolds. One effective way to disclose something about a character is have people talk about him before he makes his first appearance. This creates anticipation.


48. DON'T USE STEREOTYPES. Stereotypes (the prostitute with a heart of gold) and antistereotypes (a football player who knits). are too predictable to be interesting characters. Another stereotype common to pulp science fiction is the bright young thing blasting into space.


49. GIVE HEROES FAULTS AND VILLAINS VIRTUES. It's hard for readers to identify with a perfect person so give your hero a forgivable or lovable fault. The flip side is also true. A villain is more believable if he has an endearing quality. This allows the reader to feel both satisfaction and sympathy when the villain is vanquished. One exception to this is the purely evil entity used in some horror stories.


50. MAKE VILLAINS STRONG. Villains must be powerful, implacable, and complex or they won't be sufficiently threatening to create suspense.


51. AVOID PASSIVE MAIN CHARACTERS. Readers want to identify with strong personalities so your main characters need to be forceful enough to make things happen, not just react to events around them. They should reach decisions and express them in a few, short words. Good characters are alive with great passions and strong emotions and they act on these feelings.


52. AVOID SELFISH AND ALTRUISTIC HEROES. Heroes shouldn't act totally on their own behalves, unless they're the only ones threatened. It makes them look self-centered. They shouldn't act purely altruistically either. That makes him seem too good to be true. Both cases create characters the reader will not take to heart. Combining some of each of these characteristics will make your hero seem more real.


52. VOLUNTEER OR DRAFT HEROES. If a character's going to do something brave that costs him significantly, have him volunteer so he appears noble. If he's going to profit from his actions have him be drafted or trapped into it to avoid making him appear self-serving.


54. MONSTERS ARE PRODUCTS OF THEIR ENVIRONMENTS. For science fiction and horror stories a monster's appearance and psychology should be consistent with the evolutionary pressures of his natural surroundings. When creating a monster let the environment that bore him shape what he looks like and how he acts.


55. USE AS FEW CHARACTERS AS POSSIBLE. One of the hardest things readers have to do is to keep track of a story's characters. Use too many any you'll lose the reader. A story needs at least two main characters: a villain and a hero. It's a good idea to give the hero a second main character to act as a side kick so he can talk to someone. Add a sprinkling of minor characters to develop the story but keep the total head count down.


56. CHARACTER NAMES. Give each character a name that starts with a different letter of the alphabet. This helps the reader keep them separate. A useful technique for this is to write the alphabet vertically down a sheet of paper and create a last name starting with each letter. Repeat this process for first names. If you run out of letters you've got too many characters.


Varying name lengths also helps the reader differentiate between characters.


Use a variety of ethnicities but remember that ethnicity plays a big part in determining how a reader expects a character to act. Sticking too close to an ethnic stereotype can make a character dull. On the other hand, using a stereotypical type for a minor character can eliminate a lot of dull description.


Gentle sounding first names make a character more sympathetic. Harsh last names make it easier for the reader to dislike a character. Long, complicated, or hyphenated names suggest intellectualism and self-importance. Short, one-syllable names like James Bond imply strength and virility.


Make names look interesting. The easiest way to do this is to use an unusual spelling for a common name.


Telephone books are an excellent source of names. Mix first and last names to avoid getting sued because you used someone's name for an ax murderer. All of the above also applies to the names of things and places.


57. AVOID LAST NAMES ENDING IN "s." The possessive, Jones' or Jones's, depending on which authority you follow, looks odd to many readers and can be confusing if you're talking about a possession of more than one Jones.


58. SHOW CHARACTER'S INNER FEELINGS. Characters shouldn't just state what happened but also show how they felt about it.


59. MAKE CHARACTERS GROW. Real people evolve with time and so should main characters. Their experiences during your story will change them. Show these changes in your by having them act and think differently at the end of the story than they did in the beginning. If the story's is part of a series that continues with the same characters, update their biographies as the series progresses.


60. GIVE CHARACTERS UNEXPECTED TRAITS. Characters are more interesting if they have an unexpected talent, such as a coward who's a crack shot with a revolver. Exaggerating a certain ability, physical characteristic, or habit is also effective.


61. KEEP YOUR PERSONALITY OUT OF YOUR CHARACTER'S. Don't let your own personality take over the personality designed for a character. It's easy for this to happen while writing long passages of dialog. You get so engrossed in what's going on you're pulled into the action. Before long your character starts talking like you instead of himself. One exception is a character modeled after yourself.


62. GIVE CHARACTERS CONFLICTING EMOTIONS. Inner turmoil makes characters more human and interesting.


63. VILLAINS DO WHAT THEY THINK IS JUST. When portraying the villain's point of view, make it clear he believes what he's going is right. This gives him conviction and credibility.


64. GIVE HEROS DOUBTS. Readers won't identify with a character who knows how and what to do in every circumstance. No one's that good. Giving your hero a few doubts makes him more appealing, believable and increases suspense.


65. ONE WAY TO PORTRAY AN AGGRESSIVE CHARACTER. You can show a character is aggressive by having him corner a timid character with an endless stream of yes or no questions. Fire them off faster than the cornered character can respond. Have the aggressive character cut the timid character off before he's completed his answer. Mercilessly repeat questions. Make the cornered character back up, stammer, fidget and look around for escape.













A big part of good writing is performing a lot of little tricks correctly. This chapter presents ninety-three such tricks guaranteed to brighten anyone's work.


The chapter contains many specific recommendations for how often certain words or techniques should be used. These numbers are the averages used by the best selling authors named in the Introduction and are meant as guidelines. Don't attempt to have exactly this number on each page of your novel. For example, I suggest and be used three times every 250 words. Some passages in your story may have no ands. Others may have ten. Use and whenever it's needed. But, if you're averaging fifteen every 250 words, you need to know you're following a pattern successful writers avoid.


Bullets sixty-six through seventy-eight focus on general suggestions. From seventy-nine on, they cover specific mechanical issues.




66. TARGET YOUR AUDIENCE. Decide the age, gender, and what your readers expect from your story. Keep these details in mind at all times so action and dialog caters to their desires. Do this even if you're writing for yourself. What do you want out of the story? Why are you writing it? Unless this initial objective is kept clearly in mind your story will alienate the readers you wanted to reach.


Targeting your audience also means selecting your book's the genre: mystery, science fiction, etc. Be careful of mixed genre books. They tend to confuse readers. A special case of this is incorporating sexually explicit scenes in a story. If your book is written as a sex story... fine. If it's a mystery or political thriller the excitement of a sex scene can be so great that it overpowers and washes away much of what your reader remembers about what else has happened in the story.


67. DEFINE YOUR THEME. Write one sentence stating the goal, theme, or idea you want your novel to express. It may be as simple as:


This book will be a scary story to entertain people.


or as complicated as:


I want to create a novel that demonstrates the counter productivity of prejudice in modern society.




68. STATE YOUR PLOT. Write a bare-bones statement of your plot. If the theme is:


Don't trust monsters.


the plot might be:


Boy meets monster. Boy befriends monster. Monster eats boy.


Effective stories have strong, easily grasped plots pitting contrasting elements like love and hate, rags to riches, or justice versus injustice against each other. What's a strong plot? Anything that appeals to intense emotions.


Girl and boy meet and like each other.


This is pathetically weak.


Girl and boy love each other to the point of self-destruction.


This is a strong plot, at least Shakespeare thought so when he wrote Romeo and Juliet. Stick to simple, strong plots like he did and you'll be in good company.




69. KEEP THE PLOT SIMPLE. Complicated plots drown readers in a sea of detail. Decide what the main conflict is, add one or two subplots for depth, and leave it at that.


70. DON'T PUT ALL YOUR IDEAS IN ONE BOOK. It'll make the novel seem busy and forced.


71. WRITE A VERY SHORT OUTLINE FOR THE STORY. Compose one-line sentences that state the main event in each chapter. List these sentences on a single page to form a short outline. This format makes it easy to see the flow of your story and makes gaps in the story-line stand out.


A story can also be graphed, which is particularly good for keeping the times when events take place in proper chronology. The form of the graph can be anything that provides a clear picture of story's elements.


72. DEFINE THE STORY'S DETAILS. Use the short outline to decide the details of your story such as where it takes place, when occurs, how many characters are needed and what type of characters they should be. Write the character biographies. Get a map of the area or make one up if your story occurs in a fictitious place. Research the facts that'll make your story believable.


73. WRITE A DETAILED CHAPTER-BY-CHAPTER OUTLINE. This outline should take at least one page per chapter. Explain what happens in the chapter, where it takes place, name the characters, decide when it takes place and record ideas for scenes and dialog. Most importantly, state what effect you want the chapter to have on the reader (let's say horror), how you're going to create this effect (have a sympathetic person get eaten by a slobbering monster) and state why you want to do this (so the reader knows this monster is dangerous). Write this outline when you're most excited about your story idea.


Once you've started a story, outlines are perfect for recording ideas for dialog or action that come to you while writing earlier chapters. Let's say you're writing chapter five when a humorous bit of dialog occurs to you that's perfect for a scene in chapter fifteen. By flipping forward in the outline to jot the dialog down you can check to make sure it fits and eliminate the hazard of loosing it among other notes in your writer's notebook.


Outlines are lifesavers when something forces you to stop writing for an extended time. A quick reading of the outline enables you back to get up to speed with minimal effort.


Some writers prefer to just go-for-it and write a story in one free rush. Don't. The headache of going back to straighten out accidental name changes, time shifts, and out-of-order events is a nightmare. It can take longer to correct these problems than it took to write the entire draft.


Chapter-by-chapter outlines are guides, not masters. Use them to avoid unconscious drifts away from the intended story line. But, if a good idea presents itself while you're writing, feel free to pursue it.


74. WRITE NON-STOP. Write the first draft of your story as continuously as possible. This insures you get maximum continuity and captures your keenest excitement in the developing story. Don't worry about punctuation or spelling. Just write!


This doesn't mean write sloppily. A poorly written draft may force you to abandon whole chapters during rewriting or accept a poor passage bandaged to mediocrity. Make the draft as good as you can without interrupting the natural flood of ideas that accompanies original writing. Focus on what you want to say and how you want to say it.


75. CAPTURE THE READER'S INTEREST IMMEDIATELY. Hook your reader's attention with the first sentence or at least by the end of the first paragraph. Delay longer and you risk having him or her getting bored and looking for someone else's story to read.


The opening hook shouldn't be a one-liner that immediately fades into insignificance after the third sentence. You need to establish tension, pull at the reader's curiosity and hold their attention long enough to make him start scrolling deeper into the story.


Once you've gotten a reader to start scrolling don't make the fatal error of stalling the action by dropping into a retrospective of how the characters got where they are. People want to know what's happening now, not what happened before. One clue that an author's made this mistake is the presence of a lot of had's showing up in the second 500 words of the story. If the story needs supporting background, feed it to the reader in small bits scattered throughout the initial chapters.


76. WRITE STORIES THAT EXCITE YOU. Writing even a short story is a long task. An exciting idea helps keep you going.


77. LIMIT GRAPHIC VIOLENCE. In spite of the escalation of graphic violence in motion pictures, more readers will be offended by it's presence than enjoy it. More importantly, graphic violence establishes an emotional high that's impossible to maintain. Normal passages following such a scene seem boring.


78. BEWARE OF MID-BOOK DOLDRUMS. If you're writing a novel, halfway through it many writers get tired and write accordingly. Prepare for this in advance and concentrate on maintaining an increasing sense of suspense and expectation throughout the book. Put a plot twist, a shocking character disclosure, or let the reader discover some interesting new fact in every chapter, especially those in the middle of the book. Don't let the reader say to himself, "This looks like a good place to stop for the night." He may do so and never look at your story again.


79. END HALF OF YOUR CHAPTERS WITH CLIFFHANGERS. A chapter's end is the natural place for the reader to stop reading. The strongest technique to make him want to read "just one more page" is to end it with a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, ending each chapter like that gets predictable. Top authors of mystery, action and suspense stories end half of their chapters with cliffhangers. Be careful to avoid getting into the pattern of alternating plain endings with cliffhangers. Vary the pattern so your reader never knows what's coming next.


It's not necessary to resolve a cliffhanger in the beginning of the next chapter. Let the hero swing in the wind for a chapter while the story addresses some other business. It's an effective way to maintain suspense. If the cliffhanger involves an action sequence then you should complete the action in the beginning of the next chapter or you'll lose the action's momentum.


80. ACTION SEQUENCES RESULT IN CHANGE. Action sequences should end with a change taking place so the reader thinks the action resulted in progress. You can accomplish this by introducing a new character, moving the characters to a new location, changing the weather, destroying something, or having something come into being.


81. THE ORDINARY IS IMPORTANT. Commonplace details are as important as unusual details in maintaining interest. Without something normal to compare it to, the extraordinary has no reference to show how extraordinary it is.


82. SUSPENSE IS NOT THE SAME AS ACTION. Suspense is anticipation of action and only works if the reader identifies with or has sympathy for the victim. Create victims your reader loves and tease the reader with disaster hanging over the character's head as long as possible.


83. SHORT SENTENCES SUGGEST SUSPENSE AND ACTION. You can hint that a crisis is approaching by gradually shortening sentence lengths, using shorter words and making references to death or threats. Action sequences also benefit from short sentences and words.


The opposite is true for portraying an increasing level of intimacy between two characters. In this case, gradually lengthen the duration of each character's uninterrupted discourse. Increasing the amount two characters agree with each other has a similar effect.


If you're writing a story with military personnel, be careful not to use too many yes, sirs or aye, sirs as one line sentences; they tend to make the passage read choppy and very quickly become repetitious. They are particularly bad in battle scenes because the break up the rapid flow of action.


84. SHOW, DON'T TELL. It's more effective and interesting to use action and dialog to present facts than having a narrator talk about them. Don't say a monster is hideous; describe its appearance and let the reader see for himself that it's hideous. Also, when describing something, use active rather than passive descriptions.


Passive: The house's red paint was peeling.


Active: A breeze fluttered threads of red paint hanging from the

house's sides.




85. BE DEFINITE. The key is to avoid using not.




He did not forget. --- He remembered.


She didn't like it. ---- She disliked it.


He displayed anger. -- He was mad.




86. KEEP IT SHORT. Don't clutter sentences with words that contribute unnecessary information.




Bronklin smashed the brass knuckles into Jeff's face covered with studs.


This sounds like Jeff's face is covered with studs. Moving the studs closer to the brass knuckles clarifies the picture.


Bronklin smashed the brass knuckles covered with studs into Jeff's face.


Eliminating words that slow the impact of the description also helps to maintain the action.


Bronklin smashed the sharply studded brass knuckles into Jeff's face.




88. NUMBERS. Don't spell out yearly dates, addresses, or serial numbers. One exception is in dialog where monthly dates and ages of people are stated.




It happened in 1996.


The address read 48 East Dover.


The 56th Battalion was wiped out.


"He'll be seventy-five on March fifth".




Some editors require that numbers 100 and higher in dialog must be written as numerals.


89. USE THE CORRECT WORD. English abounds with pairs of words that seem to be interchangeable but actually have different meanings. The most common error is using can, which implies ability, for may, which implies permission. Writers are expected to use words precisely. Chapter four of the third edition of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White has an extensive list of misused words.


90. WRITE IN THE ACTIVE VOICE. Avoid the passive voice. It can't carry a high level of action.




Passive: The octopus was wrestled by Clyde.


Active: Clyde wrestled the octopus.




91. USE CONSISTENT LEVELS OF ACTION. Don't have a character do something at two different speeds in the same sentence.


George slowly levered himself out of the chair and stormed out of the room.


Levered implies exhaustion. Stormed suggests boundless energy. Sentences like these confuse readers.


92. CONTROL THE PACE IN ACTION SEQUENCES. Don't use your highest action verbs in the beginning of passages containing a lot of action. It gives you no room to accelerate the pace of events. Start at half speed and build to a crescendo of action at the climax.


93. AVOID INTERRUPTING CLAUSES IN SENTENCES. People don't talk that way.


The greatest church, in my opinion, is the cathedral of Notre Dame.


It's better to write the sentence so it reads more smoothly.


I think the cathedral of Notre Dame is the greatest church.




94. AVOID ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS. We live in fast-paced times where action is valued over description. Use action phases to describe instead of adjectives which just tell. However, bright adjectives and adverbs are used by top authors so don't be afraid of them when you feel they're needed. These authors average one adjective for every four nouns and one adverb for every three verbs.


95. EVERY EVENT SHOULD HAVE A REASON. Anytime something happens let the reader know why it happened and show the effect of it's happening.


96. USE SAID. Don't use a lot of words for said like exclaimed, argued, or complained and use said as little as possible. If Mary and John are the only people in a scene use Mary said and John said only at the beginning of the dialog. Readers are smart enough to track whose saying what from then on. Top authors average one said per 250 words of dialog between two people. If more than two people are present you need to use a said on almost every line to be clear who's talking unless it's obvious who'll be talking next from what was said previously. Don't worry about repetition with said. It's not really read by the reader, only acknowledged. It's so dull a word the reader gets the point without being aware of it. Asked is the preferred word for questions.


97. USE BEATS. An alternative way of indicating who's talking is to use a beat. This is a short phase that shows someone doing something before or after he talks. Alternate expressions for this concept are Actions or Character Action. Three classical beats are: He turned, He stood up, and He looked at her. Some writing texts describe these particular beats as cliché beats because they've been used so much. However, simple, time-honored beats like these make up ninety-five percent of the beats used by top authors. New and innovative beats are few and far between. Beats are used an average of one time for every eight lines of dialog between two people. Twice this number is used in dialogs with more than two people.


Beats should be two to six words long and written so they don't interrupt the flow of dialog. Besides identifying who's talking, beats remind the reader that the dialog is taking place between real people and not disembodied voices. Beats can be used to express emotions by having someone wring his hands before answering a question (nervous, uncertain). When a beat is injected between one character's question and another's answer, they evoke a sense of time spent thinking before the question is answered. Beats also help remind the reader where the dialog is taking place. Finally, beats represent nonverbal communication that can be used to reveal a character's personality to the reader or another character.


It's critical that the beats assigned to different characters are written so that the characters interact. On person throws a ball, the other catches it. On stomps his foot, another comments about the probable cause for his anger. This is called the interactive subtext.


Beats are also a great way to avoid talking heads dialog. That's where you have a long succession of statements by different characters without any reference to what they are doing, where they are, or how they react to what's being said. They might as well be disembodied mouths babbling away in a dark room.


Good sources of beats are 1940s black and white movies. Try the Maltese Falcon. Humphery Bogart was a master of this art. Another good source is Raymond Chandler's mystery novel The Big Sleep. For a list of beats used by top authors and the frequency each is used, see Appendix A.


98. LONG PARAGRAPHS RELAX READERS. A long paragraph after an action or suspense-filled passage is useful to let the reader catch his breath. Twelve lines is long enough, any longer and you may bore your reader.


99. AVOID WORDS ENDING IN -LY. Don't use adverbs ending in -ly to tell the reader how a character said something.


"Oh my God!" he said excitedly.


What the person said and context should make it clear he was excited. In this example what was said and the exclamation point make it clear the character is excited. Excitedly is redundant. Top authors use one -ly modifier in this manner only once every 3000 words.


A tricky twist to this is that it's all right to use an adverb attached to said when the adverb honestly modifies the attribute and isn't describing the character. In Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert Heinlein uses -ly modifiers with almost every attribute and gets away with it by carefully avoiding redundancy.


Gregor said aggressively, "you aren't Demitri."


This would be a correct use of an adverb if nothing that preceded Gregor's statement indicated he would talk aggressively.


Adjectives ending in -ly used during dialog or descriptions show up an average of twice in every 250 words of dialog.


100. USE PRONOUNS. Don't use character's names every time in dialog. Throw in a pronoun here and there for variety. When you do mention a character, always refer to him in the same way. Don't make your reader wonder who you're talking about because you've changed the character's name so often the reader's lost track. If you refer to a character in a different way make sure you've let the reader know who you're talking about. But, don't bend over backward to come up with many different ways to refer to a character in an effort to avoid repetition. Don't go overboard on pronouns or repetition will become a problem. Top writers average three pronouns to every time they use a character's name when two characters are involved.


101. AVOID -ING WORDS. Don't use a lot of words ending in -ing, especially at the beginning of sentences. Few things will label someone as an amateur faster. You may be an amateur but you don't want your stories to read like you are. It can also lead to characters doing impossible things.


Turning, he walked to the door.


No one can turn around and walk at the same time. Top authors average three -ing words every 250 words and seldom at the beginning of a sentence. An exception is short the passage describing frenzied activity. These may have half a dozen -ing words in two sentences.


102. LIMIT THE NUMBER OF POINTS OF VIEW. Write each chapter in your novel from one character's point of view. This means the reader knows only what that character sees, hears, feels, tastes, and thinks. The reader observes other characters but can't see into their minds. Avoid changing viewpoint from one character to another in mid-chapter. It confuses the reader. Most important, let the reader know who the point-of-view character is as early in each chapter as possible.


It's good to use different points of view as the novel progresses as long as one character is the point-of-view character in most of the chapters. A variety of viewpoints allows more flexibility in getting the story to the reader but keep the head-count down so the reader doesn't get confused shifting between a lot of characters. If the point-of-view character isn't the main character, have the point-of-view character refer to the main character or respond to something the main character did to help the reader remember who the hero is.


Using several points of view is called a limited third person viewpoint and is usually considered the best. An omniscient viewpoint is one where the narrator flits god-like from scene to scene explaining action to the reader from everyone's point of view. Writing a novel in first person, through the eyes of a single character as if the he were talking to the reader, confines you to describing only what that character sees. This is limiting and you have to avoid using I too often.


Never write from the limited first-person point of view. This would be a novel where the "I" character changes several times. It is extremely confusing even when the reader is prepared for it.


103. BE SPECIFIC. Say cocker spaniel, not dog. It makes the image you're trying to create more concrete. But don't push it. Once the dog's been identified as a cocker, refer to it as a dog in the future. Constantly using the full name, especially if it's a long complicated one like a Volvo S1800 Sports Sedan, is repetitious.


There's a hazard in being too specific: overwriting. Adding too much detail with too much specificity results in a story bogged down with description.


104. USE REAL LANDMARKS FOR REALISM. Use the names of actual highways and towns to increases the sense of reality in traveling scenes. Have major actions take place in fictitious towns. This way some civic leader can't sue you because you used his town as the site for an environmental disaster that damaged its real-life tourist industry. For the same reason avoid using the names of real-life personalities


105. USE VERBS WITH PUNCH. Dynamic, action-packed verbs like dart instead of run brighten your writing. For every activity there is a range of verbs which describe that action with different levels of intensity. In the case of running, hurtle would be a high action verb, run a middle action and dull verb, and walk slower and duller still. Search for the one word that captures the degree of activity you want to convey.


Verbs for any activity can be ordered into a spectrum from the slowest to the fastest. An example of such an Activity Level Ordered Thesaurus for the verb run is given in Appendix B. Such lists are useful to find the one interesting verb that expresses the exact level of action desired.


106. DON'T ENCUMBER VERBS. Avoid had's, have's, and their ilk but don't be afraid to use them to clarify when something took place. Top authors use had once in every 500 words of narration. It's almost never used in dialog.


107. USE CONTRACTIONS AND SHORT SENTENCES. Write dialog the way people really talk with contractions and simple, short sentences. Have characters interrupt and misunderstand each other. Let them answer questions before they're asked if it's clear what was going to be asked. A character who's not paying attention may randomly repeat words the speaker says to fake attention. Let characters finish someone else's sentences. Have them hedge, change the subject, lie and dodge questions.


One way to prepare to write dialog is to pretend you're one of the characters and hold a conversation with another character. You can do this while you're driving to work. (If you're in a car pool you may want to do it silently.) Repeat the dialog several times until it flows smoothly.


108. AVOID HEAVY ACCENTS. The occasional missing, wrong, or misspelled word is enough to identify an accent. Coloring a character's conversation with too much accent makes the reader focus on how a character is saying something instead of what he's saying.


109. AVOID REPETITION. Except for said, don't repeat words, phrases, or techniques. Not only is it boring, it reminds the reader there's a writer in the background. Having a drunk stagger and slur his speech is repetitious; just use one or the other. Accidental rhyme, where two words that sound alike are used close enough together to attract the reader's attention, is also a form of repetition. Accidental rhyme also shows up when two adjacent sentences have the same rhythm.


Purposeful repetition can be used to present a character the reader is supposed to hate. If a character constantly repeats the same phrase the reader will become annoyed with them. A repeated irrational phrase also effectively identifies a mentally disturbed person.


110. GIVE IMPORTANT ELEMENTS THE MOST TIME. Use more time to develop important scenes and characters than minor scenes and characters. This shows the reader what he needs to remember. If you spend a lot of time on something you're obligated to have it play a major role in the story or the reader is left with unfulfilled expectations. This comes under the heading of being honest with your reader.


If your goal is misdirection, keep the reader in contact with the object of the misdirection but only peripherally and make sure that the source of contact makes sense. If it's too contrived, the reader may guess the coming surprise.


111. VARY PARAGRAPH LENGTHS. A chapter full of paragraphs all the same length is boring. Mix up the lengths of your paragraphs to help maintain reader interest. Paragraphs in best-selling books average from one to thirteen lines long. Top authors average seven lines in narrative paragraphs, two in dialog. Short, one line paragraphs are useful for dramatic emphasis. Narrative paragraphs longer than thirteen lines stall action. Even if it's packed with action, a very long paragraph can be difficult for a reader to swallow. It makes readers feel like they're trying to make a long speach without taking a breath.


Be careful not to pack too many short, pithy, one or two line paragraphs into a passage. It makes it read choppy and uneven. Save the short paragraphs for those special moments when you need a little extra punch.


Also, avoid multi-character paragraphs where one of them talks; it can confuse your reader as to who is talking.


Long paragraphs can shift back a forth between dialog and action, but they read choppy. It's best to compose paragraphs so that there is one section of dialog and one of action.


112. VARY CHAPTER LENGTHS. Chapters in effective stories vary from one to fourteen pages long with an average of nine. Short chapters employed during periods of tension increase the reader's sense of suspense or action. One or two page chapters are used to emphasize a single scene that has a major impact on the story.


113. SIDE SCENES ADD INTEREST. Include short scenes outside of the flow of the main story to present interesting information about a place or character. Scenes like this add texture and depth to a novel as well as dramatic or comic relief. These scenes can be imbedded within a main scene.


In real life nothing is simple, isolated, or unchanging. Side scenes are a convenient way to show how something important to the plot is connected to the rest of your story's world without a major interruption to the action.


114. EMPLOY ALL THE SENSES. Use sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch to pull the reader into your story as long as they don't distract attention away from the action. Someone walking into a busy kitchen might smell the rich aroma of hot bread. The same character bursting into the same kitchen in pursuit of a killer wouldn't.


Ninety-five percent of a typical novel's sensory information is visual. The remaining five percent is used to accentuate scenes that have significant importance to the story.


Successful authors average one sense-evoking description every 500 words. Using more than this, unless they are intended to focus attention on one particular element of the passage, results in the story sounding too busy with detail.


115. AVOID CLICHES. These are over-used expressions like:


It's raining cats and dogs.


Cliches can also show up in plots such as the cavalry charging to the rescue, a surprise witness solving a murder case, or the villain having a sudden change-of-heart and sacrificing himself to save the hero. Avoid these at all costs.


116. DON'T USE THE RIDICULOUS. Plato never said, "Gee Whiz!" and aliens or foreigners are unlikely to use American slang.


117. DON'T USE INVENTED OR UNUSUAL WORDS. They start the reader thinking about the odd word instead of the story.


118. DON'T OPEN SENTENCES WITH HOWEVER. Avoid however's, therefore's, moreover's, etc. in the front of sentences. They break up the smooth flow of reading. I didn't find a single use of any of these words in the five novels examined. One exception might be a pompous character who repeatedly uses such words to qualify or expand something he's just said. This would be an annoying pattern so don't use it with a character that's supposed to evoke sympathy.


119. DON'T END SENTENCES WITH PREPOSITIONS OR VERBS. It can make readers feel like they've been left hanging in space.


120. USE FLASHBACKS SPARINGLY. They add texture and depth but stop the action.


121. USE FORESHADOWING. A powerful technique to get your reader to wonder about what's going to happen is to tease him with a hint long before the event occurs. This can be done by having a character make an ominous statement or by referring to a potential disaster. Foreshadowing should only be used once or it becomes an obvious device.


122. SHOCK YOUR READER FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT. An effective technique to surprise a reader is to end a bland paragraph with a short, dramatic sentence. The bland passage lulls him into a state of unsuspecting which heightens the impact of the ending. Don't make the bland part too long or the reader may skip ahead and miss the punch line. Ten lines is the maximum. This technique is equally effective for generating humor. Don't use this more than twice in novel-length stories and keep them spaced far apart.


123. DON'T TALK ABOUT EMOTIONS IN THE ABSTRACT. Don't talk about love, greed, etc. in generalities. It bores most people. This may sound shallow but it's true. Present these subjects only as one specific character loving or envying another specific character.


124. KEEP NARRATIVE PASSAGES SHORT. Avoid narrative passages over ten lines long that explain something to the reader. This stalls the action. It's more interesting to present information in small lumps of dialog or action as the story develops.


Don't force two characters to discuss a subject just to present information to the reader. This is narration in thin disguise. It doesn't read like real conversation.


This doesn't mean narration is bad. It's a space-efficient tool for presenting bulk facts and useful for indicating the passage of time in just a few words. It can also avoid redundancy by describing a series of repetitious scenes which would otherwise bore the reader.


Don't misunderstand this bullet to mean you should avoid narration in favor of dialog. A novel should have as much action-packed narration as possible. Just be careful about expository narration


125. LIMIT DESCRIPTIONS TO WHAT'S NEEDED. Give only as much description as is needed to support the scene otherwise the reader will be misled into believing that the thing being described is more important than it actually is.


126. CHARACTERS CAN'T TALK AND MAKE NOISES. Don't have a character chuckle, laugh, snicker, etc. what he said. It can't be done.


"You're kidding," John chuckled.


It is all right to have him chuckle before he talks.


John chuckled. "You're kidding."




127. COMPARE AND CONTRAST. Comparing and contrasting people or things to other people and things sharpens the reader's images of them. This makes the images more concrete and pulls the reader deeper into the story.


128. DON'T USE QUALIFIERS. Avoid qualifiers like just, even, like, although, also, besides, almost, if, but, too, unless, sort of, etc., if they weaken what's being said and can introduce a note of ambiguity. Consider the following examples:


..............."I just called to say 'Hi'."


..............."I called to say 'Hi'."


The first case sounds less active and less definite. Also, just can imply recently or only in this case. Such ambiguity weakens the statement.




............. "Although Bob's a great quarterback, he's also a class 'A' jerk."


.............."Bob's a great quarterback and a class 'A' jerk."


The second case reads more active and sounds less like a professor lecturing a class of students. However, in this case I admit that the first version may be more appropriate if the intent is to emphasize contrast between Bob's athletic prowess and his personality.




......... "Unless you want to look like a fool, don't wear long pants to wade in the pond."


......... "If you wear long pants to wade in the pond you will look like a fool."


The second version sounds more definite.



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Guest Supreme Gamesmaster

Not bad, but you really should make the links functional. Also, your posting this here is of dubious legality.

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Guest Supreme Gamesmaster

*Just read the whole thing*

May I request that the rest of this and/or a link to the original is posted? I'd like to see those appendixes.

Appendices, mon ami.


I just noticed that he doesn't like semicolons. I personally find said punctuation extremely useful; there's no reason to discourage their usage.

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*Just read the whole thing*

May I request that the rest of this and/or a link to the original is posted? I'd like to see those appendixes.

Appendices' date=' mon ami.


I just noticed that he doesn't like semicolons. I personally find said punctuation extremely useful; there's no reason to discourage their usage.



inorite? That's one of the few things that I disagree with; I had an old avatar devoted to semicolons because they're so frickin' useful. Also, he hates "and".

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Guest Supreme Gamesmaster

More problems.


3) Both-sides justification is >> left-side justification.

7) Homophobia much?

8) Homophobia much?

31) You can use line skip as much as you want, especially if only a few of the skips are ironic.

Characters: They assume you want the hero to be utterly sympathetic.

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7) Homophobia much?

8) Homophobia much?


Not really, because most sites, like FF.net, require a little blip indicating if it's slash or not. (Besides, you can always see in the "X x Y" part or in the summary.) You always are going to have a ultra-conservative family out there who wouldn't want their children reading that kind of stuff, y'know.

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Guest Supreme Gamesmaster

7) Homophobia much?

8) Homophobia much?


Not really' date=' because most sites, like FF.net, require a little blip indicating if it's slash or not. (Besides, you can always see in the "X x Y" part or in the summary.) You always are going to have a ultra-conservative family out there who wouldn't want their children reading that kind of stuff, y'know.


FF.net doesn't require a slash warning... O,x

It does have the main characters section, but that's really all you can get regarding the story.

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7) Homophobia much?

8) Homophobia much?


Not really' date=' because most sites, like FF.net, require a little blip indicating if it's slash or not. (Besides, you can always see in the "X x Y" part or in the summary.) You always are going to have a ultra-conservative family out there who wouldn't want their children reading that kind of stuff, y'know.


FF.net doesn't require a slash warning... O,x

It does have the main characters section, but that's really all you can get regarding the story.


Almost 90% of the people who post slash either:


a) Make it obvious using the main character section.

b) Make it obvious using the summary.

c) Make it obvious with the "HERE THERE BE TYGERS SLASH."


I never said it was required; it's just common sense. (I was also using The Pit of Voles as an example.)

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