Writing Advice: by Chuck Palahniuk
In six seconds, you’ll hate me.
But in six months, you’ll be a better writer.
From this point forward—at least for the next half year—you may not use “thought” verbs. These include: Thinks, Knows, Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, and a hundred others you love to use.
The list should also include: Loves and Hates.
And it should include: Is and Has, but we’ll get to those later.
Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write: Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”
Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like: “The
mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave. Never his.”
Instead of characters knowing anything, you must now present the details that allow the reader to know them. Instead of a character wanting something, you must now describe the thing so that the reader wants it.
Instead of saying: “Adam knew Gwen liked him.” You’ll have to say: “Between classes, Gwen had always leaned on his locker when he’d go to open it. She’s roll her eyes and shove off with one foot, leaving a black-heel mark on the painted metal, but she also left the smell of her perfume. The combination lock would still be warm from her butt. And the next break, Gwen would be leaned there, again.”
In short, no more short-cuts. Only specific sensory detail: action, smell, taste, sound, and feeling.
Typically, writers use these “thought” verbs at the beginning of a paragraph (In this form, you can call them “Thesis Statements” and I’ll rail against those, later). In a way, they state the intention of the paragraph. And what follows, illustrates them.
“Brenda knew she’d never make the deadline. was backed up from the bridge, past the first eight or nine exits. Her cell phone battery was dead. At home, the dogs would need to go out, or there would be a mess to clean up. Plus, she’d promised to water the plants for her neighbor…”
Do you see how the opening “thesis statement” steals the thunder of what follows? Don’t do it.
If nothing else, cut the opening sentence and place it after all the others. Better yet, transplant it and change it to: Brenda would never make the deadline.
Thinking is abstract. Knowing and believing are intangible. Your story will always be stronger if you just show the physical actions and details of your characters and allow your reader to do the thinking and knowing. And loving and hating.
Don’t tell your reader: “Lisa hated Tom.”
Instead, make your case like a lawyer in court, detail by detail.
Present each piece of evidence. For example: “During roll call, in the breath after the teacher said Tom’s name, in that moment before he could answer, right then, Lisa would whisper-shout ‘Butt Wipe,’ just as Tom was saying, ‘Here’.”
One of the most-common mistakes that beginning writers make is leaving their characters alone. Writing, you may be alone. Reading, your audience may be alone. But your character should spend very, very little time alone. Because a solitary character starts thinking or worrying or wondering.
For example: Waiting for the bus, Mark started to worry about how long the trip would take…”
A better break-down might be: “The schedule said the bus would come by at noon, but Mark’s watch said it was already 11:57. You could see all the way down the road, as far as the Mall, and not see a bus. No doubt, the driver was parked at the turn-around, the far end of the line, taking a nap. The driver was kicked back, asleep, and Mark was going to be late. Or worse, the driver was drinking, and he’d pull up drunk and charge Mark seventy-five cents for death in a fiery traffic accident…”
A character alone must lapse into fantasy or memory, but even then you can’t use “thought” verbs or any of their abstract relatives.
Oh, and you can just forget about using the verbs forget and remember.
No more transitions such as: “Wanda remembered how Nelson used to brush her hair.”
Instead: “Back in their sophomore year, Nelson used to brush her hair with smooth, long strokes of his hand.”
Again, Un-pack. Don’t take short-cuts.
Better yet, get your character with another character, fast.
Get them together and get the action started. Let their actions and words show their thoughts. You—stay out of their heads.
And while you’re avoiding “thought” verbs, be very wary about using the bland verbs “is” and “have.”
“Ann’s eyes are blue.”
“Ann has blue eyes.”
“Ann coughed and waved one hand past her face, clearing the cigarette smoke from her eyes, blue eyes, before she smiled…”
Instead of bland “is” and “has” statements, try burying your details of what a character has or is, in actions or gestures. At its most basic, this is showing your story instead of telling it.
And forever after, once you’ve learned to Un-pack your characters, you’ll hate the lazy writer who settles for: “Jim sat beside the telephone, wondering why Amanda didn’t call.”
Please. For now, hate me all you want, but don’t use thought verbs. After Christmas, go crazy, but I’d bet money you won’t.
For this month’s homework, pick through your writing and circle every “thought” verb. Then, find some way to eliminate it. Kill it by Un-packing it.
Then, pick through some published fiction and do the same thing. Be ruthless.
“Marty imagined fish, jumping in the moonlight…”
“Nancy recalled the way the wine tasted…”
“Larry knew he was a dead man…”
Find them. After that, find a way to re-write them. Make them stronger.
I made these as a way to compile all the geographical vocabulary that I thought was useful and interesting for writers. Some descriptors share categories, and some are simplified, but for the most part everything is in its proper place. Not all the words are as useable as others, and some might take tricky wording to pull off, but I hope these prove useful to all you writers out there!
(save the images to zoom in on the pics)
So I finished my first draft last Thursday (the 17th) and it is so hard not to jump right into the editing process. But I know I need to step back, breathe, and try not to change absolutely everything about it.
Also, researching the origin of the vampire and making up my own ‘first vampire’ myth is kind of exhausting. I’m thinking pre-Dynasty Egypt.
I had a dream last night that my first novel had been published and it was out in hardback and I got it delivered to me, and I just hugged it and smelled it and stroked it
This will be a reality one day
A dream we both share.
Character Sheets and character creation →
When creating a character, there’s a lot of questions you ask yourself. Whether it’s an original character or one you’ve been playing for a long time, using a character sheet to get to know your character better can always be a nice idea. With it’s help, you’ll be able to think about things you didn’t necesarily thought about, and ask some important questions to yourself that might activate your character’s voice, or help you to get your muse back with them. Everyone has their favorite character sheets, some people prefer to have a lot of questions, some others like it a bit more vague, so here’s a masterlist of the character sheets I found on various websites and found quite interesting, plus some other things that could be used to help you see, for example, how other character view yours.
- Blank Character Sheet (+370 Questions)
- Abridged Character Sheet (100 Questions)
- Big-Ass Character Sheet
- Character Creation Form
- Character Sheet by Jody Hedlund
- Creating a character Bio Sheet
- Character Analysis Worksheet
- 100 Character Development questions for writers
- Create a Character Profile
- Character Development Worksheet
- Original Character Bio-Sheet
- Character Chart for Fiction Writers
- A Character Chart By Charlotte Dillon
- Fiction Writer’s Character Chart
- Detailed Character Sheet
- Character Sheet Template
- Character Twenty-Question Worksheet
- In-Depth Character Sheet
- Character Worksheet
- Character Interview Sheet (First Person)
- Background Questionnaire (First Person)
- Characters Perceptions (How do other people perceive your character?)
Then, if you’re trying to create a character, and do not have many ideas, or get stuck, I’d suggest for you to roam around TVTropes, which gives you a lot of tropes used for character creation. Maybe you could try to mix a few of these and create an original character?
Or, if you’re a skillful writer and know how to make your character different from another, make a list of characters in fiction you happen to find interesting and why. Try to keep it short. Then, maybe, try to mix and match things from two or three characters, take a character and change their backstory, to see what would change. Play with them to inspire yourself and create something new, original and truly yours.
Oh, and here’s a little guide to Mary-Sues and OCs, just in case you want to make sure your character isn’t going to become a Mary-Sue or a Gary-Stu
And last but not least, this article about building fictional character definitely seemed interesting to me, and is full of many other links that could guide you during the creating of your character and help you file one of these sheets.
Character Development: Choosing a Personality, Avoiding Self-Insert
Anonymous asked: When I’m making up characters, I worry that they’re too influenced by my own personality. I don’t want them to come across as self inserts, or like they’re all too similar. I love reading stories that feature lots of different viewpoints and personalities and want to write like this too, but at the same time I want to still be able to relate to my characters somewhat. Do you have any advice on how to get past this?There are several different tricks you can try to make sure you’re varying your characters’ personalities. Here are a few:1) Make a list of three people you’re familiar with. They can be real people or characters, just make sure you have a good grasp on their personalities. Next to each name, write down three things you like about their personality and three things you don’t like. You will end up with nine good traits and nine bad traits. Now, go through those and choose four good traits and four bad traits, and give those to your character. Very often, additional traits will emerge naturally as you write.
2) Alternatively, you can find a list of personality traits (you can find several via Google—like this one) and simply choose the traits that appeal to you. Be sure to choose some traits that will be a positive for the character, and some that will be a negative.
3) Find an online personality test and take it from the perspective of your character. For each answer, first find the answer that you yourself would choose, then choose a different answer for your character. It’s ok if a few of the answers are the same, but for the most part you should always choose different answers for your character. At the end the test should give you a summary of your character’s personality which you can use to guide you. You can also research your character’s personality type to find out more about them. Here are some to try:
The Big 5 Personality Test
You Just Get Me Test
Myers-Briggs Style Cognitive Inventory
4) An alternative to taking a personality test is to just sift through the various personality types and choose one that sounds best for your character.
Editing: Four Drafts Minimum
slowlysinkingunder asked: I finished my first book and I’m going to print it out later and start editing Monday (one day break haha). Anyway, what are your suggestions on editing the first draft? Should I read it through the first time and try not to edit? How many times do you think editing is necessary before sending it to beta readers and then a publisher? I know every writer is different so I’m still trying to find the method that best for me. I don’t want to take too long editing (one article was about takingOops! Looks like your Ask got cut-off, but I think I get the gist of it.
I really feel that four edits/drafts are the minimum you can get away with, but five is usually my personal goal. If you absolutely have to go with the bare minimum, try this:
- have a critique partner or trusted friend read through it to get their opinion on plot, structure, character development, pace, flow, continuity, and description. Ask them not to worry about spelling, grammatical errors, or typos.
- read through it yourself as though you’re just a regular reader and look out for the same things.
- Write a second draft incorporating your desired changes and taking your critique partner/friend’s suggestions into consideration. Look for unnecessary scenes that can be cut, and “fat” that can be trimmed.
- have a critique partner or trusted friend who is good at spelling and grammar read through it to look for spelling errors, grammatical errors, and typos.
- read through the draft yourself to look for the same things, then write a third draft incorporating the necessary corrections
- print it out and go through it line-by-line, word-by-word, to make sure there are no errors. You may *not* rely on spell-check for this. Have a good dictionary and style handbook nearby so you can quickly look up anything you have a question about. Use a red pen to mark necessary corrections.
- read through it one more time, but this time read it out loud. Pay attention to the pacing, flow, dialogue, description, and just how it sounds. If you have trouble with anything, it’s likely your reader will, too. Make notes of necessary changes as you go. Then, write your fourth draft, which will be your final draft and the one you can send to a publisher.
What Motivates Your Characters?
It’s a question that boggles a lot of writers because character motivation can both define and reveal who your character is. Characters have the power to drive stories, and understanding them is often the crux of writing a good plot. So, how do you figure it out?
There are a seemingly infinite number of variables that cause a character to act, and this is by no means an exhaustive list. Character motivators can be major, like the death of a loved one, or they can be minor, like losing a favorite pair of shoes. How your character reacts to the problems they’re faced with will show who they are.
Often, two kinds of characters are presented in stories: characters that have a single, constant motivator and characters that have shifting motivations. With the first, whatever the motivator, is the single reason for this character to act, whether it be to save someone’s life, get rich, or take over the world. There maybe other small factors that contribute to his actions but he always has his eye on the endgame. With the second, the character may initially be after some great treasure, but when he finds that the treasure doesn’t exist and he suddenly becomes trapped inside of the temple ruins, his new motivator is survival, and ultimately, to escape.
It’s important to keep in mind that the same things can motivate multiple characters but for entirely different reasons. As with anything in the writing process, you should never stop asking questions. And, most importantly, never forget to ask why.
- What religion does your character follow or claim to follow?
- What are the tenants of that religion? Does your character understand those tenants? Or, are they misunderstood? Is it intentional?
- Does your character pick and choose what tenants of that religion he follows?
- Does he mix and match from different religions?
- Maybe your character isn’t religious?
- Does your character use religion to better the lives of others? Does he use it to better himself?
- Does he use it to hurt people? Does he use it for control? Does he use it for selfish reasons? Does he hide behind it?
- Is his use of religion self-destructive?
- Did he find religion or did he grow up in a religious environment?
- Was religion forced upon him? Did he accept it or resist?
- Did he make his own religion?
- What do others think of his religion?
- Is it a cult?
- Are its practices questionable or accepted by society?
- What is your character afraid of?
- Does the fear interfere with his daily life?
- Is it rational? Is it a phobia?
- Is it a fear he can overcome?
- Does he want to overcome it?
- What does your character do to combat his fear? Does he carry a weapon? A flashlight? Another object that may keep him safe, practical or not?
- Does your character avoid what makes him afraid?
- If forced to face his fear, how would your character react?
- Does your character have some form of support for his fear? Is it another person? A group of people?
- Does his fear make him superstitious?
- Would your character do anything for the person he loves?
- What would he risk? What wouldn’t he?
- Is it unconditional?
- Does he believe in the concept of soul mates or love at first sight?
- Does the character he loves also love him?
- If not, what does your character do to get noticed? Does it work?
- Is your character obsessed?
- Does he exhibit unhealthy behavior because of his obsession?
- Has your character ever been rejected? Does it make him angry? Does it make him sad?
- What does your character do after being rejected? Does he turn to a comfort like food, alcohol, and solicited sex?
- Does your character understand the concept of love? Is he able to feel it?
- How does he feel about sex? Is it the same as his understanding of love? Is it different?
- What are his views of marriage?
- If your character is faced with a life-threatening situation, what would he do to survive?
- Would he be willing to sacrifice others for his own needs?
- Would he sacrifice himself for another?
- What dangers is he worried about? What isn’t he worried about?
- What does he know about his situation? What doesn’t he know?
- What are his skills? Does he have any prior survival training? Is he former military, police, or government agency?
- How likely is it that your character will realistically survive the situation?
- What objects does he have with him?
- Is your character a smooth talker? A good liar?
- Is he with anyone else in the situation? How well does he know that person?
The Seven Deadly Sins: Does your character exhibit…
- To what degree does he exhibit one or more of these characteristics? How often does it influence his behavior? Is it noticeable to others? If so, how does it affect them?
The Seven Heavenly Virtues: Does your character exhibit…
- To what degree does he exhibit one or more of these characteristics? How often does it influence his behavior? Is it noticeable to others? If so, how does it affect them?
- What is your character’s sense of right and wrong?
- Does it conflict with the traditionally accepted?
- Does it go against society?
- Does he lack a sense of morality?
- Does he value justice? How does he define it? Does he take it too far?
- Is your character okay with the concept of vengeance?
- Does your character value life or does he see it as a means to an end?
- Does your character have an illness? Is it physical, mental, or both? Is he disabled?
- Does his illness affect how he thinks?
- Does he hear voices?
- Does he have control over his actions or is he sometimes unable because of his illness?
- Does he use his illness or disability as an excuse?
- Does he want to be normal and healthy or has he accepted his illness or disability as a part of him?
- Does it interfere with his ability to learn?
- Does society’s perception of his illness or disability affect him?
- Can his illness be cured? Can it be managed with medication? Is it life-threatening?
- How does his illness or disability affect others around him?
- Has it gotten him into trouble?
- What aspects of life are difficult? What aspects are easy?
- Was he born with it or did he develop it later in life?
- Does he know other people with the illness or disability?
- Did he get proper care when he needed it or was he denied?
- Is his illness contagious?
- How much stress does the illness or disability cause?
- Has he experienced a major or minor loss? Did he lose a sock? A locket given to him by his mother? His first love?
- Did your character lose someone close to him? How? When?
- Does he internalize his feelings?
- Does he get angry? Does he hurt others because he was hurt?
- Does he cry a lot or become emotional in another manner?
- Has he resigned to silence?
- How important was this loss to your character? Why was it important?
- How did the loss change him? Did it change him?
- Does your character react appropriately to his loss according to others? Does he overreact?
- Is your character melodramatic? Does he character make a big deal out of little things?
- Is he bothered by minor losses and not major ones?
- Does an illness influence how he reacts to loss? Does his background? His childhood?
- What does your character do for a living? Is it a job he has a passion for or is it just something he does to get by?
- Does he care about what he does?
- Is his job his life?
- Is his job perceived as important to society?
- Does his job make him feel important? Better than others?
- Does his job involve helping others?
- Does he do it for the reward of making the lives of others better or does he do it for the money?
- Doe he care about money?
- Does his job involve saving lives or destroying them?
- Is he in a place of power at his job or is he an unnoticed grunt?
- Do others respect him?
- Is his occupation illegal?
- What is your character’s addiction? Drugs? Alcohol? Gambling? Sex? Video games? Something else?
- When denied of his addiction, what would he do to get it back?
- Has he sought help for his problem before?
- How does his problem affect those around him?
- Does he even recognize he has a problem?
- Does he engage in his addiction of choice alone or with others?
- Has he been incarcerated before?
- Has he ever had treatment and relapsed?
- What kind of environment did your character grow up in?
- How does your character feel about his family? What is his relationship with them?
- Are they an active part of his life?
- Are they encouraging or destructive?
- Does your character confide in any of them?
- Are they helpful?
- Are they overbearing?
- Are they supporting your character financially or is your character supporting them?
- Does your character live with his family?
When it comes to character development and figuring out their motivations, the morality and values of a character will tend to influence just about everything they do. While we would like to think that everyone has the same sense of right and wrong, that simply isn’t the case. A person’s morality is ultimately subjective, and can be as pure or as warped as you perceive it.
As such, good characters can do bad things and bad characters can do good things for both good and bad reasons. Depending on what they do, the reader will either hate them or be able to accept them, flaws and all. As human beings, most of us can universally agree that killing another person is wrong, but a lot of us are willing to make exceptions to that based on what said person has done. That difference in opinion is part of the reason the death penalty is still a topic of heavy debate. There are those who believe that if you kill an innocent, you also deserve death, while others go against taking another life no matter the circumstance.
You can have a character, like your protagonist, kill and still be liked as long as the reasoning behind it makes sense and is justifiable. Finding believable character motivation isn’t about making perfect characters. It’s about making flawed characters, and in giving them those flaws, along with strengths, you shape your characters as real people in the mind of your reader.
What fighting like a girl was all about in Georgian Era Britain —- Elizabeth “Lady Bare Knuckles” Stokes
Think that women’s boxing or MMA fighting is a recent development in fighting sports? Think again. From the 18th to early 19th century it was not uncommon for women to fight in the ring as well as men. Back then boxing was not the boxing of today, not by a long shot. Venues tended to be saloons, pubs, small arenas, or even open streets and back-alleys. Rules differed from venue to venue, but for the most part fights were done bare knuckled, and many fights were a no holds barred type setup. Some fights even included deadly weapons such as clubs, swords, and staves. Needless to say, injury and death was common.
One of the most famous female fighters in early 18th century Britain was Elizabeth Stokes (born Elizabeth Wilkinson), a mother and fighter whose career lasted mostly throughout the 1720’s. In 1722 she was challenged by Hannah Highfield for a prize of three guineas. Stokes accepted the challenge by offered a counter challenge,
“I, Elizabeth Wilkinson of Clerkenwell, who had earlier had some words with Hannah Hyfield, ‘challenged and invited’ her adversary to meet her on the stage for three guineas. Each fighter would hold half-a-crown in each hand and the first to drop the money would lose the battle”
Elizabeth won after a 22 minute fight, giving Hannah Hyfield a savage thumping that caused her to drop her coin. Later in the evening she won another fight against a woman named Martha Jones.
After the fight with Hannah Hyfield Stoke’s career took off, making her the most popular female fighter in Britain and earning her the name “Lady Bareknuckles”. After marrying her husand James Stokes, the couple often fought in paired and tag-team matches. Incredibly Stoke’s even fought men on a number of occasions, something that was rare in bareknuckle boxing. Even more incredibly, she trounced them every time, beating the crap out of them with her swift and powerful fists. Not only was she a master pugilist, Stokes was also skilled with weapons as well. She was known to be particularly skilled with the cudgel and short sword.
By the mid 19th century women’s fighting had come to a close as professional organizations, rules, and Victorian Era prejudices against women drove the sport underground and turned fighting into a gentlemen’s sport.
#THIS IS FREAKIN COOL AS SHIT #can we just note the last paragraph #’victorian era prejudices against women drove the sport underground’ #you’re saying ‘turned fighting into a gentleman’s sport’ but all i’m seeng is VICTORIAN LADY FIGHT CLUB#WHERE ARE THE NOVELS? GIVE ME NOVELS #MAKE THE LADIES KISS#MAKE THE LADIES TELL THEIR HUSBANDS THEY’RE OFF TO SEE THEIR SISTERS FOR TEA #MAKE THE LADIES SWAP TIPS ON HOW TO BANDAGE THEIR KNUCKLES AND CONCEAL BRUISES WITH POWDER #MAKE THE LADIES PASS EACH OTHER FLASKS OF BRANDY WHILE THEY’RE SITTING ON THE SIDELINES TENDING THEIR INJURIES AND WATCHING THE NEXT FIGHT#MAKE THE LADIES WEAR LOOSE BREECHES AND PRACTICAL RIDING BOOTS#MAKE THE LADIES COME FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE; MAKE A PICKPOCKET STRIKE UP A FRIENDSHIP SLASH RIVALRY WITH THE DAUGHTER OF A COUNTESS #MAKE THE LADIES KISS!!!!!!!!!!!!! #i’m fine. i’m fine. #history (via marthur)
So you want to make an OC?: A Masterpost of Ways to Create, Develop, and Make Good OCs!
i made this masterpost in hopes that it helps you in making your own OCs ah;; it can also apply to developing RP characters i suppose! if you’d like to add more resources then go for it sugar pea (´ヮ`)!
How to Write Better OCs:
- basic tips on how to make your oc even better
- tragic backstory? learn how to write one/make yours great
- writing specific characters
- a wordier, great guide on how to develop your character
- kick out those vague descriptions and make them AWESOME
- how to actually make an OC
- Q&A (to develop characters)
- more Q&As
- giving your character a backstory
- how to write an attractive character
- adding more racial diversity
- avoiding tokenism, AKA, how to add diversity to your cast not just because you “need” it
- writing sexuality and gender expression (doesnt include non binary, if you have a good ref to that, please add on!)
- masterpost on writing more diversity into your story
- cultures of the world
- guides to drawing different ethnicities (not just a great art reference, but also really helpful in appearance descriptions!)
Mary Sue/Gary Stu
- Test to see if your character is a Sue
- Explains subdivisions of Sues/Stus
- Powerful Characters Don’t Have to Be Sues
- villain generator
- need an evil sounding name for your evil character? bam
- villain archetypes
- what’s your villain’s motive for being a villain?
- character perceptions (What your character thinks of themselves and what others think of them)
- how to write strong relationships between two characters
- 8 ways to write better characters and develop their relationships with others
- OCxLove Interest Handbook
- develop your couple with good ol’ Q&A!
- how to write realistic relationships
- how to write relatives for your characters (this is more OC related to a canon character, but will help in writing family members in general)
- 12 common archetypes
- 8 archetypes for male/female characters
- female archetypes (goes pretty indepth from two main categories)
- a list of archetypes
- tips for better design
- basic appearance generator
- pinterest board for character design (includes NSFW and images of skeletons/exposed muscle (?) so tread carefully!)
- clothing ref masterpost
- give your character better powers
- a list of professions
- proactive vs reactive characters
- positive and negative traits
- interest generator
- skills generator
- motivation generator
- 123 ideas for character flaws
- list of phobias
again, this is to help inspire you or help establish your OCs! i hope you get a lot of info and help from this ahh ( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ