★ lvtvr’s long-winded writing advice ★
Heyo. I’m Charlie and I write. You may know me for my Keith/Lance fanfics. I don’t know if it helps my credibility, but I have articles in print that I’ve been paid to produce, I’ve translated and proofread four novels, and I’ve been writing off and on for nearly eighteen years. I’m not perfect, I’m not a master, but I do know what I’m doing. So if you write too, and you want to get better, here are some of the things I’ve learned.
Less is more.
You know the quote “Blood orange? Shut up, it’s fucking red.” Remember this while you’re writing. If you’ve ever seen one of those “100 synonyms for ‘said’ to use while writing :)” lists, here’s what to do with it: burn it. No one utters or opines or verbalizes shit. They fucking say it.
Basically: use vocabulary that you know. Turn to big fancy words if you are certain that they’re the best way to express the nuance you’re going for, but avoid them if you’re only using them to make your prose more “interesting.” Don’t worry about sounding a little repetitive. Sounding pretentious or like someone who hangs out too much on Thesaurus.com is a lot worse.
Remember your whole body.
Ever read writing that punches you in the gut and makes you feel things? Ever aspired to create something like that yourself? Well, the key to doing it is to remember the body. Stay aware of the fact that we exist in the world as messy 3D beings made of blood and meat and emotion.
It’s natural for most people to start with visual impressions and describe what things look like, but your writing won’t start to come alive until you also begin describing what they feel like, smell like, taste like. The five senses are a cheesy but effective checklist. Throw in sounds, smells, and body sensations alongside the visual aspect.
This goes for emotion, too. If your character is sad, think back to what you felt like when you were sad. Heavy gut? Rain clouds in your head? Tears pricking at the backs of your eyes, but never quite falling? All that is a lot more interesting than simply saying “they were sad.”
For the love of God, never type “Hello.” He said.
This falls under the general umbrella of using correct grammar (which you should!), but I feel the need to point this particular faux pas out because a) it’s soooo common for people to do this, and b) I can’t stand it. This is the type of persistent mistake that actively interferes with the flow of the writing for me as a reader. I don’t care if some big-name fic author does it or if you’ve seen a million others do it – you’ll never find it in a professionally proofread and edited book. Because, at the end of the day, it’s wrong.
Compare these two examples:
“This sucks.” She sighed.
“This sucks,” she sighed.
In the first example, she says the words first, and sighs afterward. In the second, she’s sighing the words. Simple difference. If the action is directly related to how the dialogue is being conveyed, it should come attached to the dialogue. If the action and dialogue are separate, separate them. Throwing in a bunch of loose, orphaned “He said” clauses is choppy and incorrect and pisses me off to an irrational degree. Please, please avoid this. I’m begging you on my hands and knees.
Focus your characterization.
Keeping characters in character is one of the biggest challenges of writing. I find that an easy way to stay on track is to summarize the character’s way of reacting to the world in one or two simple sentences, and when you’re not sure what they would say or do, try to keep it in line with that basic conception.
For example, I’ve characterized Keith from Voltron as someone who “feels things very strongly and honestly, but has trouble putting his emotions into words.” My Hunk is “prone to gossip, but has a heart of gold and the strongest sense of justice you ever saw.” I keep this minimalist notion of a character at the front of my mind when I write them, and it usually helps them stay themselves.
Try to keep it general, though. “Passionate about food,” “flirts a lot,” or “in love with Mothman” aren’t basic personalities, they’re character traits. They don’t tell us anything about how someone will act in a given situation, and make for poor, flat characterization.
Write what you want to read.
No, really. I know that the urge to pander is strong, as is the desire to give the people what they want. But you’re people, too. Give yourself what you want. Is this hard? You bet. But it’s worth it when someone tells you “God, reading this is so refreshing. I’m so glad it wasn’t exactly like everything else.”
Voltron-specific stuff incoming here, but I feel like it’s important. Listen. Don’t write a fic where Keith and Lance have one (1) drawn-out argument before falling in hapless, sappy love, where Keith and Shiro are brothers and Hunk and Pidge are the Hilarious Meme Sidekicks, just because you feel like you have to. If you’re really passionate about that scenario, then by all means write it, but don’t do it because you’re afraid that’s all people are going to want to read. It’s not true. More likely than not, they’re sick of reading the same fic for the millionth time, and they’d love to see your take on things.
Remember: Fanon isn’t the law. Not even canon is the law. Follow your kokoro. Go weird places. You do you. I will be cheering you on.
Kudos to you if you read this entire mess. I hope it could be of some help. Now go write! I believe in you, friendo.