i’ve gotten a couple asks for writing advice sitting in my inbox, so I’d thought I’d throw down my ideas on How to Make Your Fic Not Be Technically Terrible But Still Garbage, because that’s what i excel at. Also I think this fandom needs 300% more Garderenza fics, and I’m hoping advice will make everybody confident enough to write me some high quality smut that takes place on top of a harpsichord.
try to get in the mindframe of your characters. i play-act them because acting helps. other people make moodboards or write down words that help or just look at pictures. don’t just try to get their superficial thought process down; try to get the spirit behind the words. this is tricky and there is no better way to explain it.
don’t verge into purple prose. i too have done this at some point, but try to restrain yourself. if you’re going to throw in a massive flowery description, if you’re bound and determined to go all H.P. Lovecraft on us like that and describe the sunset of your lover’s eyes in painstaking detail, at least put it in a part of the story that deserves all that weight. Have the outbreak into elaborate prose mean something.
go easy on your adverbs. i love them too, to death, but just for practice try seeing if you can get the feeling of the dialog in the dialog itself, not in the bits surrounding it.
last month i read this terrible story and it was terrible solely because the author didn’t know when to let up on his vocab. Like, I am essentially an 80-year-old Oxford literature academic in my vocabulary; I’ve been called out (multiple) times for dropping the word “juxtaposition” casually in a sentence. Love your big, old, weird words, and use them. BUT. BUT. Use them with care. Too many makes you sound less like someone with a great span of the English language and more EXACTLY like somebody with access to a thesaurus and no actual comprehension of the individual connotations of words.
because yeah, each word has his its own individual connotations. be aware of them when you’re using them; don’t just use them carelessly. the connotations of a word will affect your story. love your thesaurus but put it down
breaking things up into paragraphs is your friend. every time a new character speaks: paragraph break. everytime there is something that feels like a thematic shift in the action—or like where, if this was being filmed, the shot might switch to a new angle: paragraph break.
take care with your punctuation. every english teacher ever acts like punctuation is this absurd pile of rules that just exist because RULES, fam. No: punctuation is where you insert emphasis. Punctuation marks tell you how long and how weighty a pause is. Commas are breaths you take mid-sentence. Periods are the ones you take after. The other things: that colon I just used is a weighty pause—and this dash keeps the speed of the phrase but serves as an aside, like the sentence is still rocking on but we took a break to throw in this whole bit in between—and if we keep going we might pause and think, for a moment; and we let the semi colon have that weighty moment of consideration. I’m not a huge one for punctuation rules—just make your sentences sound like I could speak them without gasping for breath.
if you story is getting gunked up try reading it aloud, straight from your
text, taking your emphasis and feeling just from what you wrote and not what
is in your head. you will see how the rhythm is working, where you need pauses, etc. etc.
Beginnings, middles, ends: they’re helpful.
this is my personal thing but always try to make your character’s dialog sound like something only they could say, because you’ve written it so well it’s infused with their word choices and the way they frame their thoughts. I aim to write my characters so well you could literally remove all descriptors of who is saying what and it would still make sense.
Obviously I am not the best writer ever, and I welcome feedback on my own writing style (I’ll never improve without criticism). Also I never follow the above ruthlessly but they’re recurring things i’ve noticed when I proofread. But the tips above might be helpful for beginning writers, or at least give you something to try.
here’s my ask box, for feedback and criticism. (also fic requests! which are fun too.)
When did it suddenly become a good idea to design towers shaped like cheesegraters or walkie-talkies? When did skyscrapers start getting called gherkins (even though they clearly look more like a bullet or a sex toy)? When did we suddenly need giant viewing wheels, High Lines and Olympic sculptures that double as helter-skelters?
The answer, in short, was when Western cities became places of conspicuous consumption and extravagant spectacle rather than production and manufacturing.
That, at least, is the thesis of TV presenter and architecture buff Tom Dyckhoff in his book The Age of Spectacle. And it’s a sound one, based as it is on the Sixties Situationist ideas of French theorist Guy Debord as elaborated in the Eighties by Oxford academic (and Dyckhoff’s former lecturer) David Harvey.
Cities have always been places of entertainment and frivolity as much as sober work and trade but, in the post-war, postmodern world, a fundamental shift took place. This has been written about repeatedly but Dyckhoff provides a more than usually accessible guide to how it all came about. London is at its heart but the book is much more about the last century than this, despite the subtitle.
He offers us a well-argued twin track causality — the commodification of the post-war property market as planning and other controls were reduced and the rediscovery of the decaying inner cities by the gentrifiers intent on urban complexity rather than suburban simplicity. There was a good deal of cross-fertilisation between Britain and the US in this and Dyckhoff is good on the monetary motors driving the architectural twiddles.
Less welcome is a chumminess in tone, at its worst in the earlier sections, where the I-count would have Private Eye blinking rapidly. Dyckhoff constantly puts himself in the narrative as a way, presumably, of humanising what could otherwise be a dry story of the economics underlying the way developers have exploited the built environment and driven aesthetics — and who, during the Sixties and Seventies were the equivalent of today’s bankers in the pantheon of greed.
But as he attempts to keep himself in the picture, walking around the urban ideological battleground of Covent Garden as a child with his dad, or witnessing a press conference by architectural shape-maker Will Alsop in Toronto, he only blurs the timelines. What happened when gets confused. And Dyckhoff’s undoubted amiability works against him when discussing, say, the suffering of construction workers building the shouty towers of Dubai.
A more serious problem is that Dyckhoff doesn’t see a viable way past the superficial impulse to build instant icons. This is in part because he appears to be still in thrall to the High-Tech school of design. The book begins with him as a child seeing Richard Rogers’s Lloyds Building, and he continues to regard the output of the style’s lumpen followers, such as Jean Nouvel, as in some way avant garde.
This leads him to dismiss a newer generation of architects who form a different avant garde which rejects the context-free digital shapemaking of the likes of Zaha Hadid in favour of a richly layered version of the city informed by history. He suggests, without evidence, that these alternative, quieter approaches “only really critique the aesthetics of spectacle, not the political economy behind it” and concludes that this non-spectacle-driven architecture cannot meet the mass of peoples’ needs without “a serious adjustment to society”.
Well, quite — but the current sugar rush of an architecture based on bluster, on the instant icon and aesthetic one-liners isn’t addressing many needs either.
Joss Ackland narrates a search through the BBC archives for unheard gems from J. R. R. Tolkien, as Oxford academic Dr Stuart Lee, discovers the unheard offcuts from an interview given by the author.
Tolkien gave the interview for a BBC film in 1968, but only a tiny part of it was used in the broadcast programme. It was one of only a handful of recorded interviews he ever gave, and was also to be his last. Dr Lee’s search for the unbroadcast rushes takes him to the depths of the BBC film archives and back to the making of the original film, Tolkien, in Oxford.
For the director, Leslie Megahey, only 23 at the time, this was his first film, and the one that launched a prestigious career. The programme reunites him with three others: researcher Patrick O’Sullivan, Tolkien fan Michael Hebbert, and critic Valentine Cunningham, who describes how he was brought in to be the voice of dissent – challenging the burgeoning Tolkien cult spreading from America.
What emerges is a picture of a playful academic whose fiction was little respected by adults at the time and looked down on as a lesser form of literature. But he is robustly defended by Professor Tom Shippey and remembered fondly by his colleague Dr Roger Highfield.
Lee presents the results of his search through the archives to Dr Dimitra Fimi, who considers any new words from Tolkien’s mouth as “gold”, while for Lee, the real dragon’s hoard is the privilege of hearing Tolkien in relaxed mode reflecting on his life as never before.
On this day in 1937, J.R.R Tolkein’s fantasy novel The
Hobbit, or There and Back Again was published in the United Kingdom. The novel follows the adventures of the hobbit Bilbo Baggins, as he assists a group of dwarves to reclaim their homeland, and tries to claim a share of treasure guarded by the fearsome dragon Smaug. Tolkein, an academic at Oxford University, found inspiration for the novel in his studies of Old Norse mythology and language. Upon completion, Tolkein had several notable literary friends, including C.S. Lewis of Narnia fame, read the manuscript. The novel was published by George Allen & Unwin Ltd. in September 1937, with an initial run of 1,500 copies, which quickly sold out. The Hobbit was a great
success, popular among adults and reviewers despite its childlike tone, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. The popularity of The Hobbit led Tolkein’s publisher to request a sequel, which became The Fellowship of the Ring (1954), the first book in The Lord of
the Rings series. His work on these novels led Tolkein to amend certain portions of The Hobbit to accommodate Middle Earth lore introduced in the new books. The Fellowship of the Ring was followed by The Two Towers and The Return of the King, and the trilogy - along with its precursor The Hobbit - remain immensely popular literary classics.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet
hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry,
bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a
hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”
15 Mind-Blowing Facts That You Should Read (Part 167)
1. Will Smith used to memorise the entire script for “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, and used to mouth along with other people’s lines during the shoot.
2. A horse-fly has a top speed of 90 mph. To a person 5'11’’ tall, this equals 4054.4 mph.
3. The Flyby Anomaly: when spacecraft do Earth-flybys at certain angles, they experience a small but sudden velocity increase, which is still unexplained. One of the proposed explanations is the existence of a ring of dark matter around Earth.
4. Manta ray tourism can bring in $1 million during the lifetime of a single manta ray, while a dead manta ray is worth $500. Realising this, Indonesia banned fishing and export of mantas. Today, Indonesia is the largest manta sanctuary in the world.
5. in 1975 a 17 year old boy was killed while riding his moped. He was killed exactly a year after his 17 year old brother was killed while…
I guess you could say I’m cheating a bit with my first entry
on a blog literally called “Libraries of London.” But honestly, if you were
given the chance to visit the Bodleian Library at Oxford, the second largest in
Britain, wouldn’t you jump?
My tour there was part of a field trip taken for my History
of the Book class. At that point in the term, we had just started exploring the
concepts of authorship and the early definition and ways of making books. Our
tour was accompanied by a brief lecture by a professor there who was friends
with the professor teaching our class, which was really great since he was able
to show us pictures of specific books from his work in the Bodleian.
The Bodleian itself was very different than any other
library I had been before. It has 12 million volumes in its collection but many
of them are stored offsite, where they also get weekly shipments of essentially
every new thing that has been printed in that time. The library itself serves
as an academic resource for Oxford and functions as a reading library, not a
lending library. As tourists we were permitted in very few places and things as
a whole felt very closed off. While this was frustrating, seeing the full scope
of everything they have in their collection may have been overwhelming! The
only ones that are permitted to have full access to the collection are those
that attend Oxford or are doing academic work, i.e., if someone is a professor
at another institution but wants to use materials unique the Bodleian.
What struck me about the Bodleian was how much was there but
also the great care they go into to preserve what they have while maintaining
an outward appearance for tour groups. For instance, my group was not permitted
to touch anything in the reading room we visited and had to leave most things
behind at the entrance downstairs- backpacks, cameras, etc. But the reading
room we walked through- Duke Humfrey’s Library- exhibited so many books even in
just the small area we were permitted to walk through (there was a much larger
section that required showing an official reader pass to get through) that one
had to imagine the distinction between the seen and unseen and even how many of
the materials even get touched in a year. They are an institution that prides
itself on maintaining what they have and ensuring it will be available for many
people to use for as long as it will last.
parts of the Harry Potter movies were filmed there, so that’s cool. And the
Bodleian has a tumblr @bodleianlibs! You should follow them- they look at unique items in
their collection and sometimes just post really pretty pictures of the reading
rooms and outer architecture.
whenever i read the term “phallus” in academic literature i like to imagine a group of bearded oxford classical academics in the 1800s chortling together between whispers of “it’s a dick” and “lol penis”
“Editors into academic publishing are oh-so-boring. Well, that is what colleagues working with other departments most likely meant when they would make a casual remark about how our part of the world was quieter than theirs. So, are we really boring? Well, who says twenty-something ‘oh-so-boring’ academic editors cannot celebrate Children’s Day? After all, beneath that serious, intellectual persona is a child who did not go extinct.” – Sonia Madan, Assistant Managing Editor, Global Academic Publishing in OUP’s Delhi office
On 14 November, Children’s Day in India, Sonia Madan gifted her team (L-R: Madhula Banerji, Abha Agarwal, Naina Mukerji, Shreya Lall) some erasers shaped like tiny dinosaurs. For those of you wondering what life was like at an academic publisher…