references for writers

If Your Goal is Not Publication

Anonymous asked: “What is your thoughts about online writers and fan fiction writers, on tumbler and other sites? I don’t think I really want to publish my work, I have my job and life and a story has been on my mind so I decided to write a little when I find the time, if I finished it I would love to share it some how.”

If your goal is not publication, I think it’s perfectly fine to get it out there however you want to get it out there. 

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abnegation

[ab-ni-gey-shun]

(n.) 1. the refusal or denial of one’s rights, conveniences, privileges, or pleasures; the rejecting or renouncing of such things. 2. relinquishment.

If one wishes to pursue a monastic lifestyle, they must be prepared to live a life of abnegation and quiet devotion. 

Reading Like a Writer

One of the most common pieces of writing advice is to read. Important, but vague. An easy way to analyze novels to become a better writer is to sort what you read into what you don’t like and what you do like. Spend some time thinking–whether alone, in writing, or through conversation–about what makes you like or dislike the writing, and brainstorm ways that the writing could have been improved or changed.

Here are some possible dislikes and likes that you might notice when reading:

What You Don’t Like: 

  • Boring spots that you skim through
  • Unnecessary scenes that don’t advance the plot
  • Confusing sub-plots
  • Chunky dialogue 
  • Characters acting outside their character
  • Poorly done tropes 
  • Too much telling, not enough showing
  • Too much showing, not enough telling
  • Overly flowery prose
  • Big words for the sake of big words
  • One-dimensional villains
  • Lack of distinctive voices

What You Do Like: 

  • Twists on tropes 
  • Scenes where you felt like you were a part of that world
  • Characters you think about after the book ends
  • Clever plot twists
  • Good information reveal
  • Villains and antagonists that keep you on your toes
  • Characters that know what they want
  • Characters forced to make sacrifices 
  • Side-characters that have personalities of their own
  • Scenes so intense that you find yourself peeking at the next page
  • Protagonists with flaws that hold them back
  • Scenes where you felt the emotions conveyed
The 8 Steps of a CHARACTER ARC

You know that moment as a writer, when you’ve been charging through the story, high on how fantastic it is, and then suddenly…it all STOPS.  The next scene doesn’t form in your head. You’ve got nothing. 

Behind your characters, a string of bright and captivating scenes mark the trail of that rocket of inspiration; ahead of your characters, a foggy expanse, stretching to who-knows-where, a few shapeless blobs that should be scenes floating in the nothingness. The rocket is dead, and not refueling any time soon.

Well, to everybody who’s suffered this, or is currently suffering it, there’s a way to navigate through that fog. A map. Directions and a destination.

Or, more specifically, events that form the underlying structure of the story. 

This post is going to focus on one facet of story structure: character arc. Structure is something people subconsciously recognize and expect, and if the story doesn’t match those expectations, they feel cheated (though usually can’t explain why). Every good story follows a structure. So if you know structure, you’ll always know where to go next, and won’t get lost in the fog. 

So here are the 8 steps of a character arc:

1) Hero: Strength, Weakness, and Need

This happens in the setup of the story, when the main character’s ordinary world is being introduced. First, the main character’s strengths must be displayed; we must be given a reason to like them, or if not exactly “like” them, empathize with them, and be fascinated by them. The reader needs to bond with the character, feel concerned about how it all turns out for them. Or in other words, feel that the main character is worth experiencing the story. There are easy traits that do this: courage, love, humor, being in danger, being unfairly treated, being highly skilled at something, having a powerful noble goal. (Courage is the one they all need. If the character doesn’t have the gumption to actively pursue what they want, they are automatically a background character.) 

After this, still in the beginning of your story, let the character exhibit what needs to change. Show their weaknesses of character and self awareness.
And lastly, hint at what they NEED to learn. Sometimes this is even stated to the character, and they don’t understand it, refuse to believe it, or condemn it. Like “A Christmas Carol”, when Scrooge’s nephew says his speech about Christmas and how wonderful it is, and Scrooge replies “Bah Humbug!" 

2) Desire: This is the moment when the character knows what they need to pursue, in order to obtain what they inwardly want. It is not the inciting incident or catalyst, the event in a story that disrupts the ordinary world and calls the hero on an adventure. This is a separate step entirely, occurring after that catalyst has shattered life as the main character knows it. They believe obtaining this goal will calm whatever inner turmoil or conflict they’re battling. And always, they’re not quite right.
Think of Mr Fredricksen: His goal is to get the house – a  symbolic representation of Ellie and the life he shared with her – to Paradise Falls, which he believes will heal his grief and guilt. It won’t. Once he obtains it, the achievement feels hollow. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So on we go! 

3) Plan: Once in Act Two, the character is going to scramble for a plan of action. The inner want has solidified into a tangible goal, but they need a strategy to achieve it. This also spells out for the reader what to expect in that second act.  

4) Conflict: What’s going to try stopping them? A hero with a goal is one thing, but to make it a story we need something that stands in the way. An obstacle. A force of opposition. If we didn’t have obstacles, books would be as interesting as "Harry Potter and the Trip to the Grocery Store.” (Although honestly, I’d probably read that.) After the catalyst has changed everything, after the character crosses the threshold into Act Two, everything from here on out will be laden with conflict. This is usually when enemies, or more accurately forces of opposition, begin to appear. Everything is accumulating to complicate the main character’s pathway to achieving what they want. The forces of opposition come from not only the villains, but from the actions that have to be taken to achieve the desire. Whatever this action is, it’s exactly what the main character is not suited to do, an action that pressures their flaws, exposes them to exactly what they need to become but can’t right now. 

Like Stitch being forced to be the family dog. He’s not suited to this task.

5) Battle: The forces of opposition are amping up, growing stronger, fighting with greater intensity. The main character is taking the punches and working around them, relentlessly plowing forward. Hero and allies are usually punching back too.

6) Midpoint: This is the event where they first encounter what they need to learn, what they need to become. Something happens that forces them to behave in this new, life-saving way. But once they’ve seen it, they don’t know what to do with this knowledge. 

7) Dark Night, Revelation, Choice:
This is always the darkest point in the story, where all seems lost, and death – of a literal or spiritual nature – is in the air. And in this moment, something usually happens that makes the main character wake up to what is wrong, and what they need. More often than not, this revelation will arrive from the “love story” or relationship of the plot, and will be the thing that helps them pull themselves out of despair and see the light. And once this is uncovered, once the revelation of the truth about themselves is recognized, they are faced with a choice. Of course, they’ve been faced with choices in every beat of every scene, but this is the big choice that is going to determine if their story has a happy ending or a tragic one. The choice is this: “You are being faced the truth that you need to heal. Are you going to choose what you need, let your old self die, and become someone better?” And always, always, always this is a hard choice. The revelation must be significant to them. And it’s never easy. It can’t be. We don’t write stories about heroes who make easy choices. Villains have it easy. Are you going to adopt this new way of living, adopt this truth, and let your old self die? Or are you going to stay the way you are (which feels safer and is much less challenging) but end up stuck in a sort of living death? Most of the time, of course, they choose the right thing. 

This moment is usually always the saddest scene in the thing. Like this scene with Stitch.

8) New Life: This is their changed life. After experiencing the trials of the story, after realizing what they need and choosing to be reborn, they are going to be different people – and are going to live a different life. This is what follows the statement “And every day after …” What has changed? Show the audience how things are different, how things are better, because they want to see that. This is the resolution, the wrapping up of everything we’ve been through with the main character, and having this in the story is often what gives that feeling of satisfaction after seeing a really well-told story. 

So! To show off how this works, I’ve chosen the character arc of Carl from Up. 

1) Hero: Strengths, Weakness, Need

Strengths: Reasons to like Carl are packed into that heartbreaking opening sequence. By the end of it, we love him, love Ellie, and are crying our eyes out.

Weaknesses: Now Carl is curmudgeonly, grumpy, cold, and won’t pay attention to a living soul. He’s also plagued by grief, regret, guilt, and loneliness. (Which we are all 100% okay with, because we already like him.)

Need: He needs Russel. The statement of what he needs to learn isn’t outright said (as it will be later) but Russel represents it. 

Step Two: The catalyst was when a truck knocked down Ellie’s mailbox, Carl hit a construction worker in the head with his cane, and for this a judge declares him a public menace and orders him to go to Shady Oaks Retirement Village. The DESIRE is this moment. 

Carl escapes in a flying house, thousands of balloons lifting him skyward. He even says the desire of the whole story out loud, “So long boys! I’ll send you a postcard from Paradise Falls!” The tangible goal is “live out the rest of his days in his and Ellie’s house, on the edge of Paradise Falls, South America.” (“It’s like America … but South.”)

Step Three: The plan and the conflict overlap, as they are wont to do. We have a scene where Carl is unfurling sails, setting a compass, and settling back in his chair for a smooth journey. But later on, after some conflict has arrived, we have Russel figuring out how to actually make it there. And after even more conflict has arrived, we have him telling Russel “We’re going to walk to the falls quickly and quietly, with no rap music or flash-dancing.”

Step Four: The moment he settles back into his armchair, high above the city, and here’s a knock on the front door, nothing is going to be easy for Carl. First, we have opposition in the form of Russel. Then we have a storm. Then the house lands miles away from the Falls, so they’ll have to walk it. Then we have Kevin, the giant bird. Then we have Dug. Which means they’re also being chased by a legion of talking dogs. Which brings us to Muntz, the main villain, and Carl’s shadow – the representation of Carl’s flaws, and the consequences of refusing to let go of the past. 

Step Five: This is the trek to the Falls. It’s also the battle with every complication that arises. And it’s also exactly what Carl is not suited to do. He’s a curmudgeonly old guy, bent on living out the rest of his life alone. Well, the story says “Nope, Carl, that’s not how it’s going to be” and promptly gives him a surrogate grandson to take care of, a dog who adores him, and even a giant mythical bird. And he has to lead them all, if he’s going to get to the Falls. 

Step Six: The moment when Russel invades Carl’s heart. Which is what he needs, but he doesn’t understand. (I have the scene beated out in the previous post.)

Step Seven: Finally, he gives in to the worst of himself and chooses his goal of living in his broken house on the edge of Paradise Falls. But somehow this doesn’t feel like victory. He’s still alone, next to Ellie’s empty chair, and she is still beyond his reach. 

He picks up her adventure book, and leafs through the photographs, missing her; he pauses on the page scrawled with the words “Stuff I’m Going To Do”, lets his hand rest on it, grief and regret overwhelming him. He begins to close the book, and the page shifts … revealing the edge of another picture. Surprised, he turns the page. It’s their wedding picture.

Ellie added picture after picture of their happy marriage, the whole wonderful life they shared, all the things she did. And on the bottom of the last page is her last message to him: “Thanks for the adventure! Now go have a new one! Love, Ellie.” Exactly what Carl needs. He doesn’t need to be guilty, he doesn’t need to regret the past. The past was beautiful, and she will never truly leave him. 

Choice: So, Carl can make the choice to throw everything out of the house to go save Russel. 

New Life: Sitting on a curb, eating ice cream with Russel.

In the credits, we see a whole new life – or new adventure – with Carl, Russel, Dug, and even a bunch of new puppies.

So, it’s actually pretty simple. And once again, it’s fun to develop your own stories like this, but it’s surprisingly fun to analyze movies and books with it too. It improves your storytelling ability, I’ve found. Practice makes perfect.

I hope this post helps somebody out. It’ll make the ten times I cried while writing it, while watching scenes from Up, worth it.

WriterofthePrompts Ultimate Ask Masterlist

I’ve decided to make a masterlist of asks I’ve done to make them easier to find for you guys (and for myself). I split them into categories as best as I could by genre and topic. Also, some asks have some helpful tips in the notes as well to check out (some are marked but not all) and if you have anything to add that you think would help, feel free to reply or reblog with your addition. I’ll try to keep it updated with future asks.

Now without further ado, the strangest and most wonderful list I’ve ever made.

World Building

Character Development

Writing Different Types of Characters

Character Family

Romance

Sci Fi

Superheroes

Aliens

Fantasy/Paranormal

Creatures

Magic and Witches

Angels and Demons

Vampires

Ghosts

Battle Scenes

Keep reading

anonymous asked:

Hello! How would you write a dialogue in which a character is freaking out about something? I generally have them word vomit but I don't really like that style. If its too much could you show me an example as well?

Hi!

You could definitely word vomit – especially if your character is hysterical – but that’s not the only way to do it by any means. I know a few other ways.

1. Calmly.
This is strange, considering your character is freaking out, but the freak-out is internal – they’re shutting themselves off due to shock. In this case, they would be quiet, sane, and even if what they’re saying is illogical, it would probably sound reasonable.

“I was right there when she shot him. He dropped like a sack of flour. I figured he was gone as soon as the bullet hit his chest. So now I’ve decided I’m gonna go after her. Right now. And I’m gonna kill her.”
“What? You can’t do that!”
“Sure I can. She killed him, so I kill her. It’s called justice.”
“But- With just your bare hands?”
“The way I feel right now, my bare hands are more than enough.”

Notice how the character who just watched their friend die in front of them isn’t yelling, isn’t stuttering, isn’t getting angry or crying – they’re perfectly calm, almost to the point of complete emotional shutdown.

2. Angrily.
Some people get angry when they lose control and freak out – it scares them, and the fear manifests itself as anger. This type particularly happens when they’re upset about something and other characters aren’t taking it seriously or are shrugging off their concerns.

“No! It’s happening tonight! We don’t have time to think, or weigh things, we need to fucking leave! Now!”
“We can’t. You know that, and you’d remember that, if you were thinking straight-”
“I am thinking straight! It’s you who’s fucked in the head. I don’t give a damn what you think we can and can’t do, we need to clear out of here, right this second.”

As you can see, this character is freaking out – their concerns may or may not have a firm foundation, but obviously they are concerned, and that concern is manifesting itself as fury.

3. By stuttering.
For some people, it’s hard to talk when they panic, because their minds race forward ahead of their mouths and they get tongue-tied. I typically see/use this with more anxious characters, or with characters who aren’t typically good at speaking anyways (in other words, who are uncomfortable talking).

There are a couple of different ways to stutter:
a. Repeat the beginning of each word.

“I tr-tried to s-save him, but he wuh-wouldn’t l-let me … he knew it was g-going to happen. It’s my f-fault!”

(However, keep in mind that this kind of stuttering is more as if your character is crying and trying to talk through sobs and hiccups. Please use it sparingly – it can get old fast.)

b. Repeat words.

“No. No, I don’t know what’s going on, Ricky. Ricky, why would I have any idea? Don’t fucking look at me like that, Ricky. Don’t look at me like I’m lying.”

c. Insert filler sounds: “ah”, “uh”, “um”, and/or curse words.

“I, uh, I- fuck. I, ummm, I think maybe, ah, maybe we should leave?”

For more on stuttering – it can be hard to peg correctly – check out this post.

I hope this helps! If you need anything else, please feel free to ask. - @authors-haven

The 3 Elements of a FLAWED Character

You know that moment when you find an old notebook, and you start reading the story you were writing years ago, and after about one page…  

And then after a few more paragraphs … 

This has happened to me several times. On every occasion I want to curl up in a small box and wait until everyone forgets I was ever a writer. And every time, no matter which old story it is, what sends me crawling into that box is the same thing: the main character. Even after I had learned to incorporate empathetic qualities into my heroes (as listed in the last post), my protagonists were still deeply annoying – if not more unbearable than before. 

Why? What made them this way? They had winningly empathetic traits! Were they terrible people still? No, and that was the problem. They were perfect. Smart. Noble. Brave. They had dazzling martial arts skills. They loved people and people loved them. They were Chosen in some way and destined for greatness. Angst-plagued though, of course. They were tragic little heroes, misunderstood and abused, driven by the desire to vanquish all who caused them suffering.  

I could’ve composed a Gaston-like song enumerating their virtues and sorrows. 

And the only thing that would’ve made them more punchable is if they did use antlers in all of their decorating.

Characters can’t be completely likable. Yes, they must possess strengths that win the reader’s empathy, but without an equal amount of flaws … they can’t function. If they’re not flawed, they shouldn’t be the main character. Story is about someone changing, for better or worse. Under the surface, all good stories are about this process of human growth or decline. So if a hero is perfect from the beginning, there’s nowhere they need to go. And consequently, there’s no reason for a reader to follow. 

The inclination to follow a story is begun with interest in the premise, of course – but it is locked in when empathy occurs, when we begin to care – the moment the reader transposes their own external and internal lives onto a character’s life. A process which starts when a reader recognizes a shared something between themselves and the hero. Sometimes, this is a goal or strength or situation. And sometimes, it’s a flaw. We meet a character that is weak in the same way we are, and a strong internal connection is born between the reader’s life and the life on the page. On a deep level we’re thinking “This person is like me. What happens to them? How do they deal with it?” And because of this connection based on what is lacking in our lives, we want to live the story, see how it ends, and find out how the main character – who is just like us – reached that ending. Because it’s our lives we’re reading about, and if we play it out in advance, maybe we can reach a positive ending too. 

So! In what way should a main character be FLAWED? 

1) Weak in a way that only hurts themselves. 

Let’s call these MIND.

2) Flawed in a way that hurts others. 

Let’s call these MORAL.

The most realistic – and most compelling – characters have both types.  

And if a character has these flaws, the story must be steering them towards what they NEED to overcome them. The main character needs to learn something, a truth, a new way to live. This is the theme of the story. Theme is a statement the story seeks to prove, to the main character and the reader, about how to live a better life. It’s the solution to whatever moral and mental conundrum they’re facing. So … 

3) The SOLUTION to their moral and mental weaknesses. 

How does that work? To illustrate, let’s look at Stitch and Alexander Hamilton. (What a combination.) 

STITCH

Moral: He’s destructive. Violent. Rude. Vindictive.  Manipulative. Enjoys the suffering of his enemies.

 And in general, pushes everyone and everything away.  

Mind: Despite his violent ways, he yearns to belong, and senses that he can’t.

He believes he’s alone, he’s unlovable, he’s monstrous, he’s never had a family and never will – he’s lost, like the Ugly Duckling. He’s missing a family he’s never had.  

Solution: He just needs to start treating people like family to be accepted into one. 

HAMILTON

Moral: He’s selfish. (“Be careful with that one love, he will do what it takes to survive.”) He’s arrogant. He’s self-centered. (Think of the entirety of Burn.) And in his obsessive journey to succeed, he pushes everyone out of his path.  

Mind: He has a fixation on death, on time running out, which drives his manic desire to achieve. (“I imagine death so much it feels more like a memory.) He’s insecure. ("Graduate in two and join the revolution. He looked at me like I was stupid. I’m not stupid.”) 

Solution: Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story? Eliza tells his story. Hamilton’s goal throughout the story is a legacy; he strives to achieve this immortality in any way possible, even if it means neglecting his loved ones, or even ruining their lives. He needs to learn that his loved ones are enough. Eliza is enough. And through her, he will live on. 

What would have happened if they weren’t flawed? The stories would have been boring. What would have happened if their flaws had been treated like attributes that didn’t have to change? The stories would have ceased to be. Progress couldn’t happen, because by accepting the status quo of their mental and moral states, we’re refusing the call to adventure outright. They’d just exist in the same state they were in the setup, stagnant, somewhat lifeless. Flawed characters must motor towards that NEED, or solution, that will save their lives. 

(I realize this “need” element is rather vague, so it’ll get its own post.)  

But in conclusion, this balance of strengths and flaws – and how this fictional person deals with the adventure they’re thrown into – is what makes a main character compelling, empathetic, and real. 

So when I unearth a notebook years in the future, containing one of stories I’m writing now, maybe the main character won’t make me feel like this:

Maybe it’ll even be like this: 

And best of all, maybe one of those characters will make a reader somewhere feel understood and helped and not alone. Wow. That would be amazing.

Well, there’s my writing motivation for today. I’m going to go make my main character more of a lovable jerk.

ok so i have a lot of friends + writer friends & they don’t know the difference between who and whom, and to be honest i didnt know the difference until not that long ago

what u have to do is think of the pronouns ur using

WHO is used to replace THEY/HE/SHE etc.

He loves chocolate cake.
I know someone who loves chocolate cake.

WHOM is used to replace THEM/HIM/HER etc..

I saw her today.
You saw whom today?

AND HERE’S THE TRICKY PART:
if the pronoun comes after a CONJUNCTION (with, yet, but, so, or, etc.), you KEEP the pronoun, and put it at the BEGINNING of the sentence.

I got all this way with them.
With whom did you get all this way?

i hope this helps!! i tried to make it as clear as possible but its ok if its not clear to u!! it took me awhile to figure the difference out & not everyone will get it immediately.

“I don’t like reading at all, but I love to write!”

anonymous asked:

Do you have any advice on how to write a grieving character? Thank you!!

Hi!

Grieving isn’t pretty. It isn’t always dramatic, either – while some people certainly do go home and throw their favorite vase against the wall, some people retreat into themselves and become emotionally unresponsive (that’s what I do). Violence or anger is more likely to occur if the death is sudden – so is retreating into an emotional shell, really, because it’s often a result of shock. But both can occur outside of a sudden death – cancer isn’t always sudden, but many people still become angry when their loved one is diagnosed with or dies because of it. Basically, if the death feels unfair in any way – if it’s sudden, or if it feels like it happened too early, such as in the case of cancer or of some sort of cardiac disaster (a heart attack, a stroke, etc) – it’s more likely to provoke anger or shock, depending on your character’s temperament and attachment to the dying/dead character.

That was just a general disclaimer. Now, onto the meat of grieving!

Firstly, grieving can begin before the person is technically dead – you don’t have to wait for the person to go flatline and physically stop breathing for your other characters to feel a sense of loss. If your character suffered a medical disaster or an accident that rendered them comatose, or if your character is obviously fighting a losing battle (again, terminal cancer comes to mind), your other characters could start grieving them even though they’re still breathing and their heart is still beating. However, the likelihood is that your characters won’t be able to really start working through the five stages of grief until your character actually does physically die, because rarely does death really hit home until it has occurred.

Speaking of the five stages of grief, those are important! They’re as follows:

  • Denial/Isolation: your characters can’t believe your dead character is really dead. This is a defense mechanism of sorts for your mind – a way to delay at least some of the pain, and give yourself time to process what’s happened (although that processing happens subconsciously, because on the surface you’re denying that anything’s happened at all). If the dead character fought a long battle with an illness before death, this stage may be expedited by the fact that your characters had time to process the character’s dying as it was happening. If the death was sudden in any way, this stage may be prolonged, because it will be harder to comprehend something that happened so quickly, and shock will be more likely to occur.
  • Anger: the pain your characters were masking in the denial stage starts to come to the surface, and as a response to the pain, your characters get angry (just as many other vulnerable emotions, such as fear, are expressed as anger – anger is a tough emotion, as opposed to fear and grief, so most people subconsciously opt for anger because it makes them feel less vulnerable). They may feel they’ve been robbed of your dead character’s companionship. Their anger may manifest itself in many different ways: isolation, irritability, or self-destructive behavior, to name a few. Their anger may also direct itself at various places: the medical professionals who failed to save your dead character’s life, God for taking your dead character, even the dead character him/herself, if they could in any way be responsible for their own death (if they were driving intoxicated, if they never ate healthily and suffered a heart attack, etc.).
  • Bargaining: before death, this stage may manifest itself as “please God, just let them live and I’ll tithe my ten percent and go to church every Sunday”, or “please, [Dying character’s name], just hold on and get better and we’ll [do that thing the dying character has always wanted to do]”. (Keep in mind that most people have an astounding impulse to be religious during a time of crisis, whether they’ve been religious in the past or not.) After death, this stage may manifest itself in the “could’ve-should’ve-would’ve” philosophy: “if only we’d taken them to the doctor sooner”, “I should’ve made him stay home”, “I knew there was something wrong with him!”, and so on. This stage is generally an attempt to regain control of the situation – your characters feel like they’re taking some kind of action by offering a proposition, or by placing blame.
  • Depression: there are two types of depression associated with grief. In the first (which is almost more similar to anxiety) your characters worry more about others: what if I haven’t been there for people when they needed me, how are we going to pay for the funeral/burial services, and so on. Basically it deals more with the practical aspects of the character’s death. The second type is more introspective – your characters may retreat into themselves and analyze old memories of your dead character, and their feelings on everything that’s happened. This type is private, and your characters probably won’t share much about their thoughts if they experience it.
  • Acceptance: this stage is marked by withdrawal and calm – it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from depression. It’s not a stage of joyous frolicking and exclaiming, “It’s okay! I understand everything about [Dead Character’s] death!”. Your characters may still not understand the purpose of your dead character’s death, but understanding and acceptance are not synonyms, nor are they mutually inclusive. The important thing about this stage is that your characters can make peace with the death, and can move on.

Keep in mind that while I’ve listed these stages in what is regarded as their general order, every person (and character) grieves differently – they may experience these emotions in a different order than that above. They may also go through one or several of the stages more than once, or cycle through the first four of them multiple times before reaching the fifth. Some characters may not even reach the fifth at all – depending on the circumstances of the death and the character’s attachment to your dead character, they may never fully accept your dead character’s death. The stages above are just a general framework for grieving.

Also, keep in mind that if your character’s death was tied in any way to traumatic incidents for your other characters, it may complicate the grieving process for those other characters, because the character’s death will be tied to other painful or triggering memories.

I hope this helps! If you need anything else, please feel free to ask. - @authors-haven

Writing With Color Top Posts + Other Useful Ones

Oh hey– here’s a list ranked by Writing With Color’s most popular posts since opening in 2014 up till now, the start of 2017. Pulled together for the interest and usefulness for readers like you. Thank you.

Top 7 Popular Original Posts 

  1. Words for Skin Tone - This two part guide offers an array of words for describing skin color. Part I focuses on the problems with food descriptors. Part II provides alternatives. (68k+ Notes)
  2. Common Micro-aggressions: African Americans and/or Black People - An extensive list of common micro-aggressions towards Black people with some links for further reading. (46k)
  3. Words to Describe Hair - As with the words for skin tone, an offering of words to describe hair, from curls to different colors. (34k+)
  4. Black and White Symbolism: A Look into the Trope - Discusses concept of black as evil and white as good, from its history & problem implications. Guide offers alternatives & solutions. (10k)
  5. Describing Accents - An example-based post for describing accents and voices. (5k)
  6. How to Research your Racially/Ethnically Diverse Characters -     Self-explanatory. (5k) 
  7. Describing Asian Eyes - A guide to describing Asian eyes with further useful commentary. (4k)

Honorable Mentions

Other recommended WWC Posts.

  • Stereotyping Tropes List - A categorized tropes list reposted from the TV Tropes website with links to their topics on the subject matter.

–WWC 

The 5 Elements of a LIKABLE Main Character

“I don’t like your main character. He’s kind of obnoxious.” my beta reader laughingly told me, after reading the first chapter of my novel.

On the surface, I looked like this: 

Inside, I looked like this: 

Aloud, I said “Oh, well, he’s kind of hard to understand. He changes by the end.”

Inside, I screamed “How could you not like him?! Do you have a heart?! Is there a void where your soul should be?! Are you actually a Dementor that’s really good at makeup? Well, I guess this is what the Dementors are doing after getting kicked out of Azkaban!”

Outside: “But I really enjoyed it!” *Hugs between broken writer and Dementor in disguise* “Thank you for reading!" 

But you know what? That person that might be a soul-sucking cloaked demon creature? They were right. The character was unlikable, or more accurately, there was no reason to cheer him on. There was nothing to make the reader connect with him, relate to him, transfer themselves into his story, feel affection towards him. 

And if the reader doesn’t connect with the character through empathy? Nothing else in the story can work. Everything relies on this one fictional person. The basic definition of story is "A flawed hero with a goal overcoming obstacles to reach that goal, and how that journey changes them.” So without character, you don’t have story. Without empathy from the reader, you don’t even have character. 

So what is empathy when it comes to characters? 

It’s the process of a reader transferring their own lives onto the character. When this happens, the character’s goal and inner desires, values and weaknesses, everything about them, become proxies for our own. We learn of a shared piece of human nature between us, something we have in common on a significant inner level, and suddenly we want to see this character succeed. Because now, they are us – and we want to see ourselves succeed in real life. We feel what they feel, we experience what they experience.  

The best way to sum up character empathy in my opinion, is this quote from C.S.Lewis: “Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another ‘Really? You too? I thought I was the only one!’”

That’s empathy. 

Which doesn’t mean the character has to be an angelic little cherub …

There are characters that operate in a moral gray area, there are characters that are downright awful, there are characters that shouldn’t be lovable …but we love them. So this is NOT saying that a main character has to be a perfect angel that rescues baby squirrels when they’re not busy volunteering at the local soup kitchen, it just means there’s something WORTHWHILE in the character that persuades the reader to stick around. We need a reason to relate with that at-first-glance unlikable character. Just as we have flawed people in our own lives who we can forgive and love.

A good quote for this one would be this, by G.K.Chesterton: “That’s the great lesson of Beauty and the Beast; that a thing must be loved before it is lovable.”

So how does a writer accomplish a good empathetic connection?

Luckily for us, establishing this only takes a little planning in the beginning of the story. Certain elements foster empathy, elements which you can give to your character and display in the story. Making sure to incorporate a few of these will ensure that first connection between reader and character. A connection which you, the author, will then be able to grow. It’s this tiny first note of shared humanity which deepens into those important links we hold with characters. We’re living people, they’re imagined and comprised of words on a page; yet these people can be friends to us, family, mentors, role models, and become some of the most influential people in our lives. 

And how does that begin? Evoking empathy. 

And how do you evoke empathy? Well here are the characteristics that human beings instinctively identify with and admire … 

– Courage (This is the one EVERY main character should possess. Gumption to pursue what they want separates main from background characters.)

– Humor (Wit charms us without fail.)

– Goal-Obsessed 

– Hard-working  

– Noble motivations

– Loving

– Loved by others

– Kind 

– Treated unfairly

– In imminent danger, physically

– In imminent danger, emotionally

– In a sorrowful situation

– Smart/Expert at something

– Suffering from psychological weakness  

– Haunted by something in their past

– Dissatisfied with current state of their life

– Lacking something like love, friendship, belonging, family, safety, freedom, etc

It’s a good plan to give your main character at least FIVE of these empathetic little “virtues.”

If this sounds like a resume, that’s kind of what it is. “Dear Potential Reader, I’m applying for the job of Main Character of this book series. I aspire to consume your every waking thought and drastically change your life, for better and worse.” It’s a diagram of the worthwhile traits of the hero, the characteristics that win us over, which promise the reader “If you follow my story, knowing me – and experiencing the story through me – will be well worth your time.”

These traits will be displayed in the set-up of the story, the first ten pages or so. But the story CANNOT stop to let the character exhibit these winning behaviors; the story must KEEP PROGRESSING, every empathetic element must be shown with a story reason for existing within a scene. Like exposition, empathy needs to be added in subtly, as the story motors onward, slipping into the reader’s knowledge without them noticing. If it’s a scene created for the express purpose of convincing the reader “This character is lovable! Love them! I said love them!” then it will be glaringly obvious and the reader will feel the exact opposite. (They’ll also feel that way about the author, incidentally.)

Now! How does this work? 

Harry Potter: 

Harry is the poster child for being treated unfairly. Yet in the face of the abusive treatment of his childhood, Harry is courageous. He does not succumb to the Dursley’s relentless campaign to stamp the magic out of him, and become a proper Dursley; though this would’ve won their approval, put him in their good graces, and made his life exponentially easier – but he didn’t do it. He knew they were wrong, knew what was right, and refused to become like them. So heck yes Sorting Hat, there is “plenty of courage, I see”. He was loved by his parents, by the three that dropped him off at his Aunt and Uncle’s, and by the majority of the Wizarding World. He’s also snarky, loving, and in constant danger. 

Judy Hopps: 

Every reason why we care about Judy is established in the first few scenes. She’s courageous. She’s funny. She’s loved by her parents. She’s motivated by noble values. Definitely goal oriented, hard working, and smart. She’s also in imminent danger, and being treated unfairly.

If we took out the pieces of the story meant to evoke our empathy, what would happen? 

Nobody would care. Judy Hopps would have been an annoying, smug, and consumed by ruthless ambition. Harry Potter would have ceased to exist because everything about him is empathetic. 

Establishing these early allows us to begin the process of temporarily transferring our lives into a story. Or in the case of some life-changing stories, not temporarily transferring, but letting them become part of our souls forever. 

Yup, having your story connect with a reader forever starts with just a little empathy. Pretty useful.

Oh, and speaking of souls, give me mine back, Dementor reader. I learned how to make people like my characters. Now you’re out of the Azkaban job and the beta reading job. 

Writing Strong Emotions

@chemistreat asked: “How can one control and write the pure emotion of learning you aren’t who you think you are- in ethnicity, religion, race or otherwise? Something that makes a character rethink all of their traditions?”

When it comes to writing these moments of epiphany or emotional overload, it might feel like your writing in these scenes just can’t get to that level of emotion you hope to achieve. With some of these moments, the emotion might start to feel cheesy or just not enough, or it might be such a mess of different emotions, like anger, shock, disappointment, and betrayal that you don’t really know how to show it all. 

In either case, the big emotions are not easy, however there are a few techniques you can use to become better at putting them into words. 

1. Describe the setting after… This is one exercise that helps you write with emotion in a way that goes beyond what the protagonist may be able to directly express. Examples of this might include, describe a living room after an argument. Or describe a bride’s bedroom the morning before her wedding. These exercises force you to think of how emotion can shape the world of your novel beyond just the protagonist’s experiences. 

Keep reading

A Guide to Writing: Making New Cultures

Cultures, like anything, take time to build. They are what define a people and what make their customs. It’s complicated and integrated into their society. It changes as the people change but the fundamentals often remain unchanged even centuries and millennia into the future.

When creating new worlds, if it’s not set in the world that we know, then the people, while being similar, will be different. What they hold as value will be different. That’s where new cultures come in. countries will be define by something and way out of the way towns will have things that are connected to them. Making new cultures can be a messy process, and I am by no way an expert, but there are at least five things that define a culture and should be present and known.

Customs

Customs are a traditional ways of doing something specify to a set of people or place. If you can’t think of any, think of some traditions that are from where you’re from. For example, in America and many other countries, it’s traditional to put up a tree for the winter holidays. 

If the story you’re writing centers around a new culture, then the customs of its people is something that should come into play, even it’s something small. Maybe it’s someone coming of age. Maybe it’s someone passing away. Whatever the case, customs are a personal thing that people share. Be sure to not overlook them.

Arts

Art is a way people share their thoughts that are hard to convey. A way to pass on knowledge and to capture the emotions. Perhaps they capture their history in tapestries and artisans make paintings for a living.

Not only that, body art is an important part of many cultures. Maybe tattoos mean something at a certain age or it’s something like a brand. Perhaps they’re just decorative and meant to look flashy.

Social Institution

A social institution is a group of people who are together for a common purpose such as economy and government. These institutions are a part of the social order of society and they govern behavior and expectations of individuals.

For example, a charities and other nonprofit organizations fall under this category. In this culture you’re writing about, how do they feel about such organizations? Are the promoted? Frowned upon? Not only that, but this includes the education system, cultural groups, how families are defined, health care, market values, politics, and religions.

Each of these things may not hold equal value, or perhaps they all have the same weight. Are the church (in this instance used only to refer to religion) and state separate or together? Is the market, trading goods and services, more important than anything else? What’s the health of the people like and what methods do they use for healing?

Achievements

Achievements, in this case, are defined as things the people have done to better and further themselves. What are some of the things these people have done since they became a people? Was something medical? Was it something that benefited not only them, but the people around the as well?

However, the achievements don’t always have to grand. It could be something small like finding an easier way to make paint or a way to make their weapons. Achievements are things that are well earned and come from something small like inconvenience or big like a fight.

And not all that glitters is gold. An achievement can benefit the majority, but what about everyone else? Is it useful to everyone? Does it need to be? More importantly, what was the reason? It doesn’t always need to be known in detail, but things happen for a reason. As the writer, you, are the very least, need to know.

Behavior Characteristic

We all know that there are somethings that are frowned upon in modern culture. Things like people with breasts going around topless or anyone walking pants-less through the streets. There are certain things people just don’t do because of the consequences and the culture.

What are some of the things that are okay for people to do? What are things that are harmless yet frowned upon? There are things that are widely accepted and if these normal things are challenged then it should be explain if it’s not something carried over from a real culture.

If there are things that are carried over from real cultures, then that’s a tricky ground to walk on if you don’t know anything. Research and asking are an important part of this process if you want to do this. Carrying over form real cultures is fine as long as it’s not a bastardization of it.

Of course, like I said in the beginning of this, I’m not an expert. I don’t really know everything there is to know but this is what I’ve realized when making new cultures myself.

See ya, kiddos

Creating Likeable Characters

Sometimes it’s difficult to make your characters likeable as they are tested and are pushed to further and further lengths. Sometimes they have to make hard decisions, and sometimes the pressure gets to them and they mess up, hurt another character or an innocent bystander. How can you keep them likeable throughout the whole plotline?

- Keep their motivations pure.
It almost always comes back to the heart – if their heart is pure, and that’s established early-on, the audience is more likely to root for them.

- Give them flaws – make them human.
Not every character has to have some huge problem, like an addiction or a traumatic past or a disability – if your entire cast does, it’s no problem, but it’s not necessary. But every character has to have some flaw(s), whether it’s cheating at card games because he can’t stand to lose or being too-closed minded or closing off when she gets too emotional. If your character doesn’t have a flaw, they start to come off as too perfect, too angelic, pretentious.

- Give them permission to mess up.
This ties in with flaws – if your character is inclined to make a bad decision at any point in the plot, don’t steer him away from it because “oh no he’s my protagonist and he must be Good and Whole and Pure and All-Knowing”. Let him walk into that ambush despite the sick feeling in his stomach and get half his army killed; let her rush into a confrontation with a bully and get into a fight with another girl who has a switchblade. Let your characters mess up – it shows that they’re human.

- But if your character messes up, let them own up to it eventually.
The general who killed half his army by ignoring the unease in the back of his mind might cry over their makeshift graves long after the rest of the platoon is asleep; the girl sitting in the infirmary might feel remorse for knocking her opponent’s block off. Or your characters might argue and might be stubborn and might not apologize for weeks. But let them apologize eventually. This goes back to the heart, and what the character knows is right.

- Relationships with other characters are vital.
That’s not to say a loner character can’t be likeable – but the audience’s perception of a loner character is determined by the thoughts/words of other characters. Characters all color each other and define parts of each other, just like people do to each other in real life. If your character is a jerk to other characters and other characters don’t like him (especially if the characters who dislike him are likeable), the audience won’t like him either. The character’s image depends not just on himself, but on his supporting cast.

Hope this helps! - @authors-haven

How To Blend Cultures (Without Making Impossible Mixes)

This is a guide specifically about fantasy worldbuilding. WWC gets a lot of questions around “I’m mixing two cultures together, how do I do that?” and this is to explain both how to do that and when you very much should not.

For starters, you should avoid blending empires with their surrounding properties, especially if there is recent political strife along those lines. This is why Japan/China/Korea (or even China/Tibet) mixes should not be done. For more information on that, take a look at Research:Large to Small Scale, Avoiding Homogenizing East Asian Cultures, & Paralleling Regions Appropriately.

Next up, mixing Greece/Rome with far-flung cultures gets a little bit eyebrow raising. Unless it was a direct trading partner/conquered property, Greek/Roman cultures do not mix with non-European cultures. The Greek empire only went to the Northern regions of India at its very peak, and that is limited to the ancient world. Rome stopped in the Middle East, so, again, you don’t have the cultural backing for a mixing of anything outside of its borders. 

Depictions of Rome and Greece in ancient literature shows other ancient cultures found them quite backwards, and were adverse to mixing with them. By many standards they were very backwards, and it’s only Europe (and, as an extension, America) that revered them to the extent they do. Asia and Africa had no reason to see them as advanced, because they made many more technological advancements than either. North America and Oceanic cultures hardly interacted with either, and had both their own technological advancements+ cultures closer by to borrow advancements from, instead. 

Outside of that, cultures are born out of the environments that made them. As a result, places with wildly dissimilar climates and resources pools will not be able to blend harmoniously unless you’re taking a modern analogue society where globalism has happened. This is plain old because resources only travel so far, and people are more likely to build culture around resources they have easy access to (even well-established trade links can lead to people re-creating things: Han purple and Egyptian blue point to an ancient trade link, but they were made with local materials processed differently).

Roman architecture exists because the Romans had access to copious amounts of concrete materials/marble and lived in the Mediterranean, which got very hot summers, heavy rains, and not a whole lot of cold. As a result they created structures that worked for this, which included open airways, pillars, easy to clean floors, shade, and ventilation. Places that lack these resources will not be able to replicate Rome.

Their resource pool was very specific to their regions, and there’s a reason Rome had the rule that anybody who did’t live like Romans were slaves: it was really hard to live like a Roman, and they wanted their slave pool as large as possible. 

Different cultures with different resources formed in wildly different ways, and might not even have anything similar to Greece or Rome. Because of this, you need to look really close at why culture developed the way it did. If it’s because they had extremely dissimilar resources pools, it’s wise to not blend the cultures (or at least not think they’ll look anything like their original cultures) 

Which brings me to value systems. Cultures put value on different things. Each culture ends up with a base philosophy for what they esteem and how they use resources, which proceeds to influence how it develops. Architecture has meaning to it. So does what colours you use in different applications. Because these things are sacred and/or practical for certain social orders. “Sacred” in cultures ends up becoming a shorthand for “this ritual helps us survive.”

There is no such thing as “aesthetic” when you get down to the root of each single item, because that aesthetic has a practical purpose. There is also no such thing as a “solely religious reason” under the same logic. Cows have become sacred in most varieties of Hinduism— because cows (and oxen) have been the main farming animal in the Indian subcontinent for millennia. They provide milk for sustenance, power for ploughing fields, and dung, which can be used as a floor polish and, when dried, a source of fuel for fire that gives off a more even heat than wood. As a single provider for crucial elements of agrarian life, their sacredness developed from their practicality. Having cows roam freely meant absolutely everyone could have access to an efficient cooking fuel.

Chinese brush painting has meaning. Jade sculpture has meaning. Pagodas and sloped roofs and gates have meaning. The philosophy, environment, history, and present circumstances of a culture is built into every. single. little. thing. about that culture, meaning you cannot just change it out.

Unless you learn the very root of culture, their values and stigmas and honours and shames, you cannot modify it accurately. Cultures survive because that was the best way to respond to the world at the time. A long-standing culture such as China’s has to be functional and incredibly well suited for the environment, otherwise it would not have survived. There is something about Chinese culture that works extraordinarily well for it to perpetuate itself, and you cannot disrespect that.

Learn the “why” of culture. Learn how it came to manifest and the reasons behind its manifestations. Study the geography and resources available to the people at hand. Know a culture so well you can explain how it works in real life and how your world’s history parallels the circumstances that created a similar culture in fantasy.

Only then will you be able to pull it off with respect.

~ Mod Lesya

The 15 PLOT POINTS of Story Structure

To all the writers who have ever been told they need to outline their story, and privately thought “Great. But how do you DO that? What exactly does that mean?! Is there a map? WHAT IS THE SPECIFIC DEFINITION OF THE VAGUE WORD ‘OUTLINE’?”

Good news. Stories have structure. Structure that can be learned. And a fantastic place to start learning structure? 

Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. This book gives a simple outline that most stories follow. And as an introduction to story structure, it can’t be beat. 

In Save the Cat, 15 plot points are spelled out in something called a beat sheet. During the outlining process, these “beats” or plot points can be used as an armature or skeleton that your story is built upon. 

So what are those 15 plot points?

Opening Image: A snapshot of the hero’s problematic ordinary world, right before the story starts and changes everything. 

Set-Up: Further establishing that ordinary world and what the hero does every day, impressing upon the audience or reader what’s wrong, and the idea that something needs to change.

Theme Stated:  The truth that the hero will learn by experiencing the story, the statement that will be proven to the audience. But upon first encountering this truth, in this story beat right in the beginning, the hero doesn’t understand or outright refuses to believe it. The theme stated is asking a question, a question which the story will answer.

Catalyst: The ordinary world is shattered. Something unexpected happens, and this event triggers all the conflict and change of the whole story. Life will never be the same after this moment. This is the Call to Adventure. 

Debate: But for a moment, the hero won’t be quite sure about answering that call. Leaving behind the ordinary world is difficult – even if the catalyst has come along and disrupted everything – because the ordinary means safety, it means not being challenged, it means avoiding conflict and heartache. Yes, that existence they’re stuck in might be stagnant and unpleasant, but it protects them from facing the intimidating task of growth, of becoming something better.

Break Into 2: And this is when the hero decides to answer the call and cross the threshold of act two, determined to pursue their goal. 

B Story: This is when the relationship – which usually carries and proves the theme – starts in earnest.

Fun & Games: This is just what it says: the premise promised a certain type of pure entertainment, and this beat is where we get to experience it fully. 

Midpoint: This is either a false victory or a false defeat. Something really really good happens. Or something the exact opposite.

Bad Guys Close In: Forces of opposition and conflict begin to converge on the hero and his goal. Everything begins to fall apart for the hero, the defeats piling up one after another, the main character punching back.  

All Is Lost: This is the sequence where absolutely everything falls apart for the hero. The plans fail, the goal is lost, the mentor dies, the villain wins. All is, quite literally, lost. 

Dark Night of the Soul: The hero’s bleakest moment is right here. In addition to all of the tangible things that have been lost, hope and the gumption to continue with the story have also vanished. There is usually a hint of death here, of some kind. An actual death, or an emotional or spiritual death. 

Break into 3: Ah, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Inspiration occurs, hope is rekindled, courage to pursue the story returns. Usually, this is the moment where the main character learns what they NEED, the truth which will heal them, and allow them to fix their own lives. With this, they are able to snatch victory from defeat.

Finale: And in here, the story goal is pursued once more, but this time from the stronger version of the hero – the version that has learned the theme, and committed to act accordingly. 

Closing Image: The opposite of the opening image. This is a snapshot of life after the story, the problems of the ordinary world solved or banished, a new world opening up for the hero. If the opening is the equivalent of “once upon a time” this is saying “And every day after … “ 

So let’s see how that works! And to see it, let’s look at my favorite short film of all time – Paperman  (because this gave me an excuse to watch it several times and listen to the music while writing it.)

1) Opening Image

We see George, a twenty-something in a sixty-something’s suit and tie, obviously on his way to work, and not looking at all enthused about it. He stares straight ahead, expression bored, lifeless, right on the edge of depressed. Wind from a passing train pushes him slightly, and he lets it, demeanor unchanging. 

2) Set-Up

But then a sheet of paper, caught on the wind, hits his shoulder. The paper flies off again, and a young woman appears onscreen, chasing after the paper, as the surprised George watches.

 After catching it offscreen, the girl returns, tucking the paper into the stack she carries, smiling slightly. They both face forward, waiting for the train side-by-side, in silence. She’s glancing sideways at him, he’s smiling and fidgeting nervously, but still resolutely facing forward; they’re both aware of each other, seemingly hoping the other will be braver, but neither able to overcome their shyness and the unspoken rules of everyday life. 

3) Theme Stated 

As a train charges into the station, a paper from George’s stack is snatched by the wind and lands flat on the woman’s face. When he pulls the paper away, she laughs: her lipstick left a perfect kiss mark on the sheet. When George spots it, he laughs too … 

but when he opens his eyes, she’s gone. She’s boarded a different train. The kiss-mark paper flaps in the wind as the train begins to move, taking her away. He watches, crestfallen. She glances back. Looks of regret and disappointment are exchanged, both a little wistful. The paper, the symbol of their fleeting memorable meeting, waves goodbye. 

Through this little sequence of images, the question of the whole story is asked: Was there a connection between them? Will they find each other again? And on a wider level: What does it take to find love? 

Further Set-Up:

And cut to George behind a desk, in a gray office, dark file cabinets towering behind him, clocks on the wall ticking away his life. Miserable again, he stares at the lipsticked paper. A stack of documents slams onto the desk from on high. The grim-faced boss of the office scowls down at him. George frowns at the stack, then at his boss, who stomps away.   

4) Catalyst 

Breeze pulls the kissed paper off his desk and out the open window. He catches it just in time, breathing a sigh of relief. And then he sees something. The girl! She’s there! She’s right across the street! 

5) Debate 

He needs to get her attention! He dithers for a moment, then throws the window wide and enthusiastically waves his arms.

 An ominous "ahem” from the boss brings him back inside, and back to his desk. But his attention is still on the girl, and the need to get her attention. He folds a paper airplane, stands before the window, poises the airplane to fly … but he glances at his boss’s office before he throws it. Should he? 

6) Break Into Act 2

Yes. Yes, he should. He sends the little airplane messenger to bridge the distance between himself and the girl. 

7) B Story

What he should have done while waiting for the train, he’s committed to do now. Talk to her. The relationship of the story has started officially. 

8) Fun & Games

In this moment, he becomes the “paper man” of the title. He folds and throws paper airplane after paper airplane. The boss shows up, shoves him back and slams his window. George pauses until he’s gone, then just keeps sending airplanes. They sail over the street, but are intercepted or miss their mark every time. 

9) Midpoint

He reaches for more paper … and knocks an empty tray off the desk. He’s run out. Except for one paper, the kissed one, the only one he’s held onto. With a determined look, he folds it precisely into an airplane, stands before the window, breathes to steady himself … 

And the wind steals the airplane from his hand, sending it spiraling to the street below, George reaching out pointlessly. On top of this defeat, the girl leaves the office.  

10) Bad Guys Close In 

Immediately, the boss emerges from his lair. The other office workers hurriedly return to their scribbling, hunched to avoid drawing attention. The girl is leaving the building across the street! George turns from the window … and finds the boss looming above him, glowering, delivering another tall pile of meaningless work. 

George sinks into his chair, defeated. But something happens as he watches his boss walk away, as he sees the office workers in neat rows; all of them older versions of George, reflections of what he will become … if he doesn’t do something right now. 

He runs, sending paper from the perfect stacks flying in his wake. 

11) All Is Lost

But when he escapes the building, and attempts to cross the street, cars nearly kill him. And when he finally makes it to the opposite sidewalk, the girl is nowhere in sight. She’s lost again. 

And all he manages to find is the little traitorous paper airplane. The paper he’d believed might mean something, might have signified something important and maybe a little magical. Which it obviously never did. 

12) Dark Night of the Soul

Angry, he grabs the plane and throws it with all his strength.  He’s lost his job, he’s lost the girl, he’s lost all faith in the magic he’d just started to believe might be real. He stomps towards the train station, returning home. 

13) Break Into 3  

But fate has other plans. The airplane glides over the city, almost supernaturally graceful and purposeful. It dives between buildings, and lands in the middle of the alley where all the paper planes have collected. 

It sits immobile. Then it moves. Moves again. And jumps into flight. The airplane flies over the rest, stirring them into motion, into the air. In a place where not even a breath of wind could reach, there is now a whirlwind of George’s airplanes. 

Though the forces of mediocrity tried to keep them apart, something greater has recognized George’s efforts and is going to see things through. 

14) Finale

A parade of airplanes follows George down the street. 

The leader attaches to his leg. He brushes it off, mad. A flurry of them attach to him, then carry him down the street, unfazed by his fighting. 

The leader airplane rockets over the city purposefully, finds the girl, then lures her to follow.

 She chases after. 

Somewhere else in the city, George is being pushed wherever the paper airplanes want him to go. We switch back and forth between George and the girl, as the airplanes push him and beckon her. 

Until they’re both on different trains, which stop simultaneously, on opposite sides of the platform. The girl gets out. She fiddles with the airplane, like she’s trying to get it to work again. And just then, a breeze brings hundreds of paper planes skittering all around the platform.

 She looks up …

15) Closing Image

And there’s George, covered in paper planes. 

He lurches towards Meg, and the airplanes falls away, their work done. 

George and Meg face each other, smiling, the barriers of routine and shyness overcome. Exactly what should have happened, exactly what was meant to happen. Putting effort into connection and love prevailed in the end, defeating the allure of life spent in safety and mediocrity. The closing image is the opposite of the opening: he’s not alone, he’s not facing the train leading to his mundane job, he’s not looking miserable and hopeless. He’s facing the girl, his bright and meaningful new future.

***

So! Those are the 15 plot points. This is a fantastic way to begin learning what story structure is, why it works the way it does, and how to precisely pull it off. 

For a more in-depth explanation, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Save the Cat. (It holds a special place in my heart; it was the first screenwriting book I ever read, and started obsessive study of storytelling.)

Don’t Doubt Your Writing

Anonymous asked: “Any advice for the crippling self-doubt with writing? I do short stories and I never think they’re good enough.”

Get ready for probably one of the worst pep-talks ever written. The first time I heard someone say (and not to me actually), “No one asked you to be a writer,” was probably the first time I realized I didn’t actually have to write. 

Keep reading

So this episode of Rick and Morty featured:

  • Logic dabbing
  • The meme siren noise
  • Rick wearing the Scumbag Steve hat

Conclusion: Someone on the Rick and Morty writing team decided to include all the memes for the season in one episode and I am living for it

Character flaws

- Self-image: arrogant // having low self-esteem.
The subtleties: the character getting him/herself into trouble because (s)he thinks (s)he can do more than (s)he actually can // a lack of confidence, which can be annoying to other characters & can possibly be dangerous, if it surfaces at a crucial moment
The extremes: narcissism or a god complex // self-destruction (either conscious or unconscious)

- Temperament: uncontrollable // so controlled the character goes numb.
The subtleties: irritable temperament, which causes conflict between characters // indifference that can be hurtful to other characters, which also causes conflict
The extremes: verbal or physical violence (possibly homicide) // being cold, calculating and ruthless

- Opinions: strong // weak. (Although weak opinions or beliefs make for flawed characters, strong opinions on their own are not necessarily flaws – it depends on what the character believes so strongly, and if they believe so strongly they are no longer open-minded.)
The subtleties: making enemies who have different beliefs than you // being seen as kiss-ass or wishy-washy
The extremes: radicalism or zealotry // untrustworthiness

- Loyalty: loyal // disloyal. (Again, loyalty is not necessarily a flaw – as long as it’s in moderation.)
The subtleties: annoying heroics // hesitation to help the protagonist(s), which, if the character in questions holds important questions/materials, can be problematic
The extremes: zealotry or being foolishly loyal (unnecessarily leading self/others to danger or destruction due to loyalty – particularly pointless if it’s only to prove a point, rather than a practical reason) // untrustworthiness

Please, feel free to reblog with your thoughts/add-ons!