Shop Mobile More Submit  Join Login
1)      Describe.  Description is good, and you should always do it as much as you can.  We know you see the world you want to show us, but we need to see it as well, every detail.  Make good use of adjectives and adverbs.  Metaphors, allegories, and references are your friends.  When something happens, make sure all relevant questions of who, what, where, how are answered (unless, of course, it's a mystery).  And during particularly influential events – say, the introduction of a new character or setting, bringing to light a new concept or perspective in a dynamic character…anything story-changing should be described as much as possible.



The van came to a halt at the corner of forty-third and eight, invisible aside from the strip of quarter-moonlight glinting off its mirrors.  Four men stepped automatically from it, all dressed equally darkly, and equally silent.  Not a word passed between them as they assembled in the alley and waited, straight-backed and still.  Time ticked on by.

Of course, over-description is possible, but when you're writing a short story, you really don't need to worry about that, ever.



2)      Be mysterious.  So many people are so proud of the beautiful creation of their protagonist that they give everything away in the beginning.  He's this tall, weighs this much, has this belief about women, has a deep fear of heights, went to Nova Scotia when he was six, likes this sort of clothing, and, of course, is a bloody god at this, this, and this.  Not only does this bore your reader to death, but it removes any sort of development you could have done throughout the story, not to mention it makes your character look like a big fat Mary Sue, whether he/she is one or not.  So, instead, If you must tell us about your awesome char, just give us the basics.  Stuff one would notice right away – maybe he's really tall, or he doesn't look like he belongs in wherever he is (clichéd examples, but you get my meaning).  Don't give away everything, and certainly never say anything about a character's personality outright.  Your readers should learn that through the story, not you telling them!



3)      Use proper formatting.  You don't know how horrible it is to read a story that's one giant paragraph.  And while you may have outgrown that, there are other nuisances that even very top-heavy writers still throw into their work.

-Indent paragraphs.  Please, for the love of God.  If you're posting in some place that doesn't let you indent, double-space at a paragraph.

-Don't spam commas.  Chances are, if you see a ton of commas in a sentence and you're pausing after every second word, you're doing it wrong.  Know what a comma splice is, as well as when to use a comma and when to use a semicolon.

-Each speaker gets his own paragraph.  I cannot believe how many writers do not know this, but when you get one paragraph with three different speakers, there is no way in Hell I am going to be able to discern who is talking without incurring serious brain damage.  One person speaks.  Enter.  Tab.  Second person speaks – speaks again.  Enter.  Tab.  First person speaks again.  Enter.  Tab.

-Finally, spell-check.  Everything has one; Firefox has a built-in one.



4)      Don't be boring.  And I don't mean, "Make sure your plot is full of explosions and hot women." Contrary to popular belief, it's the style more than anything that makes prose exciting.  Switch things up.  Don't always have sentences the same length; add some compound ones occasionally.  Avoid continually using the same word; I like to try to use particularly specialized words only once each in a paragraph, unless I'm using redundancy to establish hyperbole.  Perhaps, use different types of words to start sentences (there's more to life than nouns and pronouns!).  Use intriguing words: if someone tells you they don't like your story because they had to use a dictionary to read it, fuck them.  They can go read Twilight if they want a wussy book.



5)      Avoid giving away your story.  There's a difference between foreshadowing and basically telling the audience what's going to happen.  Although sometimes it's a good idea to tell your audience exactly how things will turn out, if the journey there is more thrilling and twisty than the result, you don't want to say anything that will automatically make your audience realize it's the butler who done it, so to speak.  Foreshadowing should be very, very veiled.  Symbolic to the extreme, only noticeable to the reader who finds out what happens, and then goes back to find that there was a hint all along.  Foreshadowing embeds itself in the audience's mind and teases them, but doesn't give them the answers.



6)      Know your action!  Everyone loves a good action scene.  So many writers think "EPIC BATTAL" when they think of action, but battles tend to wear thin very quickly.  That's why no one likes Dragonball Z.  Action can be a scene of passion, a scene of intense contemplation, a scene involving a stand-off between two characters without a clear outcome.  Basically every strong turning point in a story can be considered an action scene, and while not all stories have these – some like to slowly progress, letting things develop passively – the ones that do need to have these turning points come out very strongly to the reader.  During these scenes, use powerful language: strong adjectives and metaphors can really do the trick.  Make sure to switch up your sentence structure rhythmically – I like to describe it as a roller coaster.  Through the scene, the little bits building up, you have short sentences – often very short sentences that keep things fast-paced.  These are the parts that don't really matter; they're just building suspense, like the little ups and downs of our roller coaster.  Then, during big turning points – in a fight, a mortal injury, or the first true embrace of love, the breakthrough realization of the antagonist's intent – comes one or a few long sentences.  These pop out at the reader and contain the strongest language yet.  Some authors use this to torture their reader (particularly in scenes of torture), dragging things out with terrific descriptions that nearly make the audience cry out for mercy.  Or at least a period.  This is your big dip.



7)      Don't think of your story as a series of events.  A lot of writers just give the readers a blow-by-blow account of what happens, and it just comes out seeming unrealistic and hollow.  Have a few branches, even just tiny ones.  Although the definition of a short story is one with a single plot, even they have little nuances in them, bits that don't really relate to the problem at hand but serve as a bit of a distraction.  And the reader doesn't know whether or not they're relevant. Good writers do this frequently to change things up a little – to switch gears, so to speak.  To keep the audience guessing and keep things fresh.  If you don't do this, your story will be boring.



8)      Clichés.  I don't want to say, "Never use clichés, they are of the Devil," because that's not true.  Sometimes clichés can be useful, usually when you want to give the audience a feeling while doing very little work.  However, clichés are just that: they're so overused that they really don't mean anything anymore.  George Orwell, writer of such famous books as Animal Farm and 1984, stated in his own list of do's and don't's, "If you've heard it before, don't use it in your writing." And I think, minus the exception I listed above and those made at the discretion of the individual, that this is a good, succinct rule.



9)      Mood.  Mood is incredibly important.  In the first tip, I said to describe a lot.  This is building on that: not only should you describe a lot, but you should do it properly.  "Frolic" is not a bad word.  It's certainly better than "play".  However, it's a word you'd prefer to use only in certain conditions…say, a play swordfight between two children as opposed to a blood-driven battle between two generals.   Similarly, what would be a better word to use when describing blood flowing out of a car wreck and sinking into a dirt trail: mingle or fuse?  It's not always discernable, but each word has a sort of flavor in the mouth, and in the ear and mind as well by relation, some stronger than others.  This is a good thing to consider when trying to evoke a certain mood in your audience.



10)  Be satisfied.  If you don't adore what you've written, neither will others.  Thus, only publish when you are certain you've done your best possible work on this piece, and you can't work on it any more.  If you don't, when you get criticism, you'll just get stuff that you already know you should have done but didn't do because you wanted to get something out there.  Read and reread and rereread your work so you know it's as perfect as is possible for you.  On a related note, don't talk about what you think is right or wrong in your foreword.  Don't go "well this isnt my best but its ok i guess tell me what u think" – with or without n00bsp33k, this is a huge turn-off for your audience.
Hopefully my narcissism isn't coming out in the fact that after twenty deviations I'm posting this. I actually wrote this ... huh, four or five years ago ... in response to "stuff" I'd seen around the internet. Since then, it has assisted, and is still assisting many people, way more than I thought it would, helping to transmogrify crummy, amateur writers into some pretty decent word-spinners.

So hey, I'll put it here. Hopefully despite its age you get something out of it.
Add a Comment:
 
:iconawesomely-happy-hero:
Awesomely-Happy-Hero Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Umm... not to be rude, this is great, but I think you misused the term "Deus ex machina" in that first bit. I'm pretty sure the one you're looking for it "Mary Sue".
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Oct 20, 2014   Writer
I can see where the confusion comes from, yeah.  I did mean to intend your character would be overpowered and render problems pointless, which is what I'd seen a lot recently at the time of writing, but you are right that Mary Sue would work better.  Thanks.
Reply
:iconphlegmaticbreedables:
PhlegmaticBreedables Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Do you mind if I put a link to this in my journal in hopes of aiding those who wish to adopt characters from myself that are having a difficult time with the measly 3 full and decent paragraphs that I require? I was trying to find a decent piece of writing to reference to for them, and I stumbled across this beautiful piece, which I think would be much more helpful then an example, though an example would still be nice in addition.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012   Writer
Of course. What are you looking for examples of, sorry? Just fiction in general, or something about character generation?
Reply
:iconphlegmaticbreedables:
PhlegmaticBreedables Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Just a piece of decent writing, approximately about the length of three full paragraphs.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012   Writer
[link]

Self-promotion ftw
Reply
:iconphlegmaticbreedables:
PhlegmaticBreedables Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Lovely! Thank you! Do mind if I link back to this as well, as a reference?
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012   Writer
That's what it's there for. :) Good luck with your submissions!
Reply
:iconphlegmaticbreedables:
PhlegmaticBreedables Featured By Owner Dec 20, 2012  Student Digital Artist
Awesome! Thank you so much!
Reply
:iconswiss-dilettante:
Swiss-Dilettante Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Sir, I've only read up until the fourth tip. And then I loved the tutorial (though I already could tell it was quite well).

That comment about Twilight being a wussy book. I haven't even read it yet, but I still clapped at that line. And then proceeded to do a punching motion. :D

I am going to finish reading this and then favorite it. Thanks!
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2012   Writer
Haha, cheers. It is a genuinely badly written novel, so I don't feel bad at all about poking at it.
Reply
:iconswiss-dilettante:
Swiss-Dilettante Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Indeed. :) I shall take your word for it (and the word of countless others, too). But, what makes it a poorly written novel?
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 11, 2012   Writer
It doesn't flow well at all; it's simplistic, unrealistic, and self-indulgent. Its structure, not just on a literary but also on a technical level, also fails. In short, I've seen twelve-year-olds who are better writers.
Reply
:iconswiss-dilettante:
Swiss-Dilettante Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Hahahaha! I've also read that half of her novels are adjectives, or Purple Prose. Yet she has gotten rich off of it (not to mention the rabid fan-base), so....

She must have something that the twelve-year-olds are lacking. The right connections, I suppose? XD
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2012   Writer
The will to go completely all out and turn her romantic fantasy into a series of novels. Most twelve-year-olds stop after a three-page short story.
Reply
:iconswiss-dilettante:
Swiss-Dilettante Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
:lol:
Ah, too true, too true. That must be it.
Reply
:iconwonhitwonder:
WonHitWonder Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
About the cliches: I agree, but they're often unavoidable (there's so many...). But on the upside, cliches and deliberatly defying cliches is a great way to make comendy gold!
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner May 21, 2012   Writer
There are a lot of clichés, but how you work with them is along a spectrum: you can either do them precisely as they are, going with the most common and overdone tropes, or you can take the clichés but mix them up, do something new, so that they are only truly clichés at their basest level.

And yes, defying clichés can be a riot.
Reply
:iconwonhitwonder:
WonHitWonder Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Good point. I spend a lot of time over on TV Tropes to figure out which tropes I use too much
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner May 21, 2012   Writer
I should also restate that clichés aren't necessarily bad. There are a lot of stories out there that are genuine classics, and it's OK to remake them, so long as you don't pretend you're doing something brand new. Examples include The Lord of the Rings (basically Norse mythology in three books), Avatar (Dances With Wolves), and everything by Studio Ghibli.
Reply
:icontygeraddict:
tygeraddict Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012  Student General Artist
I used to have trouble with semi-colons and commas. Then I read "Eat, shoots and leaves". Never looked back.

This list is very helpful and interesting. I will be back!
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Feb 20, 2012   Writer
I daresay I may have a little too much fun with semicolons nowadays. Glad you found this deviation helpful.
Reply
:icontygeraddict:
tygeraddict Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2012  Student General Artist
The semicolon goes hand in hand with bowties and unlit pipes; top hats and deep green velvet smoking jackets.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2012   Writer
And shoeshine and monocles, and irreproachable accents.
Reply
:icontygeraddict:
tygeraddict Featured By Owner Feb 21, 2012  Student General Artist
Oh, yes. I need those; for now I am using a semicolon, and therefore require those items to complete my otherwise unfinished scholarly demeanor.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2012   Writer
Tell you what: I will give them to you if you remove that gratuitous conjunction. ;)
Reply
:icontygeraddict:
tygeraddict Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2012  Student General Artist
Yes. Let's.
Reply
:iconwhxyte:
Whxyte Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the tips, I quite like your style of writing in here.
I'm one of those who couldn't even begin to read LotR because of its descriptiveness XD
I have quite a problem with over description myself sometimes.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2011   Writer
I can imagine that :P . Glad you got something out of this.
Reply
:iconmaryrenialt:
maryrenialt Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the work. It's very interesting :D
One question... May I translate your tutorial to spanish? Many spanish writers will be happy :D
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011   Writer
You certainly may, so long as you give credit to the original. Thanks!
Reply
:iconmaryrenialt:
maryrenialt Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Always... Thank you :D

I'll post the link to your profile later, ok? ^^
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Oct 28, 2011   Writer
Sounds good. :)
Reply
:iconcoolkatie24:
coolkatie24 Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2011
I like this it is one of the better ones I have read. It is actually pretty helpful and not the same old sorta tutorial one always comes across. Also I like the way you talk.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Aug 31, 2011   Writer
Glad you found it helpful. And funny that you like the writing style; you're one of the few :P .

Thanks.
Reply
:iconrasgarblue:
RasgarBlue Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
This is a really good guide. I wonder how many people who have these problems will take the time to read it?

The main point in here that I struggle with is action scenes. Whether it's an argument or a fight, I find it hard at times to keep it at a pace that suits the frantic mood of the situation. I'm going to make use of what you wrote there.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2011   Writer
Hope you find the method works for you. Thanks for the feedback!
Reply
:iconnikitadarkstar:
NikitaDarkstar Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Ahh commas. I've always gotten into trouble for using run-on sentences, then when I tried to fix it my use of periods got off instead. Punctuation how I hate you. >.< (Seriously when I read my first drafts I can see entire paragraphs filled with just commas and one period. Bad, bad habit.) I really need to find a guide dealing with only that. :p
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011   Writer
Hahah, yep. I had the EXACT same experience. Then it was semicolons, because I discovered what they're actually for.

Punctuation is extremely important to me. I'm sort of weird like that. Though I hope they do, people probably don't understand when I tell them that one point will be 'better' than another in a given passage for whatever fluffy reason, so perhaps sometime I'll write something on punctuation.
Reply
:iconnikitadarkstar:
NikitaDarkstar Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Well obviously one point will be better than another for whatever reason, they have completely different uses after all. And my problem tends to be more along the lines of not recognizing when to use one over the other instead of actually not understanding how to use them.

I really do need to dig out the schoolbooks dealing with this, again. I just need an excavator to get to the box they're in. >.<
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   Writer
Sometimes their uses overlap. I'll do some research and see if I can write anything on them.
Reply
:iconnikitadarkstar:
NikitaDarkstar Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
That would be awesome cause Im sure I'm not the only one with this problem. :)
Reply
:iconlightningharpy:
LightningHarpy Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Now, I realize that you wrote this 4-5 years ago, so I'm going to go easy on this. For the sake of what you posted, however, I have quite a few comments.

For starters, your first sentence irked me. Prose is nice, purple prose isn't. There is such thing as too much description, and if you give too much detail to something then it deters the reader from what you are trying to get across. This is acually ESPECIALLY true with short stories, as in a novel you have more space to afford some pretty prose here and there. In a short story, it needs to be short and sweet, not a wall of text about how a candle is flickering.

Secondly, being mysterious is good, yes. You shouldn't shirk your readers entirely from descriptions, though. Unless your protagonist is playing the role of a shoe-filler, then we need to get a grasp of what we're imagining. His build, how he carries himself. You can subtley describe his appearance throw his actions easily, hitting two birds with one stone.

The formatting is nice, I've seen many stories (mostly on dA) where writers forget the new paragraph rule with new speakers. Kudos on that reminder.

Action is very difficult to write, as well. It depends on what kind of action, though. Physical action is usually the most difficult as it is so fast-paced and doesn't register in the reader's head as quickly as it would if they were watching it. Action can be written easily if the writer has the rhythm planned out, which you addressed. The roller coaster is a good analogy, as any action scene can't be too one-way, it needs diversity. It depends on the type of action, though. Fighting and violence are usually very fast paced and difficult, while more sensuous topics like love and sex can be written at a much slower pace. Again, it all depends.

Other than that, there aren't any really nit picks that stood out. A lot of it just seems to be moral boosting from what I skimmed of the last tip. You make a fair amount of good points, but you also make some that aren't as true.

My advice would be to perhaps revise and update this a bit, I know you said it was 4-5 years old, so it wouldn't have hurt to edited it before posting.

Good luck.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011   Writer
Certainly agree with you on the first bit. Even in novels, I would say (or especially in novels). How many folks do you know who just can't get into The Lord of the Rings due to Tolkien's overdescription?

Disagree about the character, although there's leeway in a short story due to there being less room for action. One should be able to paint an image of a protagonist in their mind simply by how they act. Even very physical things, ie hair length, can be described passively, ie if she's whipping it, it's probably quite long. Very physical things like hair colour really don't need to be in there in the first place. If they do, they can be brought up in dialogue. Protagonist overdescription is, unlike a lack of other description, still one of the biggest issues I see in writing even since moving on from fanfiction.

Physical action, although yes, difficult to write (which is why I address it here), was by far the most common sort I saw while writing this.

I don't see this as so much morale-boosting. I don't like to disagree with people when they criticize my stuff, but I've had more folks getting touchy about certain aspects (at least three now whining that "Twilight isn't a wussy book", hurrhurr) than say that it doesn't offer much for pointers. Take it how you will, though. I don't plan on revising this, as it's very old and it would basically involve redoing the entire thing. I'm not a huge fan of returning over old ground anyway.

Thanks very much for the well-thought out review, and for some stuff to think about.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 21, 2011   Writer
Going to elaborate a bit on the first paragraph, just because in hindsight it seems that's what really made the mess. I don't believe anyone should ever worry about overdescription in a short story, because it's a bloody short story. The definition isn't that it's short, it's that it's got just one single facet in the plot. Therefore, we don't really need to worry about overwhelming people, because we're not going to be creating an entire world in one story, as Tolkien did. It's really just about impossible to describe too much a single thing - it's when you get to describing too much of many things that it's a problem.

Though of course, if you know someone who actually would, given the opportunity, write several paragraphs about the flickering of a candle, tell them to stop. Common sense. But most people don't really have that sort of obsession with frivolous details.
Reply
:iconlightningharpy:
LightningHarpy Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
I completely agree on the Tolkien bit. I've been trying to get through Fellowship of the Ring for the past few months, and the only thing that's keeping me going through it is the fact that I hate leaving a book unfinished. Anyway, I do think too much of a description anywhere is a bad thing. Purple prose didn't come out of nowhere, too many writers over elaborate on unnecessary details.

In my honest opinion, the shorter you can accurately describe something, the better. A lot of writers add superfluous details to their writing because they don't know how to compound it to the same effect. It's easier to just go overboard into describing every detail than to effectively describe something to a lesser extent. Anyone can write a crappy 900-page novel loaded with purple prose, but truly talented writers can compact that into say, 450-pages of more carefully worded descriptions that hold the same effect.

The morale-boosting I meant was directed a bit to your "If you don't adore what you've written, neither will others." comment, but that's more of an individual thing than a general tip. Some writers love their work exactly how it is, some will always see room for improvement. I'm in the latter group, so that's just my personal take on it is all.

You're welcome for the review, though. I'm just throwing my 2c out there :)
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   Writer
Mm, for sure. Although it's not fiction, there was a fellow in my first college English class who was sort of my direct competitor for top grade in essays. His would be double the word limit, and he was a great writer, but I would usually get the better mark with just over half his words. One might pin it on going off on a tangent, which is a no-no.

Yeah, certainly the final tip is a bit of morale-boosting, but it's also a genuine tip: if you see room for improvement, you out to bloody well improve it. Common sense, maybe, but lots of folks ignore it, and it hurts the quality of their stuff.
Reply
:iconresmenae:
Resmenae Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011
as opposed as you may be to this, you must push your feelings aside and submit it to every single group you can find. It does not matter if they are even Literacy groups. Why? Because people need to read it.
Reply
:iconyitik:
Yitik Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2011   Writer
I'll consider it once I've gone over and expanded it a bit. Glad you found it handy.
Reply
:icondratheus:
Dratheus Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
I've read this many times on where ever you had it posted, and it always helps me. XD

You've also mentioned doing either a followup, or a sequel, or a redoing of it though; this would be awesome as well.
Reply
Add a Comment:
 
×

:iconyitik: More from Yitik


Featured in Collections

writing resources by TheBrassGlass

Literature + Critique Resources by angelStained

Writing resources by theWrittenRevolution


More from DeviantArt



Details

Submitted on
March 8, 2011
File Size
10.5 KB
Link
Thumb

Stats

Views
3,571
Favourites
61 (who?)
Comments
54
×