25 September 2008

Obvious things

Guys in my first post I totally forgot something!
Bad me, bad!

Today let’s talk about the difference between to, too and two!
Let’s go--!!

To. It’s a preposition! Since I don’t feel like explaining prepositions, here’s the Wikipedia article.
-”Let’s go apply a can of whoop-ass to Superman’s face.”

Too. It’s an adverb! It can mean something like “also”, or indicate that there’s too much of something, or can mean “very”—it has many uses but none of them are prepositional.
-”I doubt he’d be too pleased, but who cares what Superman thinks?”

Two. It’s a number, fuckers. It comes after one and before three. Why do I need to explain this?
-”I’ve got two chunks of Kryptonite, so let’s do this shit.”

Peace out, homies.

22 September 2008


So, about original characters in fanfiction.

I… I’m not sure what to say.
The fact is that 90% of all OC fanfiction is full of Mary Sues, and Mary Sues are the worst thing to ever happen to literature. So in general when people ask me if they should write a story about an OC, I tell them no, they probably shouldn’t.
But uh… I hate to admit this, but some OC fanfiction is fucking awesome

Let me tell you something.
My favorite fanfiction writer is KidK. Thaaaat’s right. She writes self-insertion fiction. She even introduces a couple of OCs, too. Usually I wouldn’t give stories like this the time of day, but dammit… she does it so well.

So that’s my dilemma. I want to say to you guys, “Never write OC fanfiction ever ever ever!” but I can’t because what if I discourage someone who might actually be really awesome?
But there are so many really BAD fanfics out there with really annoying OCs and…

Okay, I got it! Here’s what I’ll tell you guys:
Ahh, it’s that simple~~

Well, what I’m really saying is just to beware. Try to make sure your character is likable, balanced and not a Sue. You might want to consider including canon characters in your story, rather than having a cast of nothing but OCs (although I’ve seen that done well too…). Try to give your character a backstory that isn’t entirely contrived, and introduce them in a way that isn’t awkward. Having your character be a long-lost sibling of another character is a no-no (especially if they’re Zim’s long-lost sibling, since Irkens are cloned and therefore either have no siblings, or EVERY Irken is his sibling. Either way, you look dumb).
Just… put some thought into it. A lot of thought, preferably.

… and please please please don’t break up a canon relationship just so your character can have a canon character all to his/herself, please….

19 September 2008

1 (one)

Let’s talk about… uh… spelling things out?

So, like, with numbers. 1, 2, 3, 12… and so on.
Generally, when it comes to numbers, if it’s a small number you should spell out the word.
So you’d spell out things like one, twelve, forty-two, and the like.
Also, spelling out large numbers that are simple (such as saying “one million” instead of 1,000,000) is probably a good idea, but spelling out a large number that’s complicated (like 1,967,436) might be less of a good idea.
I think there’s a threshold for which numbers are too large to spell out, but I’ll be damned if I look it up.

(Also note: when spelling out numbers, 140 is one hundred forty, not one hundred and forty.)

It’s usually considered a good idea to spell out things that might otherwise be abbreviated. Generally, when writing a story or something, you would probably be better off spelling out “November” instead of “Nov”, and depending on the situation you might be better off spelling out “Mister” instead of writing “Mr”. “Pounds” instead of “lbs” may also be good.
Of course, this can vary depending on context. For example, in a science paper, abbreviated units is probably a good idea, and I don’t think anyone would ever kill you for saying “Mr. Smith” instead of “Mister Smith”.
But I have met some English teachers who can be finicky about this, and I’ve seen some writers who use way too many abbreviations. It really doesn’t kill you to spell out words once in a while, you know!

Going in the other direction, I’ve seen some writers write out “see-oh-two” instead of “CO2” in character dialogue. That’s a little farther than I’d go with it, but damn if it isn’t classy.

This isn’t really something I get really pissed about, but it’s good to point out.

17 September 2008

AU madness.

Guys I fscking hate alternate-universe fanfiction.
I really, really do.

In theory, this shouldn’t be as awful a genre as it is. In theory, this should be a way for fanfiction writers to really stretch their creative muscles by putting the characters in completely new and different situations while still practicing their characterization skills by trying to keep the characters in-character.
In practice, though, this isn’t really the case.
The fact of the matter is that most fanfiction writers aren’t very good at keeping characters in-character. They might be able to keep a character’s fan-characterization consistent within their fic-universe, and in many cases this is good enough. But then when you take these consistently-out-of-character characters and plop them in another universe entirely, well… let’s face it, at this point you’re just writing original fiction.
Just change the names and put it on Fictionpress instead of Fanfiction.net, kthx, because this is not Avatar anymore.

“Oh, but Selan! Nobody reads original fiction on the internet! I need to keep this as an AU fanfic, otherwise no one will ever read it!”
Shut up, yes they do, you just need to put a little more effort into getting people to look. Have you thought of commenting on other people’s stories? Telling your friends to spread the word? Oh, and having your story actually be good helps; it really makes people want to spread the story around even without you asking.
Using this excuse really shows how much of an attention whore you really are. Artistic integrity? No thanks! I’d rather people just read my story and leave retarded comments about how they think my story is “OMGZZZ SO AWESUM!!!!”.
Fuck you.

So please, don’t write AU fanfiction. Either keep to the story universe or write an original story. The grey area that lies between those two areas is just too frustrating to the rest of us.

15 September 2008

La. La. La.

Today’s topic will be sentence length.

This is something that beginning writers really underestimate. Sentence length and structure has a huge impact on the flow of the scene. It’s not something that we really have to go into a lot of detail for, as it’s something best learned by observation and experimentation, but let’s talk basics here.
Firstoff, long sentences does not equal intelligent sentences.
It really irks me, you know, because in my last workshop class our teacher really put a lot of pressure on these classmates of mine, many of whom were beginners to writing, and expected them to write something worthy of a Pulitzer. The end result was that almost every paper written for that class was riddled with long run-on sentences. Why? Because they thought that long sentences would impress the teacher.
Quite simply, one sentence equals one idea. Remember this always. Short, concise sentences are just as intelligent as long, well-composed flowy sentences.

Short sentences can be used to give a stilted feeling to a paragraph. Used incorrectly, it makes the paragraph hard to read. Used in the right context, however, it can used to do all sorts of things—I’ve seen it used to express how awkward a situation was, how boring a dinner party was, or even on a couple of occasions it gave a slowed-down, panicked feeling to a scene that was happening all too fast.
Read around. Play with different ways to use short sentences.

Longer sentences have a much broader range of uses, mostly because they sound more natural. They generally have a better flow and make the paragraph as a whole easier to read. If you’re not going for a stilted feel, go with these. However, beware of sentences that are too long. They can easily become run-ons.
Run-ons are the devil.
Generally you should go for medium-length sentences. Not too long, not too short.

Incidentally, run-ons can be acceptable in character dialogue, provided that it’s clear that it’s intentional and it suits the character. People can naturally speak in run-ons, so if you have a character who might have a habit of trying to say too many things at once, run-ons might naturally appear in their speech.
However, run-ons have no place in narration.

Like I said, this is something that one needs to experiment with and observe to fully understand, but I hope I’ve at least given a decent explanation. It’s a bit of a squishy subject so I wasn’t sure how to describe it well…

10 September 2008


Somewhat inspired by the last post…

Let’s talk about critique, shall we?
And I’m not talking about giving critique either. Let’s talk about how to take critique.

The first thing that every writer needs to realize, whether they’re just a little kid writing fanfiction for the internet or an adult writing novels for publication, is that no writer, and no piece of writing, is perfect.
End of story. Always be prepared for criticism because there is always room for it.

The second thing that everyone must realize is that, if someone takes the time to critique your work and tell you where you need to improve, they’re not trying to insult you. If someone tells you that, you know, your dialogue is stiff and you keep shifting tenses, it’s really very likely that they saw potential in what they read and they want you to improve so that they can enjoy your future works. Or at least, I know that’s why I critique. If I don’t think there’s any hope for an author, I generally don’t bother to say a word to them. I just roll my eyes and remind myself to never read that person’s works ever again.

The third and most important thing to realize is that, when receiving critique, you really need to shut the fuck up.
Okay, I’m going to draw on my workshopping experience here. You have the person who provided the reading material for the workshop, right, and everyone’s critiquing their piece. But after everything that anyone says, the critique-ee has to throw their two cents in:

“Well, what I was trying to do was—“
“I didn’t mean it like—“
“Did you ever think that maybe I was TRYING to—“
“You’re reading it wrong, actually—“

No. Shut up. If you have to explain it, you didn’t write it well enough. Granted, occasionally you get someone criticizing you that is just a huge idiot. It happens. But you should still stay quiet and listen to what they have to say.
And, of course, if everyone’s telling you the same thing, then obviously they aren’t all idiots.
The thing is, if you have your work on the internet, if you publish it, whatever, you won’t be there to explain every little thing to your reader. You can’t stand behind every reader and tell them, every time, “I was trying to say…”
Your work has to be able to stand on its own, with no explanations and no excuses. So just suck it up, take the criticism, and fix whatever problems are pointed out to you.
Criticism exists to help you improve. Use it!

(Criticisms Selan gets all the time:
“You don’t describe things well enough”
“You don’t write Mario’s dialogue very well”
“You sound angrier than any normal person should be when talking about writing”

They’re all pretty well-founded.)

08 September 2008

Monday post!

(okay I know I said Tuesday-Thursday but those are my busiest class days so fuck it.
I'll update today and then see if M-W-F suits me better.
Also: fuck I hate critiquing for my workshop class. I hate it so, so much.)

You know what I can’t stand?
Authors who feel like they have to keep a running commentary of their thoughts during their story. I’m just trying to read something, you know, but the author keeps busting in with their little [[author comments]] and breaking my suspension of disbelief.
The sad thing is that I’ve even seen this happen in stories that are otherwise very good.
Look, this is really simple. If your story is good, it can stand on its own. You don’t need to add little comments throughout the story. Nor do you have to comment on how much you like some character. Your readers don’t care, they can draw their own conclusions about the character without you popping in every two seconds to say how cute GIR is.
Quite simply, the rule is this: author notes do not belong in the story text. Depending on the site you’re posting on, there may be a “comments” field where you can say something, or otherwise you can add some notes at the beginning or end of the chapter/story (where your readers can easily skip them). Feel free to write as many author comments as you want-- outside of the story. But inside the story proper, please put aside your brackets and your parentheses and let your writing speak for itself.