Editing and Proofreading Tips
Oftentimes, in a misguided attempt to make their character appear smart and edgy, a writer will make the entire rest of their world dumb and boring. Johnny isn’t going to be the first to wonder how to escape from his dystopian world. Sally won’t be the only person to think of foraging for local…
Having a good title meant everything in 18th-century England, where the fate of lovers often hinged upon whether or not the man could claim a stately rank like “duke” or “baron.”
For the fiction writer of the 21st century, a good title of a different sort is just as crucial. Unfortunately, too many aspiring writers spend years perfecting their manuscripts, only to tack on uninspired titles as afterthoughts. I encounter this casual approach to titling in my own fiction workshops, where talented students undermine first-rate stories with second-rate labels.
Fortunately, this is one of the easiest pitfalls for the emerging writer to avoid. I urge my students to think of their titles as the first opportunity to stand out in the slush pile. After all, while we are told not to judge a book by its cover, when confronted with thousands of submissions, what editor won’t be drawn to a clever or alluring title? Devoting even a small amount of creative energy to naming your work can vastly improve your odds of publication.
My rule of thumb is that strong titles are distinctive, but not distracting. While Anton Chekhov could afford to tack dull titles (“Home,” “The Student”) onto vivid stories, modern audiences want something more memorable. At the same time, anything as complex as The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds may draw attention to itself at the expense of the story that follows (unless, of course, you’re Paul Zindel).
The trick is to find a happy balance between the all-too-forgettable and the truly over-the-top. You want to choose something that makes your readers think: What a fantastic title! Why didn’t I come up with it?
Okay, you all know that stereotypes can be hurtful, mean, and nasty. But not all stereotypes need to be blotted out of writing; indeed, they can actually be useful, in some ways.
Now, I’m not saying you should create a character that fulfills a lot of hurtful stereotypes. There is no reason to be lazy that way, not to mention just plain mean. However, stereotypes can be used in your writing to great effect.
For starters, a character can have a bit of the stereotypical things. For instance, it’s not unlikely a Mexican-American could come from a large family or speak Spanish. Or, for another instance, it’s not unlikely that a big city dweller wouldn’t know how to milk a cow or goat properly.
These are bits of characterization that help to communicate the character’s background; they’re more incidental than forced.
In comparison, a character created specifically in a way that challenges all stereotypes about their race, ethnicity, gender, or what have you, can come off as unrealistic. A reader can see, ‘Oh, they’re trying to make him/her nonstereotypical’ and be drawn out of the story. Also, such characters can be flat, a simple list of things they are not rather than being fully-dimensional people.
So, a bit of stereotypes are fine, even good. A lot can be bad, a complete lack of them or complete reversal of them can be a bit much, and relying only on them is usually a pretty bad idea.
I’ve heard it said that stereotypes are shorthand for characterization; your reader gets a picture of the person easily and quickly.
Basically, stereotypes can be best for minor characters that don’t show up for long, side characters specifically made for only one function, and especially for characters in satires and parodies.
I hope I’ve helped a bit with the perspective on stereotypes; it’s taken me a while to learn to use them well.
I love reading about characters that travel. Especially if they have to go far and into place they have never being before. However, journeys in familiar places are also great if we get to see environment, culture and other world building.
Generally, authors do good work…
When you are going up North consider the fact that everybody here are wearing furcoats. If you wonder why - fur is worn due to its superior warmth and durability. So up here fur coats are both necessity AND a sign of social status. If you don’t have…
In Vampirates, Scrimshaw the snake eats dates all the time. They’re his favorite food and Captain Wrathe loves to feed them to him. There’s only one problem: snakes don’t eat anything other than meat.
To be fair, if I were writing a novel and didn’t know anything about the diet of snakes, I…
- Talking style (conversation)
- Talking style (storytelling)
- Writing style
- Way of thinking
- Political view
- Religious view
- Sense of humor
- Pet peeve
- Opinion on every other character
- Sex drive
- Normal amount of happiness
- Opinion on the major events in your story
Making all your characters similar in these respects will make your story dull and possibly preachy.
We see the same plot devices used over and over again on television, in movies, and in the books we read, but a lot of them work—which is why we use them all the time. However, there are some common and/or over-the-top plot that should be cut from some stories, unless…