Recently Kumail Nanjiani tweeted that the best Star Trek...
Sometimes you want to write, but you have no plot ideas. Perhaps your fingers are itchy to write, you want to meet a submissions deadline, a character is bugging you to tell their story, or a single image, phrase, or scene is sitting heavy in your head. But you still can’t find the whole story.
So what can you do?
- Start with characters: find their names, their backstories, their relationships. Create detailed descriptions, draw them, build their family trees. Get them interracting, put them into a room together, or bump them into each other in the street. Read their diaries, their love letters, their bank statements. Get to know them inside out. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a world: create your map, name the towns, lakes, forests, and mountains. Work out the trade routes, position the markets, the ports, and the industry. Find the history, predict the future. Draw out the borders, bring war, re-draw the borders. Get down to street level and see who lives there. Walk the streets yourself. This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with a room: stand in the middle of a room and open your eyes. What does the room look like? What’s in it? How many doors and windows are there? What is the room used for? Who uses it? What has happened here, and what is going to happen here? This is one place where you may find your story.
- Start with an object: pick something up into your hand. What is it? What is it used for? Who owns it, and who owned it before them? What is it worth, either monetarily or sentimentally? Has it been lost, found, stolen, given away? Why is this object important? This is one place where you may find your story.
**Warning: Noob writer giving her two cents.**
I’ve gotten brave and recently submitted a short story for the first time. The feedback has been positive and constructive, and I’m now excited to post more. The problem is the review process. If you’ve submitted to one of the various websites, you know all about this.
You submit your work and hope for a helpful review. Usually helps if you’re reviewing in return or seeking out work to review. I found one you earn points for reviews, and you need these points to submit your own writing. It’s fair. I want useful feedback; I should be willing to give useful feedback.
I don’t mind giving reviews; I mind having to write so many negative things on an otherwise great story. I felt going in I would find some plots not to my taste. I think that’s to be expected. Not everyone’s going to dig everything they come across, but other things come up. A lot of the mistakes I notice are things easily fixed, and here it is:
- Grammar & Spelling Issues - I’m not an English major, so if I’m noticing them, you probably should be as well. Try a site like PaperRater.com . I believe you have to set it to college level to get a grade on your writing. I like using it to spot spelling and grammar problems my word processor misses.
- Read It Aloud - I think it’s easier to hear your mistakes than when you read through it silently. You can also hear whether it’s rolling smoothly or sounds rough. Sometimes when I read through something, I notice it sounds like I’m stumbling through it. If that happens, I know I need to rewrite it. You can tell when you’ve gotten it right; it sounds nice and smooth.
Reblogging just for the PaperRater.com. This is a great site to help with the normal things like grammar and spelling, but also goes over vocabulary and transitions.
The rest of the advice is good too, but that site is awesome.
WriteWorld Note: This looks like it’s geared toward names from Great Britain. Still very useful.Need a quick name in a hurry?
- MongaBay.com’s American Surnames
- BabyNameWizard.com’s Voyager
- NameGenerator.biz’s Surname Generator
- BehindTheName.com’s Name Generator by Type
- Rinkwork.com’s Fantasy Name Generator
- SeventhSanctum.com’s Name Generator Index
- BabyNameGenie.com’s Name Generator
- Meaning-Of-Names.comTraditional Names:WriteWorld Note: Help choosing names for Harry Potter universe characters may be found under the cut.
When people are looking for plot ideas or new events to sprinkle into their roleplays, the first place I am going to point them is to this article.
Published first in a french book of the same title in the 19th century, this list has been of a massive aid to writers ever since. Written by french writer Georges Polti, it was meant to categorize every possible situation which might occur in anything from a poem to a play. The list came about after extensive studies of Greek texts, french literature, as well as non-french literature. Polti claimed to continue the work of Carlo Gozzi, who had also, himself, found these thirty-six situations.
Required Elements : a Persecutor; a Suppliant; a Power in authority whose decision is doubtful
The Persecutor accuses the Suppliant of wrongdoing, and the Power makes a judgement against the Suppliant.
Required Elements : an Unfortunate; a Threatener; a Rescuer
The Unfortunate has caused a conflict, and the Threatener is to carry out justice, but the Rescuer saves the Unfortunate.
Required Elements : a Criminal; an Avenger
The Criminal commits a crime that will not see justice, so the Avenger seeks justice by punishing the Criminal.
4. Vengeance Taken for Kin upon Kin
Required Elements : Guilty Kinsman; an Avenging Kinsman; remembrance of the Victim, a relative of both
Two entities, the Guilty and the Avenging Kinsmen, are put into conflict over wrongdoing to the Victim, who is allied to both.
Required Elements : Punishment; a Fugitive
The Fugitive flees Punishment for a misunderstood conflict.
Required Elements : a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger
The Power falls from their place after being defeated by the Victorious Enemy or being informed of such a defeat by the Messenger
7. Falling Prey to Cruelty/Misfortune
Required Elements : an Unfortunate; a Master or a Misfortune
The Unfortunate suffers from Misfortune and/or at the hands of the Master
Required Elements : a Tyrant; a Conspirator
The Tyrant, a cruel power, is plotted against by the Conspirator.
9. Daring Enterprise
Required Elements : a Bold Leader; an Object; an Adversary
The Bold Leader takes the Object from the Adversary by overpowering the Adversary
Required Elements : an Abductor; the Abducted; a Guardian
The Abductor takes the Abducted from the Guardian.
11. The Enigma
Required Elements : a Problem; an Interrogator; a Seeker
The Interrogator poses a Problem to the Seeker and gives a Seeker better ability to reach the Seeker’s goals.
Required Elements : [a Solicitor & an Adversary who is refusing] or [an Arbitrator & Opposing Parties] + an Object
[The Solicitor is at odds with the Adversary who refuses to give the Solicitor the Object in the possession of the Adversary] or [The Arbitrator decides who gets the Object desired by Opposing Parties]
13. Enmity of Kin
Required Elements : a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hatred or a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
The Malevolent Kinsman and the Hated or a second Malevolent Kinsman conspire together
14. Rivalry of Kin
Required Elements : the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object of Rivalry
The Object of Rivalry chooses the Preferred Kinsman over the Rejected Kinsman
15. Murderous Adultery
Required Elements : two Adulterers; a Betrayed Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire to killed the Betrayed Spouse
Required Elements : a Madman; a Victim
The Madman goes insane and wrongs the Victim
17. Fatal Imprudence
Required Elements : the Imprudent; a Victim or an Object Lost
The Imprudent, by neglect or ignorance, loses the Object Lost or wrongs the Victim
18. Involuntary Crimes of Love
Required Elements : a Lover; a Beloved; a Revealer
The Revealer betrays the trust of either the Lover or the Beloved
19. Slaying of Kin Unrecognized
Required Elements : the Slayer; and Unrecognized Victim
The Slayer kills the Unrecognized Victim
20. Self-sacrifice for an Ideal
Required Elements : a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices the Person or Thing for their Ideal, which is then taken by the Creditor
21. Self-sacrifice for Kin
Required Elements : a Hero; a Kinsman; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices a Person or Thing for their Kinsman, which is then taken by the Creditor
22. All Sacrificed for Passion
Required Elements : a Lover; an Object of fatal Passion; the Person/Thing sacrificed
A Lover sacrifices a Person or Thing for the Object of their Passion, which is then lost forever.
23. Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
Required Elements : a Hero; a Beloved Victim; the Necessity for their Sacrifice
The Hero wrongs the Beloved Victim because of the Necessity for their Sacrifice
24. Rivalry of Superior vs. Inferior
Required Elements : a Superior Rival; an Inferior Rival; the Object of Rivalry
A Superior Rival bests an Inferior Rival and wins the Object of Rivalry
Required Elements : two Adulterers; a Deceived Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire against the Deceived Spouse.
26. Crimes of Love
Required Elements : a Lover; the Beloved
A Lover and the Beloved enter a conflict.
27. Discovery of the Dishonour of a loved one
Required Elements : a Discoverer; the Guilty One
The Discoverer discovers the wrongdoing committed by the Guilty One.
28. Obstacles to Love
Required Elements : two Lovers; an Obstacle
Two Lovers face an Obstacle together.
29. An Enemy Loved
Required Elements : a Lover; the Beloved Enemy; the Hater
The allied Lover and Hater have diametrically opposed attitudes towards the Beloved Enemy.
Required Elements : an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary
The Ambitious Person seeks the Thing Coveted and is opposed by the Adversary.
31. Conflict with a God
Required Elements : a Mortal; an Immortal
The Mortal and the Immortal enter a conflict.
32. Mistaken Jealousy
Required Elements : a Jealous One; an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous; a Supposed Accomplice; a Cause or an Author of the Mistake
The Jealous One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and becomes jealous of the Object and becomes conflicted with the Supposed Accomplice.
33. Erroneous Judgement
Required Elements : a Mistaken One; a Victim of the Mistake; a Cause or Author of the Mistake; the Guilty One
The Mistaken One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and passes judgement against the Victim of the Mistake, when it should be passed against the Guilty One instead.
Required Elements : a Culprit; a Victim or the Sin; an Interrogator
The Culprit wrongs the Victim or commits the Sin, and is at odds with the Interrogator who seeks to understand the situation.
35. Recovery of a Lost One
Required Elements : a Seeker; the One Found
The Seeker finds the One Found.
36. Loss of Loved On
Required Elements : a Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner
The killing of the Kinsman Slain by the Executioner is witnessed by the Kinsman Spectator.
This is awesome!
Here’s another great resource for Georges Polti’s 36 Dramatic Situations, including the elements, the variants, and a dicussion of each situation:
- Vengeance of a crime
- Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
- Falling prey to cruelty or misfortune
- Daring enterprise
- Enmity of kinsmen
- Rivalry of kinsmen
- Murderous adultery
- Fatal imprudence
- Involuntary crimes of love
- Slaying of a kinsman unrecognized
- Self-sacrificing for an ideal
- Self-sacrifice for kindred
- All sacrificed for a passion
- Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
- Rivalry of superior and inferior
- Crimes of love
- Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
- Obstacles to love
- An enemy loved
- Conflict with a god
- Mistaken jealousy
- Erroneous judgment
- Recovery of a lost one
- Loss of loved ones
Having trouble finding synonyms for ‘white’, ‘black’, ‘tan’, etc? Have any clear idea what tone you’re going for? Here’s some web pages for skin tone description and references:
Handy Words for Skin Tone (Includes palettes and comparisons)
More Tone Synonyms w/ Pictures
7 Offensive Mistakes Writers Make (includes more than just skin color)
People always assume that playing someone British is just learning the slang and how to speak correctly with the accent. Well, that isn’t entirely true.
Tip No. 1: How to sound British.
Of course you have to perfect how to sound British. Use these links to use the slang all the time.
Tip No. 2: Location, location, location.
They’re going to ask where you are from and you just can’t say Britain, shit face. What if they are from Britain itself? You need to have a “home location”. What city/town? What district did you live in? Where is it located? What is it near? What are the customs there? It may also be important to know important counties and cities. If you can’t locate London on a map, it will be fairly obvious that you are not British.
- How to live in Britain: Topics of The Basics, Law, Geography, Culture, Problems, Being Successful, Making a Difference, and Personal Life.
Tip No. 3: Wording and spelling is a very important factor.
The British change their wording and spelling a lot. Here is a British to American translator.
Tip No. 4: Know their hobbies: such as their television shows and what they do in their free time.Not all the shows we have here in America are watched in Britain. Here is a list of the most popular televison series in Britian. (It stays updated, because what’s the point of posting one that isn’t?)
Tip No. 5: Myths about the BritishWe Americans don’t go around eating burgers and holding shot guns, do we? There are always myths about races and countries.
It’s the one piece of writing advice almost everyone hates. Write what you know. One of the reasons it gets a lot of hate is that nobody bothers explaining what it means. I’m betting a lot of people who say it don’t really think about what it means. So let’s look at those problems and some possible solutions, starting with:
Problem 1: Nobody knows what the fuck it means. As writing advice goes, it’s one of the most minimalist, non-helpful sayings out that. Am I supposed to write about eating breakfast? How I spent one summer watching way too much Digimon because there was literally nothing else to do? Who wants to read a goddamn story about that?
Solution: What people should say is use details from your life. Your friend with the interesting laugh - you can give that to one of your characters to show something about them. That horrible breakfast you burned - you can use it in your story to show the state your character is in. Sometimes this is a hard habit to get into, especially if you’re not used to thinking about your stories in that way (or consider yourself boring, like I do).
Problem 2: It’s (sometimes intentionally) stifles creativity. Oh weary is the genre/fantasy/sci-fi writer who’s heard the ‘why don’t you write about real things’ from family/friends/assholes in their writing class (fuck those people, seriously). Even when it’s not, it can still be a little discouraging. You don’t actually know any space vampires trying to pass as human in high school despite being a million years old. So if you take this advice, how can you write about one?
Solution: What people should say instead is make it relatable. People read stories for a lot of reasons, but one of the biggest ones is to feel things, and people won’t get that out of stories that they can’t relate to. This is why a lot of stories have several things people can take from them; The Hunger Games as a critique on reality tv, for example. New worlds and alien spaces don’t work for a reader unless there is something they can get out of them.
Problem 3: You’ve never seen/been/lived in that country/period time/bottom of the ocean, therefore you don’t ‘know’ it. Next to the genre writers are the historical ones, who have a lot of extra pressure in that someone is going to yell at them for getting shit wrong (even when they didn’t!). It’s a tough genre to write for and you can’t let the idea that it’s beyond your reach before you get started.
Solution: This one’s not that difficult, do your research and ask questions. If you’re writing about a different country, make sure you have readers who can tell you what you got wrong. If you’re writing about a certain period of history, double-check that research! Or if you want to play with history and fudge details for story purposes, make sure you know what you’re changing. That knowledge can only strengthen your story in the long run.