Being a beginner at anything can be extremely intimidating. Even if people are used to writing numerous texts or tweets or school essays, writing stories is a different ballpark (especially if you want to do it well). Whether it’s going to be your first time attempting to write a story, or you’re just about to take it seriously for the first time despite dabbling, it can be very easy to get discouraged. More experienced writers often can speak in jargon and blather on and on about showing vs. telling, metaphors, allusions, foreshadowing, and a whole other bunch of stuff. Frankly, even I tend to tackle very specific, technical aspects of writing. However, I acknowledge that for the newest of the new, this can be confusing at best.
Thus, for today’s post I’d like to talk to you new writers who are just getting started in your writing career/hobby/whatever you want to term it. I want to not only provide you some basic guidelines for starting your journey, but also show you how not to get discouraged. Let’s dive in and hopefully you’ll find some useful information within.
If you spend any amount of time on the internet, you’ll know one thing is certain: there’s a lot of information on it. Whether it’s mainstream news sites or that fandom forum you hang out in, you’re being bombarded with information on a constant basis anytime you spend even a remote amount of time on the internet. Unfortunately, this brings about another truth: not all that information you see is trustworthy. With each passing year this becomes clearer and clearer, and as wiser people will tell you, it’s up to you to verify the information and the sources. Yet, few people actually explain how this is done. This is not to mention that many people miss discussing the subtle ways that information is manipulated, which is perhaps even more rampant when it comes to misinformation. As such, though I can only cover a few, I would like to give you some of my own tips in evaluating information you see for accuracy. My intent, here, is not to disparage anyone; rather, I only wish to equip everyone with better ideas of what they should look for.
With that said, these are my beginner’s tips for evaluating information.
Assuming you’re a serious writer, you are mostly likely actively trying to improve your writing. Whether it’s through tons of practice, writer’s workshops, or anything else, you’re striving to achieve masterpiece status (even if it’s a distant dream). Of course, anybody will tell you the best way to improve is to share your writing and get other’s opinions about it. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to find others for this purpose. Some people are simply just too shy, and, while you should work to improve that, it’s a sympathetic position to be in. In other cases, like my own, you simply just don’t know anybody who actively is willing/has time to read and comment on your pieces. Thus, you can often find yourself in a position where you have to critique your own writing. Given individual biases though, how does one do this effectively?
Today, I would like to give you my tips on just that. Hopefully, by following these, you can learn to evaluate your works more objectively and improve on them yourself.
WARNING: SUPER MEGA SPOILERS AHEAD FOR LIFE IS STRANGE!
When I first saw Life is Strange in 2015, I was instantly in love. It had a bleak and cynical outlook on life that so few games have in a high school setting. The characters were compelling and easy to care about. The story was beautiful in how it developed the relationship between Max and Chloe. It even had a supernatural mystery that was hanging over the horizon ominously. It was just a beautiful game despite its simplistic interactive elements.
Then the ending happened, and I lost all interest in ever purchasing another game in the series again.
So, what happened? How could a game I care about so dearly mess up so badly? That is what I wish to delve into today.
Let’s just address the elephant in the room: not a whole lot of people like math. Particularly in the creative fields, it is often expressed that math is the bane of existence. It usually doesn’t matter whether someone is good or bad either; math is just seen as something that is the antithesis of creativity.
Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to subsequently find a ton of math and number errors in stories. Whether it be ages and dates not matching up or distances to locations not making sense, even the most popular stories tend to have these (franchises like Harry Potter included). While in most cases the error is fairly minor, you’d be wrong to think fans will never notice. As a story gains more popularity, these sorts of errors will stick out like a sore thumb. Sure, no one will probably call you out on it unless it causes a plot hole. BUT they will notice.
So, what should you do about it? Today I would like to share with you some of my tips for making sure you get your math and various numbers right. Some of these are going to apply for people bad at math, and some can be applicable regardless of your skill level. Either way, they are something to consider when writing any story.
It’s no real secret that I spend a lot of my time writing. I write for this blog every week, I write webcomic reviews for StArt Faire every month, I do a lot of social media managing which involves a lot of tweet writing, etc. While I wouldn’t say I’m the best writer, I have definitely seen worse; you only need to be an English major in a low level college class to see the huge difference sometimes in skill level. While I don’t often have time for fiction, I do occasionally write that as well. I’m arguably more passionate about fiction and stories, but I also do enjoy the sorts of non-fiction analysis that I do here on this blog. Either way, I have lots of experience in writing, in part because I make efforts to practice it when I can.
Thus, as someone who identifies as a writer, nothing grinds my gears more than seeing others treat writing as anything less than a skill.
As you may or may not know, as Writing Director of StArt Faire I review webcomics/indie comics every month for the magazine. I’ve got a number of them under my belt now, so you can definitely say I have experience being a critic. If you haven’t read any of those, you may have glanced at some of my reviews that are available here on the blog for other sorts of medium (games, TV, etc.).
However, despite having reviewed so many things, I realized I’ve yet to give proper tips for writing reviews. Thus, today I would very much like to rectify that. Now, being able to analyze whatever it is your reviewing is another matter entirely (and possibly a post for later). My tips for writing reviews are geared specifically for the writing portion of reviewing. That being said, hopefully you will find the following tips useful to your endeavors.
In my opinion, one of the most difficult forms of writing to ever undertake is satire. It takes a certain cunning to be able to execute satire, and even then the simplest of mistakes can quickly unravel the smartest of premises. It is definitely not something I’d recommend for a beginner, no matter how passionate they are about criticizing people’s vices. However, practice makes perfect so at some point, assuming you’re interested in the topic, you’re going to have to attempt satire.
That being said, there are identifiable beginner’s mistakes that one can avoid. Thus, today I would like to share my wisdom with you in regards to how you can start your very first satire. Hopefully, with these tips, you can avoid the most common first mistakes and create a worthwhile piece.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR UNDERTALE!
One of the stranger polarizing issues I’ve come across in the game community is silent protagonists. Some people love them and think they add to the immersion. The player is not forced into a character’s dialogue choices, and they can feel more like they are the character due to the silence. Other people hate them. They often view it as a developer being lazy, and they also believe that it makes a character very flat since they have no real personality without dialogue to convey it.
This being the case, indie devs and homebrew devs may find themselves in an odd situation. Should they risk people’s ire and make a silent protagonist, or should they risk a different people’s ire and have their character have spoken dialogue? This can be a crucial decision when handling the writing of a game. However, it is my opinion that what matters more is the protagonist is written and executed well, regardless of whether or not they’re silent. Thus, today I would like to bring to you three questions you can ask yourself before you decide to make your protagonist silent or not. These will prioritize the quality of the story versus other factors.