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Everything posted by Penguinball

  1. Penguinball

    Hello All

    Canada Represent! There are so few of us 🙂 I'm living in Alberta right now, glad to see a lot of the snow has melted, but I hear we might be getting more. Your world sounds very interesting! I get kind of fairy tale myth vibes from it.
  2. Penguinball

    Quitting a book

    I used to finish reading, even if I hated it, but I just don't have time for that anymore. I stopped reading ASOIAF for example, just not my style of writing. And as soon as a character does something really stupid, or a problem arises that could be solved with 5 seconds of communication... you've lost 90% of my reader goodwill. One more mistake and I'm OUT.
  3. Penguinball

    QOTD #50: Beginnings, Middles and Ends

    I'm torn between the end, and the part just past the beginning. The end often has excitement, character arcs being fulfilled, questions answered, action, excitement. And also when its done, its done, and you get that sense of accomplishment. But the beginning is also nice. Not the immediate beginning, I'm always so awkward the first couple pages. But once I get past that, I'm in a new story. I'm learning things, adventures are starting, promises are being made, its filled with novelty. I can say for sure that the middle is my least favourite. I've often rambled myself into a corner somewhere, or I'm rushing to get to the exciting end bits, or muddling through some character conflict. It's not nearly as much fun to write.
  4. I wrote words! words to add: 3303 words
  5. Penguinball

    Fixing a Character Megapost

    I've got another Writing Excuses inspired post! I know, you are all shocked. I just listened to Season 13, Episode 47 (link) on fixing characters that aren't working. It's a Q&A on how to fix certain problems, and I thought I'd bring it here to see what your answers are! Here's the list: How do you fix character voices when you find out that two of them are too similar? How can you tell if a character is, in fact, the problem? How do you maintain interest in a character who is largely inactive? How do you write interesting bad guys when your only POV characters are the good guys? How do you give meaningful challenges to a powerful character? How can you make a normal, everyday character interesting? How do you edit an existing manuscript to give characters interests which mesh with the plot? Here's a link to the transcript of the episode if you want to see how they answered, but aren't able to listen to the podcast.
  6. Here's the second part of the Writers Game challenge that @Sheepy-Pie and I are taking part of. Others are welcome to participate in the craziness too. We've got 72 hours (actually just 70 by the time of this post) to write and edit a short story. Prompt: Now if you are on the Discord server you've already seen the drama this challenge creates. The people who run it are VERY particular, and have extra stipulations that aren't in the prompt, which they only reveal when people ask clarifying questions on their Facebook page. This isn't by design, they are just bad at this. So below is a doc where I am compiling the questions the participants ask, so we can make sure we nail every aspect of the prompt. Doc - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cDVVH7ZFNrkcq37cE6wqjevcXXwEbTgP9h9DQ-3FPmc/edit
  7. Penguinball

    "Said is Dead" and Dialogue Tags

    So I tried to find out where 'said is dead' came from, and it looks like there's no singular source. I've found two blogs that claim is comes from elementary schools, (here and here). They claim the advice 'said is dead' comes from teachers of beginning writers who are looking to expand their students vocabulary primarily by providing big lists of things to say instead of said. The advice has been parroted without knowing this context, until its bled into other new writers. I didn't do a thorough search, but based on all the fancy graphics and things, it looks like it re-surged on the internet as writing advice in the late 2000's/early 2010's. I think using a lot of words like yelled, grimaced, shrugged... it reads a lot younger, more grade school than aimed at audiences. Do you agree? I am firmly on the 'said is invisible' side of this debate. It doesn't pull attention to itself. Using alternate dialogue tags does pull attention. If you are using them every time it clutters up a page, people are yelling, whispering, grumbling, all within a few breaths? It sounds exhausting. It can also border on 'telling' as opposed to 'showing' a character's internal state. Now I don't believe they should never ever be used, they can definitely help get into a characters head or to visualize a scene. They should just be used sparingly, a spice, not the main flavour. Basically, I think this is just poor writing advice that keeps circulating because its short and pithy and sounds on the surface like it could be helpful, but it really isn't.
  8. Penguinball


    I like moodboards when I see them, but I've never made one myself. The closest I get is pinterest boards for a particular story. What program do you use to put the pictures together? Also, I like that moodboard. Feels very mermaidy. That could be a fun idea for a prompt or a brainstorming exercise, post a moodboard and reverse engineer what the story is about.
  9. Penguinball

    The Midpoint Mirror

    Today's homework, remind Penguin to do this when she gets home...
  10. Penguinball

    Deductive vs Inductive Story Telling

    I was linked to this Tumblr post on another writing forum and thought I'd bring it here. It introduces the concept of Deductive vs Inductive storyteller to describe how you write, as an alternative to the pantser/plotter dichotomy that is spoken of more often. Very loose definitions: Deductive = large, general concepts to specific details. Inductive = small, specific details to large, general concepts I really like it! Here's what the post says: What do you think? I'm mostly a deductive storyteller, I have a concept I want to explore, like a cool kind of magic, and figure out what the rest of the world looks like from that, then figure out what characters fit in that world, theeeen figure out what those characters want, and come up with a plot. How about you?
  11. Penguinball

    The Midpoint Mirror

    Today's homework - Go to your bookshelf and pick out a couple favourite books. Take a look at the chapter exactly, numerically, in the centre of the novel. What happens in that chapter? Are the character's experiencing an epiphany of some kind? (positive, negative, realizations, changes of motivation, that kind of thing). Report back with your findings!
  12. Penguinball

    The Midpoint Mirror

    That's what I was thinking about in my response 🙂 I've posted that video series like a million times so I didn't want to bombard the forum yet again (I already do that with Writing Excuses haha). I'm glad to find another fan, those videos really helped with my outlining.
  13. Penguinball

    The Midpoint Mirror

    I've heard this described as the point of no return, where the main character (or which ever character it is having this crisis) has to make the conscious decision to take action of some kind. It's the point at which they go from reacting to acting. I like the mirror description, I do think self reflection is an important aspect of it. I'm not sure about starting in the MIDDLE of a story. To know what the middle is, don't you have to know what it's in the middle of? But I agree that its an excellent tool for making sure your story pacing is working, and that the character arcs are going somewhere. If you look at your outline (planner) or first draft (panster) and find that there is no mirror point transition like this, you may want to consider adding one. I think this turning point really helps the 'flabby middle' syndrome so many stories have. Another point too, it doesn't have to be physical dead center in the story. It works for the examples given, but other stories might have the moment of realization closer to the inciting incident, or closer to the end, near the 'dark night of the soul' where they are falling to despair and have to rethink their approach.
  14. Penguinball

    Deductive vs Inductive Story Telling

    Yeah that sounds inductive to me, you have the big picture of the premise and have to drill down to figure out how it happens. As for genres...I started typing out that I thought it may be the same for certain genres, but talked myself into thinking it could be different. For example a mystery. You might think it is deductive, you start with the mystery, then have to plan out small details of how it happens. But not all writers approach a mystery novel that way. They may have a specific character or scenario, and may need to build up to create a story around it. Romance too. Sounds inductive, you've got a couple characters and already know they fall in love, so you've got to build the premise of how that happens, figure out how they meet and work backwards to a bigger story. But some people start not knowing how the relationship develops, the have to use deductive storytelling to plan the details. So I think it varies from author to author and from story to story.
  15. Oh yeah I never did look this up! The ingenue is definitely related in that that character is usually naive, but I found some other tropes that are less specific. First we have the The Watson. This is the character that asks the questions the audience is thinking so the author can explain it in a slightly more organic way. "Mr.Holmes, how did you solve that case?" or "That was an amazing spell, how did you do it?". This character can be tough to write, there needs to be a reason WHY they don't already know these things. To get around that we have the Naive Newcomer, who is foreign to the setting, and has a good reason to ask these questions. Again, gotta be careful. If they ask something everyone in your world SHOULD know, just so you can explain it to the audience, then they come off looking real stupid. Both of these tropes fall under the Audience Surrogate trope umbrella, they act as the reader's eyes. Two other tropes related to this are the Mr. Exposition, who is usually the one answering The Watson's or the Naive Newcomers questions, they're the info dump character. If they are explaining something that should be known already (but not known by the reader) they may say something like As You Know... (As you know, gigantic carnivorous frogs roam these hills, which is why we are going through the Tomb of DeadKingGuy, despite it being cursed). The As You Know is usually a red flag that the information isn't being introduced organically enough, and it has turned into a bit of a cliche. Sometimes though it feels like you just can't get around it. Um, belated Warning, TvTropes links, don't click if you don't want to get lost down a rabbit hole of tropey awesomeness.
  16. Penguinball

    Structuring a Premise

    Continuing the trend of 'posts with templates to fill in to answer questions about your work (here and here)', here's some information about how to structure a premise, taken from this Reddit post (link) (Thanks @Jedi Knight Muse for the link). How to structure a premise so it has complete information and can draw in a reader. Include as much of the following as you can.
  17. @Sheepy-Pie and I are participating in this contest where you have to write a short story based on a prompt in 72 hours, and have it be publish-ready. I'm late in posting this, so the 72 hours are already ticking by, but I thought it could still be fun to post, in case anyone else wants to play along (participation in the contest itself is already closed). The prompt is below. If you are on Discord you've seen the... discussion around this prompt, as the judges are being VERY specific about what they mean, and have clarified/shot down ideas on their Facebook discussion post. The bullet points are things I've added from their additional restrictions. 2019 Portion 1 I see you looking at me. I'm something you need right now, but something no one can touch. You'll have to find another way because I’m UNTOUCHABLE. 1,000-5,000 words Core Concepts: cohesion, plot What things are untouchable? Can be anything, so long as it can’t be touched, and the person needs it. Can be living or inanimate CANNOT be an idea or a concept, must be 'physically real' Must remain untouchable through the story Can’t be touched by anyone at all, or handled through tools The object (or person) can’t touch back NO TOUCHING The untouchable thing needs to be vital or essential to the MC, not just something they want or desire GHOSTS DON’T COUNT Can’t be a person that is capable of touching things Fairies somehow count?
  18. I wrote words! words to add: 4337 words
  19. Penguinball

    Conflict Between Characters

    I posted a couple days ago about a Writing Excuses podcast episode on internal character conflict... well I listened to the next episode about conflict between characters, and it was great too. Here's the link. They present a list of axes where characters can differ, and it is those differences that create conflict between them. The axes are mind, money, morals, manners, monogamy, and the Marx Brothers. Friends might only differ in one or two areas, enemies might be total opposites. They explained it in the podcast, so rather than trying to paraphrase, I'm just going to copy part of the transcript. So to pull it out of the text, the axes are: Marx Brothers - Similar sense of humour Monogamy - You have the same idea of what the relationship is, how much you are on the same page (conflict could come if one person thinks a friendship is important, but to the other character they are just that guy from work. Manners - What you consider to be polite or rude. Money - How you spend the money you have, attitudes towards saving. Lots of conflict potential where one person pinches pennies and the other buys whatever shiny thing catches their eye. Mind - Comparable degrees of intelligence. Now this isn't the be-all, end-all of character conflicts, but it is a fantastic place to start. It allows arguments and tension between characters to be based on something other than 'plot reasons'. It can allow romantic relationships to feel more realistic (and also illuminates why some people have a lot of trouble with enemies-to-loves tropes, and opposites attract). Exercise - Take a couple characters and list out a couple of these axes, where are they similar, where do they differ? Does this make them friends? Enemies?
  20. Penguinball

    Character Internal Conflict

    I just finished listen to this (link) Writing excuses podcast about Internal Motivation for characters and they talked about some things I found useful. The whole episode is good but it is the Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence axes that I want to share with you guys. The idea is that each character has a Role, Relationship, Status, and Competence, and that these things come into conflict with each other, causing the character to struggle in some way. (Using 'you' because its easier, but I mean your character). Role - Your career or occupation, like being a city guard or a baker, that you have responsibilities for. Relationships - Your duty to other people, a character can be a brother, a wife, a mentor, a friend. You have responsibilities to these people. Status - Your class or place in social hierarchy. You have to do certain things because of that status, you have to obey or show deference, or you may be derisive to someone 'lower'. Competencies - What you are capable of, physically, mentally, and what you are skilled at, including the expectations you have for your ability to do things. Your character has a self identity built up of all those things. They are a baker, they are responsible for the quality of their goods, but their heart isn't in it because their mother forced them to follow in the family business, so their desire to please their mother is in conflict with their ability to fulfill their responsibilities as a baker (Role and Relationship). Your character is a noblewoman, and is expected to be able to manage her estate, but her low self confidence causes her to bungle the accounts because she expects herself to fail (Status and Competency). This is a great way to think about characters, what drives them, where to find the room to grow and change . If their self image in any of these categories abruptly changes, what happens to them? As an exercise, reply with one character and what their roles are.
  21. Penguinball

    The Writer's Journey

    In a couple posts and discussions I've mentioned milestones on 'The Writer's Journey', but I haven't really explained what I mean by that. I'm picturing kind of like a checklist, things a writer has to learn and accomplish on their way to becoming a better writer. Kind of like experience points? Like, if I've learned how to come up with an idea, and get it into a messy first draft I'm a level 2 writer, but there is still a lot of work ahead of me. And knowing about these things is one thing, what I mean is REALLY internalizing them, knowing yourself and how these things affect you as a writer. Below are milestones I think I've encountered, and ones I'm still working towards. I know I'm missing a lot too, this list is just a starting point. come up with a story idea finish a first draft consistently finish first drafts for what I start (okay, I'm so-so on this one) receive feedback on something I've written without a complete meltdown (this one was hard) sieve through feedback and recognize what is relevant and what is someone's personal opinion/pet peeve incorporate feedback into a second draft edit a draft beyond first draft (second draft, third draft etc) finish a project from inception to editing, 'publication ready' give constructive, useful feedback to others ability to recognize story structure and arcs in your own work correct major story structural problems in your work without tossing the project recognizing your own process, from outlining to editing (this involves a lot of trial and error, but I think once you know what works for you, its a major writerly boost) ability to read writing advise and recognize what would work for you, and what doesn't (partially about knowing your own process and partially about knowing enough about writing in general) knowing what motivates you, and using that to get yourself out of a writers block low phase What about you? Anything you would add to this list? Items you disagree with?
  22. Penguinball

    What Constitutes a Good Magic System?

    I like this example, switchblade magicians are usually something to avoid, but in this case it was justified by Hermione's characterization. This goes to show that you can break any 'rule' so long as it fits with the story and is accounted for. "Deeper, not wider" are good words for building a magic system. Take one small ability and see how far you can go with it. How does it impact the world, what are the ramifications of using it? A fully realized small magic system is FAR more satisfying than a bloated, wide spread system. That's not to say you can't have a complex system, not at all. It is just a lot easier to write yourself into a corner when you have too many rules, or to end up with a switchblade magician situation. The Xanth novels by Piers Anthony have great examples of deeper rather than wider. In those stories each person has one Talent (its humour so it could be absurd things). They have to get creative with how they use that talent, and they can't learn any others. Same with certain superheroes, they've got on ability and have to make the most of it. I've talked myself around a bit. It sounds like I'm saying simpler is better, that's not what I mean. I mean that any magic system should be thought about a lot, both simple and complex ones, to make sure they are fully enmeshed in the world. Tips and tricks? Make sure there are clear limitations, things the magic can and cannot do, when writing a harder magic system (obligatory Sanderson's Laws of Magic link). In softer systems, where rules aren't defined, use magic in a consistent way to avoid the Deus ex Magica @XanthussMarduk mentioned. For example, if they haven't used magic to avoid enemies the entire novel, why would they suddenly have that ability when sneaking into the big boss's castle? Examples of good systems? Sanderson's already been brought up. I also like Jordan's gendered magic in the Wheel of Time, because you get a real sense of the skill and struggle it can involve. I also like the Eli Monpress books by Rachel Aaron, its kind of a middle ground where things aren't spelled out fully, but you get to know enough of how things work to know that the main character is breaking all the rules (which is what makes those books fun). On the other softer end of magic systems, I enjoy old fairy tales where magic is spooky and mysterious, the characters are off balance because they DON'T know the rules or what is possible. Those stories are hard to write, and I think not very in fashion at the moment, but I've always enjoyed reading them. They bring back the sense of wonder of childhood for me.
  23. Penguinball

    Writing Reddits

    I remembered others! https://www.reddit.com/r/ImaginaryLandscapes?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share https://www.reddit.com/r/ImaginaryMonsters?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share https://www.reddit.com/r/FantasyArt?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share Good for inspiration